4:17 am, My alarm has been screaming for 2 minutes, it’s time to get up. I take a second to ponder over the irony; on the one hand, I’ve managed to drastically organize and compartmentalize every minute of my life and yet feel so very little control over it. I “wake” up from another sleepless night and get ready for another insane day.
5:45 am, the road to Mac is without trouble, unlike most days these past few months, traffic runs rather smoothly. I allow myself the luxury to write these lines, a story about how time and how it got to shape my whole life. There is so much to say and so few words to keep your attention, I’ll keep it short, I promise.
Early twenties, I had everything figured out. I was fresh out of art school and already working my ass off has a creative director. I had climbed the ladder rather quickly; partially because I had an ounce of talent, but mostly because of impeccable timing. I was a good creative, I think, I brought home about one third of all the accounts I worked on. 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? Well, turns out, almost everything. Seven years working in the advertisement industry is what it took for the illusion to wear off, to realize how little my time actually mattered and even worse to realize I was not improving the social fabric but wearing it out.
The first thing that started this whole disenchantment process were the clients. One day, my partner in crime at the agency brought this new and amazing creative brief we were going to be working on: Prime times. For those of you too young to remember this wonderful piece of anthology, Prime Times was a brand of aromatic cigars shaped like cigarettes and crowned with a golden filter. It tasted like heaven with a dab of cancer sprinkled on it. Back in 2005, anyone bright enough not to smoke would taste Prime Times and be like; “I NEED to make this a major part of my life but first, let’s smoke the whole damn pack”. Needless to say, they were banned from the shelves a few years later. As we sat calmly in a monotoneous boardroom, non fair trade coffee in one hand, creative brief the other, I asked the client: “Next to target audience, you’ve written (18 - ), I’m assuming we are to target anyone above 18 years old, right?”. She composed her most patronizing tone and replied: “Ho…no dear, it means you are to reach kids that will become our clients for years to come.” My mind melted. Even though I myself enjoyed a cigarette once every blue moon, this was clearly against everything I stood for. I had to stand up to this, I had to do something! 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 engrained my values were at the time. Then came the pharmaceutical groups. All these guys wanted to sell was fear, and that, was really scary. The fear of pollen, the fear of the sun, the fear of growing old, the fear of not having enough biome in your stomac, the fear of not being able to get a “decent” boner when reaching the honorable age of 78. I’ve met them all and sadly, fear and insecurity is their “Fer-de-lance”. In the end, ironically enough, I got to work on an account for Santé Canada. I Had to create a campaign that would help kids around the country quit smoking, a tour that went into more than 100 CEGEPS around the country, how mental is that?
The second thing that lifted the veil, was realizing how little of my work actually led to something tangible. Let me break it down for you, I signed 1/3 of my accounts and discard 2/3 of my work. Meaning over a period of one year, only 4 months resulted in work that was actually “meaningfull”. 4 months * 7 years = 28 months, divided by 12 months = 2.30 years... I ran the math in my head again and again, what a fucking waste of time! I had to work on something worth at least 100% of my time and preferably something I wouldn’t end up being truly ashamed of. I figured I needed to Marie Kondo the shit out of my life. I needed to make a plan; I’ll go back to school.
6:30 am, the loud noise of twig’s fridge reminds me I should be studying, not writing this story. Can’t wait for Jade to get in and open twigs, I need my coffee. Time to prepare for exams.
5:57 am, another hour drive, I get into empty Mac and like most mornings, I am here alone for a morning study session. I need to write a few lines, 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. Then, I’ll be able to retire and enjoy the frugal life, seemed like a great! After 2 years of studying tech at Concordia, it took another 2 years of product development in order to be able to peak at the finish line. 2 years of travelling to China, of buying plastic casings, resistors, batteries, of trade shows in Vegas, of meetings with banks and investors, but things were going in the right direction. The product development was almost done and all the marketing tools were ready. I mean, what could go wrong? Funny enough, has it turns out, almost everything, yet again. All it took for my plan to get horribly sidetracked was for two separate and independent events to happen all at once.
