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My oldest daughter now uses the toilet with, what in my estimation is, a 95% success rate. As I reflect on the price of diapers and realise that this particular expense has been effectively cut in half, I count the girl’s successful toilet-training as one of the major victories of the year. One child down, one more to go – and then True and I can take our spawnlets out as slightly more civilised members of society.

I am also reminded of other parents posting photos of their children’s “leavings” in the potty, toilet, et cetra on Facebook. Yes, we know that you are proud of your precious snowflake’s accomplishment. No, we do not need to see this shit – literally. If ever there were a photo which embodied the definition of social media oversharing, it would be the proud parent’s shapshot of their child’s defecation victories. This is one of many reasons I engage in liberal usage of Facebook’s filtering features. “Why do you not want to see this?” Because, it’s shit, damn it!

I proud to say that I am not and never will be that parent. When my children, surely as teenagers, throw in my face the litany of ways they’ve been humiliated, I can reply with, “well, at least I never posted photos of your toddler shit on Facebook.” That should shut them up.

Madeline and Amélie are now four and two, respectively. True is talking about pre-school and I find myself dazed thinking, “how did this all happen so suddenly?” It doesn’t, but it feels like it does. It’s about perspective, and breaking down the numbers, for me, makes the perspective a little more comprehensible. I’ve been in the role of parent for slightly over four years, which is not the majority of my life. It will become the majority of my life once I pass the 60 year mark. Meanwhile, I’ve not even reached equilibrium in legal adulthood – that happens in two years when I turn 36 (which is 18 plus 18, for the arithmetic-challenged).

When I was young, like my daughters, a decade seemed like a huge amount of time. Now that I can slice my life into three decade-long periods and have some leftover years to spare, a decade doesn’t seem so long. Time is constant, but perception of it is greatly affected by the innate awareness if not outright realisation that you are losing things to look forward to as you gain things to look back on. Eventually the number of things to look back on becomes greater than what a person can look forward to – and no one knows exactly where that halfway point is. This both astounds and terrifies me.

Last night was spent at home drinking. And then it was spent trying to quantify how drunk I’d become (very) in relation to the number of drinks I’d consumed (two and a half) over the duration of time I’d consumed them (three hours). Was the essential variable the fact that dinner had been at 6:00PM and the festivities didn’t begin until closer to 9:00PM? That was probably it. True made nachos a little after midnight and I felt a little less on the edge of the bad kind of intoxication once I’d eaten.

This morning, I woke up tired, but not sick. At this point, I’m slightly less tired, but still wishing I had the day off from work tomorrow.

Speaking of work, in December I started a new job. After two and a half years of working in the same place through a temp agency, all of my resume submissions and employment applications finally resulted in a set of interviews where it was decided I would be a good fit for direct, full time employment.

In a way, I was sad to leave my old workplace. The job itself was not disagreeable and I got on well with the majority of my co-workers. However, it was still a temporary position.

The primary problem with temp jobs, aside from being low-income and barebones in benefits, if any, is that there is a middleman. The majority of income a temp agency receives is derived from what could be in the paycheque of the employee temping. What the temp sees on his or her paycheque is only about 50-70% of what is actually being paid out by the people the temp is actually doing the job for.

I resent it when other people make money directly off of my labour. And given that I was two years beyond what was supposed to be a six month trial period before it would be decided if I’d be hired on directly, the decision to leave become easier with the passage of time.

Like I said, I do miss the majority of my old co-workers and the certainty of knowing exactly what to do on the job, but there is a lot a don’t miss as well. For one thing, I don’t miss having to drive to work every day. My old job was located in McKees Rocks, a shitty little suburb of Pittsburgh. My new job is located downtown. I can take a bus to get to work; I no longer have to abuse my car and burn gasoline, nor do I have to worry about driving in inclement weather and weighing my safety versus the need to get a full week worth of pay.

As for the job itself, it’s nothing I haven’t done before and I feel I’m settling in nicely as I learn the particular routines of the position and the organisation as a whole. I’ve gotten a nice bump in annual pay and for the first time ever, not only have I been able to drop the coverage I purchased through the ACA Marketplace, but my whole family now has health insurance!

Despite having a new job, money towards the end of the year is still tight. This has been the pattern for quite a while now – tax refund time makes things flush and then, by December, the finances are looking a bit thin. This has been exacerbated by the fact that True lost her job several months back. The short of it is that she had applied for a new position, received a start date and thought everything was kosher, leaving her to give her two week notice where she had been working. A day before she was due to begin at the new place, they rescinded the offer, leaving her in the lurch. Asking for her old job back was not an option, as they’ve been laying people off and not replacing those who retire.

