2013

It’s hard to properly communicate what 2013 felt like. The most appropriate descriptor I can assign to it is a slight headache, with a little nausea thrown in on the side. Some important things did happen, most of which weren’t great, but none really meant much. It was bad and boring and annoying. A stale, uncomfortable period of time spent floating far too long down a lukewarm Lazy River type attraction at a theme park.

Ultimately, it was a necessary transition into a new part of my life that was unnecessarily long. A protracted prologue that really didn’t need to exist. There were very few standout moments, and if they’d been shuffled into the preceding or following years I could have entirely done without it. It was just a pointless prelude to the trainwreck that was 2014.

I’d hit the pause button for 2011 and 2012, and now life was lurching forwards without my approval. My golden years were over and it was time to move on from what had been relatively carefree 24 month period.

Beardmaster’s going away party in January was an appropriate event to kick everything off as it was effectively shutting the door on an era. It would be the last time the whole gang that had worked so well together would be in the same place.

Promo shifts were a little different after that, but the remainder of the crew was still a close-knit group and we soldiered on through the winter months.

Meanwhile Rogers shoots were picking up and I managed to land a second on-air role with a more news-oriented show. It wasn’t especially hard-hitting, but I did get to focus a little more on stories that didn’t revolve around the region’s hottest yogurt shops.

The only other notable thing that happened that winter was that I got a mild case of carbon monoxide poisoning while helping push a car up a snowy hill.

April rolled around and the Edge promo team got a new leader. Hank was a solid, kind guy who over the years has helped me out countless times, and I’ve never known him to treat anyone poorly. It was a shame then, that the team dynamic had to deteriorate after his appointment, even if it was to be expected. Beardmaster had been less a boss than a peer, a friend who saw the others as equals and not subordinates. Hiring all his old classmates ensured an atmosphere that never felt as if we were reporting to someone. Hank came from outside, and we reported to him. As nice of a guy as he was, things just immediately felt different. One by one, members of our crew started to drop off, starting with those who had applied for the team leader position but regrettably didn’t get it.

I too took Beardmaster’s departure as a sign to get my act together and began to look for jobs elsewhere, regularly going to interviews throughout the spring and regularly getting rejected. I soon realized that moving forward in life wasn’t going to be a simple task.

Stress began to mount, and one night towards the end of April I came home and checked my favourite music blog at the time to find a song by Mark Kozelek called “What Happened to My Brother“. It was one of the bleakest pieces of music I’d ever heard, and it affected me so deeply that after falling asleep that night I had my first case of intense sleep paralysis.

I put it out of my mind the next day when I tagged along with my sister as she looked for jobs in King City. While she was in interviews I took a stroll around the neighbourhood, at one point being invited to play baseball with a Unitarian church team. As I walked around I realized all the music I was listening to was pretty bleak. That night I tried to remedy this by looking for some fun, uptempo new tracks that would energize my playlist but had no luck. The rest of the year would be like that, and though it may sound trivial, the fact that 2013 was such a bad year for new music actually contributed to my woes. My nightly runs became joyless slogs, and the only new song I listened to for months was Middle Class Rut’s “Aunt Betty”- a fantastic song but also an anthem for the hopeless that worsened my outlook on life with every listen.

The sleep paralysis cases started occurring more and more frequently, and after a particularly bad dream where I was trapped in a coffin covered in worms I decided it was time to take action and started therapy.

Dr. Lauren wasn’t too much older than me, and sessions felt less like professional medical appointments and more like me talking about my adventures to a new friend. We quickly developed a fun rapport and my sleep paralysis cases became less frequent. Lauren was a little confused as to why I was having such trouble getting a better job and getting a girl to be interested in me, but recommended that I vent my frustration by starting a new creative outlet…so I started a comic.

A few days before my birthday I got to see my favourite band for the third time, and although it wasn’t as momentous as seeing them front row at a secret show at Sound Academy, The Killers still put on a decent show. The concert was made better because I’d invited the now-single Emma to come with me, which she enthusiastically agreed to. I thought this was a hint that she might like me, and the fact she recommended we go out for drinks after the show seemed to bolster that notion. I got real giddy thinking that finally someone might have a crush on me, and tested my luck by asking her to hang out with me at High Park for a nice walk. She said yes, and we had another nice day the following week. Third time wasn’t a charm though, and when I asked her to hang out again she didn’t reply for the rest of the summer. She’d end up getting a boyfriend sometime in the fall.

