Dear Diary

January 4, 2012



Last weekend I went to Stonington, Connecticut, with some of my friends—one of them has a summer house there and we were going to stay in it for New Year’s Eve.

I haven’t spent a New Year’s Eve in the U.S. for five years now. Back in China, where my family’s been living till recently, we didn’t really celebrate New Year’s Eve, beyond staying up to watch the clock strike 12. The real celebration was on Chinese New Year, which is usually in February. It’s the biggest holiday of the year—we got a week or two off of school just to celebrate! During the weeks surrounding Chinese New Year there are massive fireworks displays every night. It’s all red and seems louder than New Year’s Eve in the USA. There are so many fireworks displays that by the time the holiday’s over you feel like you cannot possibly bear another fireworks display and you wish the fireworks makers would explode. Everyone exchanges red envelopes, or hóngbāo, filled with money or chocolate coins. Colorful dragons and lions parade down the street and children clap and make red paper lanterns. I looked forward to watching the acrobatics shows in our neighborhood courtyard. And, best of all, sometimes you would even see paper sky lanterns being set off into the night, even though they’re usually only supposed to be for the Moon Festival in the fall. They’re super pretty and they fly way up in the sky like tiny hot-air balloons.

Before Sunday, my only vivid memory of New Year’s Eve in the U.S. was loud, scary noises a million miles up in the air. I was a little kid, and I remember being scared rather than amused in the slightest. So on the way to Connecticut I was feeling like, No red envelopes, no dancing dragons—just something scary from when I was seven. This isn’t going to be fun at all.

When we got to Stonington, it was afternoon. We watched a movie and then it was dark and time to go to a bonfire on a beach. There would be fireworks, and a giant glowing ball would drop from the flagpole in the parking lot as we counted down. OK. That didn’t sound too bad.

When we arrived, all the people there, mostly adults, seemed to be having a great time. The bonfire owned the night and people were wearing party hats and waving noisemakers. I trailed behind my friends, and I wasn’t having a bad time, but I didn’t really see the point in being there. The bonfire was like two feet tall and there were no fireworks or anything at all. And then I looked up.

Stars were dotted thick across the sky. It was a velvet backdrop with millions of tiny lights. I’ve never seen anything that beautiful in my life, I swear!

And then, as I stared up for about a jillion hours, I saw something in the distance. Something familiar. Two small paper lanterns were glowing yellow as they floated past in the sky. ♦


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  • Marguerite January 4th, 2012 7:18 PM

    RUBY! – that’s so beautiful, like seriously i feel like that was the end of a chapter of an awesome book, and now i’m going AAAWWWWWEEE and can’t wait to read more!

  • kirsten January 4th, 2012 7:23 PM


    • kirsten January 4th, 2012 7:24 PM

      I suppose I should clarify that the heart is directed towards you, rather than meaning that I love that your grandfather died.
      Feel better! Your grandpa sounded kickass.

  • Dylan January 4th, 2012 7:36 PM


  • Cerise January 4th, 2012 7:40 PM

    Dylan–I’m sorry. I know how that is. My mom died five years ago, and it was really, really surreal for me, especially because–and I know this sounds terrible–I just couldn’t cry about it. And I know this sounds so cliche, but that’s just because it’s true: everybody grieves differently, and that’s frustrating, because it feels like you’re supposed to be super upset–openly upset–but you aren’t. I remember I felt really guilty because I wasn’t bawling all over everyone, but sometimes grief is just more of a personal thing, and sometimes the things that make you sad aren’t the big things that bother other people, things like funerals or family-get-togethers. For me it’s the tiny things: memories or trinkets of hers I find. It will be okay. Don’t feel too bad about not feeling bad–you’re not alone.

    Katherine–That’s funny. I’m pretty sure I felt the *exact same way* about being sixteen–I thought everything would be perfect and magical. Nope. Good to know I’m a real person, now, though.

  • LittleMarzipan January 4th, 2012 8:17 PM

    Hi Naomi! I just wanted to say you are a wonderful inspiration to me. Towards the end of 2011 I developed anxiety right out of the blue and because of it, i ended up developing some trauma. ANYWAYS, It helps me to see someone who also suffers from similar problems, sharing their story. It gives me strength to know I’m not alone, and that I don’t have to be this way forever. Much like you, I want to start building my foundation so that way I’ll have a strong beautiful house. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Adrienne January 4th, 2012 9:20 PM

    Hey Ruby! I’m Chinese-American (well more like Taiwanese/Singaporean) and I’ve never lived in China but visited Beijing before. My cousin who lives in Hong Kong gets 2 weeks off for Chinese New Year! (and I’m aways jealous…)

    My fam still celebrates Chinese New Year as well here in America. Hongbao is like my allowance for the year! The dinner is also delish…mmm. Now I can’t wait till Chinese new year! I think it’s earlier this year, like jan 28th.

