Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Best Time

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When my father dropped me off at university he said,
‘Enjoy this. This is the best time of your life.’
And I thought, wow that’s heavy and sure
of course I’ll enjoy it and sometimes I didn’t
but for the most part I did and I think my father
remembers his university days with incredible joy and nostalgia
and he wanted me to know that,
didn’t want me to let it pass me by.

When I decided to take a year ‘off’
(which hasn’t entirely been what I’ve done)
but to take a year off to be with my daughters my mother said:
‘Just do it. It will be hard but I did it.
You won’t regret the time spent.
This is the best time of your life.’
And for her, it was, she loved the chaos
of raising four little girls,
still raising four little girls, if we’re to be
entirely honest.

There is so much pressure to experience
the best time of my life.
And was it University?
Have I already experienced the best of the best?
Or is it now?
Is it this year of early mornings and play groups
and tantrums and breastfeeding and trips to the museum
and neighbourhood get-togethers.

Or was it the time in between then and now,
that 20-something-year-old time
when I went to bars
and music shows
and had sex and fell in love
and went travelling when I got bored
and paid cheap rent and struggled to get noticed
as an artist in this town.
When I was attractive to other people,
the way all young people are attractive to other people
especially older people who remember the best times of their lives
when they were twenty-something too.

That time of discovery and outrage at injustice,
the compulsion to stay up all night writing
or drinking or talking on the phone
to a friend on the other side of the world,
someone I longed for and the feeling of longing
was also needed as it fed my artist-soul.

And sometimes I’d get on my bike and ride down College,
into Kensington hoping to see someone I knew
to get some soup in Chinatown with because it was cold out
and I couldn’t bear to be alone
and I wore a hat in bed because my room freezing
and once I was visiting my friend in Kitchener
in her suburban house
and I wore my hat to bed and she laughed at me
and the next day I gave my hat to her daughter
because she said she liked it
and I was spontaneous like that
- not generous, you understand,
it was more about a philosophy
of not being attached to material things;
about objects coming and going in and out of my life
about never buying things as a way to combat capitalism.
I had lots of philosophies.
I was a vegetarian.

Youth is desirable.
To everyone but the young.
I don’t envy it yet because I’m in my mid-thirties –
so I’ve got time.
I’ve got time to envy youth
and I still remember the bad parts of it too,
still, I do put cream on my neck and my face
as a precaution – I’d be foolish not to –
and I rarely write through the night anymore.
I have two 6am wake up calls ... if I’m lucky.
Then I pull myself out of bed
and can’t help but smile at the two little people
who want to get the day started
and this is better than my twenties,
or different at least but all things considered
I do enjoy it.
That’s what I should do.
‘Live in the present,’
as they say.
This time is so fleeting –
all time is fleeting, really,
so maybe it’s worth trying to recognize every moment
as the best time of my life.
Or to reflect,
on occasion,
about the best times of this time
in my life.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Erin Shields

Erin Shields is a playwright and actor who most recently won the Governor General's Award for her play If We Were Birds (Playwrights Canada Press). She is a founding member of Groundwater Productions through which she creates, develops and produces much of her work.

Go to Erin Shields’s Author Page