30 things I learned in 30 years.

  1. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  2. If you want to do something, just do it. Do it alone, do it spontaneously. Simply, just do what you want.
  3. Guys who you wait for texts from aren’t worth waiting.
  4. Some of the best moments are extremely hard-won.
  5. Prioritizing your career doesn’t make you a cold fish or an un-feeling spinster.
  6. Long distance relationships can work.
  7. One of the best feelings in the world is baking something and having it turn out perfectly.
  8. The best friends who matter are those who’ve been there the whole time.
  9. Your ‘soulmate’ doesn’t come in the package you expected them to.
  10. When you’re dancing with someone who can dance when you can’t, let them lead.
  11. You don’t have to strive for perfection; striving for a realistic personal best is often enough.
  12. Speak up and ask for what you want.
  13. Runner’s high is actually a thing.
  14. Faith and belief in something – even if it’s not ‘God’ – can actually legitimately go a long way.
  15. Life would be more difficult without independence.
  16. Some of the best things in life aren’t free – but those memories are, and they last a lifetime.
  17. Once you’ve cluttered your life so much it’s insane, it truly is as horrible as Hoarders makes it out to be.
  18. I’m lazy, and messy, and disorganized and I have to work very hard not to be. And that’s just who I am. It’s okay to be who you are.
  19. The Museum of Modern Art in New York city is one of the coolest places to visit in the world.
  20. Life truly begins after high school.
  21. If you think you’re good at something, you should let the world see it.
  22. People who don’t change when you do change, won’t be around long.
  23. It doesn’t matter what other people think. Really. It doesn’t.
  24. Your idols, your favourite music, that book you read that you learned a lot from – can be your ‘constants’, just as much as the bible can be for Christians. It’s the same thing.
  25. Love isn’t enough.
  26. Take people’s recommendations.
  27. Sometimes it’s best to just say nothing.
  28. You can wait for apologies forever but most of the time, those apologies will never come.
  29. Head massages are worth their weight in gold.
  30. Animals can really be your best friends during difficult times.

10 Defining Moments of My Twenties.

In counting down the days of this full, sometimes seemingly endless, confusing decade of indulgence, harsh lessons, stupidity and eventually finding my way out of this cave with a helmet and a light, here are ten (at least relatively) vivid moments of my twenties that made me who I am today.

Being placed on an academic notice during my teaching degree. 

It’s true what they say sometimes: the best lessons to learn are also the hardest. When I entered the teaching profession, I stupidly assumed that kids just ‘listen’ to their teachers and respect them because there’s an adult at the front of the room talking to them. I was wrong, and my confidence was shattered and so I was placed on an academic notice during one of the most stressful times in my life. When this happened, my Faculty Associate told me, “I’m not doing this because I don’t think you have potential. I’m doing this because I believe you can do this. But you need a kick in the butt so you believe you can do this too.” This woman is the best teacher in the world and someone I aspire to be like, because she was so right. And when I heard those words I realized, this is not just a ‘teacher me’ thing. This is a ‘me’ thing. Hearing that from someone I trusted, liked and respected meant everything in that moment.

Being heartbroken – really heartbroken – for the first time.

When I was 21, the heartbreak I experienced seemed to follow me around like a Grim. I couldn’t push past it or mend it or fix it, and I especially couldn’t make sense of it. What had happened to me was wrong; it wasn’t supposed to end like that. This person I was so crazy about, who finally returned my affections, had ended things so quickly. It was like the sky had fallen. Looking back now, that was ridiculous; he owed me nothing, it was a silly situation to place myself into, there’s no such thing as ‘the one’, and even if there was, that useless, snivelling jackass was certainly NOT him. But as soon as this happened, this horrible ugly thing I had never felt before, I remember writing something in my journal like: “I’m alone now and now I have to stand on my own two feet and push through all of this.” I felt like that was the moment I grew up and I had to pick up up all my My Little Ponies off the floor and put them away. I had grown up.

My Bachelor of Arts graduation ceremony.

