Welcome to January, the month when you’re doomed to be broke, depressed, cheated on and – worst of all – unable to find anyone to drown your sorrows with because they’re all ‘going dry’. Oh – and fat. You’re probably fat.
Because just as it’s drilled into us that December has to be a time of relentless, semi-demented joy, as soon as New Year’s Eve is out of the way we’re told January has to be the month of low expectations and self-flagellation.
Join the gym. Quit the booze. Check your partner’s text messages while they’re in the shower. This is the day you’ll be in the most debt. This is the day your relationship falls apart. Hate January. Hate yourself!
Part of it is a hangover from our Christian past. Let’s face it – screw the season of giving – Christmas is really three weeks of skiving off work, drinking spirits in your pyjamas and stuffing Saint Agur Blue so far up your major arteries it hurts to scratch your head. And profound pleasures such as these must be atoned for with some good old-fashioned guilt – it’s a notion buried deep in our psyches, life-loving atheist secularists or not.
The media play our part too, of course. Nothing is happening. We can’t run the end of the year lists anymore. We’re all hungover too. But there’s space to fill and content to create, so it’s surveys about how miserable everyone is followed by ‘New you!’ and ‘Be better!’ and a thousand variations of ‘Here’s a slightly more palatable way to do something you hate, because you have to, because it’s January and you’re a disgusting fat PIG!’.
But while all this Jan-bashing is good for page views and self-loathing, it isn’t actually very fair. Because in many ways, January is the best month of them all. Think about it.
You’ve just completed the mandatory annual family time, meaning all that guilt – about not calling your Gran enough, about your nephew not knowing exactly who you are, about being unsure whether your mad Uncle Ian is even still alive – is at an all-year low, leaving you free to pursue your life away from them without the nagging sense that you’re a complete bastard.
All the joys of winter we associate (erroneously, thanks to global warming) with Christmas time are still there to be enjoyed – hip flasks, crisp walks, walking into a pub and making the universal ‘brrr’-face before ordering a Guinness – only without the awful music and anxiety about how much shopping is left to do.
And while we’re on shopping: everything you wanted to treat yourself to in December but couldn’t because there were unwanted bottles of whiskey and dressing gowns to buy are still there, but they’re cheaper. What’s more, thanks to the internet, you can purchase them without having to punch a single stranger in the face in the queue at Dixons.
But best of all, literally all of your recent mistakes – be they personal or professional – now officially took place ‘last year’, which in mistake terms is friggin’ ages ago.
Clean slates are springing up like lambs’ bottoms in the fresh field that is your life.
You’re free to take a new run at whatever you want – even running, if you must.
But whatever it is, do it because you want to, not because you’re filling in your quota of national self-harm.
January isn’t a punishment. It’s point zero. It’s chapter one. It’s when all your best ideas occur to you and when your motivation to try them out is at its peak.
And if all that doesn't cheer you up, remember it's the furthest point in the year from Christmas, and relax.
This article was originally published on esquire.co.uk in 2015.