I was born and raised in the flat lands of Moose Jaw Saskatchewan till the age of twelve when my parents relocated to Medicine Hat Alberta where it so happens the land is just as flat.
Shortly after the move my parents separated which at times was quite ugly. With that family life deteriorated and I was set free to explore life with little guidance. Finding a new batch of friends took priority over school and my grades fell consistently. My strategy in high school was to obtain all the credits required to graduate early so graduation year could be focused more toward the big party. For the first semester of grade ten I signed up for as many core classes as I could but the school returned to me with Art and Home Economics as my only available options as everything else was full. I’m not joking, my parents got involved and everything trying to get me more classes but that was it. Art and Home Economics…I didn’t even request those. So with the realization that the school system didn’t care about my education I adopted the same attitude. After about a week of coloring outside the lines and spiking fellow students cooking assignments with foreign ingredients I was promoted to a position in the counselors office where I was assigned to my very own cubicle where I could sit and ponder the choices I had made in life and where I see myself in the future. The vision that materialized was me not sitting in a stupid cubicle but rather outside getting drunk awaiting my friends to finish class. So I applied myself and made the vision a reality, it wasn’t long till I had built a small following. Sorry guys
After the semester ended the school tried a bit harder and got me some more appropriate subjects but it was too late in my then bloodshot eyes, my direction had been chosen. I still made an appearance at class occasionally, mostly for the tests figuring that if I passed the tests they would have to pass me but that turned out to be a quarter true. There was the one subject I shined in and I never acknowledged it till much later in life, like now. English…or Language…the subject where they teach us to read and write stuff, I aced every test and I never attended class. It was never serious for me, more like a joke on my friends who would always push the boundaries for the allotted time to write an essay and I would come in half licked, finish in fifteen minutes and pull off high 90’s, every time. I never once read any of the material we were supposed to write on. Sometimes I would get a quick briefing from the girl sitting in front of me before the teacher arrived but other than that it was straight freelance. My poor teacher even stopped me one day on my way out the door and told me with little hope in her voice, “Y’know Marc you really have some talent, if you would just apply yourself a bit more.” To which my mental thoughts were, “Pfft, Ya right! Apply myself to class, what purpose does a language…oligist? Have in life?” I hadn’t a clue, never even read a novel till I was in my twenties.
It was the mid-nineties Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Radiohead sang what was on our minds, grunge clogged our veins and the oil and gas industry was about to boom. No better way to get introduced to the big honcho’s than to hang out at the local watering holes. Pipe liners, riggers driving around in their fancy trucks and talking on their cell phones, not the smart phones but the old clunky ones where you had to leave the building and climb up on the roof to get a signal, they were still cool back then. It was the life for me, get drunk all night, get up, do a bit of work then get drunk again and get paid big bucks. Another nice perk at the time, for me was you didn’t even need a high school diploma. Pass a simple entrance exam and you could take on a trade certification. So with the help of some good friends and a little luck I was indentured into the Millwright/ Industrial Mechanic profession.
It was exciting at the start. I would get to go out of town for vaguely determined amounts of time. I would get a hotel supplied to me plus a daily living allowance and working ridiculous hours with overtime pay being double time. Work all day and drink at the pub all night. The money was good but then the job would end and money would be scarce till the next job started which made it hard to save, plan or really enjoy life to any extent.
With some more luck thrown my way I got the opportunity to work overseas in Cuba for a couple years which was good experience for work as well as life in general. I returned home after and ended up moving to Calgary where I had spent some time over the years and that’s when life really took a turn.
Those of us who grow up in small towns or in a tight knit circle of friends know the whisperings about those who break free. “Oooh, now they’re better than us.” But it’s not that, well not for me anyway. It turns out I was just tired of being drunk or hung over all the time. I still partied but there was a much more sobering side to me. I found health and the benefits that come with living a healthy lifestyle. I broke the stereotype of old and yes I changed. I guess to the people who preferred me in my drunken stupor it was change for the worst but to me it was for the much better. I hit the gym, watched my diet and transformed into a person I never thought of as an option before. As the haze cleared so did the excitement of my job. The reality of the people I was working with and aspiring to become finally came to light. Old and weathered beyond their years, crippled joints, missing appendages, broken marriages, children that grew up without them, for the most part they were miserable. Why would I ever want that for myself?
