Putting the trade into trading places.

I don’t truly know how it is to live as a woman. Chances are I never will. I’ve had a life laden with privilege, wearing the assumed status and ease of being a white male at all times. I don’t know what it is to be constantly belittled and undermined on the basis of my gender. I don’t deal with a stream of microaggressions on a daily basis. While I’m sympathetic to the struggles inherent to being female in a patriarchal society, it’d be a stretch of arrogance to claim empathy with any veracity. I can listen android recognise, but implicit understanding will likely remain beyond my reach.

The other day in improv class we were working on character. To come to terms with what it was to quickly assume a new personally, we tried a monologue exercise intended to push us beyond our comfort levels and into the mindset of someone so foreign to our own. At the offset it sounded simple. We’d stand before the rest of the class. Collectively they’d build out our character: What we did, our age, gender, the status we gave ourselves, the status others gave to us and lastly, the environment in which we were. We’d answer questions from the crowd in front of us in character. Sounded challenging, but fun. The classmates who went first did a great job of fully realising their characters. Two guys, one inhabited the persona of a 60 year old naturopath presenting at a conference. He responded to questions so quickly an self-assuredly you would’ve assumed he did it for a living. Another guy played a gender-queer substitute French teacher with total aplomb. Incorporating accurate French and non-binary terms with his explanations to the class. They both made it look effortless, a wonder with such a challenging assignment.

My character was to be a 30 year old female welder. She came from a family of means, but didn’t feel comfortable with that lifestyle. She was constantly struggling to be taken seriously in a male dominated workplace/profession. The rest of the class assumed the role of my male co-workers and the scene began. I walked into the scene looking for an assist on a welding job. There was a pipe that’d been damaged in an accident and needed to be welded before it could resume use. I it was covered in debris and I needed a hand getting access. The response was an immediate flood of misogyny. “I’ve got a pipe you can weld, darling.” Yelled a co-worker. “Good luck finding anyone who wants to go near that rusty old thing Carl” I responded. A chorus of “woooOOOOoooo”s greeted me. A co-worker called out “what’s the matter? Little girl can’t do her job?” I felt my face redden. “I can do my job, I just need a hand to get it done quicker for our customers. Do any of you work?” Someone else chimed in with a dopey voice “what’s actually wrong with it?”

Flustered from the lack of help, I started inwardly panicking. Oh shit, I actually don’t know anything about welding. What the fuck do I say? I stammered out something about there being a hole in the pipe that needed mending. “Yeah” the dopey dude responded “but what’s there problem.” Everyone laughed. At me. I was in this character, but also felt very real opposition. I just wanted to do my job and nobody would take me seriously. “I can fucking weld!” My voice rose “the boss wouldn’t have hired me if I couldn’t.” I heard a voice chime in from the back of the room “I didn’t care if you could weld. I just liked the way your ass looked.” I was fuming. I tightened my first intentionally as a character moment, but with very real tension behind it. “Are we gonna get this fixed for the customer? Or am I gonna have to explain that the rest of the office was too lazy to get off their asses?” One dude spoke up. “Fine, I’ll give you a hand. Since you can’t seem to do it yourself.” Laughter greeted the comment and I stood there fuming as the scene ended.

The frustration of not being considered or taken seriously was such a new, visceral sensation. Of being defined and limited in the basis of my gender. Feeling so intensely the burning rage at this systematic undermining of my personhood. I went back to my seat inwardly trembling, shaken. “Welcome to the sisterhood Leon” called the teacher.

This might take longer to write than the next Game of Thrones book, but I’m in.

This was a lot easier two years ago. Last year, even. That was all different, but familiar territory. This year marks a new milestone. I’m three years into the longest romantic relationship in my life.

There’s no caveat. I’m not gonna get your hopes up then turn around and be all “KIDDING. I had a longer relationship, but the romance was dead.” I haven’t been together with a partner for three years, period. What’s more, it is still romantic after all this time. I’d say that I love you as much as the day I met you, but that would be a fallacy. I didn’t love you when I met you, I didn’t know you. After three years, I feel like I know you. At least a little. You’ve heard movie characters stating that they can “read [insert person] like a book”? I get it. I finally know how that feels. When we’re together there’s a tacit language beneath the words and expressions. I understand what you’re saying, or when there’s something you’re not saying. When something’s off, it echoes through my bones. Subtext has become natural. I’m not bragging, I know you can see through me too.

