New Year's Eve glistens with promise. And I'm not just talking about from the Goldschlager. It's the promise of a new tomorrow.
When we create our New Year's resolution — whether it be to diet, change jobs or get that long-desired tattoo of Nancy Reagan — the real question being asked is, Whom do I want to become?
This question was never more important than in the year 2000. The nation was panicked over the potential of worldwide devastation from Y2K. As a senior in high school, I already felt that my world was ending. Dec. 31, 1999, was a night to go wild, to push limits, to make bad choices. If there was ever a New Year's Eve to redefine myself, this was it! That is, if Y2K didn't kill me first.
My friends and I took to the city to see what we could find on the last night of the world. It had to be epic. Intense. Worthy of a Jack Kerouac novel. A night that would both haunt and inspire the grandkids.
In a city sparkling with life-altering potential, we wound up at a house party of some guy who graduated from my high school. Not exactly the most desired location, but I figured some dude's damp basement was as good a place as any to be reborn as a new me.
Whom do I want to become?
At 17, I wanted to be cooler — not in the popular sense but in the less spastic sense. I resolved to behave in the new millennium with intention, to carry myself with grace and confidence. I would prove it that night.
My friends and I rounded the basement corner to where a bunch of guys were playing beer pong.
"Who wants a shot?"
I raised my hand.
The guys looked over, brows furrowed. "Why are you raising your hand?"
"I would like a shot of the drink of alcohol," I said.
"You don't have to raise your hand. You're not in class." I lowered my arm as the host scoffed, "High schoolers."
A kid from my English class passed around red plastic cups of Champagne as I shook off my fumble and prepared for the ultimate test in my New Year's resolution of suave-itude: drinking my first shot while looking like a pro.
The disco ball in Times Square dropped as a shot dropped into my hand.
"It's a flaming Dr Pepper. Very girlie. You'll like it."
I didn't care about the gender of my drink. I was far too preoccupied by the fact that my drink was on fire. The flaming Dr Pepper was literally aflame.
No matter, I reassured myself. Sure, I never had drunk a shot before, but I was familiar enough with the concept. One, two, three, knock it back and wince. Now, the flame, of course, posed new problems, but I assumed there was some trick to it. The breeze from my swinging my arm to my mouth must extinguish the flame. Or perhaps the wetness of my tongue would extinguish the fire before I felt pain. Or when I would close my mouth, the lack of oxygen would kill the blaze. There were plenty of ways in which I could drink this shot and not be harmed by it, I thought. The important thing was that I didn't ask how. I refused to look like a loser by inquiring how to drink a shot. It was a new year. A new me. And in the year 2000, I was determined to have grace under fire — or when drinking fire.
Just as I put the flaming drink to my mouth, I heard the host yell out, "Stop! You have to blow it out first!"
But it was too late. The shot scalded the top of my mouth and burned my upper lip. I spent the first few hours of the new millennium in a corner of a cramped basement with an ice pack to my face.
The great New Year's resolution for 2000 did not come to fruition, but neither Y2K nor graduation incited the apocalypse, so the year was relatively successful. Ever since then, I've changed my "Auld Lang Syne" tune. I ignore the swirly drinks and sparkly beads and commit to not getting wrapped up in the promise, pressure and spiked punch of New Year's Eve. The risk of hospital bills is simply too high.
Whom do I want to become?
Me. Just me.
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