Reflecting: NYE On My Own Terms

There is so much pressure on New Year’s Eve – it feels like everything I’ve ever done throughout the entire year has all boiled down to this day, December 31st, 2014. And it must be perfect.

I’ve come to realize that I’m not the only one. With that mindset, the holidays inevitably become a great time for reflection. It can seem like you get what you deserve on New Year’s – if you go to an awesome party or get a New Year’s kiss then you must have done something right; if you’re sitting at home, it’s because you made the wrong choices or didn’t try hard enough.

Last year, I didn’t have a lot of friends (not that I have a lot of friends now, but I have a couple more) and none of them chose to spend their night with me. One of them changed his mind a couple of days before because he needed to reflect. See? Not just me. But that just caused me to reflect too, which resulted in me crying in his car about the fact that none of my friends loved me and it’s just not FAIR because I try so hard, and I was just a pathetic loser and why did I even move away from Oakville anyway? Did I really think that would change anything? I felt so stupid for even thinking that anyone would actually want to share New Year’s with me. I spent it alone (technically my parents were there too, since I was at their house, but you know what I mean), and I thought, this is my life now. I was alone for most of the second half of 2013, and I would only continue to be alone in 2014.

Of course, none of that is true – not what I was telling myself, and not the idea that New Year’s Eve somehow represents your entire life that year. It’s just a day like any other. You can’t feel the difference between 11:59 on December 31st and 12:01 on January 1st.

But that’s where the idea of New Year’s resolutions comes from. For some reason we believe that there is a difference. You look back at everything you’ve done wrong and vow to do better next year. This can be a good thing – no one is perfect and everyone has room for improvement. But if you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, it can be detrimental to your mental health.

Making life changes should be about being happier with yourself, not because someone else wants you to. Whether you have a particular person in mind or society at large, living your life based on someone else’s terms lessens your sense of self-worth.

For example:

Losing weight because you want to be healthier = good motivation!
Losing weight to look better in a bikini = bad motivation.

I think that this is particularly important for those with mental illness to keep in mind – so many of us have enough voices in our heads telling us things we don’t want to hear as it is. There’s no need to fuel that fire. Instead of looking back at all the things you’ve done wrong and ways you need to change, try looking back at all the things you’ve done right. You could even make a list (I did). You’ve probably accomplished more in 2014 than you think.

I did change this year, but it was for me, not for anyone else. I just wanted to be happy. This time last year I got some very good advice, which I ended up taking without realizing it – I actually completely forgot what it was, but I got a recap. It was said much better than this at the time, but basically, it was that I needed to find my purpose in life. I wasn’t there yet, because my purpose in life wasn’t to just be the girl who always sits at home alone, the one who’s always left out and mistreated by people she loves.

It took a long time and a special little pill, but I think I’m finally figuring it out. I have an awesome new job, I’ve made a few new friends, I had an extremely brief fling with some dude, I started writing a book, and most of all I’ve realized how strong I can really be – I lived through what is currently the worst thing that has ever happened to me and somehow I’m not just surviving, I’m actually living. As in I’m actually doing things and not just crying every single day. I mean, some days, but not all the days. Progress. And I didn’t do any of those things because people were telling me to. In fact, they were usually telling me not to. They kind of just happened and I went with whatever my heart told me in the moment.

So consider this your friendly reminder to just remember to breathe and relax. Focus on the good and ignore the bad – believing in the saying ‘ignorance is bliss’ isn’t so bad every once in a while. Stay in and watch a movie. Go dancing. Go out for dinner. Hang out with friends. Play with your cat. Anything you want – spend your New Year’s Eve living on your own terms and you will have a much better night, I promise!

You’ve always been a problem child
You run me downright restless and wild
But I remember when you used to be mine

Distill a whole year down into a day
Act like we all start over with a pristine slate
But to get yourself a new life you’ve got to give the other one away
And I’m starting to believe in the power of a name
Cause it can’t be a mistake if I just call it change
-‘December’/Sara Bareilles


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