No, I’m not looking for a pep rally of “you can still do it!” I’m not looking for reassurance of any sort, because I’ve already reassured myself that all the things I thought I wanted to be are things I no longer want to be.
January is reliable for inspiring deep thinking turbulence: complex analysis of where we are in our lives, where we’ve been (romantically, financially and geographically) and who we’ve become in the last year and beyond. We dissect it with the help of Oprah and try and piece together a new annual map with an even better scenic route and more favourable destination. But I still like to drive back to childhood for the occassional unexpected picnic lunch.
As a corn-silk blonde child with adventure-scraped knees, day-dreaming was a full-time job, usually clocked in at the pond, high in my favourite willow. Long before serious scholastic pursuits and career actualization, it was clear that I would be involved in social media to some degree. I loved to harness my environment in words, autograph books, audio, ambitious early memoirs and crinkled line drawings.
I used to creep down to my designated weeping willow at dusk and record the spring peeper frogs on my cassette player. I’m surprised I didn’t invent the VCR, because I went to greater lengths to audio record every episode of Lorne Greene’s New Wilderness. This was all preparation for my future as the next Roger Tory Peterson.
Like Roger, I thought I would draw birds all the live long day, peer at them through binoculars and remark on their peculiar habits. I would probably wear a camoflouge vest with lots of pockets and poke around woods with fig newtons and thermoses of hot tea. What a gig that would have been.
I was intentionally well-rounded, mostly to fulfill my mother’s wish that we be anything but boring. Because, “only boring people get bored.” I busied myself with cataloguing my arrowhead collection, snakeskins, baby opossums in formaldehyde, gems and feathers. One day I was going to open a natural history museum that would be situated near the pond. I had already started clearing a trail that I would invite visitors to hike along.
I typed out every Casey Kasem Top 40 countdown on the electric Brother typewriter my mother sometimes brought home from her secretarial job at a law firm. After the Top 40 documentation, I began typing out my museum inventory and elaborate plans for my teddy bear fashion design business. Yes, in addition to my serious work as an orinthologist (bird expert) and natural history museum curator, I thought I might sew up some Vera Wang-esque runway fashions for stuffed animals.
Like I said in the beginning, there are some things I no longer want to be.
A travel photography student at Matador U recently remarked on an instructor’s view of new year’s resolutions. They fall flat in a good two weeks, no? Instead, she gave up half-assed resolutions years ago and decided to choose a word to define a year. I had to go with “refinement” because it seemed most obvious. I’ve pursued lots of ventures over the years from writing erotica to creating stained glass windows. I’ve painted wall murals, went to falconry workshops (because there’s a big demand for falconers), shovelled horse shit at a centre for aging animals (and cried the entire time for the dying animals with such stoic spirit), tried to see the merit in cranio-sacral therapy (AND Reiki), painted storefronts for the Christmas season with a graphic design company, massaged horses, sat in a pastry chef orientation night at George Brown college and read very seriously about being a cheesemonger.
And then, with refinement, I crossed off all of the above. I re-examined life as a museum curator. I actively pursued an internship at a primate sanctuary in Hawaii. I thought about returning to work with chimps, or volunteering with elephants in Kenya. I had already learned that volunteering for four months in Africa was cheaper than living AND working in downtown Toronto for one month.
My love for all dogs (except for one cranky fox terrier in 2002) and the outdoors made professional dog walking the natural selection. Except, I can’t yell. Or whistle. It takes me a good seven minutes to unravel my iPod headphones. Imagine a dozen dog leashes? If I unleashed the dogs under my charge at Riverdale as I see other chirpy dog walkers do, I’d never get the dogs back. And you can’t just go buy 12 replacement dogs.
In Uganda I bought several jars of “Not Tonight Honey” made by a cheeky women’s collective outside Kampala. When I returned to Canada my stars aligned and I saw a job advert for a beekeeping position. The summer before I was stung four times in my left hand and it turned into a baseball glove. It was embarrasing and impossible to hide. My hand was so fat from the bee stings I couldn’t even fit it in my pockets. However, how cool would it be to work as a beekeeper? I emailed my resume and spoke to the head keeper the same day. I asked how often he got stung. “When the bees are mad, like, if you scare them or wake them up, sometimes 200 times.” TWO HUNDRED TIMES? I decided I would die and simply revisit Uganda to buy the cheeky Not Tonight Honey. It would be way cheaper.
