“So what are you doing to ring in the New Year?”
“Oh, the same thing I do every year.”
“Oh about 5 minutes before midnight on New Year’s Eve, I go take a shower, and don’t come out until I hear all the shouts and whistles that tell me it is after midnight, and the New Year has arrived.”
“Is that some ritual or superstition to get good luck for the year?”
“Oh no. When I come out of the shower, I call all my friends, and call them ‘dirty’ cos they haven’t showered since last year.”
I wrote this a few years ago:
Every year on Dec 31st,
A silent complaint goes out to the universe
“Those 365 days that just went past
They went by just a little too fast!”
“So if you could just slow things down
Or better yet, bring things back around
If we could just start again from the first
I’m sure we could not do that much worse.”
As the universe listens to our complaint
And tho it realised its fault it ain’t
It grants us all a chance to cheer
365 new chances in a happy new year.
The point is, I felt that “Happy New Year” was superficial. So I posted this as my FB status in Jan 2015, I wrote:
Happy New Year, everybody!
Disclaimer: In wishing everybody a “Happy New Year”, the person making the wish (“Wisher”) is merely expressing an aspirational hope that the year ahead brings you some happiness however one may define happiness. The Wisher in no way warrants, guarantees, nor has a duty to ensure that all of the days of the New Year (“2015”), or most of the days of 2015, or even a substantial proportion of the days of 2015 will be happy days for you. Nor is the wisher implying that the year just past was mostly or even somewhat unhappy for you. Nor is the wisher suggesting that the year AFTER 2015 would be less happy. In fact, in wishing you “Happy New Year” the wisher is not implying that he has the power to make 2015 happy for you, or that if he had not wish you “Happy New Year”, you would not be happy.
You know what? Happy New Year? That’s up to you.
Instead, let me just say, I hope I have been a good friend to you in 2014, and I hope we had good times and made good memories. If not, apologies, and let’s make up for it in 2015.
The point was happiness was not mine to grant, or even to wish. It was an echo of my note from FB in 2014:
For some it is the mixture of guilt and hope. Guilt over the opportunities in the old year wasted, or ignored, or from being too timid to seize, or being too uncomfortable for the changes necessary to seize those opportunities.
Hope that the new year will bring a second chance to seize those opportunities.
For some it is relief or hope that the burdens of the old year has passed. That the new year promises a new start, a fresh perspective, a shedding of old burdens, old baggage, old scars, old wounds, old history. A chance to start again.
For some it is the celebration of the next step, the next phase of their growth or development. The old year was good. The new year will be better. It is a rededication of their self and purpose to a vocation, a calling, a mission.
For some it is the inexorable march of time. It is another year older. Bones are “achy-er”, vision is blurrer, fatigue comes faster, sleep comes easier, but leaves faster. Bladders fill faster, and drains slower. Indulgences becomes penances – sugar, salt, fat, alcohol – they still taste good, but the body punishes you for it. Life passes faster.
For some, it is a time to panic as all the goals you set yourself has yet to be achieved. You’re still not a millionaire by the age of 30… and you’re already 40. You still haven’t wrote The Great Singapore Novel. You still haven’t bought a flat, a condo, a Porsche, a mega-yacht, etc. You still haven’t dated an actress, a model, or lost your virginity.
For some New Year’s Day is just another day, except that it is a public holiday. So that’s good. Now if only the rest of the year were also holidays, so he can write other pretentious faux-philosophical missives about the meaning of life, new year and other psychological barriers or milestones.
The New Year is all these, and none of these.
The New Year is a second chance, but not really. Opportunities will present itself again, but not exactly in the same manner. Maybe not even the same opportunities. You may have trouble recognising them as oppportunities.
You can leave your past behind on New Year’s day. But you could also have left it at any other time of the year. Really. But you hold onto it. Out of a sense of guilt. An over-developed sense of responsibility. Or because you felt you owned it. Or owed it. Or maybe you realise that you can never really deny who you were. And until you have resolved and accepted your past, you cannot really grow pass that self.
You can take the new year as the year you made it to the next level. But again, you could have done so when you were ready. You did not need the new year to give you permission to grow and advance.
And yes, at its most basic, the new year marks the passing of time. But your bones don’t just get achy-er on New Year’s Day. It creeps up on you. A little every day. Then you turn 40 and the CPF sends you a letter welcoming you to the Eldershield programme. Or the cashier at Fairprice asks you if you are over 60. Or some nice young person on the bus offers you a seat, and you’re torn between being grateful and being insulted. So you go to Watsons to buy hair dye to colour your beard. And the cashier asks you for your senior citizen discount card.
So regrets, you’ve had a few. Then you see some pamphlet about “Successful Ageing – What is successful ageing?” I guess if you’re not dead, you’ve aged somewhat successfully.
And you don’t need to panic if you haven’t met your goals in the last year. Perhaps your goals are unrealistic. How do you know if you goals are unrealistic? Find a friend you can trust, and tell him/her your goal. If he/she laughs, it’s probably unrealistic. If he/she doesn’t laugh (because of inhuman self-control) but still tells you it’s unrealistic. Believe him/her. This is after all your trusted friend.
Oh, but if your trusted friend says that it is a realistic goal, then, yeah, you can beat yourself over it.
And yes, the best thing about New Year’s Day is that it is a public holiday. If you had prepared for it right, you should have slept early the night before so you can get an early start the next day for the holiday. No need to stay up to welcome the New Year at the stroke of midnight. It will come whether you do so or not. For the same reason, I don’t wake up before dawn to welcome the Sun. I leave that to my wife.
But, there is some meaning imbued in the crossing over from an old year to a new year. It is just another day. But it isn’t. Or rather for 364 days a year, it is just another day. But once a year, we mark that passage of time, we reflect on our achievements and failings, and vow to do better. Or just do anything.
And a few billion other people also vow to do better. And maybe that gives hope that the new year will be better.
At least for a while.
While there was cynicism in the above, there was also some sense of optimism. That New Years aren’t just about individual resolutions, but rather, if everyone tried to be a little better from Jan 1st, perhaps the world will be a little better.
May the New Year bring you what you need. May what you need be what you want. And may what you want not be illegal, immoral, or fattening. Unless you really need it!
For 2016, I had a series of posts on FB. Starting with “Draft version 0.4” of my new year wish, I also posted version 0.5, and 0.6:
Draft new year wishes version 0.4 (do not post!) “I wish you understanding that your happiness does not depend on my wishes, maturity to understand that your success and happiness are in your own hands, wisdom to know what will truly make you happy, and courage to pursue them unrelentingly, regardless of whether I wish you ‘Happy New Year’ or not.”
Draft new year wishes version 0.5 (do not post!) “I wish you wisdom to know that happiness is fleeting, but contentment is already within your grasp. I wish you maturity to pursue that which matters rather than what the world deems as ‘success’ or ‘happiness’. And I wish you courage to be content, to be serene, to be fully and completely you and not what the world would make you to be.”
Draft new year wishes version 0.6 (do not post!) “May the New Year bring you Happiness, if that is what you want; Satisfaction, if that is what you need; and Peace, if that is what you seek.”
My plan initially was to have some high-minded early drafts (e.g. 0.4 and 0.5) spell out some “truths” about cliched wishes for a “Happy New Year” and how there are more worthy issues and concerns rather than mere “happiness”. But eventually, I had planned to come down off my high horse, and “regress” to the simple “Happy New Year” which is short-hand for all the high-minded ideals and aspirations we wish each other.
So, Happy New Year.