alone in victoria

So I’ve officially moved into my new digs on the Island, and, thanks to my mum and grandma, my boxes are all unpacked, my kitchen is fully set up, and my fridge and cupboards are crammed full of food. I swapped my gas-guzzling automobile for a shiny new bike and bought a bookshelf and now I should be ready to start my new life in Victoria.

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My bike Lucy.

I’m really happy to be here–I swear, I am. I can’t wait to get dug into my Master’s program. But I wonder when this place will feel like home. Right now, I don’t feel like a visitor and I don’t feel like I belong here. It’s like I’m floating somewhere in-between and it’s uncomfortable and my landlord scares me and I’m afraid to ride my bike on the busy streets and I miss my mum and I don’t want to go home but I want here to feel like home.

That makes me sound spoiled, I know. But being in a new place all by yourself is an adjustment, no matter what the reason is. And it’s not like I’m unhappy to be here–I’m frickin’ ecstatic. I’m obsessed with learning and education (and going to school is way more fun and rewarding than a regular full-time job), so I can’t wait to be immersed in that environment again. But I’m nervous–about living alone for the first time in my life, about being 100% financially responsible (money is something I struggle with managing), about making the most out of my time at UVic, about making friends (good friends), and a bunch of other stuff too.

So I’m taking it day-by-day, and hour-by-hour, and hopefully I can figure out where I fit in this city.

If anybody has any advice on how to ride my bike, or buy groceries, or just live life as a functioning adult, I would love to hear it.

 

things I learned this summer

This summer I somehow found myself working for a beauty supply/esthetics school/spa, and it was a very Devil Wears Prada experience. I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to my looks, so when I started at the beginning of summer… my nails were cracked, my cuticles were bleeding, my ends were split, and my skin was a hot mess.

And being surrounded by all these beautiful women with perfectly coifed hair and beautiful ageless skin and outfits only made my… “differences” more obvious. It was a very Sesame Street moment–one of these things is definitely not like the others.

I honestly have no idea why I was hired in the first place. But, it turned out to be a really educational experience–I learned a lot about myself and my face. Since it was all mostly new information to me… I thought it might be beneficial to pass what I learned along to y’all.*

  1. A skin consultation is the best thing that will ever happen to you (and your face).
  2. Microdermabrasion and chemical peels–er, clinical exfoliations–work. And they aren’t nearly as scary as they sound.
  3. Masks are the bomb. Exfoliation is awesome.
  4. Wear sunscreen every damn day. You should wear at least a teaspoon of sunscreen on your face daily. And, no, the SPF in your foundation isn’t enough.
  5. Nail oil, cuticle butter, and a good hand cream are fucking essential. Invest in these immediately, especially my fellow Edmontonians–the dry winter is on its way and we all know the havoc that can wreak on our hands.
  6. Your late-20s is when the skin cell regeneration starts to slow down. Now is the time to nip the skin aging process in the bud–that means moisturizing, exfoliating, and WEARING SUN SCREEN.
  7. The difference between skin purging and breaking out. Purging refers to that old adage “it gets worse before it gets better”–skin reacts to treatments by pulling all toxins to the surface. Break outs are, well, you know what breakouts are. They last longer than a purge and if you think your skin care is causing them, switch it up (but keep in mind that the best thing you can do for you skin is maintain a consistent routine).
  8. Charcoal is great for detoxifying and pumpkin has anti-inflammatory properties–both are great for acneic skin (which I have, sigh). Citrus is also a breakout-busting superstar, but be careful–it can also make your skin sensitive to the sun. So WEAR SUNSCREEN.
  9. Biting your nails (or in my case, cuticles) stimulates growth, but not in the good way if y’all keep chowing down. So, biters, leave them the hell alone. Same goes for my fellow cuticle-pickers. Instead of biting/picking, moisturize! I found that the only thing that has kicked my cuticle-picking habit is replacing it with a cuticle-moisturizing habit.
  10. Pedicures can save lives. Pedicurists get all up close and personal with your feet–a part of your body you might not get the opportunity to examine all too often. And they know when something is up–if your pedicurist suggests you visit your GP, you’d better get to steppin’.

