2010 in review

So… I don’t normally like to do this sort of year-in-review entry but this has been such an intense year I feel like I need to take stock.  I’m just going to do a mental dump, pardon my ranting.

The year started off fairly normal, so much so that I can barely think of anything of note in January.  I do know that January is when I first got actively involved in #VoteTO and we started planning our first event, which was in February.  February was almost entirely occupied by the Olympics.  I took the train from Toronto to Vancouver, with a planned stopover in Jasper.  Thanks to a derailed train just past Winnipeg, I cancelled the Jasper stopover and arrived in Vancouver early.  I’m so thankful to have such an understanding friend in Mark who didn’t seem to mind at all that I was arriving a couple nights early, even though I already felt like I was overstaying my welcome with a multiple-week stay in the first place!

The Olympics were of course larger than life.  A few intense weeks of activity, it felt like there was always something to do… Looking back I’m so glad I decided to go (and to spend the small fortune on tickets that I did) as it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I don’t normally buy into the nationalism and all that stuff, but it really was nice to see a whole lot of people all coming together for such a positive event.  It did a lot to restore my faith in Canada, and Canadians, at a time when it really needed it the most.

March and April are a total blur – I remember working a lot, and lots of meetings.  I do also remember that it was less work than the year before, though, and that I was happier about the pace and volume than in the past.  I also remember continuing with the 519’s tax clinics, which are always such a pleasure to volunteer at, and really starting to feel like part of the community… I don’t know what was different about this year as compared to others – this was my third year volunteering there – but there was definitely something.

May is almost as blurry, but was filled with yet another amazing Hot Docs festival, more (and new / different) volunteering at the 519, more work, and lots of #VoteTO organizing.  And putting the finishing touches on a business I and a few other markers started to work together.  I’ve been amazed at how well it’s all gone so far – working in a group of four to make decisions can often be really difficult but we’ve had no real major disputes, and the business itself has been pretty successful.  It’s kind of nice to be at the beginning stages of something that will likely grow over time to be much more than it is.

June was, as it always is, packed with all sorts of random stuff.  Our #VoteTOin27 event, lots of work of course, Joanna’s wedding, a whole bunch of city of Toronto campaign launches, and some of the beginnings of Pride Coalition for Free Speech and the Church-Wellesley Neighbourhood Association.  It was these last two groups, along with #VoteTO, that made me feel like I was finally connected with a community in Toronto – like there were actually people around that cared about things that were going on, and were actually trying to do something about it.  Plus they were (are) full of really great people.  It was like I’d somehow unlocked the door to a whole new realm of people I didn’t even know existed, and yet had always been right there in front of me all along.  The weirdest part is that I didn’t really do anything differently to find them.  #VoteTO came together rather haphazardly via Twitter, along with some personal connections I made at the launch party for Adam Giambrone’s On The Rocket TV show.  Both PCFS and CWNA were public meetings, the kind of thing I’d certainly attended before, that led to follow-up meetings where relatively few people showed up and those of us that did essentially formed ad hoc working groups.  I feel like there should be a lesson out of this… like keeping my mind open to opportunity without trying to force anything, or something.

And then, there was the G20.  To say this changed everything would be an understatement.  I knew things would be messy.  I knew there would be a lot of people demonstrating, and that a small handful of them would likely cause trouble.  I also almost expected some sort of government brutality, though I didn’t know to what extent or what form it would take.  I’d read enough of Naomi Klein’s writing, amongst others, to know that these things are a big deal.  But I also knew that whatever happened would be important.  Important because it was happening at home, literally in my own backyard.

If there’d been a particular cause I supported or opposed, I might have joined in the protests.  There were certainly many that spoke to me (metaphorically, that is), but nothing that made me say “yes, I’ll wave that flag.”  But I wanted to know what was going on, and to hear / see what everyone had to say.  And yes, to be a witness – to whatever was happening, good or bad.  I’ve shared most of my stories in other entries on here and on LiveJournal so I’ll spare the details… but the shameless destruction and total chaos that occurred that Saturday afternoon will be forever etched into my brain.  Walking up Yonge Street in the wake of it all, it truly felt like anything I though I knew about society, the law, or order no longer applied.  And to a degree, those feelings have led to a paradigm shift that I’m still coming to terms with.

The overblown police reaction that followed served to solidify this new world view.  I came to realize that in times of crisis, all the silly rules we make up about how to behave around one another vanish altogether.  In their place can be found a variety of reactions, everything from jungle-machismo to kindness and compassion for total strangers.   One thing in particular that I remember is the immediate shift towards survival as a primary objective.  I felt it in myself, and could see it in all of the people around me.  No matter how far we’ve evolved as a species, we’ll still do whatever irrational thing we think is best to ensure we make it to the next meal before the next guy.

I also realized how quickly and easily these crises can begin, and how easily they can be manufactured.  I’d like to think that new media can serve some good in preventing these crises, or at least reducing their impact – Twitter certainly saved a lot of people that weekend, and dispelled a whole lot of myths almost as soon as anyone tried to perpetuate them.  But it can also do the opposite by blowing out of proportion something that was actually nothing – the tiniest of problems all of a sudden became major disasters within minutes.  We have a long way to go before we can really collaborate for the broader and better good.

