Happy Strokeversary, Dad

Eight years ago today, I was waiting for my dad to die. Hoping, praying, and pleading that he wouldn’t, but waiting for that phone call all the same. 

It was early in the morning, and 16 year old me was getting ready for school. Something felt ‘off’; not immediately, but the feeling was gaining traction steadily. I went into my parent’s bedroom to say good morning, and my dad was sitting on the edge of the bed. His head was in his hands, and he was clearly agitated. Asking him what was wrong, he made some brusque reply, clearly not wanting me to worry, but also clearly worried about his well-being. He stood up, momentarily paced, and literally ran downstairs to shower. Looking back, I know he was trying to attach himself to some feeling of normalcy to distract himself from the multitude of sensations he was experiencing. 

I looked at my mom: “he’s having a stroke.”

She knew it too. She called 911 immediately. 

I had recently completed my lifeguard training. There are two situations taught in lifeguard training where, unless you’re a doctor with a plethora of medical resources at your disposal, you’re truly fucked (besides calling 911 and treating for shock). Those two situations are heart attacks and strokes. 

I ran after my dad and tried to convince him to sit down so I could treat him for shock before the ambulance arrived. He refused. I remember sitting on a chair in the living room, looking at my mom and saying, “he won’t let me help him.” We looked at each other for a brief moment, but that moment expressed every fear we had. I can’t quite summarize that instant. My mom ran after my dad. 

Madness. That’s how my dad describes how he felt from the moment he woke up that morning. We wouldn’t have the conversation about how he felt that morning for months because he lost most of his ability to speak. After what seemed an eternity, the ambulance arrived, and my little sister and I were left to our own devices.

 My sister was 13, and being the protective person I am, I tried to maintain my composure for her sake. What do you do after you see your parents at one of the most vulnerable moments of their lives? Anna and I just looked at each other, and commenced our longest Sims marathon to date (12 hours straight, if you’re curious). When I look back on this day, I think of three things: helplessness, endless hours of waiting, and playing The Sims.

Eventually, Anna and I learned that Dad was still alive, but even learning this offered little comfort. How would Dad be able to recover from a stroke, if at all? At the time he was in his early 40s. Would his age help him? Mom was a stay-at-home mom…how would Dad be able to continue working? There were so many questions, so little information, and no answers. 

I was re-introduced to my dad approximately three days later. I say re-introduced because outwardly, his personality had almost completely changed. Dad had great difficulty formulating his thoughts and pronouncing words. He also lost his ability to read. It was incredibly hard for him to communicate, but he still looked the same: no physical effects were present that most people associate with stroke victims. I can’t quite describe what it’s like to meet a man with the body of your dad, but the “scrambled brain” (his words) of a stroke victim. Towards the end of my visit, however, I realized there was one thing my dad hadn’t lost: his sense of humour. He was making fun of his inability to pronounce certain words by quoting the movie Highlander.

We were told my dad’s recovery process would take years. Although we knew it, it was a hard truth. Dad had to relearn speech, writing, and reading; his brain basically had to rewire itself with skills that most of us take for granted on a daily basis. As a journalist by trade, this was incredibly frustrating for him. My family was quickly surrounded by those who truly cared about our wellbeing, and we will be forever indebted to those people (believe it or not, some people will disappear when they hear the words ‘stroke victim’). 

The recovery process did indeed take years. However, thanks to recent efforts to reduce the impact of strokes by Alberta Health Services, my dad got incredibly quick care. He made a recovery that is quite literally miraculous. If you were to meet my dad today, you would not be able to tell that he had a stroke. If that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is. 

Eight years later, my dad regularly makes stroke jokes about his “fried noodle”. Not only has he relearned the skills and abilities he lost, he regularly uses them to promote stroke awareness. Literally one year post-stroke, he was advocating to improve the provincial stroke response strategy. He speaks about strokes. He wrote a feature in the Edmonton Journal about strokes (thanks PressReader for cutting me out of the family photograph). He also has his own blog where he writes about brain health and stroke awareness. My dad’s latest blog post is incredibly uplifting and indicative of his positive attitude post-stroke; go check it out. 

Today is indeed a celebration. Happy Strokeversary, Dad. You’re truly an inspiration. 


International Women’s Day!

Happy International Women’s Day!

I love International Women’s Day. It makes me so damn happy that March 8th is marked as a day to celebrate and validate women. On the other hand, it makes me so damn sad that there is a need to set aside one day per year to celebrate women. One. Day. Per. Year.

I recently watched “Seeing Allred”, which chronicles the — highly impressive and incredibly inspiring — life of American women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred (if you didn’t know she existed prior to reading my blog, she’s the lawyer representing the women accusing Bill Cosby of sexual assault). Approximately halfway through watching the documentary, it hit me: it’s 2018, and we are still fighting for women’s rights. In my lifetime, it is doubtful that women will experience true equality to men. The human race is capable of shooting a Tesla into space, yet somehow it is not capable of acknowledging that women are equal to men (I hope you are simultaneously laughing and crying with me here).

