Manahil Bandukwala

On December 31st, 2018, I asked my friends, “what are you sure will happen in 2019?” I wanted to celebrate what we knew was happening rather than lament what might (not) happen. For 2019, I am sure that I will start a new co-op work term at the International Research and Development Centre and that I will have my second chapbook published.

I write this blog post at the end of my third day at IDRC. I was quite giddy about this job over the winter break, mostly because you must be a Canadian citizen to work in the position. I was still a permanent resident during the job searches for my last two co-ops, so after getting my citizenship this summer, my job search opened up to the many positions that require Canadian citizenship. Being able to enter this space that I previously couldn’t is exciting.

IDRC funds research in developing countries, with a focus on partnering with local workers. Since working there, I’ve come across work that they do in Pakistan, such as funding women-only spaces on public transit to make navigation easier for women.

Working in web writing and development has a surprising benefit for my poetry – I am far stricter in editing and cutting down unnecessary content. I am a harsher critic, which makes my writing (both technical and creative) focused on the main subject.

As for the workplace itself, I have one lament: the microwave is four floors down from my office. However, the ten-minute walk to my new office from my apartment is a huge plus, and I suppose this makes up for the absent microwave. Copper Branch, the vegan restaurant in the building, is also a significant benefit of the job.

Starting a new job comes with a specific feeling that appears regardless of how many first-days-of-work you have. I felt nervous about the small things. How would I greet new people on my floor? Would I be given any tasks on my first day? How do I politely ask what my lunch break is like? When should I mention that I need to take time off in March to go to Toronto for my chapbook launch?

My second chapbook, Paper Doll, was accepted by Anstruther Press in the summer of 2018 and will be launched this March. I’ve edited and polished the manuscript, invited friends to the March 1st launch in Toronto, and am coming up with ideas for the cover. Anstruther is a pretty big Toronto-based press, and sometimes I’m floored that my work will be joining their impressive line-up of poets, which includes Tess Liem, Klara du Plessis, Shazia Hafiz Ramji, Aaron Boothby, and more.

My first chapbook’s publisher, battleaxe press, is based in Ottawa where I currently live. It’s fitting that my second chapbook’s publisher is in Toronto, a city that I first hated when I moved to Canada but have slowly come to love.

I have another big literary and visual arts project in the works. I’m too superstitious to mention more about the project. I will say that Carleton professors were very helpful and responded promptly to my emails over the winter break.

The new year did come with some sorrowful news. Professor Marc Hewson passed away. I took “Writing an English Essay” with him back in my first year. I’ve continued to use his teachings in my 3rd and 4th year classes. He was a fantastic professor and his passing is shocking and saddening.

2019 has been pretty steady so far. Thanks to co-op extending my degree by a year, I’ve escaped the graduation panic that has set in for many of my friends. The prospect of leaving the world of schooling that marks our entire lives is quite daunting. In addition to the worry of finding a job, we must contend with the loss of our student discount. From grocery shopping to visiting museums and using public transit, our lives are defined by being students. I’m happy to put off this panic for another year. In the meantime, this may be the reason I consider grad school.