Uncategorized

Finding Resilience in a World That’s Breaking Down

I often envision myself in the middle of a history textbook, taught forty or fifty years from now to disbelieving high school students. I imagine that future youth reading the sometimes ridiculous, sometimes catastrophic histories with a better understanding of the events than I do now.

An infamous real-estate mogul and reality television star elected as President of United States of America; an ever-changing climate growing increasingly chaotic with each change of the seasons; racial disparities sprouting riots on the streets of cities; two imbeciles across oceans with hands over a red nuclear button. Wars leading millions of people to different parts of the world in the hope they can find a new home. The list goes on, and on, and on.


tumblr_owyt1nfNGC1qmp5efo1_500The future youth will have the luxury of looking back at a distance. Right now, it’s almost though I wake up each morning to an alarm on my phone, along a notification from the world’s most recent tragedy.

I am also studying it, analyzing the world and these intricacies in real time.

Professors who are there to prepare us for the real world, to make us productive citizens and fine attributes to the workplace, are simultaneously making us question every layer of society and the systems the expect us to work for.

All the while, our lives keep going. Classes still need to be attended, work still has us on the schedule. Friends are there, and then they are not. Family gets older.

Cynicism, despite my lack of trying, has seeped into my daily life. It’s hard to find motivation to keep going in a world that insistently tries to tell us not to.

And honestly, it’s difficult to envision a future. The one thing I know about the future is that it’s shrouded in uncertainty.

So, in the least preachy way possible, I’ve compiled a small list of things to do when that uncertainty seems to overpower everything else you’re doing in life. These things aren’t the typical “stay positive” or “eat healthy” advice on most “How-To-Be-Resilient” think pieces all over the internet. And, I say “least preachy” because my sermon would be like the sick healing the sick – I’m also doing this as a reminder to myself.

Look for someone wise words.

There might be someone in your life – an eccentric aunt, the old man next door, your old piano teacher, or a professor who moved you with her words – someone who seems to know a bit more about life than you do.

Reach out one of them.

At this age, we know so much about the things we are studying and using concepts that our parents haven’t ever heard of. But we might be coming home to dirty dishes in the sink, an unmade bed; you might have not called your parents in a while, or are in a fight with the person you’re dating; or you might’ve not been able to eat a home cooked meal since Thanksgiving.

Whatever it is, your twenties can give you a whole lot of life, but no credentials to know how to deal with it.

That person doesn’t have to have white hair and nearly a hundred years under their belt. it could even be your Mom – while she doesn’t understand some of the things you’re passionate about, I’m sure she could give you a hefty list of relationship advice, as well as an easy recipe to make from her Pinterest account.

Consider un-burning those bridges.

Perhaps it’s that little bit of Catholicism left in me from a lifetime ago, but I have found one of the keys to my inner peace has been forgiveness.

It could be a person, event or thing; some girls who bullied you in elementary school, a friend that turned sour and never figured out why, a neglectful parent…It’s amazing how good it feels to let go of the resentment. Hatred, regret, betrayal, all of these things that can sit in you like toxic lead.

There’s already enough happening in the world that can poison us, it’s unhealthy to harbour such feelings from our own lives. If you can let go, do just that.

And I know, somethings can’t be forgiven. You can forgive someone or something for the sake of shoving the weight off your shoulders, with no intention of letting them re-enter your life. Sometimes forgiveness isn’t a selfless act, it’s a selfish act.

Out of sight out of mind?

My parents may have read too many articles tying a connection to phones and the increase of anxiety and depression in college students.

They might be right, I’m often distracted by my cellphone, and find myself worrying too much about the content I chose to share and what people might think of it.

I’m consistently disappointed by the news I read and misinterpreting the things my friends text on a daily basis.

Realistically, turning off your phone just isn’t likely. It’s our main form of communication, professionally and personally. Getting a notification has the same psychological response as someone calling your name. You have to look.