(Note: while I definitely recommend watching “Seeing Allred”, I have to say that the point of view portrayed in this documentary is arguably very white and heteronormative; however, it is indeed the biography of a white, heterosexual woman. But seriously though, how are there documentaries about feminism that barely touch on intersectional feminism?)

When trying to decide what to write about for my International Women’s Day blog, I automatically gravitated towards sharing personal stories of how I have been mistreated as a woman. Every woman has these stories, and it’s infuriating.


…it’s HAPPY International Women’s Day. So let’s fucking celebrate women.

Feminism is a powerful word. It scares people. It makes them uncomfortable, and in certain circumstances — such as the realization that there is a disparity between genders — it should be an uncomfortable word. But to me, it is also a happy word. The existence of the word ‘feminism’ shows that there is hope for change both now and in the future. It’s a word that women can stand behind and support each other with.

Celebrating your fellow woman doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. For example, my friend Hillary and I took a dance class to learn the choreography to Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’ (I know, I know, I’m rolling my eyes along with you- but trust me when I say it was SO much fun). Hillary and I took the class because we love to dance, and because we just wanted to have a fun girls’ night. We went into the class with no skills whatsoever, and encouraged each other each time we learned something new. We boosted each other’s confidence into the damn sky. The best part was when one of the other students came over to us, and told us that she adored our friendship, and how encouraging we were to each other. That was such a great moment.

Some really incredible ‘grand’ feminist moments can be found in this BBC article. There are certain movements that catch a lot of media attention, such as #MeToo, but there are so many more happening internationally that I was personally unaware of.

I could quite literally talk about feminism all day, and if you ever want to pick my brain, I will gladly oblige. For now though, I should probably finish up this post before I start rambling. So, again…


We are awesome.

S*** Magnet

I am known by one of my friend groups as a  “shit magnet”. Pardon the French.

At first I was a little taken aback. Me, a shit magnet? After thinking about it, I realized they mean it as 1) a term of endearment 2) a term of pity based on some of the stories I tell them. Following this train of thought, I have to admit that they are not wrong. I’m not saying I am a walking accident waiting to happen. I’m just saying that I may have almost started a massive electrical fire the other day (more on this incident later).

Even if the phrase “shit magnet” is a bit harsh, I must admit weird things to tend to happen to me. Take, for instance, my very first blog post on WordPress: “That Time I Accidentally Went on a Date With a Nazi Sympathizer”. How did a date like that happen in real life? How does someone born, raised, and educated in Canada sympathize with Nazis? These are questions I still ask myself. I must say though, this story does trump most first terrible date stories I have been told.

In my attempt to plan out this blog post, I was (over)thinking which of my weird stories would be the funniest. The most memorable. The most likely to make you think, “wow, Kristina has such an incredible blog.” In this train of thought, I began to think more deeply about the impact that stories make on people, and the role that storytelling plays in relationship-building. For example, when I go home to Alberta, one of the most important things I do to connect with my friends–especially those I haven’t talked to for a while–is to tell stories. Vice versa, when I come home to Toronto, I reconnect and catch up with my friends here using stories about my adventures in Alberta.


Edmonton’s newest bridge looking all fancy against the cityscape.

One thing I realized is that I prioritize telling the ‘big’, exciting stories; I think it’s fair to say that most people do. ‘Big’ stories have that punch effect, and increase your chances of a captive and empathetic audience; it especially makes sense to tell these stories if you’re catching someone up on the last six-odd months of your life.

On the other hand, ‘little’ stories get lost in the shuffle. By little stories, I’m referring to the stories you tell your friends and/or loved ones when you get home from work; the stories about how a random act of kindness made your day, or how your day was so terrible that all you could do was laugh and cry simultaneously. I find that telling and listening to these little stories is what truly helps build and maintain relationships, and is an indicator of a closer relationship. They allow for more detail, and more clearly display the storyteller’s values and opinions.

While I–presumably like many others–love to hear about the crazy ‘big’ stories in my friends’ lives, I also love to hear about the little, meaningful ones. I thought a lot about this when I went to Alberta for Christmas, as for some reason it became quite obvious to me that I’ve lived away from home for a while now (two and a half years, in fact). I ultimately realized a large part of this feeling was due to just how much I miss hearing the ‘little’ stories from my friends. Thankfully, I have some really incredible friends who I can pick up with right where we left off.

To reward you for reading this far, here are a few of my own ‘little’/weird/random stories from the past few months, in no particular order:

  1. I accidentally attended a rave in November. If you know me even just a little bit, this sentence probably confuses you. I am not the rave type: I don’t use drugs, and I am not a fan of any form of EDM. How, then, did I attend a rave? A coworker knows the owner of a large club in Toronto, and offered to get us into the club for free. My sister was coming to visit, and I thought she would enjoy the big city club experience. My friends, sister, and I roll up to the club and see a MASSIVE line outside. Long story short, it was a rave night with a fairly famous headliner. Tickets were over $100. Technically (and unknowingly) my coworker did us a huge favour. After wandering around not knowing what to do with ourselves, we eventually were invited to (and ultimately took over) a VIP booth. Even I can handle EDM music perched on a couch with freebies.


