Behind the lens

I haven't taken pictures in a while; I want to get back into it as a hobby. I don't want to have any expectations to meet, just a chance to play around, possibly with friends, and get comfortable with the camera and my own skills that I don't feel like I'm struggling to juggle the need to think technically and be aware of the right moment to capture the shot. I rush to get through my discomfort and it shows in the pictures. I eventually would like to get some new gear, but before I do that, I want to feel like I've mastered working with the stuff I have.

I don't want to try to make money. I don't want to make a statement. I just want to document what interests me, and I want to improve my ability to do so. Perhaps I need to take a course; I did a photography program in grade 11 but moved halfway across the country the following summer, so I never graduated to color. White balance still throws me off.

Event photography has never really been my thing. I think I need a certain level of control to feel comfortable shooting. I don't like crowds much, and I much prefer slower paced, intimate and relaxed shoots. Photobooths are fine, especially if we've all had a bit to drink, but events are for those who are quicker on their feet and feel less conspicuous with their cameras.

My weakest area is focusing on the eyes. Too many of my pictures have slightly out-of-focus eyes; my subjects become objects instead of people with souls. I want to be able to to capture the way the light brings out a richness and beauty in their color, but more than that, I want to get better at detecting the small shifts in emotion that speak volumes: the inviting spark; the barely-contained sadness. Your mouth may say something, but your eyes give the context. 

I would love to take an informal but well-composed and focused portrait of each friend and acquaintance I've somehow connected with over the years. There are so many people I know that are amazingly photogenic, but I want to catch that essence about them that suggests they would be interesting to know. You can only gather that so much from a picture, but it still seeps in. I would keep track of the passing of time, the shifts and the constants, by revisiting each subject periodically and trying to recreate the shot as closely as possible.  

I'm particularly fascinated by human chameleons, the ones that change their look often, not as a disguise but as a way to show their authentic and evolving self. I want to document both the drastic shifts and the more gradual evolutions. What story does a change in appearance tell?

I want to capture that boost in confidence that comes from people feeling like their truest self is being revealed through their outfits, makeup and hair. That quality of swagger and poise, especially outside of the realm of cishet white males. People should do what they want with their own appearance: my body, my choice is absolute.

I've always been fascinated with the essential impermanence of hair, and its connections to a person's identity. Good hair should always be documented. Fresh cuts and shaves, tight tapers and fades, clean lines. Vivid dye jobs. Thick, long, and healthy. Amazing volume, wild yet tamed curls. Hair grows and loses shape and artificial color so fast, and needs maintenance to look its best; there's also a cleansing and therapeutic aspect to a fresh cut or shave. Stripping off the bad energy. Growing the grey out. The growing normalization of woman-identifying or AFAB people with very short or no hair; baldness isn't always by choice, but so many pull it off with elegance and fierceness. Perhaps the trick is comfort with the look; the sense that you feel like yourself, or that it's just another facet of your appearance that you can work with, accessorize, and coordinate into your personal style.

I want to document queerness. Every time I see a visibly queer person in public, part of me wishes we were friends. I'm interested in how people took control of their life's narrative and stopped having to mute who they are. There are so many stories here. The struggles and victories in finding community as your authentic self. Affirming your existence in a world that is often trying to erase you. The question of what defines and signifies masculinity and femininity. I'm especially drawn to the middle ground and the world outside the binary; both and neither. Androgyny, non-binary, genderqueer identities. Queer folks living their lives, experiencing joy, sorrow, or just being boring.

I love photography that manages to include the mundane aspects of life, the ones that totally slip your mind until you're suddenly reminded of them randomly years later. Those little details that fade into the background but can instantly transport you back in time. Cartons of milk and cereal boxes that have changed design countless times over 30 years. Old cassettes with their labels' hype branding from the 80's about the improvements to sound quality in their duplication processes; Chromium Dioxide, Super Cassette, XDR, QC-10. 

I wish more shots existed of the retail landscapes of the towns and cities I used to live in when growing up. I moved around a fair bit as a kid, and as much as the people, houses and schools were a big part of my memories of a given place, the storefronts root them in a particular timeframe. I moved to Miramichi, NB the summer before grade 12; I've seen pictures and videos of the former towns of Newcastle and Chatham, but a lot of them have a more historical bent than I'm interested in. I want to see what they would have looked like in my lifetime, the world that so many of my friends grew up in, and not just the faces and people within. One idea I always wanted to do was to travel to each of the places I lived in as a child every few years and shoot a mixture of similar and unique town and cityscapes. It's funny how change only seems to come the second you step away. Being able to revisit a place after you've grown and improved your spacial understanding of the world alters your perspective; even a small town like Pictou, NS seems so much bigger when you're younger.

The idea of taking pictures of different places, people and stories around the world holds some appeal to me, but that feels like a pipe dream. I can't really afford to travel right now; hell, I don't even have a car or driver's license so it's hard enough getting out of the city. I tried making some extra money with my photography a few years back, but I doubt my skills warranted the effort it took to keep putting myself out there, and the whole hustle only seemed to decrease my love of photography. If I don't know a person well and they don't have the magic quality that draws me out of my shell, I'm uncomfortable during the shoot. To be honest, the whole experience made me feel like a hack.

