Saturday, December 31, 2016

Notes from a Year Named Thrive: Epilogue

Thrive was a word picked in a dark, cold time—something to give me the strength to keep pushing forward. To throw myself, perhaps defiantly, into the future. At the end of 2015, I was scared and exhausted and I didn't know what came next. The year had not been easy and while it was full of growth and learning, it had also not gone the way I expected.

I can't stay where I am, I thought on Dec 31. It's not good for me. And thrive was not just surviving, it was doing well even when surrounded by harsh conditions. It was doing what I had to do to do well. 

None of us have the delusion that 2016 was a year without hardship, but here are some of the things I accomplished:

1. I finished a draft, and RJ Anderson provided great feedback that I implemented to revise the draft. This is the closest I've been in years to being genuinely ready to return to publishing. While that's an ongoing thing I have to decide how I feel about, it's good to have the option again. Kate and others offered support and encouragement—I couldn't make attending a workshop or a retreat work, but they let me know the options existed.

2. I spent more time with my friends. Michele and I went to the Symphony twice. Bianca and Jason joyfully spoiled me forever with an introduction to the Cineplex VIP Theatres. Jenn was always ready to offer a place for the weekend or stop by for crepes. I still got to see Nat, Trev, Kate, Tina, and Carol. Angel and Ardo invited me to the Read Harder Book Club they host for Book Riot, which helped me reconnect with the book blogger community in new ways.

3. I got to see really great things happen for people I know—marriage, New York Times Bestseller lists, Hamilton, return to school, new jobs and ventures. Friends pushed forward right alongside me as our lives took us all in different directions.

4. I got a job. It took me to Florida for the first time ever, and reminded me of how much I miss palm trees. It took me to Vancouver for the first time in years, and I finally got to spend an afternoon in Stanley Park.

5. To thrive you have to have a good foundation of support, because someone or something had to teach you to believe you can keep going, be ok, and do better. This is the year I really came to appreciate the love and faith that my family has always provided me (even when imperfect) as I witnessed the lasting damage growing up without it can do.

6. I started the year with an Oh Wonder concert, added in BLAJK & Banners!, and saw Bastille play their second album all the way through live in October.

7. I moved to The Junction—with a lot of help from Trev. Getting to stay in the nighbourhood kept me close to friends and the part of Toronto that I love. Living on my own isn't always easy, but it has been the right thing for me at this time. Being able to make my own choices and feel agency again also significantly contributed to me doing better this year.

8. Getting to embrace loving pop culture again. Whether it was livetweeting the Robbie Amell, Jason Isaacs, Hayley Atwell, and FXV Flash panels or high-fiving a pikachu in Vancouver. I was in the photo pit for the FantasticBeastsTO event, and got to confirm that Eddie Redmayne's face is that fancy IRL. These are not things I would have expected to be part of my life, and it's really mattered to be around people with enthusiasm.

9. I started writing something new. I fought it for most of the year, but I found where it begins and I trust I will follow it through to its end.

10. Started thinking about what comes next. Thinking about the future and having things to look forward to, goals and rewards, is so vital. My world was shook to its foundations earlier this year, and many of the plans I had made ceased to be viable. I didn't want to stop, but I realized I was going and going and going... without really understanding where that would put me. I had let someone else have too much control over my life and my decisions—because it felt safest for us all to let that person have control.

I suppose what I learned from a year named Thrive is the importance of self-determination. We have to understand that we're all making choices, good and bad, and try to do the best we can. We have to want to keep making choices, keep finding solutions, and keep accomplishing goals.

When something breaks or leaves or ends, we have to find things and ways to keep us going. Hold them close. Let them illuminate the path, step by step, towards where we go next. All the while hoping for bigger and better.

I used to know someone who thought it was beneficial to ask what was the worst that could happen. It was meant to help get over the free of doing things, and while it does work to some extent, it's never motivated me to focus on the worst. It motivates me to strive for the best.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Notes from a year named Thrive: Holidays

We did our last show of the year yesterday, a one-day holiday event focused on exhibitors and shopping. It was the one that the team felt was the least amount of work, and the one that I felt most comfortable doing.

There's an ebb and flow, a rhythm, to social media for most businesses that isn't the same as the rhythm of this job. It's objectively neither good nor bad—it's just different. Holiday being the busy go-go-go time is something that still feels most natural to me.

I love the holidays. I love peppermint mochas, and Christmas trees lit with lights visible in windows, and the wonder that's imbued when it snows lightly in December. I love the quest for finding a friend's gift within the challenges of a small budget and where I happen to be shopping. I love that many people feel buoyant and prone to being a little bit gentler to strangers.

People both suck the most and the least during December. It's an annual paradox, and I find it as traditionally comforting as carols piped in to most public spaces. It's not everyone's experience of December, but it's mine—and having had to go without it, I know how important it is to my well-being.

I decorate for the holidays every year. Something simple and contained, because until now I lived in shared spaces and not everyone I shared those spaces with had a positive feeling about the holidays. This year I had planned to buy a tree—a small tree. When December arrived and I still hadn't bought the tree, I started having concerns about it for the two weeks that I'm not here. So earlier this week I bought a wreath of fir boughs, after having to walk four blocks to find a cash machine, and then walked home for twenty-five minutes carrying it. (So it's a good thing I didn't get a tree.)

My year first in Toronto, I went to Crate & Barrel (yes, I'm aware of my middle class aspirations) and I bought a not-obviously-Christmas garland. I've hung it various places: across a railing, over a bookshelf, and over the same bookshelf in a different apartment. This year I wrapped it around the wreath, stepped back, and thought oh, that's where that was meant to go.

It felt amazing to, for the first time in years, use something the way it was intended to be used because I have the financial ability and personal agency over my living space. Just a moment, a pause, in the riot and political turmoil of this year to feel accomplished. To feel like I was in the right place and again capable of continuing to find that right space.

When I name a year, I learn something about the word. Last year I learned that kindness is something no one is entitled to—it's a choice that I make. No one can demand it from me, and I can't expect it to be automatically given by others. This year, I am learning that to thrive is to carve out a good space in a bad environment. To find the moments of calm that create stability when the world feels relentlessly chaotic. Success at either of those things varies, but they are good things to learn.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Spindle by E.K. Johnston

It's December; the nights are a little longer and a little colder, and if you're feeling a little weary of 2016 then E.K. Johnston's Spindle will be a literary balm for your soul. It's written in a lush style that evokes its fantastical world without getting in the way of its story. It's tight and well-paced—you could read it in a day if you choose.

