BY KYLA CLARKE
A couple of nights ago, I was having a few drinks with some coworkers. A conversation about freaky dreams snowballed into a conversation about deja vu, spirituality, and faith. I explained to them (in more or less articulate terms) how I have never been a religious person, but I am spiritual in the sense that I believe not in a higher power, but in a higher purpose. I believe everything happens for a reason and exactly as was planned. I believe that every loss, every setback, and every failure is leading you exactly where you’re supposed to be going – even if it doesn’t feel like it.
Now let me tell you why.
I have failed at almost everything I have tried. But, I have tried more things than most people. With “a cool job in music” always being the goal, I have tried to start blogs, to start businesses, to start clubs, to run festivals, to host major music events, and even to relocate to another country. All of these endeavours have ended with either my team backing out, me giving up, or booking a fast flight home. But every single one of these failures has been leading me closer and closer to my goal – I’ve just been too caught up in the little details to watch it all unfold.
I’ll start from somewhere near the beginning.
About two and a half years ago, as the result of a blind career leap in which I was frauded and left broke and unemployed, I had been living back in my hometown to make some good money and re-stabilize my life. I was 25 and panicking about it and bored with my old hometown life. So, I boldly took a job teaching English abroad and announced I was moving to Argentina to start a new life there. I had very little teaching experience and my Spanish was advanced enough only to order drinks and insist I was vegetarian (how do you know when una vegetariana walks into a room?). I lasted exactly six months before I was broke again, depressed with homesickness, and begrudgingly returned to Canada. This time, to the city in which I attended university. I hastily signed up for an eight-month college writing program in the hopes it would stall some time for me to figure my shit out, and eventually lead me somewhere productive. (It might be worth noting that at this time, I figured getting back together with my ex-boyfriend for the zillionth time was a cool idea, which, of course, ended before I even wrote my midterms.) I was working at a pub I hated, drinking more than I ever had before, and sleeping til 3pm every day off I had.
But I graduated on the Dean’s List – both semesters.
This was when things – almost – started moving for me. Nearing the end of my final months in college, I was casually browsing for “cool music jobs” online. I found a posting for a social media and marketing coordinator for a young music marketing company in Toronto. It was only a four-month contract, but it was my dream job and it seemed like the perfect fit. I applied just for fun and ended up getting an interview for the next day. Without batting an eye, I booked a Greyhound ticket, traveled five hours to Toronto, nailed the interview, had lunch with a friend, and traveled the five hours home.
I got the job. My dreams were coming true.
Two short weeks later, with the help of a dear friend and a rented SUV, I moved down to Toronto and started my new job the next day. It was intense, it was fast-paced, it was exciting … and eventually, it was awful. The company culture was such that no one said “Good morning,” the interns were expected to buy toilet paper and pick up lunch, contract workers were disposable, and if something made you concerned or unhappy, you were never allowed to talk about it. It seemed so shiny and pretty on the outside, but working there drained me. We worked so much we weren’t expected to have personal lives, but my work life only brought me down. This was not how I imagined it would be. Was this what the music business was like? Was everywhere in the industry going to be the same way? Unsurprisingly, my four-month contract did not get renewed, which devastated me at first, but I realized quickly it was a blessing in disguise.
After two weeks of unemployment in a new city and no family nearby to turn to, my friend helped me out with a three-month contract job at the eLearning company he worked for. It wasn’t at all where I wanted to be and I was sad to walk away from the music industry. But I couldn’t afford not to work, and a job’s a job.
This is where it gets good.
I really liked it there. I found the work to be easy and my coworkers were awesome. The office was laid back and everyone said “Good morning.” I was good at the work I was doing, and when there was downtime, they had me help out with their social media profiles and even write a few blogs. Call it fate or call it coincidence, but when my three month contract was wrapping up, I learned there was a need for more help in the marketing department. Essentially, they saw my value and created a position for me. To this day, my role is still evolving, but I manage all the social media channels and do everything from writing and editing to design and events. I get to be creative every day, work with people who I love to spend time with, and if we have an issue or concern, discussing it is not only tolerated, but encouraged. One of the company’s core tenets is ongoing learning, so they provide courses and learning opportunities for us all the time, and it’s beginning to feel like so much more than just a job. My managers are supportive of my “side hustle,” my passion for music, and my personal goals. They believe that investing in their staff is always valuable and opportunities for continued learning, professional growth, and even travel, are all on the horizon.
So you might be wondering what the whole point is. I’m not making tons of money, my blog is still just a baby, and I still don’t work in the music industry. What did I really accomplish? Isn’t this the same as giving up?
No. And let me explain why.
This morning, I randomly pulled out my old travel journal and took a look through it. One weekend when I was in Argentina, I had gone on a yoga retreat in the countryside near Buenos Aires. As part of the retreat, my friend Meredith and I attended a “Conscious Psychology” class, which ended up actually feeling more like group therapy. One of the tasks was to write down our goals and list how we could go about achieving them. Identifying my goals was the hardest part. At that time, I was unhappy, but I had no idea what it was specifically that would make me happy.
This is what I wrote:
- feel successful on my own terms
- live a life that includes travel
- continue my education in all ways
So, no, I’m not exactly where I thought I’d be. But I’m exactly where I’d hoped I’d be.
I just wasn’t looking at it in the right lens. You see, if I hadn’t kept a journal and looked back on it years later, I wouldn’t have realized just how far I’ve come.
Though my passport has expired, living in a new city still feels like travel to me. I continue to explore Toronto and discover new pockets of the city, and I have had the chance to visit neighbouring cities for work, which is exciting in its own small way. Though I’m regaining stability and focusing on work now, I know I will travel again and it will always be a part of my life.
As for education? The courses my company provides for us allow me to continue to learn every day. Added responsibilities and leadership opportunities allow me to learn every day. And by the very nature of my work, I continue to learn every day.
By doing work I enjoy and feeling valued and respected, I feel successful. By making a steady paycheque and starting to pay off my debts, I feel successful. By living in my own apartment in a city I love, I feel successful. By being in control of my life, I feel successful.
All of these “failures” and “setbacks” have taught me is that every single one of them has been a stepping stone to lead me exactly where I’m supposed to be. I’m still not there yet, but I know now that I am young. I have every intention of working in the music business, but I know I’ll never get there if I give up, or worse, live with resentment. I firmly believe in hard work and faith. If you don’t have faith in yourself, then trust in a god or a higher power. And if you don’t have faith in a higher power, you must have faith in yourself. If all else fails, trust in blind faith.
And for god’s sake, keep a journal.