It’s been a wild decade for me. It began for me in Toronto as a newly-single man wondering “What now?”, and ends tonight as a happily-married man in Tampa wondering “What’s next?”
The best way to explain the last ten years is to tell the story of the first of those years. I’ll do that by pointing you to some key blog posts from that time. I hope you find them interesting.
I’m off to celebrate new year’s eve. Be safe, and I’ll see you in the new year!
…and as a matter of fact, I do have a stitch to wear. Waiting for Jamie Sorgente’s ride from the Hotel Le Germain (a pimped-out Audi that they use to take guests about town) to pick me up at the Queen Elizabeth and take us to Garde Manger.
I stopped blogging for a week, and a number of people asked if I was all right. The second-best answer I can give – at least here on the blog – is “Yes…considering the circumstances.”
As for the best answer, it’s a dream that I had Thursday night, after returning to my hotel room after a healthy dose of rye-and-cokes at a post-conference cocktail party in London, Ontario, and lying awake, having one of those long dark nights of the soul where you ask yourself so what do I do now?
For the purposes of a public forum like this one, I think it does a pretty good job of capturing my state of mind without violating any confidences.
On the rare occasion that I find myself waking up at oh-dark-thirty and unable to nod off, I find that the most effective fix is not to lie awake and try to sleep, but to do something until I get sleepy enough. That particular night, I fired up the laptop and wrote about that dream in a blog entry titled Closing Time.
It never occurred to me that people would interpret it as work-related. Since posting the article, I’ve had a number of friends ask if I’m thinking of quitting my job and shooed away about a dozen phone calls from recruiters hoping to land a prize.
Instead, the article Closing Time and the dream that inspired it were about something a little more personal: it’s that Wendy has asked for a divorce.
I won’t get into the hows or whys of the matter here. Splitsville is a complicated place, and a blog is not the appropriate place to hang up your dirty laundry. It will simply have to suffice for me to say that I love Wendy dearly, and that I wish her all the happiness in the world. If you are a friend of hers, please reach out to her.
Anything I write about breaking up will not be about her, but about me and the question I will be attempting to answer for the next little while:
“So what do I do now?”
They stared at me in disbelief for a moment, and then a number of them threw their arms in the air and yelled “ACCORDION!”
“Come! Join us! Play! Get this man a beer!” Magic phrases, all of them.
I am too damn old to be here, I thought as I squeezed my way through the huddled masses of Generation Y that had packed themselves into the place. We’d missed last call, and there wasn’t room for additional molecules, never mind a free table.
“C’mon,” I said. “Let’s go hit someplace a little less crowded…”
A pair of impossibly cute, impossibly young girls squeezed by us.
“…and a little less…uh, statutory. How ‘bout Mars?”
If you tune into YTV [Canada’s answer to Nickelodeon] this afternoon between 3:55 and 4:25 to enjoy a little Spongebob, you’ll catch me and Carlos as I talk about the accordion, explain how it works, attempt to teach him how to play The Hokey Pokey, and play a little game called musical roulette where I’m given a random musical genre and topic and have to make up a song on the spot.
I woke up in a panic, unable to breathe. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t take in any air. It felt like drowning, and all the while, I was thinking about the article Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning. I pulled myself partly upright, and felt something break away from my right arm. I clicked the call button that they’d attached to the railing of the bed and started looking around.
The room was mostly dark, lit only by some diffuse ambulance lights flashing through the room’s small translucent window and the monitors displaying my blood pressure, oxygen saturation and heart rate. Curiosity got the better of me for a moment and I stole a glance at my heart rate: 150.
No shit, I thought.
Although they’d transferred me into a hospital gown, I was still wearing my jeans. My phone was still in my pocket and still had plenty of charge. I hadn’t installed a flashlight app, but I fired up OneNote (which always runs with a light background). At least I had a light source now.
Why wasn’t anyone answering my call? I clicked the call button again.
I sat upright. I immediately felt a sensation of downward movement in my upper chest, as if a masseuse were working downward on me with a giant rolling pin. Was this what it felt like to check out? I wondered. I hoped not.
After the sensation passed, it felt a little easier to breathe. Maybe sitting up did it.
Still no answer from the call button. I clicked it again. What was wrong with these people?
Casting the light from my phone about, I got my answer. I’d managed to not only disconnect my IV line with my thrashing about (leaving a small pool of blood on the right side of the bed), I’d also managed to yank the call button’s cord out of its socket on the wall.
Nice going, deVilla, I thought, you just killed yourself.
“Has it changed you?” my friend asked.
“Has what changed me?” I asked in reply.
“Your near-death experience.”
“Has it changed me, huh? You know, I’ve been asking myself the same question.”
So far, 2011 has been a roving year for me, what with me spending half my days in beds that aren’t my own.
I’m enjoying the roving life thus far, but it means that my apartment – which already looks a little different owing to major changes in the domestic situation – is a place just as strange to me as the places where I’m crashing. That’s okay by me, though; I love travel and this is the sort of shake-up that’s called for at the moment.
I have very vivid memories of the night my friend Jeannie drove me to place near the Sound. I breathed in lungfuls of cool night air and stood on locks over waters that would eventually flow into the Pacific, thinking that only a month before and a continent away, I was in a darkened emergency room. It hadn’t been that long since I was gasping like a fish on dry land, fumbling in the dark, desperately trying to reconnect the emergency call button and thinking “so this is what dying feels like”.
I got perp walked into a meeting with a perturbed C-level executive. I had some heart-to-heart conversations with a lot of co-workers who were convinced that I was going to quit, including one with my manager that was only survivable through continuous shots of Wild Turkey. Oddly, at the time, while it would be a fair assumption to think I was going to leave, I was determined to stay.
I had two terrible, sleepless nights, slumped in my hotel room’s easy chair with a bucket of Coronas in ice at my side, staring at the highway to Portland and thinking “something’s got to change.”
She took my hand in hers, putting her fingers between mine and led me downstairs and to the street outside. We walked at a slow-ish pace, hand in hand down the street, with her leaning up close against me. I took in a deep breath and caught the scent from her hair. Ever since I was a teenager, I have believed that “girly shampoo on actual girl” is one of the best smells in the world, surpassing even freshly-cooked bacon or a new just-out-of-the-box Macbook.
The evening had just been elevated to…a date? Okay, maybe a non-date.
It’s been half a year since my check-in, iffy prognosis and adventures with suffocation and call button repair at the hospital. Between hospitalization, travel and living away for the summer, I’ve been in my own home less than half the time this year. I’m in a place that isn’t my own, in a town where I have only a vague idea of the geography and know only a handful of people.
I’m five weeks into my new job as Shopify’s Platform Evangelist. I have left the security and the fat paycheque of a Fortune 50 company for a start-up. I’m in Ottawa for the summer in order to immerse myself in the company properly. I’ve gone from a company where I was at about the median age to being part of the “adult supervision”.
Strangely enough, in spite of all this change, I still think that I haven’t ventured far enough outside my comfort zone. There’s still a lot more I can do, and there isn’t a better opportunity than the one I have right now to do it.
Happy (belated) New Year, everyone! I’m back online — but not where you might expect — and regular blogging here on Accordion Guy resumes as of Tuesday, January 3rd. Here’s to a great 2012 and an interesting Year of the Dragon.
I’ve got my hands full at the moment, so I’ll keep this post short and sweet. I’ll let the pictures tell most of the story of how quickly and completely things can change.