This Day, Though

Ugh this day, man.

I was able to go back to sleep after taking Brody out and feeding everyone this morning.  For, like, an hour.  Still so over-tired.

Managed to get some things done today, though, so there’s that.   Worked out my remaining budget and I think thus far I am on point.  Bought the photo op that’s been tradition for every con we’ve both been at.  It’s been probably four years or so, though.  I hope she still remembers me this time.

We’ll see.

If no further unexpected expenses come up this week (I’m looking at you, emergency dental bill), I should be okay to pick up the last remaining items I most hope to get at Fan Expo over the weekend, and still pay rent.  That list includes the Mark Hamill autograph I’ve been craving most of my life…or at least since I got Carrie Fisher’s auto on the pic of the two of them ten years ago.  I shall shortly turn my attention to being more press-like, and write up a post or two forThe Mind Reels about what to expect from Toronto’s biggest geek show.

Brody and I went around the block today, which we haven’t done in a while.  It was just supposed to be a quick loo break, but he seemed so happy, I decided we may as well just go for it.  He got a bit over-heated, but not too bad at all, and it didn’t take long to cool down again once we got back inside.  So that was nice.  I like hanging with that little guy.

The other big thing I accomplished today was to get the Mind Reels’ Patreon page more or less ready to launch on Thursday September 1st.  I’m pretty pleased with how it’s looking now, too.  I had a couple of ideas yesterday to make it look more how I want it to, and was able to implement most of them today.  I am super excited to launch, but also nervous to see what level of fail I may achieve this time.

I’ll be running a contest for anyone who pledges at or above a certain level each month ($7 to be precise) to see if I can drum up a little incentive early on.  We’ll randomly draw from those Patrons to win a signed script from one of our first 5 radio plays!  Which is kinda cool, I think?  On top of all the regular rewards that come with each pledge tier level?

Anyway, I’m nervous but doing it, anyway.  Www.patreon.com/TheMindReels is where we will be once we launch.  I can’t find a way to set a date and time to activate it, though, so I’ll have to do it manually in the morning when I wake up that day.  It’ll also be my birthday, so I’ll probably remember to do it!  Haha

Tomorrow is a volunteer day, and then I have a few more things on the To Do list to take care of.  Hopefully not too many, though.  I tend to be really sore and exhausted after my shifts.

And I’m already pretty sore and exhausted as it is.

There Is No Try

Once again, I’m too tired and distracted to really know what I feel like talking about. I can think of tons of things I don’t feel like talking about, but that doesn’t really help! Haha

I think part of the reason my weekend didn’t go well was a distinct lack of planning. I told the birds that it was possible that the only reason I made it out there at all yesterday was because it was the one plan I did have going into the weekend. Thus, it was the only thing I accomplished.

Anyway, my plan for this week is to pick a focus and stick to it. Fan Expo isn’t for another week and a half, so I can leave that a little longer. The only thing left to do ahead of time, I think, is to purchase the other photo op I want, anyway. So that can all wait, at least until I get a few other things out of the way first.

Wednesday evening, the Mind Reels will be recording our fourth radio play – a thus far all-girl (plus Tim) episode of Flash Gordon from 1935, I believe. I’ve got the scripts together, and have to email details to the awesome cast we have coming in. I also have to respond to a few of their questions before the day, too. Maybe later today, if I can find time.

We’ll also be announcing the fan-chosen winners of our very first awards show, the Reelies. That’s another project that got away from me, so I’ll be happy to have it done, at least for this year. It’s not ending up at all like I had planned, but little does. It should still be fun, however, and I’ll whip up a post to go along with the video link. Unfortunately, we won’t be going live for any of it, but there are a couple of things I can possibly do to keep people involved a bit on Wednesday night, and definitely after the video is posted, highlight our new Instagram account, and possibly even plug Patreon a little.

Speaking of Patreon, we are getting close to my target for launching the page, so I need to turn some attention toward getting that set up this week, as well. I am still hoping to launch on my birthday (because it’s the beginning of the month), but that hope fades with each passing day, so I’ll see what I can do between now and then. I keep battling the voice inside that says to just quit before I start, because the venture will likely be an abysmal failure, anyway, and why bother putting all this time and energy into something that is probably going to fall so flat? So I keep reminding myself – so what if it does? As with my Guinness World Record attempt and event, I have already learned a lot and stand to learn so much more by pushing through with it. As such, there will be more skills to add to my resume for later or just-in-case. And besides, if I don’t do it, I’m always going to wonder if I would have gotten anywhere with it, so it’s better to just try and see how it goes. I can always pull the plug later on, if need be.

