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,

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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 for.
  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.

What I Would Want My Children to Know About Consent.

If I have children (God forbid I do, as I fear for my abilities and capabilities as a parent every time I stop to entertain the thought) I would want them to know that I am a survivor of child sexual abuse, and sexual assault – the latter, twice – once at the hand of a close friend and ex-boyfriend.

I would want them to know that I at first, felt like in some uncertain terms these things were my fault. That I was confused about them, that I was unsure of how it was ‘supposed to feel’ to be “raped” — that I always told myself this narrative that being “raped” happens in back alleys at the hands of total strangers grabbing you on a sidewalk somewhere, or that afterwards you feel completely ripped to shreds from the inside out and you go to the hospital and do the whole rape kit thing and so on. And I would want them to know that for these reasons, all of the assault I’ve been privy to didn’t “feel” the way I thought assault would feel. I was mostly numb to it after it happened. I carried on with my day, or days, as though my life was totally normal and I was the same as everyone else who this hadn’t happened to, and that for these reasons I thought to myself, “well.. I couldn’t have been raped or abused; or if I was, it wasn’t as bad as other people’s experiences so I don’t have a right to say anything about them.”

I would want them to know this simple thing about sexual assault and sexual molestation, at any age, by someone of any gender: if you believe it to be rape, it is rape. If you did not consent to what happened to you, and/or you were too young to consent, then you didn’t consent. And that your own personal feelings and way of dealing with that are yours and yours alone and nobody is allowed to tell you things like “you should have told on them” or “you should have been more devastated” or worse, “you didn’t say no so it wasn’t rape” or “you can’t really be raped by someone you know or invited over to your house.”

I would want my children to know that sadly, assault and abuse are more common than we’d like to think; that I know several people in my life who have dealt with the repercussions and pain and numbness and self-hatred that they’ve brought on, internalized, thought about as as a result of their own experiences with rape. Those “1 in 5” or whatever numbered statistics are true — it is true that this is a very common thing. It goes unreported because as we know now, the law does not protect or often believe survivors of assault; it goes un-talked about because for many, these conversations are still taboo and they’re still difficult to swallow and they force people to re-live their traumas over again. But is it true? Absolutely. Once you speak about your assault, others will too; countless others. Go on Twitter after a highly publicized unfair case where a rapist got off scot-free. And you will see thousands of men and women voicing not just support and solidarity, but voicing “this happened to me too”… many, for the first time. I want my children to know that those stories are painful and brutal and speak to injustice in our society, but they are true and should and deserve to be believed, and supported.

I want my children to know that if anything happens to them they should tell someone but if they don’t they shouldn’t beat themselves up about it because I never told. I never told on anyone who has abused me. One of them is dead. He went to his grave with a daughter that still looks to him as the greatest father and best friend a little girl ever had. And I could have changed an entire family and the course of an old man’s life by ‘telling’. And I wish I had. But at the same time, if I had I would then make victims of a widow and a daughter and a son who had no part in, or control over, what their father did, not just to me, but other little local girls too. Is that fair? No, it’s not. And so I am now more at ease with the decision I made than I ever have been and I’m not angry about it anymore. But as victims, do we have a duty to tell? No. We’re victims and we only know how we feel and what we feel we need to protect ourselves and protect our own reputations, lives, families, and emotional well-being. I want my children to know I’m here for them but at the same time, if they don’t want me to be they should come to their own decisions about the right time to tell me something in time.

And finally, on sexual assault and abuse I would want my children to know that at any point, the best thing to do is say no. Children say no all the time: to their teachers, their parents, to their friends. And if there was ever the best time to say no, it would be when someone is doing something that you don’t like or want in or on or around your body. Saying no to someone who cares for you will not make them hate you; and saying no to someone who you don’t know doesn’t matter because who gives a shit what they think, you don’t owe them a thing. But saying no once and feeling weird about in the moment could save your life and in some strange way, theirs too.

Consent is not an easy thing to talk about; if you don’t say no but believe you were raped anyways, will anyone believe you were ‘raped’? And if you didn’t say no does that make the assault your fault? What kind of people do you trust with your body? What kind of people can rape you? I would want my children to know that this is complicated and there are no simple answers but in time, if this happens to you or a friend, it is important to note that how you feel is the subjective but ultimate truth.

