June 30

June 30

June 30 calendar

I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.

June 30 was my escape plan. Then, my bittersweet goodbye. It was the source of my anxiety and, the day I would have to make a hard choice. And lastly, it was the day that was chosen for me, given to me.

This day is my gateway. To what? I’m not so sure.

But it’s here. It’s finally here. And I am standing in the doorway squinting, looking forward, trying to see what’s on the other side.

Have you ever waited for one day so long?

I am not disappointed. I’m not dissatisfied.

I made it. I am here. I feel accomplished.

And finally this day that has been hanging over my head for the last year, will float past me like all the others.

This day that held my end and my beginning.

Here it is.

And here it goes.

In one hour and 21 minutes, it will be July. And where will I be?

 

 

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Timing Transformation

Timing Transformation

DSC_0714

Not too long ago, I got a letter in the mail from my 17-year-old self.

I wish I could tell you that my best friend has a time machine. Or maybe I just have special time-bending powers. But here’s the perfectly rational explanation: it was a letter that my high school teacher asked us to write, with the promise that she would mail it to us 10 years later. And although it hasn’t quite been 10 years, it was possibly the best thing I’ve ever found in my mail box.

The letter was sweet and full of hope, written in a time of such uncertainty. Where would I go to university? Who would I start dating? Where would I travel to?

Amidst all of the cliches and teenage angst, there was one line that resonated so wholly with me in my life right now:

“Remember everything you wanted to be, all the dreams you had, and make them come true.” 

Maybe it’s dumb, but it was just the right thing to hear in the middle of an existential crisis.

The last time I published something here, I was broken, weighed down by such a deep sadness I couldn’t shake off. I thought there was nothing left to break.

The struggle continued. I felt like my work and my identity were being tested. I felt the heat rush through my veins faster than adrenaline, anger like I haven’t felt in years.

But there was one last thing that needed to break. The weight that had been crushing me, holding everything back. It broke. And everything gushed through me like a strong current, brushing away all of the dirt and grime that was stuck to me, deep inside.

 

In my weakness, I remembered how to stand up. I ran. I raced. I found a little piece of myself I didn’t know I had.

And then I went home and helped my dad rip up the floors in my bedroom, lift furniture I didn’t think I had the strength to move, and began to see opportunity in places I never expected it to exist.

So maybe I will write more letters to my future self, as long as they keep showing up at just the right time.

 

 

 

 

Dripping

Dripping

Drip.

Something inside me rings hollow. For the last 2 months I’ve been thinking, a lot.

Drip.

But that thinking has led to nowhere, and to the same place again and again.

Drip. Drip.

I’ve been dreaming, a lot. But I always wake up and come to the realization that everything is different now.

Drip.

I’ve been wracking my brain for something to write about, besides the painfully obvious series of events that I know led to this whirlpool of depression.

Instead, I hear silence. Quiet. Maybe I choose to.

Drip.

Something inside of me has shut off. And I can’t find any comfort in spilling my guts on to a blank page. The flow is too heavy. The emotions too strong.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

There is so much to say. But this conversation always ends the same way: with my face wet, soaking in tears, sorrow hanging off me like a chandelier.

And I am so tired of the downpour.

I’ve boarded up the windows, locked the door, and settled myself in.

Now I wait for something to change. For time to push me past this moment into something new.

Drip.

But I keep leaking.

 

 

Flying home

Flying home

My grandmother's house

Since I was four years old, my family has been travelling to Argentina to visit family.

The trips I took to this distant foreign country made for great getaways but resonated little with me. I was always hiding in the shadow of my parents, wading through their murky memories of a place they once called home.

These were my aunts and uncles and cousins because my parents told me they were. I loved every trip, and liked hanging out with these strangers called family, but I never knew them.

So when it came time to visit again, I left Canada with a desire to engage more and make some memories of my own.

I remember one night going over for dinner at my uncle’s house. The meal was laid out, everyone gathered around the table, the tv as background noise as we cracked jokes and poked fun at each other. My cousins and I couldn’t believe the similarities between my dad and his brother.

I remember lying in the dark, staring up at the ceiling, talking to my cousin for hours late into the night. I had questions about Argentina, she had ones about Canada, we both hated bugs, and with her dog sleeping at my feet, she taught me to love animals. I never realized how much we had in common.

I remember walking around the neighbourhood with my aunts, buying dinner from the butcher shop, following up with the seamstress, and that one time I clumsily lost 100 pesos because it literally fell out of my pocket in the street. It was impossible to walk down around without greeting at least 5 different people my aunts knew.

