I’ve heard people refer to Montreal as “The City of Festivals” and I finally understand why. Actually, that title may even be a bit of an understatement. Everyone knows the major festivals like Jazz Fest, Just For Laughs, and Osheaga, but beneath the surface of highly subsidized and highly publicized mega-fests there lies a cornucopia of culinary, music, theatre, alcohol, art, literary, film, cultural, and other festivals that don’t seem to fit into any one particular category. The scene as a whole actually verges on ridiculousness. There is literally something for everyone.
When I began this project I had no idea that there was so much to be seen and done in this city. Because I was too broke to travel I joked that this was my way to see the world without having to leave home, that this was my chance at a backpacking adventure or rite of passage that many before me now justify to potential employers on their résumé as a “gap year”. I was utterly unaware of how true a statement that would turn out to be.
For a while I was really excited at the prospect of attending 100 events in the duration of the project. I would count them out again and again to see how close I was, and every time I added a new one I would get a little thrill. It wasn’t long before I surpassed 100 so a new goal of 150 was established, and next, 175. Now it looks like I will probably be attending 200 events by the end of December, with two months still to go before my final festival (which all of you will be invited to!).
Each of my days begins as the last, with a steaming cup of coffee and an intense scouring of the internet–sometimes for hours. Right from the start I’ve been making, updating, and remaking lists. So many lists. I have a list of all the events I’ve attended, I have one for my upcoming events, another for the events where the dates have yet to be announced, and yet another for the ones I will attend in 2017. I even have scraps of paper at an arm’s length for when my lists aren’t within reach. I have a calendar with each event marked down in a different colour ink, and an accompanying agenda to keep track of the specific day and time I plan to attend each one. Often I have to fit three or four events into one day–so rare is it now to only have one. My days off are used to find new events, scan rolls of negatives, write, work in the darkroom, visit family, run errands, and occasionally even get a little cleaning done.
To say there are some moments when I feel a little overwhelmed is a vast understatement. There were even moments when the guilt of not being there for those around me became too much that I even considered quitting all together. I’ve got so many blisters all over my feet that I’ve run out of band-aids, and I’m only a quarter of the way into my year. I catch myself falling asleep on the metro and I have a sunburn so painful that I truly hate myself for not remembering to use sunscreen.
On the other hand I am having so much fun, much more than I had imagined. I am no longer afraid to go to new places by myself and I have met so many amazing people that my faith in humanity is slowly beginning to be restored. I am rediscovering who I am and the person I want to be, the person who is friendly and caring and not weighed down by depression and cynicism. Sure, I’m stressed, but I am happy.