I believe it was the great philosopher Billy Corgan who once said “Tonight, tonight.”

I don’t know what to do.

That sounds like a larger existential question, but really I’m talking about tonight. I had ideas for plans. One fell through and I didn’t put enough effort in to make the others happen.

In retrospect, that sounds a little like my life right now. Forgive the melodrama, but I’m at the crossroads of change and it feels like a rut. A few months back my landlord let us know that he was going to completely redo the place and we’d have to move out next summer. I figured we have time, but in hearing that both the upstairs and downstairs renters are leaving has landed with a certain amount of gravity. For no logical reason I feel trapped in some Harrison Ford style calamity. The walls of the trash compactor are closing in, a giant boulder is coming to crush me, terrorists are coming and they won’t Get Off My Plane. I don’t blame my neighbours. It’s smart to move ahead of time and settle in before the winter comes. It does, however, mean that this is really happening. I love our apartment. It’s the only place I’ve lived in Toronto. It’s snug, the location is great and it’s pretty damn affordable. Change is scary, right? Because it threatens comfort and security. What if we don’t find a new place? What if we find a new place but it ends up creating all sorts of extra stress, forcing us to move again? How many places will we look through, get attached to and have our hopes dashed when they give it to someone else? We haven’t even made a move and I’m already fearing future heartbreak.

Work right now is not sustainable. Something needs to change. Time and listlessness have been stacking up gradually. A year ago, I told myself I’d be mortified to still be in the same position in a year’s time. A year has passed and I’m mortified to still be in the same position. The common advice in response to burnout is to take a holiday. The last time I did that, the disparity between how I felt on vacation and sitting at my desk all day was crippling. Oh that’s right, I thought to myself, I’m miserable all the time. It only gets worse with each day I spend at the job. It’s getting to the point where it’s affecting my work. I’m making mistakes I never would’ve made because I can’t bring myself to care. It all seems so pointless, so why put in effort? I used to pride myself of doing a damn good job, but I see others slacking and doing fine, so what’s the point of trying? Every day I’m irritable, miserable or just plain vacant. I wonder to myself when I because this joyless. I like my company, I like my bosses, I like the coworkers. They haven’t changed, but the problem is that I haven’t either and I need to.

I’ve been at this juncture before and I still don’t know what to do. My usual tactics are escapism or straight up escape. Lose myself in experiences, alcohol, food or numbing media’s consumption. Alternatively, running. A new job, new country, new set of problems to deal with, but couched in the excitement of discovery. I’ve been running ever since I could and frankly that’s been too long. Change is gonna come and it’s time I turned around and faced it.

Also I still need plans for tonight. Maybe I should start there.

Advertisements

It’s hard to tread water when Hell has an undertow.

I’ve got nothing to write about right now. It’s not that there’s nothing to write about. I’ve hardly exhausted the world’s supply of topics in four and a half years. I probably exhausted my supply of topics several years back, but I guess I learned a thing or two from WaterWise in Standard Three and Four about treading water. It’s not that nothing’s happening around the globe, because there’s always something going on. The problem is that I know what’s going on and I don’t have the wherewithal to elucidate anything poignant on the subject (wait, that’s what this project is about???? -ed).

I just watched the Vice News Tonight Charlottesville special and it’s sapped at me. It’s horrifying, brutal and as one speaker so adroitly calls it, appalling. To think that this rhetoric has resurfaced in 2017 when we should instead all have robot butlers and makerbots. Watching the linked video filled me with an unfamiliar feeling. Pure rage. I’m not an angry person. My default negative emotion is sadness and the concept of directing hostility towards other people feels bizarre when I could just beat up on myself instead. Seeing these white supremacy scum grossly disregarding the rights and freedoms of others filled me with a white hot fury. Hearing them spout ignorant hate made me tremble with blinding emotion. All kinds of violent fantasies ran through my head in an instant. A desire to cause pain, draw blood, to see them suffer. I’m the opposite of a violent person. That part of my brain is usually reserved for obscure facts about early 90s animation. These people are cartoon villains flushed into reality. Humans are complex, nuanced creatures and they all seem like two dimensional caricatures. My inability to do anything tangible makes me feel helpless. A surge of energy and emotion put to waste. No number of rants could do anything but blow off steam. Others are doing it better.

