Balancing Act

I have got an absolute fuck-load of stuff going on in my life right now, and unfortunately it’s been getting in the way of my beloved blogging time. I only managed to write one post during February. One paltry post! That is unacceptable. If it weren’t for a couple of timely re-blogs, my blog might have slipped into a coma altogether and I’d be having a very difficult discussion with its doctor on the pros/cons of pulling the plug. But I’m still here, and I’m still trying to have it all.

It’s hard though, you know? I’m consumed by work, clocking around 50 hours on a good week, that is, when my workload isn’t paralyzing. I’m trying to plan my dream wedding, but keep getting thwarted by craziness and heartbreak. I just got some devastating news yesterday that derailed my whole weekend, and I spent all of Saturday night sobbing instead of relaxing, which I clearly need more of. I’m trying to maintain a semblance of a social life. I just renewed my dusty old gym membership so I can get all svelte and stunning in the hope that I don’t look like a sack of oranges for sale on the side of the freeway while wearing my wedding dress. And I’m trying to save some of my time for D, too. So he doesn’t feel like he’s getting hitched to the invisible woman. I gotta save some of my time for blogging, but at this point it’s cutting into the few hours I have left, hours that should be saved for sleep. But that doesn’t seem to matter anyways, because I just wind up spending a third of the allotted sleeping hours laying awake and thinking about all of this shit.

Deep breaths, girl. You’re starting to get carried away. That’s better.

To be fair though, I did waste an exorbitant amount of free time watching all of Parks and Recreation on Netflix because another part of the problem is that work is so draining right now that it’s difficult for me to do more than stare at the TV and drool when I get home. My brain is so overloaded, it might implode.

Even though I wasn’t able to post much last month, there were some bright spots to be had. I may seem a tad ranty and distraught now, but I did manage to find some fun and count a few blessings.

I got to catch up with my homies for a good, old-fashioned bust up at the local bar. We tried to go to two other bars first though, before we were finally let into The Rose and Crown. The first place we tried to go, we were rejected by the bouncer because “there’s too many jeans”. That is exactly how he put it.  Apparently, we’re all out of the sartorial loop. Screw that guy though, you’re supposed to wear jeans to the bar. He’s clearly an idiot on a power trip.

My drinking buddies

My drinking buddies

That’s not a very good picture of us, but this one of my buddy Clark bumping into the disco ball because he is ridiculously tall is pretty great.

disco ball

Disco Party Clark

I slipped and fell drunkenly in the street on the walk home, though. I ripped my new dress and messed up my foot something awful. Pulled some bullshit little ligament that I didn’t even know existed. But sometimes, you’ve just gotta get drunk and fall down. As long as you don’t go to sleep in the street, it’s all good.

Valentine’s Day was pretty great, too. I usually don’t care for it, but I think D recognized an opportunity for us to just forget everything for a couple of hours and spend some time together. He surprised me with roses when I got home from work, which never fails to impress me. Harvey was also impressed.

My other Valentine

My other Valentine

We had an incredible dinner at this Thai place in our neighbourhood. I felt special and loved. D is a marvel and I’m a lucky girl. Even though he just came in and interrupted my writing to tell me that we only have two packets of instant gravy and they are both mis-matched, one brown and one chicken, which for some reason sparked a bout of snippy bickering. But I digress.

I also ate the gooiest, most outrageously cheesy sandwich of all time. Another resounding pizza grilled-cheese success!

Another one for the history books.

Another one for the history books.

We’ve switched breads in our household. We’re now eating a kind called “Ancient Grains” instead of that bleached atrocity that I used to love, white as the driven snow Wonderbread. It wasn’t as cataclysmic a change as I had anticipated. The ancient grains bread is actually quite delicious.

My friend The Magpie had a baby. She’s away from work on her maternity leave, which sucks. But she’s living her dreams, so that totally outweighs any of the sucking. I can’t wait to meet her new little friend, although in a weird way, I feel like I already know her. I spent the bulk of The Magpie’s pregnancy calling her bump Scooter and encouraging her to stay in there a while longer.

So even though I haven’t had much time for blogging, I’m still out there trying to wedge awesome things into my hectic life wherever they will fit. No matter how insane it all feels at times, I haven’t been completely stripped of my positivity.

Everything does feel like such a disaster right now, yes. But these are all things that I wanted, I asked for this. Well, with the exception of the unstoppable flood of sobs that started yesterday and seem to have no end, obviously. But anyways… I guess I’m just going to have to find some balance. Is that why people do yoga? Seems like a lot of useless rolling around on the floor in spandex to me, but maybe I’m not looking at from the right angle.

All I know is that right now I have a whole bunch of feelings that I need to go and eat. Good or bad, it doesn’t matter, I’ll eat them. All feelings are ripe for the gobbling right now. So it’s a good thing I was able to spare 15 minutes of my time today for my good friend, Pillsbury.

Red velvet white chocolate chip cookies, I need you now more than ever.

Red velvet white chocolate chip cookies, I need you now more than ever.

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Another Year of Awesome!

Happy 2nd Birthday to my beloved blog, Smashing Through Life!

It's a snake in a party fez!

It’s a snake in a party fez!

First off, welcome back Vincent the Viper, who proudly celebrated last year’s blog birthday with me while wearing a more traditional party hat. This year, Vincent is sporting a decidedly flamboyant party fez instead and I think he looks fabulous. During more lackadaisical times, my friend The Magpie and I entertained the notion of starting a business manufacturing and selling one-of-a-kind hats for fake snakes, but then real life got a lot more interesting in a hurry and we’ve since shelved that idea for the time being. Maybe we’ll come back to it again, when we’ve got some decent seed money pulled together. But anyways, that’s not what we’re here for today.

