I was born on Friday the 13th and I love black cats, so I tell myself that I am not a believer in bad luck…but that’s a lie. I’m just choosey about which things I believe in (Mercury Retrograde, for example, is always the cause of things going awry for me) and I also make up my own superstitions and omens. For example, at some point I got it into my head that how the year starts off for you will determine how the rest of it plays out. This puts a lot of pressure on New Year’s Eve and those first few days of January!
1995: My New Year’s Eve plans were simple for many years—watch a movie with my family, countdown at midnight, and go to bed. My sophomore year of high school was different though. I went to a party. I drank champagne and smoked a joint. Most important, I kissed a boy that I was super into, while for some reason, playing cards rained down around us.
However, by the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday a couple of weeks later, that boy had hooked up with someone else. I had a different boyfriend by the end of January, though, and told myself this would still be the year of love for me. As it turned out, that relationship was sexually and emotionally abusive. That year was one of my most painful ever. So at the end of it, I told myself I should have looked at the way things had ended with the guy I kissed on New Year’s–that was the omen that I’d be hurt by love.
There were other years that seemed to fit more clearly into my start-of-year superstitions.
1997: I was set to graduate high school a semester early and move into my own apartment out of state shortly after the New Year’s Eve when I was seventeen. I had a super fun night with friends planned and it did go great…until I slipped on some ice while running around outside and twisted my ankle. That sprain haunted me all year long—I re-injured myself at least twice—and my year was twisted up too. Everything that I thought I had straight totally wasn’t. Like the fact I hated the college I’d chosen when I got there in fall and I was mixed up in a messy relationship. Also, though I’d been totally sober when I twisted my ankle, by the year’s end I was falling down drunk most of the time and it was taking a toll on my friendships.
1998:New Year’s Eve when I was 18 started ugly. My cat swallowed ribbon and spent it in the veterinary hospital. I couldn’t get into the club I’d traveled out of state to go to. (Shouldn’t have been too shocking as I was underage but my boyfriend told me he could get me in.) Then my boyfriend’s friend intentionally overdosed on antidepressants and alcohol, and though I’d been drinking myself, I had to drive him to the ER. He puked up pills on my back seat, but was fine.
1999 Come to think of it, New Year’s Eve when I was 19 came with similar drama. I got into the club that year, but someone drugged my drink so a friend had to drive me home mostly unconscious before the clock struck midnight. Both of those years were filled with booze and drama echoing how I started the year. In retrospect, though, I’d just created a self-fulfilling prophecy.
2005: It took a long time for me to break that cycle, but I ultimately did by traveling with my boyfriend to Seattle for the New Year. The trip was test. Our relationship had been falling apart and dragging me down for a long time. We spent New Year’s Eve at club he wanted to go to. I didn’t drink much, but the next day he was hungover when we went to visit the park next to Kurt Cobain’s old house—a sacred place to me. He wrote something stupid on the bench. It embodied his lack of respect for anything I cared about and by the middle of that year, we’d broken up. I spent the fall in California, pursuing my creative passions and enjoying being single. I had no intention to start dating after my long, bad relationship ended. I was finishing my creative writing program and planning to move to the West Coast permanently, but just few days before the year ended, I started talking to a new guy online…
2006: I spent New Year’s Eve with that new guy, who was super cute and sweet and had an excellent sense of humor. We stayed up until 4 am watching comedies and talking. Whether I realized or even wanted it, this was the year I would really truly fall in love and have a healthy relationship. Oh and I finished revising what would become my first published novel right at the beginning of the year too, though I wouldn’t land that book contract until the following year.
2012: I stopped thinking about my New Year’s theory for a few years while things were good, but then I had a couple years of feeling stuck in a rut. I tend to be more superstitious when things are going wrong. I guess I want something to blame the bad feelings on—or I want omens to give me hope. I blamed my crappy years on the fact that they kept starting at work, at a bartending job I’d thought would be temporary before my writing career really took off. I was afraid I was going to have my worst year yet when I was harassed by a gross customer and started the year crying at work. At first it seemed like my New Year’s prophecy was coming true. I struggled with continued writer’s block, a deeper depression than I’d felt in many years, and my beloved but now elderly cat passed away.
Instead of wallowing and spiraling, I made a choice though. Halfway through the year, I opted to go back to therapy, and then after my cat passed in the fall, I decided I would take a leap: next year, I would finally move west like I’d always wanted. It took me awhile, but I realized that assessing how your life is going doesn’t just have to occur at the end of a year—and a year doesn’t have to start perfectly to turn out well.
2012 On New Year’s Eve, I got the night off of work and invited some of my favorite people over to my house. We ate great food, laughed a ton, and listened to an a playlist of all my favorite songs. It was a good way to say goodbye to a tough year and start the next one on a positive note. But I reminded myself that it was not the way the year started or even the fact that it was 2013—my lucky number—that would determine how it went. It was up to me, my choices, and how I tackled each situation.