And this unexpected money problem is why I didn’t reissue Division last year as I had planned to. The album was originally released in 2004, and I had planned on re-releasing it independently in the year of its tenth anniversary. At present, I have a master ready to go, but when the fiscal hit came, I put the project on ice, going no further with it. It is my hope that in 2015, I’ll get the artwork done and send the whole package off for duplication.

I hope to do the same with my new album, if I get it done. It’s going to have eleven or twelve songs. As of today, eight of the songs I intend for it are in various states of completion. Since No One Expects An Inquisition came out in 2011 (five years after The Forever Syndrome), I’d like for the new set to be out no later than 2016, as five years is a pretty long time between albums. This is why I’m aiming for a 2015 release, if the fates deem it so. Still, I’m not going to rush it – the thing will be done when it gets done.

“When it gets done” should be the new motto for Illusion of Joy. I played one show in 2014, which is better than none, but is a 50% drop from 2013. This needs to change, but I’m not sure it will. I have to be honest: the thought has crossed my mind on more than one occasion to just pack up any public face Illusion of Joy may have and just throw my stuff up on Spotify for people to stumble upon at random.

No, that’s not a good marketing strategy, but I’m not a good marketer. It is painfully obvious that I am not good at business. I hate capitalism – how could I be? I want to create and play music and have people be entertained by it, or at least provoke some thought, but making people want it beyond a natural response and resonance is beyond me. I can’t force people to listen, I can’t force people to care and even if I could, would it really be better that way?

One thought that did cross my mind is to abandon – or at least dial down my focus on – traditional venues and take up doing house concerts. I saw ilyAIMY at my first house concert in 2014 and I thought, “this is pretty fucking cool.” Also, ilyAIMY is a good band and you should buy their CDs.

Want Illusion of Joy to play at your house? Get in touch.

I skimmed over my past “year end” reviews and I think I’ve become a calmer person. Dare I say that I’m less cynical and slightly more balanced in my assessment of my life? That is not to say I lack any passion. I remember writing at one point that I was planning on dropping out of politics because, basically, the election of Barack Obama had proven to me that liberalism had been co-opted and beaten to death. If Obama were even one-tenth the socialist the teabaggers accuse him of being, I’d have joyfully voted for him.

I can’t say much for the elections coming up in 2015, but the good thing about 2016 is the Barack Obama can’t be re-elected. The bad thing about 2016 will be that we’re likely to end up with someone even more “conservative” than the melanin-rich Ronald Reagan we’ve got now.

I don’t have to worry about being re-elected until 2017. In the 2013 general election, I noticed that no one was running for either Judge of Election or Majority Inspector in my ward and district. I’d been thinking of volunteering as poll worker for several years and decided that if no one bothered to file the paperwork to run for the positions, I’d just write my name in for both. I told True what I planned on doing and she said she’d give me her votes as well.

Not long after the election, I received two affidavits in the mail from the county election council, asking me to affirm that the two write-in votes I received for both position were, to the best of my knowledge, intended for me. Signed, notarised and mailed in, I then received two certificates stating that I had won both positions. This was followed by a call from the election commission telling me I had to pick one out of the two, as I couldn’t hold both at the same time. I opted for Judge of Election.

I’ve worked two elections now – primary and general 2014. It’s pretty sobering sitting in a polling station on election day, having a manifest of 500 registered voters and only checking off just slightly more than 100 by the end of the day. It’s not unexpected, but sitting there with my team for twelve hours, it would be nice if the voting public gave us more to do. I wonder if I should start a public service campaign: vote…because democracy needs your voice and because your local poll workers are bored with low turnout.

The next election I’ll be working is Pennsylvania’s May primary. Suffice it to say that if you live in my ward and district, I’ll be expecting you to visit my polling station.

Anyone who knows me knows I don’t make resolutions. They are, frankly, a waste of time. And most people just resolve to make themselves miserable under the guise that they are somehow going to improve their lives. I opt not to tread the path of sad self-delusion. By that token, I’m not making any predictions either. I have goals, but I am not going to lock them into one year or another, especially if, like the album, it’s something creative which needs room to breathe and evolve at its own pace.

I’m satisfied with my life. I feel like any adversity that I may face can be handled and that my family and I will be okay. I think I finally feel like I’ve got the ability to push and pull where needed to make things better. Things aren’t perfect, but I can do my part to make them more perfect – that desperately hopeless kid I once was doesn’t exist anymore.

And so begins 2015…

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Seth Warren

May 2017

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