IT’S MY BLOG BIRTHDAY AND I’M REALLY FUCKING EXCITED ABOUT IT!

That’s why we’re here. Keep yourself on point, girl.

A lot can happen in a year, and I’m not saying that to be cliché. A lot really did happen to me in this past year. Some good, some bad, and some ugly too. I made some stunning 3-pointers, but I also spent a lot of time warming the bench, too. I genuinely enjoy looking back over a specific period of time and reflecting on the things that have happened in my life. It’s good for me, and it motivates me to keep reaching ever higher. I believe that my personal and professional development should never reach a plateau; I won’t let that happen. Not while I’m at the helm. If I’m learning and challenging myself on a consistent basis, then I’m growing and becoming a better me all the time. There is always room for improvement, and I’ve got an insatiable hunger for more. I’m always so eager to keep forging ahead, so it helps to look back once in a while. I need to make sure that I’m cutting the right path. That I’m living the life I’ve always wanted.

This blog’s mission, initially, was to act as an outlet for my frustrations and disappointments. It was an exercise in perpetual positivity. It was a place of refuge, an altar of optimism at which I could worship when I needed it the most. I was in a very dark place when it began, and this blog was my lifeline. It was a connection to the trademark brightness within, the brightness I’ve always been known for, but which was dimming more and more every day at an alarming rate. But it has since evolved, the aim has shifted. I don’t need to search for the positives in my life quite so desperately anymore because I’m surrounded by them.

This blog is continually evolving, just like me, and I couldn’t be happier with the progress we’ve made together so far. It’s a place where I can chronicle my life, my adventures, and my many dreams in the most positive terms possible.

So, what have I done this year that’s so whoop-de-fucking-doo great, you ask? I’ll tell you!

Smash’s Top 5 Awesomes This Year

1.) I went on the vacation of a lifetime

I've never been this happy to be awake at 6:30am in my life

I’ve never been this happy to be awake at 6:30am in my life

D and I dropped everything and went on our first ever vacation together. And we made it memorable as hell by saving up the extra bucks and flying the extra miles to get ourselves a slice of Hawaii. It was unreal! The food, the adventures, the beach, the ocean, the people, the sites. We loved every minute of it. Going all out for our first trip together was definitely the right call.

2.) I Got Engaged (and set the date, too!)

 An old shot, from about 5 years ago

An old shot, from about 5 years ago. Super Retro Disco Party, obviously.

D and I have been together a long time. We’re coming up on eight years this summer, if you can believe it. I loved him from the first moment I drunkenly gazed into his sweet blue eyes, and there was never any doubt. But there was never any rush to get to the paperwork either, and he caught me completely unawares when he proposed during our aforementioned vacation. I tease him sometimes about being totally devoid of emotion, but he really surprised me that time. I don’t even question this decision at all. We go together.

3.) I Won Shitfest 2013: Fall

I fuckin' love this trophy!

I fuckin’ love this trophy!

Some of you will remember my graceful acceptance of the award from this wonderful post that our dear friend, The IPC, allowed me to share with you on his site. I don’t write a movie blog, but I love movies so I read a lot of movie blogs. And I love the movie blogging community that I’ve stumbled into on WordPress. I loved reading the posts that were entered in the first Shitfest, and when a fall fest was announced I knew I had to get involved this time. I knew a shitty movie that I could write about. A real fucking shitty movie. I just wanted to have some fun, and it proved to be an experience that I will cherish forever. I’ve got the trophy to prove it.

4.) I Started a New Blog

The Kingdom

I miss writing essays. I miss feeling scholarly. I long for my undergrad, on rainy days mostly. So I decided to start a blog to review the works of Stephen King, to sort of keep in touch with that part of myself that so loved turning in assignments. I’m just hanging out over there, doing book reports basically. But it’s a fun hobby, and I enjoy it. I’m not rolling out the reviews quite as quickly as when I first started the blog, but I am still trucking along and reviews get posted at least once a month. It’s a way for me to explore other facets of my writing, too, and that’s important to me.

And finally, saving the biggest for last…

5.) I Got Promoted

Always the consummate professional, jumping on the bed in my suite during a work trip 3 years ago

Always the consummate professional, that’s me jumping on the bed in my suite during a work trip 3 years ago

I’ve been waiting for this a long time. It was an exciting, albeit painful journey at times, but I’m finally moving in the direction that I want to go. I had never realized how deeply ambitious I was until I joined the workforce. Procrastination and indifference were my MO whenever I pondered that almighty “What are you going to do when you grow up?” question that seems to haunt us from birth. But once I started carving out my own way in the world, I found myself immediately hooked on ambition. It’s a heady device, man. I made the choice to significantly alter my career path a couple of years ago, and it’s all starting to come together now. The sky really is the limit, and I thoroughly enjoy reaching for it with all of my might. I’ve got plans and ideas aplenty, and I’m going to make a splash in a big way. Greatness abounds, when you’re willing to work hard for it. I love how it feels to earn my living, and being rewarded professionally for my efforts feels divine.

I’m not kidding around, you guys. I truly am kicking the shit out of life every day. And I hope to continue doing so, right here on this bizarre little blog of mine, for a long while yet.

Here’s to yet another year of awesome. Cheers!

Overcoming a Bad Day

I’m positive, in general. Always looking for a silver lining to wrap around the bullshit. It’s not often that I falter in doing so. I’m resilient and strong, I can overcome my obstacles.

