Like, oh, the rest of the world ringing in the New Year, I’m reflecting on 2014. Was it a good year? Yeah, I’d say so. I traveled more, worked harder, developed new skills and largely avoided not dying. Someone get me a prize!
The flip side of reflecting on the New Year is dipping a hopeful toe in Jan. 1, the calendar date equivalent of fresh fallen snow.
“Should I be prettier and thinner this year, or just nicer?”
“Should I try harder or maintain the status quo?”
“Do I finally make it to Paris this year?”
(That last question is mine: I want to celebrate the big 3-0 in Paris, to see what all the fuss is about.)
On the subject of Paris, I’ve made it an annual tradition on/near the New Year to watch Alexander Payne’s 14e Arrondissement (from the all-too-clichéd Paris Je T’aime). While the film as a whole doesn’t do it for me anymore, Payne’s vignette still resonates, reminding me that life’s a goofy tragicomedy.
In case you need a refresher: Middle-aged Carol from Colorado recounts—in halting, American French—her solo adventures through Paris. Single-except-for-two-dogs and oh-so-alone, she wanders the city, aware that Paris—magical, glistening Paris—won’t do for her what it’s seemingly done for others, which is make her shiny:
They say it’s where artists find inspiration. They say it’s where people go to find something new in their lives. They say it is where you can find love. Of course, at my age, I didn’t expect anything like that.
Sweet, bumbling Carol has her fair share of wishes, dreams and bad luck, like the rest of us. Life, for her, didn’t pan out: her mother and sister died, and she is unmarried. “But I am not a sad person. Au contraire. I am a happy person with many friends and two wonderful dogs.” If nothing else, Carol is my spirit animal.
It is the small moment, as she sits alone on that park bench eating a sandwich, that I basically lose it, because I’m a sap:
Sitting there, alone in a foreign country, far from my job, and all the people I knew, a feeling came over me. As if I recalled something, something that I had never known and for which I had been waiting. But I didn’t know what it was. Maybe it was something I had forgotten. Or something I had missed my whole life. I can only tell you that at the same time I felt joy and sadness. But not a great sadness. Because I felt alive. Yes. Alive.
New Year’s Eve is jolly and wonderful. By all means, pop those bubbles! Pour Champs to your heart’s content! Kiss and be kissed!
I, too, will do all these things, as I pack for a jaunt to Montreal. But I’m punctuating my reflections, goal-planning and Champagne sipping with reminders that, yes, I’m alive. Life is fucking good, yo. Joy and sadness can be simultaneous and grand and heart-wrenching and so, so human. This short film reminds me that I don’t need Paris—or anywhere else—to be grateful, that quiet moments matter.
My biggest take away?
Sometimes, all you need is a sandwich to help you connect with the pulsing heart of the Universe.