I love New Year’s Day. New Year’s Day celebrates the fact that we’ve shown up 365 days in a row. It’s a real accomplishment.
It’s not like you can request some time off and go back to 1979 for a week. Nor can you skip ahead to 2031 for a few days just to see what it’s like.
We celebrate the start of every new year not so much because of what is ahead of us but because of what we’ve have made it through. To get through every day of an entire year, even for the most privileged of us, isn’t easy. There are long, tough nights and anxious, fear-filled dawns even for the most fortunate; we all face loss, rage and shame. We’ve all cringed against days we wanted to escape or evade. But nobody gets a pass, because life, like a homeroom teacher, takes attendance.
So we’ve made it — and that deserves at the very least, acknowledgment. I, for one, am looking forward to 2018.
Now, I’ll admit I’m looking forward to 2018 for an exceptionally stupid reason: I prefer making eights to making sevens. I wish I were making this up.
My preference for eights goes back to when I was 10 years old. On Christmas Day of 1967, I was given my first plastic Woolworth’s diary, one made for little girls that included a special little lock and key. I started making entries immediately that began “Dear Diary” and recorded hopes and dreams and wishes that had nothing to do with my actual life but everything to do with what I thought a girl my age should be writing down. I was doing a version of double-entry bookkeeping without even knowing it, leaving only inadvertent hints of the truth.
At the top of every page, I carefully inscribed the date. This is where the trouble started: I had already entered the early-adolescent-pretentious phase of my life (which would continue until age 32) and believed that if I put crosses through the center of my sevens, someone might believe that I was actually a young Parisian girl who simply happened to appear suddenly in a Long Island suburban neighborhood and was attempting to pass as an American teen by disguising her deeply hip, sophisticated and European secret self.
I don’t even know where I’d seen the European sevens, the ones with a dash crossing the vertical line. I don’t even think my French Canadian mom did that, although she and I religiously watched any foreign film shown on “Million Dollar Movie” or “Dialing for Dollars.”
But once we got to January of 1968, my weeklong identity crisis passed. I discovered that I no longer had the same split personality issue once I could start writing 1968 on the top of the little lined pages. I didn’t have to be Leslie Caron in “Gigi.” I could be Sally Field in “The Flying Nun,” although that character arrived with its own psychological issues.
I still look forward to starting new notebooks and writing new dates at the tops of pages, especially when signing books. There’s only one place where there’s any real lag time in getting the year right and that’s when writing checks. I suppose I just want to spend my old money, uncertain about any that’s new.
The task for all of us facing a new year, or every new day for that matter, is to accept that uncertainty.
Too many of us have come to regard destiny as a kind of bellhop who can be summoned by a snap of our fingers and who’ll take any order we place.
Instead we should think of destiny as a silent, experienced and skillful chef in a well-equipped but hidden kitchen, preparing only from those ingredients we’ve provided a meal designed for us alone. It’s not on any menu. What we’ve brought to the table is what we’ll be seeing on our plate.
Here’s to preparation from the past and appetite for the future.
Let’s imagine that the number eight is just infinity standing upright, doing its day job and taking it one day at a time.
Here’s to doing the same in 2018.
Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut and the author of “If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?” and eight other books. She can be reached at www.ginabarreca.com.