♥ PART ONE: Sometimes I Don’t Like Guelph ♥
I write about the search for community a lot, and think about it much more than that, but the truth is, I think I am choosing to give up that search here in Guelph. I’ve always been a loner and a weirdo and had trouble making friends; Guelph is no exception. Although I’ve met a few good people here, I still feel overwhelmingly separate, especially when I try to go to shows, workshops, and events, or when I volunteer in various spaces. I don’t like parties, crowds, or alcohol, which makes it difficult to navigate my way through so-called “punk” and “radical” communities, and it is within these communities that I have felt alienated and invisible, and that I have been publicly and personally misgendered (in print, to my face, and behind my back) over and over again. My attempts to, for example, join collectives, participate in conversations, or simply talk to someone, have consistently left me feeling disappointed and discontent, and highlighted my need to create something better for myself, as well as to distance myself. Stuff I used to get excited about has become stuff I now avoid.
These feelings became especially evident to me when my sister visited from Montréal. Despite my declarations of massive love for this town over the last five years, there was almost no one I wanted to introduce her to, and nowhere I wanted to bring her. I felt embarrassed and like I was letting her down. Guelph has provided me with a few good adventures and good conversations, yes, but it’s also given me countless examples of lack of support, lack of critique, and lack of participation.
Of course, the same things happen in every town. I’ve always been critical of people who leave for bigger cities, expecting that that is the place where they will finally feel happy and find the community they’ve been dreaming of; we can’t run away from ourselves, and moving to another town without the intent and action of changing things can only leave us perpetuating the same problems. I have dreams of Halifax, Victoria, Chicago, Philadelphia, and yes, even sometimes Toronto, but I know that I’d only encounter the same problems, and that I’d be the same person when I got there: alone, sad, and shy.
Punk and radical communities, and zine communities especially, are small. Despite the hundreds of thousands of people involved, I am constantly finding connections I wasn’t aware of. Mostly, it’s been wonderful, but unfortunately, it also means that I find myself connected to people who’ve done shitty things to people I love, and so I feel constantly conflicted as to what I want my participation level to be in these communities, how I want to communicate about them, and wondering if I should avoid them altogether. It’s partly due to these connections, as well as to my own experiences, that I no longer want to participate in punk and zine communities in Guelph. It’s due to these connections & experiences that I gave up trying to organize a zine fair in our town, gave up trying to organize anything at all, and just plain quit showing up.
I did once try, really hard. If you’d talked to me around this time last year, you’d see that I was distributing zines and fliers all over town, talking about making the zine community in Guelph more visible, vibrant, and active, working on getting our zines stocked in local bookstores, and was in the midst of organizing the first Guelph Annual Radical Zinefest, a zinefest that was meant to be a positive counter to my shitty experiences at Canzine, Expozine, and Kazoo, and help local weirdos, creatives, writers, and activists get together and talk, make stuff, organize. I tried really hard and I got burnt out. I’m still burnt out.
Sometimes I feel the need to officially remove myself from any kind of “alternative” community in Guelph – but then, what does that leave me with? I guess it leaves me with what I’ve always had: Myself. Loneliness, frustration, despondency, and discontent are not new feelings to me. Moments when I am not experiencing one or all of these things are rare. And since I’m still here, that’s evidence that I know how to get through these feelings, I know how to give myself reasons to keep on living. Yes, it can be lonely working from my own little cozy corner, always being distanced from local communities (by my own choice or simply by circumstance), but it’s the only way I know how to be right now. I want my feelings to change, but sometimes it’s just too much work and too much disappointment. I’ve given up on a lot of people in Guelph, but I haven’t given up on myself.
♥ PART TWO: Sometimes I Do Like Guelph ♥
Yesterday, I held a book launch in my livingroom. The most honest story I can tell of the hours leading up to it is that I woke up not in the mood to be near anyone at all, I ran out of anxiety pills and settled for a Tylenol 3 instead, with a mug of coffee, and I made a row of twenty-seven cuts on my thigh in the bathroom after I got dressed. I felt like I was going to snap at everyone and cry my way through the reading. I took my sweet time in the shower, on the brink of tears, and hid in my bedroom, sending texts to my sister downstairs to please bring me water and pills. I felt better when Clara Bee arrived, but continued to feel unsettled throughout the entire event. I did finally burst into tears as I was reading; it was another moment where I read something I wrote five years ago, realized I have exactly the same problems today and am writing so much of the same stuff today, and felt like a total failure, unable to take care of myself or change things.
Even though (or because) I was crying, I wanted to keep on reading. I wanted to find a hopeful ending. And I said to everyone, “If this makes you feel awkward, I don’t care.” That should be the title of my autobiography, right?
Logically, I know that I have made a lot of changes in my life; just not enough. I was so worried that a) nobody was going to show up, and b) no matter how many people showed up, I would feel disappointed anyway (I am really good at feeling disappointed). And despite my own inner issues, the truth is, my book launch was Really Fucking Lovely. A bunch of us sat in a circle, I read from my book, Clara Bee read from her newest zine, Radio Antarctica, Amber Dearest read from The Triumph of Our Tired Eyes #1, and Sarah Mangle read a beautiful piece called We Both Have Little Troubles. Rather than simply listen to the readers, we all told stories and asked questions. I like my events to be participatory rather than observational. After everyone went home, Amber dug out some mix tapes we had made as teenagers, and we sang along to Pulp, Concrete Blonde, Cyndi Lauper, Joan Jett, The Smashing Pumpkins, etc., and I nearly passed out on the couch, exhausted.
I wrote Part One a few days ago but waited until after my book launch to share it. I wanted the book launch to change my mind about this town. Like, please come to this thing I organized and prove that my discontent and cynicism are just an illusion! The discontent and cynicism are still very real, but the sweetness and comfort and hugs are real, too. I don’t feel totally satisfied or content with myself, my writing, my life; it’s hard; I want everything I have to be enough, but so much of the time, it is not. But I guess that is why I need to keep on trying (and try not to give up).
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