But sometimes, I have bad days too. Days when my heart hurts too much to try because seeing the good is damn near impossible for all the shit obstructing my view. When it feels like nothing makes sense. When it feels like every option will result in a loss. When my gut does falter because the negativity is overwhelming.

What do you at a time like that? What can you do?

Well, this is what I do:

1. Vent or Wallow 

When the weight of something truly awful presses down on my heart, the first thing I do is react in one of these ways. Maybe I’m so frustrated that I need to scream until my lungs  feel like they’ll burst right out of my chest. Or launch a venomous tirade against whatever it was that sparked my ire. I might need to sob because too many mixed and mangled emotions are struggling to surface all at once. Venting is good for that, releasing all the mounted pressures. But maybe venting isn’t a good option in some instances though, because I’m scared that such an overt reaction will leave consequences in its wake. Revealing those raw emotions to anyone before I’ve worked through them could be dangerous. It could be damaging to a relationship that I value or to my own reputation. In that case, I might need to wallow instead. Run away, shut down, freeze out, isolate. I need to allow myself to feel intense feelings, alone. I have to wallow.

2. Identify

I have to concentrate on the why of it all. Why do I feel this way? What about this situation upsets me the most? I let myself get lost in my thoughts. If I can figure out what it is specifically that I find upsetting, then I can confront it. If I can’t see the hurdle, I can’t ever leap over it, and I’ll just keep stumbling into it. So I need to afford myself the luxury of introspection. What did I do to cause the problem? Does a particular situation that arose impact me directly or does it merely include me? I know what happened that upset me or pissed me off, but I have to understand why it does if I expect to work through it. I’ll replay what went down over and over in my head, trying to see it from multiple angles. From that process, I can decide if this is something that I should address or something that I should internalize for the time being.

3. Confront

Now that I’ve gained some perspective, I have a more whole understanding of the problem and its causes. I can start to resolve it. I can talk to someone, maybe to explain my viewpoint or maybe to apologize for a wrong I’ve committed. I might just need to be heard and acknowledged. Or I might just need to have a moment of recognition for something I did and why it was bad. Denying my involvement in my own unhappiness is a disservice to myself. When I think about the greatest upsets I’ve experienced, most of which in the last three years have been in the work place, I recognize things that I could have or should have done differently to effect a more desirable end result. I can’t change the past, but I can prepare myself for tackling similar struggles more aptly in the future.

4. Accept

I’m very hard on myself. There are missteps I’ve made in my life that I still haven’t forgiven myself for. And it might take a very long time before I ever do. There’s no tongue lashing I could receive from another that would ever parallel the severity of the internal one that I will inevitably give myself when I fuck up. That’s because I expect so much from me. I have exacting standards for the kind of person I hope to be. I’m not hoping for perfection, that would be boring as hell. I’m just hoping that one day I can serve as an example for someone else. That my beliefs, actions, and experiences will be valued. I want to be valued as deeply as I value the core people in my life. This is the hardest step of the whole process, the one that trips me up the most because of how hard I am on myself. But I do my best to come out on the other side, making peace with myself and any current entanglement I face. I can forgive others, that’s easy. Forgiving myself is the hardest thing to do and I’m still learning how to do it.

5. Get Over It

Sometimes a bad day is just a bad day. An accumulation of crappy moments, conversations, interactions, and situations that just bring you down. Stubbed toes, rainy days, being belittled or insulted, having to eat salad, making a mistake on something important at work, jerks shoving me around on the subway, not getting along with D, Harvey ripping up my favourite shirt: if all of those things happened to me in one day I’d probably want to fling myself off the roof. But some days are going to be like that. So doing things that purge yourself of all the negativity helps. I like to laugh with D, or belt out my favourite tunes at maximum shitty singing volume while I jump on the bed, or down a few beers with my cronies. I try to find something wonderful about the right now that I can immerse myself in. Doing stuff like that reminds me that I’ll be on the upswing again in no time, because the bad can always be vanquished by the good. And I believe that, unequivocally, with ever fibre of my being.

I’m happy and positive most of the time, but shit pisses me off and upsets me too. I’m not perfect, and I don’t always shine as brightly as I’d like to. So, if it’s something serious then I need to deal with it. And if it’s just a bunch of crappy stuff that’s dimming my shine, then I need to get over it so I can shine through it. Shake it off and move on, girl! You can’t control everything that happens to you in this life. Good and bad things will happen, most assuredly. But you can figure out the best way for you to deal with the shit so you can move on.

I had a really bad couple of days this week, and I had to face down a very disheartening reality yesterday. Surprised and hurt by the unexpected, I’ve been letting the negativity I feel overpower me. But something much larger than me and my desires is in motion, something that can’t be stopped or changed. So I’ll do the work, following the steps outlined above, because it will help eventually. I’ll come out of this okay, albeit a little sad, because I know that I have the power to overcome the shittiest of days.

And I know that the sadness won’t last for long once I’ve found it within myself to shine again.

retro prom

Smash will shine this brightly again, in time.

My Year of Awesome!

Happy Birthday to my beloved blog Smashing Through Life!

Vincent

Fake snakes for everyone!

That’s right, as of February 5th, I have officially been writing this blog for one full year. Wow, time really flies when you resolve to change your life. And change my life this year I did…

When I started this blog a year ago, I had no idea how tremendously my life was going to change. This time last year, my heart was breaking. A little piece of it, every day. I was doing a job that I was talented at, but had no upward motion. The place was a mismanaged zoo. Half of our team pulling way more than their weight because they gave a shit. The other half, careless slackers who preferred sleeping their way to the top, you know, instead of earning it like decent folk. So many secrets. So much political drama. It was like trying to swim through wet concrete. Every single goddamn day.

