To this day, I still associate New Year’s Eve with the musty smell of faded colored construction paper and the much more pleasant, much greasier smell of Bagel Bites. The first nineteen New Year’s Eves of my life were spent at home, with my parents, and at least ten of those evenings were spent sitting on the living room carpet with Peter, slowly slicing that construction paper into strips and then squares and dumping them into a plastic mixing bowl supplied by my mom. It’s still the most prominent visual I associate with New Year’s – cutting confetti with Fiskers scissors, legs crossed. I remember the tedious but exciting nature of the job very clearly – how running the scissors along the length of each piece of paper, many times over, was boring but somewhat relaxing, and how I felt a twinge of nervous excitement when I would glance into the mixing bowl after a long period and see how many colorful squares had piled up in the bottom. I know that at midnight, we would throw the bowl of confetti upwards and watch the little squares fly out and flutter down onto the carpet, but I don’t really remember that part. I imagine it, because it’s true. But what I do remember is the work and the anticipation. The excitement that built up behind that one second of release is what stuck.
Of course, that memory is coupled with another – that of eating Bagel Bites, those greasy little cheese bombs beloved by children of the 90s, in front of the television countdown while we sliced and diced. It was a ritual that happened once a year, on New Year’s Eve. A box each of cheese and of pepperoni, naturally. So maybe the fact that the glorious Bagel Bites consumption happened during the confetti production process, as opposed to in its aftermath, has something to do with the fact that I more clearly remember that first part of things.
When I think about how Peter and I must have looked, cross-legged on the carpet with our little backs hunched over, kid fingers stuck inside our scissor handles, slice-slice-slicing away at piles of construction paper, I picture what my face must have looked like: forehead scrunched into wrinkles, eyebrows furrowed, lips puffed out. It’s the expression I wear when I am so concentrated, so relaxed, and so in-the-zone that any sense of facial decorum is lost on my muscles and my mind. My lips puff out, somewhere between a pout and a really lazy kissy face. I forget what I look like, and only know what I’m doing. I know I was making that face then, concentrating on creating even strips of paper, concentrating on cutting even little pieces of confetti, concentrating on the detailed preparation before the grand reveal of all of that hard work. The big event – the thrusting of that confetti up into the air – was far from the forefront of my mind.
Maybe that’s all slightly overdramatic, but in my child’s mind, it was exciting work that surrounded the idea of something magical. It was dramatic, but it was good. That’s something I’d like to recapture – that feeling of magic, of working towards something magical. And that focus. This new year, I want to inhabit that scrunched out forehead and that pair of puffed-out, chapped, don’t-give-a-fuck lips. I want to work with unapologetic, unbridled, self-confident focus towards something magical – something that’s magical in my mind, in my life, to me.
These days, I don’t harness focus much like I did when I was younger, when I was cutting confetti or doing any of the other things that I was self-confident about, like writing book reports for school and fan fiction for fun (Gilmore Girls fan fiction, FYI. Hell yeah.). These days, focus is something I’m fearful of. These days, the things that I know will be hard – that will require work, and patience, and lots of anticipation before the something magical actually happens, or the success actually occurs – make me freeze up with fear. The imagined audience, in whatever form it takes – my mind’s interpretation of my friends’ reactions, or the glazed-over, critical eyeballs of the internet, or the people who might hire me for a job or Facebook creep on me after a meeting – paralyzes me.
I’m not saying I want to move backwards, or regress, or retreat wielding my nostalgia as a shield. I want – I’m dying – to move forward! But I don’t think I had it all wrong, as a little kid, bursting with excitement on the eve of a brand new, totally fresh year, and packed with focus as I prepared, slicing away at my colorful construction paper, totally unaware of anyone else who might be watching me. I think I need to take a cue from 10-year-old me. I think I need to summon some of that self-confident focus, some of that sense of magic, some of that certainty that something good was – is – near, some of that “nobody’s watching me” attitude.
Every year, after the ball dropped on television and we (according to the story, and not my selective memory) threw our plastic bowl of confetti up into the air and then picked the litter up from the floor, Mom (enthusiastically) and Dad (begrudgingly) and Peter and I would all sit together and talk about our resolutions for the new year. Peter and I loved to discuss the details together prior to sharing them with our parents, picking and choosing the goals we would work towards in the coming year and making lists of the things that would be really cool to do. It was fun and relieving to feel like a fresh start was just around the corner and that we could do anything.
Now that I’m 26 and I know that the calendar year is an artificial way of telling time and that slates aren’t magically wiped clean on January 1, I still get excited about making resolutions, about starting fresh. Every New Year’s Eve, there is a little voice – attached to a little scrunched-up, puffy-lipped little face – that calls out from inside, in the roots of me, that roots for me, that believes earnestly and determinedly that the new year will be GREAT and SUCCESSFUL and MAGICAL. On my bad days, I forget that. But it happens every year, and every year I believe it, if only for that one night.
This year, my most important resolution (you BET I have a list of resolutions) is to really listen to that little voice, and to really harness that focus, that magic that I used to wield with such ease and enjoyment. I did it once. I bet I can do it again.
And you know what? I didn’t think about ANY OF YOU when I wrote this post – well, up until this point, anyway – so I think I’m off to a great start.