(THIS POST WAS ALSO PUBLISHED ON MATADOR NETWORK)
All over the world, celebrating the onset of the New Year is universally a huge event. It means fireworks, big feasts, parades, parties, lots of drinking, the dramatic countdown events and everything in between. With all that, it also means being around friends, families, partners, and huge crowds. It’s a festive time and most definitely everyone can sense the contagious spirit of celebration. Therefore, it seems no one in their right mind by choice would decide to be alone on such an occasion, with the exception of a few who might miss the celebration due to extenuating circumstances.
But then, there’s me. I made a choice to be alone on New Year’s Eve. It’s not because I didn’t get any invites to events. I did but I turned them down. By choice, I decided to stay home and spend the entire night by myself. No, I’m not depressed; nor did I go through some difficult period recently. In fact, there are so many things I feel I should be celebrating about for the past year but do I need a specific holiday to feel celebratory? I don’t think so. Any day is perfect to be merry and celebrate anything in life or just life itself for that matter with anyone, be it a stranger or someone familiar – a lesson I learned over the years and is inherent in solo traveling.
Also, I don’t own a TV so I didn’t see the countdown like most people did who decided to stay home. In fact, I went to bed the same time I usually do. No, I wasn’t feeling ill that I had to be in bed early. That’s not the case either. To me, New Year’s Eve, in essence, is just another day. Unfortunately, as a single person with no kids there is this pressure to be out there to be seen with the crowd and work on my chances at dating so I can get myself a partner, especially when I’m at an age where partnership and marriage are critical for societal validation. Yes, I know all that. Believe me.
The expectations and pressures do not end there, unfortunately, as I know very well that when I return to work and tell those who are curious about what I did for New Year’s, my reply that I spent it alone would render them speechless. I, then, will have the privilege to be the subject of their blank stares accompanied by internal negative judgments along the lines of my being this pitiful single woman who doesn’t have anyone. If somehow the conversation gets to a point where I manage to tell them it’s by choice, I seriously doubt that asserting “it’s by choice” will change their originally presumed thought of me being the ultimate spinster. It won’t because society still heavily relies on companionship to validate a person’s worth. I know that. Hence, when I decided to be alone on New Year’s Eve, I ran this dialogue in my head several times to see if I was making a sound choice for my own sanity. Did I make a good choice? To be honest, I did. In fact, it was a perfect choice because it was what felt true to me at that moment.
If you ever have doubts about the idea of being alone on New Year’s Eve, I urge you to think again. The idea really is akin to solo traveling which I’m familiar with as it is my preferred type of travel. Mind you, I enjoy the company of others as much as being a solo traveler. But as a solo traveler for most of my traveling life, I realized life is something to be celebrated each day, not just on special occasions. Sure, it’s great that everyone comes together, writes their resolutions and demonstrates more kindness towards each other, but wouldn’t it be better to strive to do such things on a more regular basis in our daily lives? Wouldn’t it serve our own best interests to express gratitude for what we have and towards others without being prompted by a specific occasion or a change in the numbers on the calendar?
This brings me to the reasons why we all at some point should spend New Year’s Eve alone by choice based on my newly acquired personal experience of spending it in solitude:
It’s a chance to check up on our inner self.
You can view the alone time as respite from your obligations to others and a chance to focus instead on yourself. This is an opportune time to ask yourself questions pertaining to your well-being as a means of self-reflection. Life gives us so many chores that easily take up all the hours in our day, not to mention the 40 hours or more we spend working. On my time alone, I took an extra step and attended a yoga class. The process allowed me to calm my mind to a point that I became reacquainted with those inner desires that quietly beg for my attention. Finally, I heard them loud and clear, so much so, that I could no longer ignore their need for attention. But even without yoga, you can easily tap into your inner visions and ideas by simply spending time alone. There’s no need to add any extra accommodations to yield such experience. Silence and solitude are the only items you need.
It’s a chance to de-stress.
