Once upon a time in January 2020, I made a playlist called “A Little January Optimism” with the intention of trying to break my longstanding curse of something going wrong every January since 2012. And well, we all know what ensued in 2020…thanks Corona.

The fact that Miss Rona is raging more than ever is a clue to how miserable this January is already off to. So instead of once again trying to break the curse, I will attempt to explain the curse that started way back in January 2012—through music, of course.

Embarrassing pictures loading in 1…2…

A candid from my friend Joy. I do not remember this day but let’s just say it’s a good thing you can’t see the other person’s face in the pic.

January 2012: High School Boys Suck — You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away by the Beatles

Yay, the one that started it all. Let’s talk about one of the saddest times of my life! So in January 2012, I was a sophomore in high school and I had a terrible crush on my guy friend. My feelings were overwhelming me so I decided to tell him I liked him when we got back from winter break. I was being weirdly secretive about it when I texted him because I wanted to make it a big deal by telling him in person. He responded quite coldly when I told him I wanted to talk to him. So when I saw him in our 6th period English class, I gave him a big, warm hug and he stood there like a cold, lifeless piece of cardboard. Naturally picking up on the rejection, I spent the entire class crying in the corner. High school is the best! I gave the classic excuse that it was just allergies. Obviously he eventually told me he didn’t return my affections but then he went the extra mile and would glare at me or give me the cold shoulder for months after. My self-esteem demons had a field day with that one. Alexa, play this depressing song from my Beatles era that explains how I felt trying to be his friend after that.

Not pictured, me dressed as a cow in this musical. If you ask nicely, maybe I’ll show it to you.

January 2013: A Musical Fool at Urgent Care — Goin’ Down by The Monkees 

Ah yes, this one almost didn’t ruin my January because it happened in the last couple days of the month that year! So in January 2013, already holding my breath after 2012, I was a high school junior and part of the cast of a world premiere musical at my school. It was genuinely exciting! I was psyched and working hard to mount the show. The day the show opened, however, I started feeling sick. The show was only running the last weekend of January and we had two back to back shows the next day. So after opening night, my parents took me to urgent care. We waited for hours to eventually get some antibiotics for the upper respiratory infection I had, so I got home and crashed at like 1am—haha that sucked. I survived the three remaining shows on that medicine and Throat Coat tea. I was in a Monkees phase and this jittery, theatrical song really explained how much I was pushing through for those shows.

Me crushing from the weight of senior year, courtesy of my friend Isis.

January 2014: Lol Senior Year Sucks — Smile Like You Mean It by The Killers  

Let’s see, senior year of high school, January 2014—lol I was a resident of burnout city, living a life terrified of failure. I had spent winter break anxiously submitting college applications, was starting to deal with the emotional weight of moving onto a new chapter, was trying to make the most of the time I had for fun with my best friends, and trying to make my mark as a theatre kid while balancing all my other school priorities. My school was mounting a production of my favorite musical, In the Heights, and I wanted to be part of the main cast so badly after being a serial ensemble member. I had already played one of the main characters for a theatre festival, so everyone including me had high hopes that I would get that role. But, I totally bombed my audition and ended up in yet another ensemble role. Totally not a moment of defeat! Smiling like I meant it was the way I got through the chaos that was senior year.

Here I am disheveled because no one looks good when they go to a retreat in the woods.

January 2015: Where’d My Friends Go? — Trouble by Lindsey Buckingham

Aww, January 2015: I was a freshman in college and I spent the month realizing I couldn’t hang out with my cool junior friends because they had new schedules. My first semester of college had felt like a Cinderella story because my faith became front and center to heal the aforementioned self-esteem demons. The friends that came alongside me raised the bar of what a friend was supposed to be, so when I couldn’t hang out with all of them whenever I wanted anymore, I was understandably sad. I made new friends but yeah, the magic was never quite the same. I was also obsessed with Lindsey Buckingham’s solo music at the time and this song seemed to communicate the longing for connection I was feeling.

She’s crushed and her teeth are chattering, not doing well.

January 2016: Missing Someone While You’re On the Other Side of the World Sucks — Boy Problems by Carly Rae Jepsen

January 2016 was almost good…except for a cloud that was hanging over me. I was in Shanghai, China starting my second semester of sophomore year. I was determined to be more present after how my fall semester had gone but I was struggling. Why was I struggling? I was absolutely HUNG UP on this boy that had been in my summer program in Shanghai. I had spent my fall semester talking to him over Skype whenever I could. No joke, I talked to him more times than I talked to my parents my fall semester in China. Clearly, my priorities were in order. My friends from the program were exhausted from me talking about him all the time and honestly, I gave him way too much credit for literally doing the bare minimum. Yet, I still couldn’t let him go. Boy problems? Boy, did I have them.

Aww look at me trying to be cute and quirky as if I wasn’t feeling absolutely crushed, photo courtesy of my sorority sis Sawyer.