The simplest summary of Spindle, a companion novel to last year's A Thousand Nights, is that it's a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. But most of us western readers have a notion of what a retelling of Sleeping Beauty would be like, and Spindle is so much more than that. This is a tale containing a princess who steals herself, a hunt for magical creatures, and a roadtrip done completely by walking.

Because, in truth, Spindle is a book about consequences that fearlessly valourizes kindness. It has more in common with Katherine Addison's The Goblin Emperor and Tessa Gratton's The Apple Throne than Disney's Sleeping Beauty.

You don't have to have read A Thousand Nights—what you need to know is sprinkled through Spindle to make it completely accessible to new readers. You could even read Spindle first and then read A Thousand Nights after. They're both contained stories on their own, but Spindle is the consequences of A Thousand Nights.

In A Thousand Nights we met creatures incapable of creating, who fed on those who could. Craft—the act of creating—has power in these books. Spindle does explore the power of craft being turned against creators, but adds in another layer of looking at the danger of not creating when you have the power to. Spindle believes the consequences of craft—regardless of what they might be—are worth it. Because Spindle believes when we are creating—actively telling our own story—we are most alive.

Imagine, for a moment, that any act of creation primed you to become the ideal vessel for a malevolent creature. Be it cooking a meal or braiding your hair or sewing a stitch. Any making would eventually unmake you.

Imagine being so capable, your capacity to learn so expansive, that you could master skills immediately. A superpower of sorts, but one that existed to speed up the transition of you losing yourself.

Imagine being cursed with the knowledge that your entire life was intended to prepare you to be a tool for someone else.

What that sounds like is the bleakest book you will read this year—and in Johnston's hands it becomes a story of four people who love each other so much. Who support each other and hope and try. Who bravely live in the shadow of consequences.

It's wonderful to have a story with an asexual narrator, and it's wonderful to see a brave, intelligent, powerful young woman of colour taking control of her own narrative. But in this garbagefire of year, a book that tells you it's worth it to try and hope and fight and do what little things you can to hold out against the bleakness is more than wonderful—it's vital.

Like any fairytale, no one in this book who is kind goes unrewarded for it; no one who is unnecessarily cruel goes unpunished. Maybe that errs on the side of hopeful, but it's the season of hope. Pick Spindle up, settled down, and give yourself a little vacation from the world. You'll come back better from it.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

I have a theory about J.K. Rowling's stories: They have a very low opinion of adulthood. This theory is based on reading almost everything she's written (I couldn't get through The Casual Vacancy) and what interests the texts—the struggle of good people, or people who would like to be good, against a bleak world or prophesied doom—is not necessarily what interests me. I find the constant reminder of what an awful place the world is and how it's full of assholes is just not why I spend the money it costs to see a movie. I got Twitter for that.

However, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them appeared to be the opportunity for Rowling to return to a balance of the wonder of her worlds with these darker themes she likes to dive into in her adult fiction. Also it's the first movie, so I thought she'd have to build to the really awful stuff and it probably wouldn't get appalling until the second movie.

I did get part of what I wanted from this film. Newt Scamander is one of the kindest male protagonists in a fantasy movie this year. Newt—arguably on the spectrum—relates much easier to the magical creatures of the world than the magical people. Which I can't really blame him for, because the Wizarding world seems to be full of assholes. (Except for maybe three people and one of them is Newt.)

He is not your typical famous wizard hero character. He is smart, compassionate, and introverted. Traits that are usually associated with Rowling's female characters. He doesn't fit the mould, and as a result is treated like an outcast or a failure. At one point there's an excitement to see him until everyone realizes he's the OTHER Scamander—the famous war hero's little brother. That probably explains why Newt, who is incredibly accomplished, isn't constantly saying how great he is.

That was refreshing. Tina, the main female protagonist, is the auror, the one with overt career-minded ambition, and the one who is socially adept. The one who aims high, and keeps loudly pushing to achieve more.

So there is some awareness, at the script level of some gender things and a little play with the conventional idea of who is a heroic figure. That's successful.

Honestly, everything Newt-and-his-magical-creatures-centric about this film works. From his nervously going through customs to haphazardly chasing escaped creatures through NYC landmarks. Right to the climatic part of the film and how he handles the big danger. The way Jacob is drawn into the wizard world, how the group expands to include Tina and her sister Queenie, and what those characters accomplish together is delightful.

Jacob is a great viewpoint character, who rolls with the discovery of the wizarding world in the best way—both the horror and the wonder of it all—like a good companion would. The benefit of not making the main hero also the New To The World character is that Fantastic Beasts has an expert who is not one through extraordinarily circumstances. That Newt achieved his Magizoology knowledge through hard work is believable. Instead of a Chosen One, he is a Competent One.

While Newt has a disinterest in the human world around him, it's not because of arrogance. He just doesn't like people. (And again—Hogwarts is full of assholes, so who can blame him.) This also, by the end of the film, resolves itself and he begins taking an interest in the world of people. Which is a lovely character arc to give someone. Usually this falls down due to the character who is learning to take an interest in the people around them being so unlikeable. Newt manages to be self-absorbed without it being off-putting, and the great lengths the movie goes to show the way he cares for magical creatures and their world is what saves it from being another case of but why would anyone want to hang out with this guy?

Well that's great, the casting is jarring in its lack of realistic diversity—this may not be the whitest movie this year but it's definitely up there—but it's made worse by band-aid attempts to crowbar in visible minorities. The roles that were left to fill are minor/extra characters who oppose or act in antagonistic ways to Newt. So most of the wizards we're meant to see as wrong—or eventually ok people because they realize that they were wrong about Newt—are marginalized people.

Also the only canonically gay character who appears on screen? Is a dark wizard. So non-hetro people are evil manipulators, and all visible minorities are bad people or can only be good people if they acknowledge Newt—who's compassionate, but still the whitest guy—knows best. It's a giant problem. (Arguably there's a reading of Newt being asexual, but I can't find any official confirmation of that or of him being intended to code as autistic.)

Aside from the diversity issues, the actual structure and plotting of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a mess. There is an unsuccessful attempt to manage two story lines—one a wondrous adventure tale of an awkward wizard and his beloved magical Pokemon as he learns to make people-friends, too, and the other a horror movie starring Ezra Miller about what happens when religious cults abuse closeted wizards. Could these have interwoven and balanced each other out? Sure—but they don't.