University was a bubble. It was a glorious, wonderful, easy place to be where everyone is young, every day is a possibility, you can make adult choices in a safe environment, and everything feels optimistic, and possible. My undergraduate degree years at the University of Alberta were some of the best days of my entire life – full of life, energy, excitement, possibility, and most of all, fun. I loved every good, bad, heart-wrenching, hilarious difficult minute of my time at the U of A, and my graduation ceremony was a culmination of all of those things. I remember marching into the auditorium and hearing Pomp & Circumstance, and thinking: this is what I’ve worked for for five years. This means everything to me.

My major friend breakup.

Your twenties are full of deciding what’s good and worth holding onto, and what’s worth letting go of. And sometimes you think someone or something is the former, then you are slapped so far into reality that you fall over. That happened to me. I’m not going to get into the whole story again and lament about it again. But the fact remains, what happened between me and my former best friends – who were like sisters to me – in instants, changed my beliefs and philosophies about friendships, about what good friendship is, and isn’t, and what fault I have or had in this messy divorce-like moment.

The first time I heard, and said, “I love you”.

Seattle, 2014. It was cold out and windy and frost-glazed leaves’ edges crisped in the bitter breeze. We were walking together, my hand in his hand, in his jacket pocket before he swirled me around to face him and he looked at me and said, “I love you, you know that?” The world stopped. It was like being born again.

The first time I saw Ryan Adams/Meeting Ryan Adams.

Only a few select people actually get to stare their heroes in the face and engage with them in a place other than on a record or from a theatre seat. I was one of those people on a magical night in Vancouver on July 29, 2016. This was my first of seven (so far) Ryan Adams shows I’ve seen. I’ve never simultaneously felt so big and so small as I did that night.

The first time I was referred to as someone’s ‘girlfriend’.

I spent most of my twenties being single, and so the term ‘girlfriend’ in reference to me, hit me like a ton of bricks. It was kind of shocking, it was kind of awesome, it was kind of distant, as if me and this ‘girlfriend’ were two different parts of the same person strewn across a field somewhere. I remember the exact moment I first heard it: we were at the Vancouver Fringe Festival beer gardens which was essentially a huge theatre crowd party in which my boyfriend is/was very much immersed. And the first person we ran into that I didn’t know, he introduced me as “my girlfriend”. I was floored.

My first A+ in Creative Writing.

Everyone has a talent. I wanted mine to be creative writing for as long as I can remember. I used to tell people when I was in elementary school and junior high that I wanted to be “an author” and I’ve loved stories since I was old enough to listen to them. But, I never let anyone read my work. One of the first times I did, and it was for a grade, I was absolutely petrified. And when I got it back and checked my grade it was A+ I was absolutely ecstatic. It was as my calling appeared before me in the form of a letter and a mathematical symbol. I remember coming home drunk that night and freaking out before my half-asleep roommates. It truly is one of the best feelings in the world to be recognized for your passion.

My first visit to a tropical place.

Natural beauty has always been a preoccupation for me (perhaps because I grew up in one of the most scenic areas in the world) but never before 2008 had I ever been to a tropical place. It was -38 when we left, and snowing. They, several times, had to de-ice the plane and plow the tarmac. Then we took off and hours later, arrived in humid heat where, on the first night in the dark, we splashed in the waves and looked out over the blackness of the water and up at the billions of visible stars. It was a break – from life, from crippling unrequited love I was facing at the time, from the cold, from myself. I was giggling and giddy without trying.

My first time going to a concert alone.

Disclaimer: my first time going to a concert alone was also the time I met/saw Ryan Adams live for the first time. But aside from feeling small in the presence of an idol and hero and indirect, unintentional biographer of my life it also opened up this world of independence to me. A world where I don’t feel like I need the company of others to live my life the way I want to and enjoy myself, the world where I don’t care what people around me think about this. If I like something or want something, I do it.

It’s Just About the Last Month of my Twenties.

