The Oilers and the Playoffs and Me

Very few people seem to care about hockey on the West Coast. It’s not like at home where hockey is a lifestyle, woven in to the Edmonton identity alongside cold weather and seasonal road construction. In Edmonton, you see people wearing hockey jerseys year round. I’ve seen people transporting hockey gear on public transit and I mean even I’ve shot a puck at a net before (I’m the athletic equivalent of a pylon). Hockey is important.

Things are different on the island though. People here like baseball and soccer and recycling. I’m sure there are fair-weather Canucks fans who’d jump on the bandwagon if that team ever gets good again, and Victoria does have a WHL team that made the playoffs this year (Go Royals!), but still, nobody seems very excited about the ol’ game of stick-puck. So when the Oilers made it to the post-season this year and I was really excited about it, that excitement fell on mostly-deaf ears.

It was weird.

I’m used to hockey being a point of conversation. You know? Kind of like the weather. Even if everyone isn’t watching the games everyone usually has an idea of how the team’s doing. It’s plastered all over the city in different ways by different people. Edmonton loves the Oilers. Like, really loves them (even when we hate them, we still love them). I don’t know if there’s a group of fans who loves their team more than Edmonton’s fans love the Oilers. Even at the ugliest points in the club’s history, the arena was selling out. Heck, during this year’s playoff run the arena was selling out when the team was playing AWAY games. Like I said, hockey is important.

I’m sad that I couldn’t be home to experience this playoff run firsthand, but luckily for me this time around Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat exist so I was able to experience it all vicariously. And I cried, oh how I cried, at each post and tweet and short video. They were tears of longing and joy. It made me miss my city. It made me miss belonging and being a part of something larger than just myself sitting in my den drinking too much and shouting at the Sportsnet panel. So, I booked a flight home for June. I couldn’t get away sooner than that and I had faith that my team would go all the way. Because I always think they’re going to win, every game. And sometimes I’m right and sometimes I’m wrong, but regardless I believe it every single time they play. I was wrong last Wednesday when the Oilers dropped Game 7 to the Anaheim Ducks, 2-1. And it bummed me out, I’m not going to lie. I didn’t want this season to end–I don’t think any Oilers’ fan did.

I know you might be thinking that it’s just a game, it’s just hockey. And you’re right–it is a game, and it is hockey. But it became more than that to me. It’s been almost nine months since I moved to Victoria and it’s been a hard nine months. I’ve had to make all new friends and learn how to function alone and get used to a brand new city. These are all exciting things but they’re terrifying things too. Sometimes it was all too much to handle and I really missed home and I was sad and I was lonely and I just needed that feeling of belonging. And in those moments I could turn to hockey. I could turn on Sportsnet. Or I could listen to 630CHED online. Or I could turn to Twitter and read tweets from the Edmonton Oilers and the fans. I sometimes would just watch the video–you know the video? The one that they play before the games on the jumbotron? Yeah, that one. I’d just watch it and cry because I missed home so much. Hockey made me feel like I was still connected to my hometown and the people in it.

So, last Wednesday, when that final horn honked and the game was over, I was sad. I was selfishly sad. Because the thing is, watching the playoffs was the most fun I’d had watching hockey in a long time. And the Oilers had a great season. And it was refreshing to watch meaningful hockey again. But I didn’t want it to end before I made it home in June. Because I wasn’t ready to let go of hockey… because it felt like letting go of home.

I also just really, really, really wanted us to beat the Ducks and wipe that smirk off Getzlaf’s face. But hey, there’s always next year!

I feel better about it now–it still stings a bit, but the pain has mostly faded. And I still have my trip home to look forward to in June and I’ve realized that even if there won’t be hockey to watch, there will still be plenty of people talking about the Oilers online and that might be just enough to fill the void. At least, it’ll hold me over ’til the pre-season.

I might not have hockey to plan my life around anymore, but I’m glad that the Oilers let me hold on to hockey for a little bit longer at a time when I needed hockey the most.

 

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.