It definitely won’t go anywhere if I don’t even try, right?

Or…just do it. There is no try.

So Reelies/radio play, Patreon finishing touches, and Fan Expo. That’s mostly all just Mind Reels stuff. I don’t know if there is anything pressing in my real life – I have to keep careful track of my budget for the next little while, as the slightest mistake could spell more trouble than I can fix. I’m seeing my dentist tonight so she can have a look at my split tooth and possibly patch the pain away ahead of my actual appointment set for a couple of weeks from now. I’ll have to check into my volunteer schedule because I won’t be able to do it over the long weekend, as I’ll be at Fan Expo for most of it. But that can wait. This week – just regular stuff – budget, groceries, dishes and other little cleaning tasks at home, perhaps re-planting some of my wildflowers into bigger pots (though that also likely won’t be this week, so never mind), hopefully getting more sleep because I am really struggling right now. Nothing too special. I guess the Mind Reels takes up most of my extra time, at the moment. Which is fine, as it’s usually more interesting than my real life, anyway.

I have a lot of questions in my head; things I need to sort out about myself sometime soon. But not today. It’s Monday, and there are other things I also need to do. Sometimes it’s just difficult to tell which is more pressing. Which is closer to living life as opposed to just awaiting its inevitable end?

Maybe someday the gaps between the personal and “professional” – between private and public – won’t seem so far apart.

Bankruptcy

I guess you could say my credit issues started right around the time I first got credit. Well, unless you count student loans, which I don’t. The first time I got credit by myself as an adult was after I was accepted to teacher’s college.

Prior to that, I’d moved out of my happy little home into the home of the person with whom I was in a relationship at the time. I gave away my bed and stored a bunch of my stuff in the spare bedroom, and chipped in what I could for rent and bills and the like for close to a year. When I was accepted to another year of full time education, though, I knew things had to change, as I wouldn’t be working for the majority of the year.

I was told not to worry about getting a student loan; I’d be taken care of.

I was told not to bother getting a credit card; I’d be taken care of.

I was told a student line of credit was unnecessary; that I’d be taken care of.

I was assured that I could quit my job outright, rather than stay on for a day or two a week through the school year – because I’d be taken care of.

I decided that I would rather have all of those options and not really need them, then need them and not have them, so I applied for everything, and – being a student – I was approved. I figured I could at least build a great credit rating by making small purchases and then paying them off each month, and if anything came up over the year I was being edumacated, I had back-up.

Turned out something came up pretty quickly, before school even started. I’d quit smoking when I’d learned of my acceptance, and then the blatant cheating began, the relationship ended, and I moved into a spare room in the apartment a good friend shared with his girlfriend. I paid rent, chipped in for bills, bought my own groceries, and basically lived off credit for the entire year.

You know, since I wasn’t being taken care of.

I also worked 1-2 days a week at the job I didn’t quit, and went back to full time after I graduated.

Over the next several years, I continued to build my credit rating by making regular payments and carrying a balance. Most of my credit limits were raised occasionally, to the point where I had an absurd amount of credit to my name. Like, more than I make in a year. That worried me some, but I figured I was getting good at the whole system, and so long as I stayed responsible, I should be okay going forward.

Then I tried to move in with the next person I was in a relationship with – who was in the US – and maxed everything out over the course of two and a half months of not working at all. I couldn’t find a job quickly enough in the diving economy of the time, and in my desperate attempt to keep trying right up until the last minute (well, past the last minute, if we’re being honest here), I’d spent pretty much everything I had left by the time I returned to Toronto. I had been under the impression that my being here was a short term deal; that I would just couch surf and work for a month or two and then head back once things settled down, recession-wise. I knew that, so long as I could earn enough to make minimum payments, I could just cycle money around and still stay afloat until I got back to where I wanted to be.

However, I was informed two days after my return to TO that I had over-stayed my welcome, so to speak, and of the demise of that relationship, as well. There was no chance of me going back any time soon, if at all. And since I was now stuck where I most certainly didn’t want to be, I had to find a way to make a go of it somehow.

I went back to work in a different position from the one I’d left, and slept on a generous friend’s floor for a couple of months. I had the opportunity to stay rent-free in a house way out in the east end, so long as I could leave no sign of my having lived there. It was an amazing deal, but the house was also full of spiders, which was my own personal horror to live with, so I was just as happy to leave there when the time came.

