This year has been a series of pleasant surprises, which has been a real relief after a couple years with many good things in them but also many painful, unpleasant surprises. It has been disruptive, and healing, and energizing, in ways I could never have expected.
A kick in the ass
In February, after five incredible, successful, stressful years, the Distillery District eliminated my position. It was initially shocking, and for about an hour after I got the news I was entirely spun. But once the reality set in – five months of severance, and a bit of a rest – it felt a bit like winning the lottery. I’d been looking for a change, and here I was, handed one on a silver platter. I’m proud of my work at the Distillery District – I ran a huge, complex calendar, with extremely limited resources, managed disparate expectations and needs that were often at odds with each other, and brought in record profits. I miss a lot of the incredible people I worked with there. But I’m glad to have moved on.
A Long Walk
As I cast around for what to do next, I realized that it was time to fulfill a twenty-year goal of walking the Camino de Santiago, and so my sister Sammi and I booked our flights to Portugal and started training. In long hikes up the Don River Valley, along the shoreline of Lake Ontario, or on the rail trail between Peterborough and Lakefield, I had lots of time to think and begin to heal from the stress of the last few years.
The trip itself was incredible – Portugal is beautiful, and so is Spain, and our 14-day walk was filled with moments where we’d round a corner and be in an enchanted grove filled with tropical flowers, or walk for hours through an ivy-covered forest, or cross a valley filled with farms bursting with ripe abundance. Everyone in Portugal seems to have chickens, flowers, fruit, and vegetables in their yards, and in some ways it felt like paradise.
Walking about 25 km a day with a pack on your back is exhausting, but it’s a remarkable way to see a country. I know it’s not for everyone, but for me, I’d go back in a heartbeat, both just to Portugal and to the Camino. Our days in Porto at the end of our trip were incredible – it’s a beautiful city, with a lively, friendly culture.
Some day I’ll do the walk from France, a 30+ day trek, but for now I’m glad to have completed my own Camino.
Before I left on the Camino, at the insistence of my mom (who has been telling me to run for office for at least twenty years), I filed the nomination papers to stand for the NDP candidacy in Peterborough-Kawartha. In a contested vote I won on the first ballot, and ran in the Federal election.
Whatever they tell you, or whatever you think, about running for office is both true and not true. Yes, it’s true that the patriarchy doesn’t want women to run, especially experienced women; I felt that weight, especially at the beginning. Yes, it’s true that sometimes people are nasty, especially online, but it was much less than I anticipated (or maybe, after being extremely online for a long time, I was just inured to most of it).
But no one told me how nice it would be, how people were happy to have you come to their doors, how strangers thanked you for running (even if they weren’t going to vote for you), how people you’ve never met before join your team and give their time, energy, money to help you. I had a core of incredible people, some giving 40+ hours of their time a week, some online cheerleading for me in my DMs and keeping my spirits up when I was tired or felt low.
I learned so much, and the whole experience was profoundly healing – I love this community, and I have always fought for this community, but often I’ve had to stand alone and isolated against a lot of people who are heavily invested in maintaining the destructive status quo, often enduring painful personal attacks and lies told about me. Running for office was incredible – I had people standing in solidarity with me, but also I felt like I was part of a team, part of a whole, and the candidacy wasn’t about me at all but rather about us. My name and my face were on a lot of things (so many things – it is weird), but I was just a small part of the overall picture. Huge thanks to the staff, volunteers, friends, and donors, and everyone in the community who was so lovely, and especially big thank yous to my family, who did so much.
If you’re thinking about running for office, you should totally do it. I will absolutely do it again. If you’d like to donate to make sure we’ve got the money to run a campaign, you can do it at this link (there are excellent tax credits for donations). I know we can win, because I know now that Peterborough-Kawartha is an NDP riding. And that was the most hopeful and exciting thing I learned in this election.
Since the election, I’ve taken time for myself, working on personal projects and doing a lot of those little tasks that pile up when you work a demanding job. And of course I’m looking for work! You can find my resume online here.
This festive season has been one of the nicest I’ve had in a long time – maybe ever. Low-stress and happy, with lots of good hangouts (spending lots of time with my mom and my sisters and their partners), good food, and time to read.
A look forward
My plans for 2020 are small plans – find a job, run 5k, make and post more recipes, particularly historic recipes. Keep moving on those projects that have been rewarding; keep healing from the big hurts that the last few years inflicted. Spend more time with people I love. Read more books (I was on track to exceed my goal of reading 50 books this year until I became a candidate, after which I probably read 50 books’ worth of email and articles and primers). Get out kayaking this coming Summer, and do more hikes and more long hikes.
I’ve been writing these year-end posts for 10 years now; I skipped last year because I wasn’t in a good headspace for it. It would have meant revisiting some tragic things that had happened to friends of mine. But it’s nice for me to remember what I’ve accomplished, and I’m glad to have a decade’s worth of posts to look back on.
Let’s go into 2020 looking out for each other, and reaching out when we need help.