All I can really do right now is work on my skills and shoot around the city, trying to get better at observing the world and people around me, and to feel comfortable capturing them with the camera in my hand.

A strange dream I just had

I'm trying to write down the various dreams I've been having lately. The images are sometimes so vivid and I don't want them to dissipate back into my subconscious, but if there's an emotional aspect, I also want to keep track of that. I actually just had one such dream this evening during a nap:

I show up at work, which doesn’t resemble my actual workplace in the least; for some reason the boss never bothers to show up so we all decide to depart early. Some of us aren't worried about the future of our jobs, some of us are. I end up taking public transit home; in this dream, it's a train, which is odd because Halifax doesn't have commuter rail. The city also appears to be a mixture of North End Halifax (specifically, Young and Robie) and Winnipeg (specifically, the western part of Portage Avenue, but more run down looking). A number of people I know are on this train (I will obscure their identities); A is in front in a separate section, I see B and C in other seats close by, and D is sitting in the back row, reading. The latter person’s presence upsets me. I glance back periodically, hoping she doesn't notice me, but I'm also trying to resist the urge to point her out to the other people I know on the train, partially so they would know why I’m so agitated, and partially because I suspect they would all instantly fall in love with her. 

A has a record player on the train, and he has a lot of really bad CanCon and Christian discs that he is listening to in order to make fun of. One record is an obscure guy from Bathurst who looks like He-Man, and yet his songs are played every day on the radio to meet CRTC guidelines; I also spot a couple of Psalty the Singing Songbook LPs in the stack. He also has a Brian Eno Ambient album for some reason (on white vinyl); it’s a clear choice as to what both of us want to listen to. B and C get off the train in North End Halifax, I’m supposed to get off next but don’t, due to a combination of not wanting to go home, wanting to find something to eat (but still worrying about the cost), and curiousity about how long I can ride without D noticing me. I deliberately go as far as I can; there is a long stopover by a Pizza Hut, but I find myself waiting for A and D to leave, and end up at what used to be Unicity Mall in Winnipeg.

There is a used record store. There wasn’t one in the mall, but I’m looking through the stock to see if there’s anything there. There are a few cassettes here in there, some in broken cases. A lot of blank tapes for some reason, but mostly late 90s designs. Like in most of my record store dreams, the stock shifts around, titles disappear, and such. My cell phone battery is about to die, but I’m still shaken by the train encounter, and post that I’m in “a mood”. Eventually, the store gets set on fire, though I don’t know if it was me or someone else who did it; that turns out to be a moot point, though, because the record store destruction portion of the dream turns out to be a sketch by The State.

If any of you armchair psychologists have theories about the symbolism of this dream, take a crack in the comments.

Still keeping you all in the loop (if you want to be)

Ever since I started writing back here in November, I feel compelled to keep you all in the loop of what's been going on in my life. It's funny; I've tried private journals and diaries before but never really stuck with them past a few days or up to a half a month, despite the appeal of being able just bleed raw feelings onto the page. Maybe the accountability of posting in public appeals to me more. I hope to write at least one personal post every two weeks; I used to try to share the SNL reviews once a week each Saturday but found that was such a grind. Maybe I will get back to that schedule for the other part of that blog, but I think that will probably only come with a backlog of content ready to post.

I had a good long weekend; Nova Scotia implemented a February statutory holiday a few years ago and my workplace is one of those that closed for the day. I decided that I didn't want to worry about whether I used the downtime productively or not; in the past I would make vague but grand plans about what I would do with a huge block of time off (I'm going to write! I'm going to take pictures! I'm going to socialize! I'm going to finally clean my apartment!), only to get depressed when I inevitably spent the whole weekend in bed or surfing the internet without really engaging with anyone. I didn't do anything overly exciting but I did try a new doughnut shop I've heard good things about, and generally felt well-rested.

The next few days went pretty well, despite some sluggish starts in the mornings: I got a postcard from one friend travelling in Ireland on Tuesday, met another friend for some post-work drinks on Wednesday, and went to a comedy show on Thursday, where I saw a few friends perform, ran into another I hadn't seen in a long time, and drank with a few more good folks at Charlie's.

I also decided to start taking my computer out to coffee shops to write again; I find I get better flow when I'm outside of the apartment and there are no attention-hungry cats trying to distract me. So far, it's paying off a lot more than it had been in the past; I don't know if it's the meds, or there's just a little bit more "openness" in my writing, but the words are coming again, and I feel connected to them. I'm trying set aside regular weekly time to work on my writing or other creative pursuits; tentatively this is going to be every Thursday after work, but I'm considering doing a second weekly "cafe time" to force myself out of the apartment.

Unfortunately, the last weekend was a bit of a step back. The sluggishness from the start of the week seemed to take over my body on Saturday, and by Sunday I just felt tethered to my bed. I've been feeling a bit more moody, impatient and grumpy for much of the week, as well as the physical heaviness that hadn't really been around for a few months. I don't know if this is my meds starting to plateau off, or if it's just other stresses just piling on each other that need to be vented, but I hope this is just a temporary setback. I'm trying to self-care my way through this: for me, this involves making sure I taking the time to read, write, listen to music, and making sure I take care of errands (I just slow-cooked and froze a bunch of stew to curb my tendency to eat out), but I still sometimes find myself eating my feelings, and sometimes my thoughts are so loud that I can't hear the music I'm listening to.

