I love the New Year, but I have a real hate/hate relationship with New Year’s Eve. I have yet in my adult life to participate in an evening that was worth bragging about the next day. I’ve learned to keep my expectations abysmally low.
As a child, NYE was a family affair. We’d make a spread of hors d’oeuvres, lay out a carpet picnic and watch movies all night. I have good memories of that. There was nary a thought of what to wear, nor where to go, nor whom to kiss at the end of the night. Miss those days a bit…
Once I turned 18, the bar was the place to be—crammed in with every other living creature in Minneapolis. It became an event of overpriced drinks, inflated cover charges, and skittering around downtown dressed in something that didn’t provide much more warmth or coverage than a Kleenex.
I am trying to think very hard about what I did last year, but I have no memory of it whatsoever. I make a point not to mentally record too many details. This year I enjoyed dinner at a neighborhood restaurant with some other semi-singles and can say, as a bonus, I was quite pleased with the wines I chose. Nothing earth shaking, but a very fine evening with friends and family.
But as much as I loathe NYE, the start of the New Year enchants me—the new beginning, the opportunity to turn a corner. Naturally I make a whole pile of resolutions and I am suspicious of people who don’t. Nothing to change? No need to be better? No thought to how one might improve his or her character or contribute greater value to the world? Am I judging? Yes. Add that to the list of personal improvements to make.
This month, for book/wine club, we’re reading The Elegance of The Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. These quotes struck me as I thought about the year to come and the contribution I wanted to make in the space of it. Both are reflections from the journal of Paloma Joss, the twelve-year-old prodigy.
“…I was ripe for despair. Then I remembered I had decided to build and not destroy…We have to live with the certainty that we’ll get old and that it won’t look nice or be good or feel happy. And tell ourselves that it’s now that matters: to build something, now, at any price, using all our strength. Always remember that there’s a retirement home waiting for us somewhere and so we have to surpass ourselves every day, make every day undying. Climb our own personal Everest and do it in such a way that every step is a little bit of eternity. That’s what the future is for: to build the present, with real plans, made by living people” (127, 128-129).
Here’s to a year of building and seeking to contribute something positive to the world.
“So here is my profound thought for the day: this is the first time I have met someone who seeks out other people and who sees beyond. That may seem trivial but I think it is profound all the same. We never look beyond our assumptions and, what’s worse, we have given up trying to meet others; we just meet ourselves. We don’t recognize each other because other people have become our permanent mirrors. If we actually realized this, if we were to become aware of the fact that we are only ever looking at ourselves in the other person, that we are alone in the wilderness, we would go crazy…As for me, I implore fate to give me the chance to see beyond myself and truly meet someone” (144-145).
A staggering revelation. No more meeting myself in others. What a delightful experience to try to meet others in themselves rather than me. I have quite enough of me.
And lastly, a word from the late Christopher Hitchens. When asked, not long before dying, what he wished he’d done more of?
Sounds like a plan.