Can’t wait to sit fireside once more….
By Caitlin Kelly
We leave this weekend for a much-awaited trip back to Ontario, where we’ll see and stay with five different friends — one, I literally haven’t seen since ninth grade — in two cities and three towns. I won’t be back home in New York until late September.
We’re grateful and fortunate to have so many close friends who happily welcome us, sometimes many times, to stay in their homes, sometimes for as long as a week, to share morning coffees and late-evening conversations, to catch up in depth and detail on one another’s lives in a way that no social media chitchat can ever provide.
We’re also eager for respite.
When Jose took the buyout from The New York Times in March 2015, an opportunity we couldn’t afford to pass up at the time, we knew it wouldn’t be easy. I knew, more than he did, that in a chaotic and youth-obsessed industry like journalism, we probably would never have another staff job in it, or likely any other, and get stuck with costly health insurance.
Our applications — even with our industry’s top awards — go unanswered.
So we’re both full-time freelance, hustling hard to make our financial commitments — $20,000 a year just for health insurance is a huge burden, and not an item we can afford to cheap out on.
Much as we enjoy the relative freedom this life offers us, being able to go away when and where we can afford to, it’s also a real scramble. Clients come and go and must be replaced quickly to keep income incoming.
In our leaky little boat, we row hard every day, bailing when necessary.
I left home at 19, never with any option of returning when times got tough. My parents don’t offer help, financial or emotional, and Jose’s parents died decades ago. I have three half-siblings and know none of them well; I haven’t even met one. His two sisters have their own lives and live far away from us.
I watch, in awe, when a younger friend is handed $50,000 by her parents…because they can, and another pays half a million cash for her apartment, also a family gift. (I was very lucky, in my mid-20s, to inherit some money from my late maternal grandmother.)
Today, we have no one anywhere to rely on but ourselves: our wits, our health and our skills.
We’re attending and speaking at an annual and unusual conference held at a camp in northern Ontario, called Fireside. The creation of two young Ontario lawyers, it attracts participants from around the world — no badges or lanyards, no wi-fi and sleeping in unheated cabins when it’s about 40 degrees F at night.
It’s a great adventure.
The dining hall at Fireside
We’re OK, generally.
But the past year has worn me out.
This summer cost us an anticipated $1,050 from two of my projects that blew up due to others’ tantrums and a tiny skin cancer on my leg (treatable, I’ll be fine!) had me watching anxiously for months before biopsy, diagnosis and treatment, paying (of course) additional out-of-insurance-network costs for a dermatologist I like and trust.
So this chance to wake up among pals in a spacious, multi-roomed house — not our overused one-bedroom work/office/apartment — and have food prepared for us by people who love us, to rest, to not hustle every day, even for a bit, is a great luxury and one we are deeply thankful for.
We all need to be cared for at times.