The story is also hindered by the inclusion of an extraneous newspaper baron, his senator son, and his other son who's supposed to be important for some reason because there's way too much screen-attention given to him. Maybe he's going to become a reoccurring character? I don't know, and I really don't care. It took away from Ezra Miller, who's more talented than all three of those other actors combined.

Basically: When everyone is a main character, movie, no one is the main character. You needed to choose whose story you were telling, because you've got way too much going on.

There were aspects of this movie—the costuming, the creature design—that were so fantastic. There was incredible potential for a good movie. But it gets lost in no one being willing to make the movie tell one cohesive story. I'm not honestly sure if that's a failure of the script or a failure of the director or a failure of not having anyone outside of the usually Harry Potter crew step in to create something that doesn't require additional reading of backstories on Pottermore to decipher what happened.

Would I watch the sequel? No. Major changes in the approach to casting and a tremendous refocusing of the story would have to happen before I'd even consider it. I love magic, and I think Eddie Redmayne is remarkably talented and perfect as Newt, but I don't love his fancy face and magic enough to watch four more disappointing movies.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Notes from a year named Thrive: October

It's the first cold evening of autumn. Two neighbouring houses received their firewood drop offs this morning—that's a thing that still happens in the city. I came home to the smell of woodsmoke lingering and the promise of November on the wind, and it was fall, fall, fall.

Bloggers from Ottawa were up this weekend, so after Read Harder we all went out for a late lunch/early dinner. It's good to see people, who even though they're struggling or they went through difficult times, are climbing up and moving forward and taking care of themselves. In that all sports people think their team is the best, I have an incredible basis for book fandom/readers—it's where I come from and it's always been good to me. But Toronto—and Ottawa as well—has made such an effort to create an in person community around reading and thinking and talking about we read. Every time I go back to it, I am always so grateful it exists.

It's been a lot of people already this weekend, as last night my workplace said goodbye to my manager as she moves on to her next job. It's really amazing opportunity for her, and I'm very happy for her. The next few month are probably going to be challenging, but we're down to the last three shows of the ten we're running this year so there's light at the end of tunnel in the form of a holiday break on its way.

This was also the first Thanksgiving since the year I moved to Toronto that I didn't go to Alberta to visit family. I thought that was going to be much harder than it was—I ended up with friends for dinner on both Sunday and Monday. I didn't have jetlag from travelling, and I was surrounded by people who cared and it was minimal stress—which is what I needed since we're doing two shows this month.

Before Thanksgiving me and a friend went to the Bastille concert at the Danforth Music Hall. It was their only Canadian show on this little tour in smaller venues they're doing, and possibly the first time they played their Wild World album all the way through in front of a live crowd. I've come to love the all ages shows at the Danforth since it switched management, because the younger fans go right down in the front and they sing along with every song and they cheer like it's their absolute favourite as soon as they recognize that first chord. (They recognize the first chord of every song.)

And it's an odd experience to be a crowd trying to determine if we should sway along to the prison ballad about capital punishment, but we sure do love joining in on the chorus.

It's an amazing album live. All the intensity and the underlining anxiety disperses among a crowd who want to sing and move. That's the wizardry of Bastille—their songs are not happy, but they are sincere and when they perform in Toronto it always feels like a celebration. Here's a band so thrilled people showed up and a crowd so thrilled the band is there.

I'm going again in March with another friend to see the stadium tour stop at the ACC, because I came home from the Danforth glowing and so delighted to be alive.

At the beginning of the month, I was with a friend when she quite unexpectedly learned her father had passed away. Not sure that's a thing most of us are ever ready for, regardless of the relationship we have with our parents. It was a difficult thing, but I'm glad I could be there for her.

It's been quite the month, and it's not quite over yet. But it's been quite the year.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Notes from a year named Thrive: September II

I took my first vacation this year to return to BC for the week of my birthday.

I spent the last of 34 walking along a beach that is often underwater, my toes in sandbar pools and the edge of the river, with my family's dog chasing sticks and a ball. It was perfectly quiet aside from us, except for a raven croaking as we climbed the banks to return to the car. A throaty, consistent sound that might have meant home, home; a moment held when I wondered why I had moved away and then passed when I remembered it was because there aren't jobs in my field here.

The family came over to my parents' house for cake, and I went to sleep feeling if not accomplished then at least at peace. Renewed and restored in a way that only time among mountains, and trees, and so much sky manages. (It was good to stay in western Toronto; it was smart to find somewhere more residential with old trees and quiet streets.)

My actual birthday was spent in the car with my mom, heading out of town to go shopping. Shopping I could do in Toronto, but the point was the time with my mom in the car. Mountains and trees passing outside the window as we talked about everything and nothing. We ended up way past where we needed to be, but found a Mink Chocolates and had one of the best mochas ever. Eventually we got back to High Street, which is the closest Sephora and H&M.

The day was also sprinkled with greetings and well-wishes from friends coming via text and social media; it was a good day. A reminder of all the people waiting to celebrate some more when I returned.

I was worried that I hadn't accomplished what I set out to do last year, so I went back and read the post I'd written last year to see what goals I'd set.

"I'm going to get a new job." And I did—it's not the job I thought I'd get, and I'm not sure it's the job that I'll have this time next year, but I got it.

"I'm going to finish a writing project." I didn't—the one I applied for grants for, and completed it even without receiving them. Last week I got feedback from a reader, which validated that there's work to be done but it wasn't a waste of my life to stubbornly keep at the draft.

"I'm going to travel outside of the country before my passport needs renewing." This ended up being to Florida—a state I'd never been to—for work instead of to Tennesee for a writer's retreat, but it happened.

"I'm going to learn to make tortillas and be unstoppable." Making tortillas is actually the only goal I didn't accomplish, but there's nothing stopping me from learning to make them this year.

"I'm going to be brave. And I'm going to grow. And I'm going to keep conserving my damns for myself and the people who deserve them." Well, the people who deserve them didn't turn out to be who I thought they would be and being brave and growing meant having to leave things behind.

Despite the challenges and things not being set up to be easy, I have done well. I have grown. I live in my own place now, on my own, and that is something I'm looking forward to getting the hang of. Most of the time I really enjoy it.

I asked about my birthday, and the Tarot cards gave me the Two of Wands—a card of setting goals. That is traditionally what I do, so here we go. Before I turn 36, I will return to Los Angeles—whether it's for YALLwest or not—and travel to Iceland. I am going to get this manuscript ready for querying and successfully get an agent. I'll finish drafting another writing project.