The most exciting part is that this in no way means that you’ve run out of surprises. Have you ever found a book that appeals so much that you think it was written with you in mind? A book so rich in character that something new jumps off the page with every skim? It might be a peculiar sentence structure, a bold idea from out of nowhere. The vivid imagery with which its memories are etched. As new chapters appear every day, it’s no wonder you can’t put it down. You crack its spine each chance you get, even if only for minutes at a time. Like the most beguiling contraband. A page or two when the sun wrests open your eyes. A chapter before bed. A few clandestine sentences by moonlight. It’s intoxicating. You can’t wait to have read it in its entirety, but couldn’t bear for it to be over.

If our relationship began in its infancy, it would be talking by now. Growing and maturing, understanding the world around it. The recognition that as old as we felt before, there was so much yet to come. That we’d barely scratched the surface. There is so much yet to come and as each year passes, I appreciate and love you all the more. How adventurous your soul is, game for anything. How your gorgeous visage hides exponential beauty beneath. How boldly you embrace what the world throws your way and smile as it comes. How deep and fierce your emotions run, pulsing through the veins of every direction you take. How sincerely and openly you love, giving of yourself without barriers. How much you care for anything you can. You embrace life with an envious passion and I feel honoured to bask in your warmth.

I cherish writing our story together for this year and many more.

If I cast far enough, shit might get reel.

Sometimes a moment of clarity will just strike you from out of nowhere. Like a bolt flung from the hands (or tentacles, let’s be real here) of a deity, an epiphany. While I was voicing yesterday, somebody from the station dropped into the studio to hang out. When I came out of the booth, she introduced herself. She asked me my background and what I wanted to do. Without skipping a beat, I replied.

“I want to make podcasts.” I said. “It’s something the opposition does, but we’re really lacking behind.” Someone else chipped in “We have them.” I nodded and replied “we do have them, but the breadth of subject matter is pretty limited, which seems weird considering the vast Intellectual Properties we have access to and our company’s push for consumer engagement. If having a social media presence is so important, why not offer them cause to spend time with us while they work? Give them even more reason to engage with our brands. It’s an intimate, personal medium. Selling the idea to consumers that we’re their friends? It’s hard to buy that kind of marketing. Why not do that?” I stopped ranting. All three people in the room were quiet, nodding.

Where the fuck did that confidence come from?

I’ve had vague ideas about professionally producing podcasts before, but haven’t given it a whole lot of serious consideration. Then all of a sudden that torrent came tumbling out of my mouth. Who would pay me to do it? Where would the funds come from? Today though, I’ve been thinking about it more. Who better than a large corporation? It’s not like they’d have to invest in infrastructure. They have the equipment, the hosting. They can handle traffic and would have umpteen ways to promote it. They have on-air talent. They have content that invites both discussion and promotion. We know that there’s a market for it, given the near ubiquity of podcasting. All it needs is someone to go to bat for it.

I’ve been struggling a bit lately in multiple areas. Aside from near constant impostor syndrome (though I assume this is a universal part of the human condition), I’ve been feeling really down on myself. For years I had a fire burning, mantra of Make it Happen running through my head. I felt indomitable and pushed forward constantly. The past few years have felt like a rut professionally and I’ve started to doubt whether or not I’m a capable person. It’s been harder to get motivated and excited about things. Self-esteem has given way to recursive negative self-talk and I’ve started to stop believing that I deserve opportunities.

This past weekend was spent in the constant company of friends. A couple of them were people I’m quite close with, but most were casual acquaintances. I had an amazing time, but one thing stuck out to me. Almost universally, people there saw me as quick witted and down for anything. They assumed I took chances and opportunities, that I was creative and hard working. Good-natured, compassionate and funny. They saw me as the kind of person I want to be, a person who boldly follows their desires and makes things happen.

I feel like I used to be him. That if circumstances align, I become him again. I realised just how much I want to be as my friends see me. I want to take risks and be okay with failing. I want to put in effort because a lesson learned is the worst outcome. I want so badly to believe in myself again.

If others do, what’s stopping me?

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?

Okay, so I looked up the word “irascible”. Get off my back. And lawn.

I’ve spent enough days staring at this blank page blankly to know that the best way to steer out of it is to merely start. I know that addressing a central theme is the easiest way to burst out of the gates exuding chutzpah, but when all else fails, simply taking the lead until an idea forms can suffice. By this point, four years in, I expected that daily writing would’ve gotten easier. Half the point of this exercise was to stimulate that forebrain and jog my front of mind-ed-ness. Given the past sentence, you can see that it hasn’t been a total success. Yes, I’ve written each day, but I’d hoped by now I would’ve found more improvement with the 1400+ entries I’ve committed to the page. That’s a lot of words, though how many of those are unique is another question entirely. I’ve written a lot, but my skills haven’t risen with the word count quite like I’d expected.

