I’ve been writing in a journal for over 15 years now. They’re brief entries, with little to no thoughts or feelings ascribed to them. I jot down the day’s events in bullet points and assign a number from 1 to 5 depending on how fulfilling the day was. There are the rare days I avoid rating altogether because they were especially heinous. These journals have been surprisingly useful in the past, helping me pinpoint specific dates. They’re tomes of concrete, viable information rather than simply being bound collections of nostalgia, and have become some of my most valued possessions.
There’s still space for two more years in my current journal, but I’ve decided to start a brand new one for 2019. It’s a symbolic gesture of the “new beginnings” variety, the kind that I’m usually highly averse to because of the completely arbitrary notion that life somehow changes on January 1st.
It’s just far too difficult to continue picking up this book that holds so many painful memories. A “fresh start” may or may not come in 2019, but pulling out the clean slate cliche may be good for my mental health. These past two years have been unbelievably awful in unique ways.
2017 was the year that broke me, but 2018 was the year that I burnt out.
Perhaps it’s a bad omen for the year to begin with a New Year’s Eve party. The similarly awful 2010 started with a big one at a friend’s house, and life also handed me a platter of nasty surprises throughout that year.
I spent the first of this past January working at a gala, and other than the expected mob of drunkards it was a pretty great time and a solid first step into the year. There was a band, lights, decorations, the ball- a full experience that I’d never done before.
Could it be that my luck would turn around after the aggressively cruel 2017? Was this a portent of greater things?
No, the rest of January was decidedly not as eventful as that first night would suggest. But it also wasn’t “bad”, per se. I spent the month working overnights, which was surreal. Arriving to and leaving from work during the darkest hours led to a strange phenomenon where the entire month felt like one massive, continuous day. To quote that Pink Floyd band, I was “comfortably numb”. After my anxiety meds ran out I opted to stop using them; working all the time was calming enough.
January thru March were status quo, save for the fact that my life was consumed entirely by work. There were some pretty cool moments sprinkled in there though. I saw Robert Plant perform from the front row of a small venue. I made some comedy videos I’m genuinely proud of. I was given increasingly more significant jobs to do at work. One of which didn’t end so well.
I was basically on the clock 24/7 due to a project I’d been commissioned to do, and spent little spare time doing anything other than editing a series of the most complex videos I’d ever done. It took a heavy toll, and I ended up with stress ulcers yet again- the worst I’d ever had.
It would have been worth it if absolutely anything had come out of this project, but that wasn’t in the cards. Not only had I been used for four months to make pointless videos all by myself, but I gained absolutely nothing from the experience. Instead, I was told I had no talent and my videos were embarrassing. I essentially wasted the first quarter of the year doing the work of at least thirty people only to be thrown to the curb. There was another visit to the hospital immediately after my birthday in May, and it was then that the year really started to collapse.
By that point it was too late for me to brush myself off and focus on other things. It was too late for anything good to happen to salvage the year. In the same week that everything fell apart in regards to the video project, I was also hit with the bombshell that I’d been anticipating for years. I ran out of time, and the clock struck.
The sadness and anxiety had been ramping up heavily up to July, and I was considering once again getting on the meds.
I didn’t end up needing them.
By the time August rolled around I wholly lost all feeling- good and bad.
There was nothing. After so many years of anxiety, I was free. I floated along in an apathetic haze without sadness, anger, anxiety, joy, or any other emotion on the spectrum. It was like being on meds to an exponential degree. I lost interest in everything, going through the motions of daily life in total autopilot. I was shell-shocked. Totally burnt out. Faking every smile and conversation. I think I’ve used about three exclamation points since then.
In early September a family member moved across the ocean and left me with one less person to talk to, giving me even less reason to feign emotion. And then yet another hospital visit, for another member of my family. Yes, I became well acquainted with the waiting room at Southlake Regional this year.
Because of course one week later I badly fractured my arm, which in retrospect is laughable. Yeah, there was one night of unbelievable physical pain and a month-and-a-half of recuperation, but in the grand scheme of 2018 it was a comedic footnote. I was barely fazed by the whole experience.
It wasn’t until November when a string of minor inconveniences irritated me that I finally regained some semblance of emotion. Bear with me here, this is going to raise some eyebrows.
One of my jobs involves going to concerts and doing social media coverage for them. I travel all over the city, sometimes closer to the hub and sometimes further. It’s a gig I am incredibly grateful for. It’s also one that can cause frustration, as I’m required to wait to get a video of the artist performing their biggest hit song.
