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Teenage experience teaches perspective today
New Year's Eve celebrations aren't always a party but that's not necessarily a bad thing. - photo by Amy Choate-Nielsen
On New Year's Eve in 1994, I was standing in a crowd of thousands of people in New York City, jumping up and down, clapping my hands, craning my neck to see a shiny, white ball at the top of a skyscraper.

I couldnt wait for that ball to drop.

First of all, I was cold. We my mom, dad, sister, some friends and myself had gotten to Times Square at about 6 p.m. to start waiting for those magical 10 seconds that would happen at 11:59:50 p.m. The last warmth I felt before committing to standing in the cold for six straight hours were a few minutes in Sbarro, where I scarfed down a piece of pizza and used the bathroom.

Second, I was bored. Even at 6 p.m., the police had already placed barricades blocks away from the center of the action, and the closest we could get was somewhere in Midtown, thanks to a nice officer who let us sneak in. We could see the ball, and all of the stages with music and dancing, but we werent close enough to hear any of it.

On TV, New Year's Eve in Times Square seems like the best place to be in the world like a giant party. But for our group, and for me as a young teenager, it was just boring.

We stood. We sat. We talked to each other. We talked to the people around us. We looked up. We huddled together. We looked at the pavement. We wished we had warmer coats. We wondered why we thought it was such a good idea to come. We wished we had come sooner.

And then, at about 11:50 p.m., we heard music and saw a giant, horizontal puppet of Father Time start drifting through the crowd, over our heads. The energy around me was electric. I couldnt wait for that ball to drop because I was cold and bored and I wanted to go home, yes, but I also couldnt wait to start a new year.

I couldnt wait to say hello. I was filled with anticipation and excitement at the idea of all that was to come. I couldnt wait to see what great new things were in my future. I thrilled at the thought of a fresh new start.

The confetti rained down on us as we made our way back to the train station, and I dont remember much more about that night only that it was cold, a little monotonous, and completely magical.

I thought about that night this year as the clock struck 12 a.m.

This year, I cried.

It was odd, to feel a little sad at the end of the year, compared to the excitement and energy I felt those years ago, but this year, I felt the drifting figure of Father Time move over my head a little more poignantly.

Ive learned that family history is equal parts research and creation researching the records of our ancestors to learn where were from, and preserving our own stories so our children and descendants can learn the same. But sometimes, our records are for ourselves, too, so we dont forget.

At the end of another year, I want to remember.

In the beginning of 2015, my daughter was a very sick little girl. Her illness made me contemplate mortality and loss more than I ever had, and I felt determined to appreciate each moment of each day, free of distraction and worry, neither looking ahead nor behind. The first time her fever which she had for more than a month broke, I was elated. The first time she could walk to the bathroom on her own, I was relieved. When she finally went back to school I worried, worried, worried. But she was OK.

In the summer, we had swim lessons and tennis lessons and summer camp, hiking, biking and exploring outside. We took a trip to Oregon that my son is still talking about, and I watched them dig in the sand, dodge waves and gather seashells like they were hypnotized by the beauty around them. We took a boat ride and came close enough to a gray whale to smell its breath.

We had soccer in the fall, and school, and a job change, and trips to see the leaves change in the mountains. I hardly remember that I sprained my ankle and was back to hobbling around in a medical boot for a few months, as upset as I was at the time. And then when the snow came, my children hardly ever came back inside.

My 2015 was hard, but wonderful. And when the ball fell this year, I felt gratitude for the abundance of goodness in my life. I didnt want to say goodbye.

Still, I look back to that night with the ball in 1994, and Im inspired.

I learned that braving the cold is sometimes worth it. Monotony can sometimes be magical.

And every goodbye started sometime with a hello even 2016.
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