Of course, I’ve always fallen into the trap of expectations. As a kid I rarely had to struggle through work, which in turn failed to develop a backbone of discipline and effort in order to overcome tricky situations. Things kind of came naturally to me and even if I didn’t put in a heap of hard work, I’d usually do okay. As the years progressed life got more challenging and as a recurring theme, I stopped putting in effort. If I couldn’t simply roll up and do it, was it actually something I wanted to do? I’m not saying that I’m lazy in every aspect, but often when the going gets tough, I go elsewhere.

At the moment I feel like I’m stuck in some form of rut. This ain’t a unique moment. Rather, it seems like this vague ennui rolls around multiple times per year. My mindset right now is creatively, professionally, interpersonally and motivationally mired. While my job isn’t a shitshow, it’s very unfulfilling and easy to phone in because I’ve been doing it for so long. This results in a slog of a workday that feels like it’s chipping away at something inside. How long before I give up, buy a TV and watch reruns of Last Man Standing (too soon?)? Work bumming me out overflows insidiously into other areas of my life. The lack of creativity in what I do affects how I see myself represented. This digs at my self-confidence, skimming away at my seminal (screw me, I was looking for a synonym for “creative”) energy (plus “seminal energy” is fun to say. This is my circus and I’ll let it run rampant as I see fit). If I’m feeling shitty about how others may see me, I’m not raring to put myself out there for others to see. I withdraw from social obligations and turn into a irascible old hermit. I GET OLD SOMEHOW, YOU GUISE.

I always surface from this rut, but through distraction rather than progression. I’ve been trying to move into other avenues of work, potentially more fulfilling jobs. These attempts have come with multiple disheartening rejections. While my mind is screaming that I’m at an impasse, I’m sure this isn’t the case. I am however unsure of what to do. The answer is most likely to dig in and upskill, or put myself out there in my own time. The problem though is that these ideas smack of good honest hard work and that makes my brain crave familiar and safe spaces. Effort is difficult and failure is terrifying. Improvement doesn’t come easily, but continuing to go through the motions isn’t sending me anywhere help. Is this why people get life coaches? So someone else can do the hard yards of telling them what to do?

OH WAIT GUISE. WHAT IF I BECAME A LIFE COACH? THEN I COULD FEEL FULFILLED TELLING OTHER PEOPLE WHAT TO DO WHILE NOT HAVING TO MAKE ANY PROGRESS MYSELF.

It’s finding something else to like that’s the problem.

I feel at a loss. Which is to say that I’m lost. I don’t know what to do now. Specifically at this moment, not in a wider what does it all mean? sense. I’ve got a limp self-propulsion that at the very least will stop me from treading water for too long. Right now though, I’m just floating on my back, heading nowhere in particular. I feel unwell in a very literal manner of speaking. I’m congested with a sore throat and low level physical fatigue. I happened to be working from home today anyway (so I could go to an Ear Nose and Throat consultation), so at least I didn’t need to be in the office. That sort of backfired. If I hadn’t taken the day to work at home I could’ve just had a sick day instead. Oh well. I got all my work done, it was more relaxing than being in the office would’ve been. I could mope around at my own pace and get loose-headed on NeoCitran. I also spent a fair portion of my down time watching Please Like Me.

I watched the first episode and really enjoyed it. I found its fusion of heavy events and irreverence entirely captivating. There was drama, but they rarely leaned into it without good reason. Bad things happening didn’t stop the world from revolving, they dealt with things and moved on, or talked around them until their impact gradually lessened. Hell, the first episode starts with the lead character getting dumped because his girlfriend knows he’s gay, even if he won’t admit it (they stay good friends regardless). Then his mum tries to commit suicide by eating a packet of paracetamol and drinking half a bottle of baileys. It’s serious content, but admits to the underlying silliness. The more I watched, the more attached I grew towards this tight knit group of characters. Somehow avoiding being beaten down by the world, it wasn’t relentlessly upbeat by any means, but neither was it maudlin or cheesy in any way.

