I emerged from 2017 bloodied and on trembling legs, but victorious. Life scowled, angry that I’d survived all the daggers it had buried into in my side. That scowl slowly curled into a malicious smile as it realized exactly what it could do to win, and stepped back into a dark corner, as if in acquiescence.
Perhaps it’s a bad omen for the year to begin with a New Year’s Eve party. 2010 had also started with one, and we all remember how that year went. I was very conflicted when I got home at 4:00am that night, unsure if I should feel optimistic or anxious about the coming twelve months.
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”.
It was sometime in the early days of the year that Selene decided that it would be better for us to part ways, something that would have torn me in two if it had happened the year before. As I read her message though, it registered only as a mild impact. I accepted her decision as a wise course of action and blocked her on all my social media channels, an otherwise shocking turn of events rendered dull by the last of my anxiety medication and nonstop overnight work.
I returned to the land of the living in February and things settled into a steady routine, a new status quo that I was pretty pleased with. I became Midday Host’s permanent on-air sidekick during her show, after which I’d head across the hall for a shift at GNR640. I continued to meet interesting new coworkers, all of whom were incredibly supportive of my videos. Sierra, who I’d reconnected with in the final months of 2017, messaged me frequently, happy that I’d found stable ground.
No extraordinary events, no earthshaking announcements. Everything was quiet and slow and that was alright with me. There were some minor cool moments sprinkled in there though. I saw Robert Plant perform from the front row of a small venue, and Rod Stewart in a much larger venue. I’m not some huge fan of either of those guys, but seeing living legends like them was fun.
There was a day that seems like a blurred dream when I headed downtown to cover a Noel Gallagher show, but arrived a few hours early and decided to indulge in nostalgia. I spent that time revisiting the buildings 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.
At work I was given increasingly more significant jobs to do, including an external request to voice a windshield wiper commercial. My life became consumed entirely by work, and when I say entirely I mean entirely.
I was basically on the clock 24/7 due to that reality show project I’d been commissioned to do by Midday Host, 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. So what did I use to remedy this? More work. After years of precarious employment I became legitimately obsessed with having work to do and addicted to assigned labour. I ain’t kidding.
The middle of February brought with it a sinister hint of things to come. Midday Host and I did another music medley video, hoping to repeat the success of the Christmas 2016 montage. This time she was underwhelmed with the final product and refused to promote it, telling me that she’d grown sick of making “embarrassing videos that people judged her for”. She said she didn’t want to make them anymore, dealing a huge blow to my confidence. I felt the Sword of Damocles loom above my head.
Without new videos to make, I spent every second of March working on the reality show for Midday Host, finally finishing the three full-length episodes on April 1st and sending her the links. My work was complete and I could move on, leaving the project in her hands to promote. Still stinging from her comments about my videos, I stopped being her on-air sidekick and opted to focus on GNR640.
Two major events in April tested my technical prowess there, the first being an emergency broadcast due to an ice storm. I essentially had to create my own rules as various hosts and reporters ran in and out of the studio with breaking weather news. Later that month I also got to produce the Edge’s morning show for a week without any training.
By May I had become a dependable fixture at GNR640, able to produce any show both technically and structurally. Most of the month was dedicated to content producing my mentor’s show, and I’d grown so comfortable with it that I legitimately had fun while proving my guest wrangling skills. My birthday was again a bland non-event, but watching one of Guy Fieri’s many programs on the TV in the GNR640 studio I exhaled deeply. I was light years away from the soul-crushing events of 2017, and bland non-event suited me fine.
I checked in with Midday Host, wondering why after two months I hadn’t heard anything about the reality show project. She said she hadn’t watched the videos yet. Time passed, she said she watched them but was too busy to promote it. I told her I could do it, and she agreed. I booked a screening room for a premiere only to be told that she wouldn’t be able to make it.
Three rescheduled premieres later, she confirmed a day and I finally got to send out an official invite to all my coworkers. I grew excited thinking that I was about to relive the Dairyman theatre premiere of 2009. I was going to impress all the new friends I’d made in the past few months, not to mention management. I tested the facilities and equipment, prepared the files for screening, bought mountains of snacks, and was generally elated that I’d have at least one grand moment in the sun in 2018.
Life then emerged from the shadows and struck me once across the face.
It was the night before the premiere, at midnight, that Midday Host went behind my back and cancelled the screening indefinitely. For absolutely no reason. I was humiliated beyond belief.
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. No money, no recognition, no glory. In fact, the very opposite happened. Midday Host completely stopped talking to me, never again even acknowledging the existence of the reality show.
There was another visit to the hospital, and it was then that the year really started to collapse. Life struck me a second time.
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. I had been counting on this premiere to be the one spot of genuine joy before having to face the inevitable. But in the same week that everything fell apart in regards to the video project, I was also hit with that very bombshell that I’d been anticipating for years. After a record-setting 22-hour workday in late May I learned that my dog had entered the final stages of her illness and had very little time left. I could no longer even take her on the walks that had so many times helped me weather the storms in my life. Yet another crutch was ripped out from under me, leaving me to use work as my only distraction.
I somehow worked straight through June, increasing my hours like a crazed locomotive. At the end of every shift and concert I feared that I’d get the news I was dreading, dizzy with relief when it didn’t come.
I worked a lot of big, eventful shows, but didn’t really care. I was almost entirely disengaged from everything. The one, single smart thing I did was reconnect with Selene after a vivid dream of speaking with her. I couldn’t bear the thought of having my channels of communication closed off from her, so I unblocked her on social media if only to show that I would always welcome her back into my life. I had no interest in holding any sort of grudge against anyone anymore. I called her for a brief talk, and mercifully she forgave me, even meeting with me for some of the very few nice moments of 2018, albeit tinged with the spectre of dissociation.
It was largely through her 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 the studio have become cherished memories.
On July 25th, I ran out of time, and Life landed the finishing blow.
I watched my dog leave us that morning.
Then I went to work.
I worked for three weeks straight after that without one day off, many of those days from early morning to late at night. It was the dumbest thing I could have ever possibly done and undoubtedly affected me forever. I left myself with no time to process the grief, letting it sear itself into my bones instead.
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 medications 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 entirely stopped using exclamation points in every text conversation.
In early September my sister 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. 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.
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.
The last few months of 2018 were very small, and very quiet. I slowly pieced myself back together, both figuratively and literally. My arm got better and so did my mind. I met with Selene a few more wonderful times, again getting to wander around her campus and finally visiting Kensington Market- yet another milestone I missed in my university years.
I picked up yet another duty at work- editing footage of bands that would play the Edge’s studio every week. All that work on the reality show earlier in the year had paid off in one small way- I’d proved that I was capable of editing professional video.
It paid off in another way as well- Abby, the similarly scorned and jaded winner of the reality show, contacted me and we also met a few times, making some videos and even going to a Creed Bratton concert together in mid-December. Obviously I started developing feelings for her.
And then finally, after nearly a year and a half of working nonstop eagerly to fill the void in my life, I stopped enjoying nonstop work. I needed a break.
But the work kept coming.