Since I was failing so fully at life, I found one of the worst apartments ever to sublet, and kept the majority of the things I had with me still packed, while leaving everything else in storage until I lived somewhere that felt safer. I started seeing a therapist, and got my cat back (though I apologized to her for giving her such a cruddy place to come back to), so at least we were together again.

The main problem was that, since I was paying rent and bills again, I could no longer make even the minimum payments on my maxed-out credit. The calls started coming in regularly, and I felt worse and worse about my very existence with each one. I tried going to my bank to see if I could just consolidate everything into one payment, but they would only cover their own stuff, and I was on my own for the rest. Since I couldn’t even make that work out, I finally broke down and went to a trustee.

I filed for personal bankruptcy that summer. And the person I was subletting the shitty apartment from got evicted, so I had to move out or sign my own lease, meaning I was stuck in that hole for over a year, all told. 2009 – pretty much the worst year of my life, thus far.

It was humiliating, and difficult – I had to keep very close tabs on every single bit of income and every single expenditure. I’d under-estimated how much I’d need for food and other basics each month, so I juggled with the other areas of permitted spending and made it work out. It was super stressful, though, because I had to give the trustees everything else, and justify whatever I didn’t hand over.

At least the collection calls stopped, though.

I was eventually discharged, and the trustee told me she never wanted to see me in there again, to which I heartily agreed. I still had my student loan from teacher’s college to finish paying off, but I worked out a payment plan with them that I could afford, and made that my first priority – after finding a better apartment.

That would, of course, prove to be hella difficult, too, because no one wants to rent to a bankrupt person, even if they’ve recently been discharged. I couldn’t get accepted back into the building I’d left when I tried to move to the US – and it had a sweet pool. I couldn’t get accepted to any of the places I’d applied, and I was starting to get desperate when I tried a Hail Mary with a little 4-story building in the neighbourhood I most wanted to live. I knew walking down the street that there was no chance, but I kept the appointment, anyway, and as soon as I walked into the space, I was kind of in love.

I flat out told the guy I’d recently been discharged from bankruptcy, and that I had a cat, and he said he’d seen people with worse credit move in, and that many people in the building had cats, so hope suddenly came alive.

Days later, I got the apartment. I still live there now, and I am staying as long as I can afford to, because I know how difficult it can be for me to find a new place now. And I still kinda love it there. It’s still home for now, a place for me to heal.

Plus, Kate the Kitten died not long after we moved in (she barely got to enjoy the non-shittiness of it, unfortunately), and now I live with three cats and a dog. It might be even more difficult to be accepted in a new place now, in some ways.

I was discharged from my bankruptcy on April 22, 2010. At just over 6 years ago, it should be purged from my credit report for one agency, and has just under a year left on my report for the other. I have a secured credit card, upon which I continue to make regular payments and carry a balance and, at $500, it’s low enough to not be a huge worry in comparison to my salary. It reports to both credit agencies, too, so I am already re-building my credit rating, albeit very slowly. It’s still better than nothing.

Am I gun-shy about ever having to file for personal bankruptcy again? Absolutely. When I was already feeling most worthless, that was the nail in my proverbial coffin. My failure at life was complete. I don’t ever want to feel that way again, if I can help it, especially since it’s never really gone away. I carry my failure around more than my successes, in part because I don’t think much of myself, but in part so I can hope to learn from them. I still can’t pinpoint exactly where I went wrong, but I think it might have been a series of mistakes on my part, and I am terrified of making any of them again, lest I lead myself back down that same self-destructive path. I can’t fool around with this stuff anymore. There are now 3 little lives depending entirely on me – and a 4th who depends mostly on me – for their survival and for the quality of their lives.

And then there’s me. I depend on me for all of that, as well.

If I can help it, I don’t intend to let myself down so completely again.

On Quitting Smoking

On this day, April 13th, in 2003 I quit smoking. That makes today my 13th anniversary. Not really sure how I feel about that, actually.

See, I looooved smoking. Loved it. It was the biggest crutch I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t walk down the street without a cigarette in my hand. I’d have one before bed, when I woke up in the morning, sometimes even if I woke in the middle of the night. I’d have a cigarette before and after every meal, and every time I went out for drinks. I’d smoke when I was angry, or sad, or stressed, or anxious – I mean, mostly anxious. I am anxious pretty much all the time. Smoking calmed me or, at least, I believed it did, which is really all that matters.

At the time, we could still smoke inside some establishments, or on patios of others. And packs of course cost way less, just like everything else did in 2003. It was far less difficult to find a spot than it is now. I went on multiple breaks from work during any given shift, and I drank way less because my hands were kept busy. I always had a lighter on me, but still preferred the smell of matches. It was kind of a social thing sometimes, too. We’d go out together and have conversations that didn’t include the people inside, and the cigarette would act as a timer to let us know when it was time to go back in.

