This year, like all other years, I’ll be spending New Year’s Eve with my parents. In the spectrum of how most American kids were raised in the aughts, my upbringing probably skewed conservative: My parents were firm without being dictatorial. I didn’t party at all in high school; I didn’t touch alcohol until college. College would change my rhythm considerably. I was on the other side of the country during those four years, during which I let loose socially in a way I couldn’t in my New Jersey suburb, but one aspect of my habits remained constant. I still stayed home with my parents every New Year’s Eve, one of the few times a year I'd be able to see them.
We like to treat the day as casually as possible. Maybe we’ll watch the ball drop, but otherwise we’ll go about our days as we would most others, keeping to ourselves. Just the three of us. After dinner, maybe we'll watch a Hindi movie, dissolving on the couches in my parents' apartment until we fall asleep, utterly unaware of whether it’s past midnight.
For years, I felt insecure about this. Whenever I was posed that question in college—what are you doing for New Year’s?—I responded sheepishly and shamefully, saying that I’d be at home, doing nothing. I feared judgment from people who flocked to parties and socialized on a night I spent hermetically, as if I were still a child.
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Perhaps this is an offshoot of my tendency not to see New Year’s as a momentous occasion. There’s something terrifying about being asked to process the totality of everything that happened over a year in the span of one day, and to prime yourself for a more hopeful future while contending with what the past year brought. Through the years, no matter how hard I’ve tried to outgrow that basic fear, it’s never gone away. So I’ve learned to cushion it. There’s comfort in easing into a daunting new year with the people who expect nothing of you but yourself. For me, that’s the two people I’ve known my whole life.
Who are you spending New Year's Eve with? Let us know in the comments.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.