Traction: A Biopolitical Diary Entry

I'm starting this post acknowledging that after 17 posts, I failed at the second set of Advent Policy Briefs. The first Advent Policy Briefs (2021) were my method to ignore the holiday season and put recent writing samples online; the daily writing challenge was a welcomed escape. This year, I decided I wanted to re-attempt the challenge because of how much I like the end product from last year. 

Microbes had other plans :*(

Sad white dog tied outside a No Frills grocery store
While I admit the challenge was *much* harder picking policy posts for a second year, it was on track until getting sick nailed the coffin shut. I wasn't capable of writing something I was proud of with intense head congestion and the rest of my life duties. I was staring at 3-5 bad quality posts and the stress to get those written on top of healing and work.

I put my health first. I released the expectation and guilt I was choking myself with, and I have no regrets. Largely, I let myself off the hook because December was the first month I finally felt like I wasn't in a fuck-up phase of life anymore. I stopped surviving in Toronto and started living in Toronto. 

I'm thankful for the moment of hope and renewal I'm at. It's been a long time coming. The preceding 13 months were 2 distinct tribulations separated by ~1400 km that made up a larger phase of crestfallen subsistence.

I don't consider my time in Saint John as fuck-up time. I was miserable for most of it, but I wasn't a fuck-up. The official start of the season was staying with a triggering and problematic relative in Sussex where my life devolved into lead-weighty depression and steely resolve. 

I suffered a subsistence-guilt complex: a vicious cycle of simultaneous fight and flight. Un(der)employment and insecure housing are boots on throats. This state requires break-neck speed applying for jobs and meticulous planning, so the first available exit is not missed. People do not thrive in these conditions. The brain is much more capable of achievement in calm than agitation.

Leaving New Brunswick was an easy decision and a hard execution. I needed to leave as quickly as possible and permanently. Permanence was the complicating factor.

I didn't have a reason to be anywhere specifically. I just knew I was dying where I was. Trying to be strategic when you're having panic attacks every other day isn't actually valuable. Neither is cruising job boards for every major city in the country then needing to mentally prepare to be able get to one of them when an interview came along. "Anywhere but here" was exhausting.

I wasn't entirely unhappy in Saint John, though. There were 5 months in 2020 that I very liked my life in Saint John. I shall call this period the Summer of Cedar for obvious reasons. With my tuxedo teammate, I found happiness with absolutely no social life. When I got to Toronto, I needed to figure out if that was an adaptation or an evolution. It turns out it was the latter.

Saint John skyline at dusk

I'm not the same person I was in February of 2020. I had some hard realizations; I defected to nihilism. The amount of human suffering and death that politicians and chief public health officers continue to normalize is galling, and it got to me. 

It's impossible for me to partition human pain and death into categories I'm supposed to care about and categories I'm supposed to ignore. I do not compute that I should be more invested in a relative I've never met than a person living on the streets. If the people in charge don't have to care about human life, I'm not going to rip my psyche apart trying to save it. I got so sick of people acting against our survival that I stopped rooting for humanity. The value I held for human life has escaped me. 

The pursuit of justice is no longer a standalone goal of mine. I'm not giving up on anything I believe in, but my pursuits of justice are the products of a deeper desire for order, not my appreciation for humanity. 

So how did I land in Toronto specifically? Toronto precipitated as the path of least resistance when a room in a unicorn/under-market rental opportunity became available to me - $1300 for a two bedroom, unheard of in Toronto. Finding work in had to be easier than finding an apartment deal like that in Toronto again. It was.

The glaring difference between my lives New Brunswick and Toronto is traction. In Toronto, I've been hired 4 times since July. I'm stably employed at a social enterprise doing nothing relevant to my studies, but I have no ethical qualms, and it's a few bucks over minimum wage. 

Another part of the traction here is that the floor is higher in Ontario. Ontario social policies are objectively better than New Brunswick's at protecting residents from extreme poverty and poor health. The difference between being a New Brunswick fuck-up and a Toronto fuck-up is that every once in a while a Toronto fuck-up turns into a movie star, or a doctor, or the Premier. The social contract is a more honest offer in Toronto. There's palpable effort to extend the principle that the only thing you need to succeed in Toronto is talent and hard work. 

The peculiar job market in New Brunswick made me doubt the value of my education and experience. I knew in my rational mind that I was an undesirable hire for political participation and that my education made me a flight risk for unspecialized jobs, but the crickets of the hinterland chipped away at my self-esteem. This doubt led me to execute a flawed "runaway to school" plan.

I didn't start the paralegal program I intended. I don't wonder why the plans I conceived in traumatic conditions didn't stick. I mean, would you let the least healthy version of yourself make your life decisions? I was quite certain by mid August that I'd be better off taking a year to get established than pursuing a paralegal license. That bet was recently called in my favor. 

So about those high Ontarian floors: I'm incredibly grateful to have the costs of a 7-week George Brown College course to become a Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certified Professional (basically an accessibility auditor) covered by a bursary from a provincial sector-development fund. It would have been $1600 & tax without funding, and I could not have taken the course. (PSA: There's still funding available for residents of ON and BC as well as (dis)abled Canadians living anywhere in Canada)

***Aside: you should take a peek at the college-level course offerings through the free federal Quicktrain micro-credential initiative! I'm trying to get enrolled in one of the 3 Indigenous affairs courses offered online from Red River College in Winnipeg starting in April :) 

I'm only recently feeling the healthy urge to glue glitter to my face and embellish costume items. Shamefully, I haven't done an intentional art project since October 2021. (I am excluding painting my room and two minor home improvement tasks - a window sill and the cats' dining corner.) Further, I have a doctor for the first time since I last lived in Toronto (actually same doctor), and I'm procrastinating going back to a chiropractor, but that's going to materialize soon too. 

The last update I'm going to share with the internet is that I started writing a book in January 2022 not knowing what it was supposed to be. A few essays turned into chapters, and I had written 22 000 words by the end of November. It's nonfiction: a reflexive pop philosophy book—a testament. I've stalled at that point, but this blog post is the only thing I have letting me procrastinate working on it in the near future. 

The very strange context of the moment is that I don't feel compelled to have a social life or creatively motivated because I have a significant portion of a book written, and it feels like nothing really matters until I get that finished.  I have to optimistically believe in the capacity of the text to reshape my economic situation, and I have to pessimistically plan for zero return. If my future leads to law school or PhD applications, having a book on my CV is a huge flex.

This book is magnanimously the best chance I have at human (re)connection. People who read my book are going to know me in a way no one yet knows me. The book is not an autobiography, not even close, but autobiographical elements are necessary to clearly articulate the layers of what I know and how I know it. Motivation ebbs and flows.

I'm happy I landed in Toronto. It's not a permanent move, but I'm in the right place for the moment. I have love for Toronto, which is a huge improvement versus the last time I lived here. However, I'm not in love with Toronto. It's that I'm very Toronto, but Toronto isn't very me. In a perfect future, I'll find myself in a coastal life again before I break my next decade. I couldn't have achieved this dynamic anywhere else.

Toronto is my Citagazze. From here, I can go anywhere.  It's nice to not be in a fuck-up phase anymore.

Cedar(tuxedo cat) & Helix(ginger cat) posing on a chair