I'm going to get to know the other people who live in the house that I do. I'm going to spend more time with my friends. I'm going to attend more book clubs and book events. I'm going to live my life and do things despite that I sometimes work long hours and have the weirdest job ever. I'm going to thrive and do magic and make the impossible happen—because it's what I've always done. There's no point stopping now.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Notes from a Year named Thrive: September Part I

Back in August—two weeks before the biggest show our team does—my manager gave her notice. She's gone at the end of November or sooner if she finds another job. And, oh, didn't my heart whisper "not this again." Because I have been in this situation before—hello, 2013—and I had no desire to rinse and repeat.

As even as I thought but if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing changed at all, I realized it didn't. Everything had changed. People I counted on for support last time, whether they realized they were offering it or not, weren't there anymore. I had a warning this was coming and time for the company to do something about it. It wasn't going to fall all on my shoulders. Most importantly, I knew that I could go get another job if that's what I wanted to do.

So we pushed on, and the team finished the show. It went really smoothly, which did not mean it was easy by any means, as it was still the first I'd done. It went smoothly, but it did not go without an emotional cost to me, and I was grateful for the lieu days I had afterwards.

On Friday, I went out to visit a friend who rents a 100 year old farmhouse with a spectacular view of Mulmur county and the most sky in all of Ontario. On Saturday, I got my brain back to the point that I started writing something new. I also smugly thought I'd escaped catching the dreaded conflu, but on the way home on Sunday I started to get sick.

Everything is the worst when I'm sick, and I'm full of fight because I'm trying to keep going when thinking is that much harder. Tuesday night, I had insomnia. I haven't had insomnia in months—and I don't remember the last time I had it so bad that I could not actually sleep. Wednesday morning, I got out of bed and I went to work. The true disappointment of being older is now when I don't get any sleep and then manage to complete a work day, I don't even feel proud of myself. I only feel a weary longing for it to be the last time I have to do it.

In this sleepless haze, my manager informed me that my old specialist job at Indigo had been posted and she had applied for it. Yesterday I looked and it wasn't all of my old job—it was a few of the things I'd done with a bit of new added. But in it was IndigoTeen. The thing I built. The thing I stayed way too long for. The only thing I ever miss. And it took every bit of my magnificent restraint not to apply for it.

Even when sick my anxiety is very specific—it's concerned about being late for things. It's insistent that if anything goes wrong or someone is unhappy then I must have done something to cause it. It's very certain that when I do eventually do the thing that makes someone unhappy, they'll just vanish without ever telling me.

But sometimes, when it feels particularly cruel, it leans in with a low whisper of "you'll never want anything as much as you wanted IndigoTeen." A sword right between my ribs; one side edged with I don't want anything enough to make it happen and the other edged with my best work—my dream job—is done and behind me.

Last night for a moment, maybe an hour, I considered that it might be right. I might not ever want anything as much as I wanted IndigoTeen. There may not be anything that I feel as fulfilled by doing as that. I left almost two years ago, because—among other reasons—there was nothing left at Indigo I wanted to build. And it was never, ever going to be my job to only do IndigoTeen. There was no more onwards for me there. Not in a direction that I honestly wanted to go.

I'm building something at my current job, but it's not what I wanted to be doing. It's what needed doing. So I did it. And I know how millennial it sounds to say I left to do better things than this, but it's how I felt with less than a week remaining in my 34th year and sick enough that something like my old job being posted could lay me low.

Until I remembered that I do have something: I want the time I spent getting a draft ready for other people to be able to read to not be a waste. If that's the only tangible, lasting thing I built these past two years, then I want to do the work to get that manuscript into an editor's hands. Because it may not sell, but I worked too fucking hard on it and me to not even try.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Bastille's Wild World

What a glorious day when we now live in a future with a second Bastille album. That's not hyperbole, as it's been three years since Bad Blood was released and my life was changed forever.

Here's the secret to a Bastille album—because they're so wonderfully dedicated to being whatever genre they want for that song only, the albums grow with each listening. It's usually the second or third time through that it all clicks and you can hear the flow.

The standard version of Wild World is 14 tracks and they're all great. The Complete version—because who are we kidding, there's no way I wasn't going to get every song—is 19 tracks, and the two songs I feel lukewarm about on among those five bonus tracks. Oil on Water and Campus aren't bad songs, but they're not as strong as the others that made the 14 track cut. Way Beyond, Shame, and The Anchor are great and worth getting individually to round out the experience.

Strangely missing from the album is Hangin', which was officially released from the band last year. I had also heard several of the new songs via concert footage or terrible quality audio shares that were floating around Tumblr/YouTube. (Thanks, Stormers!) Snakes has been pre-album release favourite, and I was waiting for it (im)patiently. But at the end of the day, it's Send Them Off! with its badass brass and utterly unapologetic mashup of Othello and The Exorcist that's the one I love the way I love Pompeii.

Wild World is a wild ride through genres, interplay with movie and literary inspirations from Weird Science to a legit true crime tale. It's melancholic joy and gleeful sorrow, political and escapist, a well-crafted balance that was absolutely worth the wait.

I did a lot of living and writing with Bad Blood as a soundtrack, and I am incredibly excited for the stories that will have Wild World as part of theirs.



Sunday, August 14, 2016

Notes from a year named Thrive: August

More than a decade ago, when I moved to LA someone told me the people I met in my first year there were going to be the people who introduced me to the people who would really be my friends. As a young thing, I found this rather distressing because I was having enough trouble making the first round of friends.

Also, as a young thing, I'd misunderstood that no one was telling me to invest the time and energy into making friends for the purpose of them being temporary or stops on the way to someone better. They were talking about growing social circles and how you're widening the net you can cast to find your people. Lasting friendships—not merely acquaintanceships formed because you're new somewhere and having someone to be new-in-town with makes it all less lonely.

I also didn't understand that just because you know someone doesn't mean you're friends. Culturally-speaking, we've been carving away at the idea of acquaintances for years. (Thanks, Facebook.) Having acquaintances was something I also had to learn. To understand they're the people who I know and enjoy interacting with, but I don't routinely seek them out or make a point to check in on them.

The people I stretch for—dig down deep to find those extra damns—are also the people I trust with things that matter. My friends are far less than the number of people I know. It's a longer list than it used to be or I thought it was, because I've got some casual friends that have consented to offer support when it's needed. But people who I want to spend a lot of time with is not a high number.

