I was standing outside trying to get some fresh air; the stifling stench of alcohol and sweat was too much for me inside the small house in Suburbia, California. I could still hear the laughter and cheap, dull clinking of plastic champagne glasses as those inside toasted the new year. Suddenly, one of the partiers rushed outside and let loose a steaming torrent of half-digested taquitos, chips and onion dip on the lawn.

He smiled up at me afterwards, a glob of spit hanging from his chin, and gave me a thumbs-up. “Happy New Year, dude!” he said to me, then stumbled back inside.

That drunkard summed up my feelings for the new year perfectly.

Welcome 2002! Bleah.

Most people look to the new year with undaunted enthusiasm. They make resolutions they won’t keep, they plan for things that will never happen and they dream about how things will be different while ignoring the troubles of the world. I guess I can’t blame them too much – optimism never killed anyone.

They manage to see only roses through heat waves generated by the friction between Israel and Palestine. India and Pakistan are half a world away. Our president is performing feats of prestidigitation, distracting us with war abroad while he works his incompetent magic on the nation. A stable economy is more elusive than either Dick Cheney or Osama bin Laden. Human cloning and stem cells? Don’t worry. Domestic security? Be happy.

The year already seems like it’s off to great start. Some fool kid in Tampa thought it would be poetic to crash a Cessna into a Bank of America building, his suicide note blindly supporting things he probably couldn’t even comprehend. The first American blood has been spilled on Afghan soil at the hands of the enemy. Argentina has seen better days.

What a year and it’s only been a week.

The decision to flee the party came suddenly and I packed my bags and left as early as possible the next morning for I.V. University life offers security, a nice little womb cut off from the world. Here, the only things that matter are school, work and, if you can manage one, a social life. The L.A. Times doesn’t have to be read, and CNN, Headline News and MSNBC can all be easily avoided while channel surfing.

Somewhere, however, in between episodes of “Powerpuff Girls” and commercials telling me that I can prevent children in Somalia from getting goiters the size of baseballs for just 25 cents a day, I realized that there are both ups and downs to these times. For all the war and injustice that makes its way through the news, there are things like cartoons, sunsets and those who continually fight for the light.

All the suffering and incompetence in the world only serve as the force which drives us to do better and aim for those spectacular things we desperately want to achieve. A slimmer waistline. Sidewalks. World peace.

All the problems and ills the world throws at us are a reflection of our own humanity, they are what gives us a purpose and goal in life.

New Year’s resolutions suddenly didn’t seem so stupid. My friends celebrating at the party had every right to welcome 2002 as loudly and wildly as they did. Even the moron who puked in the bushes served a role in the grand scheme of things.

And who am I to complain? Without any of the problems in the world, I’d be out of a job.

So bring it on, you bastard excuse for a year. Let’s dance.

Daily Nexus columnist Steven Ruszczycky waxes philosophical every Tuesday here on the opinion page.