The TV shoots continued to go well, even if I knew nothing about MMA fighters or Scottish cuisine. Edge promo shifts grew progressively less fun, although I did get to meet Fall Out Boy. Hank brought on his first batch of hires, which included Punk Frances. Just like Hannah the year before, Punk Frances gave me a lot of attention from the outset, playfully teasing me and regularly starting conversation. I didn’t bite- not right away, at least. Still sore from the experience with Emma and not wanting to repeat a fiasco like the one with Hannah, I stayed wary and reserved at our shifts together at Weezer, fun., and City and Colour.

I put my photography skills to the test with an “external client” (aka…not my sister) for the first time in July when I asked fellow Edge intern Rochelle to be a subject for a Mad Men themed shoot. Being part of the few remaining recruits from the Beardmaster team days, we had bonded and even attended Green Day and Muse shows together through the radio station.

There was never any overt romantic connection between us, but we accidentally found each other on a dating site and I suggested we do the photo shoot. It went well and she seemed impressed with the shots, treating me to an iced tea afterwards. But just like with all the other girls ever, nothing happened after that. I suggested another photo shoot but like Emma she didn’t reply and we lost touch as she left the promo team soon afterwards.

Edgefest that year was a disaster, with rain, drunks, and poor staff attendance plaguing the event. Wakestock up in Collingwood went marginally better, but by the end of three days of nonstop work I was not especially friendly to the swarms of bros at our tent. Uproar Fest wasn’t too bad, but having to walk an hour through a detour because I couldn’t take a shortcut through the CNE fairgrounds was a hassle.

The most disappointing concert experience of that summer, however, was the one that didn’t happen. Sugar Ray and Smash Mouth apparently had problems crossing at the border and their joint effort of a show never came to fruition. Just as well, because I’d finally dropped my guard and invited Punk Frances to it after months of potential signs from her. She politely declined, saying “she didn’t go out and do things”. So I would have gone and had to enjoy “All Star” by myself…unacceptable.

Fall started out with the wedding of two close friends. I’d been the one who had set them up back in high school, so the bride decided to repay the favour by allowing me to be one of the very few guests who could bring a plus-one. I took my friend Brenda, and we had a pleasant time even if she spent the whole time talking about Geddy Lee’s nephew.

Rogers TV continued to be interesting, as I covered several large events in the region and did some solid networking. I also got to wear a cowboy hat on no less than two occasions, wow. On one of these occasions I’d meet Nickee, a freelance journalist who I recommended to my producer at Rogers.

Meanwhile the Edge front was not doing so well. By October there were only a handful of the old teamsters left and I was starting to feel stressed again. I needed a change, quick. I attended a Career Fair downtown and seriously considered getting a job in both law and law enforcement. Any career that would let me eat a dinner at the many nice restaurants I passed on the way to the convention centre.

…I ended up enrolling at a clown college.

Second City‘s writing classes weren’t really a step forward, but they did let me flex my creative muscles somewhere other than on my website. I quickly became a star pupil, with several of my scripts being adapted for actual stage shows. I’d found my people.

A strange turn of events at the radio station led to me somehow mentoring an employee from one of the upper floors, who was under the impression that I was a big shot. With my confidence boosted from the Second City classes, I played along and gave her as much useful advice as I could as a “promotions professional”. Little did she know that a few days later this promotions professional was standing outside the Sound Academy with freezing cold winds coming off the lake and hitting me for six hours straight.

A brief visit inside the venue didn’t help much, as not only was it an awful band playing, but I was greeted with my friend Sierra. I’d gotten her a pair of free tickets to see the show and she’d brought….her new fiancee. I was happy for her, but it was still a bit of a shock, and after a short chat I went right back out into the subzero winds.

And this, my friends, was a capital-M Moment in my life. Because I remember standing there, battered and broken after a long year of failures, thinking that things would get better soon. That’s haw haw funny because this night would actually end up just the beginning of a horrible year that would eclipse 2013. There would be no relief.

The next day I trudged through wet snow to Dr. Lauren’s office for a therapy session and did a very stupid thing: I didn’t tell her about the night before. It was close to Christmas and I didn’t want to be a downer, so I stayed chipper and we talked about my goals for 2014.

Goals that didn’t include getting incredibly sick right in time for the holidays. The brutal combo of standing outside for six hours and then walking through wet snow gave me a fever – and some really vivid sleep paralysis visions – like never before.

Sniffling, sneezing, and stuffed up, I took to social media to complain loudly about my ailments. Day after day I posted and tweeted about my illness…to nobody. Not one person reached out to ask how I was feeling. In fact, I would not receive one Merry Christmas or Happy New Year. It felt like I was yelling into the void.

Suddenly I felt very small and alone as the calendar turned.