Dispatch Before a Pandemic New Year’s Eve

illustrated drop cap for the letter LLast year, I spent New Year’s Eve on a plane. On December 31, I took a 10-hour flight from London to New Delhi. I’ve been stuck here ever since, thanks to the pandemic.

I told the British guy I was seeing at the time that I booked it because tickets were three times cheaper than average days, which was partially true since no one flies on New Year’s Eve, but that’s not why I booked them on that particular day.

I did it because I am terrified of New Year’s Eve. As an only child with no siblings, I have never had a problem with being alone. But on this particular day, I feel isolated. The pressure of “having it all” is crippling. During a pandemic, these feelings are magnified ten times.

For years, I have had a hard time navigating New Years. During the run-up, I see people posting about their achievements on social media, which often leads to comparison. I ask myself, “What remarkable thing did you do this year?”

But midnight on the 31st is even more of a burden. I have never quite figured out what to do with it. I have spent it at parties where food and drinks are unrealistically expensive, and all I want to do is go home, away from a crowded bar. I have spent it alone at home, eventually crying because I feel a rush of FOMO when firecrackers go off at midnight.I have spent it in London, New Delhi, Sydney, and many other cities, with housemates, friends, family and yet, the feeling remains the same – I not only end up questioning what I have done throughout the year that deserves this celebration, but also being disappointed at where I am currently as compared to where I think I ought to be at this age.

By this time, I should have had at least one stable relationship in my life. By this age, I should have been living independently by myself, but here I am, stuck with my parents, and every millennial will agree what a pain in the ass that is. I get so frustrated by these “should-haves’ that I see absolutely no point in celebrating a new year. Yet I do it every time.   

This year, the pandemic has made me realize that there is no shame for being alone on this day. I feel lucky and grateful to be alive when the entire world is falling apart. Even though there is a romantic element to New Year’s Eve that makes you want to be in love or spend it with people you love, the most significant part of the day is often missed by many — that this day is about loving yourself. It is about accepting your failures, disappointments, heartbreaks from the previous year and picking yourself up and showing kindness in the face of absolute chaos. It is about trusting the universe to take its natural course.

As humans, when we introspect, whether in terms of a job, a relationship or a goal that feels unfulfilled, we often feel this is the best we can do and this is all we deserve. We predict all the horrible ways things could go wrong. But the new year is about hope, even amidst a pandemic. It is about faith — that something better always comes along when we least expect it, that no matter what happens, things will always work out in its own way.

For the first time, most people across the globe will be celebrating New Year’s the same way – within the confines of their homes. For the first time, everyone will agree that, truly, it has been a shit year. 

For the first time ever, people worldwide will be hoping for the same thing on the 31st  – a Covid-19 free world.

Everyone has lost something or someone this year. Whether it is a job, a person, a relationship, or, as in my case, their freedom. The collective sense of this loss deserves grieving, too. It is something everyone is feeling everywhere in different parts of the globe and it’s okay. There shouldn’t be any sense of shame or guilt that needs to be overcompensated for on New Year’s day.

If, like me, other people don’t want to put on a show for the day, it doesn’t make anyone weak. In fact it makes you stronger. It doesn’t mean that you have no hope, it means that you are taking one day at a time and processing your feelings rather than burying it under some façade of a New Year’s Eve.

Note: This week’s Monday Thought comes on, uhh, Tuesday. Our apologies for the delay.