the anomaly that is me

finding my own wonderland

Halloween 2016

We spend most of our lives trying to figure out who we are. Life is a never-ending path of discovery and questions. Some get lucky and figure out who they are, and what they want to do, early on in life. Not everyone is so lucky. Some take decades to finally feel at home in their own skin.

It took me over 30 years to be comfortable being myself. Being me. Embracing all that was quirky and odd, accepting that I don’t always like what everyone else likes. And then one day the sky fell and I got lost again. Suddenly, I realized, I didn’t know who I was anymore. Nothing I used to love to do was holding any interest for me. I was apathetic to EVERYTHING. I wasn’t reading. Wasn’t crafting. Wasn’t happy at all.

Going downtown five days a week wasn’t helping. After March 27, 2013, I really didn’t want to be in the city anymore. I never liked the city much anyhow, I love seeing the sky. There’s little sky viewing in downtown Montreal. All tall buildings. And as much as I love the people I work with, the job itself was making me feel…grey. Blank. Drained. There was no joy in staring at my computer all day scheduling meetings, or coordinating meetings, or taking minutes.

And so this summer I had to think. Think hard. What needed to change in my life? What could I do to stop this downward spiral into sadness so strong I felt as though I couldn’t breathe.

Months of pros and cons lists happened both mentally, and in my journal. I spoke about what I could do with my husband, and my therapist (the same one helping me through all the PTSD stuff). There were sleepless nights where I just felt so lost and trapped that I couldn’t even close my eyes. The darkness was too bright and too deep.

At some point I looked at job postings online and saw something closer to home, not in town. And it was as if someone had filled me with air. I could breathe again. I didn’t feel weighted to the ground with lead. Something clicked – I needed to be out of downtown. I needed to eliminate that part of the equation. That’s when the epiphanies started, of course my job is downtown, but what if I quit my job? What if I took this opportunity to actually stop doing something that was draining the life from my soul (dramatic sounding, I know. But I wasn’t even READING anymore!) and turning me into a drone, and started to do something I loved? Suddenly the people I had worked with for almost 11 years weren’t enough to keep me going into a job I didn’t love anymore. But leaving those people? People who had become as close as family? THAT wasn’t an easy decision.

Even more so, leaving meant I had to leave my boss. A woman I have wished was my own sister for years. A woman I adore, and learned so much from, and admire and just…adore. It was like breaking up. It was not easy. It is not easy.

But I did it.

The first week of October I gave notice. I think my heart was in my mouth. My hands shook, my stomach clenched, and my head was spinning. But I did it. One of the hardest things I have done.

Leaving the security of a place I have been for 15 years isn’t easy, and it wasn’t a whim. But it was time. My last day of work was Halloween (because, of course it was!), and my 15th anniversary at McGill was October 28. My first four and a half years were at the bookstore, and then the last 10 years and seven months were in the Dean’s office in Music. I literally spent a quarter of my life at that faculty, in that job (though it did evolve over the years).

They had a Halloween party for me on my last day. My heart was overflowing with emotion. I don’t like emotion. I was shaking like a leaf, but I managed not to cry. I cry at night as I try to fall asleep. It’s how I roll. There was so much love though. And I’m two days into being home and I miss everyone so much.

However, I am ready for new challenges. I am THIS CLOSE to finishing my Book Publishing diploma at Ryerson University, and I am desperate to work with books. I miss books. SO MUCH. I want to sell and publicize children’s books. My entire being vibrates with the desire to do that. To talk books. Read books. Sell books. And if I didn’t make the leap and change now, I’d have chickened out over time and just become resentful of missed opportunity, wasted passion, and bitter about a job I wasn’t getting any joy from. I couldn’t live like that. I can not live like that.

So I made this big, terrifying, life-changing decision and I don’t know what’s next. I just know that it needed to be done. Once I realized this what what I needed to do my entire body relaxed. I read 11 books this month – and I hadn’t read nearly that much yet this year. You have no idea how much stress and anxiety dissipated once I realized what I needed to do. Instead of being anxious about not knowing what’s NEXT, I lost anxiety I didn’t realize I was holding on to about staying as is.

No one who knows me would ever claim I was a fan of change. As a child I couldn’t handle the smallest of change. I remember having a clock-radio that I loved that died and I couldn’t sleep for a few weeks once I had a new one next to the bed because it WAS NOT THE SAME. The world was off-kilter. The air was too sharp and jagged. The cocoon of my room was DIFFERENT. And that was not good. And I’m pretty sure my parents would have bet cash money that I’d never move out of their house, and my room. And that I’d likely still be living there even though they sold the house. Change was not something I was ever able to handle. It’s amazing what a trauma and some other life-altering events can do to a person.

‘Cause, this is a Big Change, yo. This is me leaping into unchartered territory. This is so very un-Cat that it’s astonishing that I chose to make this decision. Astonishing that I even came up with this decision.

But I knew I needed to figure myself out again, and I needed to take a deep breath and make some Big Decisions as part of that. I can’t live in a grey world. I need that Wonderland that Alice found, as confusing and scary and dangerous as it might be at times.  I can’t allow myself to shut down by mindlessly going through motions because it’s what’s expected of me. I need to do something with my life that I have passion for, that brings me joy. Books bring me joy, so that’s the path I’m following.

As for right now? I’m going to finish this copyediting course and look for another job. It might be a temporary one as I figure stuff out along the way, but temporary is just a blink of an eye and it’s easier to digest than “forever”. I’m scared. I’m nervous. I’m excited. I’m hopeful.

I’m feeling like someone I used to know a little better. Almost myself again. And that’s one step closer to Wonderland.


  • Emsxiety

    Cat – Look at you embracing change. Maybe there is hope for me after all. I look forward to reading about your new adventures!

  • Val

    You are doing an amazing thing. Hats off to you for thinking of you and what makes the most sense. I am cheering you on!

    • Cat

      Thank you, my friend. It’s scary, and I feel selfish for putting myself first in this, but I needed to do it. I appreciate the support I have been receiving. I’m just ready to be able to believe it myself. 😉

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