I used to be a Grinch. But, oddly enough, I have been looking forward to Christmas and all the little Christmas-y things this year. The lights are charming, the cocktails are tasty, and most I now get to experience the holiday through the eyes of my nieces and nephew (ages 2, 3, and 4).
No, It’s that other holiday that I really hate: New Year’s.
When I was in my teens and early twenties, New Years Eve was my favorite holiday. To me it was all about getting as fucked up as possible. Ya know, end the year with a bang. I had a lot of fun celebrating New Years Eve in this way; thinking little of the passage of one year and start of another. I would get all my close friends from high school together and have them come to my dorm/apartment to party with some of my college friends. Over time, however, it became harder and harder to get people together under the same roof, and the expectations of trying to have the best time ever started to make the whole thing feel more like a burden than a reason to party.
Studies Show: Loneliness
Soon I was no longer able to count on my high school friends being available—emotionally or physically—and college friends were scattered around in different cities. I went through a difficult time coming to terms with the truth that you can’t really depend on people to be there for you. That the only person who is always going to be there is yourself—and that that’s okay. Yesterday a study was published about the three key life periods when people report feeling the loneliest: the late-twenties, the mid-fifties, and the late-eighties. I guessed the late-twenties before opening the article.
Statistically, feelings of loneliness have been on the rise over all age cohorts for the past decade, and I’m not going to wax on the reasons here. Yet, it makes sense that people in the aforementioned age-groups would feel subjectively more loneliness than others. In the mid-fifties people who have had children are likely to be experiencing an empty nest. If the parents had become too absorbed in their children—to the neglect of their own social lives—may find themselves feeling empty and alone. When people reach their eighties, a lot of their friends and relatives are dying; including spouses/significant others, brothers and sisters, and peers. For the lucky people who live into their late-eighties, in addition to the growing frailty of their bodies and dependence on others, they must also face the inevitability of their own death hoovering ominously and not too far off in the distance.
The Loneliness of the late-twenties I can speak to from experience. People start falling out of touch with longtime friends. Peers get married and inevitably turn mostly to their partners for support and social activities. People who married young may be starting to divorce. Peers are now having children, and no longer have time to dedicate to maintaining a robust social life. For many, it is a transitional time of becoming more mature and taking adult responsibilities seriously, and for others it is a time of settling down. And for the rest of us—or at least for me—it is a period of transitional depression. Where things are changing all around you, while you may feel lost, and must learn not to compare yourself with others for your own sanity (especially difficult in the current age of social-media-world-domination). I think it is a common reaction to experience bitterness when friends start to distance themselves. It takes time, effort, and insight to get to a place where you can be happy just spending time with someone without knowing if/when you will see them again and letting go of any expectations about a friendship ever being like it used to be. The most important relationship we can have is the one we have with ourselves and it reflects on all other relationships—so we must be kind to ourselves!
I am in my early 30s and like the people surveyed I don’t feel as lonely now as I did a few years ago. That being said, the new year is coming and with that comes a seemingly inescapable period of reflection. Am I where I wanted to be at the same time last year? Did I make progress? Did I regress? What are my goals for this year? How do I measure up? Why didn’t I do more/better? How can I stop time from moving so fast?
During my late-twenties transitional depression, I learned the importance of lowering my expectations to avoid what felt like the visceral plummet of being let down on a regular basis. On NYE age 29–with a freshly broken heart—my only resolution was “to drink more alcohol”. This may sound unhealthy (and it probably was), but the real goal was to go out, try new things, and socialize more. Alcohol is social lubricant. So, rather than set myself up for a failure, I thought ‘let me set a goal I know I can reach’. And I think I did make some improvement that year (in that I did go out more often) and kept it going since. Making new friends at this age can be very difficult, especially if you don’t work in a friendly environment. Even tiny steps in the right direction is something to be proud of. Sometimes just getting through the day is a enough.
Last year I did not go out on NYE at all. That was the first time I didn’t celebrate (without having to work). I didn’t feel bad about it either. I learned to let go of the expectations of an eventful NYE. It is just a day—like any other. It does not have to be the best day of the year. And it was absolutely freezing in NYC!
You’ll Know It When You Get THERE
It has been more difficult to let go of the period of reflection and subsequent anxiety of how—according to societal expectations—maybe I am still lost. I can’t help but wonder if there will be a time when I feel like I really got THERE. No need to panic! You’ve finally made it. Now you can relax. Be calm. Life is going to go smoothly from here on out.
Rationally, I know there is no such place where THERE is. I know that every phase of life has it’s ups and downs. I know that every one has their good days and bad days. I know that no one has the roadmap to life. I know that getting married can be interpreted as multiplying your own problems by two and having children is extremely taxing in the best of circumstances. I know that statistically, first-time parents rate their own happiness below those who are grieving A spouse—after the brief initial euphoria. I know that integral to being alive is impermanence and suffering, and that accepting this is one of the few ways to make this thing called life flow a little easier.
But, then the Christmas cards arrive, and these young families look *so* happy together, and I can’t help but thinking that they must have made it THERE. That the very act of taking a picture and mailing a Christmas card means they’ve got their shit together.
And here we are at the end of 2018. I am very unhappy with my job and actively searching for a new one. I am ending a 2.5-year relationship 1.5 years later than I should have. No plans yet for NYE, of course.
Good Riddance 2018
(don’t look twice it’s alright)
And… and I guess it could be worse. I do have a job, so that’s good. I have two working arms and two working legs. I am in good physical health. I’m still pretty cute. I can get in better shape if I tried. In 2018 I took a road trip, paid my rent, didn’t get fired, had health insurance, went to a few art museums, went to a play at public theater, walked to the park, foraged for mussels, added a new best friend, made a few new casual friends, started paying for the NYTimes and got a subscription for The New Yorker, started listening to NPR, saw some live music, carved a pumpkin, tried botox for the first time, started a blog (kinda), voted in the midterms, went to traffic court, took up fluid painting and macramé, and went fishing. I have a big family with two adorable nieces and one adorable nephew. I have three days off for Christmas! I have plans for the weekend.
And I will start again. I will find a better job. I will try new things. I will take it one day at a time. Maybe I’ll get to travel this year.
No resolutions. Goals? I can think of a few: Go to the park at least once. Go to a few more museums. Go to two new cities (anywhere). Go on a date (just one at least!). Go to a play and a ballet. Try a new genre of food. Plant a tree. Take an art class (and mixology, maybe).
And work out… at least once.
WE HAVE THE END OF TRUMP TO LOOK FORWARD TO! Cheers to 2019.