I think that about sums it up, beauty-wise. But I also learned another very valuable lesson along the way–the beauty industry has a really bad rap about being obsessed with what’s on the outside. But beauty isn’t about just looking good–it’s about taking care of yourself, and feeling good. I still rock my perm-bun everyday and I brutally ripped off my gel nails 7 days after they’d been meticulously applied (don’t worry, my cuticles are still intact). And there’s definitely some bullshit beauty products out there (do your research, please, and be critical of most studies conducted or funded by beauty companies) but getting into the routine of taking care of my skin and nails and cuticles and self makes me feel like I’m worth something. Not to the rest of the world, because y’all know those beauty standards don’t matter… but I’m worth something to me. And in the end, that’s what beauty is all about.

*I feel the need to add that I am in no way qualified to give this advice and all of it is based purely on my experience and research. If you have skin/nail/beauty questions, the best place to direct them is a certified dermatologist, aesthetician, or your GP.

edmonton, I’m gonna miss ya.

It’s less than two weeks until I move (I know!) and now that I have a moving date set, and it actually feels real, I’m starting to think about all the totally Edmonton things I’m not going to be able to enjoy anymore.

Like the River Valley, for example, arguably the best part about living in this city. I know, I know–I’m moving to Vancouver Island, there’s trees, flowers, and ocean there. But I’ll miss my River Valley–a wooded escape from the hustle and bustle of the medium-sized city.

And thunderstorms. This summer we’ve been blessed-ish with a thunderstorm almost every day. It can be a bit alarming being woken up at 1:30 AM by the crack and boom of a thunder clap, but these storms are summer to me. I love hearing the rain pour down (I’m sure there will be plenty of that where I’m going) and watching the lightning spread across the sky (not so much of that, though), and I’m gonna miss it.

And I’m going to miss Oodle Noodle, Burger Baron, The Olive Garden, Montana’s (I like their cheap ribs, okay?), and Block 1912 and their perfect, little tasty pastries.

I’ll miss knowing exactly where I am and where I’m going–geographically, anyway. And I’ll miss fitting in, because as I’ve said before… making friends doesn’t come so easily to this girl.

I’ve been so fortunate to meet some of the best people in this city, and even more fortunate to call these people my friends. And they’re what I’ll miss the most, I think (I know).

the ol’ pack & purge

I’m completely convinced that you have no idea how much shit you have until you have to consider the logistics of moving said shit across a province and an ocean and into a tiny basement suite on an island.

I started purging early. Or, at least I started trying to purge early (I’m a bit of a hoarder/packrat/overall disaster and I’m sentimental to boot). My early days of packing consisted of putting everything I wanted to keep in the big box that used to house a barbecue, and putting the 1 or 2 or maybe 3 things that I decided to donate in a black garbage bag (that’s still sitting in my room, by the way). Soon, the big BBQ box was overflowing, and I moved on to filling smaller boxes.

So, what I ended up with is all my shit rearranged into way too many boxes. Looking at it I know that it’ll be absolutely impossible to cram all of that into a minivan, and that means I’m going to have to go back and seriously purge.

And so I did.

I started going through my clothes again, and again, and then one more time for good measure. I think that’s the secret to a deep clean–repeated purging. Each time I went through my shrinking wardrobe I was able to get rid of something new. Some of it was too small (leftovers from my tiny days) and some of it was just not my style anymore (I went through a Missy Elliot-influenced Adidas zip-up phase) and some of it I was holding on to for sentimental reasons… and it’s not practical to hang on to an orange chiffon skirt and pink cardigan from Primark (although, as I write this, I am re-thinking getting rid of the skirt. Hmm.) just because I bought them on my trip to Scotland in 2012.

By the end of it, I was sweating buckets and my back was screaming at me, but I’d collected 3 almost-overflowing black garbage bags of goods to donate. Shoes, outerwear, jeans, dresses, etc. You name it; I donated it. So, if you live in Edmonton and you’re in the market for a nude pair of patent leather, platform Maryjane pumps, or black and white floral-patterned chinos… there’s a good chance they are coming to a VV near you. 