Outside of that, I don’t know what to talk about. I mentioned WaterWise earlier. WaterWise was pretty great. We were in Standard Three and Four (so around nine to ten years of age). We’d all pack into a bus and travel up to the Birkenhead Wharf to learn about water safety. They’d divide us up by knowledge levels and teach us accordingly. We learned all about sailing conditions, how to react to the sea when it was choppy, safe. We’d do bombs off the jetty. We learned about kayaks and how to kayak safely. We’d get into kayaks and paddle around the marina. They taught us all manner of knots and how to use each of them. We learned sailing in these little Optimist dinghies. First technique, then practical. We’d move the keel, keep the sail taught. We were shown how to duck underneath the boom (and those who didn’t listen suffered the consequences on their own).

Living in New Zealand, water safety was imperative. It’s a small country surrounded on all sides (and in the middle of the two islands) by water. Beaches and lakes are everywhere. My home city is an isthmus (a word that I get no end of joy typing). Summers were spent on the sand, aside creeks or lakes. While it wasn’t common for all families to own boats (definitely a class thing), what kid didn’t boogie board at least? The education system had realised the importance of a safety initiative and had folded it into the curriculum accordingly.

While I hope Charlotteville is the end of it, I’m not that naive. People will continue to hate, to push their desires over the needs and rights of others. I’d thought that history had made a point of openly condemning the Nazi regime, but apparently the message didn’t stick for all. If we’re looking to move forward as a species, we’re gonna need to move forward together. I’m sure humanity is fucked for good, but on the off chance that we’ll survive our own arrogance, we can’t get there by climbing bodies.

If we can though, I sure hope they’re the Nazi ones.

Not that the word “flaccid” was important. I just wanted to add texture.

It’s been some time since I’ve talked about anything polyamory and that’s likely because it’s been some time since polyamory was relevant in my day to day. Neither my partner nor I have had much interest in dating other people, so neither of us have. When enough’s going on in your life that you’re having difficulty spending time with those you love, it’s hard to muster up enthusiasm for getting to know even more people you’ll eventually have to cancel on. Hell, it’s hard enough failing at re-working a sentence not to end on a preposition.

I figure that still being relatively new to the practice of extending romantic connection beyond monogamous commitment, there are muscles to be worked. It’s not like those muscles atrophy without use, but have you tried going for a run after a weeks spent marathoning The Wire? One of these things is only an exercise in patience. I haven’t had to think about romantic/sexual connections with others in yonks. Nor have I put myself through the mental gymnastics of working around the abundant social programming of a largely monogamous society. I haven’t been considering my anchor partner meeting others and how my brain reacts to that idea. She hasn’t dated anyone in an age. The last time I dated anyone was maybe ten months ago. It ended amicably enough, but I also didn’t yearn to get back out there. So we’ve been nesting comfortably.

My girlfriend and I went to a party the other night. I noticed she was getting close to a guy there. Nothing remotely explicit. A light brush here, a hand on the upper arm or waist. My immediate response wasn’t anything apocalyptic, but more aw geez, now I’m gonna have to do the work of mental unpacking. I was bracing myself for the thought of dealing with feelings that could potentially be challenging at some point. Like standing behind a wall holding a shield encased in a suit of armour. Are feelings that monstrous?

I tried poking and prodding at them a little. I’d met this dude a couple of times before. He’s always been a friendly, welcoming fellow. He’s open and honest, fun to be around and a warm soul. He’s a tall, good looking guy, so I understand her attraction. It’s not like I harbour any ill will for him, so why would I bristle at the thought of my girlfriend wanting to spend time with him? Because my italicised counter-thoughts chimed in, if she thinks he’s attractive, then she doesn’t think you are. That was silly. I find other women attractive, does that mean I don’t consider my girlfriend to be a knockout? Hell no. She’ll get infatuated with him and you’ll feel lonely, sad, holding your flaccid dick in your hand. I mean, this was getting to the heart of it. I didn’t want to be left behind or put out. The assumption that she’d no longer want me was ridiculous. I went off and had another relationship while living with her. Did I desire her less? Hell no. It made me appreciate even deeper all the things that made her special. But she’s a hyper-desirable person. She’ll be constantly out at parties finding people to fuck while you circle the snack table and talk to people about Air Bud like a child or adult with severe arrested development issues. Like a textbook narcissist, this was all a big plea of “what about me?”

