With March being a significant month in my personal history there’s always this little bit of pain that accompanies this time of the year. While the rest of the world becomes brighter and warmer and lighter by this time, I always feel a little lost and impatient. Nowhere near as much as I did eight years ago (has it really been eight already?!) but still, only a little. I’ve found though that as time passes and things change, so do those feelings and anxieties and pains that accompany that first “real” love.
I’ve tried recently to put this into words… to release again, my reflections and thoughts and feelings about first love, about who I was before I knew anything about the world, where I’m at now versus where I was eight years ago emotionally, physically, inwardly.
But I can’t anymore. It feels like an old tired cliche. It feels like an exhausted empty shell that you put your ear to and can’t hear the ocean anymore. In short… I just don’t care. I’m tired of this same old story over and over and over again. It feels like a ghost of my past is living inside me sometimes. But at the same time, that ghost has less and less of its unfinished business. And now there’s just nothing there except a wisp in the dusty corners of my heart. Sometimes I do feel that I need to consistently remind myself of the important markers of my personal history. My demons and angels and the things that have most made me me. And other times I realize what’s done is done. There’s nothing left to explore except the present, the future, the moments that are yet to come that are bigger and more important and actually worthwhile to talk about and think about.
I once sat on a bench and thought of nothing but you in the most sorrow-filed, darkest way imaginable. The darkness I felt about us, and you, became reasons I hated myself and reasons why I wanted to hurt myself and harm myself and torture myself. I listened to “She Wants to Play Hearts” again and again while I looked down over the new snow-blanketed valley, its vast emptiness and deadness almost symbolic of the exhausting, empty, despicable hole in my heart. Everything was different that evening. Everything had changed in my life. I had changed. It was the first time I ever really had changed, ever. It was the first time I was ever really left in the dark and unsupported until I would have to find my own answer just to get through what had happened. The person who sat on that bench that night, is not me. And that’s all I need to really say about that.
There are so many days I wish I could go back to, or rewind back and watch again as if I’m re-watching my favourite movie. I’ve been thinking about a few of them today that give me chills with their resonance and those memories are keeping me strong and motivated this week.
- The first time I heard “I love you” was one of the most magical feelings I’ve ever felt. While it never gets old to hear it every day, that first time I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. It was something I could sense was coming and I didn’t know when. But he picked the most perfect moment. If I could re-live that a hundred thousand times, I would.
- The first time I kissed someone I actually liked (and, at the time, thought I was in love with) ended so poorly, I don’t even want to get into it. But now that I’m at a safe distance and I can look at this moment with the pure innocent nostalgia that I think the Good Lord intended me to feel for this moment later in life, I’m perfectly satisfied saying I’d love to re-live it. It was another cold nighttime kiss (I apparently love those) but snow fell around us and I could almost envision this moment before it even happened. The moment led me on a string of horrible heartbreaking pain but it was all worth it for that few seconds of awkward, teeth-clicking, bag-of-trash-sitting-outside-his-apartment-door magic.
- Concerts, even if you see the band multiple times, are experiences that cannot be repeated; you can’t redo the set list, the moment, the feelings, the people around you, the joy. The two shows that stand out to me as the ones I’d most want to re-live are the most recent time I saw Ryan Adams at the Orpheum in Vancouver, and the very first time I saw Ryan Adams & the Cardinals in Vancouver back in 2007. There was nothing quite like that first time; having been at my peak of Ryan Adams’ music, I think my whole body went into shock when I saw him for the first time. I can barely remember it. Fast forward eight years to the most recent Ryan Adams concert-going experience, Ryan Adams, injured with a broken rib, pained his way through a full band set until opting to go acoustic so he could finish up the show unscathed. It was sumptuous and full of feeling. I was leaving that city in just a little while and to bid it goodbye in this way, and think of my true love while all of this romantic amazement was happening, were just too much. I was on Cloud Nine for days afterwards.
- I wish I could go back and re-live my meal at Mama’s Fish House in Maui, HI every single day. Not only is the restaurant shockingly beautiful and surrounded by the most amazing scenery anywhere around ever, but it was by far the best meal I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.
