Last July, I spent the night of my 32nd birthday in Chinatown with my dog nephew Clark. Cracking open a bottle of rose and streaming Rupaul's Drag Race on Netflix, the two of us got into a deep conversation about the meaning of life.
“You see Clark, my good man, I seem to have lost myself in a basement in East Vancouver.”
As the minutes turned into hours, I told Clark all about the story of my last three years. I rewound the clock and took him back to the day I moved into my first adult apartment. After being promoted to Assistant General Manager at the Meatball Hut, I upgraded from a bachelor to a one-bedroom suite. On the corner of Up and Coming, this new pad had everything I could dream of: hardwood floors, a fireplace and windows. I was 28-years-old and had finally “made it” living in the big city.
Everything about my young professional life was dressed up and put together with a bowtie except for a few minor details. I worked seventy plus hours a week, made no money and was only home long enough to sleep. After one year passed and all I had to show for myself was a drinking problem and a savings account on life-support, I knew I had to make a change.
Scrambling to find an out, I responded to a former colleague of mine who mentioned she was looking for a roommate on Facebook. Renting a Car2Go, I drove out to 117,000th Street to see the basement apartment where she lived. Located across the street from a beautiful park and directly underneath a wonderful family, the suite featured luxury amenities such as a dishwasher and laundry machine. For $700 a month with all bills included, I asked where to sign and moved in two weeks later.
My new basement room with a view featured a washed-up kiddie pool. Pouring a glass of red wine and putting my bed back together, I reflected on all the places I had lived since moving to Vancouver. This was my fourth move in five years and I had gone from twelve stories in the sky to nine-feet below ground. I was no longer living alone; but that was okay, because I was also no longer living paycheque to paycheque. For the first time living on the Coast I no longer had to worry about money. I was free.
In the six months that followed, I quit my job managing at the restaurant and bought a hatchback named Fanny. I started serving tables again and punched in fifty less hours a week. I focused on writing. I saved up $10,000 to attend all my best friends’ weddings and traveled to New York City for the first time. As time went on, however, I found myself becoming less and less connected to the city and my life in it. I was spending more time below ground then above it.
When nine of my best girlfriends announced that they were pregnant in the same year, instead of excitement and euphoria I experienced a deep sinking feeling. As a new chapter begins, an old chapter must end. When the initial gloss of turning thirty had finally worn off, I was left asking myself, “What am I doing with my life? What do I do next?” I was thirty-one years old and in the throes of a gay male existential crisis.
When the writing dried up and my daily wordcount dropped to zero, I started working part-time at a Hope Centre. Facilitating suicide prevention workshops during the day, I turned tables at night and binged on Netflix and cheap red wine into the early hours of morning. I went through the motions because I had no idea where else to go. Feeling as cold as the winter that passed, I became desperate to jump-start my life again.
To get the blood flowing back in my veins, I started practicing deep-water Aquafit with all the ladies and old Chinese men at the local Community Centre. I went on Grindr long enough to agree to a date with a man just to see if I could feel anything. I couldn’t.
“Rugged,” Clark interjected in his party hat, “I am hungry and you are destroying my buzz. It is time to get your shit together.”
And so I did. Six incredibly messy weeks later, I moved out of the basement and into a junior one-bedroom apartment in the West End. I doubled my rent (which I have yet to figure out) but I am above ground again. I always come back to this quote from The Newsroom when Jeff Daniel’s news anchor character says something to the effect of, “it is time to start living like I am not dead.” So here we go.
One week in and I am already collecting new stories to share.