I didn't expect to have fun last night.
As I sang the last verse to "Knock on Wood," I looked over at Joey. He was pointing at his watch. It was time. We cut the song short, and Joey started the countdown.
"10... 9... 8..."
It was almost over.
"3... 2... 1... Happy New Year!!!"
I hadn't thought about how happy I would be to hear those words - to say them aloud over a PA system in unison with about 100 other people. But it made me tremendously happy. A really bad year was behind me. It was a year of trials and trauma. It was a year to learn from my mistakes. Some may call 2008 a growing year for me... if that's the case, I should be 6 feet tall by now. I've learned a lot, enough to know that I don't want to ever repeat the same mistakes again.
I sang one more song and then turned the stage back over to the band, a band I founded back in 1996, when times were easier, I was younger and my child was an infant. I am no longer a member of that band, and my friend Joey has taken over my duties as lead vocalist, but they were kind enough to allow me to sing with them anyway, to ring in the New Year the way I used to do every year for over a decade. Singing was a job back then, a way of putting food on the table, and like most any job it eventually became repetitive and lost its luster.
But last night was different. It was fun again. Watching people dance and enjoy themselves while I belted out old Aretha Franklin tunes ignited something inside me, something I haven't felt in years. Desire and a clear path of opportunity revealed themselves to me, and my focus, which has been so blurry in the past few years, is now razor sharp. Three simple words filled me with more joy than I dreamed possible just a day or so ago. Happy New Year. A fresh start. A clean slate. A new beginning.
As I walked off the stage, I realized there was something else I haven't done in years that I was dying to do. So I did it.
I danced with friends and coworkers. I danced with people I didn't know very well. I danced until my toes were cramping in my 5 inch platform heels. I danced until I couldn't dance any more. It was liberating. It was FUN.
I've started this year with a smile on my face, and I plan to keep it there. And I wish all of you the same exhilaration and hopefulness that I am experiencing right now. I wish you all a very Happy New Year.