- The first time I ran a half-marathon, I had just moved to Vancouver and I worked so hard that I was in the best shape of my entire life. I can’t believe I was ever that small or that fit or that disciplined. I’m running another one this summer which will demand similar attention and hard work from me (I’m trying to get back there already!) but there’s nothing like that first time. Those last fast strides to the finish line were unreal and I felt so accomplished. I used to be 200lb and a size 18-20. To be able to run all that way in a reasonable time was something I once thought completely unachievable. I felt like I could have climbed Mount Everest afterwards.
- This one is a bit odd but I wish I could remember and re-live the first day I woke up not suffering from my first heartbreak. Time eases all wounds (though arguably, never completely heals them in many ways) and all I needed was time. But there must have been a day sometime after the dust settled that I woke up and the first thing I thought of wasn’t him. And I went about my day without feeling those familiar pangs and longings and sadnesses that I could never express without looking like a crazy person who had no right to complain about how my whole heartbreak went down. That day existed. I don’t remember it, but you think I would. If I had to make a guess, it might have been the day after he gave me that birthday gift I politely accepted without hardly a word, as it had been a few months since I decided to let him go and take my life back. I had lost almost 20lb that day. He sat across from me, and I didn’t talk to him. After that, I could have woken up completely free.
- The first morning I woke up in my Vancouver apartment, alone, was a surreal feeling that I never thought I’d get to experience and I wish I could re-live so badly. Those days were some of my deepest and most important and most happy. Normally I’m in a good emotional space but a bad physical space. When I lived in Vancouver I was in the best physical space I could ever be in. But my emotions were all over the place. I loved the freedom and excitement of being in one of the biggest and most beautiful cities I know of, being able to live how I wanted and be anonymous and ride the skytrain around every day. I loved waking up and smelling the ocean. I loved going for long, carefree runs in Stanley Park or around the downtown area of the city on days when the fog was too thick and the hills were too big. Occupying that space was the best. Waking up for the first time and not knowing the life that awaited me when I first moved there is something I wish I could sink my feet into once again.
- Lastly, I would love to re-live the moment when I saw my boyfriend for the first time after our first three weeks of distance. I got on a plane and I was vibrating the whole time, nervous and anxious and excited and unable to control my emotions. I felt like a caged animal about to be freed from captivity. I was worried things would change between us; I was concerned he wouldn’t love me anymore; I was afraid it would be awkward; I was nervous about how I would react to him. But instead, I was heading down the escalators to the Arrivals part of Edmonton International Airport and and I saw him waiting for me and I ran to him. I thought I was going to knock him over. We were pretty quiet but tightly holding hands the whole way home. Nothing had changed. I was pretty sure then that nothing ever would.
Sometimes I think of the people I loved before (or thought I loved… or didn’t actually love but thought I might eventually grow to love if it was ‘right’ in the end) and it reminds me of what it means to be attracted to someone. What does it mean to be “attracted” and what does it mean to be “attractive”?
When you’re in high school, attraction is all about looks. They like to pretend in high school that they know what it means to be actually ‘in love’ with someone beyond their looks and there may be that capacity there eventually, but I’m of the opinion that when we’re young, we go for appearance first and foremost. And if there is something beyond that, then maybe we struck gold. When I was in high school I had pretty Abercrombie & Fitch male models stuck to my desk in residence and on my locker. I had this huge crush on Josh Hartnett because he represented this tall, dark and handsome ‘hot guy’ I’d love to be with. But I was young. And when we’re young we have just one layer of what makes attraction attraction. We scarcely remember or look at multiple layers.
As I’ve grown older I’ve realized sincerely that attraction is looks, but it’s so much more than that: there’s no scientific formula to falling in love. It’s not something that can be forced, changed or ignored. You meet someone and you feel this initial electricity with them. You can’t explain it but there’s just something you see in them that you know almost instantaneously you couldn’t feel with anyone else. Are ‘looks’ a part of that? Of course they are. But only a small part. And sometimes that little bit of fairy dust magic that is sprinkled on you when you know you’re falling in love is sprinkled before you even know you’re attracted to that person. And then it hits you: they’re the hottest person you’ve ever laid eyes on.
In life we spend so much time looking a certain way for the benefit of others. We try so hard to meet a standard of beauty that supposedly is to help us “feel the best we can about ourselves”. But it’s important to ask yourself, where does that come from? It doesn’t come from within. The motivation does, but what is being strived for comes from some mythical societal standard and we don’t really know where those come from. It’s important to note that attraction is completely subjective. There’s no rhyme or reason why we feel attracted to someone. There’s no magic spell that we can cast to force people to fall in love with you. There is just love, or there isn’t. By all means, meet the standards that society prescribes to equate to beauty. But, it’s not going to help you find love any more than anyone else.
