Sure, complain about opportunities. That’s the essence of charisma, right?

Aren’t holidays meant to alleviate stress? First day back at work and it feels like I need a grappling hook to catch up with my backlog. I’m clearly to blame, considering I actually took a holiday instead of working on all my side projects. It feels like I’ve become beholden to a mass of metaphorical mistresses, demanding my attention without being aware of one another. My fault for straying, I guess.

The biggest bugbear right now is Just For Laughs Montreal. The question of my accreditation has been swaying pendulously, just out of reach. The PR team and I are in the world’s slowest tennis rally. They seem to answer one question daily and don’t work weekends. I do understand that I’m a small fry, all things considered. They’ve got a mountain of a festival to sort and I’m a mere rock. I’m also asking a ton of questions, having never covered Montreal before (the festival and accreditation process is pretty different from Toronto). Still, the pace is making it tough to get traction. I’ve got accommodation and transport to book, both of which are contingent on getting accreditation.

So far I’ve learned that my access is pretty limited. I won’t get to cover any big name comics. They seem to be obsessed with booking interviews, but I’ve told them I’m not particularly interested in doing any. I’ll be running a festival blog on Live in Limbo, then concluding with a wrap up article. It means I can keep things fresh and varied, giving my coverage a more up to date feel. It also means I can keep up a more conversational style, which is more in tune with my voice. My hope is to see a bunch of comedy and promote all the solid acts so people can check them out.

They got me doing one interview, but obstacles are making it a hassle to sort. They want pre-promotion which, consisting the comic lives in LA, means it needs to be a phoner. I’m not arguing that his time is more important than mine, so we’re on his schedule. We’ve booked in a 3.15pm call on Thursday, during my work hours. My phone gets no signal at work, so I had to source a landline. I can’t take a speaker phone call at my desk (for transcription purposes), so I had to find a meeting room. By this afternoon, most meeting rooms were booked for Thursday, especially (it seemed) the ones with conference call capabilities. So I had to spend 15 minutes shopping around for the right one. Also because of the aforementioned backlog, I had actual work to catch up on. Guess tomorrow night is gonna be spent researching for the interview.

Now that I’m finally on my way home, I get to put some work into another sidebitch of a personal project. How many ways does the universe have to warn me that the holiday’s over?

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?

Any excuse to shake my caboose.

I’m currently at work, but I’m not. Well I am, and aren’t. I took Schrödinger’s commute and logged into my work computer from home. Waking up at 8am, I was at work by 8.10am and ready to start. By merely clicking alt+tab I can zoom to and from my job through the information superhighway. The future is here, now and forever. It also means that as of about 9.30am I was 75% finished my day’s work. It’s so much faster to work without having to physically interact with my co-workers. The cat is my only vocal co-worker and to be honest, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about most of the time. So I’m free to plug away at schedules and log everything without background interference.

Why am I at home today?

Because for the second weekend in a row, I’m going out of town. Lucky me, right? The Earth has taken another lap around the sun and once again Steel Rails is upon us. Steel Rails is an amazing art party/fundraiser held annually by local paper The Community Edition. My girlfriend and I went with friends last year and had an amazing time. We were carted out to a mystery location that turned out to be an empty warehouse surrounded by steel containers. There were huge papier mâché creatures on stilts, people dressed in weird masks. Tons of interactive art exhibits such as styrofoam sculpting and celebrity/food portmanteau creations. Fortune tellers and storytelling events. Musical performances throughout the evening. Also food and drinks galore. Then we all piled back to Chainsaw in Waterloo, the archetypal small town Friday Night bar (with enough fluorescents to attract every barfly in town) and hung out with fun strangers we’d met throughout the event. It was a helluva time.

It was also an unconventional Steel Rails. The format in the past was always to load people onto a train and get them “loaded”. All booze is by donation, which means people get stupid drunk and have a riotous time. Creating a low commotion, if you will. This year, the train is back! So not only do we get to feel all manner of classy drinking on a train, but we also get Snowpiercer re-enactments. I’ll pack my hatchet. I wonder how the sushi is this year…

Because it’s a local community event and because it attracts creative types, the crowd are usually fun Fringe types. Despite the massive quantities of alcohol, I didn’t see much last year in the way of douchebaggery or douchebagguettery. People engaged in the spirit of the party and embraced the weirdness. Saying yes to adventure’s call and seeing where it could go. Last year rumours of a cult started spreading. There were printed pamphlets with trace amounts of info scattered around the event. Over the course of the evening, I not only had people ask me about my own affiliations, but giving impassioned monologues on theirs. The volunteers were all incredibly friendly and helpful and the effect was profound. I’m really excited and can’t wait for this workday to end.

But things could be worse than hanging out at home.

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?

At least I know John Farnham believes in me.

They say if you don’t use it, you lose it. Skills have a habit of atrophying if they’re not flexed regularly. It’s such a waste. If you’ve spent time building them up, it’s important to find an outlet, keep them limber. Which is a roundabout way of saying that it felt pretty fucking great to be back in a voicing studio.

Don’t go getting your hopes up, it was in no way a major deal. Just a nice return to a familiar calling. I met with a guy in radio creative about a job that was up for grabs. I was interested to get back into radio, it’s an industry I’ve always loved. TV is fine, but my heart has truly never left radio. We talked about the job and he admitted that they’d already decided on who they wanted. Applying wouldn’t get me anywhere. He did however notice my accent and asked me if I’d done any voicing. I nodded and told him about my past career in audio production.

