life lately.

I don’t really have time to be doing this, but I figured if I’m going to procrastinate I might as well procrastinate in a  backwards, kind of productive way.

I’ve officially lived in Victoria now for over two months. Which is insane to me because it feels like I’ve been here for 2 minutes but at the same time like I’ve been here for 2 years. So I have no idea what’s going on, is what I’m saying. And that’s par for the course, from what I understand now of going to graduate school.

Days mean nothing to me. They are just blocks of time to do work (or not do work, as I’m doing now). And they are going by entirely too fast for this girl to get all her work done! Probably because I’m lazing around watching reruns on Showcase, but that’s beside the point.

I guess if you want to know what’s going on with my life, I can give you the quick and dirty on that. I have made a couple of friends here, and one really good friend (who I am eternally thankful for). I’ve had one crappy workshop, and one good workshop, and I’m coming up to my first graduate workshop this week. I’m writing some good things and some garbage things, but I’m writing and I’m thankful for that.

I rode my bike to school last week which was an experience that was equal parts exhilarating and exhausting. And also terrifying. Victoria is maybe not known for its hills or its drivers, but neither are conducive to a happy cycling experience for a newbie. My thighs were burning like nothing else I’ve ever experienced, and my back is still sore for some reason, and I almost swerved into a bus. But I’m glad I got out there (mostly because I had to get out there to get to class almost on time). It also broke up the monotony of taking the bus and let me see my new city in a new way. So, although painful and dangerous, it was worthwhile on multiple levels.

I haven’t yet completely ran out of food or money, which is further than I thought I’d get living alone. And I’ve actually started experimenting in the kitchen a little bit with herbs and spices and zucchini. It’s been good. And tasty (usually).

I’m enjoying it out here, and I know how lucky I am to be here, but I have been battling the blues a bit. It’s stressful, university, and it’s hard when you’re dealing with it on your own. Completely. I miss the comfort of a house filled with people at the end of a long day. I miss running into friends in the hallways of school. Most of all, I miss being understood. It takes a long time for people to get to know me–I have a hard time letting people in. I don’t know how to, really. It makes some days lonely. Other days, it’s awesome because I’m an introvert who needs her alone time. But sometimes, on a Friday night, I miss having someone I can call up and head to Denny’s for late night-early morning pancakes.

Now, the oddest thing about all this is that even if I did have those people here, I wouldn’t be able to do those things because I’m so damn busy. I’m sad but I’m too busy to fully realize my sadness, so I just keep bumbling along, getting projects done and talking to the other humans and putting my stretchy pants on one leg at a time. It’s almost like I’m stressed out and depressed but because I can’t intellectually deal with it, I just don’t. It’s obvious something is going on because my cuticles are shredded and my fingers are bloody nubs, but because I just need to keep going… I do.

The point of all this is that I’m fine, but I’m not fine some days too. It doesn’t mean I want a swarm of messages sent my way–I honestly don’t have time for that (and if you’re going to send anything, let’s be honest, send money) and it would just make me feel worse knowing I can’t respond. But I just needed to get this out, I guess.

Things are good on the West Coast. I’m good, and I love it here. But I don’t love it here all the time. And that’s normal. I think. Who loves everything all the time? Liars, that’s who. And, as my dad would often say, “You can trust a thief but you can never trust a liar.”

And so, that’s what’s new with me! What’s new with you?

the writer is (kind of) present

Hi all, sorry for my absence as of late–I’ve just been really, really fucking busy. Who knew that grad school would be so intense? I mean, I didn’t think it would be a walk in the park by any means… But I never would’ve guessed that three courses would take over my schedule this way.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and a little bit of writing (not nearly enough, but we’re getting there), and I’ve also been continuing to acclimate to the West Coast (I’m still permanently sweaty and I have no idea what season it is). Things are going well-ish. I have my good days where I feel like I belong, and this my new home, and I’m going to do so many great things as a writer. But then I have my bad days where I don’t want to leave my house, and I miss my friends/family, and I don’t know how I’m ever going to be successful at anything.

It’s a process. And it’s not easy. I think I should assert how happy I am to be here–I mean, this is something I’d dreamed of as an 8 year old. I pinch myself on the daily because a huge part of me is worried that this is all an elaborate dream and I’ll wake up to a life where I’ve forgotten my entire vocabulary and no longer know how to write cursive. But the absolute joy of getting into this program does not negate the self-doubt. It almost encourages me to put more pressure on myself (as if I don’t already put enough).

And I want to make my people proud.

I have so many people rooting for me–my family and friends back in Edmonton, my BFF in Toronto, my family overseas in Scotland. And I don’t want to let y’all down.

I’m so lucky to have such a widespread net of support. I know even if I fall, someone will be there to pick me up. I’m honestly not sure what I ever did to deserve such a rockstar support group, but I’m really glad I did it. I never would’ve made it this far without you (and you all, I’m sure, know who you are).

I’m busy, but I’m blessed.

So, I will continue to plug away at my reading, writing, and life skills here in Victoria, but I might not be around on here as much. I hope you don’t take that personally, it’s just, in a world where school is taking over my life… something’s gotta give.

not-so-alone in victoria

School has finally started and I was able to have meaningful interactions with other humans. It made me feel like I belonged somewhere–like I wasn’t floating around in-between two spaces, but that this place where I am… I actually am. 

You don’t realize how much you define your own existence based on reinforcement from others until there are no others. We mark our place in this world with landmarks, and when it comes to personal being… those landmarks are other living things. Other than a possibly stray cat and the lovely man who set me up with a brand new MacBook (if you’re in Victoria and your MacBook completely dies, make sure to look up Byte Computers because they are the best in the business), I haven’t had a real, face-to-face conversation with someone in so long. So, I was very happy to walk into a classroom of 45+ students and dish about writing for 3-ish hours, and then walk into another classroom and dish again with a smaller group. Grad school is the best. I mean, stressful. But so cool.

I mean, did I feel a little out of my depth? Of course. I had no idea where I was going all of the time. Everything that happened reminded me of how insecure, nervous, and permanently anxious I am. But, I persevered–I made it through the day mostly unscathed (although very, very sweaty) and I think I even made a friend (I say think because I usually assume everybody hates me until I have concrete evidence otherwise). He’s in my cohort, and he’s from Edmonton, too! Who knew our prairie city was so full of talent? Well, I mean, I know that obviously, but it’s nice to have it recognized times 2, am I right? And then I even made it through the first week without any major incidents (I did neglect to adhere to social standards and email someone in my cohort back… but I swear I’m going to make it up to him).

Now that I’ve met my talented cohort, I’ve moved on to the actual writing component of a writing program. And I’m terrified. Writing should be the one thing in this whole process I feel most comfortable doing–it’s the only thing I’ve actually done before. But I can’t seem to make the words come. I try, and then I quit. And I try, and then I quit again, and tell myself I’ll try again tomorrow… maybe tomorrow the words will be ready to flow. But tomorrow comes, and tomorrow goes, and I’m left with a mostly-blank word document and half-formed ideas. What if the words never come again?

I know, I know. Shitty first drafts. Write to the end of my headlights. Take things bird by bird. I’m frustrated because I want to make sure that I prove myself. I need the validation that I actually belong here… and I don’t think I’ll get that validation with a crappy draft.

So, the good news is, I have friends now! The bad news is, I’m afraid they won’t be my friends for long.

 

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.