 

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…

 

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.

summer reading list

So, last summer I had the pleasure of working for LitFest: Edmonton’s Nonfiction Festival and it was actually the best job ever. Not only did I get to work with an amazing woman (the executive director has next-level organizational skills, is one of the smartest women I’ve had the pleasure of breathing the same air as, and is just so cool) but I read so many books. So many. And it was awesome.

This summer I’m not working for LitFest (such a bummer), but I decided that it was no reason to let my summer reading slip. So, I decided to make my own list.

Here’s my list of hot summer reads or mostly just books I bought and I hope I can finally read this summer. Wait, before I begin, I thought that it would be fun to tell you why I wanted to read these particular books instead of just making a boring list.

But then I thought, maybe nobody cares?

But then I decided to do it anyway. So, enjoy!

Angela’s Ashes – Frank McCourt

Apparently this memoir is essential reading for, well, everybody.

Pathologies – Susan Olding

My supervisor recommended this book because it might help me form my thesis project.

The Year of Magical Thinking Joan Didion

Because Joan Didion wrote it.

Us Conductors – Sean Michaels

I bought this because it won the Giller Prize a couple years ago and now maybe I’ll actually make the time to read it. (I didn’t read it initially because I met Sean Michaels once last year and embarrassed myself horribly by making a joke that wasn’t funny and this book has sat in my room as a reminder of that. But now I’m finally ready to face that embarrassment once and for all).

Into Thin AirJon Krakauer

I’m obsessed with disasters.

Girl, Interrupted – Susanna Kaysen

I watched the movie and I just want to see how much of it was actually true.

even this page is white – Vivek Shraya

Vivek Shraya is a hometown hero, and I’ve never really read much poetry, so I figured I could kill two birds with one book: read some poetry and read some local talent.

I am Malala – Christina Lamb and Malala Yousafzai & Secret Sister – Helen Edwards & Jenny Lee Smith

I grouped these books together because the reason I’m reading them is essentially the same: they were both very thoughtful Christmas gifts from my family that I haven’t had the opportunity to read–yet.

Not That Kind of Girl – Lena Dunham

I kind of just want to see what all the fuss is about.

40 Below (1 and 2) – Edited by Jason Lee Norman

Edited by another hometown hero and including works from many more hometown heroes, I figured it was about time I support local writers and read these two anthologies.

The DilettantesMichael Hingston

During a talk in my last semester of university this local writer successfully piqued my interest about his novel.

The Horrors – Charles Demers

This book is a hangover from last year’s LitFest reading.

Blackout: The Things I Drank to ForgetSarah Hepola

I have heard great things and I can’t resist reading another Sarah’s work.

There you have it folks—an unabridged version of my summer reading hopefuls.

It might be a little ambitious considering I’m addicted to Netflix (and I’m lazy), but I’m feelin’ enthusiastic. If y’all want to read along with me, that’d be cool! Keep me posted on what you read, what you like, what you hate, et cetera. I’d love to hear it!

the blues.

I’ve been feelin’ a bit blue lately. I woke up one morning and it felt like I’d forgotten who I was. Not in an amnesia-like way, but in an existential crisis-like way. It was as if my entire personality was wiped clean overnight. Like my favourite things, my interests, my accomplishments were just erased. I felt blank. Naked.

Boring.

I spent that whole day convinced that I was the most boring human alive, that everybody hated me, that I was an unsuccessful sack of trash who was going nowhere and doing nothing.

(I’m an expert in the art of self-deprecation).

By the end of that day, I’d convinced myself that I was a disgusting, stupid, worthless, unsuccessful human being. I was the worst kind of person and I deserved every second of emotional pain I was inflicting on myself.

It’s scary to think about how powerful my own mind can be… but it reminded me of the need for a mental health check. I’m an emotional person (sometimes to a fault) and it’s easy for me to get lost up in my own head. I can create whole scenarios and convince myself they’re real before I even get out of bed in the morning. It’s worse when I’m stressed out, and it’s worse when I’m sad. And it’s worse when I refuse to be aware of it, too.

