I spent the first hour of 2017 cleaning my dog’s projectile diarrhea off the wall, which basically set the tone for the entire year because 2017 ended up being my annus horribilis.
(cue Beavis and Butthead laugh)
January 3rd was rainy but fairly warm, the perfect kind of evening to sneak into work to use the button machine to make some bootleg Honest Ed merchandise for Selene. I gave those buttons to her two days later in my car while dropping her off at her house after a nice evening out.
That January 5th night was the first time a girl ever kissed me. It was on the cheek, but it was enough to leave me speechless. And instead of asking Selene out on a proper date, I choked and mumbled something about hanging out again.
You would think that finally getting my first kiss would effectively render the night a perfect 5/5. Sitting outside the local Metro in my car an hour later, I stared straight ahead at the dilapidated pine tree I’d walked by for well over a decade and knew that it was over. This would be the first night Selene would not text me good night, and deep in my heart of hearts I knew I’d blown my chance.
A few days later I cobbled together some semblance of a date idea, but seconds before I pitched it over text, Selene sent a message asking for space.
Even though I’d steeled myself for this, I spent two weeks despondent and listless, trying to fill the emptiness with greasy vegan food from Doomies in Parkdale. Midday Host joined me on one occasion, Keira on the other. I told neither about Selene, opting to feign joy while eating my non-animal based animal fries. Midday Host told me that members of Billy Talent and The Sheepdogs had both enjoyed our Christmas video before it was axed off the Edge’s social channels. That was cool.
Keira told me she was now single. That…was an opportunity I purposefully did not pursue, both because I was still smitten with Selene, but also because I knew Keira would be leaving the country for school abroad in six months, and that would just not work.
I met with Selene on her campus on the 17th, and under a gloomy sky she explained to me why she had wanted space. We then watched an episode of Goosebumps and everything got better. We talked and made plans for that weekend and she texted me afterwards and all was fine. I was happy
January 17th, 2017 would be the last 5/5 day for almost three years.
After a long day working a boating convention on the 21st I changed into some nicer clothes I’d packed at work, but as I got my hair ready in the washroom I got a text from Selene saying that she’d be late and I should just go home. I did the dumb thing and went home. No YOLO risk, I just gave up.
Things between Selene and me only degraded from that point onward. For nearly three long months I went through a protracted and incredibly painful deterioration of that cherished connection, alternating between being overjoyed one day only to be gutted the next. It was those sporadic glimmers of hope that I used to stoke the flames during the nights things looked lost, and I purposely let this continue because I didn’t want the light to go out permanently. I think the worst part about it was the drawn out ambiguity, something that in hindsight was entirely my fault.
Even with my ultra 10x elephant memory, I couldn’t tell you the exact day I sat on the train looking at a piece of strangely optimistic graffiti that reassured me “it will all get better”. I can tell you that it would not get better.
Before I unload this next tranche of miserable events, let’s quickly go over the few nice things that happened in this time period.
- I went to Medieval Times with Midday Host
- I shot a sketch video with Keira that I really enjoyed
- I saw an incredible Billy Talent concert that featured a secret set from Alexisonfire
Okay, now the bad things.
I plunged headfirst back into debt as my car yet again needed some sort of repair that the mechanic insisted it needed. I also needed repair, in my mouth. My jaw got infected with a double abscess and I had three major procedures done on it.
It could have been easily paid off if I’d gotten that dream job that had been lined up for me, but unfortunately those dental benefits did not go to me. The dozens of my coworkers who were rooting for me and told me that I was virtually guaranteed to get the gig did not have a say in the final decision. That was left up to a petty, resentful, and poorly informed executive on the west coast who stole the ideas I presented during my interview and used some straight up House of Cards type tricks to give the job to someone who had been working at the station for three months.
Rogers shut down, and my final link to the TV industry was severed. I’d only been doing occasional freelance editing on sports reels for the past year and a half, but I had kept hoping some on-air opportunity would come up.
Speaking of which, one did come up at Global TV. It also did not pan out.
I ended up taking a menial assembly job at an antenna factory to pay the bills, completely disillusioned with life.
This was around the same time I found out Selene had definitively moved on. Plus I had to work a Bastille concert that night, so life was really sticking it to me.
The beginning of April was bootstrap time. I spent the next four months applying to hundreds of jobs, heading to interviews every other day and hearing the familiar refrain of “this doesn’t seem like the job you want”. Well if I applied to it I clearly want it.
