Is this what a level up feels like?

This entry is going to be the epitome of vague-booking. I did something today that terrified me, but I pushed through anyway. There will be no specifics because there aren’t specifics yet. I don’t want to jinx a thing. However I’m nervous, excited, shaken and proud, which seems worth talking about.

It’s no secret that I’ve felt listless lately. Stagnant even. I’ve had no career movement in far too long and it’s caused me no end of anguish. My lack of direction has left me brick-walled and I’ve had nobody else to blame. Any progress would be impossible without putting in the work, which seems altogether too obvious when I put it in writing. In short, I needed to do something.

A few months back I was doing some voicing and a stranger point blank asked me what my dream job was. That’s a frank, bold question to lob at someone you’ve just met but for some reason without thinking I had an answer. It was thorough and direct, with more confidence and candour than it deserved, considering how hard my brain was scrambling after my mouth. I finished. She nodded and said “you should do that”. I stood there shocked and took in what I’d said. Where had it come from?

I thought about it for the next few days. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for the next month. Then I did something I rarely ever do: I asked for help.

I bypassed a few rungs on the corporate ladder and went to the highest ranked person I knew. I told him I had something I wanted to pitch, but felt way over my head and wanted some advice. He’d always been an honest, no nonsense person to deal with in the past. He never sugarcoated anything, but he knew what he was talking about. He said to look at his calendar and book an appointment. I booked something an hour later.

I laid out my idea in a vague sense. Told him where I saw it going, how it could be implemented. He tore holes in it, pointed out all the weak spots in my plan. He told me to come up with answers and schedule another meeting. I came back to him a week later with a more solid outline. He told me who I should pitch to and how to angle it towards them. Once again he poked holes, then told me to fix them and bring the answers in the form of a sales deck. I’d never made one, so he gave me concrete directions on how to structure it. Exactly how long it should be, which sections to focus on, how my content would fit. I came back a week later with my results. He critiqued it some more with mostly aesthetic advice and told me he’d let the party involved know that I had his blessing. He thought it was a great idea and I’d brought it up at an opportune time. I thanked him for all the help and went to set up a pitch meeting. I was told that they were too busy at present, but wanted to hear my ideas in 4-6 weeks.

I felt brushed off and rejected. Any momentum I had ground to a halt. 4-6 weeks passed. Months passed. Things at work got worse. I felt embarrassed that I had failed to deliver on the summation of my effort. That I’d wasted the time of someone important who’d put themselves out for me. Work continued to get worse and none of my job interviews paid off. It felt like I’d hit rock bottom. I felt ashamed. What a waste, letting this idea with so much potential flounder uselessly.

I realised that things couldn’t get worse, so what did I have to lose trying to do something about it? I got back in contact with the person I was originally gonna pitch to. They were busy, but booked a meeting a week later between me and two of their subordinates. I couldn’t tell if this was a meeting of obligation or genuine interest. It didn’t matter. I went back to my sales deck, tightened it up. I thought about how the landscape had changed and new ideas for implementation. As the meeting loomed I was shitting myself. I’d struggle to get to sleep, then wake up at 4am because I couldn’t stop thinking of ideas. I was nervous, excited and shaken, but I was ready.

Today I had the meeting. The AV equipment in the meeting room I’d booked didn’t work. They said it was fine, that we could find another room. We walked the floor looking for an unused meeting room with the right equipment. We found one that worked and I took a deep breath. I explained that I was nervous, that I’d never even used PowerPoint before, but I had conviction in my ideas. They smiled and I started.

I went through my presentation and spoke off the top of my head. Magically, everything flowed. I’d go into immense detail on one topic, then move tangentially into another without thinking. Then I’d realise that I’d pivoted to the next point on my slide without thinking. It kept happening. I expanded upon ideas in depth, threw out examples on the fly that were in themselves solid ideas. They were nodding, asking questions. Without effort, I had a good answer every single time. I was open, honest and realistic about scale. My concepts were relevant to the company and gave valid insight into how it could fit into and augment current strategies.

I got to the end of my prepared presentation and they kept asking questions. They started coming up with ideas on how it could work too. They got excited and started looking at the impending schedule to see how they could implement my ideas. We started talking timelines and practical steps. We kept talking. They said they’d run it up the ladder, get feedback and see where we could go from there. I felt anything but placated. I felt vindicated. I thanked them for their time and they thanked me for mine. We went our separate ways and I had a brisk walk to take a breather.

So what now? I wait, then follow up. I keep momentum without being pushy. I cross my fingers and hope that their enthusiasm was genuine. Then whatever comes, I follow through and deliver. It could be big. It’s definitely exciting (and a little scary).

It’s also leagues better than doing nothing.

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Is anyone out there subletting a toolshed?

Moving Day! Not for us, but for friends. I dread the concept of moving and would happily never do it again in my life. I know the concept of change is exciting and novel, but it also means effort and most likely a combination of downgrading, paying more and moving further away from the Toronto city centre. My girlfriend and I have a charming, dumpy little place that has everything we need right now. On site washer and dryer, hydro and utilities included, a carport, central heating/cooling and an awesome location. Two bedrooms and a bathroom for $1400 per month. We also have five months until our landlord is renovating to sell, so it’s more accurate to say that we have everything we need right now but the choice to stay put.