The Right Record at the Right Time.

I hadn’t listened to Ryan Adams & the Cardinals’ album “Cardinology” in a really long time. I have mixed feelings about the album – there are some real gems but as a huge fan of Adams, I definitely think it’s one of the weaker efforts. After a day where I’ve been feeling a bit down and pensive, I really felt the need to put on something that would take me back to another place and time when I was feeling similarly. Sometimes music can give you answers and guidance and hope and faith that you didn’t know you could have until listening to something from your past.

“Cardinology” is a healing album; it’s an album that provides hope, quietly begs for mercy, and tries to advise listeners to relax, keep the faith, keep trying, and don’t give up on love. All the messages that I needed on a day like this.

The last time I immersed myself in this album, I was in the very very last stages of recovering from my very first heartbreak – one that took longer than it should have to stop hurting. The album came out about a year after the day I was so hurt I could scarcely get out of bed without that tinge of sadness that accompanies everything you do and think about as a broken person. In many ways, I kind of felt a bit… lost… this past week, this past month even. Unsure and doubtful and frustrated and ‘behind’ where I’d love to be, where I sometimes feel almost like I ‘should’ be… I returned to that safe place, this album that got me through another hard time of doubt and frustrations. And listening to Ryan Adams sing seemingly to me, “Go easy on yourself” and “Some of us are strong/But the rest of us are weak/So let us down but if you must/Let us down easy, lord” really helped me to put my worries, doubts, frustrations and life into perspective that I really really needed today.

Your favourite artists are confidantes who know what you’re going through, sympathize without judgment and when you look through their back catalogue, they can tell you exactly what you need to hear to feel better. I’m incredibly grateful for the gift an album from 2009, a year that was a transitioning and healing year for me, much like this one has been so far, has given me today. Music is wisdom.

Happiness, Edition 22.

I have to go back to work tomorrow. Mondays are such a blow sometimes. The fluctuation between doing absolutely nothing and being constantly mentally and physically ‘on’ five day a week takes some serious mental and emotional adjustments. And coffee. A TON of coffee.

This weekend I was in my hometown. I only have a small certain amount of time I can be with my parents before I feel like a lazy, regressive, dependent sloth and I need to go home. But I haven’t been back to my hometown since Christmas and right now unseasonable warmth and hectic indecision and stressful thoughts and feelings, plus my partner’s own stresses and busy schedule had us apart this weekend so I could drive out to the mountains.

I heard difficult news to swallow but also had some really nice meals and soaked in some sunshine and talked a lot with my mom about said-difficult news. And I almost shared more of my own difficulties but decided in the end, that it wasn’t the ‘right’ time. Sure enough, upon sharing tough news with my boyfriend he called me and cheered me up because he’s the best.

I am reminded of the Pixar film, “Inside Out” because I believe empathy and comfort during really tough times are the exact-right mixture of happy and sad that are necessary to get through things that aren’t so pleasant to swallow. Going home this weekend was a mix of good and bad feelings and good and bad times, but at the end of the day I feel refreshed having taken a break from the city, I suppose. I’ll go back to work this week with this idea of empathy stuck in my mind which I hope will make my days easier to handle too.

Happiness Challenge, Day 1.

For my first day of this, I took a look at “28 Questions for a Happy Life” The Tiny Buddha. In answering these questions, I hope to find a good starting point for myself to at least begin to feel I am at inner peace.

1. We learn from our mistakes, yet we’re always so afraid to make one. Where is this true for you? I think this is true for me at work and it was certainly true for me in my past dating life. At work I constantly avoid trying new things in case I fail at them. And in my dating life I overthought and planned every move so carefully so as not to look over-eager, and so I would look like the kind of person someone would want to date. 

2. What risk would you take if you knew you could not fail? The one thing that comes to mind is writing. I have abandoned my writing life because it seems impossible and impractical and I just don’t have the time for it anymore. But really, those are excuses I make for myself because I’m afraid of failing at writing. I gave up so I wouldn’t have to face rejection and reality. If I knew I wouldn’t fail, I would beat down doors; I would enter plays in Fringe festivals; I would submit pieces to every lit magazine in the country.  