I’m sure I sell myself short, but my base assumption is that nobody is interested ever. Straight up, my brain tells me that nobody wants to fuck me. The fact that a) I’m not a virgin and b) don’t think I have it in me to coerce anyone, should contradict this all to hell. It’s a worthless mental affirmation that I constructed years before I’d ever had sex. I don’t know why I’m still holding onto it. I’ve got a strong conviction against making anyone feel unwelcome or uncomfortable and it’s really hard to shirk the notion that my advances would cause discomfort. To be thought of as That Creepy Dude is anathema to my M.O. My involuntary response is to never hit on anyone at a party ever. Then I feel like a fucking child as people are getting frisky around me. It’s not that I don’t get hot under the collar when I meet someone sexy at a party. It’s more akin to having a mental collar that threatens to blow my brain to giblets if I were to act on that. I’ve conditioned myself to be harmless and in so, severely damaged my self-esteem.

I’ve got work to do. I need to train those mental muscles to relax and chill out. I need to accept that my partner will be attracted to others and it’s fine for her to act on that attraction. If this relationship is to have the sustainability we both desire, then I need to work on compersion, to be happy for her finding connection. But also that it’s okay for me to do the same. I also need to understand that I’m not a burden or continually unwanted, that sending out flirty vibes is not the same thing as assuming the woman I’m talking to has no agency or choice in the matter. That it’s possible for someone to look at me and think I want to put my lips on his and maybe touch his butt.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

Buckling under pressure.

Do you ever get these minuscule moments of panic, even when you know everything will be fine? Logic sits there flailing its arms while emotion runs in the room and starts shitting all over the walls? I had one of these moments all of five minutes ago.

I was in the bathroom having just finished peeing. I went to go and buckle up my belt and noticed how it could do with another hole punched into it. This wasn’t news, I’d bought an oversized belt because I needed one urgently. I’d recently put on weight and thought it’d be nice not pinching my midsection for a while. It was. I’ve dumped most of that weight, meaning the belt now feels more oversized than it did. The pants I’m wearing were also a purchase of necessity. I was running out of pants and needed something to wear to work (elsewise cycle between two pairs of pants on alternating weeks). I got something that fit, even if it wasn’t a snug fit. I figured they were cheap enough that I could always replace them later and/or not cry if they died.

Combined, this meant the belt and pants could both be significantly tightened. I grabbed my belt by the end and pulled hard. The buckle bypassed the first belt loop and tightly locked in behind. Now I had a bunch of pant waist and belt loop firmly wedged in front of the metal buckle. I tried to pull it back through. It wasn’t budging. Shit.

As I pushed, a bunch of scenarios flashed into my head. Coworkers walking in and pointing, laughing. My boss opening the door and quirking an eyebrow. Ritual tarring/feathering as a shaming technique. Dumb, dumb, dumb my brain shouted, but the buckle wouldn’t budge. I looked at the mirror’s reflection and saw feet in a stall behind me. Shit. I pushed at the mass of metal, leather and cotton, but it wouldn’t move an inch or centimetre (it did move a couple of millimetres though). I tried twisting and pulling, but it was steadfastly squished in place. I poked at it in the hopes that by magic it would unravel. It didn’t.

This was my life now. In the ten seconds that’d passed, I’d resigned myself to my fate. Everything was fine. I’d walk back to my desk and for the rest of my existence, I’d be wearing these pants. Guess I had wedding day attire sorted. If I was going out dancing I could affix little LEDs to the waistband. Maybe I’d get them treated with some kind of waterproof spray. Turn them into chaps for ventilation. Or perhaps I could find a friendly neighbourhood firefighter with a spare pair of Jaws of Life to come to my aid. Leave those godforsaken leg traps behind.

Then the magical science of physics came to my aid and the buckle popped out. My new life flashed before my eyes and vanished into the aether. I was free. I questioned why I’d ever doubted myself. I realised that I could do with both a new belt and pair of pants. I then realised that yes, I could get new whatever I wanted, but did I need it? Was this just capitalistic imprinting worming its way to the surface? Or a valid understanding of my own ability to get myself into clothing related mishaps and shenanigans?

The teacher who taught us Green Day’s “Good Riddance” thought he was the coolest. He was.

