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My Frustrating Fall of Fails, When Everything Went Wrong

“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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