A new life

As my first blog post, let me happily present Véro, who modelled for one of my paintings on the subject of work. (Thank you, thank you, Véro!) She was a special effects lab tech and is now radically changing careers: she’s off to Grande-Rivière to study aquaculture.

Work-Vero Dumas - Julie Salkowski
Work-Vero Dumas Acrylic 16×20″ sold

I painted her creating in her home workshop. As in every painting in this series, I included the tarot’s pentacles, as they represent money, the material world and work. Véro is leaving this field she loves for something entirely new because she has to, hence the painting’s nostalgic atmosphere.

Her story in her own words :

“Last year, something happened to me. I was working as a lab technician in a special effects workshop. Dream job, really. International films, big stuff. I worked with outstanding artists who fueled my thirst for learning every day. I always tried to learn another technique, a new way of doing things. I had the recognition of my colleagues and I felt appreciated at work. Every day I became a better lab tech, a better caster, a better sculptor, a better painter.

My point is, I liked it, y’know. Except that sometimes it got a little intense. Last spring, we were on a big contract with a not awesome schedule: less than 3 months to deliver 6 months’ worth of job, kind of thing. Workshop brimming with people, super effervescent, we worked 10 or 12-hour days, 6 days a week, and hey, if you could come in on Sunday, that would be great.

I know very well that I do not have the kind of energy needed to keep up at this pace. I’m okay with sprints, but I don’t survive marathons well. I basically have an inability to recover. Think of it as a mild form of chronic fatigue.

I manage relatively well, normally. I cry laughing while I work from time to time, and then the regulars laugh at the unease of the newbies, who will also in time get used to my bouts of the wetworks. It’s okay, gang, sometimes my eyeballs leak, but I’m fine, I’m a ninja in a fatsuit, this is just the suit’s warranty expiring.

So my smile stayed up. Until the pain started. At the wrists. I dropped tools. Electrical shocks multiplied. Soon, it hurt up to my shoulders, up to the base of my skull. Heat, ice, Advil, I threw everything at it, and I made it to the end of the project. I then took 3 more-than-deserved weeks off. Went to my massage therapist and an osteopath. The pain subsided. I went back to work. But the engine did not restart. The pain came back, crippling. In June, I was forced to take leave. In July, a test confirmed carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists, and probably multiple tendinitis on top.

My family doctor also confirmed yet another burnout. Rereading my file, we realized this was my 6th diagnosis of major depression. This is not counting the times I did not go to the doc, simply cutting down on my activities or taking a lot of time off between two gigs. The times I had to turn down work because I didn’t feel well enough to do it. Or the times I had to take gigs to pay the rent even though I knew I shouldn’t for my health, which of course made my health worse. TL;DR: I’m not entirely well.

So there I was in September with diagnosed anxiety and mania, naproxen, antidepressants and tranquilizers, and an almost empty bank account.

I did a few gigs left and right, insofar as my hands and my head allowed, but that was not enough and my parents had to help with my rent, which ate a hole in their own budget.

The decision isn’t difficult. I’d been thinking about it a long while, and I would’ve preferred to do it of my own free will, but I have to change careers. I feel a need to break with this job that I love so much, a need for rest and stability. I need nature, and especially water. I thought of taking classes on wildlife protection and cultivation. I looked at my aquarium, which calms me so much. What if I did that? Worked with fish and shellfish? What if I went into aquaculture?

A few minutes later, I was crying in front of my computer screen reading about ÉPAQ’s aquaculture classes.

In April, I was admitted at ÉPAQ. Classes start next September. Weeee!”

Véro has set up a gofundme.com page to help pay for her move from Montréal to Grande-Rivière. You too can help her with this change in her life.

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