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Bread, Video Games, and Introspection

For the past decade, I’d been chipping away at a career in the Canadian music industry. Working a variety of different jobs across various facets of “the industry” from promoting raves in dimsum restaurants, to managing an indie label, to finally landing my last position in artist management with a well respected label in Toronto. I felt like I’d hit my stride professionally; I was working alongside a diverse team of progressive industry leaders, working with artists whose work and message I passionately believed in, and was managing to stay moderately afloat, financially speaking, in a creative industry notorious for low (or no) wages.

My partner and I were flying back from a trip to the UK when the news broke that the Junos would be cancelled; upon landing at home in Toronto, we’d both learned that we’d be working at home the next day. As Monday rolled around, the long-term reality of the situation began to solidify. Summer festivals were being cancelled across the globe, as were other smaller concerts and tours.

The music industry, that had fought tooth and nail to stay alive amid dwindling profits in the age of streaming, that relied so heavily on revenues from live performances and off-stage merchandise sales, had simply stopped. After a quick and tearful Zoom (lol), I’d lost my job. 

I’ll pause here to note that, despite having been laid off, I’m still in a place of considerable privilege. I have a comfortable living situation and have a supportive partner who’s somehow managed to already secure a new job (after also being laid off); a superhuman who clearly does not work in the arts. Acknowledging the privileges afforded to me, and practicing gratitude on a daily basis, have been an important part of my day-to-day since the world stopped.

Taking a step back

The music industry is... well, it’s weird. I can think of few other career paths that blur so many personal and professional boundaries. Sure, I was friends with the folks that I worked with, but so much of our professional activity occurs in tandem with “normal” people’s leisure time. I could be chain-smoking out front of the Horseshoe Tavern at 2 AM on a Saturday, but it was still a “work thing”. I’ve since realized that a lot of my personal identity is tangled up with my professional identity. So, that’s something to unpack over the next few weeks.

I’ve seen the topic discussed with increasing frequency over the past week or so, but I think it bears repeating as often as possible: it is completely okay to not be productive right now! This is something I find myself working through at least once a day right now – reminding myself that this situation has presented me with an opportunity: to hit pause and take stock, to be present and figure out the shit in my life that nourishes me. Video games, books, music, cooking – consuming media I truly love and finding a creative outlet in cooking have been a comfort to me over the past few weeks.

I, alongside seemingly every 20 to 30 something in the Western world, have been filling my time with Animal Crossing and baking bread. Focaccia is surprisingly easy to make! I get a wholesome little thrill each time a loaf of crusty bread hits the rack to cool, knowing that I’ve created something, however basic, that people I care about will enjoy, and that will sustain them, and hopefully serve as a dose of comfort or normalcy. I’ve found solace in cooking and baking, helping to fill that productivity-void that’s crept in since losing my job. Cooking for my partner, myself and an impromptu roommate allows me to fill my time, scratch a creative itch, and feel useful, without focussing on capital “P” productivity. I am cooking for enjoyment, for survival, and to sustain people I care about, not for Capitalism.

By no means do I think I have any answers in *gestures around* all of this, but I personally find comfort in taking this whole world-on-pause thing as an opportunity to reframe what’s important for me, personally and professionally. This has been my biggest takeaway.

I am now a vastly different person than when I set out to make a name for myself in music. My living situation, lifestyle and values have all shifted considerably in the past year; I’d now rather bake and read in bed than get wasted on drink tickets on a Wednesday evening. Aging!

What I suppose I’m saying is be gentle with yourself. Not necessarily novel or revolutionary, but there it is nonetheless. Take this time to reflect on what you truly love, what you’re truly grateful for, and sit with it for a moment. Savour the things that bring you joy, take the down time, and if your situation allows, take this pause to step back and reframe what’s important to you at this stage in your life. Then, bake some focaccia.

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Something Matt’s looking forward to trying: Free (CBD) Oil by Solei
What Matt is listening to: Caribou's "Suddenly" and Magdalena Bay’s "A Little Rhythm and a Wicked Feeling" are my most rotated albums right now

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