This story is…
FOREVER UNTITLED AND PERPETUALLY UNFINISHED
SOMEWHAT OF A MEMOIR BY ASHLINN PARSONS
NEW YEAR’S EVE TEARS are a real thing that I’m going to bottle then mix with essential oils and some beeswax turning the mixture into a candle that I can burn to light and have a seance to vow and hopefully not cry over the same thing at any point that year.
One thing you should know about me is that I hate clichés and I’m not talking about the champagne on New Year’s Eve type (cause what’s wrong with that?) but rather the quotes that disguise themselves as inspirational and/or motivational but really make you feel like you’re not living well enough and that you are somehow responsible for your misery. Let me tell you something: things happen without explanation, sans-justification, rhyme or reason and no amount of effort, discipline or perspective has the power to completely help all the time in every aspect of our lives. Sometimes life deals us a bad hand and the situation is completely out of control and irreparable — but that is no reason to give up hope. Things can and most likely will get better, maybe not right away and maybe not forever however life is a cycle of good and bad so what is now maybe a difficult period could turn around in a few days, weeks, months, and surely as long as we live we will never have outlived our worst day alive. There is always potential for it to get worse but keep in mind this means according to the laws of the universe (or physics or something), it is logical that if it can get worse the potential is also there for it to get better. You are never in a place where it is as good or as bad as it’s ever going to get.
They say January is like the Monday of the months. In Montreal, Canada where I was born, grew up, live now, and will likely die kicking and screaming should anyone try to remove me, it gets very dark very early, and is very cold all winter. There is no looking stylish in these temperatures. There is only not looking stupid and dressing properly for the bitter, disrespectful, and vengeful cold. That being said, this city has some of the best year-round activities which are particularly special considering we live on an island that is a mountain (kind of), in a metropolis city a mere thirty minute drive from the country, and in a climate where you can fully experience all four seasons to the fullest extremes in addition to having one of the most reasonable costs of living for quality of life on the planet. Montreal is multicultural, it’s multilingual, it’s got youth, it’s got wisdom, not to mention some of the most prestigious festivals of all time including art and murals, music and jazz, comedy and theatre as well as a world-renowned international fireworks competition. I feel lucky enough to have this place and these experiences be so easily attainable and that the diversity in art, language, and culture is right in my local neighbourhoods (even though being an introvert I mostly opt out of these things for the comfort of my own home and surroundings). I’m proud of where I’m from.
As much as I love Montreal I often dream about running away where the climate is more temperate and there are beautiful landscapes. Somewhere with a scenic sunset like on a beach near the ocean. I remember at twenty-three ordering pamphlets in the mail for a job teaching English as a second language abroad. I was miserable and unable to picture a life where I could be happy under the circumstances I was currently living to the point where I could not even imagine a scenario where my situation would at all improve without doing something drastic. When I started to test the waters with those around me about my plans to migrate and try to wrap my head around the fact that I would be going from completely surrounded and lonely to completely alone, it was a comfort to hear someone say these words:
“We can’t help you if you’re not here.”
I felt such a relief hearing them. I think deep down I knew that running away wasn’t the answer but the prospect of needing to extract myself from my immediate situation as fully as I could imagine possible was a gateway that allowed me to articulate how unhappy I was and suddenly someone was committing to help me through positive change, especially by encouraging me to stay within my support network where I had resources readily available and additionally to not further isolate myself more by physically distancing myself from a familiar city, my family and friends, public health coverage and other benefits of being a Canadian citizen. Now I have the wherewithal to know that moving to a new city is kind of like going blind for a while: new grocery store, new pharmacy, new dentist, new cordonnier. I don’t even know what a cordonnier is called outside of Quebec so that just goes to show you how low my survival skills removed from my home base really are.
Although I was a very adaptable child able to fall asleep pretty much anywhere and without insecure attachment to my parents, even so much so as to be the typical youngest child and insist on independence and autonomy, I have become so programmed to defend myself of and resist change so much that if I were to get on a plane alone with nobody waiting for me on the other side and without a return ticket, I have developed the level of self-awareness to know myself and know that within three days I would be on the phone with family crying to come home. It’s strange how as we get older and more independent we actually are conditioned into relying on the same coping techniques and strategies probably more out of habit than due to any proven or reliable effectiveness.
I always go into a funk in January. All my friends know how much I love the holidays and it’s quite the stark contrast to go from doing things like gleefully shopping, wrapping, crafting, baking, listening to themed music surrounded by loved ones and loving the snow during what is arguably, or should be, the happiest season of the year to passionately hating the period of time immediately after the festivities. You would think some of the excitement would carry through like a joy hangover or something, but no. I think we put the most pressure on ourselves in January. That’s why I don’t make resolutions. All kinds of studies have come out about making promises to ourselves: that if you tell people it’ll keep you more accountable but on the other hand if you don’t tell people you are more likely to succeed at your goal. I don’t know what to believe.
Don’t get me wrong; I love a new beginning. There is adrenaline and a honeymoon period to almost anything new. Just starting something can be the biggest step in accomplishing something great even though it is sometimes the hardest. For me, the excitement of beginnings has always been the best part and I have trouble following through and staying consistent once the thrill wears off. This New Year’s Eve I had nothing planned in terms of resolutions for this year and was adamant about not, even though I am currently a little unsatisfied with how my life is going. I didn’t feel the need to forcibly invest or negotiate myself into empty ambition.
I have kept this ongoing belief that I have had since being a child that if things were just different they would be exponentially better but really there is no guarantee of this and there never is. By January 3rd I had unwittingly planned three concrete intentions for this year to make my subpar situation more agréable. I have not and probably will not find a better adjective than this French word that directly translates to English as “pleasant” but means so much more than that. I guess you could say it means tolerable, appealing, enjoyable and ideal all at once. They are not resolutions. They are more of a bucket list which I tend to have more faith in. I’ll keep them to myself just in case that last study is true. Somehow not telling and not achieving is better than telling and not achieving. I will however share with you that the three goals actually double-up to help complete other aspirations I have for myself and my future. For example, a goal I definitely do not have is learning to cook better therefore making it easier to host at-home dinner parties. But then again, I love a good potluck and hate doing dishes so I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Sorry if you were waiting on that invitation.
All in all, January is mostly only different in that you have to remember to write the change in year on all your cheques, personal and professional documents but other than that I don’t really see why there is a special need to live your life any differently than you were in December and there is also absolutely no reason why you can’t choose to start something new any other time of year. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it’s actually counter-productive to set a date with any significance to ditch an old habit or start a new routine and rather it is better to let these things happen gradually and naturally over time. Just remember not to put too much pressure on yourself and the probability is high that you are doing a satisfactory job at succeeding exactly the way you are and if not there is no reason that can’t change.