These seemingly simple memories filled a place in my heart that I never knew was missing. Even though we live 8,953 km apart, with no guarantee as to when we’ll see each other again, this is my family. We are tied to each other and we will always be.

I remember when it came time to say goodbye. The closer it got to take off time, the bigger the knot in my stomach, the tighter the gulp in my throat. Until finally it was time to say goodbye and I just couldn’t keep it in. The tears flowed and flowed and flowed in ugly, snotty sobs.

And just when I thought I was being so ridiculous, I looked around the room and saw tears in everyone else’s eyes too. My uncles, grown men with tears in their eyes to see me go. My 83-year-old abuela keeping it strong, telling me, no llores hija, with tears in her own eyes.

One uncle sat at his usual place by the door. During my time in Argentina through the years, we barely spoke, and the little I’d learned about him was all about the struggles he’d faced with his family, his addiction to alcohol and his waning health. On this trip, I had seen how he faithfully took care of my immobile abuela, day-in and day-out.

As I walked out, I looked back into my uncle’s eyes to find that they were full of tears. I kissed him on the cheek, told him, cuidate, in my sobby Spanish, and pointed at the open sores on his legs, the latest of many ailments he refused to see a doctor about. It was all the advice I could muster for a stubborn uncle who didn’t follow anyone’s advice. He nodded in agreement.

That look broke my heart all the way to the airport.

Exactly two weeks after I left, he passed away. It was sudden and shocking and full of sadness. As we grieved, we found comfort in the grace we were given to see him one last time before he died. I can still hear the sound of his heavy footsteps, shuffling back and forth around the house.

And as I think back on my trip, I feel like that last look defined my time in Argentina. I was expecting to get to know my family, and found out that they already knew everything about me. They opened their doors and welcomed me like the niece, granddaughter, and cousin that I was. In this distant foreign country, I found home.

Since I’ve been back, I often find myself holding back tears thinking of my family there, most recently because of the loss of my uncle.

They are so far away. I am here. And what I wouldn’t give to have us all together.

Dance woman, dance

Dance woman, dance

Dance woman dance

I’m the worst at debates. I literally walk away from confrontation. But one day, I found myself in the middle of a discussion on sexism and I had a personal perspective to give.

Unfortunately, it quickly became obvious that the discussion wasn’t about learning at all, but about what dramatic remarks and sexist jokes would purposely inflame the other side.

And I was stuck between wanting to contribute with a meaningful comment, and being taken for a fool.

In all fairness, I don’t think this was anyone’s cruel intention. But I walked away wondering, just why did the discussion go sour?

Maybe issues like sexism make us feel uncomfortable. Maybe we don’t all agree on the same points. Or maybe we’re afraid that what we’re thinking in our heads will reveal us as horribly ignorant monsters.

All I wanted to do was share how I felt about the unfair portrayal of men and women in the media. I wanted to talk about how we grow up in a system that promotes impossible standards for the ideal man and woman, of which the latter have had to overcome an incredibly derisive impact.

I felt strong and confident in my perspective. And yet, I doubt anyone was listening to a word I said.

Instead, they noticed the passionate look in my eyes, heard the edge to my voice, saw the flush in my cheeks. And here’s one that will haunt me forever: the way I smacked one hand against another to emphasize my point.

They remembered the way I performed.

And that was what left me the most wounded of all.

In a discussion about sexism, one of the lasting elements was not the words I said, but the way that I said them.

I was just being wound up, so they could watch me dance.

I don’t know how to fight that, besides closing my mouth and keeping my head down. And for the last couple of weeks, I’ve wrestled with how to react when a touchy subject comes up in a room that can go from seriousness to laughter, based on how someone voices their opinion.

I’m still trying to figure this out. But here is what those closest to me have said as I struggled through this.

If I ever feel I would be better off just keeping my mouth shut, the problem is with the people in the room, and not me.

And if this is an issue that I’m very passionate about, no one should be able to take that away from me.

I’m still working on believing these things for myself.

Ugly Days

Ugly Days

Ugly Days

Just because I never wear makeup doesn’t mean I don’t like to collect it. Especially if it’s free. So, when a couple of my coworkers heard we could pick up some free lipstick from a product booth set up across the street, I couldn’t resist tagging along.

We waited patiently in line, we graciously gave them all our personal information, we sat through the product demo and finally…the free lipstick. I had it in my hands. All I had to do was step right up to the mirror and try it on…completely unaware of the slaughter-ing I was in for.

