I LOVE New Year’s Eve. It’s so climactic – the closing of a a year gone by, the brink of a fresh start. It makes me think of that part in A Walk to Remember when the jock guy is being all romantic and takes Mandy Moore to a state line or something so she can be in two places at once.
I like doing something epic for New Year’s Eve, because to me it sets the tone for how the rest of the year will go. Last year I had just arrived in Africa. My squad spent the last few hours of New Year’s Eve playing games at our hostel, sitting in a circle under the African sky and sharing what we learned in 2009 / what we hoped for in 2010, singing worship songs and taking communion. And, of course, setting off sparklers at midnight.
(…it’s soda. also please note the headlamp around my neck – pretty stylish, eh?)
The year before I had just arrived in California. I was on a road trip with some friends I had only recently met. My new pal Bruce knew a girl in Long Beach, so we spent New Year’s Eve at her house with her friends. It was SO MUCH FUN. We all wore silly hats – like motorcycle helmets and cowboy hats and plastic firefighter hats – I have no idea where they came from. We played Rock Band – it was my first time (I totally sucked, but no one made me feel stupid for it and I loved them so much for that.)
(me and Lisa, my dear British friend I met in India only a few months before)
Eventually we sat outside around a bonfire and under the stars as we each shared our life story in one minute. I remember one guy talked about working at gas station. I don’t remember what he said, but I remember being inspired by his attitude toward life.
Not long before midnight my friend Alana and I slipped away from the group – it was my dream to run into the Pacific at midnight. And so we did. We kicked off our shoes, rolled up our pants and ran into the water. We lit sparklers and screamed HAPPY NEW YEAR to the infinite ocean. As we walked back to the house I smoked a clove – I remember the sweet taste clinging to my lips and filling me with desire for yet another year. I wrote in my diary,
“Who knows what 2009 will have for me. Opportunity, that’s for sure – new faces and new places. A chance to continue growing into the person I’m made to be. Often times life doesn’t seem worth all the anguish and meaninglessness…. But other times I’m thrown off by the beauty and opportunity life provides. That’s how I feel right now. I think this is the way I was meant to be – I’m in my element and I can sense it. I just need to figure out how to stay this way.”
[little did I know that only a few weeks later I would suffer from a severe existential crisis that landed me on the couch at a counselor’s office… but that’s another story for another time.]
In college I spent three of the four years partying in the new year with my best college friends at Christmas Conference, an event Campus Crusade hosts every year. There was always a costume theme and lots of silly, sweaty dancing with hundreds of other people (the floor would literally shake) – and then we sang worship songs and prayed in the New Year.
One year in college I went to Urbana, a triennial mission convention that 22,000+ people attend. We took communion and sang worship songs and into the new year. With that many people, it was pretty intense.
In high school I did the same thing all four years. My friend Kaitlynne would always have a party at her house and then we would all spend the night. Girls and boys. It felt so rebellious at the time – especially since I wasn’t allowed to date boys. I’m still surprised my parents let me go.
I started thinking about this New Year’s Eve in October – I wanted to make sure I’d do something epic. Should I attend the Onething conference in Kansas City? Drive to Florida? See the Northern Lights?
Turns out my New Year’s Eve plans won’t be epic, but they will be enjoyable. My sister is throwing a party and I know it will be a good time. Some dear friends are coming from out of town to join me. No, I won’t be under the stars in Africa or sprinting into the Pacific; I’ll be celebrating in East Columbus.
It’s fitting, really – the end of yet another chapter in my life. My other New Year’s Eve festivities were more about welcoming in the new year – this one is more of a farewell to the old one. A final send off to all the seasons and hurts this year has brought me. A completion of my time lived in Ohio – I don’t expect to relocate here ever again (though, of course, anything is possible and plans do change.)
I’m leaving behind this all the heartbreak, loneliness and family dysfunction of 2010. I’m saying goodbye to this year, this town and the person I once was.
Adios, 2010, and thanks for all the memories. I’ll never forget laughing in the back of that bumpy African truck with Melanie in February, dancing with the Maasai people in March and falling in love with one-month-old Hannalia in the April. I won’t forget spending the first half of my birthday in Cambodia and the second half in Thailand. Thanks for the time I saw Wicked with my mom in late summer, went apple-picking with Will&Grace in the fall and cozied up in coffee shops with my brother this winter.
You’ve given me so many memories that sometimes I fear my brain will explode. Or my heart.
Sure, some of them hurt like hell, but I know they are shaping me into the person I am meant to be. And that’s got to count for something…