About Damn Time
Text & Artwork by Anonymous
4:17 am. My alarm is screaming at me–time to get up. I take a second to ponder over the irony: On the one hand, I’ve managed to drastically organize every minute of my life and yet, I feel so little control over it. Another sleepless night, another insane day.
5:45 am. The drive to Mac is free of traffic, unlike most days these past months. I allow myself the luxury to write these lines. There’s so much to say, so I’ll make it short–I promise.
Early twenties: I had everything figured out. I was fresh out of art school,already working as a creative director. I had climbed the ladder rather quickly, partially because of the ounce of talent I had, but mostly because of impeccable timing. The money was good–I made close to a six-figure salary; the parties were good; my social life was in order. I mean, what could go wrong? Funny enough, as it turns out, almost everything!
Seven years working in the industry is what it took for the illusion to wear off, and it all started with the clients. Back in 2005, every week or so a new brief would appear on my desk, and this week’s was Prime Times. For those of you too young to remember this wonderful piece of history, Prime Times were aromatic cigars shaped like cigarettes and crowned with a golden filter. They tasted like heaven, and even someone who was bright enough at the time not to smoke, would have sold their mom for one after a beer or two. As I sat there skimming through the creative brief while sipping on my non-fair trade coffee, a detail caught my attention: right there, written in black-and-white was “Target audience: 18 minus”. My mind melted! We were to sell cancer to kids, and this was a line I could not cross. Some would argue that creating a national campaign promoting tobacco use was probably not the best way to protest against the system, but that’s how well-ingrained my values were at the time.
Then came the pharmaceutical groups, a few months later. All these guys wanted to sell was “fear”, and that in itself was really scary. The fear of pollen, the fear of the sun, the fear of growing old, the fear of not being able to get a “decent” boner after reaching the honourable age of 78. I’ve met them all, and sadly fear and insecurity are their “Fer-de-lance”.
In the end, ironically enough, I got to work on an account for Santé Canada. I created a campaign that would help kids around the country quit smoking–a tour that went around more than 100 CEGEPS in Canada… how mental is that?
The second reason why I left advertisement was that I realized how little of my work actually led to something. Let me break it down: On average, I signed one-third of the accounts I worked on, meaning that over a one year period, only four months of labour actually led to something. Take those four months, multiply it by seven years, and you get only two-and-a-half years, give or take. What a fucking waste of time! I needed to Marie Kondo the shit out of my life. I had to work on something worth, at the very least, 100% of my time–and preferably something I wouldn’t end up being truly ashamed of. I needed to make a plan. So I went back to school.
6:30 am. The drone sound of Twigs Cafe’s fridge reminds me that I should be studying and not writing this story. Can’t wait for Jade to get in–I need my coffee.
5:57 am. Another hour drive. Mac is a ghost town, as usual. I really need to study for midterms but I promised Mary I’d be done by Thursday…
Early thirties: I’ve figured everything out. I’ll design a product. Yeah, that’s it; I’ll design a tech product, market it, sell it, promote good outdoorsy values, help families connect with nature, and become rich in the process. I’ll retire at 35 and enjoy the frugal life. It seemed like a great plan! After two years of studying tech at Concordia, it took two more years of product development until I could lay eyes on the finish line. Two years of travelling to China, buying plastic casings, resistors, batteries, WIFI transmitters; of trade shows in Vegas; of meetings with banks and investors–but things were moving in the right direction. The product development was almost finished and marketing tools were ready. I mean, what could go wrong? Funny enough, as it turns out, almost everything–yet again. All it took for my plan to get horribly sidetracked was for two separate events to happen all at once.
First, there was a small issue with one of our investors. And by “small issue” I mean huge. And by “one of our investors” I mean our only real investor. He withdrew all his money from our project and decided to do so right after we had spent all of ours. Needless to say, that was a major setback. In the end, he left us with nothing besides a newly acquired 3D printer, a debt of $125,000, a large dent in my self-confidence, and a weekly appointment with a therapist.
The second event to rattle my cage was the birth of a tiny human, whom we named Léo. Her three-letter name is short for nothing, in case you were wondering, and the only thing it’s underselling is the agency she would have over my life. Just by existing, she managed to make me reconsider everything I had been doing up until then. In all those past years, all I’d excelled at was selling “stuff” to anyone who dared listen–stuff they didn’t need. I was forcing people into a spiral of consumption that would in the end, DESTROY and BURN the world I was hoping to leave for my kid (I may have lacked the moral values back then but was drama my cup of tea or what). Another year passed, and a second child was born. It was a boy, and we named him Dax.
Let me just say, with kids, everything changes. The time you thought you had is gone, and the moral values you never suspected you had are now haunting you. I could not pursue a career that took me away from my family, any more than I could keep selling shit to people. I had to do something worth my kids’ respect–something edifying wherein I could see my family. So, I decided to leave my company and partner (I’m sorry), and started paying my $1500 monthly payment for the investment I had lost. I needed to make a plan…So I went back to school.
4:17 am. My alarm is screaming at me; it’s time to get up. Sitting at the end of my bed, I recite my daily mantra: “You’re on the right path, you’re on the right path.”
Mid-thirties: I’ve figured it all out, and it finally makes perfect sense. I’ll grow food. Yeah that’s it, I’ll grow healthy food, care for it, sell it, and spend more time with my family. I won’t be rich, but that’s alright. After one year in CEGEP doing all the natural sciences I needed and now with U1 coming to an end, I know I’ve made the right decision. It has definitely been really challenging: Waking up at 4:15 every morning, commuting an hour to and from school, going home to kids who want to play with daddy, cooking dinner for everyone, cleaning the house, doing late-night homework, convincing everyone I am not that crazy, and then doing it all over the next day. The sacrifices are huge, but great things are coming out of this ordeal.
First, I’ve gotten to learn a very valuable lesson. It is one of those clichés I thought only old people told themselves to justify failures: Money can’t buy happiness. Corny, I know, but it cannot be more true. The most expensive thing money just can’t buy is time. And time is all that really matters. You can spend a lifetime working to be able to afford a nice retirement, but the good years you sacrifice in the process will never be returned and by then, the people you care about will be off living their own lives. Work on something you love and are truly passionate about– something that allows you to take time with friends and family.
The second great thing to come out of this is a great plan for my future. My girlfriend and I bought a large plot of land on which we intend to build our homestead and start our farm. I’m using my creative skills to design it and to the best of my knowledge, it will be in harmony with the environment. We plan to engage with the land using bio-intensive and permaculture techniques to grow mushrooms, vegetables, and fruits. We will work hard to feed people, in turn, hoping our way of doing things will inspire people around us to take a second look at the way in which we consume and preserve our resources.
We have purposefully established ourselves outside the city to find a sense of community, and to find people that share our values and vision. We are doing it because we believe that if this planet is to survive the impact of our self-centred behaviours, we have to do it as a community. Doing things differently, small farms are paving the future of agriculture, and we hope we can be part of it. In order to change as a society, we need to be able to project ourselves through our kids, as our time here is limited. We need to invest in our precious education and make sure we never forget the importance of the land we are tied to.
If you managed to read all the way down here, congratulations–your attention span will take you places. This text is a story about all of us and the way time will shape all of our lives. Don’t get all caught up in the choices you make today, as they are merely the ones to help you start your journey. Good luck with all your projects, I hope we get to share ideas one day. Whatever you do, work toward creating a more sustainable future: One for Léo and Dax, and one for the kids you might have one day.