Working long hours. Loooong hours. And then going home and working more. Thinking, dreaming, breathing, crying, bleeding work. Some nights, I couldn’t even speak properly when I got home. My mind, a snarling and tangled mess.

It was even worse after The Magpie left. Nothing good ever happening. Always coming into work and cleaning up after others. Always having to take the lead, and bear the burden of responsibility for the whole department. Always struggling and stressing in silence. No appreciation. No promotion in sight. Even though the carrot was perpetually being dangled in front of me, my heart always knew it was never really going to drop.

I know how exploitation feels. And I will never let myself feel that way again.

So much pressure. To impress, to succeed, to make a difference. The weight of the world was slowly crushing me to death, one work day at a time. I had no time to think, to breathe, to be me anymore.

Outwardly, unless you know me really goddamn well, my strife was imperceptible. I carried it around with me, but I didn’t advertise it. That’s not my way. I’m not the forthcoming type when it comes to my problems, my pain.

If I didn’t find a way to release some of the tension in my soul, I was going to rupture something. That’s why I started the blog. I needed something, just for me. Something I could enjoy. A way to express my frustrations. A vehicle, an outlet. A way to remedy myself. A soothing salve for my aching heart.

I needed some fucking positivity in my life.

I know this all sounds so dramatic. “Surely this post is rife with hyperbole”, you exclaim to yourself. Throwing your hands up in the air with mock incredulity. But it isn’t. What I described was my reality. It was a dramatic time in my life. I was drenched in unwanted drama. And I just wanted to have fun again.

I started writing. Writing always used to feel so good. I wrote a novel once. The summer between seventh and eighth grade. That was another tumultuous time in my life. Moving to a new town, starting over at a new school in the fall. So I took to writing, to make myself feel better. I wrote on a really old PC that had Windows 95 on it. We didn’t have disks though, and that computer did not live long or prosper. Solitaire, mahjong, and my novel. These were the only things that even warranted turning the computer on. It was terrible though, the novel. So it wasn’t much of a shame when the computer crapped out and it was lost forever. I didn’t cry or anything. I just let it go. Someday, I’ll write another one I promised myself.

And with that same need, that same desire to make myself feel better, I took to writing again. Writing the blog. Weekly diatribes about the best thing that had happened that week. The arbitrary things that brightened my life. My weapons of positivity, which were wielded with gusto, on my quest to reclaim my formerly awesome self. That rad girl I used to be, before I joined the ranks of the workforce, my Holy Grail.

And it worked! Wondrously. The more I wrote, the better I felt. Every week, a little more tension melted away. I felt a little bit lighter everyday. And my heart stopped breaking. Writing mended it. Eventually, I felt empowered enough to leave that shitball job. Who needs the bullshit anyways? Certainly not me!

New job, new apartment, new city, new lease on life. And it all started with my blog.

I get up, and I kick the shit out of life every day. Right in the nuts! My life is my own again, and it is awesome.

To those of you who’ve been with me for this journey so far, thank you. Thank you for reading, for commenting, and for letting me be myself. I write for me, but I love sharing it with you.

Happy 1st Birthday Smashing Through Life

Happy 1st Birthday Smashing Through Life

Here’s to another year of awesome!

New Notebook

No matter how drastically our every day lives are changed by new technological advancements, there is one thing that I will always take comfort in. Writing. On a piece of paper.

There’s something mystical and rhythmic about physically writing something down. Watching the words as they form on the page, taking shape, coming to life. Flowing forth from the tip of a divinely fine felt-tip pen. Ink blacker than the darkest, scariest place on earth, under the bed.

Sometimes I take my time. Forming each letter methodically, in the most perfect cursive I can muster. Afterwards, staring lovingly at the words on the page. Extraordinary, I think to myself, taking pride in my exquisite penmanship. An exemplary work of art!

Other times I dash out an illegible jumble of marks on the page, haphazardly. Of the two, this method is far more common. And I am consistently confounded by these paltry scratches, that I don’t dare deem writing, when I need to refer to them later. What is that? An h or an x? A phone number or a serial number? Dammit, if you’d just take your time once in a while we wouldn’t be in this mess!

Every morning at the office, after I’ve checked and prioritized all of my emails, I take the time to write down my daily To-Do List. I smooth out the page. I give the list a date and a title. Both masterfully underlined in ink so red that, if he ever saw it, Rudolph would even say it glows.

Every entry on the list is numbered. Orderly. Organized. Powerful. Once this list is writ, I am unstoppable.

Computers break. Paper is infallible. This is a universal truth by which I live. You can always trust in paper. If the whole electronic system on which our company faithfully relies were to spontaneously forfeit its will to live, then at least I’d still have a grip on things. An ironclad, kung-fu grip on the reality of it all. Because I have my list. The list that I wrote out so meticulously.

The only thing I love more than writing my daily list, is writing my daily list in a brand new notebook. Oh the sheer ecstasy!

I spoiled myself absolutely rotten when I bought the new notebook. It’s delightfully thick. Cream coloured. With an intricate pattern of leaves imprinted onto the exterior covers. It’s got a bookmark, a ribbon, sewn into the spine. To drape purposefully across the current page.

And what a steal too, 75% off! From the ashes of the bargain bin at Indigo, a majestic phoenix arose. Those are some savings that a frugal gal of my ilk can really appreciate.

On Tuesday I filled in the last page of the old, terrible, used up notebook. Wednesday morning, I was ecstatic. I was going to take my new notebook on its maiden voyage. Giddy. Giddy giddy giddy!

