Warrior Words: Pivoting on the mountaintop

New Year’s Day never seems to fall at a time that feels particularly “new.” Most years, the once-fresh snow has degraded to a gray, dirt-splattered slush. The festive lights have disappeared, the holiday music has stopped playing on the radio, and the advertisements that promise to transform your personal look and home décor into “holiday party-ready!” perfection have ceased singing their encouragements at you and now scoff and point the way to go home, go back to work, get back to your life already.

The days (or, if you’re really ambitious, weeks) before the occasion, we set our New Year’s resolutions. Whether to lose weight, get better grades, become more organized, fall in love, or learn to do crow pose in yoga (my 2013 New Year’s resolution, which I proudly accomplished at 11:30 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2013, for five seconds before toppling over), most people have some aspect of themselves they want to improve or eliminate.

In reality, few people manage to successfully keep their resolutions, especially those meant to last all 365 days of the newborn year. If January first doesn’t feel particularly original and fresh, February first most certainly doesn’t fulfill the role of its predecessor. By that time, the year is no longer even new in name and technicality — it’s not terribly difficult to slip on your diet and eat a cookie or two here, a slice of pie there. The cell phone you vowed to tuck away at least an hour a day continues to ding, and your eyes dart over to it subconsciously every two seconds until you cave.

Finally, on the night of, we’ve all felt that subtle sense of disappointment at that anticlimactic moment — at the holiday party at 11:58 p.m., suddenly the once-empty couch is stuffed with people, family and friends and random strangers (whom you’re meeting for the first time in very, very close quarters). The countdown and chants begin, and for a fleeting minute everyone believes that the incoming year will be flawless, a vast improvement on the one we leave behind. The countdown reaches zero, the confetti explodes, and the TV camera flashes briefly on the steadily dropping ball in Times Square before refocusing on a slew of kissing couples. Huzzah, it’s finally 2015!

In case I’ve been at all ambiguous, New Year’s, with all its flamboyance and high expectations, is one of the few holidays toward which I feel genuine skepticism and perhaps just a touch of cynicism. This year, though, January first has a new significance beyond confetti and kissing: for seniors, it’s the regular decision application deadline for a majority of colleges. It’s the date that we’ve marked on our calendars since the school year began. It’s the culmination of months of essay writing and rewriting and revising, of interviews and informational sessions, of campus tours and “demonstrated interest.” It’s the date after which, at least for a few months, we can finally breathe.

Admittedly, New Year’s Day will not and will most likely never radically change the course of our destinies. In the end, though, that ideal of self-improvement and fulfillment might not be the true significance of the date. Truly, January first is a pivot, Camus’ Sisyphus turning at the top of the mountain, finally taking a moment’s reprieve, gazing down at the struggle he has undergone, and feeling happy. It’s an affirmation of everything you’ve accomplished and worked for the year before. It’s a split-second pause in the calendar, in time, to reflect, to self-evaluate, and to breathe before continuing to live life.

Evaline Xie is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with four classmates.