We must understand that sadness is an ocean, and sometimes we drown, while other days we are forced to swim.– R. M. Drake
Growing up in Puerto Rico, my family spent New Year’s Eve at church welcoming in the New Year with prayer and meditation. Then, after a collective countdown and at midnight, we would hug, kiss, and cry. At the time I didn’t understand why, but we always cried.
Later on as an adult, I began to go places to celebrate the New Year and eventually, I began to put together memorable celebrations at home with family and friends. One year, I noticed that I had stopped crying though. I still didn’t quite understand why saying goodbye to one year in order to welcome a new one evoked such strong feelings of nostalgia and sadness, but I had a suspicion that reminiscing on “what was” embodied so much more than just a few memories of accomplishments. Undeniably, there are a number of challenges that we meet each year — some resulting in successful achievements and others in utter failures. Possibly, the struggle is the part we most remember. “It was a hard year!” or, “Thank God I survived!” are common sentiments heard at the end of the year, and it’s hard not to cry when you remember the strife of the previous 365 days. But, it had been a while since I had shed a tear over those things on the eve of a new beginning.
Last year, I spent the major holidays away in South Korea. And as much as I love Korea and my friends there, I have to tell you that celebrating the holidays away from family was difficult. Loneliness is tricky because you can be surrounded by a sea of people and still feel like you are the only person in the room; or in the world. I’ve been there many times. Nevertheless, at this point in my life I don’t feel the need to hide my feelings about life (the good and the ugly parts) because I know many of you relate to what I am sharing in my writings about my passion for chasing life regardless of suffering.
While I was in Korea, someone had told me that a well-loved Korean tradition is to welcome the New Year by watching the first sunrise somewhere by the ocean or in nature. I prepared myself well and drove to a nearby cafe that overlooked the ocean. It was a cold, wintery morning. I got there around 6:00 AM, but the sunrise didn’t come until around 7:25 AM. Several groups of people had gathered at the sea, and yet the atmosphere was uniquely quiet and serene. I stayed at a distance as I was alone and did not want to disturb whatever the families and couples had planned.
From my quiet place, I began to reminisce. I thought about past New Year’s celebrations with my parents in Puerto Rico, and then in other places around the world. I began to sift through memories of the battles I had to fight throughout that year, along with the things and people I had to say goodbye to. Before long, tears began to flow out of my eyes like a waterfall. And so, once again, just like in the “good old days,” I cried as I welcomed the New Year. However, this time I had a better understanding of why people cry on this holiday. It is a very personal thing; a precious vulnerability as we let go of what was and embrace what will be.
Friends, life is still hard; a difficult process full of challenges and disappointments. Nevertheless, it is up to us to find beauty in the mess. Last year I left the beach with a new determination to live hard, love hard, and do life in the most positive way I could. I encourage you to find your own kind of purpose in the midst of your sadness, loneliness and struggle. There is so much beauty out there waiting to be found. Go on and live your best life this New Year!