For me, though, it was mostly just a huge crutch. A thing I felt I needed – or at least really wanted – to help get me through the day.

Then one day, I found out I’d been accepted to teacher’s college, and I’d promised myself that I would quit before school started, because I didn’t want to be a hypocrite teacher – one who tells the kids not to smoke, but then hangs out in the parking lot every recess and lunch break, puffing away and setting a bad example. I figured I could be the poster child for Don’t Ever Start, but I didn’t want to be a hypocrite if I could help it.

So I planned a big party to celebrate my acceptance, and smoked as much as I wanted that night – then stopped as of the next morning. It sucked, too, because my last cigarettes weren’t even mine. I ran out too close to the end to make it worth buying another pack, so I bummed a few off someone at the party, and THEIRS were the last ones I ever had.

To make matters worse, I’d done all kinds of research into quitting, and thought I’d set myself up for success, but it turned out that the information I had was only part of the issue. I don’t think even now addiction is truly understood, let alone withdrawl. Nothing I saw online prepared me for the acute depression, for example. Not one mention of it. I had the patch ready in case I needed it, but that only helps with cravings, not all of the other crazy things that happen to your system when you’re going through severe withdrawl.

The other thing that sucked was that, for months prior, I’d cut down to the lightest cigarettes I could find, so that it’d maybe be a bit easier to stop smoking completely if I happened to get into school. But the first step of the patch contained way more nicotine than I’d been ingesting, so it actually ramped me right back up to higher doses than I’d been used to. I could feel it in my veins, I thought. And it gave me crazy vivid dreams.

A few weeks later, my partner decided to cheat on me fairly publicly, and then break up with me not long before school started, so there went my financial and emotional support system out the window. Luckily I’d loaded up on student debt that I’d hoped to not need. Poor timing much?

The bets were on as to whether or not I’d cave and take up the habit again, but to my mind that would be failure, and I suspected my ex would love to see me fail, so I kept not giving into temptation, which I’m sure also saved many lives.

Also, I’m stubborn as hell sometimes.

Now, keep in mind that I really loved this habit I’d quit, and my reason for quitting was simply not to be a hypocrite. It wasn’t for my health, it wasn’t because it was too expensive, it wasn’t for my own good nor the good of anyone else. It was ONLY so I could face the children each day in class. As well, I got very depressed very quickly, and not being able to smoke felt not only like a punishment, but a punishment I deserved. In that sense, it was easy not to break down and buy more, because not having them made me feel bad, and in my mind, I deserved to feel bad.

So, there I was – alone, unbearably sad, my self-esteem the lowest it had ever been at that point. Trying to teach children. I started drinking more and eating more, so I packed on an unimaginable amount of weight in a very short period of time, and have the stretch marks to prove it. Hell, I have pictures to prove it. I almost flunked out of school a few times, but knowing that failure would also make my ex happy, I hung in there, too. I took on another shift at work, and all but maxed out all the lovely credit I’d been handed as a student. Hating myself pretty much every minute of every day.

But hey – at least I wasn’t a hypocrite.

I haven’t had a cigarette since that day, except for one accidental inhale when I’d only meant to pull it into my mouth to help out a friend. I was drinking at the time, and even though it was years later, habit still kicked in. My body still knew the motions automatically, and I knew that if I ever did have one myself, I’d be back to a pack a day in no time. And who can afford that, really?

Do I feel better as a result of quitting? Not really, no. Am I proud of myself? Meh, kind of, I guess, but more in that it was one more way I made my ex wrong about me. And I’m told nicotine withdrawl is actually harder to go through than heroin, so there’s that. Don’t worry, though – I can’t afford a heroin addiction, either. It does seem that I am always a little addicted to something, though. I tend to just temporarily quit something long enough to get it out of my system, and then pick it back up later, just to make sure I still can. I don’t really want to quit anything else I love forever, though. The very idea makes me sad. I can cut way down, and even quit temporarily – but for good? No thank you. That feels like punishment, too, and I don’t wish to punish myself that way anymore right now.

I likened the whole experience to getting out of a bad relationship. You know they aren’t good for you, and that your physical and emotional health is suffering as a result of such toxicity. But against all rational argument, you still love them, and even though you’re technically glad you got away, you really do miss them quite a lot.

Then, every time you go anywhere, you get see them with somebody else.

Lacking Confidence

I hate looking for a job.

