« Well maybe it’s just the time of year, or maybe it’s the time of man – I don’t know who I am, but, you know, life is for learning. »
– Joni Mitchell
Bienvenu à la rentrée. This year, for a change, I actually went to class for the first day of school.
At the beginning of the lecture, the professor asked a seemingly benign question:
“How many non-montréalais or non-québécois are there?”
Maybe it was the heat, or maybe it was the daydreaming, but I found myself putting my hand up, then pulling it back down, and instantly falling into a new existential crisis.
Am I or am I not montréalais?
I sometimes forget that I am a relatively recent addition to the Montreal landscape. As of the date of this post, I have lived in our fair city for 1 year, 9 months and 7 days. But I’ve successfully masked my recency:
Because I study the urban environment, I am much wiser to the issues affecting Montreal than the average resident.
Because I don’t mind being alone but fear being lonely, I have gone out of my way to befriend anyone willing, which makes it seem as if I know more people than I actually do.
Because my parents live in the god-awful suburban Toronto sprawl and, my sister, with her family in the American South, when I say I’m going home, well, there’s really only one place I’m going to: Montreal.
But strip away the romance and I’m confronted by certain facts. I’ve really only lived here for a year and a half. I’ve honestly missed most of the great moments of Montreal history. And except for the rare occasion, I’ve pretty much never left the 2km radius that encircles my home like an electric fence.
While I do speak French, it lacks the colour of the local dialect as I stubbornly stick to my own personal accent in the name of diversity. And there are definitely some Montreal traditions I could do without: Moving Day, shoddy construction jobs, and manila envelopes given to Mafiosi.
In the end, I realize whether you’ve been here 500 days or 500 years, if you live and love this city, you have the right to call yourself Montréalais. As the old saying goes: Un Montréalais, c’est quelqu’un qui reste à Montréal. Banlieusards need not apply.