November is still November
When I first moved to Canada, my family reacted in a variety of different ways. My mother, an incessant worrier, was persistent in her concerns, her questions, her constant tirade of but what if’s? My father, a little more level-headed, was my ally in diverting her attention or at least pulling her out of the way for a little while so I could get on with moving preparations. My brother, perhaps in part of an effort to calm our mother down, pointed out that all I was really doing at this stage was going on an extended holiday.
And August did feel a little like that. September, too, I guess. I definitely had the same accusation thrown at me a few times in the first few weeks by my parents as they queried why I hadn’t yet found a job, or an apartment, and so on and so forth.
(Despite the fact that I did, actually, pick up a day’s production work within my first week in Toronto, not to mention the ten days I spent running back and forth between two film festivals. Granted, not one of those three jobs paid, but I wasn’t exactly sitting on a beach all day. Or, not every day).
It’s a funny thing, living abroad like I am, because when asked what brought me here, part of that answer typically involves explaining that I’m on the IEC visa. The what? They ask, if not another Brit/Aussie/Kiwi on the same programme. Two year temporary work visa. Working holiday visa.
Working holiday. It’s an interesting way to phrase it. The lazy days of August and September that I was lucky enough to spend enjoying the last of the summer’s heat, out at Toronto Island until sunset or taking walking tours of downtown or even just the luxury of spending a large portion of my day sitting in a coffee shop with my friends under the pretence of job hunting.
I couldn’t tell you exactly when it stopped feeling like I was on holiday. Maybe, when I moved out of the hostel, although even then I was still hopping from sublet to Airbnb for another six weeks. So, maybe, then when I moved into my apartment and was hit with the sudden reality of grocery shopping and – finally, finally – unpacking. Or, maybe, when I worked two eighteen hour days in a row and then collapsed from my aching legs, reeking of cask beer and wood-fire smoke.
Or, maybe, it was when I returned from my “holiday”, if I can use the word, back to the U.K. When I first arrived in the country, I woke up the next morning with a profound sense of having absolutely no idea what to do next – I was not afforded this luxury again. Arriving in Canada a couple of weeks ago was coming home, as strange as that feels to say. I was waved through immigration with my visa clutched tightly in hand like a shield, picked up by my boyfriend who drove me home, where I immediately had to unpack and stock up on groceries so that I could make it to the first day of a new job the next morning.
I don’t feel jet-lagged at all! I thought with pride on Wednesday morning as I hopped onto the subway to head downtown. And I didn’t. But that’s because the jet-lag hit a couple of days later, followed by a stressful weekend that didn’t help induce sleep any more.
And, then, I remembered, as I sat on the subway mid-morning on Monday with a perpetual sense of the grumps.
Oh. Well. It is November.
Even in Toronto, even in what feels a life so different from where I was this time last year, November is still November.
And November is truly the worst month. I know a lot of people have it out for January, or even February, and I can’t say I love them, either. But November is, categorically, The Worst™️. It’s dark. It’s cold. Everyone’s sick. Everyone’s tired. Christmas is still just that little bit too far away even though the promise of December and the lights and the atmosphere is on the horizon. And, worst of all, November comes with the impending sense of disappointment at all you said you were going to achieve this year and didn’t. That’s where January and February prevail. Yes, it’s cold and it’s dark and Christmas has passed and there’s seemingly nothing to look forward to until the days start to get a little longer, but it’s a new year. There is possibility and planning and the opportunity to do all you want to do.
But in November, it’s just a stark reminder of oh, I still haven’t done that thing I said I’d do this year. And now it’s November, and there’s just no time. I tend to feel this most with my creative projects as November coincides with NaNoWriMo.
(A brief interlude for those not familiar: NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is an annual worldwide project in which people attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in a month, which works out to an average of 1,667 words a day. That is a totally manageable daily word target on an average-to-good writing day. However, as soon as you miss one day, because you’re tired/busy/on a plane/sick/attending a wedding/insert event of your choice, suddenly you need to write over 3,000 words in a day to catch up. And that’s when it gets difficult. Also, there’s just the thing of trying to maintain the level of brain power and motivation required to write every single day for a month which is not something I typically achieve at any other time of the year).
This is my fourth time doing NaNoWriMo. I’ve won twice: once, on a book I started from scratch, as you’re supposed to do; once, with a book I’d already started, using NaNoWriMo as a good way of blasting through a large chunk of a project in a short space of time. I’ve failed once, getting around 30,000 words in and then losing the momentum. That book remains, as yet, unfinished. This year, I’m cheating again, and working on existing project.
And I was doing so well. I was doing so well. Until I got sick. And then had to take an eight hour flight. And then jet lag. And then starting a new job. And so on, and so forth, and now it’s November 24th (because even this I’m writing a day late which tells you all you need to know) and I have exactly seven days to write just under 25,000 words.
If I get through the month, even if I end up with the word count I have now, I will have made a significant leap in a book I’ve been writing for over a year now (for anyone who knows me, this is unusual. I write most books in a six month binge). But I will still get to the end of the month and think, but wasn’t I going to re-edit that project this year? And wasn’t I going to write that short story this year? And wasn’t I going to enter that contest?
And that’s just thinking about my writing.
But, this year, I’m trying not to let the November blues hit any harder than they have to. Because when I think back on this year, in particular, all I can think is just how much I have achieved. 2018 has been one of the busiest, most chaotic, most challenging, and most rewarding years of my entire life. But that is a story for another day.