I always get more thoughtful when the New Year’s season arrives. I like the feeling a new year brings. And yes, I do love making goals, but my goals are more like a planning of what I aim to do in the year. This time, after two consecutive years of holidays in Brazil, we chose to stay in New York. In the middle of a post-trip period of two weeks, with friends visiting us and a lot of rush, I was able to reflect a little here and a little there. I know the two dates have passed already, but only now I have found time to organize my thoughts.
But, things were different this Christmas. I, who always loved the date, ended up preparing a last-minute home dinner with a decoration purchased at the same day in the pharmacy – the significant advantage is that everything was on sale. Also, I was not able to follow any classic Christmas menu. I, who always mentally organized the gift list in advance, bought everything at the last time. I, who always had a taste of frustration by the time Christmas was over, did not feel any melancholy or sadness when everyone went back home that night – before midnight. I also did not feel that feeling of excitement during the days leading up to the date. It may be because I was not able to stop for a minute, maybe. The Christmas that still lives in my memory is happier, and perhaps none of the upcoming Christmas will be able to surpass those of the old memories. It was on that date that made me count the days and the hours. It was the most wonderful time of the year. We waited patiently in the front of my parent’s house for the trucks honking with Santa in the open part, throwing candies for us and for the other children from our block. On Christmas Eve, it was that eagerness to open the gifts brought, of course, by Santa. My parents always found a way to call someone to play the role. Before this ceremony, we would go to the traditional mass in the Catholic Church. I liked to go because I was fascinated by the Jesus’ birth ritual. It was time for the celebration that I most expected. I wanted to go to the Church just to see the little theater, as I used to call it. Today, neither Saks Fifth Avenue themed holiday windows nor the Rockefeller Center tree brings me the same feeling.
When I started to have my own money, I would never miss the opportunity to buy gifts for everyone in my family. At first, my sister and I shared the expenses. All the gifts (for my mother, father, and brother) were carefully thought out and researched. I would wrap each one of them, and I still remember how I used to love to be able to do so. It would make me anxious for the opening of the gifts. It still feels really good. To this day, I still love being able to gift dear ones. Maybe even more than receiving gifts. Of course, I still love to give gifts, but, it’s not the same thing anymore. I explain: when we are children, we can not have everything we want (which is excellent and gives us a good idea of how to value what we have). Today, older, with a stabilized financial life, I can say that I have, yes, a good life – I have no luxuries, but I know of my privileges. I live in a place where many things – that in Brazil have stratospheric prices – are accessible. I do not care about fancy brands; I’m not fussy about anything. I do not have a wish list. I also have a maximum budget, a mental limit to spend on anything. I care a lot about my money. There are things I can have, but I just do not want to buy – because I know I do not need. And when you get to a point in your life when you realize it, it’s kind of crazy, I confess. It is not arrogance – it is simply because we grow conditioned to desire, work to achieve and then buy. The truth is that I had already begun this process of “detachment” before moving to New York, when I had to give 90% of the things I had and move on to a new life with two suitcases. Four years have passed, and the question that remains is: Do I miss that 90 % of stuff that I left back in Brazil? None. Probably the 90% of things I have today are also not indispensable. And far from me wanting to provide a moral lesson – I still have a lot to change in my consumption habits. But I still think that I do very well in this regard, especially considering that I live in New York City. My husband was surprised the other day when he asked me what I would do if we were to become millionaires tomorrow. To his surprise, I replied that I would buy a new cell phone and a Burberry trench coat. And I would choose to live in an apartment in a building with more structure. Are these unreachable goals today? Nope.
Talking again about the end of the year, I confess that for some moments it was desperate to know that there was a chance we could spend Christmas alone, only my husband and I. Yes, we had special guests but I read and heard many things that made me think. Following one of the reflections from Fernanda Neute, suddenly came a thought. With the internet age, we follow thousands of people sharing their plans, their parties, their dinners, their looks, their New Year’s travels. Add to that the propaganda on TV, in the magazines and on the streets remembering that your Christmas needs to have that dish and that drink, your turn of the year has to be a break-in party, preferably in a paradisiacal destination. All this creates pressure and anxiety for the date to be unforgettable. I think the efforts are valid, as long as they are genuine and do not come by the feeling that “everyone is doing so I have to do it too.” At the end of the day, I do not know; I think it’s very much the feeling we have inside us.
Speaking of New Year, that is a date I never loved. I do not know precisely why, but I’m glad I never had big celebrations. What I really like is the feeling of restoration, that somehow I can start over, that I have one more chance. Maybe this is just an escape valve because someone once invented that we should count the years, the months, the days and the hours. The “do not leave for tomorrow what can be done today” never made so much sense, right? Because, beyond all, we are all very confident and we think that we are in control of everything. We just believe it. After all, our 3B neighbor, who has Alzheimer’s and knocked on our door shortly after our New Year’s toast, looking for her sister, made me remind myself that life may not be that simple for everyone. I, who found my new year’s party at home was a simple celebration, without anything special, went to sleep thinking about her. While I was celebrating, eating and laughing with friends, she was probably awake with our laugh and our music. Maybe that night of the 31st of December did not have anything special for her. It was just one more night, like so many others.
Yes, I’m melancholy. Maybe it’s the flood of thoughts of the end of the year, maybe it’s the moon in cancer.
Laura Peruchi is a Brazilian blogger, author, and entrepreneur. She has lived in Manhattan with her husband since 2014. Since then, she has shared on her blog varied content about the Big Apple. From travel tips, including unusual things to do, shopping tips, etiquette, restaurants, and a lot more, her blog has become a reference in Portuguese (also available in English) for anyone planning a trip to New York City.