I’m not superstitious by nature, but we all have our little quirks. Numbers are my thing. I don’t actually believe that they have any kind of power over what happens to me; it’s more like certain ones have meaning for me, and whenever they pop up in my life, it makes me smile. For instance, the month and date of my birthday can also be the time on a clock, and I always seem to look up at just the right instant to catch sight of that particular minute of the day. Now is it my brain noticing the time in my peripheral vision and alerting me to it, or is it just one of those unexplainable things? Who knows? All this to say that I was wary of the year 2013, for obvious superstitious reasons.
While I wouldn’t call it the best year of my life by any means (nor was it the worst), its highs and lows taught me in equal measure. Instead of doing a ‘best of’ list – which is kind of a weird thing to do for your life – I wanted to spotlight some of the good times and some of the more challenging times, mostly as a way of thanking the people who accompanied me on the most recent year of my life’s journey. Sorry, I can’t find a less self-help-y way of saying it than that.
Top Moments of 2013 (in no particular order):
-Dinner at Vanilla Black in London with A. and K. Not to mention the fabulous few days I spent showing off London to A. and staying at the sublime Ampersand Hotel, and then the restful rest of the week bunking down with my sister K. in Teddington. It was the perfect vacation: one part excitement, one part serenity, both a welcome reprieve from the real world.
-Speaking of my trip to London, seeing the multiple Olivier Award-winning Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time with the original cast, AKA the incredible Luke Treadaway as Christopher, was the best time I had in a theatre all year. Go, if you can! And wear a hard hat, apparently.
-Montreal had food trucks for the first time this year and, as a devout foodie, I was all over that! The two amazing First Fridays I went to at the Olympic Stadium, with S. and D. in August and D’s. in October, were two of my best nights ever. This city has its cultural and socio-political challenges, but you would never know it at this event, where English and French, young and old, hipster and geezer, singletons and families mingled over great food on two mild, starry nights.
-Dumplings and Macbeth with C. on my birthday, courtesy of her generosity and NT Live cinema events. The perfect way to celebrate.
-Hosting N. and C. on another Montreal adventure. Loved reconnecting with an old friend and making a Sherlock-loving new one.
-Adventures at the Atwater Market and baking Christmas cookies with M. and her new little L., who is a seriously cute little crumpet.
-Learned more about writing, grammar, and syntax in my eight-week Literary Stylistics class than I did during the entirety of my high school years.
-Being asked to be a godmother to I’s second son, S., touched me deeply. It was an honor to be a part of their family celebration and to be asked to be a shepherd to him throughout his life. As an atheist and as someone who does not want children, I was the unlikeliest of suspects, but the only thing important to I. was our friendship, and I can’t help but feel the same way.
-It wasn’t all champagne wishes and caviar dreams. My little pooch and I got attacked by a pit-bull in June, and that’s a moment I will definitely never forget. Nothing like glancing across the street, seeing a wild animal charging towards you, and thinking: “Crap, I only have about 10 seconds to live.” We were both shaken, but fine, thanks to the strength of her collar and the fact that the $&*#! owner managed to restrain her dog at the last second. Personal to her: that is why man invented muzzles. If you can’t train ’em, at least restrain ’em.
-In November, the writing gods gave and took with the same hand: finished the first draft of my second novel the same week the first was rejected. Like John Cena says, “#even stronger”.
-I’ll end on one of the most loathsome of phrases, a ‘teachable moment’. But it’s the one that has marked me the most. Like most people, I struggle with how to react to the ever-growing population of homeless in my city. There are a lot of backpackers that pass through Montreal; there is also a rampant drug scene. Because I don’t make a lot of money, I want to give to the people who need it most, so I focus on shelters and food banks. When I can, I’ll buy something in a nearby grocery store for someone begging outside. I’m no saint – I don’t do it often enough. I get very annoyed when I’m forced into a situation on the street. I’m someone who likes her personal space, and I’ve had some bad experiences with being approached by people who are obviously in need, but also volatile. I also wary of supporting anyone’s drug or alcohol habit.
One of the things that I struggle with most is seeing dogs on the street. As a pet owner who tries to put the safety and health of her dog above all else, it’s never a good thing, in my eyes, when an animal is made to suffer along with its human. It’s true that hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats are put down in animal shelters every year. It’s true that hundreds of thousands more are kept in puppy mills by some of the most reprehensible people in the world. But each of us can only be responsible for our own behavior, and it makes my heart ache when I see a dog shivering on the sidewalk through no fault of its own.
It came to the point that I would only see the dog, not the human attached to it. Even when you’re living a student or a bare bones existence, it’s easy to fall into certain routines if you’re basic needs are being met. If you’re comfortable. A young man reminded me, this year, of how comfortable I’d become. He approached me on the street in a fit of desperation, asking if I knew where there was a shelter he could stay at, asking me to buy him food. He had a dog, which was, if I’m honest, the only reason I stopped. They were both in rough shape. As I was talking to him, trying to figure out where the nearest shelters were on my phone, two students stopped to ask if they could buy food for his dog. They were very pleased with themselves for doing this. I saw myself in them, and it made me feel sick. Here was this guy asking for help, asking for shelter, asking for food, and all they saw was his animal. The dog was safe to help. The person less so, because people are so much more complicated, for reasons that I well understand – even agree with. But I couldn’t help but ask myself: ‘When did we stop seeing the person in need? When did it become so important to do the right thing, as opposed to a good thing?’
I don’t think there are any easy answers to these questions. So much depended on that particular night, that particular situation. But I took the lesson, to try to be better, to try to see past all the trappings and warnings and social conventions, to make sure I see the person in need standing before me, without judgment. I won’t claim I’ll always have a dollar for every empty cup or hat I pass. But when someone is at their end, when someone needs me, like that kid did, I will try to put aside my prejudices and be there.
So thanks for the memories, 2013. More importantly, thanks to all the lovely and tremendous people in my life – and, kid, I hope you and your pooch are somewhere safe tonight.