January 2017: Am I Gaslighting Myself When I Say I Let Myself Get Strung Along? — Let It Go by James Bay 

Brb, going back to give college junior Kelly a hug in January 2017. I was dealing with the much needed reality check that I needed to let that boy I met in my 2015 Shanghai summer program go. Yes, I held onto this crush for THAT long and I wasn’t fully over it until late 2017 when I let myself be mad at the fact that I had wasted my time. I remember trying to find new extracurriculars to invest in so I would avoid thinking about him. I ended up doing some really cool things in January 2017 but I felt like I couldn’t really celebrate it because I was still just so sad that I couldn’t let it go. I can literally picture me crying in my twin sized bed to this song. January 2017 Kelly breaks my heart.

January 2018: Don’t Bleach Your Hair At Home — Wilson (Expensive Mistakes) by Fall Out Boy 

This year was (finally) a little more lighthearted, but still embarrassing. College senior Kelly had decided to do something new and dye her hair purple during winter break. What I didn’t plan for is the fact that I needed to stay away from heating tools and re-dye it or else it would fade. Folks, it faded to a really weird red and then to a terribly damaged blonde at the end of the month. My best friend Juliette and I refer to this era for us as “the time we were both blonde” lol. For the record, she definitely looked better than me because she had gone to an actual salon. Nothing says “expensive mistake” like at-home bleaching your hair.

She’s dead inside and it shows.

January 2019: Ew, a Promotion? I Mean, Yay? — Dead Inside by Younger Hunger

When I picture me in January 2019, I see a teenager playing dress up in the most uncomfortable corporate clothes. I was in my first post-grad job (which was in sales) and this month, I got promoted against my will. What do I mean by that? A lady literally got fired on the spot and management called me in immediately after that to offer a promotion, basically taking her spot. They made it seem like it was my decision but insisted that I was a good salesperson (I was not), kept telling me I’d make SO MUCH money, and that I should take it. So I made a lot of money this month and felt dead inside. 

Working a miserable job did wonders for my sense of humor though.

January 2020: Promotional Déjà Vu — Running Up That Hill by Meg Myers 

So January 2020 did not actually feel like how that playlist sounded. It sounded like this song and the strangest case of déjà vu. How is that so? I was in that same company from 2019 and once again, I was promoted against my will. This time though, I was in marketing and while I liked my job and my team, I wasn’t ready to lead the day-to-day of the department. At the end of 2019, my manager at the time was recruited out of the company, and because I was the only one who knew the ins and outs of her job, her work piled on me even though I literally had 6 months of marketing experience. I didn’t feel equipped to do what was piled on my plate and I didn’t know how to say no to things because of this need to prove myself. I was really trying my best to keep the boat afloat with duct tape. When we asked my boss to seriously consider hiring a new manager, he “jokingly” asked us why we needed a babysitter. And then the pandemic happened, they put a hiring freeze on our search, and I was stuck until I decided to leave at the end of the year. This year was as fun as January 2012 for me!

Being a perfectionist while cutting your own bangs will absolutely mess you up, don’t do it. 

January 2021: Recovery is Rough — Cyber Stockholm Syndrome by Rina Sawayama 

Now let’s take a quick look back at January 2021. Thankfully, I was in recovery mode from that aforementioned job experience—but I was absolutely not grounded in reality. For one, I kept trying to fix my bangs and no matter how much I tried, I was not Brad Mondo. Secondly, I was spending 8+ hours on TikTok a day trying to find inspiration as I reminded myself who I was and what I cared about. And I felt I had to do that because if I tried to be present in the real world, I would have to deal with actual anxiety attacks because COVID transmissions were peaking in LA. I couldn’t just make a playlist of songs to dance the anxiety out and be done with it. So I give grace to that version of myself for having 4+ TikTok crushes, aka what I lovingly call my pandemic hall pass, because it helped me shut my brain off when I needed to. (Although…Jack from the Planet Money TikTok account, if you’re single and reading this, my DMs are open.) The best way to describe me in this iteration of terrible Januaries is in a Cyber Stockholm Syndrome. What a time.

Now, I’m not formally including this song in the playlist because it’ll ruin my unspoken rule on the blog of making playlists with songs that are multiple of 5. HOWEVER, I’m mentioning this song as a tongue in cheek mood to get us up to now. 

BONUS: January 2022: Feeling Peachy — Peachy by Bad Suns 

Just like last year, I’m in recovery mode with COVID again ruining my life but this time, I’m dealing with the thread of all these terrible January stories: my struggle to give myself grace for just putting myself out there, even if I fall flat on my face. In every January story I’ve shared, there was a sense of conviction about something I wanted but that thing didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to for whatever reason. The timing of our desires isn’t always when we want it—but I’m learning that we shouldn’t let that push us into hopelessness. It’s too easy to fall into hopelessness. Life is all about learning from mistakes and learning to appreciate the formative struggles, the closing doors of protection, and the bittersweet endings of eras.

What I’m trying to say is that maybe I shouldn’t dread January anymore. Yeah, I probably should lower my expectations after the refreshing feelings of a new year but I should appreciate the fact that all these stupid Januaries have had a situation that revealed something to me and pushed me to grow. I don’t know what this January is gonna bring but I feel a little more confident that I can handle it gracefully. Even if it does suck for an 11th year in a row, at least I know my reward for making it through this time around is a new Bad Suns album…which will probably end up being my album of the year…because you know, they musically supervise my life. So how am I doing this January (so far)? I’m feeling peachy, take a bite.

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