Is there such a thing as a fresh start or a new beginning? Wouldn’t that involve not only rejecting everything that came before, but also erasing them completely?
I really don’t have a specific New Year’s Eve/ Day ritual, it’s been different every year. There were a couple of really good parties during college and one or two after, but overall it’s been something that I do differently every year. When I was younger, my parents would go out and my brother and I would watch movies and watch the ball drop and eat things like cocktail shrimp. It was fun and chill and without the weird expectation of having to be at a certain place at a certain time with a certain person.
This year, if I’d had my druthers, I would have celebrated in a certain way. But I didn’t. And I’m surprisingly okay with that. I don’t typically make plans anymore, at least not advanced ones, because whatever I fall into will inevitably be the right thing to do. Last night I was going to hang out with a college friend and do whatever, but she couldn’t make the trip from St. Cloud, so when I got done with work I went home and watched the rest of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This was, as it turns out, the right thing to do. It was relaxed and chill and reminded me a bit of those years spent watching movies with my brother while the hour crept toward midnight.
Here’s the other thing about New Year’s Eve: it’s a holiday that exists for really only one minute, the thirty seconds before and after midnight. A lot of people talk about staying up to see the year change or to celebrate it changing or whatever. The emphasis is on the staying up until midnight. I’m rarely in bed before midnight, so the hour isn’t all that special to me (though I do enjoy the quiet solitude of night and knowing that a good portion of the population is asleep while I’m still doing whatever I am doing at that hour). It seems odd to have a holiday that is based around one minute and to have so many plans and preparations go into a party to have it dissolve almost immediately after that minute is a little strange. Would I feel the same way had I been at a party? Yep, it’s the way I feel every year (though, most of the parties that I’m at are with people who are used to partying late, so the party doesn’t dissolve so much as to shift almost imperceptibly into a regular party.
Looking back on the last year (and the last decade), a lot has changed for me. As far as the decade goes, it began for me when I was twenty and now I’m thirty. I started it in college and I’m ending it in grad school. And there were all sorts of adventures and tragedies in between. In the last year I made one of the best decisions of my life when I decided, rather spur of the moment, to travel to New York to see about a girl. This isn’t something that I normally do. Typically traveling for me involves more planning, more … I don’t know, forethought perhaps. A few years ago, Zack and I took a trip to Seattle together. It was really the first real vacation that I took anywhere that involved seeing someplace new on my own. Yes, Zack was with me, but prior to this Seattle trip most of my traveling had either been done with my family (planned by my dad, more or less entirely) or for work (a quick business trip to Baltimore for a conference, nearly a month in Roanoke, West Virginia for a stage managing gig at the opera company there, a summer in Alexandria, Minnesota for a job acting with a summer stock theatre company). Seattle was the first time that I went somewhere because I wanted to. Having Zack along was great because it helped reconcile the genetic desire to plan (train tickets were purchased months ahead of time) with some spontaneity (a lot of the things that we did were things that we discovered along the way or read about in books while we were there, we had only a few things planned, including a day around the University of Washington so that I could check out their MFA program). I learned to let go a little bit on that trip. So this last summer, after many text message conversations and online chatting and whatnot, I just decided to go to NYC. I’d only been their once before (with my family, for my cousin’s wedding) and knew people there (including my brother), so I had backup plans if things didn’t work out … not that I really knew what that meant because I just did it. This was a pretty big step for me: I just did it. I went online to a website that compared cheap tickets and hotel packages between different sites that found low prices on tickets and hotel packages and I found one that fit on my credit card. Then I bought it. I told the girl when I was coming (a few days after I bought the tickets) and then I just went. I only told a couple of people that I was going, packed a bag, and flew. It was wonderful and liberating. I had a fantastic time there with the girl and even though that hasn’t gone exactly the way I’d hoped it might, it has opened me up to a new part of myself. So therefore, best decision I’ve ever made. (The second was going back to grad school for my MFA in Creative Writing at Hamline, which I’m still immersed in, and the third was the summer I spent at Summer Stock).
This year also had some lows. My grandmother died just over a month ago. I haven’t seen her for a while, but I loved her very much. I read two pieces at the funeral, both from Shakespeare. I was asked to choose them both. When I went up to read them, I felt that I had to say something as a preface to what I read, because I don’t know what my grandmother’s favorite passages were. I have a red leather bound edition of the complete works that I got from her. I remember as a child cracking open those gold-pressed pages and reading Hamlet aloud to myself. I loved the way that it sounded and there was a ghost, so for a ten year old that was pretty cool. I’d find that book every time I was at her place and finally, she just gave it to me. I think that I might have been the only one to ever read it (she had received it as a retirement gift and had other editions at other times in her life that she read) so there were no notations (or shared conversations, as my English advisor, Jack Hibbard, in undergrad might have suggested) or anything to draw from. I chose to read from Hamlet, Act 3, scene 1:
To be, or not to be- that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them. To die- to sleep-
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die- to sleep.