Earlier this year I had to forcibly subtract from it, because a couple people I felt very close to proved themselves to be dramatically not good for me. In the months since this went down, it hasn't been easy. I really felt the absence and the loss of those pillars of my support network.

Also, I fretted about any potential encounters. What would they say. What would I say. It was inevitable that we were going to cross paths again even in a city the size of Toronto. For example, there was a wedding coming up that we were all going to attend.

Yesterday I went to the ceremony, and when I finally saw these former friends... I realized I had nothing to say to them. I didn't want a reconciliation; I wanted them to stay away from me. I was there to celebrate, and I had no reason to interact with people who no longer had a place in my life.

Thankfully, we were purposefully seated at different ends of the restaurant. When I settled in, I put my efforts into socializing with the people at my table. Eventually my worries faded, and when I happened to see these former friends across the room it felt like nothing more than seeing someone who looks familiar—someone I used to know, but haven't seen in years and maybe can't quite place how I knew them.

I came to Toronto five years ago. One of these former friends was among the first people I knew; she introduced me to a lot of other people. Including the two who got married yesterday. I guess what I was told about LA might apply to any city. Or any life, really.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Notes from a year named Thrive: June Part 2

It has been three-ish weeks since moving in, and things are starting to feel settled. It's still weirdly quiet sometimes, but after working in the office all day, it's nice to come home and have the space to myself. To make a little dinner and watch a couple episodes of Brooklyn 99, then put on headphones and write for an hour or two.

That may not sound exciting, but after months of not being able to get any writing done because either I was slammed at work or there was yet another thing that needed my attention or it was more fun to spend time with the people I was staying with, a little break from excitement is welcome. Or rather getting to rediscover the excitement of words on a screen and the building of worlds.

Work is ticking along. I've had a couple weeks of relative quiet, but focus is shifting to the big show in September. Big as in the-biggest-the-team-I-work-on-handles and also big as within the top three pop culture shows in North America. Big as in a big, slightly impossible task. But I love me some dopamine, and I'm kind of happiest when I'm accomplishing things that are slightly impossible.

That's the key that I've worked out so far this year: I don't thrive on challenge. I thrive on accomplishment, which comes from challenges. But not challenges that keep reoccurring or refusing to ever be accomplished.

It's been not quite six months, but we've done four shows now—two I was on site, two I was remote support—and I'm getting the ground beneath my feet. It is a lot of work spread between not a lot of people, and during show weeks it's a high volume of input and high demand of output. It's intense, and there's not a lot of room for other things during those 3-4 days. But we don't do a show every weekend, and not every show is as demanding as the one on Florida was.

All of that said, it's entirely possible this job will turn out to be a challenge that refuses to ever be accomplished. I'll deal with it should that happen, and in the meantime, I keep remembering that the goal of this is to learn everything I can.

Work aside, this was also the week I started making plans with friends and having them over. Although when they do come over, I mostly want to show off the great neighbourhood that I live in. Every view of adulthood looks different, and for now, I'm happy to have mine be a little peace in a space I enjoy.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven King

With The Raven King, Maggie Stiefvater brings The Raven Cycle to a triumphant close. While imperfect, the concluding volume is magnificent. It completes the story set out to be told in The Raven Boys, twisting and turning and ultimately reaching a satisfying conclusion. Maybe more importantly, it signals that while the quest for Glendower and the matter of Gansey's impending death have been resolved, there is still so much questing and living left for these characters.

Along with Gansey, Blue, Adam, Ronan, and Noah, the reader has sought Glendower throughout the Virginian countryside. We've witnessed terrors and wonders. Victories and defeats. That might be my favourite part: Knowing that we've participated in a moment of these fictional lives; they existed before the first line of The Raven Boys and they'll continue on after the final line of The Raven King.

The Raven Cycle is a passionate, sprawling narrative. It's messy and tangled around its characters, who are in turn messy and tangled around each other. Stiefvater has written one of the best examples of complex friendships, and the inescapable way that people are drawn into each other's lives. The quest for Glendower is the unifying purpose of the group, but it's not what the books are about. Not only is this honest, but it's valuable. Groups come together then shift, evolve, and change in life, and it is refreshing to see them do so in fiction not because of conflict or drama, but because that's how it is. Within this final volume, there is definitely a marked shift of the larger group into smaller ones.

The Raven King is also perhaps the strongest of the series when it comes to the delicate balance of light and dark, illustrating how both exist in all the characters and in life. It's always seemed to me that the first book was about Adam, the second about Ronan, and the third about Blue. The Raven King is Gansey's book—fraught with anxiety and horrors, but so eager to be wondrous and filled with hope. It's a valiant book; one that prizes honesty, compassion, and competence. Things go well in this series because people ask for help, they accept when it's offered, and doing so works magic. While the narrative doesn't pretend that's effortless or without compromise, it constantly seeks and finds a balance.

It is impossible not to discuss Henry Cheng, who is not only vital to The Raven King but who may be the character whom I love the most. I was not expecting that. Henry crashed into Blue Lily, Lily Blue and read like he was mainly a foil for Gansey. That continues somewhat in The Raven King, because mirrors/mirroring/balance are very important to the overreaching narrative, but Henry steps up and becomes his own character. A joyfully terrified new member of the group who can offer Gansey a view of what he could be, and in turn, grows along with him. As a result, I loved every scene with Henry in it. Also, I want to live at Litchfield House, because they throw the best parties.

I would've liked to see Henry introduced much sooner—say book one or two—because it would have made him feel more organically included. That said, I've experienced the kind of friendship that Henry and Gansey have: A sudden and situational one that grows into something bigger and better. Sometimes you just click with someone and neither of you are really certain why. It's not to say that won't take work to continue to be a functioning friendship, but it's also incorrect to believe it never happens.

If you've never had someone appear in your life and offer remarkable kindness when you needed it, then I wish that for you. Because it's a rather splendid magic to have the privilege of experiencing. It's also a rather splendid kind of magic to work for someone else.

But in the interest of honesty, maybe why I like Henry the most is because I needed to hear what he had to say. When I read The Raven King, I needed the reminder that "If you can't be unafraid—then be afraid and happy."

Having anxiety is like living with a nightmare tree in your head. Anxiety constantly wants to tell you everything will break, and no one wants you around, and you will die alone in a hole. (For some of us, it's very specific about the hole and which animals will gnaw on our forgotten bones.) If you let it, it can be there 24/7 to provide a plethora of fears.