It was well after midnight and I was clicking through random Craigslist job ads. An old fire hall that had been converted into a confectionary shop was looking for a chocolatier. I crawled through the website, picturing myself quite easily in the back, dipping strawberries, slicing loaves of maple walnut fudge and dunking hunks of sponge toffee into chocolate. So easy. I had to Google Streetsville because I didn’t even know exactly where in suburbia it was. North? Probably. I learned that it would only take 2.5 hours (one way) and about 4 buses, a 20-minute subway ride, and a 1.6km walk to get to. No problem. I applied and clearly didn’t get the position because I barely eat chocolate let alone make it. Twice I have tried to dip strawberries at new year’s and both times the first batch was a monumental disaster. Did you know that if you simmer the chocolate too long it turns into brown cement? Maybe chocolatier wasn’t my precise calling anyway. Call waiting?
Every time I watch any of the Rocky series this idea re-emerges quite strongly. I like the hi-tops you get to wear in the ring, the long shiny shorts, monikers and the fact that you are paid to turn your body into a sinewy, sculpted machine powered by chicken, boiled sweet potatoes, oatmeal and Gatorade. However, one hook in the chops or the solar plexus and I know I would be sobbing like a big sissy.
Bed & Breakfast Owner
(Everyone who knows me well is laughing near-hysterically now). Okay, so my preferred time to rise is somewhere around 11. What? I couldn’t run a Bed & Lunch? For all those (like myself) who like to extend the check-out time, this would be a happy marriage. Wait for it—it’s gonna be the next craze and you read it here first.
White Water Rafting Guide
This was as short-lived as my excitement the first time I went rafting on the Ottawa River. Someone had pissed in my rental wetsuit and it felt like it was packed full of hot poison ivy. On the first rapid everyone in the raft was dumped and sent upside down and backwards down the raging gorge. I swallowed most of the river, ended up with two paddles in my hand and tried to drown my friend Fiona in attempts to save myself when a kayaker paddled out to save us. Yeah, don’t want to do that ever again.
Dakar Rally Driver or Iditarod Great Sled Race Competitor
Homestatically speaking, I am better designed for the sand dunes and blistering sun of the Dakar versus any temperature below a southwestern Ontario July at noon. For the Dakar Rally I would sauce-up a 1987 Suzuki Samurai and eat camel jerky and coffee beans for the entire 9,000 km route. In refinement terms, I hate road trips. I get headachey and anxious to walk or run the rest of the way. I’m okay for an hour, but beyond that I am lulled to sleep. Realistically, I would actually prefer to run the Dakar Rally route.
Iditarod? At a mere 1,850 km, the race would be over before it even started I suppose. I would definitely need someone to lace up my boots in the morning because I hate cold hands. I would also need a whiskey barrel, not just a flask around my neck. And I would feel too sorry for the dogs. Practicality rating? Zero.
Long before Cake Boss sucked viewers (like me) into watching a reality show about bitchy bakers baking cakes, I wanted to pipe buttercream icing and make fondant cake castles. I’ve actually never baked a cake in my life. Correction: I did make a mango cheesecake for Kim once, and it was surprisingly as it should be. I decided to end my career on a high note. Besides, in my perfect cake decorator world, someone else would be doing the actual cake-baking part anyway. My reality? I would refuse to wear the stupid chef hat or non-hair-do-friendly hair net.
In the works, always. Stay tuned. Belize in February!
Well, I haven’t crossed it off the list yet. Almost 13 years strong, it was a profession I thought I would do and be since I was 20. I get to work in syrupy serenity, speak in a spa voice and everyone looks forward to seeing me–sometimes for weeks in advance. I “work” in a smashing spa that pulsates with zen. The air is permeated by the sweet orange and ginger tang of the body scrubs and sensual aromatherapy oils. It’s my job to induce relaxation. Which makes my job description exactly the same as a bottle of wine.
Now, that’s refinement.