I could ramble all day about the G20, but I won’t.  Needless to say, it had a big impact.  I’m still cautious to the point of paranoia, and yet defiantly outspoken about whatever’s on my mind.  I’ve learned a lot about power, and have come to fear it.  And that’s not something I would wish on anyone.

It seems the ball just kept rolling through the rest of the year and didn’t stop – July brought Pride, protests to demand a G20 inquiry (still waiting…), concerts, and some more work.  And more of the CWNA and PCFS.  Interestingly (though I suppose not surprisingly), many of the people I’ve met through PCFS, #VoteTO, and just Twitter in general are people who have had connections to that G20 weekend, either people who were protesting, people who were caught in the middle, or people who got involved afterwards in demanding an explanation.

August and September went by so quickly, but were extremely busy with work, PCFS (and the Pride Toronto AGM), spending time with friends I knew I wouldn’t be seeing for a while, CWNA, elections events & debates, and then two hellish weeks I never want to relive – packing and moving.  Just THINKING about these two last weeks in September makes me drowsy and teary-eyed… saying goodbye to so many people, spending all of my time dealing with the fact that I had an apartment full of stuff that couldn’t come with me to Australia but shouldn’t go in the garbage, and trying to figure out my next steps.  And then a house-cooling party with so many wonderful, amazing, people it brings me to tears just thinking about it again.  But what makes me sad is being reminded of the feeling I had then – that I was somehow losing all these people.  Yet I feel, now, like I haven’t lost them at all.  I’ve stayed in touch with almost everyone back in Toronto.  Whether through Twitter or facebook or email, I feel like you’re all just a click away.

After voting in Toronto, I spent a wonderful week in Ottawa (where I would, without question, live if it weren’t for the weather), and then a few in Montreal, mostly working – though it was nice to catch up with old friends in both places!!  And then a few short days in Vancouver (never enough time for Mark and I to catch up – we’re both far too chatty!) before flying to Sydney.

As I mentioned in my last entry, the first two weeks of being here were pretty hellish.  Especially the first few days.  Spending half an hour having everything I own (almost literally) inspected by Australian Customs upon arrival from the trans-Pacific flight set the tone… followed by an ambiguous rental market, estate agents who didn’t bother to call when they said they would, and the uncertainty of not knowing where I was going to live.  Thankfully, I did find a place in a relatively short time.  It didn’t leave me any less shaken, and spending two weeks waiting for the internet to be hooked up didn’t help.  It was hardly a “welcome, thanks for coming” – not that I expected one, but there were many, many, times during those two weeks that I gave serious thought to packing everything up, turning around, and going back to Canada.

Since then, things have gotten better.  I’m now settled into my apartment in Woolloomooloo, I’ve done a little bit of traveling (to the two territories), and nothing beats the weather here.  And the city of Sydney is just astounding, no matter how many times I look at it, no matter what angle I look at it from, no matter what’s happening.  I could spend all day just sitting on a bench somewhere and looking at my surroundings – people and physical scenery alike.

Given the opportunity, I could definitely live here longer than the year I’m scheduled to.  The only catch is people – I’ve met virtually none.  This is mostly my fault – I’ve spent a lot of time at home, or out doing tourist-y things which aren’t great for meeting people.  And now it’s the holidays, when everyone’s spending time with people they already know.  One of my new year’s resolutions definitely needs to be to meet more people.  How to do that is still somewhat beyond me – I miss the days of school or employed-work when you were forced into a room with a bunch of strangers and were likely to befriend at least a couple of them.  But I’ll persevere.  In fact, it’s sort of a challenge.

Of course, I also plan to do a lot more travelling over the next couple of months.  Work starts getting busy again in March, and I don’t want to crash into March like I did last year when I got back from the Olympics a few days behind in work.  So I have roughly two months to visit Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, and Hobart, plus some side trips.  I’ve been exploring Sydney slowly, too, and hope to take in a few destinations this week.  Should be fun!

This has all left me thinking about what’s next, again.  I’ve been finding myself questioning my priorities… I’ve spent much of my life working at major challenges and attempting to ‘master’ the place I’m at in life – and then very quickly moving on.  It seems to sometimes happen by accident – when I planned to leave Toronto I certainly didn’t feel like I’d gotten anywhere there, but by the time I left I felt like I’d accomplished something and made a difference – that I was somehow different for having been there, and that it was somehow different for me having been there.  I guess this was exciting to me before, and still is to a certain extent, but a growing part of me has been nagging me to stand still for a while.  Saying that stability is the way to go.  Likewise, I have to accept that many of the things that interested me before don’t interest me as much anymore – new and exciting is still new and exciting, but steady and pleasant is pretty darn nice too.

This entry isn’t quite going in the direction I had hoped so I’ll continue this at some point in the future – in the meantime, I have more reflection to do.  I think I’m having one of those quarter-life crises people joke about.  Not a bad thing – evaluating one’s place and one’s life is, in my view, extremely important – but something to spend some time pondering.

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