Eleven Years Ago.

Eleven years ago I (regrettably, without camera) witnessed with my own two eyes, a win in the final series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs versus my Edmonton Oilers and the Carolina Hurricanes (the latter who, as we all know, ended up winning the cup that year and breaking thousands of hearts in the process).

I can’t believe what a different place the world was then. On a big scale, absolutely — look at Edmonton’s downtown core now; look at the way we communicate – with smartphones and apps and text messaging as a primary mode of chit chat; look at silly things like the look of the team uniforms, the way we can watch on HD television, how you can now sit on a patio and watch a game mounted on a wall somewhere.

But I’ve changed, too. My friend group, my life, the fact that I was still in university and had no idea what I would be, the fact that back then I could barely face watching a game because the anxiety of watching your plucky underdog team at that level of competition was too much and it washed over me like a wave of nerves and fears. One thing about me hasn’t changed in that respect: I still don’t like what’s not certain. What’s not certain still evokes in me anxiety and tremors that are uncontrollable or desirable whatsoever.

I keep thinking about that night. How it feels the same, but different, from the last few games I’ve been to at the bars in today’s Edmonton. How everyone then seemed sure of themselves and doubtless, and now everyone, after eleven years of heartache, seems reproachful and drowning in their own oceans of nerves.

Eleven years passes when you’re not even noticing it’s gone. the world is strange like that. Time flies when you’re busy spending the time that’s flying away. It’s like grasping onto a balloon for as long as you can until you let it go just to see what it looks like as it soars out into the atmosphere.

I hope my team wins again. I hope we can re-experience that confidence, that collective glory, that belief in ourselves as fans, a team, a city. It sounds so ridiculous but it means so much. Eleven years of time means so much, too.

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Nine years ago, I started a blog so that  I could write away my problems.

I did write away my problems.

I’m proud of myself that for the past nine years, even when it was minimal, even if I only dropped in one time in a month, I have written through joys, difficulties, happiness, and so on. It’s been a complicated nine years in a lot of ways and I’ve gone through so much. I’m happy I took the time to come back here.

Happy anniversary to myself. Here’s to more documentation of the struggles of my life.

If you’ve been reading, thanks for reading!

My Christmas and/or End-of-2016 Message.

This as not a good year. We lost so much. We lost hope, progress, artistry, homes, lives, families, and so much else. I think of Fort McMurray burning to the ground, cars vacating through a monsoon of ash, a veritable cliff of fire. I think of praying for the first female president and not realizing how badly I wanted to live that historic moment before I saw it dramatically slip away. I think of David Bowie, one of the most creative ingenues of our time, gone. And Leonard Cohen. And Prince. And every other brilliantly  creative, smart, wonderful soul, famous and not famous, who are no longer with us as we count down to 2016 in these precious final days.

I think of how personally, my year was filled, at least in the beginning, with catastrophic emotional distress. I remember the day I left Edmonton after Christmas break last year and getting home realizing I had no idea there were so many tears. Another monsoon, this one of tears that fell from un-fulfilled wishes, loneliness that was so heavy it forced me onto the ground and I couldn’t rise up, not for hours. I was jealous and bitter at my beautiful partner for having so much of what I didn’t – success, family, friends, a certain kind of career comfort level, accolades… and there I was, living in a place I hated, alone, with an apartment consisting of my belongings strewn on the floor, with not even a couch. The darkness of that place. The chill. The lack of life, mine or anyone else’s. And there I was, stranded. Feeling like a failure as a partner, a teacher, a woman. That lasted for months. It began then, it ended in June, and I was off.

As summer bloomed and progressed, I still had little, but I made the most of my time with friends, family, and love. My sister got married, my partner’s brother got married, friends got engaged, I drove 22 1/2 hours from Seattle to Spokane, through Idaho, up through the Kootenays, through the Crowsnest Pass, and back through southern Alberta, all in a day. I ran my second half-marathon with mixed results. I returned to the place I loved for three glorious weeks and visited the coast, friends, sunshine. Then I returned to work in September and depended upon the immense kindness of extended family who were so good to me in my weeks of transitioning to a move to Red Deer, Alberta (another move). My world was different again. Better, this time. MUCH better. And suddenly, I too saw success, accolades, a certain kind of career comfort level, family, friends… but I was still away, still stranded, still at times letting that monsoon all go, still wanting to be where I belong.

And then, it happened.