"Safe as life" is a loaded statement when you have anxiety. But we don't have to live like that—limited by fear—and it is the constant choice of people in The Raven King not to. This book rewards everyone who chooses to live. This book celebrates the choice to live and grow and go on adventures—whatever one decides qualifies for one as an adventure. Because this book understands living and growing look different to different people. I am so proud of all these fictional people—how they've grown and the places they earned for themselves.

Maybe that's my point. The Raven King is not magnificent because it is perfect, and expertly crafted, and never misses a narrative beat. (That has never been what I've asked The Raven Cycle to be. Because it's not. Each book has pacing issues. Blue Lily, Lily Blue is as close to structurally perfect as they get.) The Raven King falters; it wanders off down dead ends, and it forgets about one of its antagonists for most of the book, and it doesn't tie everything up neatly. But. But. It is magnificent, because I recognize all of its flaws and none of them matter to me as a reader.

Would I like to finally get the answer about the fucking hubcap? YES. I WOULD. But I understand it turned out not to be essential to this story. I really do enjoy knowing there are stories left to tell, and I'll be all right even if they never get told. That's not the expectation or experience of every reader, but it's mine and I'm cool with it.

In the end, The Raven King is about growing bigger, growing out and into the world. It is about being joyfully terrified. About being regular-kind terrified, too, but doing the difficult or just difficult-for-you thing anyway. And everyone who does that, does well. If one wanted to make oneself a king, then that's a way one could go about doing so. It's also a good way to live. Out there in the world. Safe as life.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Notes from a year named Thrive: June

A lot has happened since April. Things got weird, then they got really weird, then they got really fucking weird, and now they might be back to being only weird. Eventually they may even stop being weird, but that's not really up to me.

I have my own place; I moved in last week. It is really expensive to move, and even more expensive to move when one's kitchen supplies consist of a lot of mugs, a stovetop espresso maker, and a tea pot. I had been hoping to gradually gather things before the June 1st move, but that was derailed by shit happening. The amount of IKEA I put on my credit charge in the past few days triggered a fraud alert due to how rarely ever use my credit card for anything more than a meal out or ordering a t-shirt online, and I'd recently been in Florida with work charging things there as well. I had to be like nope, that was me and I'm really aware of it. I was prepared. I knew it was coming, but the knowing and the doing are different.

The important thing is that pending some food/cooking supplies, odds and ends, and the couch that's coming on Wednesday, my place is set up. It's enough for one person and two plants and a lot of synthpop, but it's going to be an adjustment. The neighbourhood is great, the other tenants are super welcoming, and the landlords are remarkably decent. More so because things went stupid and awful during the last month with my previous ones.

It has been fun to have full autonomy over decisions but also terrifying. It all felt a little too big for my skin, and I got overwhelmed by the possibilities. But I'm doing better, and I know this mix of terror and thrill means I'm doing the right thing. I'm doing something that demands I grow. And I'll kill at it, because my ability to endure has been well-tested the past few years.

And, dead welsh kings, was it ever tested by what happened with the smell and moving things into storage and staying elsewhere for the month of May. Right now, today, is a little tough because I've unbraced from three months of crisis coming at me from both personal and professional spaces. I have to learn how to relax again.

I'm really grateful to have friends who have been checking in on me to see how I'm adjusting. It's been illuminating this past month or so to see who reaches out, who shows up, who doesn't ask for anything from me in return. I had a good chat with a friend last month about where our respective energy and effort was going, and she also mentioned that it's remarkable to see which relationships falter when you take a break from being the one who initiates the contact.

There was something I suspected had to happen when I named this year thrive, and I really wanted to be wrong about it. But I wasn't and it happened anyway. Maybe knowing I invoked it helped me recognize when it was happening, but it didn't make it any easier.

Moving out on my own was the right decision, and it became more and more the right decision over the past six weeks. But that doesn't ease the disappointment of something that I had really wanted to work not being a functional long-term situation.

We'll see what happens with work and life and the future. Anything's possible again.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

There's a problem in my current rental unit with ventilation/air flow. It's been intermittent—but tolerable—and back in February became consistent and intolerable. One of the units below us has smokers. I don't smoke. I have smoke allergies. And in a rational world, someone else smoking in another unit wouldn't have impact on my life.

The problem is the smell started coming up out of our first floor closet. Then it was in the kitchen closet and the cupboards on the floor and then it was in the master bedroom's closet and my room—the closet and a corner by my desk. I've got tote bags that didn't reek of smoke in January, and hasn't left my room since, but smells like a chainsmoker borrowed it to carry tobacco.

Through a lot of back and forth—and also some misguided attempts to help without addressing the actual problem from our landlord and property manager—my housemates finally made it clear to the smokers that they need to take it outside until we can sort out why we're getting the smell of their cigarettes in our unit.

It's a month later, and most of what I own still smells like tobacco.

Basically, the smell should've gone away when people stopped smoking inside and it didn't. For a while the smoke smell decreased significantly—thanks neighbours—and in its place was this other weird-ass smell like bad fabreeze. It smells a lot like the odour treatment spray in the garbage rooms in the complex's garage.

My mom's been asking me every time she's phoned since February why I sound like I have a cold, because whatever this is irritates my throat and my eyes. I've spent the past two months congested—but only when I'm home.

#

Last weekend, Saturday night, one of my housemates went to the hospital on a stretcher because the irritant was so strong in our unit that we were all lightheaded and lethargic. She has asthma, which makes all of this a much bigger issue, and in addition to my symptoms was also confused. A knock on my door woke me so that she could let me know—in the anxious-calm voice of someone who is knocking on a sleeping person's door at 2:30 AM—that 911 had been called and Toronto Fire was going to be arriving soon, so we needed to clear our unit.

And in an equally anxious-calm voice, I may have replied: "Ok, I just need to put on my coat."

I remember putting on jeans and my coat and going outside. Thinking how much easier it was to breathe—and how nice the cold air was because it made me feel less groggy. More awake. Everything was very calm, because I was upset but not really feeling anything. I knew I was awake, but it didn't feel real.

The firemen and the hazmat teams walked through the unit and looked at things and had little handheld machines. A couple of the firemen couldn't smell anything, but one of the hazmat team could.

That was good because it's hard to describe a smell to someone in a helpful way when you have to explain the effects it has on you versus the scent because you've been congested for the past month and often don't smell it anymore. You just know it's there because your eyes are burning and your throat hurts and your ears keeping popping.

