When I was seventeen, I got black out drunk on New Years Eve and found myself in a precarious sexual encounter with a man who I thought was my friend. I went numb after. It was 2003. Endless tequila shots by the wet bar before the party, to steady the nerves. I was toast. 

My life proceeded to fall apart in ways that are still painful to examine too closely, and they remained broken for quite some time. I consider that night in my metaphorically-inclined brain to be the exact end of innocence. It had been departing for years by then, such innocence, and that severed the final clinging strand. I sat in the corridors of school writing in notebooks all the things I could not say out loud to a single person. Not my mother. Not my best friend. I was sometimes paranoid. I was a burgeoning alcoholic. I started taking a prescription of Zoloft. I pretended everything was fine. I didn’t always want to drink but I couldn’t not drink. I knew I loved writing, that I loved learning, that I had something to say and most certainly everything to offer, and though I understood this on some level, I could never feel it. My system was clouded with fear and loss, a complete repression and restriction to experience grief and to be exactly where I was. I came from parents who did not explain suffering to me, only overcoming. I love the overcome – but I cannot prevail over that which I do not first process. 

For years and years, I processed. I toiled. I learned to live and mend wounds and celebrate life. It brought me here. Fourteen years later.

New Years Eve this year was marked by simplicity and serenity at its best. At its more somber, the experience of quiet reflection and tender sadness for something out of reach, for what has passed, for what lies ahead – the complete unknown.

But it was mostly joyful, sitting with dear friends in their lovely home, playing games and talking and eating, belly laughs, holding their precious little child. I opted out of a beckoning party that I knew would represent all that I rather move away from in my life: inauthentic relationships, toxic patterns with men, a re-ignition of the old stubborn lack of conviction of who I am, what I believe, what I want. I can hold that conviction close most of the time these days, until I come face to face with a past that will never settle, and that party, to me, represented the dreary past; the only way to move forward is to not keep looking back at it, expecting it to convince me of something different. It has told its story, and the plot doesn’t change.

I am sometimes so tempted to return to worlds where I never quite fit, to see if I finally fit. The world of years ago that landed me black out drunk and naked, having sex I did not want to have – a lost world of so long ago, that told me lies about my worth, my beauty, my lovability. I do not hate that world, but I do not wish to live there, and I don’t even like visiting anymore. Why take trips to places we don’t like, when the horizon stretches in all directions, open, clear, and full of possibility?

My friend said, you will always remember that you chose not to go. Carry that with you, as a reminder of where you are going instead. 

It was not a sexy, enthralling night, though I did dress up and did take pictures and did attempt to feel some semblance of glamour and allure. Smoke and mirrors, social media. But really, it was simple and quiet, and very sweet, and very precious. There was no New Years kiss, except the one I planted on the forehead of the baby. Driving home at two in the morning, nearly six years sober and very much in healthy love with myself, with a new year stretched before me, I could feel this was, so far, the best night of my life. 

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