I'm not the greatest at reaching out one-to-one. It's easier to just make a social media post and hope that the likes or comments provide enough of an endorphin rush to lift my spirits, or that someone else starts the engagement for me. But when I feel low or anxious, I never feel certain how any one-on-one communication will be received, or if it will just be wasted spoons. I'd rather just post something generic and have people opt in. I sometimes wonder if I'm capable of writing a lengthy and intimate letter anymore; there's such a performative aspect to much of what I say or do that I feel like I can't fully be vulnerable.

If a post didn't get any likes or comments, did anyone actually look at it?  I pore over my site analytics a little carefully, trying to figure out who was actually looking at it. I can guess who some of my readers are strictly by seeing the logs showing geographic location and how they accessed the page. I'm guilty of really superficial engagement; I use the like button as a way to indicate I've seen something, to express general agreement, or to trick the social media robots into showing me more content from that person. Are algorithms just meant to isolate the losers of the world so they don't take attention away from the already-popular? When I'm online, sometimes I just want to feel like I can connect on a human level beyond the thumbs up, the heart or whatever. This is why I like reading blogs, especially if I know the people behind them.

The next month is going to require me to be a bit more frugal than normal, so I have to be careful about how I use my time and money; I probably won't be going to Charlie's or to any shows for the next few weeks, so if I want to see people I'm probably going to have to suck it up and reach out, unless someone else does first. I have to get out of this opt-in mindset and tell people what I want.

Getting old

What is the generally accepted demarcation of middle age? Is it a set chronological age or is it when certain milestones are reached?

I'm turning 36 in a little more than a month. 36. The age Homer Simpson was when The Simpsons premiered (the writers did manage to age him up a tiny bit over the last 29 years). The same age as Jay Sherman was on The Critic.  I was rewatching the first season of Cheers last summer and the realization struck me that with the exception of Coach (who was only in his late 50s at the time) I was the same age or older than the entire cast. I tend to think in terms of television way too often.

Do previous generations always seem older at the same age to each one that follows? Maybe the cigarette smoke and banned ingredients in food aged them, and the more insulated from these negative influences people were, the longer they retained their youth. The adults of my age group still seem teenagerish in comparison to records of those who were the same age in the past. It could just be the distance that analogue media tends to coat over the moments preserved.

I'm at the age where many of my friends are married and have children; a number of them are already divorced. I went bald young but I'm seeing white hairs creep into my beard; I'm seeing other friends in the same age group embracing their grey hair (and looking damn good). Maybe we learned the lesson that refusing to accept the physical aspects of aging is ultimately a losing battle. Sadly, some of our bodies are starting to turn on us, though it's just as often a case of genetic timebombs going off than poor maintenance on our part. The reminders of our own mortality are becoming more frequent.

I sometimes feel further away from middle age than a lot of the people in my generation, since I'm not partnered, nor do I have any children, and I can't really see myself owning a house at right now even if I could afford it. I know people about five (or more) years younger who seem to have pulled off the "adulting" thing better than I have. Despite this, I often feel like my soul is about 60; this could just be my fondness for post-punk music, though. Maybe I just think more in generations than chronological age. The hippies are now in the age range widely considered elderly, with the punks not too far behind them; Generation X is now firmly middle aged. Grunge was over 25 years ago, Nirvana's Nevermind further removed from today. Babies born the year I graduated from high school will be heading to university in the fall.

I'm seeing incredible people in the world who are doing good and interesting things, people I would like to get to know. But sometimes I think to myself, "am I too old to make this connection?"

Them's the berries

I wrote this about two years ago. Relationships were on my mind at the time as a few of my friends had gone through breakups the previous fall; as much as I was trying to keep things vague in the post, I was also trying to work through some of my own feelings by writing about them, still blindsided and conflicted over the automatic neurochemical reactions I kept experiencing with a specific person a while back (part of the equation: for the first time in at least 10 years, it was a woman). As far as I know, nothing was going to come of it, but I still try to keep the number of real-world interactions to a minimum because I don't want any involuntary emotions leaking out. 

The friends that went through breakups that fall have since found new relationships. I'm rekindling a relationship with myself and recharging the batteries whenever I feel drained. Platonic love is underrated, anyway.

Some messy and real Valentine's Day cards I would like to see:

  • Me: can't get strongly attracted to anyone without an emotional connection.
    Also me: Doesn't want to risk the emotional connection by acting on the attraction.
  • Unrequited feelings are the risk but requited feelings scare me even more.
  • You can't guard your heart without it shattering from the pressure anyway.
  • Let's skip the relationship and go straight to being amicable exes.
  • You're an amazing person and I think the world of you, but seeing your face peels me open every time and I still can't get the skin back on.

The longest month

January still hasn't ended yet, but it feels like ages since the new year began.  I'm not sure whether it's the weather (a few storms, but no actual storm days aside from an early close) or something else but time seemed to slow down this month.  I also haven't been feeling the greatest lately; I've been coming home exhausted from work and crashing for about an hour most nights, and I had the beginnings of a sore throat a few days ago. I had a handful of "can't get out of bed" depression nights as well, but those don't really feel like the norm anymore. I also feel like I've pulled back from people a bit over the last two weeks, but it's more "my brain and body are exhausted" than "I'm trespassing on their lives".