Your phone is a window to the world, and even though it’s an amazing tool that to have access to, it doesn’t mean it needs to be used every waking moment. I’m not saying you should feign ignorance and look the other way at what’s happening in the world, because to me, ignorance isn’t bliss. I’m simply saying that, for a few moments of the day, it’s okay if you don’t look at your phone.

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Problems have solutions, look for one.

I know people who face troubles and their main solution is to not deal with it, to run away and never look back. I often wonder if that works out for t

hem in the end, because I question its long term effectiveness.

I mean, we could all pretend a problem doesn’t exist. But each problem can become a wound that festers.

Looking back, I realize that I’ve faced most conflicts with the desire to settle it. Not going to bed angry, as my Mother would say. Sometimes you have to 

re-break bones in order for them to heal properly.

But what if that problem is something that’s bigger than a falling out with a friend, or a class that you’re bound to fail? Something that seems so far out of your reach, that the only thing that can settle in 

the pit of your stomach is hopelessness?

Something like one of those things your professor mentioned that kept you up at night.

Every problem has some sort of solution, but not all solutions fix the problem. They heal it.

Finally, just take a deep breathe.

midlifecrisis
[Source]
Our generation hasn’t been dealt a fair hand, but we’re often blamed for some of society’s downfalls. Our mid-life-crisis have become quarter-life-crisis, and then we are accused of not being resilient.

I think we are quite the opposite. Considering the hand we have been dealt, we are the first generation to finally address things past generations have been sweeping under the carpet. That should be proof of our resilience in itself.

Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from something that hurt. I think I am resilient despite the fact that stress sometimes overpowers my life. I have to let everything that happens sink in, I need to feel it, so that I can move on and deal with the rest of the world.

Putting one step in front of the other, you focus on one thing at a time until you’re ready to move on to the next one, and know that not all things can’t be solved at once.

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Poetry, Uncategorized

A People Person

 

I have come to realize that I am no longer an introvert, and perhaps I never was.

I like being alone sometimes, but not too much.

I need time, to recuperate, mend and think; a pause from the noise and filling it with my own music.

But I love people.

I love their faces, mind and bodies, all varying and authentic.

I love the words that pour from the mouths, some vulgar and others gentle and pleasant.

And my friends whose minds are like an open book,

Whose jokes make me choke with laughter

Whose closeness sometimes too close, I become irritable when I see their faces too often.

Even the people I do not know, with fluorescent signs above their heads reading:

“Enter with caution”

and

“Interpret gently”

They are a cog in a machine that begs me to ask how it works.

All of these people, and these people places.

Like my apartment, marked by the habits of those whom habit it

and marked by those who came before.

A lecture hall, with students dozing off, eyes glazed to screens

while their professor goes on tangents about their daughter.

Or at the back of a party in a cloud of smoke, hands grasping red plastics cups

filled with liquid that greases our gears, making it easier to open up.’

How I wonder what I could learn with their lips on mine, like my questions did their minds.

I am an extrovert.

A sieve, straining through people’s goodness and people’s badness, sitting on the shore of their lives

letting each wave crash over me.

~

Image: yannic_vom_kanal

Poetry

Sea Glass, a free verse poem

This poem just came to me, and its super chaotic with absolutely no structure, but I hope you can look past that and enjoy what I’ve written. Tell me what you think: 


The beach is sprinkled, tossed with shapes

Swallowed by the mouth of the ocean and licked by its waves

The shards of glass are softened, smoothed down, worn down

Now spit up and gargled, sitting

On the billion-particle lip of the Earth

 

Here one sits in the palm of my hand

Its coin sized and shapeless and olive green

Cloudy in texture, like artist erased its sharp edges

In which she pressed and frictioned every last bit

Of the glass’s sheen

 

It is a missing piece, maybe a puzzle piece,

The nose of some bottle

Broken

Perhaps if I let it sit there a little longer

Then it would no longer be

It would’ve rather been broken down in in the belly of the sea

Grated down to a pulp that nature had foreseen

 

