By De Elizabeth
The end of the year feels like it’s supposed to be momentous. The parties, the glitter, the fancy dresses. The countdowns, the champagne toasts, the resolutions to try harder, be better, do more, next year. The reflections, the highlight reels, the top 10s. The overwhelming urge to look back, collect your thoughts, and go on to vastly improve.
In reality, the shift from December 31 to January 1 comes without fireworks. It’s soft, it’s quiet, it’s the rustling of a page turning in the dark. There’s no explosion, no flashing lights, no disco ball. There’s you on December 31. There’s you on January 1. And it’s the same you all along.
I’ve always loved the idea of New Year’s Resolutions. In past years, I carefully crafted a list of goals I wanted to accomplish, a collage of ways to be better, to feel happier. One year, my best friend and I wrote our resolutions on paper and then tore it up like confetti and sprinkled it off the balcony. Another year, I typed up a list alone and printed it out, leaving it above my desk for the next six months until I realized it made me sad to look at the things I said I’d do, but didn’t.
We’re conditioned to think that New Year’s Eve is supposed to mean something: it’s why so many of us get dressed up in gold and silver, why we stay up late when we’d rather go to bed, why some people might kiss a stranger at midnight. In the days leading up to the final day of the year, we make lists, we prepare for the next calendar, we pledge to do all the things that, for some reason, we could not muster the strength to do this time around. For some reason, we believe next year will be better. The hope feels good, it feels inspirational, we want to hold onto it for as long as we can.
And all around us, in the tiny lights of our phones, we watch other people remember their own years, condensing 365 days into a list countable on one’s fingers. The bad, erased; only the good, the important, the memorable remain. Maybe it’s easier to remember a year this way; maybe it’s safer to cut out the parts that hurt.
But what if — and hear me out — we just…stopped doing all of that? What if New Year’s Eve was just like any other night, without the pressure, without the compulsions to reflect, rewind, resolve? What if all you did in a year was exist? What if all you did was survive? What if that’s actually a lot, something worth celebrating with just as much confetti and glitter and noise as anything else?
Last year, when 2018 became 2019, I didn’t make any resolutions — it was the first time I let the old year fade into the new one without any sort of profound thoughts, without a mantra or wish or goal. It felt strange and foreign in some ways, but freeing in others. It felt like giving myself a break, like a way in which I could just simply be gentler with myself.
I’m not sure what I’ll do this year, but the pressure is off. In some ways, my 2019 was full of changes; in others, I’m more the same than I’ve ever been. I’ll be me on December 31. And I’ll be me again on January 1. For right now, I’m OK with just that.