    The sister and I during her visit to Toronto.  No rave sister picture was taken, as the multitude of flashing lights barely allowed me to walk straight, let alone operate my phone’s camera.

  2. Metro has it out for me. For those reading this unfamiliar with Metro, it is a grocery store chain here in Ontario. Last week, my coworker and I went to Metro to grab lunch. I happened to find a microwave lunch without any of my allergens, hurrah! This is a very rare occurrence. Back at the office, I excitedly followed the instructions on the packaging. Breaded chicken and rice, here I come. Back at my desk, I cut into the chicken. It is so raw that it would fit in with the other uncooked chicken in the meat aisle at Metro. I attempted to call the company that makes these microwave meals, only to find out that they do not speak English and that they do not have a dedicated customer service representative. I then discovered that I was charged twice at Metro for this meal. Because the customer service at this particular Metro is terrible, I emailed them to complain. I received a call from them saying I need to actually go into the store to get reimbursed. Long story short, no delicious chicken lunch and no $8 reimbursement for Kristina.
  3. I almost started a massive electrical fire. One of my friends very kindly got me an Instant Pot for Christmas (if you are not on the IP train, it is a pressure cooker/crockpot and it will change your life). Although ill-advised in the owner’s manual, I keep my IP on my stovetop as I use it regularly and have no counter space. I was frying fish on my stovetop, and noticed some smoke coming from the direction of my IP. Thinking I had somehow turned it on, I lifted the lid: nothing. I then lifted the entire IP up, only to discover that I had somehow turned on the element my IP was resting on. The entire bottom of the IP had melted onto my stove. Magically, none of the wiring was harmed, and I am tempted to (extremely carefully) see if it can still be used. Apparently my brain was turned off that entire day, because later on I washed my hands with mouthwash at the gym. I only noticed after drying my hands because it suddenly smelled overwhelmingly like a dentist’s office.

Hopefully these stories can provide you with a little laughter today. As cliche as it is, remember that the little things do, in fact, matter.


Joie de Vivre

Hellooooo WordPress!

It’s been a while. It’s been nine months, in fact. But what an incredible nine months it’s been.

Many of my past posts have been about trying to figure out my life: finding a Big Girl Job, discovering this amazing city I live in, answering random questions that popped into my head, etc.

I’ll tell you a secret though: I was very close to moving back to Edmonton. There was a point earlier this year where I knew I needed a different job because I was so deeply unhappy; the only things getting me through at that point were my friends, yoga, and books. I had decided that if I did not find a Big Girl Job by August, I would quit my job, go on a fantastic trip, and return (broke) to Edmonton. To placate myself until then, I booked a ticket to Berlin for June, where my sister would be participating in a summer internship.

Everything changed in May: I got a Big Girl Job. And not just any Big Girl Job…an incredible Big Girl Job.

I knew this was the starting point of so many good things to come. It was the validation I needed that my perseverance to stick around Toronto was worth it. You see, even though I had loosely planned moving back to Edmonton at the end of August, it still didn’t feel quite right. Toronto felt right. This whole thought process was validated by a near-death experience (it sounds dramatic, I’ll admit, but it’s true!).

I had worked at my new job for approximately two weeks before I left for Berlin. I could tell at this point that this job was where I was meant to be, and I had to keep pinching myself because a variety of good things were happening all at once. I went off to Berlin almost in a state of shock.

Berlin was incredible. It was the first international sister trip Anna and I had taken together. I got to see family and friends I hadn’t seen in a decade. It was my first time in Berlin as an adult, and I realized that Berlin is basically me as a city.


Abandoned allied spy tower…now a canvas for visual art.

However, I’ll also never forget this trip because I almost died. As my close friends reading this blog know, I had the worst allergic reaction of my life in Berlin. I’ve had severe anaphylactic allergies my whole life, and I’ve had terrible life-threatening reactions before, but quite literally nothing compares to the reaction I experienced in Berlin.

My sister, cousin and I were eating dinner at a burger restaurant. I chose a vegan option, as vegan food is significantly safer for me to eat with my allergies. While eating the burger, there was a brief moment where it felt like a reaction was about to begin. Strangely, it passed after a couple of minutes, and I assumed that due to my paranoia I was imagining a reaction (which has happened before).

After dinner, the three of us were walking to the nearest tram stop, and I suddenly felt like I had been hit with every possible allergic reaction symptom at once. My throat began constricting without pause. I couldn’t feel my face. My stomach felt like it was turning in on itself. Anna noticed immediately what was happening. I popped two Benadryl and told her I needed water ASAP.

The three of us ran into a bar so I could grab water, but before the bartender had poured the glass, I felt so suddenly ill that I ran into the bathroom located in the basement. Anna ran after me, and so begun a period of time that I have very little recollection of to this day. What I do remember is a constant battle in my brain, debating whether or not I should use my Epi-Pen (note: if this question is ever considered, the correct answer is to always use the Epi-Pen).

