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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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

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

 

Home.

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.

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.