Taylor Smith is a senior news and magazine major and writes “Bold Type” for The Ball State Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper.
When the New Year’s Eve countdown appeared on the television screen when I was younger, my aunt would shuffle around her living room handing out bubbling flutes of champagne, whose pops sent droplets that kissed my lips before I took my first sip. I used to cry.
I cried because another year had passed, and the nostalgia looming in my heart reminded me of the memories I made and would never relive. But I also cried out of fear — fear of the approaching high school entrance exams that weighed so heavily on my chest I couldn’t tell the difference between my asthma and my anxiety, fear of celebrating yet another new year alone because, for some reason, I couldn’t keep a single friend.
As everyone celebrated those last 10 seconds of the year, the countdown left me terrified for what the next would throw my way. What potential did this new year have to be even worse than the last, and what could I do differently to make the next 365 days more tolerable when the past 365 felt as though I was dragging my near-lifeless body to the finish line?
The 365 days of 2021 were the hardest of my life, and there is not one part of me carrying any doubt that those days brought with them trauma, heartbreak, grief and pain. I lost my grandmother, my Mimi, the matriarch of a family who values family more than anything, and her passing left me with a hole in my heart I still don’t know how to fill. I started 2021 with a dependency on the number on the scale, and I ended it with the same scale beside my bedroom door, a hole in my stomach, an infection in my kidneys and a body that can’t handle much more.
I’ve become a used-to-be straight-A student who now has two incompletes on her transcript, the subject of her family’s worry where none used to be and a girl with little-to-no interest in the things she used to love. But I made it to the end when I felt as though Dec. 31 would possibly be the date written on my death certificate, and for that I am proud.
This year, New Year’s Eve looked different. I celebrated with my sister, and I didn’t mix any salty tears into my champagne when we counted down to midnight together in the company of two Chow Chow puppies and our parents on FaceTime. The drink warmed me instead of sending shivers down my spine, and, for the first time in my life, I walked into a new year on a hopeful note.
While I may have left a lot behind in 2021, I know I am going into my 23rd trip around the sun with more space for me to grow, more room in my heart to love, more lessons to learn and more opportunities to take advantage of, because what I lost only leaves space for more to be found.
Where there is room to invite negativity into your life, there is just as much room for trust in the universe and the journey it is taking you on. Things — and people, and everything we love in between — are temporary. The only constant you will ever have, for every new year you celebrate, is yourself, so you may as well treat yourself kindly and give yourself room to grow.
Contact Taylor Smith with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @taynsmith