But if I use my Epi-Pen, I’ll only have one left for the duration of my trip.

I’ll have to go to the hospital if I take it, and what if my travel insurance provider lied and I have to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket for emergency care.

I don’t really want to die…I have so much going for me right now. I just started this incredible job. I’m so blessed to have such a caring family. I’m so blessed to have friends that are like family to me.

I’m not exaggerating on that last thought. My brain was so deprived of oxygen that I was literally weighing the options of living out my life or dying in the basement of a bar in Berlin (I hope those of you with a black sense of humor like me can find this part a bit amusing).

Eventually, after Anna persistently telling me to just use my Epi-Pen and asking if I needed an ambulance, I silently reached into my backpack and grabbed the Epi-Pen. After realizing I couldn’t read the instructions (words are hard when your brain is working with significantly less oxygen than it’s used to), I followed my instincts. Looking my sister dead in the eyes, I stabbed myself and whispered, “we should call the ambulance now.” Again, if you have a black sense of humor I hope you can laugh at the ridiculousness of this moment. At this point, I was seriously wondering how much longer I would have before I blacked out, as my vision was starting to darken. This had never happened to me before.

Things seemed to happen quite quickly after that. Germans are known for their efficiency, and emergency services is no exception. After much confusion as to what an Epi-Pen is (they have a totally different name for it in Germany) and after almost having a heart attack (likely due to the Epi-Pen misunderstanding and the administration of God-knows what drug), I was dragged up the stairs of the bar and into an ambulance, which had stopped in the middle of the street, on the tram tracks, during rush hour  (you’re welcome, Berlin). Not everyone can say that they have quite literally stopped traffic in Berlin.

We made it to the hospital with no issues. It was the best hospital experience I’ve ever had (and according to my cousin, it was the best hospital in Germany). Anna was my rock throughout this entire experience, and things would have ended dramatically differently without her. I’ll never be able to thank her enough.

Following the reaction, I couldn’t comprehend what had happened. I couldn’t think about the events of the situation for a solid week after they occurred. I still don’t remember much of the reaction, and I only know details of the story thanks to Anna.

The day after, I approached life with renewed vigor. Usually after a bad reaction, it takes me two to three days to feel back to normal. Not this time. I had a second shot at life and I wasn’t going to waste any time. I can still remember the look of disbelief on my cousin’s face when we met that day to go see the Berlin wall.

I’ve tried to maintain that joie de vivre since that day (I’ve also tried to be extra cautious when eating out since that day!). I think I’ve succeeded. I hope I keep succeeding, and I hope that you can also find joy in your life without nearly dying in the basement of a grungy bar.


The day after my allergy attack. And yes, denim on denim is cool in Berlin.




Toronto vs. Everybody

It’s finally spring- hurrah!

I’m going to start this season off with a post on my favourite places in Toronto. I realize that my past few blog posts have been a bit on the heavy/wordy side. While I recognize not everyone is interested in reading such posts, I think it is so important to maintain transparency in our experiences; this is one of my main goals in writing this blog. It’s so easy to walk through life and not connect with those around us.

However, I don’t want everyone to think I’m a constantly in a negative headspace because of my last couple posts. While moving out east (yes, Albertans consider Toronto to be “out east”) has had its challenges, I continue to have amazing experiences in this city. Having lived in Toronto for over a year and a half now, I really feel at home here. Sherwood Park will always be my home base though.

Anyways, here is a list of my top ten favourite places to go in Toronto! This is by no means an exhaustive list. Enjoy, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

  1. BMV

BMV is a book lover’s dream. Those of you that have me on Snapchat know that I often take snaps whilst wandering around the aisles. BMV sells both new and used books at extremely low prices (and the used books are in mint condition). Not only are the prices great, but the books are also great: the selection is astounding and always changing. You can also often buy new releases. There are three locations in Toronto, but the Bloor location is my personal favourite for a few reasons: it is the largest store, it is in a cool neighbourhood (the Annex), and they always play amazing music (last time I went it was old Elvis tunes). Another bonus is that all BMV locations are open quite late. I always feel at peace wandering around endless shelves of books. You can check out the website here: http://www.bmvbooks.com/

  1. The Cameron House

The Cameron House is my favourite live music venue in Toronto, by far. You can pop in every day of the week and hear a variety of music being played. It looks partially like a 1920s theatre, and partially like someone dug up random décor from their basement (I say this in the best way possible. Really). They also have a second stage and bar at the back. Their cheap beer is an added bonus to an already stellar time. If you’re in Toronto, you need to check it out: http://www.thecameron.com/index.html


  1. Queen West

 Queen West consists of every kilometer on Queen Street west of Yonge Street, all the way to Roncesvalle Avenue; admittedly this is a long stretch of road. However, it is incredibly dynamic, which is the reason why it is one of my favorite places to wander in Toronto. Stretching through the heart of the trendy downtown core all the way to the up-and-coming Parkdale, there is no shortage of sights to see. On the downtown section of Queen Street you can find Eaton Centre (including a six-story Bay), Old City Hall, Nathan Phillips Square, and a variety of retailers and restaurants (both chain and independent). Just past Spadina, you can dive into Graffiti Alley and explore the stunning murals that Queen West is famous for. Nearing Bathurst and the hipster neighborhood of Trinity Bellwoods, you can find quirky independent stores as well as a local brewery. Continuing west, you’ll eventually wander into Parkdale, known for its plethora of vintage shops.


