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September 04, 2005

A Stream of 5s (or, Happy Birthday to Me)

Rosetta Stone / Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWhen I was 5, my family moved to a country where only my father could speak the language. It must have been scary, but all I remember of it was coming to the realisation that there are many ways to pronounce the letter "r" and all its counterparts in other alphabets. Because I was young and my brain was still elastic, I picked up the language much quicker than my mother. When she went shopping, she would take me as the translator. I don't remember this and I wonder if I thought it was strange that I was able to do something my mother wanted. She must have felt very isolated and lonely.

Kate Bush / Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWhen I was 15, I was an alterna-fag in the making. I was addicted to Kate Bush, the Cocteau Twins, Joni Mitchell, and, incongruously, Heart. Nirvana was only half a decade away. I would hide in my room and talk for hours on the phone with my friends, almost all girls, and write e e cumming-inspired poetry that, when I read it now, either makes me laugh hysterically or flush with embarrassment. At school I got good grades and was popular, and although I hated high school, I loved high school.

Chainsmoking in bars / Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWhen I was 25, I had been living in Montreal for five years. I was the manager in charge of training and HR policy development at a small software company that would go belly-up one year later and throw me into the professional confusion I still find myself in today, ten years later. I hated working there and I couldn't imagine what the rest of my life would be like if I stayed.

I hung out in seedy bars in Montreal, chainsmoking and talking politics in French, which is what one did in Montreal in the 90s if one was artsy and bilingual (or, as in my case, trilingual). I still believed that true love would come for me and wash me clean. That delusion has since departed. Although I found my life stagnant, I had high hopes for humanity. We seemed to be learning something valuable. 9/11 and its aftermath was six years away.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usToday I turn 35. I think back to when I was a child who thought that, in the year 2000 when I was to turn 30, I would be so incredibly old and I couldn’t imagine what that would be like. I am five years older than that now and I'm still waiting to know what it feels like to be so old.

I speak several languages now, and although I don't listen to the same music anymore – aside from Joni Mitchell who is still a favourite – but there is always something floating out of my iTunes when I’m home and my iPod when I'm not.

I have abandoned all illusions of career, but am certain my writing is good enough to one publish (although I loathe the shmoozing aspect of publication-hunting). In the meantime, I accept short-term contracts and am able to scrape by.

I don’t live in Montreal anymore, but I miss it. I don't smoke anymore and I don't miss it. I don't smoke anymore and I don’tI like Toronto and will stay here for a while. I can't see myself growing old here though. I'm young enough to change cities when I feel like it. I still talk politics but miss the – what seem now in a post-9/11 world – simple politics of language debate and an independent Quebec.

9/11, Iraq, suicide bombers, war, Intifada, settlements, extremists, and a very scary neighbouring country to the south have shaken my upbeat view of humanity. We are just as barbaric as we always have been, but the difference is that now we have technology to both hide it and magnify it at the same time.

But life goes on and follows its course. Looking back, it's easy to see how the streams flow forward. Although it is often dark but most often tedious and mundane, life has occasional moments of great joy. Those are the moments to live for.

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