Release... the best is yet to come.


Contributed by Jesse Soto


Seasons change. The sun’s journey from horizon to horizon irrevocably (or so it seems) shortens, and with these changes, what is seen by many as a shedding of the year’s hang-ups and newly-acquired emotional baggage climaxes in a pivotal point of transformation: the coming of the new year. This passing of the torch from the beaten and battered you to the emboldened, enlightened scion of truth that the cleansing fires of all the revelations of the past year’s shortfalls and mistakes have molded you into is your rise out of the ashes, your rebirth, your second chance.

Watch out 2016! This time IT WILL be different. The 32nd time is the charm…right?

Sounds great, doesn’t it? With the passing of one year to the next, and a single stroke of the clock, our slates are wiped clean and we again have the ability to be the person we think we should be. We charge on, invigorated by countless self-important soundbites of prose stamped on the sides of bottles and affixed to tea bags, plastered on manufactured memes against a backdrop of a shapely model’s silhouette, gazing contentedly across an impossibly beautiful vista, gone with an upward swipe of our thumbs.

This axis of time is steeped in ritual and cosmology as old and varied as the ever-growing collection of leggings and mats in each of our closets, dear readers. Myself, I’m not that much of a holiday person, but this one day of the year does seem to hold a bit more magic for me, even than perhaps my own birthday.

I’ve always been in love with the idea of transition and moments of transformation, of sudden, irreversible change. Growing up under the yolk of extreme and distorted religious doctrine, the trappings of tradition – holidays, organized religion, and even family gatherings (best to let sleeping dogs lie) – continue to lack significance for me beyond serving as worn-out exercises performed simply because the same was done the year before. The ability to shed the notions and predetermined ideals foisted upon me by people, by circumstance, by the passage of time serves as an exception to my rule, in the form of New Year’s Eve.

It’s on that night every year that I hold a private ceremony, a cleansing of spirit, if you will, which I call my Release Ceremony. I write out a long letter addressed to the year that is passing, and all of the stowaways that I am intentionally shedding and relinquishing from my control and my being. In this letter I record everything I am thankful for and everything which has introduced pain into my life – breakups, friendships gone south, transcendent evenings, great meals, achingly beautiful skylines – and through this homage to my perpetual balancing act, a salute to necessary and destructive creation. When the letter is complete, I light it on fire, burning my scribbles and releasing those moments as I enter the new year with a clear and open heart. Burning these discoveries, revelations, losses, and adventures brands them in my inner narrative and releases them as base matter, once again broken down and assimilated back into the folds of potential.

What is true is that we are only the temporary custodians of the particles which we are made of. They will go on to lead a future existence in the enormous universe that made them. 

-Stephen Hawking

What is also true is that we are only the temporary custodians of our pain, and of all the negative emotions we feel compelled to hold on to and carry with us. Let them go! Give that pain and the energy spent reconciling it back to the universe, where it can take on new life as gratitude, as love.

Now, on to something completely different...

2015 introduced loss into my life in a way I had not yet experienced, and I am so very thankful for the clarity it granted me. With last year’s Release Ceremony, I made goals, set challenges, and purposefully scared and shocked myself with every possible opportunity. I started running again. I quit smoking and the lifeless, dead-end job I hated, and landed one that I love at more than double the salary. As if that weren’t enough, I’m getting my own interior design/terrarium business off the ground, and loving every minute of my hectic pace. I wanted to explode, and I succeeded. Balancing all of this with my day-to-day of living with PTSD and manic depression has been, like, really, really, really hard. 

Life is short and the years continue to speed past (since when can anyone born in the 90’s operate a vehicle or get into BAR?!).

This is your December 2015 challenge, dear readers: create your own Release Ceremony this New Year’s Eve. Face 2015 and examine your year with naked honesty, allow yourself to love even the darkest moments. Ground yourself, love yourself, forgive yourself. As you take your first steps into the new year, mind you the words of C.S. Lewis:

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.


Jesse Soto is an artist living and working in Portland, OR, where he continues to collect abandoned shadows and human memories. An accomplished artist, published poet, and lover of all things green, Jesse spends his days keeping company with Philosophy, the Esoteric Arts, cooking and juicing with his partner, hiking, and appreciating the wondrous canvas of sky above. He can be reached for any number of reasons at


*image credit: Jott Robertson