That's how I spent from 2:30 AM to 3:30 AM on Saturday—trying to describe a smell to firemen and then a hazmat team. Being asked calmly by an EMT if I could locate my friend's wallet and health care card because they were going to take her in the ambulance to Toronto Western. Having the same EMT calmly ask me if I was all right. Then a fireman came up and asked if the smell smelled like disinfectant and I had to explain how I couldn't smell anything but I knew it was there because my eyes were burning. He suggested that if I had somewhere else to go then maybe I might want to do so.

"We have seven weeks left on our lease," I told him. "We're trying to find out what is causing this."

And then he asked every question every one of us has been asking for the past month, and I got frustrated because it wasn't helping—even though he was genuinely trying to help—but at least I was feeling something again.

It is a heart-wrenching expression professionals whose jobs are to help people be safe get on their faces when they realize they aren't going to be able to do a good job for you. Not through any failing of their own, but because the situation shouldn't be happening in the first place.

Then he assured me that the little machine had not found anything toxic it was built to detect and it was safe to stay in the unit.

By 4:00 AM the living room was full of the smell again.

#

Here are things I never want to have to say to anyone again:
"I got woke up and told the firemen were on their way."
"All I needed to know tonight is that if I go to sleep I'll wake back up. That's really helpful."

Here is something I never want to have to say to a friend again:
"Don't apologize. I'd rather lose sleep than be dead."

And a thing I am beyond fucking tired of saying to people over the past two weeks:
"We don't know how it's getting in here. We don't know why it only became a problem recently."

#

Maybe the only victory in all of this is that I started to have an anxiety attack while trying to write a text at 5 AM, because someone needed me to do something and it was 5 AM but it still needed to be done and I didn't have time to be upset because we were in the middle of someone is at the emergency room and there was a hazmat team in my home and no one knows why we're all getting sick.

But I stopped it. I didn't have an anxiety attack. I felt awful and I went to sleep and the world didn't end.

I didn't have an anxiety attack coming home to meet with the property manager and the Fire Inspectors this afternoon. I was real close—but I stopped it from happening. The world didn't end.

#

We've been trying to find out how the irritants are getting into the unit for a month. We're only starting to get answers now. Because everyone is very interested in telling us how unlikely something is or their readings can only tell us what it isn't.

There's an air quality technician coming tomorrow morning—and we're in touch with a host of municipal agencies who are all doing inspections. We may have even found where the smell is coming in—except it only explains half the places, and not why a corner of my room started smelling like cigarettes or how the smell got into the office closet (where it's always been the strongest.)

I passed on going to a concert with a friend tonight, because I can't do it—and she understood. The world didn't end.

The world probably won't end this week. But I really would prefer not to have to spend six-and-a-half more weeks feeling like it might.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Notes from a year named Thrive: April

This week I started looking for the next place to live, and—apparently—one of the potential landlords already creeped me online so let's put a post up here about that.

About that? Don't creep on your potential tenants. And it doesn't make it less awful because you told me you did it. I'm a big fan of consent. (It's kind of my top fave.) If you'd like to know something about me, you can ask me.

Because there are a lot of places to rent in this city when you make as good of a potential tenant as I do. Whether or not I rent from someone will be up to me. (Same as it's up to me whether or not I accept a job someone offers.)

So adventures. There are people in this city who shouldn't have rental properties or be property managers, and it's been a lot of encountering that. Little done with it, and I've barely gotten started.

As for why I am moving: My lease is up at the end of May. The landlords, who used to reside in this townhouse, are ready to move back. That's why we—the current tenants—are moving out. My housemates and I are moving to separate places to facilitate faster saving money for a downpayment when we regroup to buy a place together in a couple years.

That's getting weird reactions from people when I tell them. Usually an OH NOES WHAT HAPPEN, which I occasionally feel reluctant to justify with a response because someone has already decided a terrible thing has befallen me.

This is not the meme of how friends living together destroyed their friendships, and I'd really appreciate if people could stop rushing to check that box as What Must Have Happened. There's no sordid tale, no volcanic eruption that has resulted in people never speaking to each other again.

Temporarily splitting the party is not what I—or we for that matter—wanted. But we couldn't buy a place—too many moving parts—by the time the lease was up, so we had to look at what made the most financial sense.

I'm growing a bit weary of people assuming this is an awful thing that happened to me. It's not. It's a decision I made with my eyes up on the longterm goals, and because I'm ready to have some time on my own before committing to being a homeowner. I'm currently in a place that is made of glue and pressboard—the unit shakes when large trucks drive by outside and we've smoke/smells coming up from other units from gaps where the floor doesn't meet the wall. Nothing was sealed properly, which is part of why I spent the past two winters rendered useless by pressure headaches every time it snowed.

Rushing into buying something and being stuck with a terrible investment is not something any of the group is interested in.

In addition to needing to find a place to live for June 1st, the events company that I work for has three shows in the next 60 days. One of them requires me to be gone to Florida for the last week/end in May. I have a lot on my plate for the next few months.

While I'm going to do my best to get through this without being sharp or crackly or biting anyone, I don't have a lot of extra damns lying around. If you're wondering why you can't reach me or I didn't seem to find your joke funny or I look displeased—it's entirely possible your joke wasn't funny and I am displeased, but I might also be internally freaking out over a number of variables and feeling somewhat overwhelmed in general.

Instead of telling me that things are awful and I should be upset, ask me how you can help.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Natalie C. Parker's Behold the Bones

There's a lot to love about Natalie C. Parker's Behold the Bones, her sophomore novel which acts as a follow-up/companion to her 2014 debut Beware the Wild. Parker's voice work in Behold The Bones is impeccable—it creates not only a distinct personality for its narrator, but a distinct perspective for its setting. (The mythos of Sticks, Louisiana felt well-developed in Beware the Wild, but Behold the Bones deepens and expands it. Meaning: You can read one without the other, but you really ought to read them both.)

Candy Pickens is the only person in Sticks who can't see the Shine—the swamp magic that swims through the town, causing all manner of eerie encounter and collections full of "Clary Tales." Maybe because of this, Candy is already planning how she'll escape Sticks. How she'll leave it behind. But the events of the first book have increased the ghost-sightings to the point where they're commonplace, and she's tired of being the only one among her friends who's never seen a ghost. When a reckless act to remedy that has inescapable consequences, and a family of wealthy, reality TV show ghost-hunters arrives, Candy's thrown into the spotlight in a way she never wanted.

