I could’ve played it safe. Playing it safe is comfortable and easy and it’s what everyone else expects of you.
Instead, I rang in the new year at Times Square. You might’ve heard. It was a semi-impromptu decision between me and a good friend.
I’m glad I did it — glad we did it. I imagine celebrating New Year’s at Times Square is something 90% of the population has on their bucket list but 90% never do.
I mean, it takes a ton of effort to do New Year’s in New York.
First, you have to get there — by train or plane or some other miscellaneous vehicular transport. You have to get there, and you have to get there 10 hours early in order to get a good enough spot where you can actually see the famed Ball drop.
And then when you actually get there, you have to stand around waiting for 10 hours. Maybe you’ll luck out with some decent weather, but since it’s New York at wintertime it will probably be some degree of cold to frigid — especially when the sun goes down. But at least you’ll have several thousand total strangers cuddling warmly beside you as the NYPD herd you into barricaded street pens like cattle.
So, to recap: you stand and wait and freeze and, oh, you can’t ever go to the bathroom lest you forever lose your sacred spot amid the other lunatic cattle. There’s little glitz, there’s no glamour, and it’ll just about kill you.
Good gosh, take it from me: don’t ever celebrate New Year’s in New York.
When #RunningTo was still fresh out West, I hardly considered where I’d celebrate New Year’s. I didn’t even know whether I’d still be wandering by then.
December 31 seemed an eternity away from Utah.
As my trip progressed and it became increasingly obvious that I would still be wandering by December 31, I started pondering the turn of my 2014 to 2015. Where would I be, and with whom would I celebrate? With friends? Family? Total strangers?
The easy decision was hunkering down with my grandparents in eastern Pennsylvania. I could simply stay there beyond the usual Christmas holiday with family and make a long stay of it.
That would have been fine. Sure, my grandparents go to bed at 8pm (maybe 9:30 if Columbo is on). But my old Eden would have been a safe and warm and easy place to ring in 2015.
But then something happened: a thought. Something daring and something dangerous.
What if I didn’t play it safe this New Year’s? What if I took a risk because, well, this is #RunningTo. This road trip was made for risks; this road trip is a risk.
Suddenly, staying inside a quiet Pennsylvanian home within a quaint Pennsylvanian town seemed an absurd way to celebrate my New Year’s. There was only one other option.
What else was there but New York for New Year’s? Times Square: Ryan Seacrest Central.
Within a day of the absurd idea taking root, I connected with a Couchsurfer in Queens, and within a week of Christmas I was hopping a train to the Big Apple because this is how good stories form. They require risk and effort — and lots and lots of discomfort.
Within a couple hours of that train ride, my friend and I were standing alongside thousands of other lunatics in the 31-degree streets of Times Square.
And standing some more.
We stood and we froze for 10 impossible hours as Cape Town and Paris and Rio celebrated New Year’s before midnight took its pretty little time swiveling to New York City.
Camping out at Times Square all day reminded me of my Ridgecrest campouts of yesteryear. We counselors would gather our kids on an hour-long hike into the wild where we’d set up camp, only for the clouds above to billow as it stormed and stormed
Dozens of campers and counselors huddled underneath cold wet tarps as we desperately yearned for sleep and escape and warmth and morning. Those campouts encompass the longest most miserable nights of my life. And yet waking up to a crackling campfire and eventually falling back onto my comfy cabin bed rank among my most joyous memories.
Living a good story is intoxicating, but it’s miserable. It’s long and cold and all you really want is to quit and return indoors.
Living a good story sucks the life out of you sometimes. But the pain is worth the product.
Because after you survive 10 hours of misery, you start seeing the beauty. The clock and the confetti and the T-Swift you never appreciated before.
I’ll never celebrate another New Year’s in New York, but good gosh I’m glad I celebrated there this year. I’m glad I watched 2014 become 2015 alongside one million crazies as DAY 214 of #RunningTo became a cold confetti-filled DAY 215.
Consider the weight of my bucket list one item lighter.
Perhaps you too might consider a pilgrimage into the misery? Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though.
Have you ever celebrated New Year’s in New York? Do you ever want to celebrate New Year’s at Times Square, or are you good with catching Ryan Seacrest on TV?