Lights at the End at Last, A History Boy, 04/05/2017

I think, feel, and sincerely hope that the direction of this blog will change over the next little while. Permanently.

I mean this in an optimistic sense. And I’m very happy that I can say this optimistically. You might have noticed that I added a new link under my professional links, Cestar College. This is a career college in northern Toronto where I’ll be teaching Business Communications and Leadership Ethics for the next however-long-I-decide-to-stay-there.

And I may stay there for quite a long time. After all, I trained for years to be a teacher and researcher. I’m still a damn good researcher, and writing this blog over the last nearly four years has improved my writing tremendously. Both for argumentative, casual, and fiction.

I started this blog not just to build a small online profile for myself as an independent writer, but also to keep myself going as a person. The call centre job I’d had since late 2012 spent the winter and spring working me for sometimes 50 hour weeks. I quit around the same time my disastrous round of university sector job hunting exploded. I was acutely depressed and barely left my bed for three days.

My own experience with severe anxiety over the last four years has
made me realize how inappropriate it is to medicalize anxiety as if it
were a disorder entirely in thought and individual neurochemistry. Yes,
it can be treated with medications and therapies. But its causes most
often are social and environmental. Anxiety is a body and personality
reaching its breaking point in being able to handle chronic insecurity.
It's the mental expression of a social and economic disorder. Go read
Anti-Oedipus and see the basics of the dynamic.
I spent the following year working for an online editing farm, where my piecework wages amounted to less than minimum wage. I trained in communications because I thought that was the best business certificate I could get where my talents as a qualitative analyst the writer would be put to the best use.

But I was so out of place as a personality with the culture of the Toronto PR agency that I could never find steady entry level work. I was a bookish nerd in a world of aging frat bros, Lean In archetypes, and a kind of amoral approach to client acquisition and services that I never felt comfortable.

My first paying job after graduating – writing work for the Business Owners’ Council, a spinoff of Inc. Magazine – only ever gave me work on such short notice, I was practically on unpaid call 16 hours per day. And they never even paid me. Nor did they ever send me a non-disclosure agreement, so I can describe their human resources practices without restraint.

I’ve never been able to make a living wage from my business training in corporate communications – only picking up occasional contracts that got me a few hundred each month at best.

For four years, I’ve lived under constant stress from financial insecurity and anxiety over whether I’d ever be able to find a decent job. It hammered my personal and professional confidence so much that I thought my only path to a secure future was working my IKEA job at $13/hour.

I loved the people I worked with, but the job itself was so stressful and draining that I broke down after a year. It didn’t help that I had a therapist who I trusted to help me, but who seemed more intent on condescendingly ordering me not to feel stressed or agitated instead of helping me deal with these states of mind.

The GF and I have been watching Thirteen Reasons Why, since it seems
to be one of those generational touchstones in progress. It's a powerful
narrative, and I deeply admire how camera and lighting blends time
periods and memories into a single flow of imagery. Also how
intricately and precisely the show reveals its labyrinth of relationships.
It's the best mystery show I think I've ever seen.
But I think it's giving me nightmares. And as a 34 year old professional
teacher and writer, I'm decidedly not its demographic. My anxiety
and depression issues make the storyline hit me very profoundly. I can
believe that people whose current experience is closer to the social
media embedded hell of modern high school go through far
worse sympathetic depression.
I actually think my brain has been affected somewhat by the years of continual worrying. I’m now one of the many people who has to take mild anti-depressants to stay focussed. I’m probably not even the only one at my new job who does.

Cestar is the first time since 2013 that I’m actually being paid a good middle-class salary. It’s the first time since 2013 that I’ve been paid a decent living salary at all. It’s the first time since 2013 that I’ve been paid at all for the type of work I spent my 20s training for. The type of work that I’m good at.

I mean, administration stuff is going to be a pain in the ass. But that’s true universally. The point is, I’m a teacher at last. And I’ll be a teacher with a pre-tax salary of around $35,000. Pretty reasonable if you ask me.

Four years. I had to go through four years of anxiety, depression, hopelessness, and worthlessness before getting started. Yeah, a lot of people have it way worse. I see them begging on street corners and in subway stations pretty much every day. But it’s far from fun.

Yeah, those were the years when I met the GF. She’s the love of my life, and I shouldn’t regret anything about that time with her. Without her help, I don’t know if I wouldn’t have made it through at all. But I do have one regret.

I regret that it’s taken me so long to be in a position where my situation won’t stress us both out. I regret all the pain I caused with every career setback, every anxiety attack, every opportunity that turned into a kick to the balls. I regret that I’ve never been able to show her what I can do, only how I can manage.

For the last four years, I’ve been a failure. Not anymore. But all I’ve been able to show her is failure until pretty much the last month. That still hurts me.

Now I have a good-paying teaching job and I’m making my first film. I'm getting married in a couple of years to a woman I love more than I thought I could love anyone. That’s fantastic.

But the scars and pain of the last four years feel like they’re never going to leave me.

The blog, however, will probably take a new direction. I'll be talking about teaching techniques here sometimes, and continuing to work through ideas in my research and writing for different projects. Also, writing about more experiences in my artistic work.

My blog started as a means to keep myself alive and motivated through a depression that I didn't see a way out of. Now, it seems I'm in shape for it to become a chronicle of growing success and happiness.

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