I dreamt that I was just about to watch the Game of Thrones season premier when I was cornered out of nowhere by my previous semi-serious boyfriend. He walked in on me while I was changing into my pajamas and then he started hugging and kissing me (which was not very consensual) and he said to me, “I’m so sorry that I never got the opportunity to tell you that I love you.” My dream self was filled to the brim with pity for him. I didn’t want him back. I didn’t want to hurt him. I was just stunned to see him go through such a desperate attempt to ‘win me back’. I didn’t know what to say, so I told him I had to go. I left, and thought long and hard about what to say to him. It broke my heart to have to break someone’s heart, even someone I didn’t love. As all these difficult and painful thoughts ran through my dream self’s mind, I suddenly realized I had abandoned him without saying anything. When I went to find him again he was gone. Someone told me he had gone to the bar to “drink Patron” (my dreams are really weirdly specific sometimes).
That significant other in real life is someone I never ‘closed a door’ with; we just eventually realized (mutually, I’m assuming) that we weren’t right for each other and gave up the facade of spending time together out of some obligation we both felt — maybe because how we met felt fateful; maybe because we had both given so much personal and deeply intimate information to one another. I’m not sure why, but either way it ran its course.
Sometimes life events without closure manifest themselves meanly and deeply in a dream-like state. Something feels undone, unfinished, and it eats away at your subconscious, not necessarily because you care about it, but it’s still there -that nigly little detail in the back of your mind, that thing on the grocery list that you completely forgot about until REM reminded you.
I don’t hurt for my exes anymore. What I hurt for is the worry that I’ve hurt them somehow – that I’ve ghosted the way people have ghosted on me and left them heartbroken so it stings. I’m not an egotist, really. It’s just that I never get that sense of otherness in relationships. I always assume that nobody loves or loved me as much as I love, or loved, them in return. It’s a reminder that sometimes the most painful thing in the world is the potential to hurt someone else, even if – or, especially if – you don’t love them.
I didn’t love him; I never did. I was trepidacious about entering into something resembling a relationship with someone I hardly knew and didn’t have the luxury of spending time with, enough to know how compatible they were. Then there was the incident where he made me walk home by myself late at night from East Van to West Van. And the time when he blew off having tea with me at my apartment because he was too busy practicing guitar; and how he only ever wanted to spend time with me when he wanted me to see him play music. The world was uncertain and frustrating to be with him (was I ever even ‘with’ him)? And as such, I got over him. I moved on. I let go of the potential we had at the beginning. I didn’t care anymore, because he cared so little for me. But nonetheless, I should have sat him down and told him how I was feeling. I should have made it very clear. I should have been braver than I was.
The dream meant nothing. But it served as a reminder that it’s the failures we regret more than the could’ve-beens.
Here is a selfie of me before the first date. I don’t know why I took this photo; it’s as if I knew it would be important to me someday.
I don’t love this photo by any means. But it reminds me of a night where I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect, and didn’t know how much my life could change since the day I looked like this in this living room.
This was a big year for me in many ways. Sometimes I felt like I was backing up into a corner and other times I felt like I was bursting through double doors. Here are the best things I did, the best decisions I made, and the best memories I’ll keep from 2015.
- Going to Sasquatch again was one of the best decisions I made this year; with my new career life, that American May long weekend isn’t the best time for me to go away anymore, if I’m even able to. So sadly, this may have been the last time I might be able to head to Sasquatch, or any festival for the matter. There’s something that happens at festivals – we get to be young gain and we get to experience a life of what I refer to as ‘peaceful anarchy’ – the idea that everyone gets to collate and join metaphorial (and sometimes literal) hands but outside the confines of society. It’s a magical place full of amazing music. I’ll really miss festival life, especially in the Gorge. But this year’s festival was wonderful and to go back again and live those experiences again was something extraordinarily well worth it for me heading into the final year of my twenties.