In my palm the shard sits and I imagine

a person in a factory

Sweating

Blowing the bottles soon filled with blood red wine

And drunk by a pot bellied man who stained his lips

Pink and fat like a swine

 

Or perhaps it was a pastor at the step of a church

Filling the void with blessed words

As the people are prodded, swaddled, poked like a herd of sheep

Sipping each word like a sacred nectar

As the glass, picturing their saviour at the steep

Breaks their faces into different hues

 

Or perhaps it wasn’t anything extraordinary

Perhaps it was a glass in some nice cabinetry

 

But still in my hand it sits and I imagine other hands

From their hands sewn

In Earth’s sweltering heat, the lime, the soda, the sand

A creation she could not do on her own

Still a story, unwritten and unravelled

 

While standing at shore, water pestering my feet

I place the piece of glass down beneath

The bed of rocks, and shards, and shells

Back to land, the molten Earth, where it came to be

ADHD

Just Focus: My Recent Diagnosis with ADHD

Just over a year ago, I read an article that changed my life.

Maria Yagoda, an author from The Atlantic, wrote about the generation of young women who have been living undiagnosed with ADHD. She explained that the disorder had been stereotyped, associated with the hyperactive young boys who disrupted elementary school classes. And the “women with the disorder tend to be less hyperactive and impulsive, more disorganized, scattered, forgetful, and introverted”, and they had been left wondering what was wrong with them.

Immediately, I was enamoured. My eyes were peeled to the screen, and I kept reading. It felt as though someone had been explaining exactly what I had been dealing ever since I could remember, and especially since I started University. And now,  skipping to just over a year later, I’ve officially been diagnosed with ADHD.

The road to a diagnosis

Trust me, the process in being diagnosed was not easy. I spent the next few months letting the information sink in and wondered if I actually wanted to be tested. Why would when I had already managed to live an exceptional life without one?

But then I realized I wasn’t… not technically.

IMG_5650In Elementary school I blended in with the other kids who didn’t focus, drawing when I wasn’t supposed to, but never disrupting the class. My lack of responsibilities in my youth let me live carefree.

At home, my mother and I fell into arguments about daily tasks that she would remind me in numerous ways at the beginning of each day. Simple chores like unloading the dishwasher or putting my clothes away, would slip my mind by the time I got home from school. She thought I was entitled, and that I didn’t appreciate the life she had given me. It was hard to explain that small domestic tasks were something that did not come to me naturally, that forgetting was not something I intended to do.

High school was a solid four years of disengagement. At school, I would need more than both hands to count the times I was told by teachers that I would truly succeed, that I would excel, if I just focused.  I sat at the back of class, doodling in the margins of my notebook or staring out a window twirling my hair, only looking up when my name was called or times when there was a discussion that sparked my interest. I left everything to the last minute but somehow managed to pull off straight A’s.

In University, I brought the same work ethic, but not the A’s.

I quickly realized I couldn’t write ten page papers worth thirty percent of my mark in one night – especially when I hadn’t done any of the mandatory, and tedious, readings.

The extremely structured schedule I cursed in high school was something I dreamed of having once again. Nothing was grounding me, and in the time that seemed free to use at my will was disposed of by wasting it.

My habit of hair twirling used to be cute, it was something I’d do when I was lost in thought and on the brink of sleep. Now, it transformed into something that I did compulsively, and obsessively. Something that people would stare at when we were conversing,  or even told to stop doing at dinner tables, but a few short moments later my hands would crawl up and start twisting and pulling at that one unfortunate strand of hair.

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The most frequent occurrence was when my mind drifted in the midst of conversations with professionals and friends. Staring them dead in the eye, nodding, irrelevant thoughts came to to the surface and suddenly the other person sounded like Charlie Brown’s parents. Then, they’d stop and I’d smile and nod as though I heard everything they were saying.

As a result of my inattentiveness, I was given the title of a bad listener, of not caring, of being irresponsible. My grades dropped to C’s and I gave off the impression of being apathetic, neglecting to remember coffee dates or birthdays, or important pieces of information. My undiagnosed ADHD symptoms were clouds, like overcast in my adolescence, and brewed into a storm in my early adulthood.