I still managed a few nights out; no real planned get-togethers or anything, but I forced myself to go out (and pay cover) to a couple of things over the last few weeks. Last weekend I ended up hitting Retro Night at the Seahorse Tavern; I didn't really dance or mingle and the crowd was a little young for me (I'm 35; most of the people seemed to be in early 20s), but I liked the music, and there was something entertaining about seeing all these people dressed up and enjoying themselves. It's not something I would do regularly, though; I prefer the crowd and conversations at Charlie's any night.  

I was listening to LOL UR GAY last week at work (full disclosure: I know the hosts; you should also subscribe to it), and one of the topics discussed was setting time aside to focus on creative work that doesn't necessarily pay the bills: comedy, writing, etc. It had me thinking about marking out a specific time and space each week to work on projects again. I would sometimes hit a local cafe or the library to do the SNL reviews or photo editing (mainly to minimize the number of times Autumn would jump or lie down on the keyboard), but that was more of a "when I remembered or felt like it" thing, not a regularly scheduled block of time. I'd be interested into making this a social thing as well, meeting up with a friend just to work on our own projects.

I'm going to try to write in this space more often. Social media algorithms seem too isolating sometimes.

Another life update

I want to thank all those who responded to my last post; I haven't been so great at finding the time and brainpower to send my reply to your kind e-mails as of yet, but rest assured that I will sooner or later. (Also, keep them coming! I take a look at my site analytics to see where my traffic comes from, and wonder who's visiting the page.)

I haven't been feeling the greatest this past week or so, which is only really noticeable in light of how much more human I've felt in the last month compared to the previous year. I still feel like the medication's helping, but I'm exhausted and a little more stressed than usual. Some days you just run out of spoons quicker than others, I suppose. All I can really do is try not to worry whether an evening is productive or not, get some rest, and make sure to cuddle with Autumn when I need to feel a little better. I'm working on engaging others more and not fall into the habit of "passive likes", but if my brain's telling me I need a night off the computer or phone, I'm trying to listen.

I hit a fairly big reading slump late last year, so most of my library borrowing as of late has been TV-on-DVD sets, but a book I put a hold on a few months ago finally arrived last week. It's a poetry collection, Depression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim; I saw it on an Instagram account I follow and the title piqued my interest. Reading or listening to others articulate their own experiences with depression helps me feel less alone; I also enjoyed Melissa Broder's So Sad Today for the same reason, and am grateful for the number of people in my life who get what I'm going through.

Dolores O'Riordan died this week. I wasn't really into The Cranberries (liked a few songs of theirs but her style jumped out at me more), but the news felt particularly brutal and wounding. Maybe it's just because it was so sudden and unexpected and she was so young. 46. A little more than a decade older than I am. 

I keep thinking about which of my friends should meet each other; I get a kick out of seeing people I know from separate social circles start to form connections with one another. Maybe I just gravitate to specific personality types or vice versa. It may be time to hold another get-together similar to my Haliversary outing last fall. 

Autumn's meowing at me again. I need to get to bed.

A request for personal e-mails

I miss e-mail. I still get plenty of new things filling up my inbox, but just like the box in my apartment lobby, most of what I get is bill notifications, subscriptions, and junk mail. The odd piece of correspondence from another human being slips through on occasion, but not enough for my liking. 

I've always preferred e-mail to instant messenger conversations. When I don't have all my spoons, I just don't feel up to keeping a conversation going, even if I feel lonely and disconnected. In the age of social media, e-mail's fallen by the wayside, but there's an intimacy in two people exchanging words directly that's lost when you have to think about networks and potential audiences.

I want you to send me an e-mail. Write about anything. If I don't really know you, tell me a little bit about yourself; if you want to get to know me better, let me know. Strip away the curated persona you maintain on social media. I can't guarantee I'll send a response immediately, but I will respond, hopefully with the same thoughtfulness (or more) that you put into your e-mail. The best way to contact me is with the form that's on my contact page; I guarantee anything you write in the e-mail is just between us, and using the form will not subscribe you to any mailing lists whatsoever.

I also like (and don't get enough) snail mail, but I won't share my mailing address publicly. If you're interested in paper correspondence, let me know.


I finally decided to go to a walk-in clinic on November 23rd regarding my depression. This was a step I had been thinking about taking for a little while, but something in me held me back. I remember one time deliberately going to the area with the clinic instead of going straight home, but not being able to bring myself to walk in the door that night. I don't know what it was; maybe I was just wary of sitting in a potentially crowded waiting room that day.

Anyway, the doctor put me on a daily dose of 10mg of escalitopram and ordered blood work to rule out any other medical causes. It's still too early to know whether this is going to do the trick for me; it should kick in sometime shortly before Christmas (let's hope). I've been feeling a few of the side effects though, particularly the exhaustion: it's very rare for me to be able to stay awake too late after 9pm, though sometimes I will wake up in the middle of the night. For the most part I'm laying low while my body gets used to this, so there haven't been too many outings or nights out, and most of my weekends are spent in bed (my cat doesn't seem to mind this part). I'm still looking into my options regarding therapy.