  1. Kensington Market

Kensington is more than just a market. It has permanent store fronts year round, ranging from vegan bakeries to dispensaries. In the summertime on weekends, streets are shut down for pedestrians, and a few market-style booths are set up. It’s an incredibly quirky and unique area, and many of the storefronts are old houses painted in bright colors. The best spots to hit are Bunners (a vegan, gluten free bakery that is a major weakness of mine), Blue Banana (they literally sell everything), and the huge number of vintage stores.

  1. Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)

 I’ve seen my fair share of museums, and the ROM is the cream of the crop. The variety of exhibits is astounding, and the sheer number and importance of the artefacts they have on display is incredible. You could easily spend days inside the ROM. My favorite permanent exhibit is the Egyptology one (and yes, they have several mummies). Just go to the ROM. Right now. Go.


  1. Steamwhistle Brewery

 Although more on the touristy side, I just love going to Steamwhistle. Every time a friend comes to visit me (which happens fairly frequently- I have wonderful friends), I take them to Steamwhistle. Tours are only $10 and include a charismatic (but not annoying) tour guide, beer, and a souvenir. I’ve been three or four times now, and I love it every time. I also now hold a vast (and perhaps unneccessary) amount of knowledge about the Steamwhistle brand.

  1. Distillery District

 The Distillery District is extremely picturesque and celebrates Toronto’s old warehouse brickwork. El Catrin is a great Mexican restaurant in the District that I highly recommend checking out- their guacamole and margaritas are incredible. This district is also home to Mill Street Brewery. Summer is a great time to check out the variety of shops and restaurant the Distillery District has to offer, but my favourite time to visit is during the annual Christmas Market, a European-style market complete with wooden outdoor booths and mulled wine.


  1. The Lockhart

 Those of you that know me are aware that I am a massive Harry Potter fan. So, when it was announced that The Lockhart—a Potter-themed bar—was opening up in Toronto, you can imagine my extreme excitement. I was most definitely lined up around the block on opening night (and in a strange twist of fate, the person ahead of me in line was also from Sherwood Park). Because it is not a licensed Harry Potter establishment, the bar is extremely suggestive in its connection to Hogwarts, but does not have any identifiable logos from the series. The drinks are also delicious and creative, including a drink inspired by the Goblet of Fire (and yes, it does involve fire).

  1. Saint Lawrence Market/Saint James Park

 The Saint Lawrence Market is a traditional indoor market that primarily sells meat, seafood, cheese, and bread/pastries, and is located by the iconic Flatiron building on Front Street. What makes this market stand out is the high quality of products, although you will often pay more than when you go to the grocery store. The Saint James Park is one block north of Saint Lawrence, and boasts a gorgeous flower garden during the summer. Attached to the park is the Saint James Cathedral, with architecture that is definitely worth checking out. 

  1. University of Toronto- St. George Campus

 Lastly, the reason why I moved to Toronto in the first place: to attend U of T. Little did I know, U of T has more than one campus in the GTA. However, I got to attend the coolest one, located in downtown Toronto: St. George (I may be slightly biased). The campus is gorgeous—particularly in autumn—and boasts some of the oldest buildings in Canada.


A Love Letter to Books, the Present, and Myself

My entire adult life, I’ve consistently asked myself one question: where will I be one year from now?

This question leads to a string of follow-up questions: where will I be five years from now? Will I fulfill all of the goals I’ve set for myself? Will my goals change?

Will I fail?

Asking myself that final question, my brain immediately retreats under the comfort of my past accomplishments mixed with the utter denial that failure is possible. However, I then get hit with the reminder that failure is indeed possible, and that I have personally failed many times. I’ve failed as a sister, daughter, friend, student, and in many other capacities as well. I’ve failed to write a blog for the past few months, and have failed to even keep to my initial goal of writing two posts per month. We all fail, and failure is inevitable.

The thing is though, without failing, we are unable to fully understand the importance and excitement of fulfilling our goals. Goal setting can be a very scary prospect because it means that we are acknowledging that we wish to accomplish something, and that we may or may not accomplish it.

I have always been dedicated to goal setting, and I believe this practice has helped me earn a lot of the success I’ve experienced. Excluding the past year of my life, it has been fairly straightforward for me to set goals: they almost always involved school. However, upon the completion of my Master’s degree—and knowing I’m not interesting in pursuing a PhD—I realized that my main source of goal setting and fulfillment was now a chapter of my past.