I opened the cover. Inhaling slowly, savouring the smell of the fresh, unmarred pages. Oh yes, she will be mine. That was a weird thing say… possessive and weird. But it was an organic thought, occurring naturally. So it stays.

I took my time, writing. Filling up the lines with my graceful, sweeping cursive. Feeling powerful. Confident. Ready to take on the world. One list item at a time.

notebook

Student Loans

I’ve been miserably sick all weekend. Out of nowhere I was hit with this dreadful cold, so I’ve been a sniffling, snotty, coughing mess since Thursday. I booked Friday off months ago because I was going to give myself an awesome long weekend to cap November off. So it would make perfect sense for my mutinous immune system to jump ship right before my glorious plans could even get out of the harbour, right? I wasn’t even planning on posting this week because my mood has been so foul. Best laid plans have been foiled, so fuck it. Instead of scampering through the streets with gleeful inhibition, I’m a hostage in my own apartment until I can pay the hefty ransom of 10,000 sullied kleenexes to my captor, this bitch of a cold.

Pretty grim stuff, I know. How could I possibly put a positive spin on anything right now? I can’t even remember what it feels like to breathe normally, unhindered by the shroud of nasal congestion draped around me.

Then I remembered something while looking at the calendar on the fridge. Friday November 30th was the last day of the month. My student loan payments are due on the last day of each month, and I started making payments on the debt exactly two years ago as of November 30th. I have been making regular payments on my student loans every month for the last 2 years. Wow, I know this is cliché, but time really does fly when you’re dutifully living the dream, responsible adult styles.

I remember feeling so confused and overwhelmed in the fall of 2005 while I waited in the seemingly endless line at the student loan office with Marion. The office opened at 8:00am, but we got up at 6:00 so that we could get a “good spot in line”. Turns out a “good spot in line” meant that we’d only have to spend half of our day waiting. We packed a deck of cards to pass the time, and snacks so we wouldn’t be tempted to leave the line when hungry. There were so many other students. Hundreds of kids, all waiting in line to sign the forms that would put them in debt with the government for the next decade of their lives.

One by one we would take our turn handing over our void cheques and signing on the dotted line. The curmudgeonly women reviewing the details on our forms not offering the slightest encouragement. They were magnificently robotic in every action, and had zero tolerance for questions. “Sign here, date here, initial here, you’re done. Next in line!”

I was glad that Marion was with me. She was orderly and organized, she knew what needed to happen, and was able to answer all of my questions. When we were finally finished, I felt so disheartened. Just days before when I’d moved into my dorm, I was excited. My life was just beginning and I was on the brink of something spectacular. But the stark realization that I was taking on a tremendous amount of debt, without a career guaranteed upon graduation, made me feel so insecure and anxious.

How would I ever pay this loan off? For every semester of education earned, I had to shoulder more and more debt. Was it really going to be worth it in the end? I come from a modest family, I’m one of five kids. I knew that pursuing this education meant I’d have minimal help from my parents. They were supportive in other ways, sure. But they couldn’t afford to put Marion and I through school at the same time. If I wanted to get a degree, I’d have to find a way to foot the bill myself.

I wrestled with those niggling feelings of insecurity and anxiety for months after getting my loan. I was only able to subdue those worries by telling myself that graduation was really too far ahead in the future to fret about. It would be ages before I needed to seriously think about a repayment plan. I was just a kid. Kids don’t worry about budgets and debt. Adults do. And I would have plenty of time for those things in adulthood.

Plus, if I couldn’t find a way to pay off the debt I had a Plan B in mind. I would run from it!

No job? No problem! Take what little clothing and money you do have and hop a bus, train, or plane out of the country. You’ll sever ties with everything and everyone you’ve ever loved and vanish into thin air. You’ll become an insanely brilliant ex-patriot writer, putting extensive volumes of your genius to press under an intriguing and beguiling pseudonym. You’ll have torrid affairs with handsome foreign men, and never tire of roving the globe. You will have a remarkable life of hedonistic adventure, free of any debt or obligation. Then after many years have passed, when it’s finally safe, you’ll return home. All prior debts having been miraculously expunged during your absence.

Plan B is not for the timid. But I was still hopeful that it wouldn’t have to come to that. And thankfully, it hasn’t yet.

I just kept working away. I’d go to classes, write exams, pay my bills, and head down to the student loan office to sign for my loans every semester. Time passed, and I graduated. Sure, I still had heaps of debt to my name. But I had grown leaps and bounds since that first semester. The confused teenager overwhelmed with the stress of supporting herself had gradually transformed into a mature, self-sufficient adult woman. I had gone through so much in my time at school. I tackled any and all challenges with gusto. Sometimes I succeeded in my ventures, sometimes I failed. When I failed, I learned. When I learned, I grew. I didn’t need to run away from my problems, because I was more than capable of tackling them head on. The ill-conceived Plan B need not come to fruition after all. And I had a six month window between graduation and my repayment due date to find a job.

Needless to say, I accomplished that goal. I’ve been going to work every day since September 2010, making my way in the world. When the day of loan repayment finally arrived, I wasn’t scared. I confidently dialled up the National Student Loan Service Centre and made arrangements for my monthly payments. I worked out an amount that was good for me, and I’ve been making payments every month since. Every payment I’ve made has been with money that I’ve earned entirely on my own.

While it would have been a great blessing to have a wealthy family taking care of all my financial needs, I consider it an even greater blessing that I’ve been given the opportunity and ability to provide for myself. I used to envy the kids that had everything in life handed to them. I don’t envy them anymore, I really don’t even give them much consideration at all. What we’re born into is merely chance. How we carry ourselves and what we make of ourselves is choice. All I know is that everything worth having in my life, I’ve earned. And I’m allowed to be proud of that.

