It’s 7.15pm on New Year’s Eve – and I have a glass of Prosecco (Tesco, no less) in hand. This is not because I am a hardened party-goer starting the fun early. Rather the opposite in fact – we have cracked out the bubbly because we know that making it to midnight to see in 2018, is just not going to happen. Not with a human ball of energy bursting in to start the day tomorrow pre 6am. Which, despite the early hour and shock to the system, denotes a very happy new year indeed.
If you are donning your glad rags to brave the crowds, fireworks and general festivities that don’t involve Countryfile and half of the Jools Holland Show, good for you. I can’t imagine anything worse right now, but it wasn’t always that way. My prior state of permanent FOMO (if you don’t know about FOMO, you are officially old – educate yourself!) meant I never wanted to miss a good party or excuse for a get together – and often stayed to the bitter end. And sometimes it really was just that – it’s like the rule at kids birthday parties: ‘it isn’t really a party until someone cries’. Same goes for nightclubs and house parties.
Not that going out is a bad thing – some great craic over the years with friends that involved a few sociable beverages and dancing until feet were pounding. Good times, and I’m not a complete hermit – there is still a good old night out with friends & family, or work pals to be had, but honestly, every time I go out, I plan to leave the party before the end. Intentionally, to make an exit while things are in full flow.
It was one of my dad’s rules of life, which in my former FOMO state, completely baffled me, but I see the supreme wisdom in it now:
Always leave the party at its height
I can practically hear his voice saying it when I’m ‘out out’, particularly at work events. There’s a brilliant confidence about it – enjoy it, mingle, have fun and be good company, but leave when you and everyone else is having a great time. That way, you (and they) remember a positive experience, life at its best. FOMO is never a reality really – you don’t miss anything if you have left while the fun is at its peak…and you breeze out before the taxi queue.
But it was more than a twee phrase to keep a teenage daughter in the house and away from trouble. I called it one of his ‘rules of life’ and that is indeed true on a whole other level since he passed away 5 years ago. It rings in my ears now more than ever because HE left the party at its height.
Unbearable sadness for us as a family gives way to appreciation that he never had to get old, or weak, or scared – his ultimate fear was ending up in a nursing home, or retiring. I will always remember him as the strong, funny, happy, magnificent man he always was, because he didn’t become anything else. At 67 he was sharp-minded and sharp-suited, and still thought that he could conquer the world – and he frequently did.
For everyone who has lost someone ‘too early’, take heart – and I am sensitive enough to know there are many, in very different circumstances, so I don’t say any of this lightly, and don’t imagine to have a clue how anyone is feeling. But this is a simple lesson that gives me heart – leaving the party at its height makes as much of an impact, and sometimes more.
My dad’s last words to me were ‘have a good time’ – what a guy. Pretty simple, but it is quite a poignant statement when you think about it. Not ‘have a fun time’, but have a GOOD time. I get a lot from that, including the ability to recognise that I’m happy with Tesco Prosecco in front of the fire on New Year’s Eve.
There’s no good time to say goodbye to someone we love, but tonight I will be raising my glass to one great party and a forever lasting legacy. Have a good time, all.