This realization lead to a tumultuous and at times excruciating process of extracting myself from a formalized education system and into what is often terrifyingly described as “the real world”. Trying to pursue a career in my field has been difficult, as I’ve touched on in past blog posts. Living far away from my family and friends in Alberta was extremely hard right after my schooling was done. I was depressed for several months even as those close to me cheered me on, repeating that ambiguous statement that soon things will get better. To this sentiment, I kept telling myself that success was not happening fast enough. This is not to say I didn’t appreciate encouragement from my friends and family; this is to say that I did not know how to live in a world where I didn’t know where I would be a year from now. Hell, I didn’t even know where I would be in a month or two at the time.

My parents kept telling me to enjoy the present. They promised they wouldn’t let me starve or get evicted, knowing that I was searching for jobs every day. However, I found that I could not accept the present. I was hell-bent on hating the position that I found myself in. As you might imagine, this became tiring. Yet, I didn’t care: the present fucking sucked and no one could make me like it.

Books ended up saving me from my constant state of negativity. I started reading with renewed vigor, trying to provide myself with some sort of escapism. I first escaped to rural Sweden with Stieg Larsson’s thriller The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I continued to read my way through other faraway locales such as Paris and England. What had started out as escapism eventually (over the course of several months) led me to appreciate my own present, and gave me the perspective that I am an actor in my own story. Along with reading, starting my current job, making new friends, and rediscovering yoga continued to help me appreciate the value of the present.

I now try to seek out opportunities to appreciate the present as much as possible. I continue to be inspired by books, and have coincidentally (?) read many books recently that use the present/notion of time as a major theme. These books include A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett, Room by Emma Donoghue, The High Mountains of Portugal The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel, The Shack by Wm. Paul Young, and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. I highly recommend all of these books, and would love to hear your thoughts on them if you’ve read them.

I am proud to say that I’m now more comfortable living in the present, and am more able to appreciate the opportunities that the present affords me. I’ve learned to create more manageable goals that strike a balance between keeping me motivating and not threatening my ability to appreciate my life right now. While I am far from figuring this whole adult thing out, I finally feel like I’m taking control of the pen and writing my next chapter.


If you had told me at any point in the past that I would work for a financial institution, I would have laughed you out of the room. I’ve never gotten along with numbers no matter how hard I’ve tried; just ask my poor (and extremely patient) high school math teacher.

Perhaps I shouldn’t make my lack of numerical understanding sound so desperate; I am capable of doing social statistics at a graduate level (anything else involving numbers results in my eyes instantly glazing over). I’ve recently started working as a bank teller, which has involved a steep learning curve, but has been going quite well. Since the last blog I’ve written, I’ve worked two jobs at once, have ultimately transitioned to my current position, and have officially convocated from my MA program (YAY!): sadly the regularity of my blog has suffered, as I just have not have enough hours in the day to write a quality blog post.

As I continue to pursue my search for the Big Girl Job (i.e. career job in my field) and get continuously farther away from when I completed my MA coursework back in May, I’ve had two questions in my head pop up with increasing regularity.

What is home? Where is home?

Perhaps you might be questioning how these two questions are related to what I’ve written so far.

Having worked a couple of jobs here now that have nothing to do with my field of interest make me wonder if Toronto is my home. Then I wonder why I didn’t question this inquiry as strongly last year as I am now.

When I think about it, I feel strangely at home (comfortable but lacking something), as opposed to strangely at home (a feeling of immediate and secure comfort). Let me explain. I feel comfortable and safe in Toronto. I love my neighborhood, and I couldn’t ask for a better building to live in. I’ve made some amazing friends. Although these factors are part of what I consider a home to consist of, something is missing, besides my friends and family from back home. However, I know that if I moved back to Alberta, I would miss the excitement of Toronto, particularly the unique food and cocktails, the live music, and the ability to explore such a diverse city. This contradiction has confused my brain immensely the past few months, so I’ve started asking myself more and more: what is home? Where is home?

Many rely on the cliché ‘home is where the heart is’ to answer these two questions. I think this is a valid place to start. Being close with my family and being blessed with a fantastic set of friends, I’ve never doubted that these people have woven a sense of home into my life. Contradicting the idea that home is usually where your family and friends are is the immense sense of ease I felt when moving to Toronto to pursue my masters: I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. While my move to Toronto and tackling graduate studies was no easy feat, I became comfortable with my new city and new friends rather quickly. But still, my brain is confused: why am I feeling less at ease now?

I think I’ve found the answer in a book. Currently I’m reading The High Mountains of Portugal by Canadian author Yann Martel. In the pages I have read so far, Martel suggests that home can be found in the journey to fulfilling our ambitions; it is the focus and dedication we pour into achieving our goals. He also writes “that human life is no more than this: an attempt to feel at home while racing towards oblivion” (p.34). In applying this to my own life, I am reminded to be patient and to trust my journey as I work to fulfill my career goals, despite the frustrations and challenges. I’ve realized that to me, home is not only a place with my friends and family, but also a place where I wholeheartedly pursue my ambitions. This is currently a major challenge for me, which therefore makes me question what and where my home is. Sometimes answers are hidden in places we least expect to find them, yet I would expect nothing less from a book.

