By Elana Luban
Last year, my New Year’s was okay. Not horrible, not even mediocre, but nothing out of the norm. I went out with my boyfriend and his best friend to karaoke and a few bars, and though I enjoyed the singing and partying, there had been so many other times the three of us had had much more fun together.
In fact, the best memory I have of the three of us is a time when, after a night of clubbing, we decided to grab fro-yo near Columbus Circle. It was about 1:30 am, the man working the night shift was amazingly nice and gave us free M&M’s, and my boyfriend’s best friend bonded with him over vacationing in the same place a few years back. Getting free snacks in the AM after partying felt like we were hacking life — the night felt spontaneous and thrilling.
You don’t need me to tell you why New Year’s doesn’t usually end up like that. There are numerous articles and YouTube videos that expand on variations of “Why New Year’s Sucks,” my favorite among them an AsapSCIENCE video describing the psychology behind the disappointment we feel when our New Year’s festivities don’t meet our expectations. In short, as a species with an incredibly developed prefrontal cortex, we have these great, vivid imaginations that let us visualize exactly how incomparably, extraordinarily fantastic the night ahead of us will be… leading to an inevitable letdown.
This past New Year’s was fine as a hangout — but not more. Just one example of how the hype created a letdown was my New Year’s kiss: I kiss my boyfriend often enough (probably once per date? Maybe twice?) so I had no idea what the heck I was supposed to feel at the mandatory 12 am kiss. Ninety percent of the people in the bar didn’t have anyone to kiss (including the best friend we brought along, poor third wheel) — and I’ve been there as well, so I know what that feels like. It was nothing like how the romcoms show it.
But what are all the other factors that make New Year’s suck? Let’s hear what other students have to say:
“I would never do this type of stuff, or feel this type of pressure, on any other night, so why should I do this on New Year’s? Why should I start my year like that?” says Ailin Elyasi (SC, ‘20), self-proclaimed study-holic and generally motivated person. When papers and extracurriculars and events are waiting, who has time for the socially constructed compulsion to try to imitate unrealistic Hollywood scenes?
Eli Raskin (YC, ‘16) says, “It’s all the crowds and pressure without any payoff. No presents, no barbeque… Just getting drunk and maybe one kiss.” Eli Raskin also happens to be my boyfriend, and even though I didn’t have a particularly out-of-this-world experience this past New Year’s, I’m now mad and offended — albeit hypocritically so — that he shares the exact same sentiments. We’re gonna have to have a talk.
“New Year’s confuses me because we have like seven of them. Rosh Hashanah, Pesach, New Year’s… Like, I can’t just keep going ‘New Year, new me!’ every two months,” says Sharon L. (SC ‘21). She has a point; if I followed through with that many New Year’s Resolutions, my life might actually see some drastic changes, and that would defeat the whole point of New Year’s Resolutions.
But on a more serious note, what should you be thinking about (if anything) when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st? It definitely shouldn’t be about how uncomfortable your shimmery dress and tight heels are, the awkwardness of your kiss (or lack thereof), or the pressure you’ve faced to go out despite being in the middle of finals. That much you’ve figured out.
I’m not a proponent of chucking the whole tradition out the window. I’m also not a big proponent of cliches, but one idea that might not seem that original at first but could work surprisingly well is making New Year’s about the past, not the future, or the pressure of enjoying the all-consuming now to the fullest. Make it a “Thanksgiving” of sorts: try to think of the most fulfilling memories of this past year. Let them envelop you. It’s okay to be introspective even if you’re in a room packed with partiers.
One more tip I have is to keep your mind open — you never know when the perfect New Year’s will come along. I’ll leave you with a story: three years ago, during my gap year in Israel, I went out to celebrate my first New Year’s without my family there with me. Not only was this my first New Year’s Eve in a foreign country, but it was my first night clubbing in my life. I was faced with the choice of whether to party responsibly or not — and party responsibly I did, even if my seminary didn’t technically allow clubbing on Ben Yehuda (shhh, let’s keep this on the lowdown). The one thing I didn’t expect was for my friends to bail on me last minute, and while I don’t blame them since it was raining as hard as I’ve ever seen it rain in Israel, that left me all alone. That’s where the element of spontaneity came in. Before I knew it, a few Israeli girls and guys ran up to me, asking to use my umbrella. They were headed to a club just a block away and told me that I had to come if I’ve never clubbed in Jerusalem before. I went along, I danced my heart out, and my Hebrew-speaking skills climbed a good three levels.
Granted, I don’t remember a big deal being made out of the countdown, and there was no midnight kiss. But my expectations had been completely thwarted and exceeded, which is at the end of the day (no pun intended) what many of us want from New Year’s. If we stay open to possibilities and deviations from a perfectly planned-out night, there’s no saying what adventures any and all of our future New Year’s Eves might bring.