And for some strange reason, the artist always manages to play their hit song at the precise moment that will cause maximum issue for me.
It doesn’t matter where in the city the venue is, or at what point in the set the artist plays their song.
If I wait for it, I will miss my train by one minute and will have to wait another pointless hour for the (much slower) bus.
Every single time.
Of all the problems in the world, this is likely in the lower percentile of egregiousness. But this happened for about two weeks straight in November.
- Coheed and Cambria played REBEL, performing “A Favour House Atlantic” two-thirds into their set.
- Hozier played REBEL, performing “Take Me to Church” right before the encore.
- Dear Rouge played The Danforth Music Hall, performing “Black to Gold” one-third into their set.
- Reuben and the Dark played The Mod Club, performing a cover of The Tragically Hip’s “Bobcaygeon” in their encore.
- The Glorious Sons played Scotiabank Arena, performing “Josie” halfway through their set.
And I missed my train by one minute after all of these.
Through some almost unbelievably intricate combination of set times, set time delays, subway delays, slow walkers, detours, and platform changes, I managed to arrive at the train station precisely one minute after the train had departed.
It felt to me like some sort of insidious joke life was playing. That even after all the bombshells in 2018 I couldn’t catch a break in such a tiny little way. Over and over, so many times in a row- it felt analogous to my life on a micro level. If I had missed these trains by a wider margin, say 15 minutes, or half an hour, it wouldn’t be an issue at all, just poor timing. Or, maybe, just maybe, was one minute early? Why could that not ever happen?
In 2017 I was told so many times by prospective employers that they’d whittled the candidates down to me and one other person- and the other person always got the job. Missing my train consistently brought all that back. I felt actual frustration for the first time in over three months.
What about joy? Did that return as well? No, I’m not that lucky.
That said, there were a few moments this year that were nice and poetic, even if they are tinged with the spectre of dissociation. I mentioned off the top that I rate each day out of 5. There were no 5’s in the entirety of the year, but there were a handful of solid 4’s here and there. I may not have been bouncing off the walls, but they did provide a pleasant distraction from my dreary existence.
That Robert Plant show was exceptional, as was a Rod Stewart concert in March. I was not some huge fan of either of those guys, but seeing living legends like them was fun.
There was a day in late February that seems like a blurred dream. I headed downtown to go to a Noel Gallagher show, but arrived a few hours early and decided to indulge in nostalgia. I spent that time revisiting my old university’s campus, heading up to the library where I hadn’t been for exactly ten years. I read Samuel Pepys’ diary, thought about the past decade, and then went to see Noel play some nice Britpop.
There was also the Nathaniel Rateliff show in May that was strangely uplifting and also I ate a whole box of non-dairy ice cream bars that night.
I was fortunate enough to reconcile with a dear friend this year, and it was largely through their presence that I got through the worst of what the universe dealt me in the second half of 2018. It pains me that I wasn’t able to fully enjoy any of the times we met due to my state of affairs, but I’m grateful nonetheless. The days in the park and at the mall have become cherished memories.
So what’s coming down the pipe in 2019?
Three weeks in, I can tell you that it’s off to a disappointing start. Working for three weeks straight was not something I’d usually object to- after all, it was a very effective coping mechanism. But working straight through the holidays and then being told to work the most toxic shift possible left me with no escape from negativity. I’ve been locked into an unwieldy schedule that gives me exactly 1.5 hours of free time each day. The other hours are spent either sleeping, commuting, or stuck in a room with a condescending, mean-spirited person. I’m worn out, defeated, and most importantly, isolated. I haven’t been able to speak with anyone for weeks on end because of this schedule.
Some unexpected bit of luck or positive turn of events…now wouldn’t that be wild? Like if my content suddenly went viral and I could somehow make a living off making online content. Or I got a promotion that allowed me to use my skills to their full extent- and made me enough money to live in the city. Either of these would be highly welcome.
I’ll settle for a “plateau year”- those blessed periods of relief I’ve gotten in the past where everything calms down and nothing bad happens. I’ll gladly give up wild dreams of success for a year without traumatic experiences, health issues, or car problems. I’m asking for so little from life. Just a plain, regular twelve months where I get to sleep in once in a while. Where I have evenings free and can walk around the city reflecting on life. And where maybe – just maybe – I make it on the train on time.
Yeah, that’d be nice.
Only one thing is guaranteed though.
2019 will come.
& 2019 will go.
& I will have to deal with the in-between.