So no, to answer my earlier question, my life and my habits were not exceptional. For the life I wanted to live, and for everything I wanted to achieve in life, I needed the diagnosis.

The cost of a diagnosis

In the cold, desolate months of the Ottawa winter, my third year of University came to a predictable halt. Seasonal depression hit me like a brick amongst the impending stream of research essays, double digit negative weather, and the uploading of grades that really did not seem to match my level of my intelligence.

I found myself stuck, just like the last two years of school, wondering what the hell was wrong with me.

I watched my friends and peers, with equal drive and ambition, start assignments, go to work on time, and balance their busy social life with punctuality and a “just do it” mentality.

Why couldn’t I just do it?

messy room
[Source]
I laid in my bed, staring across the room at an unopened text book and a Word document with one finished sentence out of a ten-page paper that was due the following day.  Next to it, was even more work, dirty dishes, and a pile of laundry that grew and grew with each following week.

It’s hard to explain how it feels living in a vicious cycle of inattentiveness. While there were other factors in my life that caused depression, there had always been a connection to its consistent arrival in the winter of each year, and my inability to achieve the success I wanted in all areas of my life.

It’s even harder to explain what I was experiencing  to a medical professional, in the latest hours a clinic that was opened on a Saturday night.

That one, I think I might have ADHD.

And two, I’m depressed.

To which, the white haired man in a matching lab coat scoffed and said the two could never correlated. He scrawled a referral to a psychologist anyway, but it was only for depression.

I left that clinic feeling invalidated and angry, it almost stopped me from taking the next steps I needed. I was incredibly desperate for an answer, and some help, but all he gave me was condescension.  

However, I went from referral to referral, using also my University’s tactless resources, and found myself in a place that seemed promising

The cost of ADHD is a shit ton of patience, people not believing you, six hours of strenuous psychological testing, a cheque with a price that I curse.

On May 4th 2017, I was handed some papers with my diagnosis. So, I guess it was worth it.

How can a piece of paper change one’s life?

A piece of paper didn’t change my life, at least it hasn’t yet.

It’s been over a week since my last appointment, and there are still countless steps that I need to take to get back on track.

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[Source]
While I live in a world that has a ticking clock for everything, I’m a twenty year old woman and I have to remind myself that I have time to figure everything out. It’s a world that define’s ones worth by their productivity, I hope to be patient as I work through habits built over a lifetime, and to know that, for know, its okay to just be okay. 

I also have to remind myself that the diagnosis isn’t an excuse, and it doesn’t define me. It’s just a part of me, small but impactful on myself and other people in my life.

But I’ll just end for now by saying this: If you feel as though there is a barricade blocking you from the life you want to live, look into it no matter what it maybe. And for others, listen to them, and don’t invalidate the barricade’s existence.

~P.S. If you, or someone you know, has experienced similar things, here’s a link with more information ~

writing

White About It

A writer’s job is to create characters and worlds that are inspired by the world they live in; to delve into the mind and see how their cogs and gears turn. It’s a naturally empathetic hobby. But how do these ideas mesh in our world which is so upturned by issues like identity politics, or high tensioned racial disparities? How can a middle aged woman get into the mind of a young boy in a wizarding world? And how could a white man get into the mind of a black woman residing in the south side of Chicago?

Growing up, I’d always work on these impressively complicated soap opera-like plots in worlds that were even more complicated. I’d make these characters that were so deeply thought out they seemed like my friends. But in my teenage years I realized that all of the stories and people I created were white. And by white I mean incredibly White.

YA and its obsession with paleness

In Twilight, Stephanie Meyer found every way to describe Edward’s deathly pale skin, and I found it really interesting for some reason. It found its way into my own writing, describing characters from translucent pale, to peachy, and sometimes tan.

hermione poc
[Source]
Hermione Granger being described in the Philosopher’s Stone as having: “lots of bushy brown hair, and rather large front teeth”, led a generation of young women of colour to rightfully assume that she probably looked like them. As a reader, I would read of how every character was described, and despite lacking descriptions of skin colour or race, I’d almost always assumed they were white.

