Monday, December 15, 2014

Lang May Yer Lum Reek (Amy K. Nichols)

Photo courtesy of Steve Collis, Melbourne, Australia 
Once upon many years ago now, my husband and I celebrated Hogmanay (New Years) in Edinburgh, Scotland, with a couple of friends. Being on Princes Street is Scotland's equivalent of Times Square. This was before it became a ticketed event, and the streets were teeming with revelers. It was incredible. People from all over the world had gathered below Edinburgh Castle to celebrate the new year. I’ll never forget how the fireworks looked as they exploded in the hazy winter-night sky or the sound of 300,000 people singing “Auld Lang Syne”. Shortly after midnight, the four of us linked arms and headed off into the crowd in search of the shuttle back to our hotel.

We only got as far as The Mound when the crowds grew too thick to move. Before we realized what was happening, we found ourselves in a crushing mass of people with no way out. Have you ever been on your tippy toes in the ocean, tossed by the waves and trying to keep your head above water? Imagine that, but with people. Bodies crushed against me so tight I couldn’t expand my ribs to breathe. I lifted my face up into the sky, trying to find fresh air as more and more people packed in. I remember staring at the chimney tops and praying. At one point I thought, This is it. I’m going to die in a crowd on New Year’s Eve in Scotland.

It was one of the scariest moments of my life. One minute we were singing “Auld Lang Syne” and being kissed by drunken merrymakers. The next we weren’t sure we would be around to see the sun rise on the new year.

We did make it out, though, thank God. Something shifted and the crowd began to move like a swift current, carrying us along with it to our right. It spit us out right in front of a police barricade, where a number of injured people sat behind scaffolding. With room to move, the crowds dispersed. My husband and I hugged each other and cried, happy to be alive.

I found out later that that year's Hogmanay holds the Guinness World Record for being the world's largest New Year party, with 400,000 people in attendance. (I also found out 600 people were injured. Yikes.)

That night marked a turning point in my lifeIn high school, my best friend and I had made lists of things to do before we die. After Hogmanay, I found that list and started completing the things on it, because there’s nothing like facing mortality to make you realize life is short and there's no guarantee of tomorrow.

One of the things on that list? Write books.

My Christmas gift
this year
On Tuesday, my debut novel, Now That You're Here, was published by Knopf Books for Young Readers, and I've spent the last six days promoting it both online and with author appearances. It's been a dream come true. It's like Christmas came early this year. I'm grateful for all those who took time to come out to the events and support me. And I'm grateful for that scary and amazing night all those years ago in Scotland. If it weren't for getting squished at Hogmanay, I wonder if I'd be where I am now. I wonder if I'd have continued letting that list gather dust. I wonder if I'd have forgotten about it altogether.

My wish for you this holiday season is that you would dust off your own list--or make a new one, if necessary--and use the start of a new year to begin crossing off your own To Do's. You don't need a deadly hug from thousands of drunken merrymakers to help you understand that life is short. Just go for it. What have you got to lose?

Happy Hogmanay to you and yours! Lang may yer lum reek. 

5 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your book birthday!

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  2. CONGRATS!!!!! I agree--life is short. I'm doing some To-Do crossing in '15...

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  3. Congrats on sending NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE out into the world!! Your Edinburgh New Year's Eve sounds terrifying, I'm happy it turned out well and led to you living your dream.

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  4. Awesome, Holly! And thanks to you and Jen! Wishing you the very best in 2015. :D

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