There’s this Fuse interview from 2011 where Lady Gaga talks about how busy she was when she recorded her first album. A fan later edited the clip to make her day-to-day schedule sound even more demanding. “No sleep, bus, ‘nother club, ‘nother club,” she says. “Next place, no sleep,” and so on in a loop.
That’s how I used to feel about New Year’s Eve. Somewhere in my twenties, I completely lost control of the holiday without even realizing it. What was once a fun night of going out and getting fucked up with my friends had slowly morphed into a 12-hour marathon of thing after thing after thing after thing until I was finally too exhausted to cram anything else in. What’s worse, I always expected… something out of the night. What that something was, I couldn’t say. The wildest night of my life? A cathartic release after a year’s worth of bullshit? Some hot guy swooping to whisper “We are going to make out” just before the stroke of midnight? Whatever it was, I was setting myself up for disappointment, year after year. So, after one too many joyless blurs, I decided that the holiday just wasn’t for me, that New Year’s would never, as the Kondo-hive would say, spark joy.
My anti-New Year’s sentiment wasn’t exactly unique. In fact, hating New Year’s Eve might be even more common than liking it. But after speaking to some reformed New Year’s haters, I’ve learned that it is, in fact, possible to turn all that around.
It starts with being honest with yourself and lowering your New Year’s expectations enough to ensure that the night will meet them. Are you going to pregame with your other single friends and go to a club so you’re drunk with strangers the moment the ball drops? Then don’t expect to have the best night ever. That’s not the best night ever, and you know it. It’s fine, at best! Be realistic, and who knows—you might even have fun despite yourself. It’s tempting to try to make the night mean something more than it is, but you absolutely don’t have to do that to yourself.
Another way to preempt any sudden-onset FOMO is to take charge of the evening, top shortage be damned. Do your finest Virgo cosplay, and plan the night yourself, making sure it’s full of things to do that you and your friends will like. Even if the details aren’t all that spectacular (pregame, cab to club, be at club…), taking a proactive role in organizing what your crew does on New Year’s Eve can help you feel more invested in the night ahead. It’s like the first time you tried baking: anyone could’ve made that box mix pan of brownies, but who cares? These are your brownies, and you made them yourself.
Perhaps your beef with New Year’s Eve has less to do with setting yourself up for disappointment than it does with all the objectively annoying mini-hurdles you have to clear throughout the night: the long lines, the cold weather, the lack of cabs, the exorbitant surge-pricing from apps like Lyft and Uber. All of this sucks and there’s no real way around every inconvenience, but if you have a little money to throw at the problem, well, it might be worth it. Long lines? Buy VIP tickets ahead of time! Too many strangers bumping into you? Make a reservation for a big table at a fancy restaurant for you and all your friends! Crowded subways? Take cabs! Exorbitant surge-pricing from yon apps? Just build that into your budget for the evening! It can be annoying to spend a ton of money on an activity that’s not even that fun or important to you, but it can be helpful to remember that the extra money isn’t for, say, actually good drinks or a great club… it’s for peace of mind now, and comfort the night of. Again, this won’t always be an option, but if you can swing it, it’s something to keep in mind.
You could also try observing New Year’s Eve on a completely different day—a solid fix for the New Year’s Eve hater who hates the crowds more than anything. That’s what Emily Van Der Werff did. Van Der Werff, a critic-at-large for Vox who lives in Los Angeles, told me that the only good New Year’s Eve party she’s ever gone to was held a day early.
“My friend wanted to reserve a big room in his favorite bar [in Sioux Falls], but it was, of course, all booked on December 31,” Van Der Werff explained. “So he decided we could celebrate just as easily on December 30. The bar was still crowded, but mostly with those of us who were there for my friend’s party… I’m not sure I’ve enjoyed a New Year’s Eve where I actually made it to midnight more than I did at Jared Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve.”
By celebrating New Year’s Eve on a different day, Van Der Werff and her friends traded one kind of ritual for another—one of their own making. This was a common suggestion among the reformed New Year’s Eve haters I spoke with. Because having a fun, FOMO-free New Year’s Eve you actually enjoy is less about going “out” and more about doing something—and that can be anything, really, as long as it’s intentional. Oliver Levy, a barista who lives in Chicago, said that he and his girlfriend started a New Year’s Eve tradition of marathoning all four Twilight Saga films while drinking a bottle of champagne each. Jaime Lutz, a comedian from New York City, told me that she and her fiancé buy a bunch frozen dim sum, prepare it, and try to eat it all while watching old movies. New Year’s hater Lauren Rachal said she always volunteers to work the night of the holiday. “Boom!” she said. “Automatic plans! Sorry, y’all, booked and blessed!” And Jenna Wortham, a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine who also lives in New York, said that they like to observe by inviting friends over, burning things, and eating psychedelics.
“It’s about being surrounded by the bounty of my own self and life and celebrating that,” Wortham added. “Not some replica of an idea that I saw on TV once.”
These ideas might sound appealing, but you also shouldn’t simply copy them for yourself and expect to have a good time. That’s how we got ourselves into this mess: by forcing another person’s idea of a good New Year’s Eve on ourselves instead of being honest about what we really wanted out of the night. It might be annoying, but you’ve got to figure this out for yourself.
As for me, I did finally manage to have a good time on New Year’s Eve. Last year, I left the joyless blurs behind in favor of a stop at a friend’s place where we (don’t laugh!!) set intentions for the coming year, followed by a chill semi-party at my boyfriend’s apartment. It might not have been as exciting as the “‘nother club, ‘nother club, no sleep” lifestyle of years past, but at least I had a good time.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.