I used to love singing. Absolutely adore it. In primary school I joined the choir and cherished it to bits. At the time it didn’t get a lot cooler than “In the Middle of the Night” by Billy Joel or that Friends theme by The Rembrandts. Harmonies seemed on another level. I couldn’t conceive how different melodies could blend together to create something fuller and more robust. It blew my six year old mind to pieces. I’d proudly sing in the shower or in talent contests. We had school choir concerts that I coerced my parents into attending. I was one of the few nerds that enjoyed singing assemblies, where we stood in the hall and read lyrics projected by the OHP machine. Those were the days.

Here’s the thing. Much as I loved it, I knew I was no prodigy. Don’t get me wrong, I wished I were one. I so wanted to be an amazing singer, but knew that I didn’t have the X factor. This was before the show too. I envied anyone who took to it naturally. I could carry a tune, but I couldn’t lift a crowd off their feet. I dipped my toes into choirs in intermediate and college, but lacked the commitment and drive to make the uphill climb. I still loved singing, but illusions of grandeur were far from my vision. To this day an audition for a college talent quest stands as one of my most cringeworthy experiences. My meagre range missed so many notes and I saw just how the crowd saw me. If I’d had an ego, that would’ve killed it and stabbed the corpse for good measure.

Still, I had karaoke on my side. A couple (read: not blackout, but not a safe distance off) of drinks with mates and we’d rent a karaoke room for an hour or two. I’d belt them out with impunity. We all sucked, so who cared? Fun was the goal and we were scoring big. When I came to Canada, all of my friends seemed to be musical theatre geeks. Karaoke evolved into this big public spectacle in a bar. People getting up with pre-selected songs. No longer was it about having fun goofing off, it was performative in a big way. There were crowds, for fuck’s sake. You can only see disappointment in so many faces before you walk the other way. I can safely say, it felt like being back at that talent show. It was evident that I didn’t have enough. I’ve pretty much steered clear of karaoke for the past few years, it felt that bitter and personal.

Last night I went out for karaoke with friends. We hired a room for two hours. Most people were all manner of loaded (day drinking does that). You know what? I had a fucking blast. There were no egos, just a celebration of giving it what you had. No matter who sang, no matter how it went, the fact that they’d done it was a cause for celebration. I was unsure at first. There were a few songs where I seriously contented with whether or not I’d be able to commit. Then I thought back to improv class. The instructor telling us that standing back and not participating makes everyone lose. You’re not supporting your team mates, but you’re also putting a wall between you and the activity, as if you’re too cool. Half-assing is like being worried a ship will sink and leaving pre-emptively. If you stayed behind, you would’ve been able to help with the bail out. Maybe it wouldn’t have sunk. No, I didn’t think my friends would’ve crashed and burned behind the mic without me, but why wouldn’t I yes, and… to the notion of letting my lungs loose? Make no mistake, I shredded my throat something chronic. Those muscles haven’t been stretched in some time. I did, however, remember just how much I loved singing. If I don’t do well, but have a great time, have I really lost anything?

Dignity was never high on my list of values.

A foot in the door still needs to climb eventually.

Screw the preamble. I was at my group mentorship meeting today and the general themes were limitations. What was holding us back from being where we wanted to be? Our “homework” was to watch a TED talk on why most people would never have a great career. It intimated that the vast majority have good careers in lieu of great ones. Those “lucky” enough to have great careers find their way through pursuing passion, saying yes to opportunities and forging ahead even under stormy clouds of doubt. Fear, he said, was the prime reason that truly great careers evade so many of us. It’s not a new idea, but it certainly resonated deep in my gut.

In the mentorship meeting they asked what we were afraid of. I thought about it. I’ve known that I have a debilitating fear of failure for some time. I dug deeper. Why was I afraid to fail? What did failure represent? I have constant ideas, but what stops me in my tracks? I realised that I talk myself out of opportunities all the time. Why? What is it that paralyses me? I dug deeper. When something pops into my head I think hard on it. I conceptualise what form it would take. I consider the steps it’d take to bring it to being. These pile atop one another. More considerations flood in and the pile becomes a towering monolith. A singular entity. All of the tasks combine into an overwhelming obstacle. Fear takes root and it’s too much. How would I be able to tackle all of it? I have a job. I have a social life. I’m afraid to lose precious time on a project that could fail.