I sought medical help because I was tired of the repetitiveness of what my life had become. My regular coping methods were band-aids at best, and not very good ones. My brain took the fun out of a party I had been looking forward to and kept me from making plans. I had evenings where I was a combination of drained and agitated, lonely but also feeling like interacting with other people was beyond my capabilities. I also felt that I owed it to the friends who continually encouraged me to take control of things by getting help; I worry I was frustrating them and letting them down the longer I let this drag on.

There's a glut of listacles online about the signs you have depression, anxiety or any other mental illness. I see the value in these, but I've always preferred to read people telling their own stories. It's one thing to see a list of symptoms, sometimes paired off with memes and gifs from movies, but there's something depersonalized about it all; it helps me more to know someone else is experiencing the same things I'm going through, to be able to connect the clinical stuff with impact it has on someone's individual life. Telling the story makes it more real.

I just want to have other stories to tell here beside this one.


I wonder if it's worth it to keep this site.

I used to blog for free, but decided a few years back that I needed to register the domain name for my writing and photography; I moved to my current provider when I decided that I need actual hosting for my photography.  I amalgamated my other blog where I did the SNL reviews into this one to better connect that work with the handful of Splitsider articles I wrote years back.

I don't know if I can fully justify the cost in keeping this space to myself, though.

The photography thing is mostly dead; I will shoot when a friend asks me for some quick headshots, but I've long abandoned any ambitions of being able to support myself with this line of work. Hell, I think the main reason why I tried to sell myself as a photographer was to justify spending money on a DSLR years ago while I was working at a call centre and trying not to resign myself to that life. As far as I'm concerned, this was play-acting.

I struggle to come up with interesting content for my writing. I often feel that having this space associated with my own name limits the type of content I feel comfortable posting, and I don't feel like whatever I have to say is much other than navel-gazing.  Right now my life is so monotonous and grey (see last post) that there really isn't much to write about when I actually feel up to stringing the words together. 

I wonder if it was a mistake to bring the SNL reviews onto my main domain. They're the main drivers of my site traffic, but I honestly feel like I've wasted the last 20 years of my life with this intense scrutiny of a TV show whose very nature makes a given episode hit-and-miss. Sometimes I actually resent doing these reviews. I watched the first three shows of the current season but found it harder to stay up through the whole show; if I'm too tired, I just won't bother tuning in, or will go to bed once the fatigue sets in. This is not a knock on the cast or writers, I just don't really feel much connection to the show anymore. I just feel like too much of an old man when watching the current show ("Who is that?" "What is that about?" "I don't know what they're making fun of"). Even when I tuned in this past weekend, when Eminem did a medley with "Stan", all I could think of was that he did that song on the show 17 years ago.  

I've abandoned, closed down, and deleted blogs and websites in the past. Even with this one, I've taken hiatuses from blogging (usually coinciding with work concerns taking priority or depressive spells). I still haven't made up my mind about this site, but I don't feel like the person who created it exists inside me anymore.

New Normal

I'm not going to mince words: I'm depressed.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been in this headspace, and I am fortunate enough to be functional enough to work, but for the last year or so, that’s it. I feel like it takes most of my energy and will to just trudge from the apartment to the bus stop, endure the commute to the office, make it through the work day without letting my façade of humanity slip, and ride back home (which is invariably a worse) commute before the brain inevitably cries “fuck this”. I still have good days where I’m able to feign sociability a bit better, and there are days where I’m drained and foggy before I even get home, but for the most part, I consider myself lucky if I manage to do something with my free time other than lie in bed with my phone.

Most days I’m just tired; sometimes I feel a physical weight dragging my limbs, as if they were moving through water or my body is operating on a slower speed than the rest of universe. My apartment is a mess because I don’t have the executive function needed to finish the chores I start, and I rarely feel the presence of mind needed to partake in my hobbies. It’s often hard for me to bother with reading or watching TV, like whatever I’m supposed to taking in gets blocked out by the fog. It’s hard to review an SNL in this state and harder to write when you’re aware that most of what you’re putting out is the same old shit.

There’s also a running commentary of noise that plays in my brain. There was a recent episode of Bojack Horseman that did a good job of simulating what it’s like to have that voice narrating your existence, second-guessing each decision that you make every day and reminding you of every failing that you’ve accumulated over a lifetime. It’s exhausting. Sometimes I can distract myself from it, but on bad days it gets to the point where I just can’t enjoy anything.

I still eat three meals a day regardless of appetite, but I often don’t feel the pleasure I used to get from my favorite foods, or it takes conscious effort to finish my meal. I try to browse bookstores or record shops but rarely buy anything; the running commentary tsk-tsks me for spending money to get a brief endorphin rush when I can’t even pretend it will fix the greater malaise. Sometimes I feel like my motivations for reading or listening to music are less than pure, born out of a desire to impress certain people more than an actual ability to appreciate the creative work.

