Letter 31: Y2K or, Learning To Be Surprised

27 Dec

Dear me at 16:

Let me save you some heartache here:

The world is not going to implode when the millennium changes. The ball will drop as it always does, and the year will change from 1999 to 2000 and everything else will remain exactly the same.

Your mother (bless her heart) is stocking up on canned goods and bottled water. If she could, she would also create a bomb shelter and force your brother and you to don gas masks prior to midnight.

You instinctively know that all this hoo-hah will ultimately be for naught. And so, when your mother all but forbids you to leave the house for New Year’s Eve, the New Year’s Eve of your 16th year, you kick up a gigantic stink. You try to reason with her. You try to talk her down. You eventually negotiate the ability to leave the house but only within a certain radius of square kilometres. You are not allowed to go to the big party that you are so excited about.

You will spend this New Year’s Eve eating cheesecake on a double date with your best friend. When the clock strikes midnight and the world remains intact, you will feel really angry for having missed the party. For having celebrated the turn of the millennium with cheesecake, instead of at a splashy party, doing something “memorable”.

Events like New Year’s Eve are funny things. They’re the same as all your adult birthdays and the experience of losing your virginity. Everyone makes a big fuss about them, but ultimately these occasions come and go and are never quite the way you built them up to be in your mind.

As you age, you’ll come to realize that the most important thing about New Year’s Eve is the opportunity to reflect on the year you’ve had, and to plan for the year ahead. One of the things that will keep popping up on your list of resolutions will be your desire to live “in the moment”. To try not to hold on so tightly to your expectations. To try not to plan every second of your life, down to the last detail. Because the plans you make never pan out quite the way you expect them to. There’s always a little bit of this, or a little less of that. And you have the tendency to become very frustrated when things don’t go the way you had expected.

But that’s just it: Nothing ever goes the way you expect it to. The world keeps turning after Y2K, but you spend New Year’s Eve eating cheesecake in suburbia. You meet the man of your dreams, but you have to move across the country to be with him. You become pregnant with a healthy baby girl but your father passes away before he can meet her.

These are the events that make up your life. They might not be perfect. They might not be the way you’d envisioned them to be. But that’s life. It surprises us. The best and worst events will be equally unexpected. And if there’s one thing for certain, it’s that the more firmly you grasp onto your expectations, the less pleased you’ll be with the outcome.

Your millennium story might not turn out the way you had expected it to. It might wind up having a little less action and a little more cheesecake. In hindsight, you will look back at Y2K and think how lucky you were to have an incredible best friend to share that New Year’s Eve with. She was allowed to go wherever she chose that night. She could have gone to a super cool party. But instead, she chose to keep you company, eating dessert in an empty suburban restaurant.

So, my dear 16-year-old friend, try not to be too mad at your Mother. Enjoy your cheesecake. Hang out with your best friend. Cherish that friendship. There will be many more parties, and many more New Year’s Eves. They might not all go the way you had expected. But in the end you’ll find that life’s little surprises always make the story so much better than if it had all happened according to your plan.

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7 Responses to “Letter 31: Y2K or, Learning To Be Surprised”

  1. magnolia December 27, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

    very well said…

  2. patridew December 29, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    I hope my children of gracious with me in their hindsight. “As you age…” I suspect I am old enough to be your mother, but the lessons you’ve learned are things I’ve only been able to grasp in the last 5 years. Keep writing!

    • thehindsightletters December 31, 2010 at 5:56 am #

      Thank you! I’m glad you liked the post! There will be many more in the New Year thanks to all our wonderful readers 🙂

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Letter 31: Y2K or, Learning To Be Surprised (via The Hindsight Letters) « Green PhD - December 27, 2010

    […] Letter 31: Y2K or, Learning To Be Surprised (via The Hindsight Letters) The thing about New Year’s Eve – or any event for that matter – is that it’s not about what you do or where you go, it’s about who you’re with. As Hegel’s dialectic shows, the self cannot exist without the recognition of the other. So what makes living worthwhile is the interactions we “rack up” along the way. One thing I have learnt is that there is no better way to see in the New Year than with your family or a group of friends, curled up at home, watching the TV, with a glass of wine in your hand and waiting for Big Ben to strike and the London Eye to be set alight with fireworks. Dear me at 16: Let me save you some heartache here: The world is not going to implode when the millennium changes. The ball will drop as it always does, and the year will change from 1999 to 2000 and everything else will remain exactly the same. Your mother (bless her heart) is stocking up on canned goods and bottled water. If she could, she would also create a bomb shelter and force your brother and you to don gas masks prior to midnight. You in … Read More […]

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