Saturday, August 08, 2015

Notes from a year named Kindness: August 8

This week marked my fourth year anniversary of coming to Toronto. I spent three and a half years of my mid-twenties living in Los Angeles, and then a little over three back in my hometown in British Columbia, so this is now the longest I've lived in the same city as an adult.

Earlier this year, a couple friends moved away; one was heading back to BC after 10 years in the Big Smoke. So I was thinking about leaving. I had another year on my lease, but maybe it would be time to try living in Vancouver after that. It was closer to my family, and I'd made a valiant effort to do what I came to Toronto for. Arguably, the thing that had brought me here had run its course. (The entire time I worked for Indigo, I was always thinking about leaving. Mostly because I confused what living in Toronto meant with what working for Indigo meant. They weren't yet separate states in my head.)

Four years ago today I was jet-lagged and starting my first day of work as someone with social media officially in her job title. I had this plan to stay there for a year and learn everything I could then I'd get a job with a Canadian publisher. (Which was ambitious, because the job contact I had at the time was only for six months.) I had no idea how anyone got a job working for a publisher, but I knew I needed to be in Toronto to do it.

Then life went the way it went. Earlier this year, I realized that I didn't want to work in publishing anymore. (I want to publish eventually—when the writing is ready and I find the right agent and editor.) Publishing wasn't going to give me what I wanted. More importantly, it wasn't going to give me what I needed. The work I would end up doing for a publisher if I was hired in marketing, I'd already done via my last job.

I left that job to move forward with my life—ok, I left so I could have a life. But when I went to apply for jobs, I was still looking at ones I wanted four years ago. I'm more than qualified now to work in any publisher's marketing department, and they'd be lucky to have me. I could do those jobs easily. Eyes closed. Half asleep. But there's no future in living like that. That's not forward.

A year ago I was really struggling with this. With what you do when you don't want something anymore but it feels like everyone keeps telling you to feel grateful for having it. I guess it's like any other time someone tells you that you have to care about something just because they do. It's not actually how it works, but that's harder to see when you're standing in the middle of it.

This year, I struggled with where walking away left me. It's more difficult to be around some people, because there are certain kinds of conversations that it's not yet healthy for me to be a part of. Which makes it harder to find things to talk about with those people, because the old standbys don't work anymore. And I'm not always able to make the effort to find something new to discuss. (I'm hopeful that there will be a time when talking about Whatever Publishing Did This Week won't wind me up. It's aggravation I don't want to carry anymore.)

It's a challenge to answer "what next?" when you left behind the dream job. I've never been part of a community as an amateur and then gone pro and then stopped being pro and had to decide what kind of interaction I wanted to continue to have with that community. It's not a story that we tell very often, and that lack has influenced all the fiction I've written this year. It feels like I spent a lot of time drawing maps other people shouldn't follow.

But what I finally fully realized is that it's a hell of an endeavour to uproot your adult life and regrow a support network in a new city. It's more work than I have left in me to keep doing every three to four years. And I like Toronto. I enjoy living here.

So forward. Forward looks like I stopped applying for publishing jobs and started applying for social media roles outside of that industry instead. Because I'm not who I was four years. I like myself better, and I want more from life.

Not being who I was four years ago was why I didn't stay at a job I accepted back in late April. It would have been much easier if I had, because it was income. It was a short-term contract, so I could've toughed it out... but I spent a year toughing out a job I didn't want to do anymore because it was income. What I learned from doing that is it's never a good idea to weather a shitstorm of someone else's making if you don't have to.

So I've been second round searching for about three months now. I'm selective about what I apply for, and my application to interview ratio is high enough that I know my resume is impressive. I write cover letters that sell me to prospective employers. It's going to be a matter of finding the right place, but for the first time in over a year I feel like I will.

Also, I applied to the Toronto Arts Council and the Ontario Arts Council for literary grants in June, which is something that I've been talking about doing since last fall. They're not options I can depend on at this point—I need a full time job—but they are a significant step forward with professional writing for me to take.

And I suppose that's the way we make those maps. Day by week by year. Forward. Whether anyone else should want to follow or not.

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