The good conversations aren’t happening anymore. I just don’t feel like I have anything to contribute to the discussion, and I’m mostly just observing or eavesdropping instead of being good company. There are times I’m lucid enough to seek company, but a lot of the time I’m so far into my own head that when I’m with a friend, I feel too scrambled to really articulate what’s going on, or don’t feel it’s appropriate to wade beyond the surface level stuff or the dam will break. When I’m especially low, I often don’t even bother reaching out; something in my brain tells me that I’m in my rightful place, they’re in theirs, and any attempt I make at crossing over is trespassing, and any attempt to bring them into my world just drains them to the point of resentment. Am I really connecting on a deeper level or am I just unloading emotional labour?

Dating is also out; I know I’m not in a good place to get involved with anyone, and I don’t really have chemistry with most people; this is something I’ve learned to live with, but it’s gotten to the point that whenever I start feeling the slightest bit of attraction toward anyone, I panic and either try to ignore it or douse the spark. I figure it’s hard enough pretending to be a human for the day-to-day existence without having to market myself. I’m a bad liar, and I probably won’t be able to disguise that I don’t have faith in the product I’m selling. It’s not that I wouldn’t like to share a life with someone; I just don’t feel like I’m capable of the work needed for a healthy relationship.

I know there are people that care for me, that even love me, but sometimes I really don’t know if I can really absorb or return it properly.

I went through another bit of a depressive patch during a particularly bitter winter a few years ago, but back then I still had interests and vague goals, and I could shift the blame somewhat on tight finances and a precarious work situation; now that things have stabilized on the work front it’s become more apparent that my current low spell is deep-seated. It’s jumping from treadmill to treadmill these days; I’m “continuing” at best, keeping a status quo that doesn’t necessarily bring joy or lead anywhere. I’ve mentioned a while back that I don’t feel the same magic I used to from Halifax; the potential and possibilities I used to feel have faded away, and the more people that know me around here, the more boxed into my routine and identity I become.

There are small measures I’ve been taking to try to fight against this void. I try to make sure I get a little bit of daylight and exercise during my lunch break, and I have a few people that I feel comfortable discussing my emotional state with when I’m capable of stringing more than a few words together coherently. I’ve conceded that this is a medical thing that needs to be addressed soon; as much as I’ve been researching the best possible way to go about this, though, I still hesitate to take this step.

I don’t know what would make me happy, though. I’m scared that the answer will forever be outside my reach.

It's not you, it's me

I’ve been trying to come up with a personal blog post for a little while.  Maybe this comes with the trap of having an online space signed with your name, but I’m afraid of posting what I truly feel because I worry about how such a post will reflect on me.  Every time I consciously try to write something I end up generalizing things so much to the point where it rings false.

I write because I want to connect, and this is the way I tap into the part of myself that I have trouble accessing when face to face with someone, especially if I don’t know them well. That said, I sometimes feel as though whatever I put into the web and social media is just more static to be tuned out, especially in spaces at the mercy of algorithms and statistics. I wonder how often my writing becomes white noise as soon as my name’s attached.

Sometimes I go for months without talking to people, even if I consider them friends. It’s not personal animus so much as the feeling that I probably get more out of the relationship more than I’m able to give in return. I can enjoy someone’s company, but when I feel like I’m getting too close or that I’ve opened up too much to them, I instinctively back away for a while. I don’t want to be the guy people only put up with out of a sense of obligation, or worse, pity. My individual friends have their own lives and careers; some have partners and families. I don’t really trust my instincts on these matters, but if I sense a growing distance from someone or assume they need a bit of space, I would rather err on the side of consideration instead of becoming this draining, needy presence that people come to resent.

Over the years, there were brief flirtations with the idea of an active social life, filled with meaningful conversations over drinks and good food. It was a way to stretch out of my comfort zone and build new connections in what was an unfamiliar city. I kept wearing identities and disguises that turned translucent as soon as people became familiar with me, so I shrank away from every space that I felt like I was intruding. I’m not going to pretend that eating double quarter pounders at McDonalds by myself (the automated kiosks are great when you don’t want to talk to people) or binge-watching Cheers DVDs in my apartment is a fulfilling life, but it fits me better than the dance parties or activist galas.

Every now and then I tell myself I should probably make plans with someone I haven’t seen in person or talked to in a while, but worry that any connection that existed between us has long dissipated and the hard-won comfort I felt around them is gone. I admit to being a shitty friend; I’ve rarely invited company over and seldom initiate get-togethers. I just don’t know if I’m up to the work of sustaining friendships right now, and am not going to delude myself that I can handle anything closer than that.

When I withdraw, do people actually miss me, or do they miss the person they thought I was before they got too close to ignore the neuroses and character failures?


Last summer, I offered pay-what-you-can portrait sessions; I did three of the ten promised shoots, edited one set, and then put my camera away sometime in late August, and haven't taken it out since.

At the time I attributed it to exhaustion from the readjustment to work, but sometime last fall, it became evident that I wasn't getting the same enjoyment from taking pictures as I used to. When I was working a temp agency job, I had hoped to supplement my meager income with photography work, but I quickly realized that I didn't have the same level of skill, comfort, and (most importantly) hustle as some of the other photographers I know in the city, so I decided to cede my ground.

