Life has taken some turns on me lately. I’ll take you to the beginning… Not the literal beginning because I get queasy thinking about that, but rather the beginning of my disappearance from the website.
It all starts around the end of May, but not on a dark and stormy night.
A Mysterious Announcement goes up to the website and I grit my teeth for what is bound to be an interesting time of my life. With a baby due in the beginning of October, my life was starting to look less like a stroll in the park and more like a soldier’s charge in foreign territory. Before me was a task—the task of fatherhood, one might say, one of the noblest tasks a man can ever be summoned to, and there I was trying to fake myself into writing a novel and anticipating the joy of finishing it. Fatherhood was going to be awesome, but all the same, I still felt the pressure of it. What father-to-be wouldn’t?
I sat at the foot of my bed one morning, the guest bed at my Grandma’s house. The wife was at our new place in Edmonton, pregnant and working hard. We’d been in the place for a month then, though what little I had seen it. My best pal Garrett was living with us as well, though he had spent more time in my new home than I did. The move was a good one to be sure. We had so much more space than before. We were (and are) truly blessed.
Our crib is upstairs in the baby room as I write this, in fact. It’s waiting for me to assemble it.
The thought that crosses my blood-brain barrier that morning at my Grandma’s place was a quiet one, but finally I had heard it. I was unhappy. My work life was a mess. For a time before this I was driving a dump truck, three days a week for 12-14 hour days. It was enough money at the time but I was deeply depressed by it. Now don’t get me wrong—my coworkers were good people, and driving a dump truck is a thankless job that I now have more appreciation for, but alas, it wasn’t for me. I quit the position after some communications with my employer and I was left unemployed. The short version is that I was put on a two week probation for not being a team-player. The longer version involves that sentiment being a crock of shit. I suspected the employer was only looking to replace me for nefarious reasons… But I’ll save you the long version. Point is that I was unemployed.
Unemployed in Alberta.
Surely there was work for me to do, I thought. Work that would pay me enough money and allow me to see my future baby and write. Sadly, the only work that fit the bill was camp-work up in Fort Mac. It was something I did the summer previous. Again, I do not mean to insult the people who do work there by bemoaning it, it’s just that it’s not for me. It’s not what I want to do.
So there I was on the foot of the bed in my hometown. The Fort Mac thing that I was waiting for kept getting pushed back. I had already been unemployed for an entire month prior. The work I wound up getting in the meanwhile was in my hometown and the employers were well known by me. In fact they were the same company that was waiting to send me up to Fort Mac, just a different division. The work in Hinton was labour on a hot tin roof to keep me busy and get me some money while I waited. This was what brought me there. This was why I sat there.
I worked for two weeks and hurt my back, is what happened. Not a single event but the strain that came from repetitive tasks and the like. It was nothing an ordinary man of my age and fitness level shouldn’t have been able to handle, thing is that I’m not ordinary. The back was about as bad as it was after four months of labour work last year. This was not a good trend. It seemed to be getting worse over the long stretch of time.
Even though I’ve always aspired to be a successful writer, deep down I always thought (like a perfectionist) that anything other than writing stories for a living meant misery. Now, I accepted that misery, or at least I thought so, but when I hurt my back things started to spiral psychologically. Here I was anticipating the arrival of my first child, suddenly realizing that I was not built for labour. I couldn’t provide enough for my family with some minimum-wage work. How could I—when the minimum wage is an unlivable wage?
So I was sitting there.
No one ever made me do labour work, I thought. No one ever made me operate a Frac truck for a year. No one ever said that I had to do rough, gruff, “manly” work in order to feel like I was a man. No one ever said that I needed to make that much money. Sitting on the foot of my bed, I was realizing that the issue of my unhappiness with work had more to do with my own sense of pride than anything. Was I really going to keep doing work that continually threatened to wreck my back permanently—just so I could say I made a lot of money? Didn’t I want to save the use of my back so I could pick up my daughter one day and throw her around?
Fact is, I was not built for it. I am not. For me, this realization was a moment of immense humility. I remember dreading the discussion with my family, dreading the things people will think about me. Even in my moment of humility I was resorting to prideful fear. I was setting myself up for disaster, I thought. I was setting my family up for disaster…
But God has a sense of humour, no?
Continued on Page 2
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