I fell in love with New Year’s Eve this year. I looked forward to the night in a way I never had and was okay with one year ending and a new one beginning. I also found a new respect for the holiday, one that comes with being a little bit older and wiser.
As a child there wasn’t really anything special about New Year’s Eve. I remember a few parties and getting to stay up late, but it never felt significant. It comes after Christmas and that’s a tough act to follow. I’d like to change that and find new traditions to celebrate with my kids since I have this new love for NYE.
As a young adult, New Year’s was all about the party. There were a few good ones but I never liked the big ones with lots of strangers. I usually had a pretty good time (alcohol was involved, so yeah), but the the countdown as midnight hit was pretty anti-climactic. Plus, the New Year usually started with a hangover.
In my late twenties, we started doing nice dinners and keeping them more personal — smaller parties or just the two of us. That started to feel more my style.
Then with a bit of reflection, I started to realize why I felt bitter-sweetness towards a holiday that everyone else seemed to feel so superficially excited about.
My dad died on December 1st, which meant that my first New Year’s without him would also mark one month without him. I didn’t want 2005 to end. He was alive that year and in 2006 he wouldn’t be. He would never know that year and it would be the first year without him. And that turned out to be a terrible year. I don’t like categorizing an entire year as the “worst of my life,” but it was.
Each year that followed, I approached the holiday with a sense of loss for the year gone by coupled with a goal or a milestone for the coming year. I never really did resolutions. I’ve never kept those. It went more like: In 2007 we got engaged. In 2008 we’ll get married, or in 2011 we started our business and I was pregnant with our daughter. In 2012 we’ll have our daughter. It was easier to do this then. There were big, life-changing moments that made it easy. But it also made me feel sadness about saying goodbye to those things. I approached the new year with a deficit, which is a very negative, unfortunate way to view things.
This year I didn’t do that. I realized that I was looking forward to the coming year and I felt good about 2013. Perhaps my mid-thirties have made me wiser, perhaps my children make life so present and practical that I didn’t have time to reflect. I’m not sure how I made this shift, but I’m glad I did.
This past year was good. Any year with my kids is a good year and I can never compare the year ending to the year coming the way I did before. I struggled with some health issues, but overall it was a fun-filled year. My husband started working from home and my son started junior kindergarten. Those were big things, but they didn’t feel like the big events that came in the last five years.
Settling into a life that is good is a great feeling. It has forced me to look at the smaller, perhaps more meaningful, everyday things that make me happy. It has made me feel immense gratitude, not for the big events in my life, but for my life.
And somewhere between breakfast and lunch on January 1st I thought about how great this completely secular holiday is. The whole world experiences the last night and the first day of a new year. There’s something comforting and undeniable about that.
You can say, without hesitation, Happy New Year to everyone, whether they celebrate it or not. You won’t offend anyone or exclude anyone — it is everyone’s New Year.
And if you’re lucky enough, you get to spend it with some of your oldest and closest friends and their kids and that’s pretty magical. Christmas will always be my most magical holiday, but now I see how New Year’s Eve can feel so special.
I feel good about what 2014 will bring, even if it doesn’t bring much. Everything I have right now is enough.