Then it hit me. It wasn’t a smooth obelisk, it was a collection of steps. Yes, I’d have to climb to dizzying heights, but the process would be one step at a time. Developments don’t have to happen in an instant, otherwise they’d be called occurrences. The work would consume me, but in the mean time I wouldn’t lose everything I had, it’d fade into the background temporarily.

But still, what if it didn’t work out and it was all for naught? If putting the time and the effort in left me back at square one with nothing to show.

The mentorship facilitator said something that struck me: That while we often think we’ll end up back at square one, we rarely do. We don’t lose the lesson when we lose. I thought how fervent I was when I arrived that I needed to go out and grab opportunities. I said yes to everything because I had no other choice. In doing so, I prospered and grew. I shook myself out of stagnant habits and tried something. I’ve reached a plateau of safety. I don’t have to act out of fear and desperation. You know what though? I accomplished a bunch out of desperation and it worked out great. It didn’t happen instantly, but I got there even if I was afraid. It’s not like I have so much to lose that it’s not worth the risk reaching further.

So I did. After the meeting finished I talked to my mentor. I told him what I wanted to do and why I wanted to do it. I asked him if there was anyone he could put me in touch with to workshop it and make it a reality. He said he’d set something up tomorrow.

What have I got to be afraid of?

Crossroads didn’t work out for Britney, why should I expect better?

To what extent do you define yourself by your occupation? Is the way you pay your rent aligned with the values you hold dear? When people ask you what you “do”, is your reaction to lead with your profession or hobbies? Or are you so disenchanted with your career that you respond with “lots of things” in order to pad for time (while you try to spin some scenario in which the world benefits from you waking up each day)?

It’s no secret that I’ve been having doubts (I mean, it’s in the fucking title, right?) about my career path for some time. For years I thought audio editing was my calling. Then after stepping off the path for the sake of a relationship and leaving the hellhole of Rotorua, I had to look for something else. I grasped around and in lieu of a career, I found jobs to fill the void. After the relationship imploded I bought a ticket to Canada ostensibly to start anew, but realistically to stave off asking the big questions for a few years. I surmised that the city of Toronto would offer a world of opportunity, and it has. Not necessarily in every capacity I’d hoped. After tripping over my feet for a year, I found them lodged in the door of a prominent media company. A promising path on which to find momentum if ever there was one.

The problem is, I haven’t budged. Despite desire and skills to move onwards, I feel firmly lodged where I stand. I can’t help but feel it’s a combination of naivety, inflexibility, laziness and indecision. I’m not well connected here in Toronto like I was back home. The industry tends to grow from student internships. They’ll typically do an internship as part of their education, which will flow into connections and/or gainful employment. I’m not blaming this system, it’s what got me my first real job back home. What this means for a 30 year old foreigner, however, is I’m battling against a well-cemented structure. The jobs that would let me move up the ranks are either going to kids in their early 20s or popping up in small towns. Here we come to inflexibility. I love Toronto. I cherish the friendships I’ve made here and the communities I’ve joined. There’s so much going on and the city genuinely feels like a part of me. I’m in a stable long-term relationship with a live-in partner.

If I want to move forward on this path, there’s a large chance I’d need to leave that behind.

That’s a hard sell, especially because it’d be re-treading ground I covered in my early 20s. I’ve done all this before. I honed my skills as one of those kids in my early 20s. I moved away to a small town and put in the hard yards. It sucked. At the age of 30, doing that again would be heartbreaking. It’s not impossible to see this as an option, but to uproot now that I’ve gotten settled would be a sacrifice of some magnitude. I’m quite unsure whether I’ve got the fortitude of will to keep my spirit intact over that kind of transition.

The only alternative I can think of requires an immense amount of hard work.

Which is where we come to laziness and indecision. If I want to get anywhere, I need to upskill. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of capacity for me to do that at work, which means it’s something to be done in my free time. Here we come to the hard part: deciding what I want to do. Do I want to work with audio? Learn video editing? Write commercials/promos? Scenes? Comedy? Reviews? Am I interested in performance? Storytelling? Or a form of content creation that utilises all of the above? Unless I can decide what I want to focus on, it’ll be impossible to gain ground in any particular direction. In a city that values exceptionalism, journeymen aren’t employable.

So how do I pick a path?