I don't know when I'll be taking pictures again. I don't feel that I have the comfort level around other people needed for portraiture, and I'm sure my general tenseness bleeds into the shots. The times I relax, the shots are usually out of focus or improperly framed. Candid party photography is out of the question; I'm more comfortable doing photobooths, but those have a certain level of rigidity built in, even as the alcohol makes everyone loosen up.

I think there have always been ulterior motives behind my attempts to sell myself as a photographer. Money. Cachet. The opportunity to connect with people. It doesn't feel like I've really been able to take pictures for the sake of taking pictures in a long time, though, and I've hit a bit of a plateau in terms of enjoyment and technique. I post them for the hits on my webpage and the likes on my Facebook, but I don't think I really have anything to say with my work besides "I like getting attention". 

Around the same time, I abruptly postponed my SNL reviews. I was hoping to be done reviewing the 1984-85 season by this point, but as I was trying to compile my introductory remarks on the season, I just had a huge rush of "why am I doing this?" and realized that the amount of work I would have to put into each review would better be spent looking for better paying work, maintaining a social life (or trying to), and perhaps watching things that I haven't seen multiple times already.

I sometimes feel boxed in by my whole SNL fandom. It's been a big part of my life for the better part of the last 20 years (it really took off around the time the Comedy Network launched in Canada, with their twice-weekly chronological reruns of full length shows), but when I think about the amount of time and effort I've put into watching, researching, and chronicling a show whose history continues to expand, I ask myself "what am I doing this for, and at what expense?" I don't know what my endgame is. I do eventually want to get through 1984-85, but I can't see myself continuing with the reviews indefinitely, and I feel like I invest too much time and effort into something that's ultimately a niche hobby with a very specific audience.

Sharp-eyed readers will notice that I got rid of the last few "31 in 31" posts. I rarely delete blog posts, but these seemed to descend into repetition and whining after the tenth day or so (up to the point where I abandoned the project). Like with photography, I began to feel like my writing was motivated more out of a desire for attention than anything else. I was starting to run out of stories, and my pulling back from the world meant my brain was becoming an echo chamber for my various insecurities and neuroses. When I'm like this, I tend to pull back even further because I don't want to start draining people; I miss the closeness, but am too afraid of imposing or intruding on other lives, especially those that have considerably more to juggle than I do.

I honestly don't know what I have to say anymore. We're in scary times, and I think there are too many other voices that need to be shared more than mine (another white male). I don't feel especially connected to other people, but I feel even less connected to myself, and I don't think it's right to try to get too close to another person without a better idea of who I am.

The summer's gone, but a lot goes on forever

Leonard Cohen is gone. It was an inevitability, telegraphed by the man himself in recent months, but seeing the official status at the top of my Facebook feed was an unwelcome surprise tonight. Right now, it doesn’t feel much like the big loss I expected to feel; in a year that already claimed David Bowie and Prince, where voters in the UK and US legitimized hatred and resentment of the other, Cohen’s death almost seems anticlimactic. Just another light gone out after our eyes already adjusted to the darkness.

My introduction to him came via a country music station out of Selkirk, MB in the early 90s. They mostly played new country (Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, etc.), but had a few weekly shows outside the regular format, including one that played a lot of folk and bluegrass. It was that show that exposed me to John Prine and Emmylou Harris, and long before I knew his name, I remember hearing a spare and muted synthesizer-based track where a gravelly voice man invoked Hank Williams, women cooed scat vocals, and a ghostly piano played after every few verses. By the time I heard the song again a few years later during a family camping trip to Hecla Island, I knew Cohen’s name but not his work, more familiar with the exaggeratedly dour impression Roger Abbott did on Royal Canadian Air Farce than his words and music until my first year at Mount Allison University.

A borrowed greatest hits compilation was my first conscious exposure to Cohen’s music. It took; I bought I’m Your Man before the school year was out, and Songs of Leonard Cohen and Recent Songs over the summer. My friends Scott and Jay helped fill in some of the gaps of my Cohen appreciation (they also developed my fondness for tea and good beer). By the time I finished my degree, Cohen became one of the cornerstones of my music taste, and a bonding point with many friends. I’m not always in the mood to listen to him, but there have been many times I sought solace by quickly losing myself in his words.

I’m glad to be able to say I saw him in concert. He played the Scotiabank Centre (then called the Halifax Metro Centre) about six months after I moved to Halifax. The tickets were a birthday present from my younger sister, who came with me to the concert; they were cheap seats so we were all the way up in the nosebleeds, our eyes going back and forth between the action happening below and the screens projecting the close-up camera feeds. He was 78 at the time, but spry, seemingly growing younger from the point he skipped on stage for the first time, still able to kneel and climb back up many times during a multi-hour set. For all his reputation as a depressing artist, he exuded a lot of joy that night.

31 in 31: Day 10

Nocturne is this weekend; I went pretty much every year since I moved here. but it really peaked for me about three years ago. I don't really want to go out by myself (or run into people on the street when alone), but I don't really feel up to making plans with other people this week. It's a free event, so budget isn't a problem, but I just have this overwhelming feeling that art really isn't my thing, no matter how much I want it to be. I guess that makes me a dilettante.

