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.

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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.

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    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.

 

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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.

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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.

That Time I Accidentally Went on a Date with a Nazi Sympathizer

Yesterday, I had the unfortunate (and trust me, completely accidental) experience of going on a date with a Nazi sympathizer.

This bizarre and highly unexpected situation had me thinking a thought that I’ve played with since moving to Toronto; the thought that I should start a blog. You just can’t make some of the situations up that I’ve found myself in since moving out of my hometown of Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada.

So why start a blog? My dad has his own blog here on WordPress (https://brainfoodcafeforthemind.com/), which has also been a huge source of inspiration for me. I’ve always been encouraged to use my words to speak my mind in a detailed—yet succinct—manner, thanks to my dad. Also, now that I’ve finished my MA degree, I find myself sorely missing the writing that used to consume so much of my time. Although admittedly I’m more familiar with research papers than blogs, there is no time like the present to try something new.

Speaking of trying new things, I’ve recently been trying to make more of an attempt to meet people and make some new friends. I’ve definitely made some fantastic friends here in Toronto, but as I’ve learned, you can never have enough friends.

Through this pursuit, I found myself agreeing to a sushi date with a guy who seemed decent over text. Even if the date himself wasn’t my Prince Charming, at least I would be eating some delicious sushi: and in my world, you really can’t go wrong with sushi.

I was wrong.

The sushi was delicious; all was well in the raw fish department. Things were going fine initially, but when it became apparent he thought Alberta was situated on the west coast of Canada, I knew he was not my true love. But hey, I’m all for meeting new people and eating sushi, so I continued on with the random conversation that often saturates first dates.

Partway through dinner, however, my date decided to start discussing World War II and how the world (particularly the United States) would have not squandered the world’s natural resources so thoroughly if Nazi Germany had been successful in its endeavors. Now I’m not a person who disregards other people’s opinions; however, if it involves a pro-genocide attitude, I’m going to speak up. To clarify, I asked my date if he was prioritizing natural resources over human life, to which he responded that in the long run, human destruction of the earth will eventually kill more people. More awful, racist, and discriminatory comments were made in his pro-Nazi argument, and they would be a waste of time for me to type out.

Worst. Date. Ever.

I’m not telling this story on my inaugural blog post to invoke shame on my date. Instead, I’m telling this story to show a few things:

  • I am a humanist. Several of my upcoming blog posts will involve social justice, and naturally, elements of criminology. As such, I will hopefully avoid going on dates in the future with people who do not share a similar point of view.
  • I like to share stories. If you know me personally, you will likely be aware that I like to tell long, detailed stories which (usually) have a point to them.
  • I like to find humor in every situation. Simply, life is short and I believe it’s important to laugh as often as possible.
  • I like to relate to others. I know that I’m not the only one who has gone on a date that has left much to be desired (those supporting the Holocaust included)!

So with that, my friends, I end my first blog post. Please share and comment below! I would love to hear of any wild first date stories. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here questioning my life decisions over a cup of tea.