The world's biggest party night, New Year's Eve, is less than a week away, meaning if you don't have great plans by now, you're screwed. Your night is going to be a misery of wandering from crowded bar to crowded bar, or even worse, sitting at home, Carson Daly on mute, as you listen to the clock tick and the cheers of happy revelers outside. Or not! Really, there is no reason to be so stressed out about this booze-splashed holiday. Here are some things to remember before you start worrying too much about next Monday evening.
Remember: It's only one night. That's all it is! This is not some week-long bacchanal that will dictate the rest of your year — your happiness, your harvest, the fertility of female friends and relatives. This is just dumb December 31 of whatever year we're in. That's all. So you don't have any plans. So you'll probably end up on the wrong side of a bottle of Smirnoff, singing "I Can't Make You Love Me" while sprawled in your bathtub, pressing your face against the cool porcelain. Who cares? Then you wake up the next day and the next day and the next day and it's on with life. Don't stress so much about this one dumb party. Some people have fun, others don't, that's it. In fact, most people don't. Make plans, sure. Spend the next couple of days trying to figure out something to do if you want to. But if you don't? Don't sweat it. The world spins forward and no one will remember what they did for New Year's Eve in a few months anyway.
Remember: The new year really begins after Labor Day. Oh, sure, we all pretend that we feel different when the calendar changes on January 1. We all act as if New Year's resolutions are going into effect, or that we've made them at all. And, OK, there is at some small point on New Year's Eve a feeling that the world is surging forward, and your heart and soul with it. But, really, we all know that we're still forever tied to the school calendar. Can't shake that after 18 or 22 years. Forget what old Pope Gregory says: The new year starts on the Tuesday after Labor Day. Admit it, that's when you feel most different, isn't it? That's when you make the most resolutions. "I'm going to go on some hikes this fall," or "I'd really like to make it home for Christmas this year," or "Let's go to Paris in the spring." September is the time for plans and bargains, when we start readying ourselves for the long cold crunch of winter and dreaming of what lies beyond it. New Year's Day? Pshaw. It's as cold as it was the day before, sometimes colder. Yeah the changing of the date makes a difference to an extent, but remember that you don't need to elevate New Year's Eve to such a high spot on the calendar. It doesn't actually count for much. So start stressing out about next Labor Day weekend, not Monday night.
Remember: Everyone gained weight over the holidays. You did what you promised you wouldn't do. You went back to Kansas City to be with your folks for Christmas and instead of using your mom's Y pass to go swim in the pool or run laps, you sat on the couch with Scooter and the cat and ate food for five days straight. You maybe left the house once, to go get beer and nachos with Tina from high school, but beyond that you ate in your pajamas for the equivalent of a work week. Which means that you now have post-Christmas bloat, so how the hell are you going to fit nicely into the new outfit you bought for the big New Year's Eve party where Riley is going to be, the outfit that is supposed to make Riley fall in love with you? You've ruined everything, you and your dumb, food-sucking mouth have already mucked up another year before it even started. Or so you think. The truth is, you needn't fret. You know why? Because Riley has Christmas bloat, too. Everybody has Christmas bloat! Or Hanukkah bloat or Holiday bloat or whatever you want to call it. We're just animals after all, and as the days grow colder we need to store up fat and salt and whatever peanut brittle is made out of (fat and salt?) so we don't die in our caves before the thaw. So don't worry about what Riley thinks about you in your sexy new outfit, because Riley feels the same way. Everyone at that party does. That's why everyone is drinking champagne; all those golden bubbles cloud the eyes like beautiful prisms, so everyone looks impossibly lovely as you all surge on toward midnight. Sure, the making out and whatever comes after you and Riley have stumbled back to Riley's apartment will be a little sweatier and blubberier than you always imagined, but that's OK. You got yourself that gym membership for Christmas, so you can sneak out in the morning, and go lose 15 pounds on the elliptical before you see Riley next.
Remember: You live in the brown house with the blue door. This one is for a particular night-of panic. It being near the end of the month, you might have just moved. Maybe your friend left for his study abroad program so you moved into his old room. Maybe your sister just packed off to New Mexico so you took over her lease. Maybe your new landlord let you get in early. Whatever the case is, in an already discombobulating time, you've added the confusion of having a new house to stumble home to after you've left Judy and Chris's party and unsuccessfully tried to talk your way back to someone's apartment. So remember: Take the first left and then walk toward the 7-Eleven and about three quarters of the way down on the right is your house, the brown one with the blue door. That's all you need to remember. No need to worry. We've all accidentally started to go back to our old houses before, so just be prepared. Brown house, blue door, near the 7-Eleven. Repeat it to yourself like a mantra and you'll be fine. If you end up asleep in the bathroom instead of your bedroom, that's fine. The point is you're safe and sound under your own roof. Brown house, blue door. Say it with me.
Remember: You're not actually that old. One of the reasons people really stress about New Year's Eve is that it feels really important to mark time passing in a positive way. Like birthdays, New Year's Eve is a rare time to be defiantly happy and jubilant in the face of time's relentless march, rather than scared and existentially ravaged like we all are most of the time. But really, you don't need to rely on New Year's Eve to break that spell. You can do it any time by reminding yourself that, hey, you're not that old. There are definitely people older than you. Some of those people older than you have worse jobs, are more alone, drive crappier cars, and have worse New Year's Eve plans. Isn't that a cheery thought? You are not the oldest, worst-off person in the world. And that's a truth you can tell yourself just about every day, so who needs New Year's? Oh, go out and have a grand old time, have two grand old times for all we care, but remember that New Year's Eve should not define how you feel about time, space, and happiness. That's a project for the entire year. A year spent reminding yourself that while you may be balding and nearing 40 and stuck in the brackish eddy that is your sad career, someone else somewhere is completely bald, nearing 50, and really stuck in a stalled career. Measure your own well-being against others' misfortune, is what I'm saying. And do it all year long. That should free some emotional energy up so you can just enjoy yourself on New Year's Eve (and your birthday), rather than manically trying to have the Best Night Ever just to prove cruel old Father Time that he hasn't beaten you down just yet. The truth is, he hasn't. I mean, just look at that guy over there.