3. What is your greatest strength? Have any of your recent actions demonstrated this strength? My greatest strength is writing. It’s my best way of communicating and has helped me find my words in so many situations. It has made me realize that, at least for one moment in my life, I was special and did have talent. 

4. What are the top five things you cherish in your life? 1) Love – familial and romantic love, first and foremost; 2) My career – every day, even bad days, are still amazing on some level; 3) My vinyl collection – the one material thing that is so much more than just an object; records are stories, teleporters, time machines; 4) Memories and relics of my life in Vancouver – friendships and fondnesses and places I’ll never forget, restaurants I would fly in just to eat at; 5) my cat – he’s been there for me for eight years now and it’s unimaginable to think of a life without him.

5. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are? I like this question a lot.I think I would answer with 24 – my 24th year was the year I discovered so much about myself and really became myself. Things kept getting clearer from there but despite that, there is youthfulness and confusion that I still embrace and never let go of. Sometimes I forget and can’t believe I turn 30 this year.

6. When do you stop calculating risk and rewards, and just do it? When I am either on the verge of failure or self-redemption, or there is no other option but to be successful. 

7. At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive? Today. Today was one of those days in teaching where things felt smooth and right and good, where I was able to express my passion and feel it in my day. It’s rare that I feel that actually, so bogged down am I by everything else that’s going on in my life with students. 

8. What do you most connect with? Why? Music. Music has a unique way of understanding you without offering anything but empathy, in a way that nothing or nobody else can do.

9. What one piece of advice would you offer a newborn child? To learn to speak your mind and ask for help when you need it, and ask for what you want when you want it. 

10. Which is worse—failing or never trying? My first instinct is failure. Failure is my biggest fear. It scares me more than anything. My fear of failure makes me more self-critical and self-destructive than anything in my life. But logically I know that never trying is so much worse, especially with the knowledge that we only get and have one life.

11. Why do we do things we dislike and like the things we never seem to do? Because we’re scared. Because in this life the world is expensive and complicated and fragmented, and we only have so much time, and sadly it is often spent on priorities and not dreams. As adults, we stop dreaming at a certain point and instead, we look at adult decisions as things we ‘should’ be doing.

12. What are you avoiding? I don’t know. My life is mostly structured to face things head-on.

13. What is the one job/cause/activity that could get you out of bed happily for the rest of your life? Are you doing it now? I am sort of doing it now. I am quite literally living my dream. But there are still some issues with that — I’m new and lack confidence, first of all. And second of all, I am not where I would love to be geographically which takes its toll on me and makes me somewhat unhappy and wistful.

14. When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done? I hope not.

15. What are you most grateful for? My partner.

16. What would you say is one thing you’d like to change in the world? I would like to eliminate global warming problems and instability in the environment.

17. Do you find yourself influencing your world, or it influencing you? The world influences me, but I hope that my the career I’ve chosen, I will have some small part in influencing the world someday.

18. Are you doing what you believe in or settling for what you’re doing? I am definitely doing what I believe in.

19. What are you committed to? My career, my partner, and my lifestyle.

20. Which worries you more – doing things right or doing the right things? In my job these two things are intertwined, but definitely the latter worries me more.

21. If joy became the national currency, what kind of work would make you wealthy? Either teaching or music journalism.

22. Have you been the kind of friend you’d want as one? YES. Although I can think of three people who would disagree with this, one of the only things I have strived for is to be present for people I love.

23. Do any of the things that used to upset you a few years ago matter at all today? What’s changed? Yes, a couple of things. But otherwise I have made big changes and achieved several dreams and this has given me perspective that things I was upset about happened in exactly the way they should have. 

24. Would you rather have less work to do or more work you enjoy doing? I don’t want to live to work, but I don’t want to work to live either. I want to find the balance between enjoying so much what I do but finding other things on the side that make me just as happy, and that I still have time for.

25. What permission do you need/want to move forward? The permission to stay where I am if I choose to.

26. Really, what do you have to lose if you go for it? I am going for it. I plan to not stop going for it. 

27. How different would your life be if there weren’t any criticism in the world? My life would be the best. Every door would open. Everything would be illuminated. I wouldn’t have lost friends over criticism of one kind or another.

