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first person

Illustration by Kumé Pather

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During the pandemic, I recorded an album. It was the first piece of music I had recorded in 17 years. I did it because I had time while I was waiting – waiting on lockdown to end, of course, but also, waiting to start a family by adoption.

In October 2017, my wife and I began our journey of trying to start a family. It’s easy to remember this because it was also the time I started my new job as a youth and family counsellor. This fall marks four years that my wife and I have been in this holding pattern. By the time the pandemic rolled around, we were already pros at waiting. First, we were waiting on ovulation and pregnancy tests, then blood tests, then hearing back from the clinic, then completing our home study for adoption, for approval from the Ontario government, for stamps from the Embassy, and so on and so forth.

At the end of all this, we’re still here … waiting.

Over this period I’ve read various first-person essays about the heartache of infertility and adoption. Each one of them was real and each one of them I connected with in a personal way. It’s the experience of knowing someone gets you. That validation without having to say a word. This, however, is not one of those essays. This essay is about how we choose to live while we’re waiting on the future to come.

So, I recorded an album.

In May 2020, I made my first pandemic purchases: I bought a two-line audio interface, a three-octave keyboard and a single workhorse mic. Basically, everything I needed, in addition to my guitar, amplifier and iPad, to produce an album at home.

My plan was to record six songs. By July I was booking Friday afternoons off work and converting our two-piece bathroom into a studio. Though we’re lucky enough to have ductless A/C in our place, let me tell you, it still got pretty sweaty in there. Once I forgot something up in my wife’s office and briefly, by accident, appeared shirtless in her work team’s WebEx meeting.

By January I was ascending GarageBand’s learning curve and messing around with drum sequencing and the arpeggiator function in the synthesizer toolbar. I was geeking out pretty hard and feeling good about it. The only parts not recorded in house were live drums on three songs done by a fellow counsellor and bandmate nearby and the mixing was done by my oldest friend from his locked down life in Los Angeles.

I set my drop day for the Thursday before the May long weekend. I created my own artist page – Gans Elegans – on Bandcamp (an online service that helps musicians post and get paid for their music) and paid a third-party service to have my songs streamed on Spotify and iTunes. Then on drop day, I sent an e-blast to 89 friends and 22 family members from the past 42 years of my life. I put the word out on my social media and asked a few trusted individuals to do the same. If I felt good about using the arpeggiator effect, I was intoxicated about sending my music into the world. Hopefully, I would not regret it in the morning.

The response was great. Friends and people I knew from back in the day wrote me encouraging things. There was also this feedback from my dad, “Your lyrics are crazy first of all, and second of all, I didn’t fully understand all of them.” All right, now we’re getting somewhere. The kicker though was when CIUT 89.5, the University of Toronto’s radio station, played one of my songs. Check that one off the list!

All of this almost never happened. In my mid-20s I stopped making music because it was making my life feel bad. Up until a few years ago, I was pretty sure the songwriter part of me was dead and gone – or at least ripe for burial. A couple of years back I started writing again. I booked a few shows and put a band together (shout out to Fastsleeper).

Since the album dropped, my songs have been streamed 425 times by 110 unique listeners on Bandcamp and likely twice that on the mainstream platforms. It’s nothing that’s going to break the Internet or even help me break even on costs. But there is an important intangible here: my wait is over. I’m making music again.

I feel similarly about the part of me who longs to be a parent. There are moments when I wonder if that dad-guy will ever emerge. In this wondering, you can convince yourself that the current moment is not your real-life because just like the pandemic, it’s not the now you wish it were. There are moments I feel like someone late to a party. A strange sci-fi party, albeit, where everyone is getting younger by the hour. There are also moments when I pass new dads on the sidewalk and cast my eyes down because it’s easier than looking ahead.

In moments like these, it would serve me to think of the young people I work with and how they move through periods of wishing things were different. I am constantly amazed how even the most stuck and unwell person will move through. Just when you thought it was not possible. Which leads to me to believe that even in waiting we remain in motion. So why not push record on that new track and see what happens.

Geoff Gans lives in Toronto

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