Patience is key. It’s important to realize that everything takes time, and I know that usually the biggest source of my depression and anxiety is not measuring up to these imaginary standards I impose on myself. I keep raising the bar–which is good–but I also have a tendency to forget about the goals that I’ve already met. I keep my eye on the prize (constantly) but I keep changing the rules of the game. Being goal-oriented is important. Looking to the future is crucial to success. But the self-deprecation that seems to go hand-in-hand with it is not.

I’m a perfectionist, and, although cliche, that’s what breaks me. The self-imposed pressure to be the best I can be prevents me from being the best that I can be.

I need to learn to take a step back, crawl out of my own head, and just appreciate myself–have faith in my own abilities. I’ll get there when I get there, and I know I will get there.

It’s scary to think about how powerful my mind can be, but it’s exciting, too.

 

Suicidal Thoughts

Suicide is a sin. That’s what I learned in Sunday School. Sitting on a floral patterned couch that looked like it belonged in a church basement, along with 6 other kids–teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17–we talked about the Bible. We’d pass around copies of the good book and we’d go ’round the room reading a passage each until we reached the end of whatever scripture was to lead the discussion that day.

We would talk about sin, and Heaven, and Hell, and God (of course). We’d talk about what it mean to be a good Christian. And then we’d pray. It was the same every Sunday and I hated it.

“Is suicide a sin?” Mrs. Paterson asked the group. It was a free-for-all, with everybody pitching in their answers. I guess according to the Bible, it is a sin. But the Bible is a story, open to interpretation, and maybe Christians have been getting it wrong all these years.

“Do you think someone who commits suicide goes to heaven?” Sinners go to Hell. Everybody knew that.

I was a socially anxious, self-conscious teenage girl then and I hardly ever spoke up. But that day for some reason I needed to make my voice heard.

“I hope they go to heaven,” I said. “Because they’ve probably been going through Hell on earth.”

My mum had a cousin who killed herself. Steph. I never knew her; I was too young when she died. So my memories of her are filtered through my mum, attached to a faded snapshot that stuck to the side of the fridge for as long as I can remember. A young girl in a yellow soccer jersey, with thick framed glasses and blunt bangs. She was 16 when she hung herself in her dad’s garage. I was 11 the first time my mum told me about her.

“I always bring Steph yellow roses,” we were visiting her grave on a family trip to Lethbridge.

“Who’s Steph?” I asked her.

“She was my cousin,” my mum looked out the car window at the gravesites passing by.

“How did she die?” I was too curious to be tactful.

My mum paused, “A car accident.” Her voice was stilted, false, lying. It was guilty. It wasn’t until 4 or 5 years later that I got the real story. My dad told me one night. A couple of weeks before she did it, Steph asked to come up and visit us. She’d always wanted to live with my mum, and she promised she wouldn’t eat too much and that she’d wear my older sister’s hand-me-downs. But she’d tried to take her own life and been put on suicide watch–not allowed to travel.

Not too long after that, she was gone.

Even talking about it now, my mum gets choked up. “It doesn’t ever stop hurting,” she says as she cuts the leaves off a bunch of radishes. “I think you just learn to deal with it.” Slice, slice, slice. She moves the knife through the crisp stems, focusing extra hard on the bottom of the kitchen sink. “I’ll always wonder if there’s something I could’ve done.”

I try to comfort her, but I never know the right thing to say.

“There’s nothing you could’ve done, mum,” I say. Maybe there is no right thing.

A man my brothers and Dad knew took his own life this past Friday. I don’t know why. But I don’t need to. I hardly knew Billy, but I know the struggle of mental health and I know how hellish this life can be. He is survived by his wife and three boys, and remembered fondly by all who knew him.

May he rest in peace.

_______________________________________________________

Billy unfortunately did not have life insurance and his family is facing not only overwhelming grief, but financial stress as well. Any donations to cover funeral costs and future expenses are being welcomed here.

 

Untitled

151000-ish kilometers—306 since my last fill. A quarter tank of gas. An engine light that flicks on and off of its own accord, a pattern that I quit trying to figure out a long time ago. There’s trash everywhere. An empty bag of chips rides shotgun, along side a box stuffed full of ice cream bar wrappers, an expired prescription, and the receipt from my last oil change—one that was at least 4000 clicks overdue. There’s a half-eaten pizza sitting in the backseat, sharing space with textbooks, shoes, and a Ouija board I’m afraid to toss out. A 12 pack of now-slushy Stella rests illegally behind the passenger seat. An almost empty bottle of windshield washer fluid is tipped over in my trunk, leaking all over the booster cables I don’t even know how to use.

