It doesn’t seem to matter how secular/cynical I get. It always hits me at this time of the year; the magical thinking about the New Year. Christmas is over, along with its attendant joys, disappointments, gastric distress and weight-shame, and guilt, of course, guilt. What would a privileged 21st century first-worlder be after the binge of Christmas be if not guilty? As if suffering through the period of time between the gastro-excesses of Thanksgiving and that of Christmas weren’t enough, for most of us there is the hustle of shopping. By hustle, I don’t mean the bustle. I mean the commercial hustle snake-oil sales pitches of advertising, driving us to leave work early, jam the malls all weekend, and over-use every bit of plastic in our wallets. And then there is Christmas morning, when most are disappointed that their dreams were not, again, fulfilled. Yes, it hits me that I need to Make Changes.
The new year is simply a continuation of the old year, yet that Day, that magic partition between the old and the new, the gone and the yet to come, feels liminal. We sense that there is an opportunity here to make life changes. A day 1, followed by 364 more, when we can Become Something or Someone better. Such expectations!
My dream for this new year is to find a home. Yikes. Not much pressure, huh? Am I asking too much? Probably. But that is it. I’ll debark from Australia in January and set out for The New World in search of a New Life. Of course I have been doing research. I have already traveled a bit, so I have a general sense of places. I even study Spanish every day. I know it will be work and a struggle. But this doesn’t stop me from fantasizing someplace Perfect. Of course, I’ll have wonderful, enlightened neighbors, the climate will be perfect, and I will not be the ass that pisses off others that I have been elsewhere. Life will be grand. Cafés and little bars will be interspersed with fresh produce markets and razor sharp butcher shops. With perfect food abounding, I will definitely lose weight, and walking everywhere will render me fit.
My plan is to fly to the States, unencumbered myself of all but a backpack, and head south. I’ll fly into either Mexico or Ecuador, and go to some of the places I’ve been researching; Ecuador, Columbia, Bolivia, Panama, Nicaragua and Guatemala. I will try to spend some time in each country and do some more on the ground research, and actually learn some Spanish. I’ve been reading all of the online “expat in in a perfect place” magazines, so I know what the ideal is. My job is to suss out the real.
My wish and hope is that I will find a place that feels right. I really want, more than anything else, to find community and purpose in a place. I want a kitchen and people to cook for. A little garden spot would be nice. A café might even be necessary. I’d love to do a little teaching, both volunteer and for a little cash or trade.
Failing to find the ideal is of course expected. I will probably look back on these days, and this post, and again recognize my naiveté and unrealistic optimism. But I am happy where I am now, I like where I was a year ago, and then before that, so I hold out hope. I wonder what magical things I will want and expect of myself next year; Probably at a minimum, the loss of weight and optimal fitness, and a few other unreasonable things, like not being a jerk sometimes and always being kind.