I keep telling my students (who don’t believe I’m nearly 30; in fact, one of them told me the other day that if she didn’t know you had to be older to be a teacher, she would have assumed I was 19 – lucky me) that when they see me crying on a school day in October, they’ll know it’s my birthday.

Milestone birthdays bring with them this bloated weight of panic. Who will I be by the time I hit my “milestone birthday”? How much longer will it be before where I ‘should be’ and where I am are exactly the same thing? What will it feel like to hit a milestone birthday?

I can remember turning ten and my mom making this big deal about me being a ‘decade old’. It made me feel so grown up, like I was almost there. When you’re a kid, all you want to do is grow up. When you’re grown, all you want to do is be younger again. We always, always want as a species, to have whatever we don’t have. Age is finicky and it never feels complete. That’s something valuable that I guess I’ve learned this past decade.

I think my biggest growth in my life was between 24 and now. When I was 24 I made a decision to change my body, and in turn, my life. I made the decision to walk away from the guy who broke my heart, a pre-fuckboy fuckboy who had one fit in and one foot out and craved the attention that I craved giving him. I made decisions to do what I wanted and be a different person because I was given that option due to the willpower and prowess that I suddenly obtained after years of unhealthy habits, a self-pitying attitude and a crippling shyness that prevented me from having the life I wanted to have.

In my twenties, I learned that female friendships that bring out the absolute worst in you are so far from worth keeping that the only way I could move forward was abandon all memories, ties and feuds, and other things too, and both start over and look back at the real people who’d always been there for me simultaneously. It left a bitter taste, but the most crucial decisions sometimes have to be that way.

In my late twenties I met the love of my life, a man that is at the same time perfect for me, an exact opposite of me in many ways. And yet, there is something inherently common and important that we share. I can barely put my finger on exactly what it is but it comes up sometimes and reminds me of just how much I love this person and just how valuable and important he is in my life.

In my twenties I decided to have an incredibly challenging career and sometimes I regret that but sometimes I am so, so grateful for it. Every day is a struggle but not always in a bad way.

All in all, where I feel sometimes that I ‘should’ be is married with a house and a permanent job and some sort of concrete stability in my life; and what I have is nervousness about floating between jobs, concern about where I’ll land next year, and an apartment that costs a third of my income (although it’s beautiful so that’s a comfort). I still have help paying bills and I still want to spend money on trips and clothes instead of savings and investments. So am I where I ‘should’ be? No. I’m not at all. I’m selfish, irresponsible and adolescent in many ways.

I’m glad my twenties happened. I’m so glad they happened because they helped steer me into the somewhat-adult that I ended up being right now. There are so many things that I would do differently, and yet there are equally so many things that happened exactly as they should. In the mixed up world of my life, I have found a belonging place and I have found the starting point of what’s right.

I’m going to be okay. 30 will be okay.

Vow.

‘Love’ is an arbitrary thing that is difficult to make sense of. It’s a dead word, used in so many ways and so many times, that at a certain juncture we say it, and we know what it means, but we cannot define it.

The question is, why is love so difficult to define?

It’s because when we think of love, we think only of the love we’ve experienced and the ‘love’ we’re capable of giving, and it’s all we know. It’s entirely individual; it’s completely incomparable. But it’s ours, and that’s why we care about it so deeply.

Love to me, means forever. The kind of forever that’s filled with the kind of past forevers that have already been there; road trips where we ate so much junk food we felt bloated and lulled into listless silence on the road while listening to The Beatles in the blazing summer sunshine; more kisses goodbye in airports and on front porches that were sad but still amazing; more all-encompassing hugs that feel like an enveloping blanket on an early October evening when the sun goes down early but you can still withstand sitting outside on a back porch soaking in the autumn air; more morning snuggling when nobody feels like getting up, even if brunch is an option before 2 pm; more engaging talks about being a teacher which make me want to be even better and do even more; more enriching revisits of the past that helps to gain a better understanding of the opposite person; more plays, movies, dinner dates, and afternoons when we just sit on the couch with our legs entangled watching TV.

