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.

But….

…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…

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY.

We are awesome.

Advertisements

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.

20171223_144022.jpg

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.

    20171116_211919

    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.

 

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

wp-1490204433010.jpg

  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.

wp-1490204540181.jpg

  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.

20150818_155428

  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.

20150819_145422

  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.