What was 2016 about? What is Christmas about? To me, both of them are about a perfect and true amalgamation of the past and present. We are visited by three ghosts every holiday season – all of us are. We revisit ghosts of the past year, our past memories – for better or for worse – and are reminded of what is good, what was bad, and what joys or sorrows have returned again. We are visited by Christmas Present – a reminder of those who have less than we do, especially around the holidays, a reminder of who is important in our lives, and a chance to tell everyone we care about just how much they mean to us. And we’re confronted with Christmas Future –  a glimpse ahead of what could potentially happen in the new year, and what change we want, and what changes we’re fatigued by. We always feel like we have this golden opportunity for reinvention. It’s January 1 and suddenly we join gyms, download budget apps, apply for new career opportunities, throw out all the packs of cigarettes in the house. Dump the vodka down the sink. Do these things last? Sometimes. But it’s the hope. It’s the hope that it will.

To anyone who reads this, my Christmas message is this:

Revisit the past without dwelling on it. Be fair to those who in retrospect are either villainous or overly heroic in your own present-day eyes. Enjoy memories with clear-eyed hindsight and sympathy.

Revel in the present because next year, the present too, shall be a memory. The more you enjoy the present, the better that memory will be. The more you enjoy the present, the more you will appreciate the abundance of family, food, drinks, friends and joy that surround you this holiday season, no matter how big or small that abundance may be.

And, consider the future lightly – without pressure, expectation or demand. Give the future space to breathe while still maintaining an aura of mystery.

Happy Holidays. Happy New Year.

“Home”.

Life is full of lessons.

We see them plastered on bathroom walls, we hear them from our teachers, mentors, parents, friends. We see them in the form of pretty, artfully decorated quotes on social media. We are always absorbing concrete lessons, tiny pieces of information, like flecks of edible gold on the dessert that is our lives.

It is oft-said that the most important of these lessons, are in addition, the hardest to learn. And that lessons have to be understood, felt, in order to be learned. I could sit and talk at someone for hours about their horrible boyfriend, the job they complain about constantly, the friend who is always taking advantage of their money or time. But until they live those consequences – innately and deeply feel and absorb them to the core of their mind, body or soul… that lesson will still be tough to understand and appreciate. Any other lessons, advice, quotes, are all just smoke and mirrors, lies, illusions, unless they are felt, followed.

For the last two years, I have been struggling to figure out what possible lesson being stressed, bored, closed-in, away from loved ones, and drowning in sorrow and bitterness have taught me. “What doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger” seems too trite and obvious. And anyway, often that is not true. Sometimes what doesn’t kill you makes you feel like you’re holding onto the edge but that edge is slipping away beneath your fingers until there is nothing left to hold. If there is a ‘God’, I don’t know what His plan is for me, to have to be so miserable in this, my life, the precious few years of my twenties and early thirties where I should still have vibrancy and hope, and I shouldn’t be jaded and bitter and curled up in the fetal position every sleepless night, waiting for some magical ‘way out’ of my situation. Being happy where you’re at without reaching for happiness out in the distance and being grateful for the ‘good’ things in life might be another lesson that one could pull from this dreary cesspool of sadness. But, at the end of the day, none of this seems to be enough.

But the other day, I had a conversation.

My beautiful boyfriend has called Vancouver ‘home’ for ten years before moving home in 2015 to pursue teaching and save money. That December, he was ripped away from the comforting confines of friends, a twenty-something lifestyle of fun and weeknight drinking, a neighbourhood and apartment he loved, a girlfriend who was starting a short-term contract job in January, all for the sake of finding stability. And at times, he’s so grateful for that stability because of the success he feels, the income, the permanence, something he’s never had in the Neverland that is Vancouver. And yet, he’s still left without those amazing friends, the neighbourhood, the apartment that smells like home, the familiarity of your favourite hangouts, that walk to the bus stop every morning, friends just dropping by out of nowhere on their own way home from their coffee shop job.

Vancouver was home for me too, but only for a short time. And while I miss the city – its beauty, the Stanley Park seawall, my own favourite restaurants and views and bars and daily walks and my own sunny, cozy, ocean view apartment, I remember how it was for me at times when I had that 3-month contract job; I hated the commute every morning because it was an hour on that crowded train and I would often be seasick or tired; I felt useless and frustrated at my job there because I never had any work. I literally felt sometimes, that I was paid to do nothing. And while some believe that’s ‘living the dream’, it is lonely to feel so undervalued in your day-to-day life. I’d rather have been paid nothing at all, and spent each precious hour of each precious day doing what I wanted to do and going where I wanted to go. My friends left during that time and approaching summer, most of them had moved to try and find their own definition of stability. Back to Alberta, to Ontario, to the Kootenays… unfortunately, everywhere is more ‘stable’ than Vancouver. I worked my own precious ‘stable’ job, using the income I had to travel back and forth between Edmonton and Vancouver on weekends, to visit the person I loved with all my heart. I had collected every WestJet on-flight magazine. My heart would flare up with passion and excitement at the prospect of each and every one of these weekends. Heading back to Vancouver wasn’t ever difficult; but it was nevertheless, painful. Leaving the person you love is never, ever, not painful.

