Time to Say Farewell to Nova Scotia (Part 2)?
So, I returned to Moncton in early August 1985 and went on a trip to Ottawa and Toronto before starting university in September. I remember feeling rather miserable about being “back home” and, in hindsight, I should have taken that sense of unease as my first clue that I had come back for the wrong reason or, rather, that the reason for which I had come back, which I hadn’t challenged in years, had changed over time.
Yet what was — and to some extent still is — more intriguing is that I was feeling so dejected even though I hadn’t lived the high life in Halifax. Far from it! I seem to recall making $4.16/hour, which I think was about a half-dollar more than minimum wage at that time, and learning how hard it is to make the ends meet with so little. But I had done it for 15 months without touching a penny of my education fund, so I had proven to myself that I really could make it on my own. And I had made it while living through experiences that could be chronicled in a book bearing the title, 1984, or; Gay White Trash in the City.
That year in the translation program at the Université de Moncton is a bit of a blur for me today. Oddly, it felt like I was back in high school. It’s not that the courses weren’t university calibre, and it’s not that my relationships with other students weren’t good. In fact, comparatively, I can hardly speak of “relationships” while in high school because I went out of my way through those years to blend into the walls, which wasn’t the case anymore at university. But I think that’s the time when the cold reality of translation started to sink in: one the one hand, I was gearing myself up for some 30 years of translating boring administrative dribble no one would ever read, and on the other hand, I started hearing tales of translators lasting maybe 10 years in the profession before they finally cracked, became hippies, took on a barely legal lover or three, and ran off on a permanent retreat in some blackfly-infested cabin in the Yukon.
I remember the summer of 1986 being particularly bleak, despite being in the good company of my inseparable companion at the time, Sara. It was one of those humid summers when it rained during the day and cleared up at night — the exact opposite of an ideal summer. However, summer soon led to September, and after the second class of Christel Gallant’s “Introduction à la traduction I”, it dawned on me that the only argument I had in favour of completing this degree was that I didn’t want the faculty to break me. And realizing that this attitude amounted to doing a degree out of spite, I headed to the career counselling centre on campus immediately after class.
In one of his “This & That” entries (I think), Tornwordo wrote that young adults should only be allowed to register at university five years after graduating from high school. I couldn’t agree more. I think I was in Grade 9 when I was “oriented” towards translation. In other words, I was 13 or 14 years old at the time and I was never advised to critically re-examine that decision afterwards. Or — and this is a plausible explanation — I not only never allowed myself to revisit the decision once I had made it, but I also did everything in my power to convince myself that “I’m going to be a translator” was the only true narrative. I’d been taunted as the “brainy kid” all my life, and translation was definitely a “brainy” profession, so how could it not be the right decision?
Well, the fact this 21-year-old fag wearing expensive cologne and mousse in his hair — yeah, 1986 — was sitting in the career counselling centre and having concurrent epistemological and existential crises testified that it had definitely not been the right decision. It took another 19 years before I would reach a state of crisis that was even as remotely destabilizing, namely when I sought my brother’s advice on my business and he essentially suggested I put it on the back burner and seek an outside job. Clearly, because I’m basically a “glass half full” kind of guy, I have to see the glass bone dry before I finally yet relunctantly concede, “Well …maybe not.”
At any rate, maybe half an hour after I sat down at the centre and began riffling through pamphlets to figure out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, The Quad, whom I hadn’t seen in several days, rolled in with his new attendant. Indeed, on the very same day, we had decided to drop out of our respective program. And even more strange, on the very same day, we had independently decided to look into studying public relations or communications.
At Mount Saint Vincent University. In Halifax.
By the end of that week, I broke the news to my horrified parents, promised to get a job — I even had two for a few months — and saved up some more since studying outside Moncton would require a lot more mullah.