I don’t think I used to dislike it this much, but I guess a lot has changed over the years.  I’ve changed.  Once full of cautious confidence and an abundance of dreams and goals to aspire to, I was able to find not only a decent work-life balance, but also felt a sense of pride in my work, even though I was performing pretty simple tasks.  I did them well, and I was pleased with my abilities and how I felt about myself each day. I felt competent, no matter what I was doing.  And I felt like I earned every step of forward progress I made, no matter how small.

If I decided I deserved more, I went out and got it.  I had no problem chasing the next job opportunity.

Then I went after something completely different, and made more money than I ever had up to that point.

And sucked at it.

To this day, I’m still not entirely sure what went wrong, really.  I thought at the time that I didn’t get the support I needed to succeed, but at the same time, if I’d really had the required skills, I’d have been able to work with more autonomy and forged my own success.  Instead, I was constantly questioning what to do, and would end up doing it wrong, anyway.  Or not quickly enough, or well enough, or whatever.  I still don’t really know, and therein lies the real problem.

For the first time, I was doing something I wasn’t suited to, and it was a disaster.  I couldn’t make it work.  And it wasn’t rocket surgery.  At all.  But I don’t have the right…mindset.  Or attitude.  From the outside, it all looks very simple.  When it’s done well, it seems effortless.  But the people who are good at administrative tasks and assisting executive types don’t generally get the kind of respect their abilities deserve.  And for people who are NOT skilled in those areas, it’s even worse.

It looks from the outside like the person doing the assisting is less specialized.  Less skilled.  But I think that people are just adept at different things.  Maybe the excutive needs an assistant because he CAN’T do the things his assistant can do.  Maybe he’s totally disorganized and can’t remember when he has appointments or craft intelligent and well-worded emails.  Maybe he doesn’t know how to create a spreadsheet or a strong PowerPoint presentation.  Everything can be taught and learned, but it can’t always be learned to do well.  Like doctors and nurses.  Many think nurses are nurses because they CAN’T be doctors, when in reality, doctors could not perform their duties nearly as well (or often at all), without the support of nurses and the rest of their medical team.  Everyone has a part to play in the team’s success, and when one can’t play their part well, the whole team struggles.

I was let go at the end of my probabtion period, because it wasn’t working out.  Not for them, and not for me.  I’d never tried so hard to do something but still failed so miserably at it.  It was frustrating because it had seemed so easy before I actually tried it.  It was pretty humiliating.  And it was scary, because suddenly I wondered what else I couldn’t do well.  What other simple tasks were beyond my comprehension and/or skill set?

I was unemployed for a month and a half, relying on friends and family to feed me and help pay rent.  Then I finally got a job with my current employer – and while the woman who hired me was concerned that I was over-qualified, I was relieved to have a job I could hopefully do – and there I remain, for better or for worse.

I did attempt to enter the teaching profession for the better part of a decade, but had zero success in that area.  And I think a large part of my problem now is fear.  Fear and uncertainty.  I don’t have the same confidence in my abilities as I used to.  And I am terrified of losing or leaving one job and being unemployed three months later if I fail again.

I think that’s why I hate looking for a job more now.  I have four little lives – in addition to my own – counting on me to keep us fed and a roof over our heads.  My mind and body don’t work the same as they used to, and I have an even lesser sense of what needs to be done.  I’m not in the same position I was when I was younger.  I don’t feel like I have the luxury of failing.

And that’s crippling to me.

If I don’t try, I won’t fail.  So now when I look at job openings, I imagine what the daily life of each would look like, and apply if I think I might have a shot at succeeding, or more often if I think I’ll have no shot at even landing an interview.  I feel like applying alone is still accomplishing something, even if it’s just a feeling inside.

But the truth is I really have no idea what I am capable of outside of my current workplace, and I only have a limited knowledge of what I am not capable of, because it’s been over a decade since I ventured to try something different.  Pretty much everything I know about myself an an employee is based on this one employer.  It’s a bubble I’ve existed in almost exclusively for over 15 years.  Largely because I am afraid of what will happen if I fail anywhere else.  Yet now I am failing inside my bubble, too, and I have no idea what to do about it.

It appears I’ve put myself into a trap of my own making.  It’s scary and disheartening and yet still kind of exciting, in a way.  Because if I actually control the trap, maybe there’s a chance I can dig myself out of it.  For now, I’m still just window shopping, because I’m far too afraid to make a move.  But the time is fast approaching where I will have no choice but to make some kind of change, be it a new apartment or a new job.

And I love my apartment.

I can’t wait to see what I end up doing.