You are going to hear my talk about battling with depression throughout my work. It’s important because I haven’t experienced true happiness in what feels like forever. My dreams of returning to California have been real for over two decades. A huge part of my lifetime.
I was searching apartments in Souther California online one day. Then I realized I’d need a car to get around. The costs of getting my butt back here from a cold, cloudy, windy, sometimes overly humid city of Toronto…seemed impossible for a freelance creative who has been only making a living month-to-month for over a decade. The only way I knew how to live.
I picked up the camera when I was 15. My parents gave me my first SLR 35mm film camera. This hardware was foreign to me at the time, but it was like opening a box of gold treasure. Who knew, out of all the things to give a teenager, that this one wold open my eyes up to a world of possibilities. My life would change forever.
It was in LA in high school where my college equivalent photography course would set me in the direction I was looking for. I took it seriously during my off-season of playing football. Yes I was a jock, later turned goth, but always creative looking for ways to express myself.
I would soon find my passion, after shooting hundreds of dollars worth of landscapes, to learn that photographing people is where my passion lived. Artists. Other creative types wanting to express themselves. Once I started smoking pot, during the hight of my parents divorce, I made a whole new group of friends. Kids in bands who would perform all-ages nights in Hollywood. This was the life I was looking for. This was life.
My photo professor would encourage me to enter my work into photo contests. I would win. Prizes, plaques, money. It wasn’t a lot but it was cool affirmation and encouragement that I was onto something. I was still only 16. Writing this at 38 it still seems pretty cool.
I later moved up to San Francisco for art college. It didn’t last long after I became ill with mono and had to drop out. My parents also ran out of money to keep me in private art school during a messy divorce. As much as I didn’t love education, I was devastated that things were falling apart. My family moved back to Toronto as I kicked around San Fran for a year longer, got a job in retail, couch surfed and later got my first apartment in the Tenderloin. I paid my rent in an office that doubled for undercover cops to navigate the drug dealers and prostitutes in the area. I was alive!
I continued to shoot some live music, bands. But San Francisco introduced me to the electronic scene in the year 2000. Drum & Bass was (and still is) my genre of choice. The rave scene. It was a great year and a half of life experience in this international city. I also met a girl at a rave who became my girlfriend for a few weeks while I still lived in my college dormitory. After applying to Starbucks for a job, I was approached by a stranger who offered me to audition to work in porn. At the ripe age of 18, I loved the idea of porn, let alone making enough money to move out of school residence and find a place with my new raver girlfriend, yes please! This turned into a dark experience where I “performed” on-camera, by myself, while watching a montage of random girls my age on video. I was intoxicated and high and signed a 40-page release document for some dude in his apartment. I couldn’t climax for this guy and left in shame asking for compensation. “This was just the audition” the guy told me. I went back to my dorm, called my girlfriend, in shock. She told me to call my mother and to never call her again. I did just that. Then I called the police who told me, if I was 18 and signed anything, there was nothing they could do for me, and to look out for predators. I’ve told only a handful of people this story, but now that I am between homes in downtown Los Angeles, twenty years later, staying in a hostel, after breaking up with my recent girlfriend I met in co-living, I somehow feel the need to share my life story. What do I have to lose? “The truth shall set you free” my mother raised me to believe. Something from her Catholic up-brining and spiritual practice she’s held onto. I felt naked walking the city streets the next morning. Exposed. Luckily this was before YouTube and social media. I don’t think my audition tape ever made it to the public.
I somehow got back on my feet, got the retail job, got the apartment…this went on for short of a year before I was offered to drive my friend’s band across the U.S. and into Canada for a paid road tour. I quickly quit my job and hit the road. I was still 18. You can bet your ass I got my first tattoo after all the life that happened to me at this point. The road was tough. I lasted one week before getting stuck at the border returning to the U.S. I was renewing my visa’s and screwed myself out of my application after crossing for 24 hours with the band. I had been in the U.S. for four and a half years, lost my virginity, graduated high school, found my passion, received accolades, got my first job, apartment…a lot had happened. And I was being told to return to the place I last knew from the age of 15. It was a reverse time-warp.
Luckily, I found my way onto one of Canada’s first “big” reality tv shows in 2001. This also introduced me to the world of digital media, video and tv production. It also gave me high hopes for my career immediately following. But without a focus, know-how to earn a living in the biz…a fried brain from overexposure, I was even further lost down a rabbit hole of life.
Basically I haven’t been in LA for any good amount of time in the past 20 years to re-discover my passion. It wasn’t until 2007 did I start earning a living as a video editor, photographer and videographer. Fast forward over a decade and the media landscape had changed from recording on tape to digital files. Film cameras turned digital and later cell phones and social media has changed the value and landscape of what it means to be a photographer and creator. Tails of someone growing up and older in an industry I once knew how to stay alive and passionate about. But Toronto was never my inspired base. Yes I started my business there but I was earning a living working with marketing agencies and event companies. Live music an entertainment was never a way to make a living as a photographer. All the reasons I picked up the camera in the first place. First Napster changed the value of the music industry, then digital imagery and content changed. Now, without a following, no one cares what you have to offer, and no one has the budgets they used to for video and photography. At least that is the wall of discouragement I have been facing for the past several years now.
Maybe it’s my own health and wellbeing. Since turning 30, I made it my mission to stay physically as healthy as possible. Something I have control over vs the mental health challenges I have been facing since 16. My depression.
I recently went back on anti-depressants. Something I swore this time I would stay on for 3-5 years. My 10mg of Lexipro have been my saving grace. My little support system that I use along side my fitness, meditation and yoga practices. I love sugar and coffee and pastries but I also cook really well. I’m a domesticated “goddess” when it comes down to it.
Marijuana has also been part of my medicine. My first therapist told me to stay away from it. She was probably right, but my nervous system enjoys it so much that it later became a huge addiction. I only recently took my first two months off in over three years where daily consumption of 2-3 half to full-gram joints per day was my normal. Purchasing weed by the ounce was excessive. But my dealer was selling to me at half the market price and getting the best product in the country. I was addicted. And likely distracted. But I was a functional pot smoker. I only smoke Sativa. I don’t like to be couch bound. I like to be active. I use it as a tool but I also need clarity. Being a single, freelance bachelor, it’s been a lonely existence. The pot would numb these feelings.
The loft building I was living in for four years in Toronto, had been sold to new owners. My rent was occasionally late due to my discouragement with my self employment. But I always paid. But the new owners were looking for reasons to kick old tenants out, to upgrade the units and charge double. Some people had been paying only $700 after living there for over a decade on rent control and would later be priced out of living in the city. Mental health was the elephant in the building with all of us dealing with how to better ourselves and being stuck in our own routines and cycles. Something I came to realize, how amazing would it be for government to give landlords a tax break for supporting their tenants either personally or professionally in our developments to move on, earn a better living and afford the rising costs of living! An issue I would later come to consider living in a community living home.