The Hardest Fucking Year of My Life.

May 27, 2015

It’s exactly a full year since I left home and arrived in Canada.

The promise – the dream – was the motto “This is MY year“. Just coming out of university, shooting a guerilla-style webseries of my own creation, a beautiful – and smart, and funny, and hot, and talented – girlfriend by my side, as excited as I was to get here. Living together without having to share the apartment with anyone else. Making all the decisions, living abroad for the first time for the both of us. What the hell could go wrong?

I came in almost three months earlier while she wrapped up her degree. In the meantime I would find us proper housing, set up the place, get used to the life and start classes. Summer in Vancouver, again, what could go wrong? I came with a friend, with everything set up to stay at another friend’s place, one I hadn’t met before but sounded quite the nice guy. He’s a nice guy indeed. Day one we went to sort out all the practical stuff – phone, id, bank account, all that crap – and he let me stay at his place until I could find my own. We had a lot of fun during the first month, and I ended up getting an awesome apartment in an awesome building for a very good price. Me and May worked everything out for the apartment. Before going to IKEA we tore their website apart, figuring which pieces of furniture I should get, and where to put them in our home so it was a thing we built together and not the hack and slash it would be if I did it on my own – just to give an idea I lived a month with just a mattress on the floor, a sidetable doubling as dinner table, bike, notebook and a cool red armchair we got off Craigslist.

Every day was a different adventure and we walked a lot. A LOT, as in over 15km daily, exploring the neighborhood, enjoying the canadian politeness, getting lost, feeling lost, and getting used to the new environment. Classes started and the excitement went up even higher. What a shit ton of new stuff to learn. Damn, 3D modeling? I’ve tried it before on my own at least once a year and never got past the first week of tutorials since the menus always got fucked up. Everything else was kind of ok, but we had an absurd amount of assignments each week, cramming in knowledge the best way possible, taking notes and fighting off the always approaching deadlines.

Since my life was pretty simple in this first term, I had no worries about anything but getting that shit done. One sentence summarizes it all: “Wake up, get to school, get home, sleep. Repeat”. I was like clockwork for I had nothing else.

The term was getting close to the end by the time Nicko arrived to stay a couple weeks at my place. Was it a couple weeks? It sure as hell felt like it, considering the number of nights we went on modeling stuff, discussing lineflow, playing Left 4 Dead, The Last of Us, and messing around with MEL scripts. Not long after that May arrived. I got very anxious about one week before and could barely eat with anticipation. It was just the beginning. My appetite wouldn’t recover any time soon, but I didn’t know that yet.

I don’t feel comfortable getting into details about our things, but I’ll say things weren’t great. Term 2 was going extreme and I had a share of sleepless nights. Now, a little bit about myself and work: I love what I do, as in I love the work, figuring out things, solving problems, fighting shaders and painting crap on Photoshop. The downside: I never learned how to turn it off. Back home, I used to work on set, and once you leave the set, there’s nothing to work on. We always had time for each other and never thought much about it, just felt natural. Was there any other way of being? Not that we knew of. In Vancouver that wasn’t quite the case. You can always get up at 5 in the morning to check renders and set them right, or dream about a particular fix for a comp and get up to test it out. Maybe my mistake was having the possibility of working from home. Maybe that’s what kept me alive for so long.

Back to the time issue. There I was, struggling with an even higher stack of assignments, May was living her Term 1, which is always amazing and inspiring, and even though I spent a reasonable amount of time at home, I was never entirely out of thinking about modeling and texturing the damned character, environment, rendering the Later Alliegator and storyboarding the Alien Encounter. All of that while trying to come up with any brilliant ideas for the reel. Writing it down now makes me question how the fuck didn’t I notice it was a recipe for madness.

Term 2 was finally over, but the damage would come in its wake. It was during Term 3 that I started going down, double guessing my decisions and the whole point of being in Vancouver. For quite a while I didn’t feel like doing anything at all but watching TV. I started to wonder if my pitch for the reel would work at all, I kept getting the “keep on doing what you doing” feedback, which is disturbing when you’re in for the learning. After about a month of “keep on going” we had our individual meetings with our Supervisor and that was something in the lines of a nightmare. At this point I hadn’t yet learned that criticism isn’t personal and I was still very attached to the story I wanted to tell. Silly me. Everything went upside down and I didn’t touch anything related to my reel for about three more weeks. Then, lightning struck in the Term’s last week and I got a surge of inspiration to get things moving again.

