Taking a leap of faith
I have always found the phrase ''No regrets'' to ring a little bit hollow.
To me it's an old chestnut, often spoken with the feverishness of a publicist who will go down with a sinking ship, white knuckled, fingers clenching a piece of paper with the lie; massaging it, moulding it, determined to spin it just so for tomorrow's front page, unable to simply fold the damn thing into an aeroplane and send it down into the dark abyss of all that is wrong and in need of forgiveness.
We make mistakes.
Sometimes they are little lapses of judgement that harm only ourselves and we can look back and call them learning curves.
Sometimes they are major mistakes that harm other people. Sometimes all we learn is that we aren't as good and decent as we once thought we were.
True, we probably aren't living if we aren't screwing things up every so often. But maybe to compliment lives that are especially prone to screw ups - mine, for example - we need to make allowances for a little regret once in awhile.
Maybe having regrets just means we have a moral compass. And thank God, the compass actually still functions properly after years of being tinkered with.
Which is why, this New Year's, instead of listing resolutions, I'm listing a few regrets.
I regret, for instance, wearily agreeing that after five days of sleepless train travel across America I probably was too tired to put on something slinky and go to the 007 Night at the Washington D.C. International Spy Museum. (I have actually woken up furious that I missed out on mingling with the promised ''20 spies'' in November because what kind of self-respecting spy is going to show up at a James Bond-themed fundraiser in the nation's capital? I'll never know.)
I regret not continually contributing to a Roth IRA retirement account I set up five years ago.
I regret ''accidentally'' slamming a reservation book closed on the fingers of an obnoxiously bossy waitress at a hostess stand I worked at in September. Yes I am 36 and I did that.
I regret every beautiful Saturday morning I've wasted by engaging in petty, low-blow Facebook commenting wars over political articles introduced with a ''WAKE UP AMERICA'' (all caps bring out an extra special belligerent side of me, culminating in the equally sensible: ''No, YOU wake up!'')
I regret worrying about situations that I can't change.
I deeply regret not forgiving people that have hurt me. I've only wounded myself by not letting it go.
I regret a few other decisions I've made this year (I won't bore you with the list), but walking back through the snow at five to midnight on December 31st, my waitressing apron still on, my wine key in my back pocket, I also thought about the crash and burns of 2013 - and 2013 has been a year for some doozies - that I have no regrets about at all.
I don't regret leaving my job as a reporter, and all the stability of having a career, with no plan whatsoever. And returning to my homeland and somehow entering into this weird, shiftless time of bringing pan-seared Montana trout and a Manhattan straight up, light on the vermouth, to a gentleman in a cowboy hat who appeared to be wearing an entire bison he claims to have killed and skinned himself (he was my best tipper last night).
Sometimes you just need to be in places that let you be as wild as you need to be for a while to regroup.
I don't regret buying a plane ticket from Detroit to England in October to make sure, absolutely sure, that a relationship that ended eight months before was well and truly over (it was).
Because that plane ticket took me 92 percent of the way to Portugal to finally learn how to surf properly (and cry over the guy, sketch women smoking in doorways, and drink a lot of port).
And when someone asked me what was the most amazing thing I had done this year, it would have been boarding that flight to Lisbon.
I don't regret telling anyone I've loved them. I've meant it every time.
I don't regret deleting people from my life that simply need to be deleted.
It was the New Year as I walked onto my front porch.
I could hear fireworks somewhere. I sat and looked at the snow on the trees, boots on railing. This is good, I thought, pulling my coat around me and my hat over my ears. Quiet. Contemplative. This is the perfect end to 2013. Just blankets of snow over everything, covering it all up, letting the world rest a while.
Ah, stillness. A little peace.
Then headlights, and tyres spinning through wet snow, and slamming doors and laughter as everyone got home.
Then there was a band that might or might not still be playing if we hurried, and on the way there was someone that needed to be rescued from a ditch near a bar.
There was piling into a car with Garth Brooks playing and driving until we saw lights and a bonfire.
Then there were more fireworks set off by the river and we watched as they exploded high above the peaks around us, our hair and jackets like sponges for the campfire smoke, so we went inside, brushing off the ash, getting beers and heading to a table.
And then there was a hand out. And at the end of the hand was a hot stranger asking if I wanted to dance.
I looked at the dance floor, which was empty. The band was playing Honky Tonk Woman. How do you even dance to Honky Tonk Woman?
''I am a terrible dancer,'' I told the stranger.
''So am I,'' he said, waiting.
I don't know who this guy was. Maybe an apparition. Maybe the spirit of 2014, making me choose, right there, how I was going to start off the New Year.
I thought about how dumb I was about to look, the two of us dancing on our own, in a bar, in the middle of nowhere, in front of people who would think we were idiots.
Then I thought about regrets.
''Alright,'' I said, getting up from my barstool and taking his hand before I thought twice.
I felt like a little kid doing a running leap off the high dive.
It might be a phrase that rings hollow when I look back, but looking forward it feels more like a promise, maybe even a resolution.
I know I'm going to break it, but I'm going to say it anyway for 2014.