I'm sitting on raw photos I shot in August when I did a "free photoshoot" offer. I'm not especially thrilled that I haven't finished editing them, but when I see what I shot, so little of it is salvageable. Too many out of focus shots. Part of me thinks it's because I'm using a cheapo Opteka portrait lens that won't focus properly at 1.8, but the poor craftsman blames his tools. It could just be my own eyes. I had hoped to supplement my income with photography, but I really don't think I have hustle, skills or tools to make it work right now, nor can I really afford to invest in the latter two. I've been wondering whether I actually enjoy photography, or just the validation that I get when I share the pictures.

I recently read Truth Is Fragmentary by Gabrielle Bell; it's a graphic novel of her travelogues and diaries, including daily comics for the month of July in three different years. There's quite a lot I identified with, particularly her insecurities and anxieties; the tendency to pull away from other people and get lost in the mess of one's own thoughts.

I have more I want to talk about, but I need Tylenol and rest.

31 in 31: Day 9

I got back into Halifax at about 10 last night; despite a small delay in Moncton, my bus ride was for the most part uneventful. The power was out in a lot of the city, though; the north end looked positively eerie as my bus crossed over the MacDonald Bridge, and the neighborhood around the bus terminal was dark as well. From what I could tell, my neighborhood wasn't affected in the least (it rarely has been in the four years I've lived there), and I came home to the sound of CBC Radio One and an attention-starved cat.

I fell behind on this whole 31-in-31 thing fairly quickly; I still intend to make up the posts by months' end, but I don't want to fall into the trap of just posting one sentence and publishing. I know that's closer to the spirit of the exercise than only posting when you have something substantial to write about, but I feel like I've been so mute lately that I want to use this spot to get back in touch with a part of myself that's become lost in the fog, especially whenever I tend to withdraw from people in the real world (today was one of those days).

31 in 31: Day 8

I didn't get around to writing a second post as I had expected yesterday. My first bus (from Halifax to Moncton) had wi-fi and outlets, but I was so cramped in my seat that it was very uncomfortable to have my laptop open, and I didn't want to accidentally jam my elbow in my seatmate's face. My second bus (Moncton to Fredericton) was roomier, but didn't have the wi-fi or the outlets. I rarely go west of Moncton anyway, so I wanted to see the unfamiliar stretches of the route.

I moved a lot when I was a kid, and when I was 8, my family moved from Nova Scotia to Manitoba. The second day of our trip ended with us in Fredericton, and to my younger self, that part of the trip seemed interminable. Some of the highways were realigned and renumbered in the past quarter century; the Trans-Canada is now a four-lane expressway all the way through New Brunswick, though the bus still has to go on the old alignment for part of the leg between Sussex and Fredericton. It's a beautiful country drive, but It's weird to think of that stretch as part of the main artery through the province until fifteen years ago.

I got into Fredericton at about 7:30, had dinner with my sisters, then we went to my friends' place. I've known Andrew since I moved to New Brunswick in 1999, and we've been in touch pretty much constantly since high school; he and I have a very similar sense of humor and a mutual appreciation for "second golden age" SNL (1986-91 or so). I hadn't seen him in person in about a year, and I don't think I had seen Christine (his partner) in about five. It was a good night, full of homemade wine, unconsecrated host cuttings, cheese, and a homemade adaptation of Cards Against Humanity with even more offensive and Canadian content. We ended up staying to watch SNL and didn't get back to my sisters' apartment until about 3 am.

My parents came down for Thanksgiving dinner today and after they left, my sisters and I watched the debate. It was an interesting contrast in body language between the two candidates; the way both handled the undecided voters' questions told volumes. Either way, I have a headache after watching the whole thing.

31 in 31: Day 7

This post is a little late. It could have been the two beers I had after work (which I needed this week). It could have been the news about Donald Trump that consumed my social media feed like a giant car wreck which everyone witnessed.

I may compensate for this short "marking time" post with another one later today, but I'll be travelling for most of of the day and have plans after I get to my destination.

31 in 31: Day 6

I've been up way too late all week. I've been napping more after work, and then trying to reclaim some of the lost productivity afterward; it's a bit of a backslide from being able to get to bed at around 11 pm for the last few weeks. I have to wake up at 6 in the morning to catch an early bus that I don't really need to take, and by the end of the day I'm usually in this fog of exhaustion.

I had a little more money than usual this week and have been spending too much on eating out. It may be a byproduct of my exhaustion, or I'm sick of what I can cook on my otherwise limited budget and culinary skills. I sometimes stop off at the liquor store to buy a single beer or cider; if I'm going to just have one, I don't really want to spend the money at a bar unless I'm there with another person. Of course, I end up not making plans with people because I don't think I can afford to, likely because I spent the money on the food and beer already. The cycle continues.

I've been having hypothetical conversations in my head. I catch myself making the gestures that go along with these conversations and wonder if some of the words are spilling out of my mouth.

31 in 31: Day 5

I try to dodge the ghosts whenever I can. It's nothing personal, but they raise too many questions with no right answers. I always have to be on guard for them; there are some spaces I'm certain they never inhabit, and there are some places where I won't go anymore whenever possible. It takes a lot of work and strain to always rejig travel arrangements to minimize run-ins, probably more than it's worth.

The encounters aren't so bad, but the lingering haunting is the rough part.