In the meanwhile I had several emotional breakdowns solved singlehandedly by May, and later on, with my parents and therapy/counselling. But the beginning was hard. I was already skinny by this point. We wouldn’t go out to eat for I’d feel sick right before starting to eat, I wouldn’t eat what we cooked at home because it got me nervous for unknown reasons, I wouldn’t eat at school because I felt insecure about myself in several aspects and playing it cool so no one would notice. For more than a month I carried a bag of nuts and raisins inside my coat so I could eat whenever I felt I wouldn’t get instantly sick. I kept the crisis from anyone – even May and my parents – for a very long time, thinking – hoping? – it was just a ‘thing’ that would wear out soon enough.

We also had the near-freezing experience to add some more layers of damage and the winter itself made me miserable. The temperature NEVER drops below 23 where I come from. My most extreme situation before Canada was 8 degrees and not even for more than one day. The lack of Sun, short days and constant raining boosted the cold-and-alone feeling. Until this point I used to bike to school, but I was feeling so weak by not eating that I just stopped until I recovered or the weather improved. Neither of which happened.

For our christmas break, the original plan was head to Los Angeles and enjoy the Sunshine State for a few days, since we’re so close to it, when compared to Brazil. I didn’t feel anything like doing that anymore by the time we got to December. I just wanted to go home. I needed something I knew, I couldn’t stand feeling lost or insecure anymore. We came home for less than ten days and saw 2014 turn into 2015 inside an airplane. Most depressing New Year party of my life and I’m comparing that to the previous year when one of my cats DIED. The best thing during this short break was being beside May. I feel like home wherever I am with her.

2015 has been so fast so far that I can’t even explain. And still, it feels like a decade since I left home a year ago. Days feel like weeks and one week seems to last for about three, based on the amount of stuff we do and work on and think about and deal with, not only at school but regarding our apartment – bills, dishes, laundry, insomnia, changing the sheets every once in a while, keeping it kind of clean – and the messed up reality of work permits for international students.

Things haven’t improved, overall, in my daily life – I still don’t eat properly, don’t sleep all too well, and things are far from fine with the love of my life. Last saturday I got sick. Hardcore sick. My appetite had ups and downs over the months but then it was absolutely gone. Nothing could go down, I couldn’t stand looking at food or drinks. I think it was something I ate. This was one of my worst fears while losing weight: getting to a critical point where a flimsy flu could knock me dead. No improvement on Sunday. On Monday May escorted me to the hospital where I hang while waiting for test results and diagnosis. The doctor prescribed me some pills and it seemed to work. Then Tuesday come to prove I had NO IDEA how sick I could endure. All these days I barely left the bed. It wasn’t just the sickness, I didn’t feel inspired or motivated to work on anything or even watch TV. God bless all those books and comics I hadn’t read yet, for that was all that kept me from total boredom and despair.

Being sick sucks. Being sick and alone is even worst. May had her assignments to do at school all day and I can’t stand the idea of holding her back at all. So I spent hours and hours chatting with my parents. Hell, I think I dehydrated from all the crying too. Remember that thing of being unable to turn my tasks off? Well, that expanded to all aspects of life. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I wanted to feel better soon, how I wanted to be a better boyfriend, to work harder, to enjoy the sun outside, to enjoy A DECENT FUCKING MEAL WITHOUT GETTING SICK BY JUST THINKING ABOUT IT and so on. And no signs of getting any better.

Wednesday evening, talking to my parents, they suggested coming back for a while, to get better. At the moment, it felt a little desperate. “I can push through this! There’s only a month left!”. Five minutes later it felt like the world’s greatest idea. It was just a month, but then what? I would miraculously heal as soon as school was over? What about work? What would I be doing? If I’m planning to stay on Canada, it sure wouldn’t be feeling the way I did for a long time. It didn’t get better at all over time. It was time for a change, and a radical one.

I don’t know if the sickness wore off naturally, or if my unusual state of happiness kicked it down, but I was able to actually accomplish a lot in that last Thursday, letting everyone know about the problem at hand, contacting the school administration, instructors, close friends and solving any pending issues related to my return. I can’t describe how much better I felt for all the things I heard from my class, and not only that, but every one that played a part in this story. Helped me figure out some issues and also part feel as of the group, embraced by plenty “get better”s and “see you soon”s.

I had something to finish off this post, but writing it wasn’t the easiest of tasks and I’m ending it just like this.

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