Diversifying my own writing

As a writer and and a reader I began to challenge myself. I wanted to diversify the worlds I was creating and reading. For the latter, it wasn’t hard. While reading the Hunger Games it seemed positively certain to me that Katniss was supposed to be a woman of colour with black hair, grey eyes and olive toned skin. However, for writing it was much more difficult.

It’s not so much that I was forcing myself to create diversity in my own writing, I was actually keen on creating stories that diverged from the majority of fiction, television and film that were white. I wanted the stories to reflect my own life and my own friends that had changed when I moved to a larger and more diverse city.  But I realized I was breaching into territory that was not my own.

Much like formative years, I was creating stories and worlds that were incredibly endeavouring. I was trying to write stories about people from walks of life and from perspectives I couldn’t actually fathom. Some people’s lives, real or not, take more than the imagination. 

When writing in the first person perspective, one has to have confidence in what they’re narrating. They have to do their research. But how can someone like me research the lived experience of a black man, a muslim woman, or a transgender teen?

The answer is, I don’t think I can. It’s just not my place.

So… what’s the solution?

White people just can’t write in the perspectives of people that don’t look like them? I’m not sure if that makes sense. The lack of diversity in the world of fiction, on screen and off, is a problem. Encouraging a white-dominated field to only write within their demographic would create a bigger divide and even less representation.

Third person is a great compromise; writing as spectator, as someone watching but not entirely knowing.

But most importantly, it’s not about encouraging the white dominated field of fiction to diversify their protagonists, but to encourage more people of colour to write their own stories, and for them to create their own characters and worlds that are inspired by the realities they live in.

Empathy in Readers

A Cambridge University study by Maria Nikolajeva, professor of education, said that: “reading fiction provides an excellent training for young people in developing and practising empathy and theory of mind, that is, understanding of how other people feel and think”.

I credit my knack of reading from an early age to my ability to effectively empathize. One is stepping into another’s shoes when they read from another person’s perspective. It comes to no surprise that the people who read on their free time in their formative years ended up following movements like feminism, and stay attuned to other similar social issues. 

By encouraging people of colour to write, it will open the doors to many people to see new realities, characters, and stories, and develop an even more empathetic readership.

As for myself, I recommend Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and perhaps even add these to your summer reading list.

 

college, Letter, roommates, university

A Letter To My College Roommates

Hey,

So, here I am, once again the last one to move out.

This very much mirrors our first year in residence; my last exam was on the last day, you, Ellen were already across the ocean touring Europe, and you Riss, were back home and settled with your boyfriend. I sat in the middle of your empty room that had I spent countless minutes in like it was my own. I stared at the empty walls where pictures and posters once hung, I stared at naked beds usually unmade with you in them, and heard a quiet that was so loud.

History repeats itself in more ways than one.

I’m not that sentimental in person, so when you two were packing up I had not yet realized what was happening. It hadn’t hit me. Slowly, I watched this apartment disappear, piece by piece.

I’m a very habitual person, so it was in those moments when I wanted to watch The Office and wait for one of you to come out and watch it with me, or when I wanted to go knock on your door to tell you something about about my day – it was in those moments that I started realizing that I was moving out of my very first apartment, and moving away from two of some of the most important people in my life.

I could write about a million things and more. But I just want to say thank you.

Thank you for everything: the good and the bad, the clean and the messy, the loud and the quiet…

Thank you for growing with me, not in the same direction, but at my side. We definitely aren’t the same people when we first met, and were aren’t the same people when we moved into this apartment.

Thank you, Ellen, for craving sugar as much as I did. For the walks to Shoppers for gummy bears makeup-less and dawned in sweats. For filling the silence with laughter (at my lame jokes) and also allowing the silence to be comfortable. And just showing me that a young woman can work her ass off and truly be completely independent.