I’ve been paying this loan off for the past two years, and I’m not even close to being done. I’ve made a hell of a dent so far though. It’s going to take a lot of time, and a lot of effort on my part. But it’s cool, because I know I can handle it. I’m not some superhuman overachiever spreading myself too thin, and stressing myself to the point of a nervous breakdown.  I’m also not an apathetic slacker. I’m just a regular kid, who needed help financially so I could earn my degree. If I can do it, anyone can.

Was it worth it to sign away a significant chunk of my earnings for the first decade of my career? Would I do it all over again if I had to? Fuckin’ A!

I gained so much more than I ever hoped to in my time at school. The friendships, the memories, the life experiences, the freedom; it’s all so invaluable. In the larger scheme of things, that loan of mine is peanuts and it’ll be paid off in no time.

I may not have had a very good weekend, but I can at least smile about that.

September

Do you remember the 21st night of September?

It’s that time of year again. You know, when summer fades into fall. The goose bumps that populate your arms as you step out the door on a dubiously sunny morning are telling you to ditch the flip-flops and sundresses in favour of something warmer. It’s the time of year for apple orchards, puffy outdoorsy vests, plaid of all sorts, knit hats, new backpacks, and most importantly, it’s a time for change.

There’s something afoot during the last couple of weeks of September that always makes me feel wistful. Especially when I hear that old Earth Wind & Fire song, aptly titled September. Hearing this song actually happens more often than you might think, because of my proclivity for 70’s internet radio when I’m hungover.

September is the most significant month of the year for me. My personal calendar year begins in September. January doesn’t mean a thing to me. Resolutions and all the crap, whatever. It’s still winter, it’s still freezing and dark out. But September brings with it a drastic change in seasons, and has often wrought drastic changes in my life.

All of my most precious memories are captives of September. When I hear this song a little movie of all those wonderful things starts playing in my mind. I’m transported back in time, and I remember…

I remember meeting two of the most important people in my life:

Then a year later, being lucky enough to add another wonderful person into our fold:

I remember living alone, completely unsupervised for the first time in my life:

And all the excellent keggers we were able to have, unfettered by parents and rules:

I remember my first lifetime ban from a bar after I draught ‘n’ dashed with Joce-force. Then laughing uncontrollably while hiding out from “the po po” in the bushes:

There were two roomie birthdays at the end of the month, both Jenna and Whit:

And how epic all of our celebrations were when the last roomie finally turned 19 and could ditch the fake I.D.

I remember shotgunning beers at 9:00am for homecoming!

I remember having school spirit:

Discovering that Bigfoot truly does exist, and how bold his hands were:

I remember falling in love…

After graduation, when it was time to grow up, I remember getting my first job. A real crack at a career:

I remember that I’m brave:

I took my very first flight, all the way to the Middle East! Completely on my own in a new country, with no prior travelling experience.

And I remember feeling complete fulfillment in my job and being humbled by the realization that I was making a difference in the lives of others:

And most importantly of all, I remember…

Dancing in September!

Oh the memories, so sweet! Such an amazing thing to have when you’re not having the brightest of days…

I love that song, and I love the flood of memories it brings. It  is my reassurance that I’m doing a real kick-ass job at this “living” thing. No matter what changes and where this life takes me, I will always have: the most spectacular friends, my darling D, and a deep-seated passion to live a remarkable life.

And if all this is what’s behind me, then I can’t wait to see what else is coming my way. It can only get better from here.

Cheerleading

I have never identified with or particularly cared for either the universal image or concept of a cheerleader. In fact, I will go on the record for having rolled my eyes numerous times when peers and colleagues alike made the admission that they were in fact once a cheerleader. Guh, cue the puking now! When I think of cheerleaders I think of vapid, superficial, trifling individuals motivated  only by the need for popularity and validation of their physical attractiveness from the masses. I guess all those 80’s and 90’s high school movies with their neatly packaged archetypes of “typical teenagers”, such as jock, cheerleader, nerd, outsider, etc., that I devoured in my youth didn’t help…

But my dislike went further than just the universal image of a typical cheerleader. You know, the blonde, buxom, bubbly, and brain-dead one we’ve seen embodied in countless movies and television shows:

Remember the original Buffy anyone?

I also derided the concept behind cheerleading. Being a very athletic youngster, I always kind of thought “Why not get in the game instead of jumping around uselessly like a twerp?” I saw no value, dignity, or sense in the activity of cheering. Surely a strong, independent, and fierce woman would strive to engage in activities in which she found meaning and which didn’t allow her physical being to be actively objectified by others? This was a very serious concern in my formative tween/teen years.

But recently I’ve been reconsidering the idea of cheerleading…

I know that some workplace environments can get pretty brutal. I’ve heard from people about their experiences and have survived a pretty bad one myself at the old gig. The fucking emotional highs and lows that can rattle the office on an hourly basis are boggling. One minute someone is smiling and laughing like a totally normal person, then the next thing you know it’s like a scene from the exorcist! Instead of all the green puke though, it’s just a steady stream of negativity, tantrums, sulking, complaining, and madness. Sounds pretty brutal right?

It is brutal. It’s particularly painful for me because I strive to be positive and light in the workplace at all times. I don’t always succeed. Don’t get me wrong, I have my moments of venting frustration too. That’s right! I don’t purport to be some incarnation of the perfect, model employee… But generally, I try to shove any negative emotions I’m feeling when at work deep down inside myself. Other people really don’t want to engage in all of your emotional bullshit when they’re at work. That’s what your personal life is for. The work self should be pleasant and positive and a joy to be around. The personal self can be whatever the hell it wants to.