Any alone time can be a source of relaxation, especially on a day like New Year’s Eve when commotions are all around you as a way to celebrate. Take advantage of this day to stay indoors alone to find a peaceful moment devoid of stress. It’s a chance to work on a hobby that you’ve neglected for a while due to lack of personal time or pursue a new interest that has been on your mind. I personally enjoyed working on my writing at home, which lately has been a vehicle for me in igniting inspiration from within. Allow yourself to tap into your creativity which is also an ideal way of achieving that much needed level of relaxation.
It’s a chance to play catch up.
A more likely scenario is that most of us are behind with so many chores come the end of the year. We can’t find the time to do these overdue tasks unless we drop certain obligations to make room for them. Well, if you decide to ditch New Year’s Eve celebrations, then you create time to play catch up. Work on the bills, repair that furniture, or clean the fridge. A whole day to check off those items on your to do list would mean reduced level of stress. You’ll then come out feeling refreshed and more prepared for the New Year that lies ahead.
It’s a chance to spend time with your pets.
Even pets require some tender love and care. As humans, we easily forget about their need for attention. Since you’re going to be spending the entire day alone, then why not spend it with your furry friends? Don’t worry. Being with them doesn’t deprive you of the alone time. You’re still alone except you get to have some companionship – the kind that will help with de-stressing. Pet your cats or dogs or both. Indulge in pet therapy while you still can. Even your pets have expiration dates so don’t take your time with them for granted either.
It’s a chance to liberate ourselves.
Once in a while, you need to say, “F*** the expectations and pressures!” It’s exhausting to carry the stigma of solitude no matter what context it maybe, whether hiking, traveling or on a special occasion like New Year’s Eve. Liberate yourself and do it despite what others may think of it. You may just be surprised how much you like that time alone. But there’s more. I made reference earlier to being alone on New Year’s Eve as being similar to solo traveling. Well, solitude on the road and solitude in your own home share something in common – a sense of freedom. When I spent New Year’s Eve alone, the feeling brought me back to a happy place while I was traveling solo – atop a mountain peak I climbed in the Albanian Alps or one in Nepal’s Himalayas. When you learn to value freedom from solo traveling, anything you do in solitude from that point on will always lead you back to your fondest memories of solo traveling and with it comes the feeling of freedom that you enjoyed then, and aspire to have now.
In my case, New Year’s Day managed to arrive and curiously enough not even slightly did I feel a sense of missing out on the shenanigans the night before. In fact, spending New Year’s Eve alone proved to be the most enlightening experience I ever had on such occasion. I didn’t have any photos of myself to post on social media hinting any kind of celebration and neither did my friends. That’s liberating for a change. Don’t get me wrong. It took me time to be mentally okay with solitude on New Year’s Eve. In the past, I feared the notion and desperately sought companionship even if it lacked meaning. It is indeed a process to get to a point in which being alone on New Year’s Eve becomes genuinely enjoyable. Truth be told, it took me years to finally embrace this type of solitude without a hint of fear or insecurity.
In finally getting here, the experience turned out to be a pleasant surprise as the next day my mind was clear of clutter, my heart was full from reminiscing the night before about my favorite travel moments and my soul was filled with a deep sense of stillness and gratitude. In addition, I woke up knowing I have less items on my to do list to worry about and therefore felt much more prepared for the brand new year ahead of me.
For all these reasons, we should celebrate those who manage to find solitude on New Year’s Eve rather than stigmatize them for the choice that they made. The experience is one of a kind which can potentially bring us closer to our own sense of freedom and inner peace. In a fast-paced and chaotic world, that’s luxury. Hence, at least once in our lives, we should all experience solitude on such a day. So, go for it, and start the year being “you” even if it means minus the crowd.
For the rest, next time your friends or loved ones don’t invite you to hang out on New Year’s Eve or perhaps reject your invitation for the sake of solitude, don’t take it personally or chastise them for it. Instead, appreciate the fact that they love themselves enough to give themselves that alone time they deserve on New Year’s Eve. Finally, when they do invite you, take that as you being THAT relevant in their lives because once they discovered the beauty of solitude, they then lost that sense of needing to invite you which leads me to say that the invite will come only because they truly want to spend that time with you.