Thursday, April 17, 2014

Welcome to my mid-life crisis

Having finished the first draft of my first steampunk novel, Captain Millicent and the Black Pirate, I'm at a bit of a loss. I usually love editing, but I feel like I'm about to hack into my own child (I don't have children, so this may be a slightly melodramatic and hysterical comparison). So it must be time to write something else in order to postpone the painful inevitable.

I think I'm having a mid-life crisis.

I just arrived back in small-town southern Ontario after living in Whitehorse, Yukon for five months. Why such a short stay? I hated it up there. It was nothing-ville. I felt trapped by grey ice and skinny trees. I wanted to be in awe of the mountains, but found myself ambivalent. I'm a farm girl at heart and a city girl the rest of the time. The capital of Yukon has neither farms nor cities, and the cost of renting an apartment is ridiculous and untenable for anyone making less than $70k per year. The nearest city is basically Vancouver, and you have to fly there.

I'm also a classically-trained mezzo soprano. There weren't any opportunities up there for me; Whitehorse is very much a jazz and folk kind of town. There's nothing wrong with that - but it's not for me. No microphones, thank you.

I wrote my entire first draft up North because there was nothing else to do. So I should be grateful for that, I know. But I'm going to break into a full-out whine-fest right now: moving 6000km from home tore up my carefully cultivated root system, I failed to transplant in my new environment, and now I'm home and my rootlets are all broken. Even after only three months away (since I was home for the holidays), I feel completely disconnected from this place. I'm annoyed by everything, even the people and things I was so excited to come back for. I'm exhausted and anxious and snappy and unappreciative. I'm picking up my car tonight, having invested my last thousand dollars in repairs just to make it road-worthy.

I'm a classic First World Problem sufferer.

I think my expectations were simply too high; because I was so unhappy away from home, I glorified home and made it out to be utopia. I have an overdeveloped sense of querencia:

I assumed the cause of my anxiety and unhappiness was isolation, and being so far from everything I loved and needed. I now suspect geography had nothing to do with it. I haven't been happy or stress-free for a long time, and there are a number of reasons why, starting with losing my beloved greyhound Charlie almost a year ago. I haven't been myself since he died. And thanks to my failure to thrive at working for others, I can't afford to adopt another ex-racer right now. Having a greyhound was an intrinsic part of my identity. My two sisters have children. I had a greyhound. He was my identifier, as in, "Oh, you're the one with the beautiful dog". He was my reason for getting up early and going out for long walks. I miss him every day.

Since leaving home for university twenty years ago, I've moved seventeen times, usually in and around the Greater Hamilton Area. I always have a compelling reason to move - following a job, looking for a job, going back to school, escaping noisy neighbours, needing lower rent, buying a house, selling a house, gaining a partner, losing a partner...I hate moving but I hate stagnation more. But I always circled within a one-hour radius of home, where I grew up and where my parents still live. Moving across the entire continent was one of the worst decisions I made, but I did it to support my partner. Turns out he LOVES Whitehorse and wants to stay, so it's long-distance relationship time.

When we moved I left a retail job I hated, but work is frighteningly scarce in this area and I may have to suck it up and go back just to keep myself out of poverty. It's a charming notion to think I can make money writing, but even if it does happen it's not going to be for quite some time.

The reality is, moving away and then moving back cost me all the money I had saved. Driving across Canada is expensive, living in the North is extremely costly, and flying back and forth takes all the rest.

In the past I was good at "living in the now" and not worrying about where my next pay would come from. Somehow I always managed to scrape it together. I've lost that ability. I'm in my thirties. I can't just keep flaking around and avoiding being a grown-up. It's very nice to dream that I can make a living doing what I love, but the reality is that very few people can do it and right now I don't feel like one of those people. I feel like a failure. I feel like all the decisions I've made in the last twenty years have been colossally wrong.

I'm lost. I'm flailing arou0nd looking for an anchor. I don't have any possessions worth selling, my partner is 6000km away, I can't afford the one thing that I need, and I'm feeling old. I live in my parents' house, feeling like an intruder and a mooch. I avoid going out because I'm afraid as soon as I talk to someone on the street I'll start crying just because I can't seem to stop it. Even the crappiest job here is fought over by the desperate unemployed, like a bone tossed to a pack of strays, and I don't have the energy or desire to give it my all.

Maybe tomorrow I won't feel like this. It's Good Friday, and I'll be singing heavenly music at a beautiful church. And getting paid for it. So that's already an improvement over sitting here crying about my life.

And the sun is shining, birds are singing and the snow is gone. I remind myself to be grateful. But some days it's just not easy.

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