My love of this LCD Soundsystem song (and that lyric in particular) is well documented here. I relate to it with every fiber of my being. As September marks my 10th anniversary of living in Toronto, I am overwhelmed at just how true it is.
I spent the first 5 years trying to get with the plan… aka at York, going to school, going through the motions of getting a degree I felt I had to have purely because NO ONE else in my entire family had one and I just wanted to do it to prove to myself that I could. I am one of those rare kids that was born in the 80s to parents that actually told me NOT to pursue post secondary education because they didn’t want me to be saddled with debt (which I surely still am). They wanted me to live in Welland and work at Wal-Mart and live with them until I could afford a place of my own and have a nice, safe, happy little life – and most of my cousins have taken this path – and I certainly respect it and am at times jealous of them with their cars and their money and the ease of it all – but my god. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.
There are small town people and there are city people. City people are usually just small town people with insanely ridiculous dreams.
My first five years felt like a waste. I couldn’t figure it out. I was lost and scared and so incredibly alone. Toronto couldn’t be more different from Welland. The only things they shared in common were being located in Ontario. Sure it’s only a 1.5 hour drive, but going from being a 17 year old high school student on top of the world in a graduating class of 350 to an 18 year old in a sea of millions of people at a school where 350 was the average first year class size, far removed from the heart of the city – in a program so open I had no idea what I was supposed to be focusing on – stuck with a roommate who couldn’t be more different, and so far away from all my friends – was all at once both exciting and heartbreaking.
Toronto ate me up and spit me out. I became lost in the internet because I was so unable to do all the things I thought I was here to do, between school and work and all of it. The first five years are a blur – they are so unimportant because I was so unhappy all I could focus on was going somewhere else – I wanted New York, Portland, LA, San Fran, Austin, New Orleans – you name it – I just wanted to go somewhere where I felt like I might be able to have a life and meet people like me. It’s so sad now, looking back, that I thought for so long I couldn’t have that here – when really it was my own fear holding me back. No matter what city I would have magically moved to, I would have been just as unhappy, because I just was unhappy. I wasn’t doing ANYTHING. When you are not pursuing your dreams you will always be unhappy. This is the most important thing I can ever tell anyone. So insanely simple and obvious, yet we let so many people and stupid insecurities hold us back from really doing it.
Because in my non-expert opinion, you don’t hate yourself because you have low self-esteem, or because other people were mean to you. You hate yourself because you don’t do anything. Not even you can just “love you for you.”
Do the math: How much of your time is spent consuming things other people made (TV, music, video games, websites) versus making your own? Only one of those adds to your value as a human being.
The big problem for me was I never really knew what my ‘dreams’ were. I’m still a little lost, but I know that’s a good thing. I always lived in the shadow of my sister, who knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life from the time she was 14. Being younger, I looked up to her and we enjoyed all the same things – so her dreams somehow always became my dreams, even though we couldn’t be more different.
Music was my passion probably from the womb, but performing and theatrics were just as important. When she and I would play house (which sounds so weird typing out now, but didn’t every girl pretend to be a grown up with their friends or siblings?) she would play the mom and I would play 18 different kids. Not even joking. I remembered all their personalities until (
she) we grew too old for that stuff.
As much as I was obsessed with music as a kid, I quickly realized my skills in that department were lacking, but my traumatic youth meant I had enough emotions bottled up inside me to give a damn good performance on stage. Theatre became my focus, my passion, and my love in high school (once I got past my unbearable shyness) but part of me knows that was because my sis did it first and loved it, and I just wanted to be a part of her success. But she was (and still is) a director, a control freak, a detail oriented type A – while I’ve always been a type B – the actor, the writer. Always late, wearing my heart on my sleeve, neurotic, passionate but lazy, looking for someone to tell me what to do and when to do it…
She didn’t end up moving to Toronto for school like she had planned on doing after high school, so it became imperative to me that I did go to university, move to Toronto, and do all these things she was intent on doing. But I wasn’t prepared to be here alone, without her, without my friends, without my parents, my teachers – completely isolated in the largest city in Canada.
I gave up on theatre in University because as good as I was, there was a thousand girls just as good as me, with more practice and much more confidence (which is what it’s really about).
So school dragged on, I grew unhappy with my program that wasn’t theatre – but that I decided to stick with because it allowed me to take music and film courses as well which was very important to me – and once I moved downtown I barely even went to class. All that money I spent and I missed half my lectures… makes me sick thinking about it. Make no mistake though, I loved York and have no regrets about going there – I just wish it wasn’t so far uptown. My professors were for the most part incredible – and even though I was a lazy commuter student, I learned so much there that completely shaped the way I think about art, music and culture – and that program is the reason I have this blog, which changed and now helps define my life.
To the point:
My life didn’t really start until after those first five years. Until after I graduated from University. Until after I had to start living on my own and really figuring it out. Until I realized I had reduced all my friends to Facebook status updates. And my god was it depressing. I graduated in 2008. Remember when the recession hit? Yeah. That’s exactly when it hit. All the promises of a great career and financially stability once you get a degree were a big, huge $25,000 debt lie.
2008 through 2010 were a huge struggle of contract work and that whole #GirlsHBO period of trying to figure out WTF I AM DOING WITH MY LIFE. I started this blog in late 2009 but had no clue what I was doing with it or what it would be, and it went silent for months on end because of that. It wasn’t until early 2011 that I really started to take it seriously, but once I did, it was like a light switched on in my brain, in my life. Everything changed. I felt like I was doing something. In possibly helping people pursue their dreams by writing about what they were doing, I was fulfilling my own. I had finally figured out a big chunk of my purpose in this life, and how I could use my passion for music and art in some useful way.
The isolation I felt in those first five years dissipated. I found a new group of friends and they have truly changed my life. And as easy as it was to ignore my old friends throughout college, the reason I was so unhappy was because I was doing just that – and putting no effort in being with them. I let the idea that they are off doing their own thing, at their own school with their new friends, stop me from even bothering. As soon as I was out of school, all I wanted was to be with my friends again, as the song says. But by then they truly did have their own lives, and trying to be with them meant the same conversation about days past, over and over again.
It’s okay to accept that people are meant to be in your life at different periods, and it doesn’t make you (or them) a bad person if things fade away and never feel like they once felt. Time changes everything, and if you’re not growing together, you’re growing apart. Relationships of all kinds are hard work, and if you stop working at them, there’s a good chance you won’t just be able to pick up where you left off, once you suddenly start to miss them.
So if you’re in those first 5 years of ‘adult life’ – remember to work really hard on maintaining those friendships that really do matter to you, or they will fade away. And don’t worry if you feel completely lost. Some people, like me, are late bloomers. The real magic happens when you stop holding onto what you thought you were gonna be, and take steps every day to create a life that makes you happy. Everything will fall into place once you do that.