Maybe it appealed to my underdog complex, but the show managed to champion the losers and weirdos without skewing self-congratulatory. The central character, Josh, is gay and they don’t make a massive deal out of it. It’s just his sexual preference, it doesn’t define him as a character as much as his wit, propensity for cooking or habit of trying to disarm tension with humour and irreverence. There are ongoing realistic depictions of mental illness, serious marital issues and realistic struggles of twentysomething life. There are also a multitude of dumb conversations about giraffes. Characters come and go, but they’re nearly always given three dimensional representation. There are meaningful friendships galore. It’s funny, sweet and disarmingly engrossing. I can’t tell you the last time I watched two seasons of anything in under a month, let alone four seasons.

Now I’m lost because the show is over and I miss it. It ended well, but I know that I’m never gonna get to witness all new interactions with these characters I’ve grown to love. It feels like a loss and I don’t know what fills that void now. Please Like Me was unique and that’s a double-edged sword. There’s a reason it stands out from everything else, but if I want to recapture that feeling I’ll have to settle for shows that have a few close elements, but fail to deliver the total package. I didn’t watch it because it had excellent fleshed out representation of gay characters. I didn’t watch it because it was a slice of life comedy about intelligent twentysomethings. I didn’t watch it because of its willingness to depict issues in a frank manner. I watched it because it managed to be its own thing and that means it’s gonna be pretty bloody hard to find anything quite like it.

So I guess, I dunno. I guess maybe I’ll just have to write something I’d want to watch.

I digress in excess on progress.

Is it weird how much of our lives are spent online now? I don’t know if I’m talking sheer time or the amount of activities we’ve relegated to digital spaces. The point is, we invest so much of ourselves in this platform. It’s a marked change from 20 years ago, but then again, so is gender. Things change. I wonder then how much we’ve changed accordingly. Have our expectations altered given our constant connectivity? Working in television, I know our expectations have definitely altered. Immediacy is the name of the game. We want things straight away on our schedule, whether this is entertainment or communication. Waiting is pretty much insufferable now. Whether it’s streamable content buffering, a release schedule or a response from someone. If you’re online, why aren’t they? Is this everyone? Or am I the lone arsehole here?

I wonder if we’ve all become more or less insufferable than 20 years ago. It’s impossible to tell, because it’s not 20 years ago, our memories aren’t that great and we can’t peer into alternate realities through some high tech pensieve. I know for certain that I expect more than I ever did, because my expectations have been continually surpassed. The world kept delivering beyond what I assumed its capabilities were. Accordingly, my beliefs of what should be capable rose. Ironically in a world that’s transcended my hopes, I’m disappointed constantly. I’ve become entitled to this idea that the world now owes me the sensation of being impressed. With artificially inflated standards, I should know that’s not gonna happen. Still, I often catch myself getting angry with a world that doesn’t owe me shit.

Oddly enough, the older generation often has the opposite problem. They’re angry that the world has progressed beyond their comfort levels. In their ironic twist, we’re achieving what they fought for and it’s making them feel insignificant. How many times have you heard the refrain of “in my day we had to…”? Safe spaces, non-binary genders, a whole spectrum of sexual attraction and identities. “You want safe spaces? In my day we had to deal with polio. You can’t handle someone calling you a boy? We were lucky if we lived to 30!” I’m being deliberately being both facetious and straw-manning. The point is, people don’t have the same struggles because you beat them. Thank you.

The wars we fight revolve less around literal bloodshed (though let’s not undermine the fact that many minorities still face disproportionate fatalities in our society) and more about wars of identity. Struggles of freedom to be who you are, they’re a good thing. Believe it or not, this is actually what you fought wars for. Your generation died specifically so that this generation could have their battles be ideological. I’m telling you folks, you’re winning. Is the concept of people wanting a safe space that offensive? Are you really that against the fight for acceptance? Or would you prefer that they suffered the same indignities you hated? Because that seems like a shitty thing to wish upon others.

At the same time, I often find myself being a shitty person without realising it. I spend so much time reading the thoughts and feelings of others online and reacting. I might read something and feel inflamed. I get these uncontrolled, unmeasured reactions in the heat of the moment. Thing is, I’m not interacting with somebody else, I’m seeing their words devoid of their delivery. I’m taking the distillation of their thoughts, lacking the emotions that birthed them, then basing my reactions on how my brain filters how I’d perceive those thoughts in my head. So I’m reading those words in my brain without taking into consideration their gestures, inflections, cadence, or backgrounds. It’s pretty easy to see why we come to so many misunderstandings when we really don’t put much effort into understanding one another. But, of course, that would take too long and immediacy is the name of the game.

We could be living in a utopia folks, but it’d take a lot of patience and hard work.