New Years 2018: Vignette from Another Rooftop

I find myself – often – somewhere new staring out to survey my surroundings, only to find I am actually somewhere familiar.

New Years is a strange holiday. Not only do many different cultures celebrate the turning of a “new year” at different times but they celebrate them differently and with different symbols. Regardless of which style new year you celebrate they all feel like a birthday. A holiday that has the power to make us collectively stop dead in our tracks and contemplate life’s biggest questions. Its arbitrary measure of time has such an impact on us that the strong sway of time forces us to wonder how we got here, where we’re going, and how many more of these do we get to experience?

So that’s how I found myself. Standing on a rooftop. In the middle of a country half way around the world from where I was born. In a bizzare confluence of what ringing out the old and bringing in the new really meant.

Champagne glass in hand. High school classmate steps away. Friends I’d met just months ago greeting me life a lifetime had passed between us and through it all, my husband smiling at me a few steps away. All of us watching what felt like the world ending and beginning again.

Every firework on Earth engulfing me like a storm.
Happy New Years, 2018.

I have a history though, of rooftops. So for a second all the moments I had ever shared while standing at the top of a building terrifyingly collapsed in to me at this one moment. I found myself holding my breath and waiting for the fire to pass right through me. The universe contracting and expanding at the same time, twisting my stomach in knots, and not allowing me the relief I was hoping to feel.

For a second everything is still. Again, I feel the rush of wind, the ice creeping in to my legs from beneath my feet, the hollow sucking sound and the perilous emptiness inside my skin. I take a breath. My heart starts up again, blood racing to fill the empty spaces in between. The sky returns to focus but it’s empty where the stars have blinked out of existence. It feels sorrowful but then seconds later, fire explodes from the sky. Bursting color from every angle that rushes in to replace the missing pieces.

A 360 degree experience of quickly shattering expectations. Color from darkness. Light from silence. Explosions inciting joy in place of fear. A cheer erupting for death when at any other funeral we would be weeping with sorrow. In this way, I really like the paradox of the new year.

We’re toasting to the idea that today we get to have a beginning instead of a middle or an end. A do-over that magically manifested itself the second we weren’t looking. Yet it’s also familiar and expected, a renewal ritual we’ll continue repeating every time we loop around the sun.

All of it culminating in the subtly unique but eerily similar of a memory of a time when you were standing on a roof, with friends, watching the world explode.

And cheering ever louder.

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