I have one New Year’s tradition, and it’s this: Neil Gaiman’s New Year’s wishes. Have you read them? Go read them. Each one of them is beautiful and honest and full of truth we all need to hear, even if it’s just once a year. I love to read new ones when he posts them, and re-read old ones each and every year. I don’t pretend for even a second to have the wisdom, wit or literary talent Gaiman does, but here’s my wish for you for this coming year, wherever or whenever you celebrate it.
When I think of December 31st I think of airports. Both things leave me feeling equally mixed and unsure. Airports give me butterflies. This may have something to do with my tendency to motion sickness, but I think it has more to do with the in-between nature of them. Whenever you’re at an airport you’re stuck between two actions: leaving something and going toward something. Sometimes it’s home you’re leaving, sometimes it’s home you’re going back to. Sometimes home isn’t a factor, and you’re simply going from one new place to another. Sometimes you know what you’re expecting, and other times it’s all a blissfully ignorant adventure. Either way, you’re in the middle, and December 31st is the same. Saying goodbye to one year, looking ahead to another.
My 2016 has been a mixed bag. There have been highs and lows, goodbyes and welcomes, adventures, successes and failures. Just like any other year, when you think about it. And when I do think about it, I think that I don’t want to just wish the people I know (and the people I don’t yet) a ‘Happy New Year’. I don’t want to just say ‘I hope it’s a good one’. There’s, always, much more to it than that…
I don’t wish for you to become beautiful
Every year, the resolution I hear the most is to get fitter, look better, lose weight, be more beautiful. But I don’t wish that for you. By all means, lose some weight if that’s what you want. Cut sugar or caffeine or nicotine, have a dry January, join the gym, switch the coffee for tea. Do all of those things. But don’t do them to become beautiful or more beautiful. I don’t wish for you to become more beautiful; my wish for you is that this year you realize how beautiful you already are. It’s hard, I know. I’m no expert. I too would like to lose a few pounds and get more active, so there is no judgment here if that is your number one goal for the new year. Do it. But don’t deprive yourself or measure your beauty by the inches of your waistline. I hope that you will, slowly or all of a sudden, this week or in months from now, be able to look in the mirror and smile. No, forget that; my hope is that you will seek out mirrors to look at yourself and smile proudly and completely because you are seeing something beautiful. I’m as guilty as the next woman: I look at my thighs and see something too big. I look at my eyes and see bags. I look at my hands and see fingers that are too chubby; I look at my skin and see blemishes. But I am trying. Let’s do it together, shall we? Next time I look in the mirror I’ll try to see that those chubby fingers are used to make beautiful things with love, to give to people I love. I will try to see those bags are a mark of how hard I work to educate a new generation of kids. I will try to see my blemished skin as the wonder that it is, encasing a work of complicated art that is my body, that keeps me together and breathing and living like nothing else on this earth. And when I look at my big thighs? I’m follow Maya Angelou’s lead and dance like I’ve got diamonds. Don’t measure your beauty this year; embrace it, even if at first it feels like hard work and it takes a whole year to feel real. And eat some chocolate: it won’t make you any less of a beauty.
I don’t wish for you success
I hope things go well for you this year. I hope you have some successes, that you achieve things you want to achieve, that you break records and barriers in whatever you pursue. But I don’t wish that success is all you have. Success is great. Pride in your success is great. But I have learned this year that failure is just as valuable, and so that is what I wish for you: this year, I hope you have the opportunity to experience failure. It might sound mean, and I don’t want to be mean, but what I have learned is this: failure is, as they say, inevitable and, as they also say, closed doors lead to opened windows. So don’t bank on success, bank on the experience of trying. Don’t let yourself feel completed by how well you do, but how hard you try. And when things go wrong? Own it. Enjoy it. Learn from it. Failure isn’t quite so bad; it might be just what you need to force you down the path that had been waiting for you.
I don’t wish for you new plans
I am trying to plan less. As a teacher, my life is full of plans and I find comfort in the certainty of a week planned in advance, flights booked months before departure date. But I’m trying to leave that behind. This year, I don’t wish for you new plans; I wish for you new adventures. Plans are great and we all make them, but for goodness sake don’t live your life by them, please? The best things happen when you don’t plan for them. The best places are seen when you step off the beaten track. The best experiences come as a surprise. So plan to get away on vacation, but don’t plan every day from a guidebook; take a detour and see what you find. Go somewhere or do something new just because. Don’t be ruled by your diary – rule your diary. And every once in a while this year, let yourself go on an adventure. That’s how memories are made.
I don’t wish for you happiness
Happiness is fleeting. I feel happy when I eat chocolate, but it doesn’t last. I feel happy when I open a new book for the first time, but that won’t keep the world turning. So instead of wishing just happiness for you, I wish for you to have a year full of joy and contentment, pride in yourself and others, humility and generosity to move you beyond yourself, openness of heart and mind and arms, willingness to move and stay still in equal measure, kindness, imperfections, energy and passion and patience and stubbornness. I wish you it all.
Happy New Year. Have fun with those you love and those you don’t. Drink champagne, sing Auld Lang Syne and watch the fireworks, or stay at home and read a book. Kiss someone, or don’t. Take my wishes, or don’t. But whatever you do this year, do it bravely and boldly and as only you can.
With love, Miss L