I get the mentality that the journey to find somewhere to live is a downright adventure. I do. I’m also aware of the annoyance of getting attached only to lose a place. The terror of checking out an innocuous looking place and coming away wondering what was hiding under the floorboards. The stress of day after day dwindling away as the month draws to a close. The threat of homelessness, getting stuck with the lease to a place that actively makes you unhappy, staying somewhere that’ll “do for now”.

Yeah, I know some people have real fears.

It sounds petty and I get it. I’m also of the privileged belief that your home should be a place that makes you feel happy, safe, secure. Home is meant to be a refuge from the outside world. Somewhere you can retreat and recharge. I’ve rented enough places to know when I feel at peace and when I don’t. I’ve done many a time and by now I’m not content to settle for “good enough”. Things worked out last time, but I want to put the emphasis on the word “work”. After seeing 15+ places I still “lucked out” with where I am. I remember the dingy basement dwellings. The ruined party houses still come to mind. I’ll never truly forget the four levelled monolith with bedrooms on the top two floors, the toilet on the second level and the shower in the basement. Also the creepy artist’s homemade mannequins scattered around each and every floor. It was horror incarnate. I still put in an application, because renting in Toronto gets that desperate. Also the Bathurst and Bloor location couldn’t be beat.

I basically inherited my current place by winning a war of attrition with the kind of flatmate who left Love Dream Believe/butterfly mirrored plastic decals plastered across the kitchen wall when she left because she was worried about ruining the paint. I had a couple of rad flatmates over the years. One bought his own apartment and moved out, the other moved in with her girlfriend. My girlfriend has been here for a year and a half and subconsciously I guess I thought we’d die here and get buried under the floorboards together. The Toronto Snake Person renter’s dream. Instead we get to stalk Padmapper for somewhere we can settle for.

Or maybe we’ll win the lottery and get to rent a place to ourselves in student housing. This is Toronto we’re talking about here.

It’s Black Friday. I wonder if I can find a sale on concrete boots…

It’s been a while since I’ve used this space for some good ol’ fashioned venting. I tried to book an appointment with my therapist, but every session is taken between now and year’s end. Alright then, here goes.

I’m miserable at work and it’s my fault. Of course this prospect doesn’t fill me with joy, but I’ve gotta face facts. The only one who can take the necessary steps in order to get me on the bath to career fulfilment is me. I was on the path years ago, stepped aside and haven’t found my way back since. Today is my three year anniversary with my current employer. Co-incidentally this parallels three years being in the same job. It’s the longest I’ve held a singular position. Wait, that sounds like I got fired. Not so much. In each case I’ve stepped away in favour of better pay or better work. I’ve usually left one company and headed to another. I figure this is pretty symptomatic of my generation. Company loyalty doesn’t exist like it did for our forebears. There’s no incentive. There are restructurings, mass firings and general shifts of instability once a year. If the company is only loyal to us until a better option comes around, why stick our necks out for them?

This time around I’ve been keen to stick with the same company. They’re not a bad company and many of the other options are worse. The company was much more enjoyable to work for pre-merger, but that doesn’t suddenly make everything shit. If I was doing something that wasn’t so dull, I’m sure I’d be on board. Here’s where the lack of blame comes in. It’s nobody’s fault that I’m still where I am. Everyone around here is pretty friendly. My bosses are supportive. Sure it’s a corporate entity looking to tow the line, but without drinking the Kool Aid I can see that the higher ups care at least a little. If I’ve asked for help, I’ve usually been steered somewhere with best intentions.

I’ve applied for many positions. Constantly. I’ve been close a couple of times, but they’ve gone for other people (also it’s not their fault for being qualified. There’s no blame here). It’s hard and demoralising. I’m looking to get back into a production role, but they’re prized (and rarely prised) jobs. I’ve got a decreasingly relevant audio reel and audio jobs are even harder to find. I had a job that I recently applied for, really wanted and got in touch with the relevant departmental persons to convey my interest pre-interview. Then two people on my team got the job and I didn’t even get to the interview stage. It’s frustrating and hard not to take personally. So I’m still stuck in the same job three years later and it makes me want to walk out a window.

At the same time I know it’s uncharitable to complain because some people don’t have jobs. Some people would love to have my job. I’ve got benefits and I’m not struggling outside of my professional existence. I’m sure that’s a pretty desirable position. I recognise all that, while also recognising that I’m the kind of person who finds it hard to have a clock in/clock out style job. For some it’s easy to go to work, come home and shut off. That’s not what I want. I desire having creative input. I desire for my job to be relevant to my identity. I don’t want just a job I want the work that I do to be an extension of myself. Even if it only shines through every once in a blue moon.

So what’s happening right now is I’m clocking in, doing the work and dying a little on the inside with every passing day. I’m trying not to fall into the trap of medicating with escapism, but I’m struggling. Of course if I’m not happy I’ll want to be anywhere else, whether this is through substance, food or pop-cultural consumption. If I don’t want to face my problems, ignoring them seems so much easier, right? It’s also the easiest way to wake up in 2037 and wonder what I have to show for my lost years. If I want to be doing work that fulfils me, I need to be able to convince people that I’m capable of doing it. Or I need to create the job that I want. Both prospects are vertical climbs and I’m terrified of dealing with the heights. I’m already using my time outside of work as a refuge from the world, but realistically I need to take on more extra-curricular activities. I need to learn software, make things. I need to write with intentionality. I need to be the person who I want to be in order for others to see me as such. In order to work, I need to work.

Nobody else can do that for me.

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.

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?