I’ve been everywhere in the industry from the local batteries to overseas and to the mighty oilsands, on the tools and in the office. I’ve had some great achievements but through all of it I could never find a spot where I sat back and said “this is it, this is me.” But what the hell, that’s life, find a spot, make money and be thankful. But through all the years of trying I think I’ve always known that it was just never going to work, no matter how big the paycheck got.
I’m not a religious guy or spiritual or I guess I wasn’t. But when the bitterness of life has seemingly no end I guess a desperate man will listen to just about anything. So my wife who enjoys the spiritual stuff coaxed me into a few of her reading things and I’m a supportive husband so “Yes dear this will be fun.”
“Marc Bauer a writer? You should be writing. Why aren’t you writing?” Every one of them said, first thing out of their mouth, every time, the same thing to the point of annoying. At first I passed them off like my old English teacher but… well let me just say that you know you dislike your job when you can sit down with absolutely no clue what you’re doing and write a full length novel.
I had no education for writing outside my high school tests. I didn’t go to any “write your own book” seminar’s or purchase a copy of “How to write a novel for dummies.” I just wrote. What the hell, it doesn’t cost anything to sit and write, it doesn’t pay anything either. Would I fix a pump in the oilfield for with little hope of getting paid? Not a chance.
My wife read it and said it was good. So I looked up an editor told her my story and asked if she would read it over and tell me if I was an idiot. Now I’ll say this! The absolute hardest part for me in writing this book was the night I was faced with the task of hitting that simple “send” tab on my email to pass over this…whatever it was that I had created. I paced the floor for hours. Then I had a drink, and then I hit send.
Now this editor was quite conservative and I guess and the material in the book is a little shocking at times to some so she got back to me in about a week. And I asked her what she thought? She said…”Well, I cried.” I responded, “That bad eh?” She laughed and said she cried at the one scene in the book, said it was very moving. I said that it sounded like I did my job then. Because in my mind if I can make a reader feel anything that makes them truly laugh, cry or even angry then that’s a pat on the back for the writer.
Anyway due to some of the content she turned down the editing job and suggested I continue searching. I told her that all I really needed was for someone to tell me whether I was crazy or whether I had something and she said “I can’t say.” So I went to the next editor who took on the project and was a great person to work with. But I asked the same question to him, should I continue? Do I have something? Again he couldn’t say. This was all very frustrating for me because although the cost of writing is inexpensive the time required seems sometimes endless especially when you add in a career and family, the only person who knew I was writing a book till the day it was published was my wife. But truthfully no one knows what is going to appeal to the general public and what isn’t. So with that I thank my editors for being honest and if you ever get an editor who says it’s a sure thing then I would personally continue shopping.
So the decision was always left to me on whether to continue or to give up and return to what I know and believe me the internal battle was endless. But it seemed every time I was ready to throw in the towel there was something to push me forward, the final enlightenment coming from the recent loss of my father to the industry. Finally with the book completed I sent it away for a professional third party review against the advice of my editors as they again pointed out that it was only one person’s opinion and due to some of the graphic content the odds were against me for a positive review. But again fate stepped in and the review came back better than any uneducated Millwright could ever hope. And to this day I still turn back to the review to counter the nausea I experience when I think about what I’ve done and how public this all is.
But the book is out, the public is reading and the response is unbelievable…in a good way. I run into friends from the old days who have that look of fear in their eyes while they talk to the lunatic who stepped outside of the box as they grip tightly the crucifixes in their pockets. And I know it, and it bothers me at times and the nausea returns. But then I think about the people who judge me, the person I was, leaving my family for weeks or even months, breathing in poison, working in hazardous environments where their life is on the line more than they care to accept. To these people, sitting down in your warm home with your family close by and writing a novel is crazy? My response to all you normal’s out there is you can keep your sanity, I’m starting to enjoy crazy.