So I was paying to get to all these places and losing money by taking shifts off to go to these interviews. Not a great place to be in financially as I was still paying off my dental expenses and car repair bill. I was hit with a mild bout of pneumonia at the end of April as well, forcing me to go to some interviews in less-than-pristine condition.
The rejection letters began to come faster and faster, in almost vindictive fashion. I actually received one within minutes of applying to a job, and in a moment of hot-blooded temper I replied with a passive-aggressive email inquiring why I “wasn’t being considered for the position”. To my surprise I got a response saying that I did not have a specific skill set they were looking for– despite it being clearly listed at the top of my resume. I pointed this out to them at which point correspondence ended.
More uphill battles followed as my creative outlets were shuttered. Midday Host was constantly unavailable and Keira moved away ahead of schedule. As someone who thrives by creating content, I felt completely useless. The fact that I still didn’t have my act together was a massive weight on my shoulders, and now that I wasn’t even contributing anything to the world I was crushed. I then read a graphic novel that hammered the point home even more.
I stayed busy throughout June and July and managed to climb out of debt and pay off the bill collectors, but became increasingly irritated with my duties. Dealing with hundreds of difficult people every day began to wear me down; dealing with one difficult coworker brought out an irritable side to me I’d never had before.
My long existential walks became more frequent and less pleasant. They were no longer “self-discovery journeys” but rather “dark nights of the soul”. In a terrifying twist none resulted in anything good. In past years I’d do my little walk, take some sort of positive action and something would come down the pipe within a week. This year it was silence; again and again and again I’d try to no avail. Remember that episode of The OC when Seth tries to recreate his grand gesture to Summer with the kissing booth but lightning doesn’t strike twice? This was the exact same situation. The magic just wasn’t there anymore.
I was working an event in late July and every single person I spoke to, from my coworkers to the Budweiser Girls to the security guard, just happened to bring up their happy relationships. Later on at Union Station I was scrolling through social media, seeing photos of people’s fulfilled lives and vacations and happy couples, that I disabled all my accounts in a fit of panic.
Three days after that July panic attack I thought I was supposed to head into a period of redemption. The one trump card I’d been holding was Wayhome 2017. The 2016 iteration had been a highlight of not just that year, but my life. Everything about it had been incredible, from the people to the bands to the overall experience.
I was hoping 2017’s would offer a similar experience to make up for everything else this year. It was my shining beacon of hope.
It was awful.
Cold nights, low attendance, low quality acts – these aren’t just my criticisms. It was objectively a failure. It was very much a failure on a personal level as well. Due to some functional changes I had more responsibility this year but less substantially fun. I barely interacted with anyone outside of a small crew, I saw about four bands in total, and I did absolutely nothing I could be proud of. I had neither furthered my career nor had I gotten a chance to unwind. I came back home absolutely miserable. WayHome was meant to be my Hail Mary after all of these trials and I fumbled it. It was on August 1st that I broke down.
I spent the first two weeks of August as a wreck, burnt out and hollow. Life just would not stop with the nasty surprises. Every time I tried something new in an attempt to better my situation, I’d get a rolled-up newspaper to the face browbeating me back into submission. Life kept up with the nickel-and-diming. Only in my case it was more like dollar-and-dollaring. The unexpected expenses just kept piling up and staying afloat was a huge challenge. And while those piled up, the bad news piled on.
One of my closest friends from high school was diagnosed with cancer. Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington – an artist that got me through my teen years- took his own life. Essential personal things kept breaking and I didn’t have money to fix them so I led a continuously diminished life. It was an endless stream of bad news when I was already at the bottom. I’d always had a bit of a pessimistic streak inside me, but this was the first year when sheer, unabashed nihilism took complete control of me.
I began to feel like the bad things would never stop, that the universe was on a roll. That there is no cosmic justice that dictates that any one person has had enough good or bad experiences; the universe is not keeping a tally of how much you’ve been through and meting out appropriate developments based on that. These were very dark days. Even though I met with Selene a few times during the summer I was far too burnt out to fully appreciate her company.
Finally, something good happened.
Halfway through August I was standing on a beach with my ailing dog when I got a call. The gears groaned and shuddered forward. I got a promotion at work and things slowly – very slowly – began to get back on track. I ditched the antenna factory immediately. I finally had some stable ground under my feet.
That year when I had to work the annual Blue Rodeo show at the Molson Amphitheatre, I didn’t take the long detour around like I had in 2013. I went up to the gate manager and told them I was going to cut through the fairgrounds to get to work. And I did. My confidence had begun to return once again.