Behold the Bones is, for the most part, a very neatly made story. Everything is there for a reason, which tightly connects in a satisfying climax. The trope inversion is also well-done—pushing further than the first book, taking the expectations of the reader and using them to comment on the genre.

This is a tale about the way we are inexplicably linked to our roots, even when we think we're the odd person out—the only one who doesn't see the place we grew up the same way as everyone else there does. It's also about the mistakes we don't make, and the people we don't let ourselves become.

In that way, Candy is a very relatable character. She's also a fierce, ambitious girl who knows her worth and takes no nonsense. Who makes mistakes—big ones—and learns from them. I appreciated how honest the book was about Candy's thoughtless/unaware treatment of her friends, the real hurt it caused, and how she grew from it. That's a hopeful thing to see—the nuances of privilege and its effects in addition to the broad strokes.

Because this is a book about being linked to a place, the core of it is her relationships with the other people in Sticks—her family, her friends, and the new strangers come to town. It's both a nod to the smalltown Gothic and a modern presentation of growing up in rural America. There is a realness to Sticks through Candy's eyes. As a result, the eerie and otherworldly elements are that much more chilling, because they stand out. They're disruptive, not wondrous. They don't belong—and yet, they're so seamlessly interwoven.

It's but one of the ways that the element of belonging, of know but not-knowing, of rediscovering a place you've lived your whole life, is layered throughout the text. This is also present in the well-paced romance. I enjoyed the quietly stated element of how you can really enjoy your time with someone and care for them a lot, but also understand that they shouldn't stay with you. That the person who you may have more of a future with is someone you thought you knew, but were wrong about.

For me, perhaps, the most exciting thing about Behold the Bones is how it promises that Parker is an author doing inventive, intelligent things. One to watch, and one to eagerly anticipate the next opportunity to read.

Beware the Wild and Behold the Bones are available now— and highly recommended for fans of Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl's Beautiful Creatures series, Sarah Rees Brennan's The Lynburn Legacy, and Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Cycle.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

As we close out February, shortest, longest month of the year, which serves as a reminder that I need to move for the first of June and should have been preparing the funds for that and setting up a new space for at least the past three months. But. I didn't get the new job until last month, so I'm going to have to do it in three.

It'll happen. Because it has to. And I will try in the meantime not to get stuck thinking about how much work and time and money that's going to take. Or how it is going to cost me more to live each month beginning in June. No, I can't get stuck thinking about that because I have things to do in addition to all the things that come with moving.

I am doing better. Work is going better. The past couple weeks have been a little brutal with air pressure and temperature changes creating ideal conditions for tension headaches. I also viciously miss the people I used to work with, which I wasn't expecting... because I thought that was something I'd already worked through last year. But the climb upwards and onwards is in progress.

To help with things, a friend gave me one of her extra notebooks to carry with me into work so I could use any extra minutes before the day started or during lunch to do writing. I used to do this exceptionally well—carve out an hour here or there to quickly write 500 to 1000 words. I also used to write thin and messy and then spend draft after draft trying to turn it into something better.

I know how to do the kind of magic that turns tiny increments of time into the infinities necessary to get things done. It's like any muscle; it just needs to be conditioned back into shape.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Notes from a year named Thrive: February

Earlier this month I started a new job as a social media and customer service coordinator at an events company here in Toronto; the application to interview to offer happened quickly during December—so quickly that I had already accepted the position before most of my friends even knew it had been offered to me.

So yay? Yay.

And oh, I'm so tired. A mostly good kind of tired—but so, so tired.

I had to relearn how to be in an office at a desk all day. How to be around other people again when I was used to working on my own. How to commute on the subway packed like sardines when I had leisurely walked most places. It's been four weeks, and I'm almost at the point where I've found the rhythm to it.

However, I don't have a lot of energy to spare. Sleeping is my new favourite hobby. I know that's not a forever thing, but it's a challenge not to feel like I'm missing out on my friends and acquaintance's lives. I'm aware there are things that have happened that I know nothing about. Whether those are thing-things or just Twitter-thing... well, someone would have to come tell me, because the finding out would take time away from sleeping. Which I enjoy. A lot.

Yesterday, I managed to write again for the first time in weeks. And that helped. I know it's healthy for me to be around people and interacting with others and working towards goals day-to-day. I do better when I'm working—it's the tangible progress, the sociability, and the structure.

It's become apparent in the past couple of weeks how badly I was doing and how drained of resources I was. (In that way where one knows one isn't doing well, but how not-well only gets put into focus when it's no longer the constant emotional state.) There were days over the past few months that believing I would get another job took more capacity than I had. I was really scared life was going to fall apart around me. It wasn't going to, resources were in place to keep that from happening, but anxiety wants us to always expect the worst.

Thus, it's important right now for me to be able to trust that there is a better or onwards or a light at the end of what has felt like a very long tunnel. It's important that I'm careful where I put my attention and how I allot what capacity I have. My emotional well went dry months ago; it's finally beginning to refill. Slower than I'd like, but such is the way of everything.

That and having the flu meant my anxiety was off the charts for the first week or so of work, and it's only now calming down enough that I can feel confident about my abilities again. I had a bad day this past week, when a meeting went a little too much like most meetings went at that corporate job I quit. When people were a little too invested in what they wanted instead of what the customer wanted.

This was compounded by my former employer doing a big restructure in January that affected a lot of my former colleagues. Two of my friends got laid off. And I found out about this a week and a half into my new job. Right around the same time media outlets in Canada laid a bunch of other people off.

So I'm feeling especially grateful about having gainful employment right now—even thought not giving into the anxiety that this workplace will be Just Like my other workplace is something I struggle with. Despite that there is much to enjoy at this new job, and many great people on the team. It's going to take a few months to put that worry to rest. It's not just like the other workplace. That's not to say there aren't things that are similar—but they're not the same.

It's been more than a year since I left, so I thought that I could handle hearing about how things were going for my friends still employed there. The full disclosure. No kid gloves. I was wrong. Talking about that workplace left me exhausted. I came home feeling like I still worked there.

There's a lot of talk about the importance of leaving toxic people and relationships, getting out of jobs that are eating us alive, but it's not a magically happy ever after just because we did. We don't talk about the echoes or the way it lingers. Or how we brace for it to happen everywhere else. The work doesn't stop when we go.

I've been thinking about this a lot, and I don't think it gets easier. I think we get better at it. In the same way I got better at managing my anxiety and recognizing what triggers it. In the same way I know I won't be tired forever. It's just how I feel now. It, too, will pass.