Right, Canada Day!
What to write about? You would think that I would, as somebody who recently lived in another country, be filled with nationalistic ideas, but no. I could write about foreigners’ opinions on Canada, if they had any. Or I could recount how I was the politically-correct one at my Dublin Starbucks, informing my co-workers that pulling up the sides of your eyes to signify ‘Chinese’ is not cool, and write yet another ‘multiculturalism and tolerance is deeply rooted in our national identity’ paean.
But those are tiring, and they pretend like Canada has never had any racial problems, and are lame.
I could write about coming home, my joyful feeling as the plane tilted slightly and I first saw the entire Toronto downtown illuminated, CN Tower and shimmering lights, and being back where every neighbourhood, almost every street, recalls a personal story, an aimless wander becoming a survey of my life.
But those are very Toronto, not Canada, and the rest of the country hates us, right?
So here’s a different tactic.
When I arrived at Pearson airport that December night, lugging two gigantic bags of clothing, books and the random relics of my European adventures, I had no idea where my life was going. I would look for a job after Christmas and start a few Ryerson courses, and that’s as far as I got. I had a few euros in my pocket and a habit of turning sentences that were declarative into questions by going up at the end (the only Irish influence on my voice, my brother discovered). But that was it. I lay awake at night worrying and wondering how someone who finished undergrad so passionate and excited ended up, at 24, with no direction.
Virginia Woolf wrote that “on or about December 1910 human character changed.”
Well, on or about February 2010 Max’s character changed.
If you had told me, when I was still jet-lagged, that my Ryerson courses would re-energize my writing, force me to practice and polish my voice and get me excited about posting a blog everyday and pursuing freelance writing, I wouldn’t have believed you.
The school is Canadian.
If you had told me, as I unpacked my grey and neon Penny’s t-shirts from Dublin, that I would get an internship at a fashion magazine within two months, and not just a fashion magazine, but an alternative feminist one, literally put together in a Parkdale attic by dedicated and fabulous volunteers, and that this internship would encourage my writing while reuniting me with my old love of fashion, I would have thought you were crazy.
This magazine, shipped all over the country and the world, is Canadian.
And, at twilight on New Years Day, as I lay on my bed in the dark, just broken up with by the guy I had started seeing, wondering how many more times this would happen, and angry at this dismal start to my year, you said,
‘Worry not: in a few months you will meet a man who will be the smartest, bravest and most heroic person you’ve ever known, and he will inspire you and change you and even ask you to write with him.’
I would have thought you sarcastic, and a bit of a bitch.
Having left his first country, he came to Canada, to be free.
Two thousand and ten has already made me a new person. And my life is fun again. Maybe too much fun, actually, as my latest credit card bill was equal to my last pay cheque.
I am saving up to go to India with Dervla.
After which, I will be happy to come home.