Thoughts on the New Year

I should note that I woke up at 2AM this morning and haven’t yet gotten any sleep. This is not going to be the most articulate or logically consistent essay I’ve ever written, but dammit I’ve got big feelings and I want to express them.

New Year’s as a holiday is not really my thing. I’ve never truly celebrated a New Year’s Eve and actually enjoyed it. It’s always seemed like a pretty arbitrary excuse for serious drinking. And while I’m a big fan of serious drinking, New Year’s has never seemed worth being anything other than another night out. Of all the drinking holidays—Halloween, Mardi Gras, Independence Day—New Year’s Eve is my least favorite. I’m not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions—I think they’re gimmicky and rarely followed through upon.

But for the day job, I conducted a survey of friends and associates about their food and dining experiences from the last year, finishing with a question that asked them to make predictions for the year ahead. While many of the responses to this were goofy, they were all generally positive, hopeful. Going through these responses, when combined with a pretty serious lack of a sleep, some good coffee and even better music, made me think for the first time that there’s actually some value in marking the arrival of a new year.

Before I get too far, I should confess that,  for the last two years, I’ve declared each to be the year of something. 2010 was the Year of the Alex, in which I was trying to be more assertive and make more autonomous decisions based on my own needs, desires and feelings; and 2011 was the Year of Good Decisions, in which, basically, I was trying to do the same. This system, while it’s kind of fun and whimsical, is either only a half step above or even a half step below regular resolutions. It’s a gimmick, and the similarity of my goals for both 2010 and 2011 suggests I did a shit job of actually following through. It was fun to say, but I wasn’t really productively marking the coming of a new year. I was just riffing on regular resolutions in an insincere way.

Yet, as I said, I’m starting to think that there’s real value in taking a moment at the end of the year, really stopping, and looking back at the year that was in an effort to look towards the year that will be. While the year ahead can be pretty scary—have I mentioned that in the Year of Good Decisions I actually made some pretty terrible ones, and am starting 2012 in pretty serious debt?—the act of physically, intellectually stopping to look ahead is an essentially hopeful one. It reminds me, honestly, of everybody stopping all at once to sing the chorus of Rainbow Connection.

(Oh. Right. When I said earlier that I was listening to good music while forming these thoughts, I was actually listening to the Muppets soundtrack.)

Seriously, though, that’s probably the most hopeful song in the history of music, with only slight hyperbole there. To wit:

Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
and rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it.
I know they’re wrong, wait and see.
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me

Right? Feels pretty effing good. But the music’s not all that uplifting. It’s kinda mournful and makes me feel like, man, there’s something good out there and fuck if I can’t find it. “What’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing?” No idea, but dammit I’m gonna keep looking. And then there’s the key change to a major and the song accuses the listener of having been half asleep and of hearing voices:

Is this the sweet sound that called the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same.
I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it.
It’s something that I’m supposed to be.
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

That’s how the new year makes me feel. But New Year’s as a holiday is still stupid.

Oh, and 2012? It’s the Year of Good Work.

-AJH

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