Thank you, Riss, for listening. To my weird theories and stories, and my troubles with boys. For saving a spot at the end of your bed for me sit comfortably as I exchanged words with you. For setting an example on eyebrow etiquette, and just showing me that being a good person is far better than having a disingenuous exterior.

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And thank you, to both of you, for being a pain in my ass at times. I’ll miss that.

I learned so much: how to be a good roommate, how to compromise, and while I already knew how to be a good friend, you guys really reinforced it.

However, I have to admit, I’m kind of scared. I have lived with my parents, and then I lived with you – that is all I know. While I know we will manage without our rooms not longer being separated by paper thin walls, it’s just that it’s mind boggling to know I won’t be in your vicinity. And to see you will not just be a knock on your door, but a bus trip away.

If I’ve learned anything my adulthood, it’s that relationships take effort. I’ve made mistakes in my past and promised an unlucky few that I would continue to text and call, but then it stops, and we drift away. So, I expect both of you to know that I will be inviting myself over quite often.

I hope both of you do the same.

Sincerely,

Alannah

P.S. Shout out to whomever made the only blonde girls on our floor first year share a bathroom. This wouldn’t have happened without them.

P.S.S. Ellen, you forgot a bunch of your stuff, can I sell it on Kijiji?
BeFunky Collage

Uncategorized

In Light of International Women’s Day

As posted in the Charlatan Politics Blog:

In light of International Women’s Day last week, I have a few thoughts:

I think too often I’m afraid to call myself a feminist, not because I’m fearful of the reputation I might get when I defend the rights of women and encourage feminine liberation, but because the word is now being associated with something that I do not consider feminism.

Think of Lena Dunham, and her show Girls: four white women living in New York City off of the privilege and wealth their parents earned, and walking through life with the word “victim” written on their foreheads.

Think of Taylor Swift, who’s built her career off of being “America’s Sweetheart,” a victim of bullying by an “angry black man,” and someone who’s built a strange inner circle of thin, white, supermodels in a celebrity feud veiled by the name of girl power.

Think of Emma Watson, who has every right to defend her choice in sparing a bit of cleavage in a Vogue photoshoot, however failed to come to the defense of her female colleagues and women of colour, namely Beyoncé, when they have made that choice in the past.

But also think that because these women have put themselves on a pedestal, and allowed their names to be followed by the word “feminism,” they now experience incessant criticism that their male counterparts will never experience. And I am guilty of this criticism.

I am a white woman who has come from an upper-middle class family in Southern Ontario. Going to university was not something I necessarily I had to work for—it was expected of me. I fully understand that my fair complexion, blonde hair and blue eyes are seen as the epitome of Western beauty. I compare how people treat me to how they treat my friends of colour, and there is no denying that there is an exponential difference.

I believe I experience sexism, from boys not understanding what the word “no” means, to being cat-called as I walk down a main street in Ottawa, to having someone mansplain something to me at a dinner table. While some will stick with me for the rest of my life, most of them are just small annoyances. Annoyances I hope one day our future daughters won’t have to experience.

I do not believe I am oppressed, at least not to the extent of many women I know—women from other cultures and backgrounds and skin colours, to women who were assigned a different gender at birth, to even the boys who grew up desperately wanting to be feminine—and I refuse to walk with the likes of Dunham and Swift with the belief that I am constantly a victim of insistent oppression, when more often than not, my privilege makes my life a lot easier than most.

So, when it looks as though I am not coming to the defense of feminism, it is because the movement has changed in the blight of becoming mainstream, and it is something I find hard to associate myself with. I don’t think the movement should be funnelled down to putting aesthetically pleasing Redbubble stickers on the back of your Macbook Pro, or posting a poem from Milk and Honey on your Instagram. While the intention is great, feminism and International Women’s Day, are about so much more than that.

However, with the new president and the events that have taken place in south of the border, I think now more than ever it is important to defend feminism—even if you see flaws in the movement, and even if your voice shakes.

– Photo by Taylor Barrett