The 1996 classic Fargo opens with a wall of text, comical but just subtle enough to strap you in for a ludicrous ride:
“THIS IS A TRUE STORY.
The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987.
At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed.
Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.”
A white haze fills the screen, speckles of black and blue here and there, with faint headlights sluggishly gaining distance from the horizon to the foreground. It’s a pleasant sight, one that gains traction as the vehicle becomes like a shadow in the night, passing through a canvas painted with snow, but also one that speaks of being down on its luck. There’s an unspoken glimmer of mistrust, even when the title ‘F A R G O’ fades in and out of the screen, and the story resumes from what we didn’t see on-camera.
Now, my first viewing of Fargo left me speechless. For some reason I have a difficult time getting around to critically-acclaimed movies that seemingly everyone has already seen. I have no real excuse for that though; these sort of things just ‘happen’ because finding the time to watch an entire movie can be challenging! In a lot of ways it actually does feel like a chore, but Fargo was not a chore.
I’m a sucker for characters who feel so down on their luck, or trapped in such an endless hole, that their viewpoint blocks any form of common sense. In this case, Fargo teaches us that hiring criminals to kidnap your wife for a ransom is a very bad idea.
It also teaches us the fabricated joys of the winter season.
Winter is known for many things, arguably Christmas first and foremost, but despite all the joy we look for each year, there’s also an unspoken bitterness. It carries in the wind, and in the snow, and under the ice and through the heater that scares away the cold while you sleep. It isn’t diabolical and it isn’t out to get you, but the lingering bitterness instead focuses its energy on a sort of attitude primarily seen during the coldest months: solitude. Opting out of colorful, energetic, in-your-face ballgames, outdoor theaters and picnics with your love, winter instead focuses on you coming back inside and spending time with (or without) ones you love and ones you care for.
Winter does not have feelings.
Winter does not give special attention to one person over another.
Winter is a different shade of blue, albeit the cousin of autumn, just less willing to create an atmosphere unanimously praised by its clients.
In a lot of ways though, winter seems to pick at the scab of your year in general. If you found love, gained friends, secured a wonderful job and had an all-around charismatic time since January 1, for some reason winter works as a final chapter; maybe a hybrid between the final page and the beginning of the epilogue, yet still a conclusion. But, if you lost love, lost friends, lost money and can’t find your way off the rollercoaster of a journey, winter instead kicks your tracks into full throttle. There is no conclusion, but rather a small mention of your feats and deficits in a tiny, barely legible Jokerman font graced somewhere in the credits of the year itself.
It’s unfair just as it is beautiful, winter I mean, and trying to come to terms with it is nothing more than a self-deprecating school fight.
When 2014 ended and 2015 began, I expected change. I expected the world in a microscopic bottle. Not to sound like a power hungry fool, but there was a sense of confidence and trust I had in myself that truthfully never existed before. I had momentum! I had chances! I had opportunities!
For the first time, I no longer felt like myself, but that’s what I needed all these years. I was the Joel of a time when I didn’t know I wanted to be. 2014 ended with what ended up being the biggest bummer of this year, and of course I wouldn’t know that, but I walked into the new year ready to bring everything on.
And then I woke up the morning of my birthday, weak, nauseas and stiff; I had gotten the lovely present of the flu. Keep in mind that when I get sick, it’s either a little baby cold or Ebola. (There is no in-between, and I actually love that. It’s funny to me that my body has either of the two extremes. It’s like living a Jerry Seinfeld joke.) Anyways, I had the flu despite feeling on top of the world the night before, similar to the fall of the fictional king in Viva La Vida.
Oh, and I had also gotten in argument with my girlfriend as I went to sleep the night before, so any optimism I had waking up to 22 was met with sheer distaste. Things go back to normal quickly on the relationship front, but it was also the beginning of my infamous ‘soup diet phase’.
(Lesson: don’t only eat soup for a diet, even if you’re sick. It sucks.)
My date with the ever-so-lovely flu came and went, and before I knew it, I was right back I belonged — St. Louis. I was home, even though it really isn’t my home, and I was finally with the person I never knew I needed before. The love in and love out I gave and received on a daily basis was wrapping me in its warm arms, even with the weather already warming up. There was nothing else I needed. 2015, as I told myself, was worth the wait.
Things change, people mature; accepting that, however, is a work of fiction (in the moment). I don’t believe there’s a proper way to heal from a broken heart, a lost relationship, or a damaged sense of trust; totally giving up on overcoming it all acting as the straw that breaks the camel’s back. There is no right or wrong, just that once you find yourself at peace, the solution is found.
I made plenty of mistakes this year. Most I will forever remember, others I won’t think of as time goes on. But if I could redo them, I would in a heartbeat. My idiocy ruined a good thing, and by not attending what meant so much to the only person here I cared the world for, a domino effect began and the year as I knew it collapsed in front of my face.
There were nights I felt like nothing more than a ghost of who I was, and there were nights I couldn’t (and sometimes still can’t) look at myself in the mirror. There were days I had joy for a large fraction of the time, and there were days all my worries became as relevant as music charts from 2001.
Life is all about balance, but what happens when you can’t find where to stand? What happens to all that you’re juggling? I wish I had the answer, because my keyboard would be getting rest right now.
I don’t know why I expected 2015 to be any different from 2013 and 2011. For three consecutive odd-numbered years, fate seduces me with joy and love and opportunity, only to stab right through my skin and slit my wrist. I don’t know why, and I don’t even expect it. One year it’s the loss of my both of my grandmothers, the next it’s a total reset mixed in with absolute loneliness, and the last of the trifecta was a slap in the face of heartbreak and opportunities wasted.
I don’t know what I expected — but winter did.
It came ready. It came hungry. As I sit bundled with my phone, laptop and water bottle, the rest is silence. Time may have a way of healing infected wounds, but it’s preference of pouring acid isn’t medically sound.
While it isn’t quite the dead of winter yet, it sure feels like it. Because, in 23 days, the year will end and another will begin. In 74 days, I’ll be 23 years-old, and still without a college degree. In 74 days, I will still be me, with the same phone, the same friends, the same beanies, the same job, the same curiosity, the same taste and the same drive, but with an upped-number. I should be a college graduate right now, but I’m not. I should be feeling a closeness with those that I’ve bonded with, but apart from a few obvious ones, it is not there.
And you know what? That’s alright. I’m biting the bullet by saying that, but it’s okay even though it’s not. In 23 days, 2015 will end and even though all that will have technically changed is a number, my misery and my struggles that came out of the woodwork will have proved one thing: I got through it. I don’t know how, or even why, but I got through it.