How We Got Here —
Josephine Cruz

Interview by Charis Poon
Photos by Christine Do

Interview by Charis Poon
Photos by Christine Do

Everyone’s journey is a unique inscription through time and isn’t a path that can be retraced or duplicated. How We Got Here is a series of concise recollections of personal journeys as told by talented creative individuals with different backgrounds, careers, and interests who share their struggles and motivations to explain how they reached this point in their lives.

This time, we’re catching up with Toronto-based DJ and music entrepreneur Josephine Cruz, better known as Jayemkayem. She talks about leaving behind the safe boredom of a corporate telecommunications job and taking the leap to forge her own path. For more on Josephine, be sure to check out her story on the future of live music events.

Josephine Cruz

— 34, Toronto —

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Staring into the middle distance while seated in front of my computer, I mentally reviewed the past three years at my corporate telecommunications job. What have I actually been doing this whole time? Nothing stood out to me, not a single piece of work came to mind that made me feel proud of having done it. Three years and I hadn’t made a difference in anyone’s life—and I wasn’t making a difference in my own. I pictured my future in this cubicle, merely existing, and knew that by this time next year I’d be saying Josephine of the past should have chosen differently. The thought that kept popping into my mind lately resurfaced, “Is this all there is for me?”

After having survived the end of a ten-year relationship that had given me such purpose and security, I was stronger and fearless. I had come out alive, found myself intact, and was empowered with the knowledge that I could make it through anything. I’d always been in and around music, spending time with DJs and seeing their craft both live and behind-the-scenes with my former partner. To move myself into a new chapter, having everything to gain and nothing to lose, I dove into DJing. It was my method for recovery, discovering what I could do with my own two hands, and challenging myself to pursue more. It was a remedy to ease the discomfort of uncertainty.

That first check for a couple of hundred dollars from doing a small gig was thrilling. Each consecutive check added to my feeling of immense reward that far outweighed the actual dollar amounts I was earning—I was hooked. In setting out to achieve my own goals and not someone else’s, I was making rent and, more importantly, really living. All of the most memorable times in my own life have included elements of music and community, so becoming the person responsible for creating meaningful experiences through music felt right.

I’d always been in and around music, spending time with DJs and seeing their craft both live and behind-the-scenes with my former partner. To move myself into a new chapter, having everything to gain and nothing to lose, I dove into DJing. It was my method for recovery, discovering what I could do with my own two hands, and challenging myself to pursue more. It was a remedy to ease the discomfort of uncertainty.

In the five years since I quit coasting along in corporate, I’ve done all the things I used to dream of. I’ve worked with people I admire, collaborated with brands I love, and embraced new opportunities along the way. The satisfaction of seeing good results stemming directly from my decision-making and hard work is something my old job could never have given me. I can’t imagine relinquishing the ownership that comes with being in the driver’s seat.

Today, as a DJ, event producer, creative consultant, and the co-founder of community radio station ISO Radio, I’m creatively expressing myself and making an impact on others. ISO Radio represents the things I love and believe in: music, inclusion, community, and existing outside of established structures to make something by us, for us. At the beginning of my journey, I would’ve never seen myself at this point and now I’m driven to keep going because I know there’s always more to do and learn. I’m only limited by my motivation and discipline.

The question that used to haunt me about whether there’s more for me in life has been banished. I am proud of so many accomplishments, remain hungry for more, and know there are infinite possibilities ahead.

The question that used to haunt me about whether there’s more for me in life has been banished. I am proud of so many accomplishments, remain hungry for more, and know there are infinite possibilities ahead.
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