New Year. MY time.

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Y’know what? And it’s taken me far too long to realise this, but I’m not a fan of New Year. The time we feel pressured to have a good time, to do something and be happy. It’s almost like it’s expected for all of your worries, anxieties and feelings to disappear for that one night. But reality tells us life isn’t like this. They will still be there come January the 1st. The Tories will still be in power. The futures existential questions will still hit us. What will 2020 be like? I hear chorussed across social media. We hope for better. Or if we’ve had a good year, much of the same.

For years, as this night has drawn closer I’ve panicked about how I’m going to spend it. And if I’m doing New Year right. Am I missing a magic ingredient? I’ve done it all from fireworks and family nights in, time with a good friend to the bigger and wilder, New Years parties, and once a gig, when I ended up being a stand in fiddle player for a ceilidh in the cliquiest village hall I’ve ever set foot in. In the year of the millennium we had a street party. My actual street had a party. I was only ten at the time, but from then on it was ingrained in me that New Year meant something big. And if I didn’t meet that expectation I’d somehow failed. The millennium also saw the threat of the “millennium bug”, what was that all about? But as a ten year old this terrified me, so thought I’d better have fun. New Year is an excellent enabler in reminding us what we haven’t achieved, or expectations we failed to meet. Like a big, wild, busy New Year. I’m single, that as I’ve recently realised is essentially a decision I’ve made, so the questioning around finding a partner and settling down that comes with this time or year isn’t welcome. As I’ve got older most of my friends are either partnered up or married, that can be difficult if you’ve decided to be a slightly more unconventional 30 something. The festive period is prime time for the announcement of engagements, pregnancies or new houses. You have to be happy for these friends and family, and I am, but the feelings it brings up about your own life choices are hard (if not impossible) to avoid.

This time last year I was terrified about entering my 30’s. What if I haven’t achieved everything? my anxious brain chirped away. When rational brain knew that’s utter rubbish. Now, a year on I’m far more (but not completely) comfortable with not necessarily achieving everything and doing things differently. This year my two biggest achievements happened, that top most things in this last decade let alone year. I was offered my first full time contacted job, complete with a desk in an office, and I took up running. Both I did at the age of 30. Both at just the right time. I have never been one for New Years resolutions, but I did tentatively tell myself that I wanted to feel more secure with work. And in a way that I don’t quite believe myself half the time, I’ve achieved that. Most people say they’ll get fit or do more exercise in a New Year, and then come February this resolution falls through. I didn’t. I somehow just fell into the running, and eleven months later, it still seems to be a part of my life that’s not going anywhere. I even have a Fitbit now, I’m that committed. Setting News Years resolutions doesn’t sit well with me, but I would like to attempt to run the Blaydon Races this year, just to say I’ve ran the race my town is most famous for. You’ve heard of the song, right? If not look it up. The new job has been great, but my work-life balance has not. Something I’m going to improve in 2020, I’d like to be better at doing nice things. If I owe you an anything, get in touch. I’m not hoping for much am I? Other than that I’d like less of 2014-2018 and more of 2010/bits of 2019. Also driving, I say I’m going to learn every year, but 2020 might be the year.

This year I’ve accepted I don’t need to do anything big or wonderful for New Year. It doesn’t need to be wild. Or even happy if I’m not feeling it. If like me anxiety is part of your life, playing out the previous year, in one whole night isn’t healthy or helpful. Looking back can be cathartic to reminisce but it can also cause pain. We’re not forced to analyse a whole year in one night any other night of the year are we? But on December 31st, we must. People experiencing mental health crisis’ rise during this time of year, as people reframe their life versus what is good enough or expected of them. It can be terrifying and worrying for many, with the impression everyone around you is “having the best time.” Unnecessary pressure can have incredibly sad consequences.

It’s taken me a long time to admit to myself let alone others that I don’t particularly like New Year or enjoy the build up to it. I find it stressful and worry intensely if I’ll get invited anywhere. My brother and sister have always had a big group of friends close to home, so knowing they have certainty in their plans and watching them get ready to go to see their respected mates has been hard. But I’ve not been able to show it. Being accused of taking it out on them having a good time is the last thing I’d want. One of my favourite New Years was staying with a good friend, we didn’t particularly go anywhere during the evening, but sharing the night with someone and being able to catch up was lovely. This year I didn’t make any plans, and as I started to worry about the lack of said plans, I stopped and thought. Is it worth worrying? It’s only one night of the year, everything is pressured and we’re conditioned to be reflective, that isn’t always helpful for our wellbeing or mental health. There are other nights of the year to do nice things, to see friends, to drink wine, without the pressure New Year brings. This year I’m spending the 31st alone, with cats, a good film and wine. It’s not the first New Years Eve I’ve spent alone, but this time I’m doing it my way without the distress that I might be doing something wrong. Or wishing I’m somewhere else.

“New Year, New you” – in two days time I’m going to be just the same Alice. And I’m more than okay with that. I hope you can be too.

I hope whatever you’re doing, it’s the right thing for you.

Best wishes for the year ahead X

Image may contain: Alice Hewson, smiling, glasses, indoor and close-up

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