My cardinal workplace rule is: just be pleasant. When someone is having a hard go of it, toss them a silver lining. Smile. Have sympathy and compassion for others, but don’t fuel the flames of their negativity inferno by tossing more negativity into it.

Everything you do in the workplace impacts others, whether you realize it or not. D had this chick at his work sitting at a desk near his and she would bitch allllllll day long to some of the other co-workers. She was constantly bitching, griping, complaining, and moaning about something. It was a relentless stream of crap day in and day out emanating from her workspace. Her bitching got on D’s nerves so bad that he considered asking his superior to relocate him to another corner of the office. When he told me stories about her, he called her The Bitch. I don’t even know what her real name is, she’s simply The Bitch to us. The day came that she was finally quitting and D was elated. He said it was the best day of his work life by far.

So when you’re a big steamy pile of negative bullshit in the workplace, people notice. They avoid being around you as much as they can. You get unfortunate nicknames you never knew you had. While your moment of bitching might feel like just a moment to you, to others it could feel like a lifetime. Be considerate and think about how your bullshit affects others and how it could potentially damage your future with the company. Nobody wants to offer promotions and mad wads of cash to bitchy, whiny dickbags!

This is where I start to make my point with this post. I have yet to completely segregate my emotional self from my professional self in the workplace. I strive to all the time. I believe that great maturity comes from mastering one’s negative emotions. You know, instead of freaking the fuck out when something happens and alienating your co-workers, you find a way to work through your frustration and you bounce back. But this task is more daunting for some than for others, which is where cheering comes into play.

I realized that while I don’t wiggle around chanting ridiculous rhymes for my co-workers when they lose their lustre, I do cheer for them. I smile, try to diffuse the tension with some jokes when necessary, offer positive words, and try to point out the silver lining. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I’m not. And when I’m in a bad way, I’m thankful that I have someone at the office who sees the value in cheering for me when I need it.

Take all of the flashy, narcissistic bullshit away from cheerleaders, and what do you have? Positive people offering their support. Whether the team is winning or losing the cheerleaders are there to encourage and support their team. And really, that’s what I’m doing with this blog. I’m cheering for the little things that make the day shine instead of stink. I’m out there cheering for team Good Vibes everyday! (Note to self: If I’m lucky enough to develop a group of cultish followers of this blog I shall dub them my Good Vibes, and we will conquer the world!!)

Every office needs a cheerleader. Someone who can make those blah days a little better. Someone to offer a boost of confidence and fun once in a while. Just someone to smile at you when you’re feeling blue. And now that I’ve thought about it a bit, I’m happy to take up those metaphorical pom poms in the name of good workplace cheer.

Hey, check it out! Who knew this feisty little tomboy had a cheerleader stifled deep down inside of her this whole time?

Subway Games

I have been living in the city for a couple of months now, and I feel like I’ve adapted very well. I’m a duck to water. I love the pace of the city. There’s always something happening, someone to meet up with, new events and friends around every corner.

There’s also a lot of shit that you need to get used to, such as not being able to get to whatever your preferred grocery store is. We used to love going to Loblaws but now we’re in Metro hell every sunday. There’s also the city stink on really hot days. Mmmm, sewage filling your nostrils as you try to enjoy a nice stroll in the sunshine. Crazy crackheads eating a jar of Nutella with their fingers right beside you in a restaurant. That really happened by the way, saw it with my own eyes.

There’s also the matter of the subway. I take the subway to and from work everyday, and for the most part I quite enjoy it. It’s so much better than the fucking Go Train. I will take the subway over the fucking Go Train any day. Delays seem to be a routine thing for the subway, but the longest I’ve been held up so far is 15 minutes. You also have to get used to the sardine sensation when taking the subway during rush hour. You literally cram you way onto the train and have people touching or brushing up against you on all sides. It’s a sweaty, cramped, awkward mess. And people are ruthless! They don’t make any attempt to play nice when they think they might miss out on a spot on the train. I’ve had ladies mow me down with strollers, dudes basically use me for piggyback rides onto the train, and bitches stiletto stomp me on a rough turn then have the gall to act like it’s my fault they can’t balance themselves. I’ve also seen people do horrible things to each other in order to snag a recently freed up seat. It basically a jungle.

You really do see it all on the morning and evening commute. But this is my life now for the foreseeable future, so I’ve gotta make the best of it. I see people rocking their iPods, readers, magazines etc. to make the commute less boring. I have another strategy for making the commute fun…

I play my own little subway games. With a vivid imagination and a plethora of people surrounding me I’m all set. Let the people be my amusement and entertainment! I can’t control who gets on the same car as me or how they will comport themselves, but I can control my perception of them. Here are some of my favourite subway games to play:

Life Story

This one is easy enough, all I do is observe someone who captures my interest and then concoct an elaborate life story for them. The life story is rich with drama and emotion, uncontrollable circumstance and choices. I like to imagine what kind of childhood they had and how it has shaped who they are today. For instance, the dude in his late 20’s suited up all sharp and shit with designer duds. Privileged upbringing, nuclear family, beautiful arm-candy girlfriend right? Wrong. Instead, I see that dude suffering from uncontrollable pyromania! He set his little sister’s dollhouse on fire when he was 8, then when he was 15 burnt his math teacher’s house to the ground and had to do him some juvie or something. He’s gotten his life back on track, finished school and got a sweet gig downtown where nobody suspects the fire monster that lurks within. Just wait til he gets denied that big promotion he’s been working for, burn baby burn! See, I just made my way through 5 stops before I even knew it!