To sleep- perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub!
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despis’d love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would these fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death-
The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns-
And then read from The Tempest, Act 4, scene 1:
You do look, my son, in a mov’d sort,
As if you were dismay’d; be cheerful, sir.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
And I related my story about the red leather bound edition as the preface to these readings.
The weekend of the funeral happened to be Thanksgiving weekend. I drove to my uncle’s on Thanksgiving, traveling around 85 miles an hour across southern Wisconsin to make it to his house by 3 o’clock (when I was told that dinner was being served). I arrived at five to three and we didn’t eat until 5:30. I saw most of my mom’s side of the family that day (the few that weren’t there I saw at the funeral on Saturday morning). It was nice, we hadn’t gathered for a few years and I expect that we won’t gather like that again. Grandma got us all together at least once more for the holiday. The day after Thanksgiving was spent replacing my brother’s cell phone, which had been run over by the taxi that dropped him off at my uncle’s house. We tag-teamed the salesperson with questions (since I was looking to get a new phone as well) and he ended up getting the Droid Eris, a phone that I’d get as well two weeks later when I got my $50 credit from Verizon. My parents also got a new phone that day.
We went from buying phones to visiting my only remaining grandparent, my Grandpa Henry (my dad’s dad). He is 96 and has been in the nursing home for almost a year now. His memory is going fast, but for that day he remembered us as we got there. It was nice. We saw him again after the funeral on Saturday. I don’t know when or if I’ll see him again. We stayed with my dad’s sister, Aunt Joann for the weekend. Again, it’s been a while since I’ve seen her or Uncle Bob. We left on Sunday, my parents and brother drove to Milwaukee (so that my brother could catch a plane home) and then to McGregor, MN and I drove west to Minneapolis.
So many other things happened this year. I saw a lot of movies that I loved and hated, read a lot of books (albeit, mainly for classes this year) and went out a lot. I spent time with many different people, some old friends and some new. I’ve made mistakes, nearly been fired, and had successes.
Christmas I went to my parents house. My brother was supposed to fly in on Saturday night (December 19th) but a snowstorm hit the east coast and grounded a bunch of flights, so he didn’t arrive until Monday night (December 21st). We were going to drive up on Wednesday (December 23rd) but on Tuesday morning I got a call from one of my employees telling me that her dad had died. This changed my plans, as she was going to work the weekend after Christmas and there was no way that I was going to let her do that. My brother and I drove up on Tuesday night (beating the snowstorm that was crossing the country and about to hit Minnesota hard). We drove into Superior on Wednesday so that I could go to the dentist and get my teeth cleaned and get some more of the work I needed done completed (I spent a lot of years without dental insurance, unaware how silly dental coverage is in general, and as a result I need a lot of work done–I had two root canals last summer and was going to get the crowns put on at this last visit, but instead had six of the fillings done to minimize further issues. I still need six more fillings and the two crowns, but then should be right as rain). Thursday the snow came and we had a lovely snowy Christmas in the woods. My mom got a nasty cold (one that I have a piece of now) and wasn’t able to go out Christmas Eve, so I went with my dad and brother to the candlelight service and then we went back home right after. I managed to get someone to cover the early show on Saturday, so I didn’t have to leave Christmas night through the thick of the storm, but had to then leave very early on Saturday morning. I drove from 8 am until I arrived at the theatre at 1 pm for the second show of the day. Long trip over crappy roads, but I made it okay. I worked both shows on Sunday and Monday and then had evening shows Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
This brings us to now, New Year’s Day. The building is closed today, so I have a Friday off. I’ll work tomorrow and then I’ll be on unpaid furlough for a week (an unfortunate byproduct of the economy taking a dump). This cold doesn’t seem too bad, so Sunday I may drive up to Duluth to go to the wedding of my friend Danea’s brother. She just mentioned it last night in a text message, so I don’t have any details yet. I haven’t seen her for years (she moved to Florida a while ago) so I’m excited to see her. Other than that, my plans for the upcoming week involve reading, writing, and watching movies.
That’s all for now. As for fresh starts, I’m going to stay the course. I can’t erase the things I’ve been, nor do I want to. I’m going to begin a new chapter instead, the further adventures of me. There will be mistakes and there will be successes. There will be more hurt and there will be more happiness. These are things that I know for sure, because if we didn’t have it all then we wouldn’t be human. Everything changes, every minute or every day. We don’t have to stay on the same course that we’re on, because every minute is also a chance to turn it all around. That’s life. That’s the adventure that we’re on. I say bring it.
More later …