New Year’s resolutions are always a popular song and dance during the holiday season because blank slates give people hope. They hold the promise of perfection, if only for a little while.
While I’m not particularly a fan of New Year’s resolutions, if you insist on making them, here are some easy-to-keep resolutions I think will actually enrich your life as a Montrealer in every possible way.
Leave your car at home and take the metro
Yes, I know we all love to hate on the STM, but the truth is it’s pretty awesome. It’s cheap, it’s efficient, it’s safe, it’s fairly clean, and if it’s not occasionally stalled somewhere it’s unbelievably quick. Not to mention it allows you more reading time and the artwork in each station is sensational. Even if your itinerary or your work doesn’t allow you to take the metro every single day, make a point of leaving your car (if you insist on having one) at home occasionally. You’ll thank me later.
Don’t refuse anything home-baked or home-cooked
I don’t care that you’re on a diet or that you’re watching your sugar intake. We live in a world of instant consumption and mass-produced gratification. We’re all overwhelmed, busy, and bogged down by responsibilities and tasks. The fact that someone would stop what they’re doing to cook or bake for you, feed you, please you, and make your taste buds smile should make you grateful beyond words. Eat the fucking cookie.
Pull a “George Constanza” for a day
Remember that episode where Seinfeld’s George decided to do the opposite of what he habitually did? If you’re in the habit of waking up and perusing The Montreal Gazette or the Journal de Montréal first thing in the morning, do the opposite. Pick up the paper you don’t normally read, switch to a radio station you don’t normally listen to, watch the morning news on Radio-Canada instead of Global News. Switch it up, get out of your cultural and linguistic bubble and peek in to see what the others are talking about and focusing on. Follow people you normally disagree with on Twitter and control your shock when you occasionally find they make sense. It’s eye-opening coming to terms with the complexity of human nature and not simply seeking out people and points of view that confirm your own preconceived political and ideological beliefs.
Make time for those who make time for you.
This is a super easy one to keep. People show you with their behaviour whether they value having you in their lives. Don’t waste your time crossing oceans for those who wouldn’t even jump over a puddle for you, who use or disrespect you, for people who give you ultimatums or guilt trips, or require you to jump through hoops to meet up. Relationships (of all kinds) should be easy and drama-free.
If you want to get into better shape, but have neither the inclination nor the time to hit the gym, look around you. This city has everything you need – most of it for free. The Lachine Canal is open for business all summer long, grab a kayak (Celine would be proud), or join an outrigger canoe club. Invest in a decent bike and take advantage of all these amazing bike paths we have in this town. Skate in the Old Port or cross-country ski by the St. Lawrence River in winter, jog or walk up Mont Royal in the summer. Stop hitting New York and New Hampshire when you want to hike, cross-country or downhill ski, and stay in Quebec. Our mountains and hiking trails are glorious and our dollar is at par because you didn’t even leave the country.
Don’t be a brand whore, but…
Quality matters when it comes to cereal, underwear, coffee, alcohol, and relationships. Don’t skimp on those things. Be willing to pay what they are worth. Just because Montreal has deps where you can buy crappy wine at all hours of the day, doesn’t mean you should. Just because we have coffee chains conveniently located at every street corner doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go the extra mile to find your neighborhood gems where the coffee and the scones are better and the vibe isn’t mass produced. Think of Crew Café and Tommy Café for their stunning and unique surroundings or Lili & Oli for their awesome coffee, their awesome music selection, and the fact that dogs are always welcome.
Immerse yourself in Montreal’s bilingual cultural scene
I can’t think of anything more unfortunate than to live in a vibrant bilingual and multicultural city like Montreal and not take advantage of it. If you find yourself only going to the movies, but never to a play, you’re missing out on some wonderful local talent. If you are an English-speaking theatre-goer but find yourself only going to the Centaur or the Segal Centre, but have never set foot in Théâtre La Chapelle or Théâtre du Nouveau Monde you’re missing out on half the fun. And vice versa, of course! It’s great to line up to catch Beyoncé at the Bell Centre, but if you don’t know who Safia Nolin, les Soeurs Boulay, Charlotte Cardin, Milk and Bone, or Koriass are, are you even living here? Same advice goes to my French-speaking friends. If you live in Montreal and don’t know who Shane Murphy or The Empty Yellers are, that’s your loss.
Read as often as and as much as you can.
Read books, magazines, newspapers, art reviews, comic books, newsletters. Practice the art of being challenged, being forced to slow down and be quiet. Revel in language. Fall in love with wordsmiths. Buy books, smell them, crack them open, dog ear their pages if you must, underline sentences, silently make a mental note to tell someone about what you’re reading and why. Learn to enjoy the challenge of reading in your second language. If you’re an Anglophone who worries your French may not be up to par, start small. Pick up a book of essays or a short novel. Quebec is practically the capital of short novels that rarely exceed 140 pages. Take advantage of that. Spend a lazy afternoon in a small independent bookstore (we still have plenty of those, and you need to encourage them.) Develop a kink in your neck from leaning to one side for hours. Learn to love that feeling.
Sounds simple, right? Wrong! I’ve lived abroad for a decade and travelled extensively and, as much as I love Montreal, I have to say… we are not particularly friendly. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that we live six months bundled up and always looking down so as not to kill ourselves on black ice, but we don’t make eye contact, we don’t easily say “bonjour” and we refuse to smile when we see each other. We really need to fix that.
Stop comparing and enjoy
Montrealers have a habit of comparing ourselves to other cities and either grandstanding (“Toronto sucks!”) out of a deep-seated inferiority complex or despairing (“Montreal is the worst!”) because we certainly have things to work on.
This city is far from perfect. It’s maniacal and messy and disorganized and steeped in political, linguistic, and cultural baggage that we all continue to carry around like albatrosses around our necks, but it’s also extraordinary and magical and unique and inspiring and frantic in the best kind of way. It makes me happy in ways other cities can’t and I continue to live and work here because what it offers me on a daily basis will always outweigh what annoys me about it.
So, cheesy, overblown, and politically motivated 375th anniversary celebrations aside, let 2017 be the year you stop whining about Montreal’s failings and start taking advantage of all the possible ways you can love this town. I promise you, you haven’t even scratched the surface.