He thought for a second and told me about the nationwide company voice bank. There’s a directory of available voices for creatives to go through and find one that’s suitable. They list the type of reads that voices are good at (any accents or specific impressions) and have a few samples of their work. We had the same kind of system back home. It meant that if there was a prized voice in a small market the local producer could record them and send the audio up to another one. My current company didn’t yet have any New Zealand accents in the voice bank. The creative guy sent two scripts my way and brought me down to the studio.

Back when I worked in production, I didn’t do a heap of voicing. Part of it was pragmatic. I knew how to run Pro Tools and record. If I was recording it was easy to see how the read was running for time. I could hear it through the monitors and know if it fit the aim of the script. If I needed to record myself I’d often flick it to record, run into the booth, voice, then run out and stop the recording. It wasn’t the smoothest process, but it got the job done in a pinch. We also had a lot of conventional radio voices on station who got used way more often. This meant I got brought in whenever a weird little character voice was required. Aliens/monsters. Yoda. Impressions, mostly. Or a soft read for some kind of heart strings tugging cause. I always liked it, but would’ve loved to do more than I had the chance to.

I was of course a little rusty today, but not atrophied by any means. We did a bunch of takes, tried assorted reads trying to emphasise different parts of the scripts. We worked on pace and mood. I warmed up. It’s always easiest voicing when you’ve built up a relationship with the producer. You know what they’re looking for and they know how to get the type of read out of you they’re seeking. It was fun, I’d forgotten how much I’d missed it. Trying to properly articulate while also shaving five seconds off a read and emphasising correctly in all the right places. Being back in that booth felt like something clicked. Familiar and comforting. I’d like more of that feeling.

We’ll see if it goes anywhere. With people knowing my voice is available, they can write for it. Fingers crossed I can start building up a portfolio. If eventually I could start booking paid gigs, that’s not something I’d sneeze at. It’s pretty damn lucrative for work I’d enjoy doing. Fingers crossed, pray for Mojo.

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?

I’d call mine Gilbert Goattfried if it’s any consolation.

Great day. Intense day. It’s no longer day and I’m scrambling to get this entry out so I can finally go to sleep. 1am on a “school night” seems an appropriate time as any to start, n’est-ce pas?

So.

Work got busy right at the end. I was feeling mildly unwell (with the portent of future ailment tomorrow) so I tried to cram a bunch of work in today. You know, ease the strain on the rest of the department in case I do call in sick tomorrow. There was a bunch of stuff I needed in order to finish my work and my manager was not forthcoming with it. Then my manager delivered. Being the grand ol’ chap that he is, he also delivered the news that one of our shows had been pulled and subsequently any sign of it needed to vanish across the network. Prime 4pm news, right? I’d been trying to organise a bunch of people on the side for tonight’s dinner/comedy shows. When the work rolled in I forgot about those plans and took care of business. Subsequently my phone died. When 5.30pm rolled around I checked it for a heartbeat. None. Murdered. Shit. I’d made 6pm dinner plans that were 50 minutes away via public transit.

Time to call an Uber.

Or not, because I’m an idiot and my phone was dead. I flagged down a taxi and asked for a fare estimate to The Royal Cinema. $15-20 he said. I jumped in and we hit the road. I asked if I could borrow his charger for my cellular corpse, but try as I might it’d been slapped with a DNR order. It was my turn to die a little on the inside. Rush hour traffic was predictably grim and during my journey I spent $3 cold hard cash moving 100m. I should’ve walked part way. I made it no more than five minutes late, a small wonder, in the hopes that everyone had gotten the messages I’d sent before my phone kicked the bucket. I waited for another five or so minutes and my friend walked in. I’ve rarely known relief to be such a tactile sensation. My girlfriend arrived, we had an awesome dinner and lined up for Chris Gethard’s live Beautiful/Anonymous podcast taping.

The show was fun, but also a transcendent trash fire that made me question everything I knew about probability. A quick rundown of the show: Comedian Chris Gethard talks to an anonymous caller for an hour. He has a talent for asking the right questions and whittling away the artifice to find the true story beneath the call. Tonight? Tonight was a weird night. Tonight’s hashtag for audience members with questions was #lowrystrong, which would’ve been great if I had a phone that didn’t hate living. We were warned that it could get weird. Like the manic caller the night before. The only thing Chris had been able to glean in an hour was that he owned two goats, one of which was adorably named OKGoat. I’m ’bout it.

The caller wasn’t weird, so much as avoidant. Obviously a fan of the show, it sounded more like he wanted to chat with Gethard, but not about anything in particular. Was he in love with his ex-girlfriend/best friend? Why did he feel so listless? What was his issue with revealing his age? Try as Chris might to delve into this dude’s deal, it felt a little flat. The connection was spotty and whenever Chris really seemed on the mark with a great point, the call would cut out and our caller wouldn’t hear it. With 25 minutes left on the clock, we had a Beautiful/Anonymous first: We took another call. This caller got straight into it and called her ex-boss a cunt right off the bat. The crowed roared, baying for blood. She was a sympathetic character and we all latched onto her. The more details that emerged, however, something seemed off. Were we really getting the whole story? Why had her boss and close personal friend made steps to remove our caller from her family? With seven minutes remaining on the clock, the call dropped. Fuck. Chris took another call, who turned out to be… THE FIRST FUCKING CALLER. 7700 CALLS AND HE GOT THROUGH? WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF THAT? UN FUCKING REAL. Things were intense. Chris took him to task and laid straight into him, stringing everything we’d heard into deduction, outlining this guy but good. AND THE CALL DROPPED. FUCK. He took ANOTHER call, which wasn’t the second caller back with some answers.

IT WAS THE FUCKING GOAT GUY FROM THE NIGHT BEFORE. WHY DO WE EVEN HAVE PROBABILITY IF IT’S NOT GONNA DO ITS JOB?

Oh, and my phone rose from the grave, in case you were worried.