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December 16, 2016 3:44 pm

It was the first day of 2016, and I woke up on the other side of spending my first New Year’s Eve alone. Not spending it single, or without a midnight kiss — though both of those were true, as well — but literally alone, at home, in my bed, by myself, with my Kindle and Mindy Kaling’s new book.

I had a few invites — two, actually, but something about getting dressed up and thrusting my half-depressed, fully-disillusioned self upon a night that’s supposed to simmer with expectation and new opportunities felt…false.

Truth be told, I felt like I didn’t belong to that world anymore. Me, the girl who has been forcing smiles for the past six months, laughing along with my happy, functional friends, forcing myself to “blend in,” couldn’t possibly be that talented of an actress on a night like New Year’s Eve.

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So I didn’t. I stayed home. I took a shower. Texted a boy who I probably shouldn’t text (he was busy). Flipped through my Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat obsessively tracking the dresses, the toasts, the fireworks, the HAPPY NEW YEEAAARRRRR shouts, and finally, mercifully, at 12:24 a.m., turned my light off and went to sleep.

I woke up at 7:30 a.m. on January 1st, 2016.

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“It’s 2016,” was my first thought.

“I’m off today!” was my second. Score.

When I went to grab a coffee so I could have a solid day of writing, I felt like everyone knew.

They looked at my makeup-less face, the time on the clock, and they could smell it. This girl didn’t do shit last night.

I was shocked at how little that bothered me.

Now, you may be thinking: “Of course it doesn’t bother you. It shouldn’t. You’re crazy.” Okay, I’ll give you that. I’ve built ~NYE~ up to something that it really isn’t. Sure, it’s cool that it’s the last day of the year. Great, tomorrow “marks the first chapter in a new story…” blah blah blah (though I do love a good reading metaphor).

But really, the sparkly dresses? Feeling inadequate and lame and ugly if no one kisses you? Or — worst of the worst —feeling like the biggest loser on the planet if you have no plans, even willingly? Quelle tragique.

But we’ve done that to ourselves. I, in particular, REALLY did that to myself.

I reinforced the idea in my head that if I didn’t have a full social calendar, a full dance card, and something, anything, to do on the nights that I’m supposed to be ~living it up~, I’ve failed as a human and a twenty-something — and, well, better get some cats now, because you’re hopeless.

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But when I woke up at 7:30 a.m. on January 1st, the roads empty, no sign of a hangover, not looking like death, and not lying next to someone who I a.) don’t like, or b.) really like (both dangerous), all I could think was… eh. That wasn’t so bad.

I thought a lot about how I wanted to start 2016. The last half of 2015 was rough for me, and I don’t even really know how or why it began. I guess that’s how depression works. It lurks in the background, lulling you into a sense of security until you think “Awesome, I’m better now,” and then it waits for the trigger. The breakup, the issue at work, even the unanswered text. Whatever it is, it waits for the chink in your armor, and then attacks.

Mine attacked me badly. Like, avoiding my friends, changing my personality, drinking too much, wishing I could move to Antarctica and die, bad. As a lifelong member of the Perky Personality Club, this was weird for me. I’m social to a fault and crave human interaction. In short, this feeling of perpetual sadness and discontent was not me.

So when I woke up on 2016, the night after my first-ever solo New Year’s Eve that I’d been dreading for weeks, I looked my depression in the face. And I was able to say… I’m okay.

I had no glitzy pictures from that night, and that’s okay. It says nothing about who I am, how many people love me, or what I’m worth. It means I just decided to go to bed. Simple as that. All of the judgement I felt, the shame that burned into my skin every second the clock ticked closer to midnight, was self-inflicted.

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Your mind, especially when embroiled in a war against itself, has a knack for creating monsters in the corners and crevices of your psyche that tell you all kinds of lies, ranging from “you’re worthless” to “if you don’t have a date, it’s because you don’t deserve one.” I believed every single one of them.

It took facing my fear — and accepting that I was going to be alone on a night that had meant so much to me — to throw those lies back in the face of my own monsters.

I proved to myself that my worth isn’t dictated by one night, and my strength will surprise me if I just put it to the test.

If you asked me on the last day of 2015 what I wanted from the first day of 2016 — and from this entire year — my answer would have been hope. Hope that I would accomplish the things I wanted to, that I would meet a good guy, that I would be happy.

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If I’d woken up nauseated with a pounding headache and twenty-three ill-advised drunk texts sitting in my phone, 2016 would have been a carbon copy of 2015; that is to say, fucking miserable.

But I did one thing differently — something I was terrified of, something I thought would be the final, crushing nail in the coffin of my happiness, forever keeping me trapped under the rain cloud I’ve been trying so hard to escape. The fear is what kept me there.

Today, a few weeks shy of tumbling into 2017, I know that fear is a bandage. Fear keeps the problem covered, sequestered, out of view. I ripped it off, and found I’m already healed.

Audrey Taylor Ward is an native Floridian currently living the peach life in Atlanta, Georgia. She’s left-handed, a pizza connoisseur, yogi, novelist, singer, and certified Broadway musical junkie. Take a peek into her life at her Facebook and Instagram.

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