It’s a Monday, my day off, at about nine a.m., when I say these words out loud to my roommate:
“My weird gay dad almost died.”
This has happened many times, actually. He has what seems like an infinite number of lives, definitely not capped at nine like a feline. I worry. I worry too much, not because of him, but because by all accounts, it appears that the world wants to swallow him whole. I wouldn’t be all that surprised to hear that he had been sucked into a black hole, launched into the void.
I worry for selfish reasons. I worry because I would be lost. Very lost. I’ve been trying to come to terms with the person I have become since meeting Mark. I couldn’t imagine what path I would have taken, or where I would be right now. It all seemed to fall into place.
My family talks about Mark like he is my significant other, rather than my weird gay professor dad. They ask when they will get to meet him. When I’m bringing him home for dinner. My mother is so thankful that I have found someone like him. In all honesty, Mark has been a fantastic distraction for my family. They do not bother to ask about my love life any more.
This time last year was one of the most uncertain periods of my life. What I like about uncertainty, is that it takes reflection to truly realize that it was there. I didn’t know I was so unsure. I was not actively looking for guidance. I was looking for a job, and when this strange man with ornate rugs in his office hired me on the spot, I was thrown into a whole new world.
All summer, while Mark traveled, I locked myself in the office and worked furiously to try and prove to him that hiring me was worth it. His emails were so abrupt that I assumed he hated me. I kept pushing forward, fingers crossed that the decisions I was making were considered ‘right’.
Upon reflection, the single greatest thing I have learned from Mark is to trust myself. Right and wrong are entirely subjective. Mark and I agree on most things, which makes it easier. But the biggest change I have noticed within myself is my own initiative linked to my self-esteem.
Mark is contently commending me on my commitment to following through. Usually, this is in regards to my vegetarianism, but I’ve realized that I am consistently following through on things that are deeply important to me. Mark always wants me to take a day off. “You’ve done enough” is probably the most uttered phrase within the Massey office walls.
I’ve realized that I am a very passionate person, and I channel those passions by putting them all on my plate. These interests of mine, however, often take up too much of my plate, leaving little room for self-care and other things that are necessary to keep me functioning. Mark notices this, and admires my dedication but also is a far better judge of when I am running myself into the ground (which, let’s be honest, is almost always). And this is not to say that I shouldn’t run myself into the ground for the things I love, but Mark has shown me that the passion that I put into these projects should be reciprocated somehow. That my labour, including my emotional labour, is not only worth something, but is actually very valuable. I should be supporting what supports me.
If you would have told me at this time last year that I would be starting my MA in English at Guelph this fall, I would have laughed in your face. In fact, the more I reflect on the past year, the more surreal it all seems. I can now say I’ve volunteered at an international conference at UofT, designed a website from scratch over a three-way call with web designers, have had my research work recognized on a national level. I’ve conducted focus groups with young adults and am prepping to begin giving workshops to youth about online privacy. But these accomplishments shouldn’t be all that is discussed, and I think that things like missing grant deadlines, being rejected by big media conglomerates, the never-ending Research Ethics Board process, and the sheer amount of coffee I have spilled, have helped me to deal with failure and not let it define me or my experience.
I don’t know what my life would be like without my weird gay dad.
I hope I don’t have to know for a long, long time.