28. We’re always making choices. Are you choosing for your story or for someone else’s? I hope I’m choosing for mine. Even in my relationship I have still done what’s best for me and prioritized things in the best way I could for me. I’m used to being alone and calling my own shots so that’s something that comes naturally to me.

 

5 Things That Were Painful at the Time, Which I’m Now Thankful For.

It’s always darkest before the dawn.

There’s been a lot of darkness in my life; some if it real, some of it fairly shallow compared to others’ actual darkness. Nonetheless though, sometimes at our very darkest, we don’t necessarily realize how grateful we are for the horrid things that happen to us until much later in our lives. Here are five of my favourite in-hindsight-it-wasn’t-that-bad moments.

My First Heartbreak. 

When I was 21 (22? I can’t really remember anymore) I had my heart actually crushed for the very first time in my life. It sucked. It sucked for a longer time than it was socially acceptable for a heartbreak like this to suck. That’s who I was then. The girl who couldn’t move forward, and it affected so many decisions in my life that I was forced to make if only to better myself.  And I did better myself. And if I hadn’t faced pain like this at a time when I needed that wake-up call, I might not have necessarily had the valuable life experience and newfound confidence and strength I gained by changing my life around. Nowadays, I have found what it means to actually love someone and more importantly, myself. And the thought of me dating the first person who broke my heart back then, afterwards, or ever basically, kind of turns my stomach. It’s actually disgusting. Just like he turned out to be

All of the Lesser Heartbreaks.

That icky, saccharine song, “God Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts is something I was introduced to when I worked in housekeeping and I watched CMT on weekends because Much Music doesn’t play music videos on weekend afternoons. I hate the song but something that stands out to me all these years later about it is the idea that everything we’ve gone through romantically leads us to the person with who we’re the most happy. I think dating a lot in my mid-late 20s has made me wiser, more street-smart, more realistic, and more aware of what I wanted. Sometimes it sucked and sometimes I fell hard and ended up disappointed. But all of those things led me to what has, to this point, felt the most right.

Friend Breakups.

Every breakup and heartbreak and romantic disappointment on earth can’t compare to breaking up with people you thought were your best friends. That pain still follows me sometimes. It’s dark and angry and bitter. But what I’m grateful for in retrospect was that a terribly poisonous friendship that brought out my worst self didn’t continue longer than it should have. I won’t have those awful people at any of the most important and best moments of my life that are yet to come. I’m rid of having to pretend to act or be a certain way to please others, and I’m done with knowing other girls are talking behind my back because they talked about each other with me. I have better friends, I have people in my life that I have come to find are actually valuable and actually care about me, and have since the beginning. I won’t take those friends for granted again.

Almost Failing at My Career.

Sometimes I still feel like I’m failing in my career. Other times I feel like I’m doing a fantastic job. My career is the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done. Eight months in, it’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done. 100+ people count on me. Their families count on me. Extensions of who they are are counting on me. It’s a lot of pressure and I feel like I need to be perfect and wonderful all the time. I’m a leader. For real. For the first time in my life. But I look back at that day when I was placed on a notice for my lack of talent in the profession I chose, and how defeated and beat up and ruined I felt. But in many ways that was the kick in the ass I needed to turn everything around and be who I needed to be enough to be where I’m at now. I’m not perfect by any means. But I’m lucky enough to be here. And I’m not going to quit.

Getting Rejected from Grad School.

I had a dream to be a writer. For years, it was all I ever wanted. I imagined myself in an office or wherever just pounding away at the keys and creating stories and having a blast. But at 29, I’ve learned about myself that’s a dream not worth chasing. I will never be successful. I will never have the courage and confidence to beat down doors and take rejection more than success. In addition, the life I want and the life I was prepared for prior to my applications to grad schools across Canada don’t match. And the life I have now isn’t perfect at all, but it’s better than it would have been because in teaching I found something I never truly had before. Passion. Care. Constantly trying so hard to be the best I can be because it actually matters. Writing is something I love. I’m writing words right now because I truly do love the craft of writing. But it’s not my life and I’m glad I didn’t end up finding that out when it was too late.