As much as it was a really emotional process–I have a tendency to get attached to things–it felt really, really good to clean out my closet in a real way. And I mean, all of this stuff was just sitting in my closet, never getting worn by me… but now it can have a new life and actually get used by someone else.

house hunting

I’m in Victoria this weekend with my mum searching for a place to live (thanks mum!), and I am already blown away by the city that’s going to be my new home.

Everything is so lush here. And everybody is so nice. And the university is so big (that last one I’m a bit anxious about, but I’m working through it).

The campus is huge, and I mean huge, but my supervisor has reassured me that I’ll mostly be hanging out in the Fine Arts building, probably in my office (!!!!) or one of the other rooms dedicated to massaging those creative juices. After a quick visit with my supervisor where we talked about all the amazing classes I can take for almost-free (thanks to scholarships, grants, etc.–god bless my big brain), my mum and I wandered over to the University Centre to pick up my ID card and check out the “cafeteria”.

I haven’t been in many cafeterias in my lifetime, but I’ve definitely never been in one that looked or smelled like this. It’s massive and it’s beautiful and it had a selection of food places that made the sad Subway in MacEwan’s Building 6 look even sadder in comparison.  Like, is this a university or a resort? 

Judging from the Brown-eyed Susans and cattails we saw on the way to the bookstore (our next stop), perhaps a bit of both?

 

After walking, walking, and more walking around campus, we dragged our tired, hungry and maybe kind of grumpy (on my part, anyway) butts to get food at this little pasta place, aptly named The Lil Pasta Place. We enjoyed the most delicious pasta I’ve ever had, the freshest tasting calamari in the world (I’m convinced) and authentic, in-house-made tiramisu. Yeah, it was pretty tasty. But, it might have been trumped by the seaside fare we enjoyed for dinner–mussels and clams for me, a piece of deep-fried fish for my mum, followed by my favourite treat: ice-cream! All eaten dock-side–it doesn’t get much better than that.

 

 

 

Basically, it’s not going to be a hardship to live here… in some ways. I know that I’ll stick out like a sore thumb, and that I’ll go through a roller coaster of emotions when I move out here and have to go to school and meet new people and do new things and take care of myself completely, but, if those mussels are any indication, living almost ocean-side will be worth it.

 

 

As long as I can actually find a place to live.

 

Finding the ocean–no problem! Finding a place to live however…

 

reasons I’m scared to move: chapter 2

I like to think that I’ve got it pretty together, most of the time. And I do a decent enough job of taking care of myself and making it through most days relatively unscathed.

Until my car breaks down on the side of the highway and I’m stranded in Red Deer and I’m blocking holiday traffic, anyway.

I’ve always had the urge to be fiercely independent–probably because I’m shy and socially awkward and it’s just easier to do things solo. If you want something done right… well, you know. But there are certain things that I can’t do alone (tow my car, or replace its timing belt, for example) and when those things arise… I lose my mind. 

In situations where normal people would just, I don’t know, ask for help… my brain short circuits and instead of reaching out, I implode. And then I explode. And then I can’t recall what happens next because I’m probably in the throes of a panic attack.

Luckily, I’ve got a very understanding mother who has spent the last 26 years bringing me down to earth when I spiral out of control. And a dad who’s willing to shell out the money to pay to have my car repaired.

But what am I going to do when I’m 895 kilometres away? This past weekend sent me into a spiral of catastrophization–I was going to starve to death, fail out of school, lose my apartment, and just be overall incapable of taking care of myself when I lived away from home.

How can I take care of myself when I can barely take care of myself?

I don’t know and I’m terrified to find out.

I’m happy and I know it

I know that positive people are the worst because others’ happiness is just disgusting, but because I don’t give a fuck about all that I’ve decided to take a moment to reflect on how lucky I am.

I used to hate my life a lot. My BFF can attest to how much of an asshole I was–a pessimistic piece of shit who hated everything and everyone and mostly hated myself. I was probably depressed and I needed to change. I don’t know how I kept it up for so long to be honest; I spent the better part of 2009 being miserable and that carried into the following… 4, almost 5, years.

