January 21, 2007

Three weeks into a new year and people everywhere are still recovering. The first day back at work was called "Black Tuesday" and the Christmas cheer had evaporated. Therapists on the radio talked about how people put all their problems off over the holidays, gained weight and spent too much money.

When January arrives, everyone's depressed. I love it. All of a sudden it's okay to wallow. Everyone's got problems and the tolerance level for listening to them goes way up. There's an unspoken understanding. I'll listen to your tales of woe; you listen to mine.

Because people are so desperate to find reasons to keep going, the newspapers come up with all sorts of articles on creating goals and how to be happier. My favourite so far is one that said: eat more fish. It neglected to mention how much mercury there is in tuna, but I suppose you'll be happier right up until the moment you find out you've been poisoned.

Another article was on hobbies. I tried to think of what my hobby was. It said a hobby was something you do in your free time that improves your mood. I asked my friend Audrey if she had a hobby. "Hooking up with ex-boyfriends."
I already tried that hobby and it didn't work out. It raised my stress levels, increased anxiety, and I wasn't learning anything new. So instead, here's a hobby I came up with: chewing gum.

Another article I came across forced some of the world's leading scientists to come up with reasons to be cheerful. Scientists are often accused of being pessimists because they point to signs that the future is bleak. The Earth is getting hotter, the ice caps are melting, the rat population is expanding, the ozone is shrinking, and if that doesn't get you, bird flu, Ebola or polonium-210 will. I don't need the scientists to tell me this. I can look at Paris Hilton if I want to see everything that's wrong with the world. But I was curious what it was they had to say that was so promising.

One scientist from Harvard pointed out that in France in the 16th century, a popular form of entertainment was cat-burning, and because that kind of brutality would be unthinkable today he used that as an example: "The most important and under-appreciated trend in the history of our species is the decline of violence." You could tell he was really struggling.
Another scientist talked about the advancements in medicine that transform diseases of old age from fatal to chronic: "within decades we are likely to be able to slow ageing itself, which could lead to life beyond 120".

Was he on drugs? I can't think of anything worse. It's my birthday soon and I'll kill myself if it turns out I have another 81 years left.

The other day someone asked me how old I'll be, and when I said 39, she seemed shocked that I would actually tell her the truth. You'll notice there's an inordinate amount of women over 35 who are perpetually 34. Going by her reaction, I now know why. So then she says: "Wow. You're a year away from the big one."

The big one. Turning 30 was supposed to be the big one. I was so relieved to have got it over with.

So now I'm wondering where I'll be at this time next year. My goal is not to be worse off than I am now. I'd say that's pretty optimistic.