A Toronto Transformation

5-9: Serving Brunch by Day, Lighting up Screens by Night

 Start calling yourself the thing you are in your heart, the thing your mind bends towards when you dream, the thing your fingers itch to do.

Start describing yourself in terms of the things you do from 5-9. Because we’re not defined by our 9-5s.

Imogen Grace Image courtesy of Alice Irene Whittaker-Cumming

By turns a quiet, soulful, observer of the world and a gorgeous goofball with a wicked sense of humour, it’s hardly surprising that my decidedly multi-faceted friend Imogen is no one-trick pony when it comes to her work life.

While she does hold down a steady restaurant gig, that barely skims the surface of the remarkable number of pursuits she could answer the question, “What do you do?” with.

“I  say I write, I make films, I act, I do copywriting…I rarely mention the work I do in the restaurant industry. Not to hide it, but because at this point I just don’t consider serving to be ‘what I do’,” she explains.

“I stopped answering with “server / actor” a loooong time ago. Usually people would respond with “Oh, one of those”, or perhaps just a pitiful chuckle. Then I’d spend 5 minutes reassuring them that, don’t worry, I’m going to be all right.”

Rather than attempting to get to know her based on her 9-5 job, Imogen says she’d be happier if people formed an opinion about her based on the fact that she feels that “it’s really special to get to do what inspires you, and to take big risks. And though my path is difficult and not quite traditional, it’s f***ing amazing to work hard at what you think is important.”

Work hard she does. I’ve never known her to not have a project or two on the go. Most recently she wrapped up directing a short film called #Cold, set to premier at the Reelworld Festival in April. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Imogen says the experience was, “such a great ride, I learned so much about film and being a leader. I really bit off more than I could chew and sometimes it was messy and sometimes it was victorious.”

True to form, that’s not all she has on the go, with an ambitious online project next on her horizon.

“I’m also just beginning a venture called Herstory 101,” she explains,

“It’s going to be an open source website where people can contribute stories in any medium on women through history – scientists, artists, pioneers, travellers, rebels, villains, lovers (think comic strip of Joan of Arc, infographic on the women’s lib movement, a short film about Alice Guy Blanche, one of the first filmmakers ever, man or woman). Basically, we are going to rewrite history in a way that celebrates the contributions of the many badass women that have come before us and changed our world. I want all of Toronto to be involved.”

I asked Imogen if there are any benefits to pursuing her passions independently of a 9-5. Her answer is an emphatic, yes. “I’m starting to get spoiled by the amount of creative freedom that comes from writing and directing for myself (rather than for a studio etc.) I make whatever I want! Like a big baby!”

“I also like writing for other people though, too…because they pay me,” she adds.

Still, she says, balancing that independence with making a living, isn’t without its challenges. I asked her where she finds the energy to do creative work after coming home from a brunch shift.

“I don’t,” she admits. “I come home from a brunch shift and curl up in a ball for three hours. But then Monday comes, and I’m definitely energized for the week ahead.”

Then of course, there are the challenges of not knowing what’s coming next, not having weekends free, or paid vacation time and of budgeting when paid projects are not on the table, and she has to rely solely on restaurant work to pay her bills. And of course, there’s the kind of worry that comes from not knowing if a project she embarks on will succeed or fail miserably.

Luckily, along with those challenges, Imogen finds great rewards. For her the most exciting moment that’s come from facing them was watching one of her projects come to life before her eyes.

“[The most exciting moment so far was] last year, sitting in a movie theatre with the lights down, and watching my first short film on the big screen. It affirmed for me that the biggest personal challenges come with the biggest rewards. I was proud of myself,” she says.

Imogen’s advice for anyone who doesn’t find fulfillment in their 9-5, but isn’t sure how to go about discovering what inspires them outside of it is simply to share themselves with people.

“Share what fires you up, what you want to change in the world, what you want to spend your time doing. Just keep doing that and then listen to the universe when it starts throwing giant bones at your head.”

And how does such a busy, hardworking 5-9er define success?

“Getting it done. Just getting it done the way it was meant to be done. At the 75% mark of any project, I want to give up. So when I push through that and actually fulfill on the dream that I had a long time ago, without even knowing why I’m doing it anymore…it feels like I’m Jodi Foster in Contact when she comes back to life after dropping out of the centre of the earth in that weird space ball. Like I’ve done something really scary that seemed impossible and have found a new part of myself.”

Beautiful.

Follow Imogen and #Cold on Twitter, check out some of her other work here, and if you’re interested in contributing to or learning more about Herstory 101 (seriously, how awesome does that sound?), send her a quick email. She’d love to hear from you, (and as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments)!

 

3 Responses to 5-9: Serving Brunch by Day, Lighting up Screens by Night

  • I find that where I live, in Portland, Oregon, people tend to be less concerned about what you do for a living—it’s rarely the first question someone asks you when you meet at a party. Instead, people are interested in what you DO, what makes your blood quicken, what inspires you to jump out of bed in the morning. Those kinds of questions lead to much more interesting conversations.

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