I cringed as my friend raced down the street after dropping me off, making too much noise for 4 o’clock in the morning, and winced as the lock to the front door clicked, sure I had woken my dad. As I tiptoed down the hallway making as little noise as possible I saw the living room showered in dull light emanating from the television. The light illuminated the coffee table which was covered in empty champagne glasses, grease stained paper plates, and abandoned party hats. I noticed my family already replaced the calendar on our kitchen wall, telling me what I already know: it’s the new year. As I moved to turn the television off I heard a snore come from the couch across the room. I held in a gasp as I realized my brother was sleeping here instead of his dorm at CU. Making sure I didn’t wake him, I crept upstairs surreptitiously peeking into my parents room to make sure they were still asleep. Hearing the comforting sounds of their deep breathing, I silently made my way into my room.
At 4:23am when I finally collapsed onto my cloudlike bed, I thought back to the night before. Going through the events in my head as if I was a mere bystander, watching someone who looked like me and talked like me, but couldn’t be me. This stranger had social skills I didn’t own and walked as if they had the confidence I always dreamed I had, but knew didn’t exist. Knowing this change wasn’t permanent I wanted to remember everything because I might not be the exact same person tomorrow, but I was a step closer than I was yesterday.
The more I thought about the night before, the more I began thinking about my previous New Years. My family’s long standing tradition of watching Lord of the Rings until the ball dropped and toasting our champagne glasses to a new year. My brother and I trying every year to sneak some Veuve Clicquot into our sparkling apple cider, and catching disapproving looks from both of our parents, but pouring some in the second they looked away. My mom and I battling it out over Clue while the rest of the family sighs and plays anyway, but knows one of us will win no matter what they do. My grandpa giving my brother a very in depth lesson in chess, and my brother feigning deep interest even though he only ever pulls the chess board out of the closet when my grandpa comes around. All of us sitting around the coffee table wrapped in our homemade fleece blankets as my Oma tells us stories about her haunted childhood and all the evil she fought and defeated.
The best part of the night however, was never the second the ball dropped, it was an hour after. Around the time most of them would decide it was hours after they all should have been asleep, so they say their goodnights and sleepily make their way to bed. But I would never follow, this was the time I would stay up and finish the Return of the King determined to make it all the way through. Some years my brother would join me, us both fighting the urge to let the weight of our eyelids force us into an unwanted sleep. But other years it was just me and my dog curled up in those fleece blankets keeping warm as I watched a war unfold in a different dimension. Indifferent to the sounds the film was making my dog would follow the rest of the family and drift off to sleep, the sound of her deep breaths heard over the almost muted television. By the time the movie ends I am always in tears. Partly because Frodo has to leave his friends behind, but more of the fact that Frodo has found his purpose. He fought his demons and he won, and now it’s time for him to move on; whereas I am just beginning my journey. Every year it has been the same, the new year begins and I think to myself: This is it. This is the year you start becoming who you want to be. But by the end of the year, I don’t feel any different. This is the first time I’ve started a year without telling myself I need to figure out who I’m going to be. Maybe it’s because I know now that it will take much more than year to figure it out, or maybe it’s because I can tell I’m on my way.