I was sad, self-destructive, mean, hateful, and just really unhappy. And I thought it was everybody else’s fault (naturally). That’s the thing about being seriously depressed–there’s always an excuse, and always a reason, and always a something to direct the blame away from numero uno and onto somebody (anybody) else. Depression is self-centred, it’s selfish, it’s a sickness. And as soon as I realized that, or, more aptly, as soon as my BFF told me I needed to get help or else, and I got help, and that led me to realize how sick I was  and how selfish I was and how miserable I was… I started the journey towards being better.

And it’s been a journey, and it’s going to be a long one. I know I still struggle with perfection, anxiety, and self-destruction–I have a tendency to catastrophize and get wound up and worry and explode emotionally. But, I’m aware of it and that helps. It also helps to have my BFF, my fucking rock, to lean on when things get shaky. And, because she’s across the country, I’m also fortunate to have a support network here that I can fall into (you know who you are, Peaches, et al). And not only do I have an emotional support network, somehow I fell into a pretty solid professional one, too (thank you university).

Isn’t that happiness just disgusting?

There’s this weird myth about being a writer, or any type of artist, that you have to be miserable to make art. And that’s such a lie–I mean, there’s value in reflecting on past misery. But real art doesn’t come from living that dissatisfaction. It comes from living through it.

summer of sarah: update

I unofficially declared this summer to be the summer of Sarah, and I did that because I wanted my last few months in Edmonton to be all about me. Selfish? Maybe. But it was something that I knew I needed after weeks and months and years of maneuvering my life around everybody else.

I thought that this would mean working out and eating well and writing lots, because those are all self-improve-y things that I know I need to work on. I wanted to become the best version of myself—making up for four long years of treating my body like trash in four short months.

That’s not happening. It started off well—I was running three times a week. I was working out every other day. I was buying groceries. But then something clicked—this wasn’t actually making my summer about me. This was putting my life into an (unfairly) extreme schema. I was spending more time improving myself (in between work and tutoring and fulfilling major human needs like sleeping) than actually enjoying myself. And doesn’t that completely negate the point of making this summer about me in the first place?

I think so.

So, I decided to refine my approach a little bit. And by refine, I mean now I’m just doing whatever I want. Anything. Anytime. With anyone.

And it’s awesome.

That means that sometimes I do work out. And sometimes I do buy groceries. And I get an average of 8 hours of sleep a night. But it also means I eat Oodle Noodle or Panda Hut Express more than I should. And I sometimes lay in bed binging seasons of Law and Order SVU for several days. And I go on impromptu road trips with my boyfriend where we spend too much money and eat too much food.

And I’m so fucking happy.

I have a little over 2 months left in my hometown before I head west and I want to make the best of it. I’ve done the time (4 years of university, a lifetime of being a doormat, et cetera) and now I’m going to do whatever I want.

father’s day

I took my dad to the grocery store a few weeks ago. He needed to pick up vegetables–a cucumber, and some red onion–for a big salad he was making.

“Rachel Ray says ‘Make it big!'” he told me on the way there, “That way there’s lots of leftovers.”

My memories of my dad are stretched across my youth, and adolescence, and early adulthood; each one a mile marker for one thing or another.

He worked night shifts at the Edmonton Journal when I was a kid. He’s a millwright/machinist, so his job, as I understood it, was to maintain the huge printing presses as they churned out the daily, overnight.

Every night when he left for work he’d pick me up and rub his stubbly cheek against my smooth one. Scratch scratch scratch.

He kissed my cheek when we rang in the Millennium as I watched the fireworks explode on our old Sony TV in the living room of the Old House. And I hugged him good night every night before bed until I was a teenager.

Summers are punctuated with evening swims, tinted pink by the setting sun, and fishing trips in his aluminum boat, where we lost lures and caught fish and let the B.C. sun bake our shoulders into the same golden tan.

On Father’s Day, I can’t help but think of this awful wooden craft I made for him in elementary school. It was a wooden moon attached to a wooden rectangle that we were allowed to paint and decorate in any way we chose.

I didn’t know when to say when with mine, and it ended up as this over-painted, over-decorated, over-everything monstrosity. But somewhere beneath the artfully splattered dark blue paint were the words “Happy Father’s Day”. And he left that on his bedside table for a long, long time.