Which Animal?

Again, this game relies heavily on me observing someone with a particular look and deciding on what sort of animal they would be. There’s a woman cackling obnoxiously to her friend at 8:30am and despite what she may think, the rest of us don’t find her laugh to be particularly enchanting or bewitching. It’s just fucking annoying. That girl is definitely a hyena. There’s a chubby, sleepy 40-something taking up almost two whole seats, that guy is a hippo fo sho. A lanky, toothy, sly looking motherfucker with a backpack full of shrooms, he’s a ferret. I don’t really know if he’s got shrooms in his backpack, it’s just part of his image I guess.

What Station?

This one I’m not very experienced in yet, but I like to think that in a couple of years when I’ve ridden the rails from end to end countless times, I’ll have better judgement. But I like to size someone up and decide what stop they’re getting off at. It’s also hard because my commute isn’t from one end to another, it’s a good chunk of the Yonge line but not the whole thing. But there are certain neighbourhoods in Toronto that correspond with subway stations and I like to guess what station I think a person is going to, especially on the evening commute. That’s the most likely time that people are heading home, so it’s a little easier. For example, my neighbourhood Yonge and Eglinton is often called Young and Eligible by my co-workers because it’s heavily populated with yuppies. So it’s usually safe to assume that young, shiny, polished, designer clad men and women are headed that way. There’s also the Finchers. People who are commuting into the city everyday and connect to buses at Finch station. They can’t stand their surroundings. You just know that the subway is the worst part of their day, they hate crowds, and they change into comfortable shoes at the end of the day.

Okay, so I know this is sounding like I’m pretty much the most judgemental and awful person on the planet, but I don’t do this out of a mean-spirit. I simply try to pass the time on the train in the morning, and mentally escape the nasty armpit stink in my face. I think that I’m very unexpected. I’ve been sized up and judged my whole life, pigeonholed and stereotyped. And I honestly hope that all the people I play my subway games with are unexpected too and would prove me wrong given a 5 minute chat. Sometimes people surprise you, sometimes they turn out to be exactly what you expected… that’s the fun of subway games, what you see in others has a lot to do with what you yourself are bringing to the table.

Hot Hot Harp

It’s a long weekend this week, so lots of good things to take stock of, but there is one thing this week that hands down made my day most of all and has earned a spot in the blog.

I’m working with the Magpie again, which has been truly wonderful. She cites moving to Toronto as the best decision she’s ever made in her life, and since I’ve known her has been incredibly encouraging (if not blatantly overpowering) in her suggestion that I move here too. A most fruitful decision indeed.

Moving to Toronto has been so refreshing and rewarding! There’s always something to do, someplace to be, and  someone to catch up with. One of the best things about it has been getting out during my lunch hour and exploring. At my old job our office was located in an area dominated by other office buildings. There was absolutely nothing worthwhile within walking distance of the office. If you wanted to go get lunch you had to have a car, and sadly I do not. On occasion I would grab lunch out with the other girls, but it was always a scramble to get food and bring it back in time to scarf down quickly at your desk. You weren’t really allowed to take a leisurely lunch.

Now, I can stumble out the office door and there are hundreds of options at my fingertips! I literally cross the street and encounter tons of choices. It’s so wicked! Because I had conditioned myself to work through lunch and not find any enjoyment in it at my old job I had these lingering pangs of guilt about getting out during lunch hour at the new job. A few weeks have gone by and I’ve gotten more used to popping out the door and not feverishly watching each second tick by on my watch, stressing that I’ve got to get back to my desk and not selfishly pilfer company time.

Case in point, this week. Everything is still very new to me, so I get pumped up over the littlest thing. I think it’s been fun for the Magpie because my shiny, wide-eyed, virginal view of the city mirrors back everything about it that she fell in love with too. This week, she decided that we could afford to take our time and head to Kensington market for lunch. We hopped on the street car, sailed through Chinatown (loved it!) and then strolled the streets of the market.

So colourful and wonderful! Amazing treasures to be found! This place is an explorer’s dream come true to be sure.

We had lunch at a place called Grilled Cheese, as you may have guessed serving up delicious grilled cheese sandwiches. Picture it, fluffy texas toast crisped to perfection with a melty, gooey cheddar middle about an inch thick. Golden brown and laden with rippled chips and a crunchy dill pickle, we had found euphoria on the workday lunch hour. We sat outside on a picnic table in the sun chatting and laughing.

After lunch we walked back through the market, and there I beheld the most pleasant sight of all the day’s outing: the hot harpist.

It’s very common to walk the streets and see people playing guitar and singing their dirges for a buck or two from friendly passersby. It is not common to see a gorgeous specimen of a man plucking tenderly at a harp in the noonday sun. That is something remarkable. Naturally I started drooling, what is a girl to do?

The best part about it was as I was gawking and walking, the Magpie was laughing heartily, as is her way. When I asked her what was funny she said “oh that guy behind us was saying to his friends ‘Who knew that the harp was such a good way to get chicks!’ What a Beavis thing to say!”

We had been a bit too leisurely and hastened our pace to get back to the office, but when we got back not a single person seemed to notice or even care that we’d whiled away a solid hour and then some at the market. This was the most glorious moment of all this week: the wonder of exploring the market, feeling the noonday sun on our faces, and oogling the hunky harpist had finally helped me let go of my guilt over enjoying my lunch hour.

I’ve shed the last vestiges of conditioning from my old job. I’m no longer hindered by guilt about living my fucking life. Work can wait for me, I won’t be rushing my lunches anytime soon.