Beer > Champagne: How I did New Years Wrong

If ringing in the New Year is supposed to involve a lot of glitter and champagne, I definitely did not do it right this year. I spent the last two days of 2016 in my car with my dogs driving from my parents’ home in Tampa, Florida back to my apartment in Kansas and I spent New Year’s Eve napping because I was tired from driving all day and night. Once I got back to Kansas on New Year’s Eve, Troy and I went out for a couple beers in lieu of champagne. We were home by 9:00, and I took a nap until the ball dropped in Times Square. I kissed my husband at 11:00 PM because I grew up in Eastern Time with New Yorker parents and the ball drop in Manhattan is the only one that matters (except for the drag queen drop in Key West, but that’s still EST so I digress). I was asleep before midnight our time. Happy New Year to me.

Although superstition has never really been a concern of mine, I can’t help but wonder if not making a bigger deal about New Year’s this year kind of sabotaged the beginning of my 2017. So far, I broke my cell phone (still haven’t figured out a solution because I’m broke and not due for an upgrade yet. I hate cell phones) and our water heater quit (and since it’s a holiday, no one has been able to come out to fix it yet. I also hate cold showers). I get that starting a new year can be kind of cathartic. You’re able to let go of whatever bullshit was keeping you from being happy in the past and make new goals and plans and start fresh. And I love all of that. But I kind of feel like I used up all of my catharsis and renewal emotions on my drive 24 hours prior to the ball drop, so I really was emotionally spent for New Year’s Eve.

On December 30, 2016 at 12:00 AM I was driving through the state of Mississippi. About 14 hours prior that same day, I had left my parents’ home in Florida. Since my parents drove down to Miami for the Orange Bowl that morning before I left for Kansas, I had to make sure to lock up the house for them. I went around the house checking windows, making sure the air conditioning (ahh December in Florida) was off, making sure none of my belongings were left behind, and I made the unfortunate mistake of looking at some old family pictures in the process. The amount of tears I cried when I was just trying to lock up the house was utterly embarrassing. I mean, I’ve left that house countless times. I basically know I-75 like the back of my hand at this point. But something about this visit was the perfect storm for an overwhelming amount of homesickness when I left: we only had a week to spend in Florida so everything felt super rushed, it was the first time my husband and I were actually together on Christmas, my siblings are almost in their third year of college so they have their own grownup plans on their breaks and aren’t little kids that are fine with hanging out with me every second of the day anymore, and who knows how much longer my parents want the hassle of taking care of the house we grew up in – basically for whatever reason, real or otherwise, I felt like I had to hang on to this Christmas because I wasn’t sure how many more like it I would get.

And that thought destroyed me. Not in the way that made it impossible to enjoy the holidays with my family because I absolutely did. Even though our vacation was short, I made sure to prioritize the things I wanted to do – eat strawberries from the little stand on the side of the road by my parents’ house, go to the beach with my sister (the only other true beach loving human besides me in my immediate family), hug my grandma, and go to church on Christmas Eve. These are the moments that I cherish every year. My parents spoiled us. They took us to a hockey game where our team won in overtime, they gave us so many presents, they graciously opened their home to us and my two crazy dogs, and honestly, no one can convince me that two better parents exist anywhere in the world. This Christmas was everything I hoped it would be, and I think that’s part of why leaving again was so hard.

My car was running in the driveway all packed up and all I could do was stand in the empty living room staring at a picture of my grandfather who passed away a few years ago. I was so forcefully reminded that these moments couldn’t possibly last forever. One day, my parents would sell the house. One day, my brother and sister would graduate and get married, and wouldn’t come home as often. One day, there would be less chairs around the table during Christmas dinner. I realized that all of this was a part of life and that, on some level, there was beauty in that cycle. I’m glad I got the chance to grow up and marry the love of my life and I want nothing less for my siblings. But, in that moment in the empty house, I grieved for our childhoods and I wanted to go back up the stairs and see my brother and sister as little babies again playing with new Christmas toys.

So on December 30, 2016 at midnight as I was driving in Mississippi, I thought about all that stuff and cried a lot more and tried to reconcile my nauseating homesickness and nostalgia with my independence and my love for freedom, adventure, and new experiences. The two seem mutually exclusive. Independent and adventurous people like me shouldn’t get homesick. But that’s the biggest lie we could tell ourselves as adventurous people, right?

Those of us with restless souls know that we’ve ripped off that band aid of homesickness countless times and it never hurts any less. We’ve left home many mornings before the sun comes up only to cry for two hours in the car. We don’t know the comfort of settling down in our own lives, so when we go home, we feel that security and that familiarity and we are afraid of how good it feels because we tell ourselves the lie that we can’t be both independent, fearless, free, and adventurous, and also cry like babies when we leave our moms.

So I’m here to call out that myth for what it is – a falsehood, a lie, and complete and utter bullshit. Because the fact is, an empty highway in the middle of the night has a way of humbling even the hardest hearts – and I’ve had my fair share of empty highways in the middle of the night like the one I was on at midnight on December 30th. Moments like these aren’t the exciting ones when the adventure has just begun. These are the quiet moments when you question your choices. You fantasize about a mortgage and the luxury of always cashing the same checks. You long for the smell of home. These are the moments when you cry for your mom.

There’s a fine line between being free and being desperately alone and, if you’ve ever driven through the night after leaving people you love, you know exactly what I’m talking about. However, getting homesick doesn’t make you any less free. If you don’t love what’s in your rear view as much as what’s out your windshield, that’s not being adventurous, that’s just running away.

So, whether I started my new year off right or not, that’s how it began: a mess of longing for the past and excited for the future, and a startling lack of glitter and champagne and a pretty solid amount of beer and naps. Of course, even though 2017 is off to kind of a lackluster start, I can’t wait to see what this year brings – Troy and I are planning tons of adventures for when he gets out of the Army in a month (!!!!!!!!!), we’re planning our move back to North Florida, thinking about more education, new jobs, and more puppies (just kidding – not more puppies. Maybe). I’m looking forward to all the blogging to be done in 2017 and I wish nothing but health, happiness, and lots of adventures for everyone this year.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions, but I have decided to take a 52 Hike Challenge in 2017, so my goal by the end of the year is to have gone on at least 52 new hikes. We’re already off to a pretty good start since we went hiking on New Year’s Day at Milford State Park. There will be a post on that hike as well as each one in the 52 Hike Challenge up on the blog as they happen.

To everyone who reads all of my weird thoughts on this blog – thank you from the bottom of my heart. I really do hope that I can impart some motivation and, if not motivation, then I’ll settle for commiseration for this crazy ride that is life. Stick with me in 2017 for lots more adventures and, of course, happy New Year to you all.