If you have made it this far in reading my blog post, thank you for hearing me out. If I annoy you with my babbling, I’m not sorry. I know that many people in my situation—recently graduated, young, little work experience—face similar frustrations. It’s okay to be angry that many job postings ask for entry-level applicants to have over five years of experience. It’s okay to be angry that when you try your hardest, you’re not rewarded for your efforts. It’s okay to be angry, but it’s not okay to be passive and let your circumstances define you. One of the main reasons I started this blog is to ensure people in situations similar to mine know that they are not experiencing the same frustrations alone.

If we had everything figured out, life would be boring and we would not have the experiences that make us who we are. Keep on keeping on, my friends.

My Complicated Relationship with Food

This weekend, one of my best friends from high school is getting married! I’m also incredibly excited because I am one of her two maids of honour (couldn’t break up a trio of high school best friends!).

Big events involving food, however, are often sources of fear for me. Having had anaphylactic food allergies for my entire life, weddings, graduations, and parties are all synonymous with that big question: will I be able to eat anything? And if that question seemed anti-climactic to you, I will have you know I am an extreme foodie and would probably weigh six hundred pounds if I didn’t have my food allergies.

On a more serious note, this question is an important one. The risk of eating anywhere—but particularly at large events—can be increased by so many factors, including carelessness, honest mistakes, and misunderstandings. Personally, I find choosing to eat anywhere outside of my home rests on the amount of trust I am able to place in the people making the food. However, I never fully trust anyone; I’ve had too many close calls.

I’ve had allergy attacks in strange places: the tallest building in China, rural Peru at 4000 meters of elevation (no they don’t have 24/7 emergency rooms and yes the elevation makes it hard to breathe to begin with), a corn maze, and my own kitchen (sadly true on more than one occasion). Although the locales, circumstances, and the severity of reactions change, the emotional burden remains fairly consistent. Being in my twenties I have developed a system of monitoring my physical symptoms, but emotionally staring death in the face is never an easy thing. While allergy attacks can become severe quickly, especially if you have anaphylaxis, I often feel like time slows down. The back of my throat starts swelling; then if my entire throat begins to swell I know I need to reach for my Epi-Pen and call an ambulance. I continuously swallow in order to judge how worried I need to be about the quick arrival of the paramedics. All the while, at the back of my mind I know that I can die within minutes.

This may sound dramatic to you, but it is my reality. Recently, my fellow maid of honor in the upcoming wedding has been diagnosed with celiac disease. Although celiac disease and allergies affect bodies very differently, living with celiac and allergies is very similar. With her recent diagnosis, my friend has been experiencing frustration with those who do not understand her condition, along with frustration at coping with her food restrictions. Hearing her experiences makes me reconsider how I cope with my food allergies. While I’m pretty used to receiving comments such as “wow, having allergies must really suck” or “wow, so what do you even eat?”, they continue to be difficult to respond to. Yes, having allergies sucks, but I’ve learned to live with them. Yes, I do eat food besides lettuce.

Luckily, understanding and tolerance of food restrictions has grown significantly in recent years. I am very fortunate to have friends (like my friend getting married this upcoming weekend) who are extremely careful with my allergies. I am also very fortunate to live in a country that understands the importance of universal healthcare, thereby giving me the ability to acquire an Epi-Pen for significantly less than $600 (a cruel act of capitalism my allergy brethren in the United States are currently facing).

I thought this blog post would be particularly fitting for October; Thanksgiving is next weekend, and Halloween will soon be upon us. If you know someone with a food restriction, please be mindful of that. If you have sincere questions about a person’s dietary needs, just ask. If—Heaven forbid—someone has a reaction, call the ambulance immediately. Also, a bonus to calling the ambulance is that you will get to see attractive paramedics: my favourite part (although I always look like complete shit by the time paramedics arrive when I have allergy attacks; lack of oxygen will do that to a girl).

Happy Thanksgiving to you all, and happy (safe) eating!

That Time I Accidentally Met Prince Harry

This past May—you guessed it—I accidentally met Prince Harry.

I was walking to school to clean out my locker, which for some reason was the only day I was able to do so. I could see some people gathering at Queen’s Park (the Ontario legislature- see the picture above) but brushed it off as one of the many protests that regularly occur there. After talking to a couple of the admin ladies, I was told that Prince Harry was on his way to meet with some officials in order to promote the Invictus Games (note: the Games are basically the Olympics for retired and previously injured military personnel, and will be taking place in Toronto next summer).

Naturally, I had to see if I could get a glimpse of my future husband. As many of my friends and family know, I often seem to find myself in circumstances in which I see famous people. I have no idea why this happens to me, but I am definitely not complaining about it.

As I readied myself for what I was hoping would be a short stakeout, I did one of my favourite things: people-watched. Someone had brought their baby in hopes of getting it blessed with the prince’s lips. Women of all ages were hoping HRH would fall in love with them at first sight. The majority of people were (unsurprisingly) hardcore royalists. As excited as I was about seeing Prince Harry, I am not necessarily a royalist. Fully realizing this in such a setting made me question why I was therefore so excited to see Prince Harry.

