Midlife No. 2 is the second and final volume from editors Sarah Chan and Jhenifer Pabillano. Learn more about the genesis of this second anthology in the book’s introduction below.
This did not turn out how we planned.
Why even do a second book, anyway?
Honestly: we just thought we had more to say. The first book had been great. Was it a fluke? We didn’t think so.
There was so much more we could do, I said to Sarah. The first book was just the tip of the iceberg. There were topics we hadn’t touched, sides of our writing we hadn’t shown yet, other weird and amazing creative pieces that happened when we all got together. We didn’t need to repeat ourselves—we could do something totally new.
And wasn’t the first one a breeze? January 2022, we revved the machine up again. We could knock one out in another year.
What is that saying about humans making plans, and God laughing? Yeah, that.
This book, instead, took its own sweet time.
Our essays all started from one core focus, and eventually morphed into a much broader-ranging group of pieces. The writing emerged in fits and starts through a completely different process, unfolding over a full year.
And oh man, what a year for us all. Writers dropped in and out of the book. There were births, deaths, divorces, gruelling courses of medical treatment. Jobs lost, jobs gained, businesses launched, sudden leadership at a speed-skating club. No longer were we writing in pandemic captivity, either, meaning the world had opened up far beyond the walls of our homes.
The whole thing was disorienting—why were we working so hard, and so long, to do something like this? The answer lay in the work itself, in the essays in this book.
Many of us who had shot our shots in the first book discovered we had to chart new paths to get to something creatively satisfying. It was a deeper, more hard-won satisfaction than the experience we’d had on the first book, where many of us had simply poured out the stories we’d been keeping in our heads for years.
All through this, the creative pieces kept landing in our inboxes, every time revealing something beautiful or moving or hilarious about our writers, midlife, and the (end?) times we live in.
And yes—continuing the work together was a thread between all of us, a way to stay connected to this group of creative people in a time of incredible ups and downs.
After a lot of time and effort—and drawing on Sarah’s rich musical background—we wound up structuring this book like a symphony. A symphony has four movements, starting with a theme-setting segment (Home (& Away)), a sad part (Disturbance), an upbeat, dancey piece (Cycle), and a grand finale (Embrace). It suited the varied works of our group of writers, and so we gave the book a symphonic title as well: Midlife No. 2.
As you can tell from the title, it’s similar—but not the same—as the first book. It’s still a collection of great and hilarious writing from a group of writers and friends. This time it paints a different thoughtful snapshot of the many states of midlife across Canada today.
There’s a strong focus on housing and homes, that area of life that our generation has had a hell of a time growing up with. And there are wonderful essays that draw on new themes: race, identity. What it was like to live through COVID in these times. Plus a lot of terrific journeys in between.
Like a typical second child, this second book defied our expectations. But, as was the case with the first book, the process and the work were still a gift—for each other, and now for you.
This did not turn out how we planned. This is the last book we’ll do for a while. But we love how this symphony of writing has emerged. We hope you do too.
Copyright 2021 The Chan-Pabillano Initiative