Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A New Years Eve Post

In middle school and high school, I developed this kind of twisted New Years Eve tradition. I would write down on a sheet of paper all of my regrets from the year -- every chance I didn't take, every awkward thing I'd said, every time I had disappointed someone -- and I would find a way to destroy this terrible list just before midnight. Sometimes I would burn it and flush the charred bits down the toilet. Other times I would simply tear it to pieces and then flush it down the toilet. There was usually a toilet involved.

This act was supposed to signify some kind of renewal. By eliminating this list, I was symbolically keeping its contents from following me into the next year. I don't practice this tradition anymore largely because I think it's pretty unhealthy. My desire to perform this heavy-handed, symbolic gesture says so much about the things that plagued me then and still do to this day. 

I am a person who is often regret-filled, regret-focused, and regret-driven. I am always looking for a do-over, frequently afraid to have the same hiccup twice. Even now, I am tempted to make New Years my new start, to pretend that this new year is like Groundhog Day for Bill Murray -- a supernatural chance to redo all of the things I couldn't get right last time. 

But the truth is January 1st is just another day. There's nothing special about it except that some people eat black eyed peas and the gym is a little more crowded than it was the day before. January 1st doesn't erase any day that came before it. It doesn't have that power. We honestly give it way more credit than it's due.

If you are a person who regrets, if you've had a year that you would just like to flush down a toilet, these might be sad words to hear. It might be tough to be reminded that your hurts and brokenness from 2013 could likely follow you into 2014. That's, like, the worst news ever. 

Honestly, though, while we obsess over the newness of a year, I kind of feel like we are giving honor to the wrong increment of time. Living our lives with a year-to-year mindset is a sure-fire way to accumulate a ton of regret. What if instead we looked at every moment as a chance to restart? What if January 2nd had as much meaning as January 1st? 

Comedian Tig Notaro, who has a podcast called Professor Blastoff that I listen to semi-religiously, describes her approach to life with the following words: "Why not now? Why not RIGHT now?" 

New Years often feels like it's designed to reveal our failures. We make resolutions. We break resolutions, and so begins the fantastic cycle of regret with which we are so familiar. But why do we need to wait until the top of a year to make life great? Why not now? Why not RIGHT now? (Bad example because RIGHT now the ball is 5 minutes from dropping in Times Square, but read this a couple of days from now, and you'll know what I mean.)

2013 was the year I quit two jobs in the span of three months. It was also the year that I was late to everything, and I forgot to call my mom on her birthday. If I was still making my list of regrets, I'd have several.

But looking back, 2013 was also the year in which I discovered my true passions, the year in which I tried more things than I turned down, the year in which I became truly invested in a community I love, and the year that I will hopefully look back on as the start of many wonderful things to come.

It's about to be 2014, and that's great and all, but tomorrow will be another day just like the day before it -- a day full of decisions, a day full of chances to start fresh. And heads up, you will probably mess up immediately. You will probably say the wrong thing, or eat the wrong food, or take the wrong train. It's going to happen. So knowing that, stop collecting your regrets and whatever you do, don't wait to give yourself a second chance. Life is happening now, RIGHT now. So why wait?

1 comment:

  1. Love this! I definitely have been looking at this year as a renewal, and while I'd like to ride that motivation while I can, I've also been getting anxious on the amount of pressure I've been putting on myself to make my January goals a success. (I'm also impatient: now that I've decided to do them, I want them to be accomplished already. Come on!)

    It's good to remember to breathe, and to recognize every moment as an opportunity to relax, chase those goals, learn from mistakes, and celebrate our current successes.

    My friend jokingly said that her 2014 resolution was to "stay alive," and I actually really like that if you take it to mean "keep living, learning, and enjoying life in the moment." Hey, I've been successful at that for 23 years so far! How about that?! :)


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