Everybody has a project
I'm slowly piecing together my own sense of self
This article is part of the CBC/QWF featured columnist program. More information can be found on this page.
Once I was at a house party and this 20-something-year-old guy was moving from group to group making small talk, getting to know people as one does at these kinds of functions. After a while, he threw his hands into the air and said, loudly, "Everybody has a project." Then he angrily stormed out of the room.
I think about that guy a lot.
During the early stages of the pandemic, everyone seemed to be working on a political podcast, creating a mutual aid network or homeschooling their kid. Those who didn't have a project — chosen or imposed by life — had a well-thought-out stance on why it was anti-capitalist to refrain from taking on work in a moment of much needed rest. Instead, they were focusing on their meditation practice.
I wasn't feeling creative or in need of rest. I couldn't tell whether I got meaning from the activities that filled my life. Was it satisfying to volunteer? Did it matter to me whether it was satisfying? Did I like learning how to make bread, or did I just do it because people think it's virtuous to make sourdough?
Every time I asked myself these questions, my mind would go blank.
So I took a break from cultivating an outward stance as someone who always puts others before herself. I asked myself a question: what and who makes you feel interested in the world?
The answer came in bits and pieces.
My 70-year-old uncle figure who worked odd jobs his whole life, because he just doesn't take life seriously enough to commit to one career. On his road trips around the country, he would park his car on the side of the road when he spotted a tree he liked. He'd hike up to the tree and stare at it for a while.
A friend who posts daily lists she calls "nice things from today" on Facebook. My favourites include her co-worker's snack, the feeling of cheeks thawing after walking into a warm café and not listening to music on the Metro to let her thoughts flow. What a variety.
Another friend who meticulously planned out the way she would ask her co-worker out on a date, from the sentence she would speak out loud in a confident manner — "Hey, do you want to go on a date with me? I think you're cute and I like spending time with you" — to the possible ways she would feel after she uttered the words. He said yes, but that was mostly irrelevant; I was interested in the freedom she felt when being clear about her desires.
The other day I noticed how luxurious it felt to have warm feet after coming out of the shower. I revelled in the feeling until it passed and I felt stuck again.
Recently I took a little-known shortcut through a patch of urban woods on an early morning walk with my dog. I noticed excitement rise up in me. I've been taking out cookbooks from the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Montreal's richest public resource, and am languidly sifting through them as I drink my afternoon tea.
Slowly and non-linearly, a sense of self is emerging. I'm not yet ready for a project of my own, but I hope to get there.
I'm thinking about that guy at the party again. I hope that if he didn't have a project of his own, he at least noticed how good or bad it felt to yell in front of a group of strangers. I like to imagine that he was secretly working on a project that made him feel deeply alive, and that he just enjoyed making dramatic exits.
CBC Quebec welcomes your pitches for First Person essays. Please email email@example.com for details.
To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.
By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.
Become a CBC Account Holder
Join the conversation Create account
Already have an account?