Love is meeting a complete stranger in a fateful place – fateful for careers and life and the converging of two souls in similar situations who came together because of circumstance, aligning stars, and a little spangling of destiny.

I vow to love this way forever, no matter what happens, no matter where we are in terms of geography and emotional isolation or in the happiest of happy moments, like this one. I vow to be a part of life and love and remain ever-present and ever-committed, opening my eyes with clarity and promise and focus, for the rest of our lives. I vow it because I feel it, because I know love and its power and I don’t need to define that or answer it any other way than I just did. This is love to me, and I’m in it.

 

Realizations.

I was thinking again. This time, I wasn’t even alone with my thoughts. In fact, my thoughts were accompanied – by good thoughts, by hopes, by a future and present that beats the shit out of the dark and lonely past year I’ve had. In July of this past summer, everything brightens. And, it continues to.

I realized I don’t ‘need’ my partner anymore in the way that I did previously. I ‘want’ him. But last year, I needed him with the kind of desperation that hurt so drastically it induced spurts of negativity that I could never, ever overcome in my previous hard, hard year.

I realized too, my own petty jealousies. Of my ex-best friends that I loved so much, all out in the world without me. I care, I don’t care, I’m angry, I’m ambivalant. It depends on the day, really. Sometimes with female friend fallouts, girls just want to outdo each other. By participating in this incredibly sexist, uncivilized, heavily socialized ritual, we want to win and when we see or feel we’re not winning, it makes us do ugly things and think ugly thoughts. I have enough ugly thoughts. When I feel them coming on now, I’m working on how I can replace them with good things that are happening in the moment as opposed to dwelling on anger.

But it comes up, you know? Sometimes you can’t just hold in anger or move on from it. Sometimes you feel it and whether that’s ‘right’, ‘wrong’, ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’, sometimes you just feel and you can’t help what you feel. I don’t need to apologize for that.

If my former female friends ever read this, I hope they know and understand that. I hope they’re checking in with themselves sometimes to question their role in what is now a very, very former, strained and full-on negative relationship. I hope what stands still for them are memories. I hope they realize they’re fucking bitches and admittedly, so was I. I hope they realize that what’s missing for me is closure and their unwillingness or inability to provide me with that is what brings me back to this place during times of change. And, I hope they realize that I’m sorry. Not sorry enough to want to reconcile, but sorry I’m the person who’s ousted.

In the past three years, there has been so much change that it’s exhausting. It weighs heavy on my soul, as all I want out of life is to have stability, and know what’s coming all the time. For me that might be incredibly far away. And when I think of that, I look back, as people do. I look back and what I see and feel is a yearning for something that used to be in my life and isn’t anymore. I yearn for simple days of getting up for class half an hour beforehand, pulling on some ugly dated jeans and running off to class, then heading back to my room in residence to my adult summer camp. I yearn for walking into my creative writing class and looking around the room at the most talented and wonderful group of people I knew then, and thinking that my future was in the arts. I yearn for the moment I decided to change my life and realized that I could. I yearn for that moment when I got off the plane in a tropical country for the first time in my life with my best friend beside me to revel in the best reading week ever. All of that was sacred — is sacred. And it’s gone. But it was still certain. And isn’t it still?

Reflections on the Tragically Hip’s “Final” Show.

There are too many reflections on the Tragically Hip’s Kingston show. One third of Canadians watched it. So many people are tweeting, blogging and instagramming their thoughts. It was a powerful moment in Canadian’s history and one that we’ll remember forever: the moment that a band so indelibly ingrained into the consciousness and personal and collective histories of this big, gorgeous country said a final goodbye in their hometown, in front of a sold-out crowd of thousands, and aired on the CBC in front of millions.