    And lulz, for this New Year’s, I spent the night watching Cats the musical on stage (the traveling cast). You can tell how popular I am haha.

  • emile January 4th, 2012 10:00 PM

    that graphic! wonderful. <3 i adore sue lyon as lolita.

    • Minna January 5th, 2012 7:02 AM

      Thank you Emile. I just love Sue Lyon also! I watched Lolita for the millionth time when I got home on New Years Eve. I ate cake. It was late.

  • unicorn January 4th, 2012 11:14 PM

    Wait a second…so when I’m sixteen, I don’t automatically turn into a goddess who can talk to unicorns? There go my life plans…

  • rachnevermind January 5th, 2012 2:24 AM

    i’m 20 and i don’t think i’ll ever feel like a ‘real’ person

  • Miz Yvette January 5th, 2012 5:10 AM

    Ah Ruby, I love your posts! I recently moved back to the States after living in Japan for 6 years, and New Year’s Eve will never be as cozy and wonderful for me as it was there. I miss gathering at the neighborhood shrine at midnight, the food, the festive atmosphere, the importance of family and friends. I never felt comfortable on NYE in the States – it didn’t become a real holiday for me until Japan. Weird how sometimes what you need for something to make sense is to be somewhere else.

    Katherine – my stepfather decided he should stop calling me by his nickname for me when I announced my engagement, because I was ” a woman now.” I was 31 at the time. I had left home and been on my own since the age of 18. Seems everyone has their own ideas about what it means to be a “real person.” Which means you can make up your own definition!

    Dylan, I’m so sorry. I lost my grandpa in 2011 as well, and he was in his 90s. I also lost 2 classmates in grad school. I knew Grandpa had to move on, so while I miss him I feel like his death made sense. But my friends’ deaths left a hole. The 2nd one was during my thesis project, and I just had to push forward & put it out of my mind. Now that I can stop and mourn her, I can’t stop thinking that she’s still in India, doing her research, and that I just won’t be able to see her; our paths will just never cross again, that’s all. It’s like I can’t really think about the truth anymore, I’ve suppressed it for too long. It’s weird how each death is so unique, requiring different responses. My heart goes out to you as you discover your response.

  • EllaJade January 5th, 2012 12:49 PM

    Naomi, I swear you are like my twin! I’m 17 and also from England, and have suffered from anxiety and depression for like 5 years (it sucks!) AND I play guitar. I also went to therapy but it was kind of crap. I think it’s so great they you’re sharing your story because people need to be way more aware of this stuff! Anyway just thought I’d say hi :)

  • Flower January 5th, 2012 3:08 PM

    I’m 14 and always feel like I am going to be forever in the same place in my life. A few weeks ago I was babysitting a 5 year old and for a while I had passed of anyone younger than me as ‘idiotic’ but suddenly I realised that I still think the same way I did at that age. And when I thought over what had changed since then, its just that I know more STUFF, am taller and more depressed. But essentially I’m still a 5 year old inside, which is wierdly tough when I am supposed to be all mature and smart and stuff. I think the problem is that, as a tennager, you are forced to confront EVERYTHING, when as a little kid its just about doing everything step by step; learning to tie your laces, clean your teeth, use taps etc. And I guess I should be able to cope with more, but geez I wish I could be 5 again.
    ^ random rant
    I wish I was one of your diarists!

  • fizzingwhizbees January 5th, 2012 3:33 PM

    Katherine, at least the boys at your high school have vaguely decent (or at least inoffensive) taste in music. All the boys at my high school liked Wiz Khalifa or whatever other rapper is a thing now. Blah. I’d take Mumford and Sons over that any day.

  • TheAwesomePossum January 5th, 2012 5:53 PM

    To Ruby,

    That is entirely, incredibly, and amazingly coincidental that you mentioned looking up into the sky on New Year’s and admiring the stars. I was doing the exact same thing, except I was on the beach. I never really look up at the stars, and I just thought it was so surreal and beautiful.

  • Emmy January 6th, 2012 4:29 PM

    Katherine, do you happen to go to my Christian private school? Because everything you say is freakishly familiar–very few people have any originality. Today we had a dress-out day and every single fucking girl was wearing sweater/low-cut shirt/sweatshirt and leggings/yoga pants tucked into Uggs (generally of the rainbow/sparkly/rainbow sparkles type).

  • caro nation January 8th, 2012 7:12 PM

    Ruby, move here and be my best friend.

  • momiji January 9th, 2012 10:40 AM

    Dylan, don’t push yourself. Everyone feels grief in a different way and at a different pace.

    This is an extreme case, but my father died when I was ten. It took me another ten years to admit to my therapist that I was sad about it. That it effected my life.

    Don’t rush yourself or feel guilty you because you mother shows grief in a different way than you.