A thick layer of dust crusts the dash, some of it puffing up as I depress the clutch, turn the key, and force her engine to life. It revs and grinds, a noise I know isn’t quite right. I peer through the windshield, above the crack that stretches across its length and around the frost I’m too lazy to scrape off. Exhaust billows up and around me, the gun metal gray cloud building up and breaking apart into hundreds, then thousands, then millions of polluted particles. I turn the heated seats up all the way—level 5. Even though sometimes the highest setting is lukewarm, and the middle setting is bum-burning, and sometimes her seats don’t even heat up at all, probably a silent protest against the cold, the morning, my irresponsibility as a car owner. I sit. I wait. Watching my breath condense as I breathe in and out, in and out, turning the still air into white clouds. My breathing falls into rhythm with the rear wipers, the bare plastic scraping against the window pushing melted frost around and leaving behind more than it takes away. A sluggish chunk of snow slides down before being knocked aside by the wayward wiper and I decide that means it’s time to go.

I slam into first, feathering on the clutch as I try to pull away from the curb realizing too late that my e-brake is still engaged. I release it and shoot out into the street, sliding a little before her winter tires find their grip on the thin layer of ice that crusts all of Edmonton’s residential streets. We stop and start our way out of my neighbourhood, stuttering through the four-way stop and then stalling in the middle of a major intersection. Her body slams to a stop—engine off, battery light on. The chassis feels lower to the ground, like she’s relaxed into a sleep. I depress the clutch, turn the key, and she wakes up with a rev and grind.

February 14.

Valentine’s Day is a stupid holiday.

What’s my biggest beef with this heart-shaped day? The anti-valentine’s-single-girl trope. The whole Valentine’s night-in (or out), with wine, The Notebook, ice-cream, crying, and/or casual sex (not necessarily in that order).  And I get it. I’ve played this role–I’ve been this girl. It’s trendy right now to be a sad, sarcastic, single lady–sobbing not included.

And it’s funny–in fiction. It’s even funny in nonfiction, too. When the archetypal single girl is a device being deployed for a very specific reason (whatever that reason may be) it works. It’s cool. And I like it–I’m very excited to see Rebel Wilson tear it up onscreen in How to Be Single–but I think it sells women short (as most tropes do).

Because it’s not funny or cool or useful when it’s real life.

In real life it’s offensive, and unhealthy, and kind of sad.

I say this because I know, firsthand, when you take a small part of your identity and turn it into your entire self, you’re always going to sell yourself short. Humans are dynamic (we’re supposed to be complicated) and filtering your personality into a tiny, ironic shred is just wrong. And when you find yourself living life like it’s a movie, and having conversations like they’re a script… that’s when you know you’re not living life as a person anymore–you’re living life as a character.

And trust me when I say life is way more fun to live as yourself.

So, single ladies: eat ice cream. Drink wine. Watch The Notebook and cry. Sleep with whoever you want–I don’t care. But do it because it’s who you are not because that’s who you think you should be.

 

Look Ma, I’m a real writer! 

A few months ago I landed my first official freelance gig: churning out service articles for everybody’s favourite phonebook.

And it has been awesome.

I feel fortunate to work with a great editor, who loves me (and by me, I mean, my words because we haven’t had the chance to meet in person–yet) and it’s been cool to see the things I write go public (depositing the cheques haven’t felt too bad, either). It’s also pushed me to experience my city in a way I might not have otherwise–I’m a firm believer that in order to write about something, you’ve got to live that something as authentically as possible. There’s just certain things the Internet can’t help you with–the woody scent of a handcrafted cocktail, or the pale pink chipped counter tops of Edmonton’s oldest family-run diner, for example.

The way I look at it, I’m basically getting paid to live my life–which is really what being a writer is all about, isn’t it?

Check out my work for the Yellow Pages here.