- I was incredibly grateful to move back to Alberta this year as well, for reasons that were right for me, and incredibly practical, and also incredibly fortunate. What I found in terms of a passion for the love of my life and the career I’ve been waiting for was back here; and to stay in a city I loved without those things felt at the time, like a foolish sacrifice to make for what was best for my life in the long run. I made a difficult choice. Time will tell if this will all pay off, but it was the best thing I could have done and I’m so much happier now with the certainties of what brought me back here in the first place.
- I lost a few really important people in my life this year who felt like belittling me for whatever reasons they had. Who ousted who is a question I ask myself too. But despite how said-ousted people argue the situation, I made the decisions to walk away from these people in the end. Hanging on and hanging on with the hope that the people you used to know who have changed into ugly, selfish and mean versions of the people you knew once, to revert back to who they were, is a pointless and frustrating endeavor. I’m not going to pretend it was easy for me to let go of any of this. I’m not going to pretend either that I was happy and felt nothing doing it. But again…. sometimes what we don’t necessarily want is actually what is for the best. So with that said, FUCK those people. FUCK THEM. What I’m doing for me now and the people I’m doing it with are better for me than the people I thought I knew. And fuck me too, for not knowing better sooner.
- Following a positivity movement right here on this blog over the month of July 2014, I reached out to the ex. My first love. And what I got in return was the assumption that I was doing so to rekindle some sort of flame (I wasn’t. I was actually just trying to make peace with former ‘enemies’). Following the move on the part of my partner and I to become “Facebook official” I noticed through a mutual friend that First Love had blocked me. Sigh. Facebook is interesting. It is a series of sophisticated communication that allows us to present ourselves how we want, to who we want. It allows us to be dialed into our friends, family and acquaintances any time we want. It allows us access to pertinent and crucial, and frankly, useless information, from our phone and our workplace and our PCs whenever. I hear people talk about its frivolity but really, blocking is a statement. And it’s quite a very large one at that. But having said that, what I am grateful for is to see something very important about First Love: that he is a sad, petulant, egotistical little child. I will never understand any of the bullshit he put me through in the past, and I don’t care to understand any of the stupid bullshit he’s trying to put me through in the present.
- While this is not one thing, it is a million little things but since my shot at my current career, I have found it important to note that I have really worked hard at becoming more assertive in 2015. I showed solid assertiveness in standing up for my prick of a landlord after a really unpleasant standoff I had with him just before I moved out. I show something resembling assertiveness that I have in my job every single day. It’s something that, when I first started this whole career I never, ever thought I could do and I do surprisingly decently mot days. I’m not some masterful guru of assertiveness but I do my best and my best now is better than my best two years ago and beyond, so that’s something I’m incredibly grateful for.
- I’m so glad that I saw Wilco again this year. Despite that it’s no secret how much I LOVE Wilco, I’ve only seen them in concert four times, including this one in 2015. It was like a nice break from everything that was garbage about the few months prior to my move. I was able to stand front row-centre for the show and watch my favourite band melt my face off and remember how good it feels to be young and unencumbered and independent living in a world-class city and hanging out with awesome people doing what I love to do.
- I’m not an athlete by any means, but this year I put those insecurities aside and tried rowing in an eight-man rowing class. I was HORRIBLE at it. HORRIBLE. But the scenery was beautiful, I made minute connections with friendly people, and I learned a little tiny bit of a new skill. With more practice I might have been a lot better than I was, but the environment and timing were not right for me in the end. But still, I’m glad to have tried.
- This year, I spent a great deal of time (and money) consistently travelling to and from the city I lived in and the city where my long distance partner lives. Being apart was painful and getting such little time was even more painful; furthermore, the suffering of not knowing when or how we would be closer again prior to me taking a job closer to him was incredibly stressful and frustrating. The world was topsy turvy and difficult and pricey for the first half-year of our long distance relationship. And what I learned from that is, just how important it is to be around the people you’re insanely in love with as much as possible. Home really is a person and not a place.
- I’m so glad I never quit searching for what I thought might make me the happiest and most secure. As I move forward in my career I find that sometimes I feel like crying on a daily basis, or tearing my hair out, or walking away and never coming back. I am overwhelmed and tired and burnt out and often incredibly frustrated. But — never bored. And never checked out. And never with the urge to quit. After searching for the better part of a year, I DID find what I was looking for. I don’t know if it’s all I dreamed of but I never quit. And that’s what’s important.