The first punch to land on my face was a small issue with one of our investors; by small, I mean huge and by “one of our investors” I mean “our only real investor”. He decided to withdraw all his money from our project. He decided to do it right after we had spent all of our personal shares in development, right before production. The reason he withdrew his money was simple, he wanted us to work with China to minimize costs, thus maximizing his return on investment. We had such a terrible experience working over there, we wanted to take our product back to Canada and work from here. We wanted to manufacture a great, durable, local product. We wanted to work with Canadian companies to improve the life quality of entrepreneurs just like us. He left us with nothing beside a newly acquired 3D printer, a debt of 125,000$, a large dent in my self-confidence and a weekly appointment with a randomly selected shrink.
The second punch I received, was when a tiny human decided to show up in my life. We named her Léo. Her three-letter name is short for nothing in case you were wondering, the only thing it is underselling, is the agency this little creature has been having over my life for the past few years. Without even being able to forge any kind of rational thinking, she managed to make me reconsider everything I had been doing. In all those years, all I’ve been excelling at was selling to anyone who dared listen “stuff” they didn’t need. I was forcing people into an endless spiral of consumption that would, in the end, DESTROY & BURN the world I was hoping to leave for Léo (I might have lacked the moral values back then, but I excelled in overdramatizing stuff). Another year passed and a second kid was born, this time it was a boy, we named him Dax.
With kids, everything changes, the time you thought you had and the moral values you never suspected you did. I could not envision a career of travelling around America selling plastic destined for the dump. I could not live a life of dealing with investors and banks who care about one thing really: profit no natter the costs. Had to do something worth my kid’s respect, something sustainable I could see myself and my family growing into. I left my company behind, left a partner behind ( I’m sorry ) and to this day I still pay 1500$ monthly for the investment I lost. I needed to make a plan, I’ll go back to school.
4:17 am, My alarm has been screaming for the last 2 minutes, it’s time to get up. I take a second to take a look at my pillow, Léo is sleeping next to me, another sleepless night dodging kicks and slaps. Get up, do it, you are on the right path.
Mid-thirties, this time I’ve figured it out and finally, it makes perfect sense. I’ll grow food, yeah that’s it, I’ll grow healthy food, market it, sell it to people and spend more time with my family in the process. I won’t be rich, but that’s alright. After one year in CEGEP doing all the required science classes and U1 coming to an end, I know I’ve made the right decision. This has been challenging; waking up at 4:15 every morning, commuting an hour in and out of school, getting home to kids who want to see daddy, making dinner for everyone, cleaning the house, managing homework after everyone is asleep, doing it all over the next day and all this while convincing everyone I wasn’t crazy. It's been really challenging, but great things that are coming out of this.
The first thing to come out of this ordeal is a life lesson. One of these cliché phrase old people usually say to justify their own failures. Over the past 15 years I’ve learned that, hold on to your chair, money does not bring happiness. Corny, I know, but it cannot be more truthful. The most expensive resource money just can’t buy is time, and time is all that truly 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 back and the people you love will be off living their own lives by then. I’ve read somewhere that 90% of the time you’ll ever spend with your kids is between the time they are born and their 6th anniversary, how insane, I need to spend more time with my family.
The other great thing my experience led to was securing a nice piece of land north of Montréal. We’ve bought 100 acres plot of land on which we plan to settle our home and build our agricultural project. I’m using my skills to design a house and a farm that will require very little energy and to the best of my knowledge, is in harmony with the environment. We are planning on being steward of the land, to engage with it in a very respectful manner using bio-intensive and permaculture techniques to grow mushrooms, vegetables and fruits. We will strive to feed people diverse and healthy food, hoping our way of life will change the way people around us perceive and consume food. We have established ourselves outside the city, to find a sense of community and peace. To find people that shared our values and vision. We did it because we believe that if this planet is to survive our self-centered, obnoxious behavior, we are to do it as a community. Small farms, doing things differently are paving the way to the agriculture of tomorrow and hopefully we can be part of this. In order to be able to truly change our habits, first we need to be able to project ourselves through our kids and their future. Second, we need to invest into our precious education to make sure we never forget the importance of healthy, diverse food and how we are tied to the land.
If you managed to read all the way down here, congratulations your attention span will take you places. Writing my life story was challenging and I appreciate you taking the time to read it. I’m not signing this text is because this story is not about me, it is about all of us and the way time will shape all of our lives. Don’t be 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, aspire to create a sustainable future, one for my kids and the one you might have one day!
4:17am, My alarm has been screaming at me for the last 2 minutes, but at least, now, I know where I’m going!