“Up an down” (because Mark was missing a D), Ottawa, November 2017

It always feels like a new start when we come back to Canada after a trip abroad. I’m just foreign enough to rediscover and enjoy some aspects of life in Canada, I’m just rested enough to embark on fresh projects, and I’m just inspired enough to have ambitions and goals. No matter which month it is, it’s a time to set “new year’s” resolutions.

This was my state of mind in late August when we came back from France. I can’t claim I was completely rested after a six-week immersion in family dynamics, but I was mostly happy and I had plans for the following few months. Work, first of all. I’m lucky; I love my job. I was looking forward to making Canada bilingual and rephrasing awkward sentences, translating and editing around the clock if needed. I also wanted to keep on querying publishers, make better use of my time, and tackle smaller projects and other items on my long-term to-do list.

But nothing went as planned.

First, stuff broke at home. The fridge, a stovetop heating element, pot lids… even IKEA photo frames mysteriously fell to the floor and no, I can’t blame Mark for this, none of us was home when it happened. Then, we got sick, despite the warm, late-summer weather. Never mind, I thought, I’ll just focus on work. Except I didn’t have any. It was much quieter than usual and I started to freak out. “I know it’s finally nice outside and I understand y’all are taking time off, but feed the freelancer!” I wanted to tell my clients.

So since I didn’t have enough billable projects, I focused on editing the manuscript and querying publishers. While I wasn’t expecting my phone to ring the morning after emailing the back-cover blurb and the first fifty pages, I thought I’d receive at least a few rejection letters. I waited for a sign. I got one—my lucky bamboo died.

Meanwhile, I was still looking for new clients—no luck. Supreme humiliation: potential clients who had found me, had projects and were enthusiastic throughout the meeting followed up months later with a terse email informing me that they had decided to go with someone else. I had managed to get rejected by a client who had insisted they needed me.

“Am I cursed?” I complained to Feng. “I swear I haven’t changed, I didn’t say or do anything wrong! My current clients seem happy with my work. Am I missing something here?”

I had to chase payments. More potential clients contacted me, then ghosted me. I ended up with a few projects from hell—long hours and low pay.

More small annoyances crept into my life—bank errors (obviously not in my favour…), computer issues, unpaid invoices… even the ATM spat out a twenty-dollar bill with 2/3 of it missing as if it had been waiting for an idiot to accept it and I was perfect for the role.

Mid-October, I thought my run of bad luck was over when a PR company invited me on a press trip abroad. “I would love to!” I replied. Finally! Something cool happening! I have to admit being invited on a press trip has always been a secret fantasy of mine—writing and travelling, that I can do. It feels like an exciting and indulgent opportunity, especially when you’re not in charge of planning the trip. Except that someone has to be in charge. Weeks went by, emails were exchanged, I provided info as requested but details were always “being finalized.” Finally, on a Sunday night, I was emailed a plane ticket—departure was the following day. “That’s not going to work,” I replied. “I needed a few days’ notice, not 36 hours.” And also, I don’t trust people who can’t get their shit together and make arrangements in a timely manner. I felt like I dodged a bullet, yet I was disappointed. This was just an example of a cool experience that could have happened but didn’t happen because yeah, I was cursed this fall.

“Up and down,” Mark wrote on the fridge. It’s not wise advice to his mom, just the latest two words he learned.

But I’m taking it at face value. This was my down season. I hope all the little seeds I planted this fall with few immediate rewards will eventually lead to something positive.

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  1. Lexie December 7, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    Sure, the up is coming 🙂 Mais essaie de ne pas faire de bilan du négatif, car il te paraît énorme alors. Stay focus on the little nice things, wind is going to turn!

    1. Zhu December 7, 2017 at 11:51 pm

      En fait, ce bilan ne me déprime pas, curieusement 🙂 Je suis un peu cynique, des fois, mais j’ai l’impression d’avoir avancé, juste dans l’ombre, sans retombées évidentes 🙂

  2. Frenchie au Canada December 7, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    I think we shared the same “curse”, my Scotsman had a couple of good months with his business then it calmed down again, everything broke in the house, including his truck, and I was really sick
    So yes, to new beginnings 😉
    Or I might just go hibernate somewhere and come back to life in a few months

    1. Zhu December 7, 2017 at 11:52 pm

      You SO beat me on shitty events. I mean, I thought of you when I was writing this and I almost felt bad complaining :-/

      1. Frenchie au Canada December 12, 2017 at 3:38 pm

        Ha I feel guilty hen I complain thinking some pple have it worse… I think we both have valid reason to feel weary 😉

  3. Martin Penwald December 8, 2017 at 7:21 pm


    Last month, in Texas, an error appeared on my truck’s computer about a imminent full anti pollution system failure. Went to the closest shop, and after getting informations about the numerous errors with the shop diagnostic computer, I said to the mechanic that it looks like the electrical harness has a problem, check it before doing anything else.
    They check, and deemed it good. Checked fuses, pumps, connections, everything looked OK. After 1 week, changed the computer main board, and still nothing fixed. Finally, they changed the electrical harness, the one I had said to check and was supposed good, and it fixed everything. 2 weeks after I told them to start with that.
    And I noticed later that they didn’t plug back my horns and broke the left underhood fender.
    I’m particularly pissed at Volvo. I’ve even wrote to the corporate headquarters about it and nobody even answered.
    There is no way I’ll ever buy another Volvo, or Mack since it is the same company.

    1. Zhu December 10, 2017 at 1:58 am

      You have all my sympathy, especially considering this is both your work tool and your house!

      I’d be surprised if Volvo doesn’t reply at all, though. Where is the headquarter? Maybe I’m wrong, I’m kind of used to North American companies often following up with customers, but European can have the “don’t give a shit” attitude.

      1. Martin Penwald December 10, 2017 at 7:41 am

        Curiously, it is not my expérience. I’m not really confortable using phone, especially in English, so I use web forms or e-mail. And it is regularly hard to have a decent answer. I remember one time asking to a manufacturing company if the piece I wanted was doable, if they could do it, how long it could take, and in the answer, the guy didn’t write anything but a price. Not hello, not bye, nothing except a price. It felt so rude I didn’t reply.
        And that’s when I received an answer. Most of the time, it is ignored.
        And Volvo has its headquarters in the U.S.A. In fact, the only answer I ever get from Volvo was when I wrote to the Sweden headquarters about an unrelated interrogation a couple of years ago.

        1. Zhu December 10, 2017 at 6:31 pm

          Okay, serious offer: next time you have a complain, let me know and I’ll draft you the letter. I seem to have some success with that kind of things! (Not on querying publishers, though… le monde esr mal fait :lol:)

          1. Martin Penwald December 10, 2017 at 9:29 pm

            I think I can write “Fuck You Volvo!” by myself. 🙂

          2. Zhu December 10, 2017 at 10:20 pm

            Mmm… I wouldn’t have capitalized “You” but you’re onto something 😆

          3. Zhu December 10, 2017 at 10:20 pm

            “Volvo – yo no voy a volver” si tu veux une version espagnole 😆

  4. Aylyon December 8, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    Yeah fall was hard… and I don’t really know why.
    But I sure hope better days are coming our way (and yes more work too 🙂 )

    1. Zhu December 10, 2017 at 2:04 am

      *Hoping* 🙂


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