- I’m glad that this year I didn’t succumb to the negative feelings I have about myself. I learned that when you have love and a purpose, your looks and the shallow views of an ugly and misogynistic society are second to everything else that’s important. I’m not where I would like to be in terms of body image and physical health. But what would have been a spear to my heart and self-esteem in the past, is now a mere inconvenience.
- I live in an incredibly small and concentrated right-wing conservative riding in my town. And I never really saw the purpose in voting, as for these reasons I didn’t think the party I vote for would win in my riding, so what’s the point? Having said that, I’m so glad I voted in the federal election; as a Canadian citizen, I have a right to vote for the party of my choice regardless of the riding and what kind of educator would I be if I forewent the civic duty of voting? In addition this election is HISTORIC and I was pleased to be a part of seeing a generational and image turnaround of my country.
- Ever since I left my advising career, I’ve always wondered how life would be if I went back into that line of work. I did, briefly, in Vancouver; in a different capacity, with slightly different duties, and in a very different working environment. I hated it. I was bored and under-appreciated and I felt like all the work I’d put into doing something more was wasted going back to Square One. I was glad I had this opportunity so I had a clear vision of what I wanted, and what I didn’t want.
- Only recently did I come to the conclusion that I didn’t want to live as an empty shell of a human being in this black hole of a complete lack of confidence. After years of suffering through crippling self-criticism and low self-esteem, I have learned that I can’t do it alone. I have started getting real help for that, and I look forward to seeing where it takes me.
- After learning more about “self regulation”, I have come to find that I have happy places I venture to as well when I feel lost and lonely. I have been baking more and now that I have people to bake for, it’s been a great way for me to make people happy and clear my head.
- The world can be a rotten place. But when you can shield yourself by loving the shit out of someone else and have them love you back the same way you can get through the tough times – yours and the world’s – through the constant reminder that no, it’s not all bad. I’m glad I allowed my walls to come down with the person I love the most and allow them to help me through the darker and drearier parts of this year. My partner and I both saw a lot of strife and personal tragedies this year and towards the end of the year things became smoother and clearer. I’m glad I had the support and love of him to help me be the best I could be this year.
To anyone reading this: I hope you too, can take the time to articulate fifteen wonderful things that happened to you in 2015 and that you have an enjoyable end of the year.
I was on Tinder for three months. In that time, I had the same kinds of dating adventures that most people do – the duds, the creeps, the ghosters, the ones that I’ll remember forever and the ones whose names came up in my phone months later and it took me a few minutes to put a face to a name.. but today, I realized a lot of things about myself and my life as it is now that I really value which I learned from swiping right.
When you blind date, you’re forced out of your comfort zone and you know this leading up to the moment you arrive to spend your agreed at-least-one-hour with a total stranger. You have to keep the conversation going and you have to be brave. This is something I never thought I could do. I don’t know how to strike up conversations with strangers. That’s never been who I am.
But I did do it. Well. I enjoyed meeting all these people. I loved talking to the guy who worked at Yew at the Four Seasons and served tons of celebrity guests who came into the restaurant. I loved meeting the person who had just come back from his year in Australia and told me about their tiny little $9 pint glasses. None of those dates worked out but the important thing I learned is how sometimes it’s important to have faith in strangers because some of the strangers I met were pretty awesome.
In addition to the people I met, I also learned how to step outside a comfort zone and become more confident in myself and my abilities. I could suddenly spend all night talking with a complete stranger. I didn’t even feel awkward about it. I hardly even noticed sometimes the fact that I was speaking with someone I didn’t actually really know. I trusted my instincts and in that, I became a really outgoing person. Someone who, in their new profession, is able to connect with the people around me even more every day. And I owe that to my desire to meet fellow singles of Vancouver on a hookup app. Which sounds absolutely stupid and crazy. And it is. But it’s kind of true.
Tinder is a horrible way to meet people and I stand by that. In fact, I stand by the fact that the internet in general is for the most part, an awful way to meet people. But it was good for a very introverted, very comfort zone-laden person who lacked the confidence in herself as a single person and a professional to ever move beyond this weird hovering, quivering shy person who was an empty shell of someone who had so much potential walking into a teaching practicum. It’s an odd, strange roundabout way to have found myself, but I’m glad I did. Sometimes stepping outside your comfort zone, even on a sleazy app, can do some good.