Now, I never know what to get my dad as a gift because he has everything, and anything he doesn’t have he buys himself. Over the years I’ve gotten him stuff–fishing stuff, camping stuff, car stuff. I don’t know where any of that stuff is now–shoved in a Rubbermaid tote in the basement of the New House, or stored under a tarp at the trailer, maybe.

But the conversations, and the evening swims, and fishing trips, and the scratch scratch scratch of his scruffy beard, those are all left over.

body posi, part 2: dress shopping is hard

So, I went on the prowl for a dress to wear to a special occasion (I’m graduating!) that I have coming up. I spent the whole day at the mall, trekking from store to store in search of the perfect outfit to pair with my hot pink pumps and I ended up coming home empty-handed. Now, I know–that’s not a hardship. Not all shopping trips end successfully, (a. And, b), I’m just privileged to have the opportunity to go shopping in the first place.

I acknowledge my privilege and I have had unsuccessful shopping trips before. But, this time it was different.

It’s not that I couldn’t find anything, and it’s not that I wasn’t willing to try everything, it’s that nothing fit right. Six different stores, multiple different outfits, one single body that looked wrong in most dresses, and flat-out didn’t fit into some of them.

It was… upsetting.

The first place I hit was Aritzia: it’s where I go for most special outfits and I’ve always had pretty good luck finding stuff there (a quick glance at my closet confirms that I’ve had very good luck there). I browsed, I picked up every single pastel-coloured dress I could find (I have a certain colour scheme in mind), and I moseyed on over to the fitting room.

One dress pinched my armpit flab. The other clung to places it shouldn’t cling. Another fit well, but had a button-up top half that created some tension with my girls. I found a dress I didn’t hate, that fit me pretty good, but I decided that maybe I could do better for my big day.

So, I thought, I’ll try The Bay. It’s a department store; they literally have everything.

Everything except what I was looking for. Their selection of dresses ranged from strappy beach chic to Mother-of-the-Bride matron, and there wasn’t a whole lot in between (barring an Ivanka Trump dress that was cute, but not $110 cute). I didn’t even try anything on because I knew that those spaghetti straps and v-neck necklines wouldn’t be kind to my boobs, and I also knew I wanted to look, I don’t know, age-appropriate.

My next stop was Brandy Melville, for a literal second. I hit up Ricki’s, to no avail. Then I popped into Dynamite on a whim, based on a cute floral number I saw in the window. It was the perfect shade of pastel blue I was looking for, and it had a giant flower print that I thought would complement my vision. So, I grabbed the largest size and gave it a go.

It fit, kind of. And it looked alright. But once again it wasn’t the WOW I wanted. I hung it up and left it with the salesgirl, taking my big girl business elsewhere.

Forever 21 was on my way out of the mall, and even though the store is known for its vanity sizing, I thought “Why not?”. After all, how much more humiliated can a girl get?

So, I gave the bottom level a quick run-through, perusing for anything pastel. Nothing caught my eye, so I wandered upstairs to see what else they had to offer. Immediately, a maxi dress in their plus-size section drew my attention. It was beautiful, and although I’ve never shopped in that section before I decided to try it on.  I grabbed the smallest-big size and continued to browse. I would’ve grabbed some other things from the Big Girl section, if everything else didn’t look like total shapeless garbage. Instead, I found a trapeze style dress in the so-called regular section and headed to the change rooms.

After squeezing my tits and the rest of my bad self into the largest-small sized dress and quickly deciding that was a NO, I pulled the smallest-big sized dress over my head.

And I was swimming in fabric.

It was too big.

The other dress was too small.

And I was some sort of mystery size in between.

I’m not going to give up until I find my just-right, but I’m disappointed in my experiences today. Because it wasn’t just not being able to find a dress–it was realizing that my body shape, and type, and proportions limited my fashion choices. And trust me when I say the size of my waist has nothing to do with my sense of style, and the latent assumption that it does is offensive, and hurtful, and it made me feel like my body is wrong for about the billionth time in my life.

And all I was doing was looking for an outfit to make me feel special.