So rarely does an artist come along that has a unique story to tell, and tells it in a way that no one else could even dare to try and duplicate. The world lacks originality, especially in the 21st century. And Gord Downie has remained completely original, right down to his sock scarf, spangled pants and Jaws shirt. The Hip’s live-on-air Kingston show demonstrated in full tour-de-force fashion, a career-spanning greatest hits collection that all Canadians could remember, relate to, and call their own. Could the United States, Great Britain, or other nations known for their own great musicians, pull this kind of intimacy off? Could anyone else unite a country this way? Only Gord Downie, a hero up there telling stories about at one time, playing to just 13 people in a room in Kingston, ON and then lauding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as destined for greatness, especially in improving the lives and relationships with First Nations people, could pull this off. Sometimes it takes someone like Gord Downie to, like gold medal olympic hockey games, like national tragedies, like brutal internationally broadcasted winter harshness, to bring an entire nation together under one roof to mourn and celebrate and sit on the edge of our seats all at the same time.

What’s amazing about this show is more than music: it’s someone who found out he is terminally ill and decided to do what he loves, (theoretically) one final time. It’s someone who wanted to share his life one last time with his band mates, his fans, and his country. Gord Downie’s final tour serves as a reminder to, whatever you do in life, and whatever you love, do it ‘fully and completely’.

The Tragically Hip was an institution that we could always, always count on. When the Montreal Massacre occurred, there they were. When people flock to cottage country every summer, there they are. When we need to be reminded that there are no dress rehearsals because “this is our life”, there they were. When we wanted a piece of history told in such a way that is passionate, intriguing, and never boring, there they were. The Tragically Hip is Canada, and has been since 1983. The world may not miss the Hip, but that Canada will miss them this much, means even more.

I loved watching this concert. I felt like I was a part of something bigger than myself and my country. I love that we in Canada, canonize artists as opposed to gun slingers. I love that music has so much power over a nation, over millions of individuals, over a terminally ill singer to the point where he goes on the road for a whole summer playing in every major city in the country, because it was the best thing and only thing for him to do.

Thank you so much to the Tragically Hip & their crew, and of course, the great and powerful CBC for bringing this concert to all Canadians. This show, and this tour, were an amazing gift to Canada, and something I won’t ever forget.

 

Why is Pride Important?

In light of the #heterosexualpride hashtag trending on Twitter, in light of the Orlando, FL massacre, in light of countless instances of institutionalized and individualized homophobia, is this question even worth asking?

Recently, a friend of mine who is marrying his boyfriend in a year from now was booking wedding photographers. Once the photographer found out it was a ‘gay wedding’ she declined the offer because as this photographer said so pointedly, they only do ‘legitimate weddings.’

Another friend of mine was once kicked out of a youth group because it was discovered that she was gay.

While I don’t have any close trans gendered friends, it comes to mind that I have students in my classes sometimes poking fun at Caitlyn Jenner.

Do I really want to press on bruises of the LGBTQ community by bringing up all the instances of prejudice and discrimination that are thrown in that community’s face every single day? Can you really ask someone who would spew this kind of hatred why pride is important? Is it true what Brian Kinney said on Queer as Folk, that “there are two kinds of straight people in this world — the ones who hate you to your face, and the ones who hate you behind your back”? I don’t believe that last statement for a moment. But, if you are a member of this beautiful, diverse, amazingly familial community that faces this kind of disgusting and somehow socially acceptable discrimination, can you blame someone for believing this?

Pride is important because every life deserves equality. Pride is important because of the alarmingly high suicide rate among LGBTQ teenagers. Pride is important because to this day, it is still considered somewhat acceptable to call someone a ‘sissy’, to hashtag ‘#nohomo’, to proclaim to men that being gay is the worst thing they can possibly be. Because people are afraid to come out to their friends and family because of how they might be perceived differently by those who love and care for them. Because trans-gendered people are arguably THE most discriminated group of individuals on this planet.

Pride is more than just a celebration of homosexuality; it is a celebration of diversity and of its importance. Pride is about being proud to be different and sticking it to the bullies, and the bigots. I’ve participated in pride celebrations not as a gay woman but as an ally, and despite being an outsider in that community, I felt completely at home because despite that the LGBTQ community is one that often experiences hate, never responds with anything except love.

Pride is important because it gives voice to the voiceless, no matter who they are and how they identify.