On New Year’s Eve in 2016, my mom and I agreed that it had been one of the worst years yet for our family and we were glad it was over. My brother had left college (he ended up landing on his feet in the Navy, so things are going well for him now), my sister had transferred high schools, our dog had been hit by a truck (and survived, expensively), there was the tiny little surprise of the presidential election and, just a few days before New Year’s, my 4½-year relationship came to a sudden and abrupt end.

One of us may have made the mistake of saying “next year has got to be better than this.”

Well, if you’ve been following this column for a while, you’ve probably figured out that 2017 was a real doozy, and even worse than the previous year; it was filled with illness, death, mayhem, bills and multiple car crashes, including a fender-bender on New Year’s Eve itself in 2017.

This New Year’s Eve, I’m just trying not to jinx myself or my family again. After all, the past 12 months have been rough. My grandmother died, so now my mom and I are both down to one parent each. The dog who survived the high-speed truck crash finally succumbed to cancer.

On the other hand, in 2018, I moved out of my mom’s house (a pinnacle of millennial achievement). I have spent more days sober than under the influence. This column has gone weekly (so if you feel like you’ve been seeing more of me – you have). I lost 15 pounds (so if you feel like you’ve been seeing less of me – you have).

Recently, Facebook took a momentary break from selling private user data to show me a photo, through its “on this day” feature, from almost exactly 10 years ago. It was taken on Dec. 31, 2008, at a New Year’s Eve party. It’s a photo of me.

The hope evident on Victoria Hugo-Vidal’s face on Dec. 31, 2008, is endemic “as the clock runs out on yet another year … (bringing) second chances and new opportunities.”

I’ve got short hair and I’m wearing a festive party sombrero that I found in my friend’s basement. My glasses are too narrow for my face, and I’m smiling so widely that I think I can see a molar. I am probably the only teenager on the planet who wears a turtleneck to a party. Young Victoria is holding an “Obama for Maine” lawn sign. The economy is in free fall, but in the photo I am 16, and at a party with my friends, so I haven’t noticed. We’re about to have a new, young president – America’s first black president – inaugurated in just a few short weeks. He ran on a platform of hope and change.

Aha! That’s what I’m feeling in that picture. Hope. Ten years ago, I was young and full of hope and hormones (oh, the hormones).

Did the change arrive, along with the hope? Well, I can marry a woman in any state I want to. Couldn’t do that in 2008. We hadn’t yet had Paul LePage as a governor and boy, that was a change and a half. Ten years later, I’m carrying $70,000 in student-loan debt – a side effect of the 2008 economic crash – but I’m managing it with Obama administration programs.

When Iowa legalized gay marriage in early 2009, my family celebrated the court decision by making cornbread and watching our battered old VHS tape of “The Music Man.” There’s a song in it called “The Sadder But Wiser Girl For Me.” Well, as I’m looking forward at 2019, the sadder but wiser girl – is me.

But I feel it again, the tickle in my throat, the buzz in my chest that never quite gets squashed. It’s hope, and it’s catching. Like the flu, it starts to spread as the clock runs out on yet another year. Humans like second chances and new opportunities the way writers like blank pages.

I don’t know where I’ll be in 10 years. I don’t know where I’ll be in 10 months. But I know where I’ll be tomorrow, and for now, that’s good enough for me.

Happy New Year, Maine. I love you.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: mainemillennial

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