With Christmas and Hanukkah under our belts (and said belts a notch or two looser), it seems that the stress of the holiday season should finally be behind us. But, of course, before we launch into the quiet doldrums of January, we have to face that final holiday hurdle: New Year’s Eve.
Whenever I ask someone his or her plans for the occasion, I usually get the same response: eye rolling, a heavy sigh, and the admission of a half-baked plan that he or she feels half-hearted about, at best. For starters, the “biggest night of the year” has a knack of sneaking up on those of us who’ve been focused on buying the elusive “perfect” gift, braving crowded stores and airport delays, and trying to stay relaxed around the extended family.
On top of that, New Year’s Eve is the one holiday of the year when most people feel that they’re supposed to celebrate. Even if you’re normally opposed to loud environments and overpriced liquor, you end up feeling pressured by your significant other, your friends, and even yourself to ring in the new year in the most fabulously fabulous way possible. (Which is tough, because your holiday comrades end up being some odd mixture of “whoever’s in town” and friends of friends of friends.)
And perhaps the most stressful component of the night is the choice of venue. This is one of the few nights in the year when you must commit to one location for the entire evening. If you choose to go to a bar or club, you’re required to purchase an expensive ticket, and you consequently feel compelled to “get your money’s worth” of food and drink. (Hangover, guaranteed.) If you’re lucky enough to have a friend or acquaintance who’s hosting a get-together, you’re similarly inclined to stay in that place for the long haul—or else contend with freezing weather, drunk drivers, and the complete impossibility of finding a cab. There’s no “swinging by” or “stopping in”—much like a wedding, once the place, the people, and the dress have been picked, there’s pretty much no turning back.
This may sound dramatic. And that’s because it is! New Year’s Eve, every year, is just simply drama.
So the best advice I have for coping with it is this: Accept the drama—and then let it go. Face it: The greatest times you have usually develop in a void of high expectations, largely because they’re entirely unplanned. So this night probably won’t be the best one of your life, your year, or maybe even your week. And that’s OK. Just plan the evening as best you can ahead of time, and then go into it without looking back.
And if the celebration doesn’t turn out as you’d hoped, let your reaction be the groundwork for the rest of the year. Like its predecessors, 2012 will undoubtedly be filled with twists and turns. And it’s not really these unforeseeable moments that will decide the course of your next 12 months—it’s how you respond to them.
So, rather than stress over where you should have gone, who you wished was in town, and what you could have done differently, grab a glass of champagne, head to the dance floor, and toast to the evening—whatever it ends up being. The rest will take care of itself, tomorrow.