That September I began working at GNR640, the company’s AM talk radio station, where I was welcomed with open arms. I began learning new things and my brain once again started to flourish. I met all sorts of interesting new people who would become excellent colleagues.
There was Chloe, another Popular Hip Girl who was essentially a blonde version of Keira. Alberto, the DJ who was the only person I’ve ever met that knows every single band I know.
There was SciFi and Christine, both of whom I’d seen in the halls over the past few years but had never really talked to. I felt there was some sort of reticence on their part to talk to me initially, but both would end up being some of my favorite coworkers.
One of the hosts at GNR640 appreciated my comedic sensibilities and became a mentor to me. Her content producer also a solid human being who is basically my role model.
I developed a reputation for being the most well-dressed at the station thanks to my newfound appreciation for nice clothes, which I could now afford thanks to my new gig. I was making impression after impression.
Life had a few tricks left for me though, including a physical toll from all the worries I’d amassed. A residual middle finger, if you will.
As you can imagine, my now fifteen-year battle with an anxiety disorder got a lot harder. Exacerbated by all the aforementioned stressors, it started to once again manifest itself in severe physical symptoms in October. The chronic chest pains became unbearable. Sometimes I wouldn’t be able to think at all. I was coughing up blood for a week.
After eight years of avoiding them, I finally caved in and started regularly taking prescription meds. I’d tried them once before in 2009 but the side effects had been far too strong to continue using. This new brand wasn’t as potent, but it did dull my senses a little.
The last few months of 2017 seem to have been beamed in from some alternate universe, with nothing but fun adventures.
- I was escorted by a security team out of the ACC during A Perfect Circle’s show for bringing a camera to do my job.
- I produced my very first talk show
- I had lunch with my first Edge boss and friend Hailey who was very proud of me for getting through the year’s trials
- While sleeping in the lounge at work on Halloween I was scared awake by a very nosy cleaning lady
- After disappearing for over a year, my friend Sierra got in touch with me again
Juggling the three jobs I had with the company now wasn’t an easy task, but after the year I’d had I was more than willing to take on any and every assignment given to me. I was at the Mandarin buffet of life and piled every opportunity I saw onto my plate.
One such opportunity was the reality TV show that Midday Host decided to host in the neighbouring TV studio and also decided to have me edit. It was a surprisingly complex affair, and even moving and labeling the hundreds of video and audio files was a monumental effort in itself. In return, Midday Host allowed me to start talking on air more and more often and I became her de facto sidekick. I worked alongside one of the contestants on the show who had been picked as the winner, a girl named Abby whose sense of humour was probably the closest anyone had ever come to my own in terms of style.
Working for all three stations became the standard rather than the exception, and most days grew to 12+ hours in length. Again, something I was totally about. I did not mind in the least bit finishing a production shift at GNR640, then heading to Scotiabank Theatre to introduce the premiere of Thor: Ragnarok, then walking across the city to the Edge’s awards show. I’d invited Selene to attend and even though I had an early start the following morning, I did not want to miss a chance to spend time with her now that I had a reinvigorated spirit. It was a very fun night that barely felt like work as Selene and I sardonically commented on every band that performed. Also Midday Host got a little tipsy and ended up giving me my second-ever kiss on the cheek.
Selene and I met once more in December, again on her campus and again I got one of those wonderful “college life” type nights. It was right on the cusp of an intensely busy period that would have me producing a talk show for a full week while working on Midday Host’s reality show videos, so I wanted to savour the hours with her. It would be a while before I’d have the time to meet with her again; I had no idea exactly how long that while would be.
The Q107 Christmas event wasn’t quite as dramatic as 2016’s, but a broken tank of coffee led to some severe spillage that I had to clean up twice as it was early in the morning before the cleaning crew had even arrived at the building. All in all, pretty hilarious.
The last week of the year had me beginning a month long sojourn into overnight shifts, the first of which was a spooky Christmas Eve listening to radio dramas from the 1940s for eight hours.
To cap the year off, I worked a massive New Year’s Eve party at the Enercare Centre. Other than the expected mob of drunkards it was a pretty great time and a solid exit to a year I had to fight tooth and claw to get out of. Standing there watching the countdown happen as a tribute band played at that gala, I felt accomplished but queasy. My prescience was reminding me that there was an unavoidable tragedy likely on the way in 2018, and all I could do was hope to live as fully as possible before it hit. It was bittersweet- for the first time in my life I had a concrete plan for the year ahead, but it was founded entirely on outrunning an inevitable pain.