I looked into the mirror and was completely taken aback by what I saw.

Have my eyebrows looked like this all week?

Why is my skin so pale?

Do I really have this huge shadow on my upper lip?

I looked awful. And I felt even worse. I saw every flaw that existed on my face and it was horrible. Repulsed by my own image, I turned away, only to face a tall and slender employee. Her long curls perfectly coiffed, her face flawless.

“Oh, you didn’t put the lipstick on?” She asked me.

“No, I don’t really feel like it.” She hesitated while her eyes poured over what I imagine was my ghastly-looking face.

“C’mon, it’s Friday night,” she smirked. I laughed nervously because obviously I needed some ruby red lipstick to distract from my bushy eyebrows.

So what’s the deal? In my life, I’ve been very purposeful in the beauty choices I make. I don’t really wear makeup and I’m fine with that (You can read more about my relationship with makeup here). Sure, we all have our “ugly” days. I usually try to fix mine with makeup (which usually ends with the crushing realization that I don’t know how to put it on). But I have always resolved to tell myself that no matter what I do, I have to love my face (and body) for the way it is. No amount of makeup or hairstyling or fashion-fussing will be enough to “fix” me if I’m not content with who I am at my most organic state.

And yet when I looked into that mirror, I instantly lost all belief in my natural beauty.

Here I was, standing in this product booth, surrounded by beautiful women…and I just couldn’t help but feel inadequate. The reflection I saw was so different from the perception that I’ve built up of myself. The shock broke me. And I turned away completely embarrassed of the person I saw.

My beliefs about self-image have taken a long time to form. And despite feeling so confident in my ideals, they didn’t hold up as a defense when my feelings came crashing in. All of the negative ideas I’ve collected over the years, the ones I thought I was done with, resurfaced in one moment of vulnerability. Building a positive body image and beauty ideal is an ongoing process, especially in a world that is constantly reminding me that I’m subpar.

I could’ve walked away that night, depressed and dejected because of what I saw. I spent the commute home catching glimpses of myself in every reflective surface I passed. Very narcissistic, I know. With each of those reflections, I saw again and again that I looked normal. There was nothing incredibly hideous about me. So, instead of feeling depressed, I chose to believe in what was the most common image, which also happens to be the one I’m used to.

My face is my face. One bad mirror, or negative criticism for that matter, isn’t going to change that. And I like to think that it’s because I try to appreciate my features for what they are, it’s a lot easier to love them through the ugly days too.

Besides, I’m pretty sure that mirror was lit by the devil.

What do you do with your ugly days? 

The Gift of Being

The Gift of Being

On the train from Winnipeg to Toronto
On the train from Winnipeg to Toronto

“Me” time. I’ve never understood the concept. I found it to be a little obnoxious if even. Why do I need to take time for myself? As if I’m not constantly making decisions that benefit me.

But this last month has been full of reflection. And I think I might finally understand the concept of taking time for yourself, although I’d probably call it something else.

Generally speaking, the motto for my life has been: be a better human being. And you can imagine how quickly someone might fail at this quest. Every day I hadn’t accomplished something to save the world, advance my future or change a life, was a day that hadn’t lived up to my enormous expectations.

And in that deep and ambitious search for purpose, (because that’s really what I’ve been trying to find) I found myself not only constantly physically and emotionally exhausted, but deeply guilt-ridden when I felt like I’d wasted my time.

But here’s the thing: If I’m going to beat myself up for every time I watch a movie on Netflix instead of figuring out how to become a better human being, I lose part of my humanity in the process. I lose out on one of the most valuable gifts we have as humans, the gift of just being.

In this last month, I took plenty of time to just enjoy this gift. I took a 36-hour train ride solo from Winnipeg to Toronto (a “waste of time” I could’ve easily avoided by taking a plane). I stretched my musical muscles and released my inner gamer geek. I watched tv shows and movies. I went biking and worked muscles I didn’t know even know existed. I started sewing and painting again. All things I’ve been meaning to do for a while. But I just couldn’t give myself the time. I couldn’t see how any of these activities would add up to something meaningful, something I could use.

But most importantly, I learned to write again. And I think that’s what really did the trick. Writing has played such a huge role in helping me process life. Every time I’ve put a pen to paper, I’ve come out with a strong sense of self and understanding of the world than I had before.

So here’s to allowing yourself to just be. And in that process, becoming a better human being.