These days, I keep feeling as though I left ‘home’ when I left Vancouver. And even sometimes, while I was enjoying the vigor and excitement of Vancouver, I did still feel like Edmonton was ‘home’ and I had left it for this lack of security, this monstrosity of wealth and poverty, this sickness of wondering when I would find stability again like the stability I had with my career, my life, my friends, back in Alberta.

And then I lived in Edson. And now I live in Red Deer. Places where my family is far away, where I live alone in mostly-empty apartments, places where I exist without living, just for the sake of making the living that I don’t have a use for at home. I don’t go out. I don’t leave the house. I don’t do anything, because I have no one to do it with. I’ve gotten so in the habit of being at home all the time, I’ve changed as a person. I used to go home to sleep. Now I barely enjoy leaving the house, even to go grab the milk I forgot on the way home. And I miss the people I love, the people who bring me vibrance and vigor and happiness, the people that I can talk to for hours and not run out of things to talk about, the person I want to kiss goodnight every night for the rest of my life.

The important lesson to learn from all this is also trite, but one of the most valuable lessons I have ever, or could ever, learn: home is not a place; it’s a person. Home is sitting on the couch with the person you love, one of you watching TV, one of you surfing the internet, both of you in neat and perfect silent comfort; home is those late-night talks following watching The Bachelor with your best friend. Home is board games with your siblings. Home is going out to your favourite karaoke bars with the people you loved hanging out with in high school, doing crosswords at the Second Cup that was down the street from where you lived when you were 19, home is Oilers games and drinks with friends and knowing where you’re going when you get in the car.

Home is the best thing there is. No matter what it looks like, who it entails, what the cost is to obtain it, who you spend time with. HOME is not just a silly concept that you sew into a needlepoint and hang on the wall; it is everything.

And so, when you don’t have a home, physical or metaphorical, you have nothing.

cynicism.

I have been cynical about many things for a long time. And sometimes my cynicism has been proven incorrect. And sometimes not.

I stopped believing in “love” and then I met the person who proved me wrong; that love does exist, but it’s finding the person to love you and who loves you in return, is a journey of soul-searching, openness and acceptance.

I stopped believing in “bffs” because my two best friends stabbed me deeply, multiple times, and not just in the back. But then after some reflecting I realized I do have “bffs” – three of them. And they’ve been my friends since the beginning of my adult life, the beginning of my life as a city girl, who saw me through the challenging times and who I can trust and tell anything to. And they may not have been the “bffs” I thought were in my life, but they are even better and I shouldn’t take old friendships for granted just because of the ebbs and flows and locations they transition through.

I was cynical about the world; about people; about the government, and war, and when truths about the planet and disenfranchised people would be uncovered. And then Barack Obama was elected. And now I feel cynical all over again that someone who is even worse than George W. Bush has been elected, and now sits in the drivers’ seat of the most powerful vehicle on the planet. And now my cynicism runs deep and full and sad. It has made me suspicious and angry and frustrated and perplexed. What gives me hope are outlets for our pain; artists, comedians, sympathetic ears online and in person, and the fact that there are marches of thousands who refuse to accept or believe that Trump is theirs. And yet, still, I am cynical.

I’m cynical because I’m stuck out here in a life I hate because financially, I can’t have the life I want. And nobody deserves that life more than me. I want to wake up next to the person I love every single day. It’s all I want but seems impossible to ask for, or hope for, at this point. I watch my happiness, my exciting life, my vibrancy, my youth, slipping away because I threw it all away for a career that I wanted, which is one of the most competitive career fields, one where people like me are constantly griping like I am, about the lack of work, the lack of ‘good’ options. It’s exhausting.

So I say a silent prayer (though I’m not religious) for someone, or something, to take the cynical pieces of me and transform them into floating feathers that will soar into the sky when carried by the wind. It’s all I have right now and I need something soft and uplifting to keep me moving forward.

 

An “Open” Letter.

Dear So-and-Sos:

I had a dream about you last night. In my dream, I was in Jasper and I ran into you. When you saw me, you ran right up to me and hugged me and cried. You didn’t really say anything but that hug was something that even in my waking state, I can almost still feel. I haven’t dreamed about you in a while. Whenever I have, it was angry and I woke up feeling differently than I did this morning.

