my lately | all that glitters is not gold

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My word-crafting doesn’t come close to the precision with which the bloggers I admire slam meaning, with literary finesse, right out of the park. I fumble. A lot. It can take hours to tease words from my brain, wrap them around emotion and lay them down in a single paragraph. I agonize far too much about this. And often, in the end, I’m left with a scattering of words that sound hollow and tired. The very thing I hoped to avoid, that filled me with dread when I stared at the empty screen. At times like this I step away from my blog. This has been the case recently. But there’s been more going on behind the scenes, and I’ve been in a tug of war over whether it’s meaningful to share that. I’m put off by blog posts that invite readers to become gawkers at an emotional accident scene. Where a flood of narcissism and self-pity rushes wildly across social media, and the feeling uniting both writer and reader often becomes one of embarrassment.

In making the choice to share some of the details surrounding my absence, I came face-to-face with my integrity as a blogger. I like to think that I capture “life’s perfect imperfections” through words and images. The truth is, I struggle with the allure of perfection, with that shape-shifting aspect of authenticity. And I struggle with my acceptance of imperfection, and my honest portrayal of it here. So much of what drives and saturates social media and lifestyle blogs—the beauty and shine of expensive possessions, primped people and exotic places—is beyond my reach. My eldest son aptly calls this, “Utopian Blogland”. My possessions are more worn, a little more down-at-heel, the people in my life more whole and the places less remarkable. While I may not own a house in my high snack bracket neighbourhood, I reap the benefit of its spoils. On sunset walks, I gaze at the houses, sometimes longingly, always aware that I’m peering in from the other side of the bakery window. But I’m surrounded by green space whose beauty has nothing to do with possession. I don’t discount my vast privilege in any of this. My home is a rental apartment furnished with a collection of “found, free and flea” items, interspersed with lovely gifts and the occasional bit of newness. I’m attached to the stories, both real and imagined, that these items hold. They give me a feeling of comfort that I can’t find no matter how many pages I turn (and advertisements I wade through) in a glossy magazine. Where money buys the look of “simplicity”; a wad of cash cloaked in nonchalance, wrapped in “rustic” charm, curated and strategically placed. The humour in this isn’t lost on me.

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Over the years, I haven’t strayed very far into the realm of the overtly personal on this blog. That grey area where representations of perfection and imperfection collide. I’ve carefully chosen where I draw my lines in the sand, maintaining boundaries for my own comfort and that of my children. I’ve shared both joy and heartache, but there haven’t been any cringe-worthy, regretful moments. And now I find myself straddling that line again, this time yielding to a force that asks me to lean into the discomfort. To find words that make sense of these past few weeks. I do this for my sake, and so that someone else may, quite possibly, feel less alone in their struggle.

These past few years, I’d often thought about moving to Toronto. A year ago, I began planning my move in earnest; a return, after two decades, to my hometown. My kids had reached milestones that made the timing right, and my need to find consistent employment fuelled my determination to make this move happen. I knew that pulling up roots was going to change pretty much everything I experienced as routine in my life. Still, with my two older children already living in Toronto, and the need to bridge the miles between my youngest son and his dad (who had also moved there), there was no doubt in my mind that this move made sense. Apartment and job-hunting were daunting—and nerve-wracking—but I wanted this. I felt stuck in my small city, resigned to the fact that the bulk of my work would remain in professional kitchens. A place where the wage cap and often seasonal nature of the work, was strangling me. I planned, I saved, I found an apartment, I sold and gave away possessions, packed the remains, and with the help of family and friends, I landed in Toronto—one big exhausted but happy mess! I was ready to lay down the kitchen knives and concentrate on other skill areas.

Two months prior, I was contacted by a recruiter who’d discovered my employment profile online. The position on offer was with an extremely high-profile individual, and therefore one that wouldn’t ever be advertised. And so it was that the job found me. The position was challenging, well-compensated, required travel and one that I was prepared to pour my heart into. I entered into what would become a four-month long hiring process. After two and a half months, several interviews, many phone calls and emails, I received the email I’d been hoping for—the one congratulating me on receiving the position! I was bulldozed by shock, relief and elation. There were two others offers that I had to make a decision about that week, so the timing of this news was perfect. The following day, we began preliminary talks about schedule, salary and benefits, with the understanding that a contract had to be drawn up. Another two weeks passed and the contract process appeared to stall. By week three, I was informed that I now needed to clear one more hurdle … Fully committed to securing this position, I altered my plans, forfeited Thanksgiving with my family, and devoted five days to a trial period out-of-town with my future employer.

Five weeks had passed from the time I received the congratulatory email. Nerves aside, I settled in quickly that weekend, and felt extremely good about the work I did! I received fantastic feedback from several people, followed up with the recruiter, and waited to hear the outcome. Another week passed … and the decision finally arrived: I didn’t have the position after all. I was stunned and crushed. All of the time, patience, effort, thought and energy I’d invested was eradicated in a single phone call. And to make matters worse, I’d turned down other work and staved off other interviews, all to my own detriment.

The recruiter, with whom I’d worked very closely, was equally floored by this decision. Throughout the process, confidentiality was paramount, given this person’s profile and the nature of the work. My integrity was never called into question then, and so I won’t allow it to be now; those details will remain private. But I will say that in trying to understand how and why it was that the offer was retracted, some information came to my attention that did shine some light. It seems that someone in the wings, with the ability to influence the outcome that weekend, raised a “concern”—one that was certainly unfounded. It was also suggested to me that this individual may have felt threatened by my skills. All of this saddens me more than I can say, not least because I draw energy from raising people’s spirits—not sabotaging them to elevate my ego.

I spent four days in the house following that phone call. My sense of self buried beneath a pile of dishes, dirty laundry and a mountain of frustration. An unmade bed, slow-simmering anger and hot tears were my constant companions. My boys had been over for the weekend. It was brilliant to be with them but I was on auto-pilot: I shopped, cooked, we talked and went for a long walk through Kensington Market. I felt numb. When they left, I crumpled. How could this have happened? I’d devoted four months to this process, encouraged throughout by the very person hired to vet candidates, who knew best what and who was required to fill this position. Apparently I was the only remaining contender, the strongest of all. The laundry list of requirements was issued—and the recruiter delivered! I was congratulated on receiving the position, and from that point on, I stepped into my “new” life. I’d strategized about practicalities (pet care while working long hours), re-jigged my family time and looked forward to forming meaningful, trusting relationships in a job that meant a great deal to me. In the end, my time was disrespected and its value disregarded by someone who likely never really knew what they wanted, or whose expectations need revising.

So I nurse my wounds and rebuild. I made good on my promise to a friend that I’d accomplish just one task. The dishes were tackled—a day late … but tackled all the same. I’ve answered emails and picked up the phone. I’ve eaten something other than a carbohydrate and I’ve told myself: ENOUGH. It’s time to move on.

And yesterday I braved the outdoors. This is what I found. A beauty that unlike anything else, will never slip between my fingers.

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