Canada has the United Kingdom to thank for many of the things we might assume are inherently ‘Canadian’: our court system and governmental system, to name a couple of examples. Traditions that have been passed down for centuries from our English friends across the pond have no doubt influenced Canada in ways we probably can’t even fully realize. Personally, I can’t help but question how necessary the English monarchy are for Canada’s future (aside from my future marriage to Prince Harry). While they are not government decision-makers, the monarchy does continue to be incredibly and significantly symbolic. I didn’t understand the extent of how important the monarchy continues to be as figureheads until I was waiting for Prince Harry to arrive: and let me tell you, royalists would probably give up their firstborn child to catch a glimpse of a royal.

Continuing to ponder Canadian identity, I had to think of my move to Toronto last year. After driving across Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and being fortunate enough to visit Quebec last summer, I felt much stronger in my identity as a Canadian. Prior to this adventure, I felt much stronger in my Albertan identity as opposed to my Canadian identity.

Canada is a large country with a diverse population, which is one of the most beautiful things about Canada. However, the vastness of Canada also means that it is often cheaper to travel abroad rather than travel to a different part of Canada, which is quite unfortunate. I think it makes sense that we identify more intimately with the geographical location where we spend most of our time, but after this past year, I’m of the opinion that Canadians—myself included—need to start investing more time into our Canadian identities as both individuals and united citizens.

Long story short, I realized that I was excited to see Prince Harry because I am a major history nerd. I may or may not be slightly obsessed with medieval English history. However, this obsession doesn’t stem from some sort of romantic notion of a prince sweeping a princess off her feet. Being the criminology geek that I am, I love this period of history because of the political deviance: the brutal and regularly bloody political deviance of the monarchy (and other nobles) that used every tool they had to maintain and gain power.

To summarize: I was excited to see Prince Harry because to me, he is a direct connection to the centuries of intricate medieval politics that I so love. And another reason for my excitement might be that I find him attractive.

I ended up getting an amazing selfie with Prince Harry; he came right up to me (which doesn’t always happen with public figures, in my experience) and it resulted in one of my favourite pictures ever. He was incredibly sweet, and joked around a bit with me. A British newspaper then interviewed me on my experience meeting HRH, since he did take the time to talk to me. I haven’t been able to find the article yet, unfortunately. However, the journalist took my information, so I rest easy knowing that Prince Harry has the ability to find me once he realizes I am his dream girl.


For those of you who are familiar with my facial expressions, you can tell how excited I am in this picture!

P.S. I apologize for how long it’s been since my last post; my parents’ visit coupled with starting a new job has resulted in a tad bit of craziness. Now that I’m in the swing of things, I plan to continue with weekly blog installments! Meanwhile, I’ll be over here questioning my life decisions over a cup of tea.

Statistics, Failure, and Other Uplifting Topics (No, Actually)

Today, I became a statistic.

(To be fair, you can quantify nearly everything, and virtually anything can be interpreted as a statistic; this can be a rather restrictive and depressing thought, especially if you’re as bad at math as I am.)

More clearly, then, today I became a statistic that I don’t like. I became one of many graduating grad students who have to rely on a minimum wage job to pay the bills until I manage to get a career job.

This elusive ‘big girl job’, as I’ve been calling it, is frustratingly—you guessed it—elusive. Part of the reason why I wanted to pursue grad school was to hopefully mitigate the difficulty of starting a career. But, as much of my MA cohort is finding out: easier said than done. We can argue anyone under the table about the definition and implications of liminal space, yet we largely remain unemployed.

Part of what makes my current ‘failure’ to find a career job so difficult is that this past year has been a year of success. I got into my top choice of school, and I did really well in school. I’ve been able to experience living in downtown Toronto, and I’ve been able to travel to Quebec and Chicago.

However, the farther I drift from frustration (which truthfully depends on the day), the more I realize how intertwined failure and success really are. With the failure of getting a job, I’ve found success in the (vast) amount of time I’ve had to think about my goals for the future; I’ve been able to discern which job applications are even worth spending the time on, and which ones are not worth applying to. In my opinion, both failure and success are relative.

As trying as life has been lately, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve had so many amazing experiences over the past year, and I wouldn’t trade them in for the world. I know I’ll look back on this time later in life, and envy the feeling of freedom I have right now.

I’ve also tried to have a bit of fun with my current predicament. As some of you know, I’ve recently become a Professional Background Actor (the fancy way of saying a movie extra): because, why not? I was pretty into drama in high school, and recently (during my vast amount of time to think), I thought, why can’t I still be into drama? The ending of school doesn’t have to mark the ending of certain hobbies that are normalized as extracurriculars in schools.

And so concludes my musings for this week. My next blog post may be a bit late next week, as I will be in Montreal with my parents! Maybe I’ll find a bit of inspiration there for my next instalment. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here questioning my life decisions over a cup of tea.