The Man I Was


One of the benefits of keeping this blog has been that it has helped me remember events, places and people I might otherwise have forgotten in the mad rush of going from 29 to 39. A visit to the earlier posts of this blog triggers memories of trips I’ve taken, even conversations I’ve had. Now I know why some people keep a diary, because it’s amazing to discover how much you forget before you go back to a blog post.

It’s also interesting seeing how things have changed since I first started writing this blog, ten years ago. My country has changed (some things for the better, some things less so), my family situation has changed (for the better), and I’ve changed. I’m not the man I was when I was twenty-nine, three years married, four years before becoming a published author. I’ve changed my expectations, my patterns and my opinions, and sometimes I find myself today arguing with myself in the past. As they say, you live and you learn, but blogging gives you the timeline on how you’ve learned.

Ten years ago, in March 2003, Erin and I were still in this house we now own, but it would be two and a half years before Vivian would be born. We were both eking out a living with temp jobs and administrative jobs that we, frankly, didn’t really like, while dreaming of becoming published writers. Erin had succeeded in her poetry, winning the prestigious CBC Literary Awards and was working on her first book of poetry, Ghost Maps. I myself had just received my first rejection for a young adult fantasy novel I was writing entitled Rosemary and Time, which I had anticipated. I was also working on the book’s two sequels: Fathom Five and The Young City, and posting early snippets to this blog. A new character had just stepped from the pages of The Young City: Faith Watson, and she was demanding some screen time along with Rosemary.

It was a lot tougher to make ends meet back then, but Erin was finding success, and had landed a $6000 grant from the Ontario Arts Council to continue her work on Ghost Maps. It took a few years, but we both succeeded. Ghost Maps was soon published, followed by Seal up the Thunder and The Mongoose Diaries for Erin. I published Rosemary and Time with the Dundurn Group (we renamed it The Unwritten Girl) three years later, and published Fathom Five and The Young City in the years following that. I’m proud that we didn’t give up.

At the time, I was writing out parts of my stories in longhand — indeed, all of the first draft of The Young City was written out this way. I had a laptop, but the blasted thing was heavy, and not very powerful. I wouldn’t end up getting a decent computer until I finally plunked down the money for my first Apple iBook, two years later. Today, with my MacBook Air and Scrivener, there’s no way I can see myself using a pen to write my stories anymore. Though I do miss it, sometimes. I had an excellent Waterman pen, and it makes me a little sad when I see it, sitting there, unused.

I was also dipping my toe into politics on this blog. After frequenting the Urban Toronto forum (which is still around), I wrote a post about NIMBY Syndrome and about how some people might have legitimate concerns about detrimental developments going into their neighbourhood and some people were too quick to dismiss their concerns as “N.I.M.B.Y.” (Not in my back yard). There, I think, I was embarking on one of my tropes, where I criticized people for using political epithets to downplay the arguments of their opponents without engaging them. It’s a torch I’ve carried for many years, and I don’t think I’ll ever let go. Too often, political debaters go for the personal insult and the straw man argument, and it drives me up the wall. But I also fear I may be like King Canute trying to turn back the tide.

There was also this post, explaining (to whoever as willing to listen which, at the time, wasn’t many) what two-tier municipal government was and how it was supposed to work, both in theory and in practise. I was motivated, I think, by calls that were appearing in the media to alter the make-up of Waterloo Region, merging Kitchener with Waterloo, and doing away with the two-tier structure, just as Metropolitan Toronto had vanished into the megacity in 1997. I didn’t think it was a good idea, and I did know what I was talking about. Two-tier regional government was the subject of the thesis I published before graduating the School of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Waterloo. One of Toronto’s problems today is that it is both too big (the council is huge, with many responsibilities, and too easily made dysfunctional) and too small (it doesn’t administer the true socio-economic region of Toronto, which is the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton). A two-tier system with an upper-tier to manage regional issues and lower-tier municipalities to manage local community issues, would solve a number of the problems, I think, and make for a more harmonious framework, but I admit it’s not likely to happen.

Still, ten years on, I’m convinced that such a structure is the way to go, though perhaps there are other ways of implementing it.

Now that this blog is over ten years old, I think it might be interesting to look back periodically at what I’ve written ten years ago and see what’s changed and what’s stayed the same. Sounds like a series, doesn’t it? Well, let’s see where this goes…

Further Reading

  • Yeesh! If you want to see a real blast from the past, check out our original family home page, which I don’t seem to have taken down. Yikes! Some things certainly have changed, haven’t they?
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