I was thinking about the past. I was thinking about how, when we were combative and not speaking, neither of us made an effort to reconcile. I thought about how currently, I am teaching my students the importance of “reconciliation” and that I have not ‘reconciled’, because I want some kind of upper hand, because I am still ‘angry’, I am a hypocrite. And I can’t justifiably claim that reconciliation is important to me when I haven’t actually embodied that in my life, in my former friendships, in my experiences with loss and anger.

The fact remains: I am hurt. I am hurt because I feel hard-done-by in our previous relationship. I feel like nobody ever heard me, listened to me, sided with me and really understood my life or where I was coming from. Those feelings forced me to react badly and in doing so I lost my cool. I lost a lot. I was immature and made an immature decision. And now what remains is this: I am still bitter. I don’t regret a loss of friendship. I don’t feel differently about where I would like things to be now. But, I regret being still bitter if only because I wanted to “win” and now, approaching 30 and thinking back on all of this bad blood, I have realized that “winning” really isn’t all that important.

All I want to express is this regret. And all I want to stress about this regret is: this isn’t some plea to return to how things were because I don’t want that and I’m assuming you don’t either. This isn’t an olive branch, because peace is sometimes just unnecessary, impossible, or a waste of everyone’s efforts. This isn’t me bending over backwards to please because I’ve done that too, and I’m not that person anymore. What this is, is: forgiveness. Forgiving myself because I fucked up. Forgiving you for fucking up. Not forgiveness for the purpose of rekindling some friendship that was obviously never built to last in the first place, but forgiveness so that we can move forward in life without aiming to “win”, without looking back scathingly, without saying one thing then meaning another, and most importantly: with expressing real, genuine, TRUE feelings about how we felt in this situation. Admitting that we were both vulnerable, that we both cared, that what happened was actually hurtful. Because it was. I know it, you know it, and regardless of how that pain has eased up significantly since the last time we spoke or even saw each other, pain is a part of a breakup. Pain is a part of who we became afterwards, maybe even who we became now. And admitting to that pain is also something that can help reconcile the uncertainties of the past.

It’s ridiculous that nobody ever admitted they were hurt by the utter catastrophic detonation of a 6-year best friendship, and instead all parties took a silent, bridge-burning turn towards an unfeeling desire to be “better off”. This decision is the most immature, stupid and backwards decision I’ve ever made. What I want to say to you, should you ever read this is this: all of this has fucked me up a lot. All of this has had me questioning my past, the genuineness of it, my ability to carry on a relationship, people’s true motives (including my own), and my ability to be what I define as a ‘good person’. All of this has made me feel bitter, angry, at times tearful, and griping. I lost a lot. Of self-respect, of respect for others, of trust, of self-expression. All of those things washed down the drain like toothpaste and I watched it spin and spin until it dwindled down to nothing but gross old residue of something from another time that I can barely even see or remember. And I am deeply, deeply angry about this still. I’m pissed off at how hurt I fell with absolutely no apology or acknowledgement. I’m saddened by own shying away from the emotional healing that accompanies a breakup of any kind, all because I wanted to “prove something” to you. I’m angry at all of your snide shoving-out of me, casting me aside proudly and making grand announcements about doing so on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. I’m fucking pissed as shit that after I never spoke to you again, you never, ever, ever contacted me to try and end things with something softer and gentler than complete silence and then instead of acknowledging this privately with me, you post an INSTAGRAM with some stupid fucking quote about saying goodbye then choosing to announce in public, on an account I don’t even follow, about my life and how you feel about it. And somehow did you feel that was supposed to fix or make anything better? For you, or for me, or for anyone at all? Was it enough? After six years, was it really enough and could you really stand before me now and say that was not just supposed to be enough for me to move on but also yourself? Have you moved on? Or are you going to bother pretending like this is all 100% okay for you now because you’re better off without me and casting me aside this way was the best thing you’ve ever done? It wasn’t for me. I regret it. I messed up, and I’m willing to be vulnerable because I don’t believe anymore that vulnerability is a sign of weakness. It took me 30 years but I finally figured out that it’s okay to do things like cry in front of your boyfriend or cry when you’ve had a bad day at work. I hope you have too.

I write this letter as a plea for some reprieve from the anger and sadness that plagues me in small but tinny, biting welts in my soul that only sleep, alcohol and loved ones can make disappear. I write this letter with the hope that in some fantasy land that doesn’t actually exist in waking life, that you and I could sit down and have coffee and air all our grievances and cry and get pissed off and make all the snide and angry comments in the world but feel better after it. And I write this letter to acknowledge that fighting dirty – a cold war chocked full of silent warfare, is not the way to end anything. I hope you understand and ‘get’ where I’m coming from with this. This is how I’m feeling today. This is how I often feel. And I’m growing both comfortable with that, and aggravated by it, all at the same time.

Sincerely,

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.