And she’s back at ‘er

Well friends, it’s been over a year since I last spilled to you – and let me tell you, there have been a TON of developments in that time. 

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This is what I look like now!

 

I’ve been away from this blog because I took a much-needed break from school. I wanted to step away from my studies to make sure I was really doing what I was passionate about, and work to pay off some debt that I’d accumulated while living abroad. I wrote about my plans to take time off here.

This year was exhausting.

Most of the time, I was working 7 days a week. I worked my 9-5 job for a website called Travelzoo, but it didn’t stop there. Over the past year, I’ve worked at a café/whiskey bar on the Harbourfront and a cult taco joint in the Annex, as an Elf at the Christmas Market, and a Brand Ambassador at the Distillery’s first-ever light festival. I even thought it was a good idea to take an online course during this time, and occasionally stepped in as tour guide for the company I’ve worked for for 4 years.

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Light Fest 2017

With the exception of two weeks over Christmas, I didn’t really take breaks, and that really wore me down. I had a tough time keeping my room clean and my fridge stocked; even my (incredible and patient) roommates saw very little of me. Trust me, y’all: if you can, keep your weekends sacred. I’m not trying to glorify my busy, it was simply my reality at the time. I didn’t do it to seem important or needed, I did it because it felt financially necessary for me.

This year was refreshing.

Even though I was working myself to the bone, I was learning a million new skills. I gained experience in hospitality, sales, production, client relations, account management, web publishing, travel and tourism, event planning, public relations, and more. The jobs I held presented a new set of routines and expectations, and a completely different group of people. I’m a hands-on learner, so learning on the job and applying my skill set every day felt so much more fulfilling than simply talking about theory.

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It was also nice to have a break from thinking about grades and classes and credits and exams. Going through a lot of health issues in the past few years really derailed me academically, and I started to think I wasn’t smart or deserved a place in my university. I’m a high achiever who wasn’t really proud of how I was performing in school, and I became disinterested and lost motivation. Thinking about my grades gave me massive anxiety, and I finally had a chance to define myself by something other than transcripts, while learning new skills that built my confidence.

This year, it got personal.

Being away from school meant that I was away from my core social circle. Between that and the frantic busyness that comes from working all the time, I learned who my real friends were.

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Roommate friends

I quickly weeded out those peers that looked down on me for not sticking with school – I had no time for their condescending remarks about how easy my life must now be, or the insinuations that I wasn’t smart, determined, or a hard enough worker to stick with it. I knew in my heart that I simply needed to make sure I was doing what was required to achieve my own goals and find balance again.

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Restaurant friends

I became so grateful for the people that both encouraged and empowered me to take time and do my own thing. The ones that honestly cared about how I was faring in the corporate world, and reminded me to take care of myself. These were people who checked in when my health got thrown out of wack, and when my family was going through tough times. They were a mix of old and new faces, who would gladly boost me up when I felt lost and celebrate the little wins I had each day. I shook off the emotional vampires who tried to belittle me, and I learned that I would much rather live a balanced life than a prestigious one prescribed by someone else’s definition of success.

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*****

And so, I’m back on campus and returning to eAmbassador role yet again. I’m trying to always remain present and attentive in class, and continue to engage with the unique communities that will always exist here at Glendon. This time around, though, life is a little different. I’ve pressed the re-set button in my life, and I have a better sense of what my priorities are.

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 “I took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference.”

 

Until next time,

– K

 

 

 

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Today, I woke up in a very different Europe.

For those of you who may be confused about what this “Brexit” thing is, or why the heck everyone is losing their cool over it – that’s totally cool and fair and I GET IT. Not everyone is captivated by world politics, nor are they easy to understand – our world systems are infinitely complex. I’ve been studying politics in Europe for the last 6 months, so in case you’d like to join the conversation, here’s a couple of things to know.

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If this is how you feel about the Brexit, I suggest you read on.

 

DISCLAIMER: I am by no means an expert, and I am aware there are several generalizations in this piece – I simply want to give an overview/summary of the referendum and its possible implications in Europe and the world at large.
The European Union is made up of 28 members states (countries). This union was started in the 50’s to create strong economic ties, so that it would enforce peaceful relations between historically warring states, namely Germany and France (at this point, we’re rebuilding from World War II – Europe is in total devastation). The strategy was/is that you won’t want to start a brawl with someone whose economy is interdependent with yours. Over the years, the union has become a powerful political entity that shares common economic structures, a common currency in 19 states (the Euro), cultural and social values – they even have a “Europe Day”, a theme song – all the bells and whistles.
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The EU map…as it was

An important thing to note is that Europe has a policy called Schengen – that means that within the Eurozone, europeans have the right to free movement of goods and people. This creates a borderless Europe (read: no customs checks or visa requirements for citizens), and a common economic market within the 28 member states.

You still with me? 

Good. 

The United Kingdom held a referendum (country-wide vote) yesterday (June 23, 2016) on whether to remain a part of the European Union. This was dubbed the Brexit (Britain’s exit). The whole kerfuffle generally boils down to current nationalist sentiments in Britain – some Britons believe that the UK is putting more into the EU than they are getting out of it, some take issue with positions in the EU not being democratically elected, some feel that the institutions of the European Union (ex. the European Parliament, the Commission, the Council and all of their many branches) infringed on the sovereignty of Westminster (sovereignty: right of a country to self govern within its own borders without interference by other states, Westminster: the UK’s parliament). The thing to note here is that no matter which way the referendum turned, there would always be issues that needed resolving. 
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The Union Jack or the EU drapeau? Voters thought it must be one over the other

British Prime Minister David Cameron promised in 2013 that if elected, he would hold a referendum to appease the people. Cameron was in the “Remain” camp, believing that the UK would be stronger, safer, and more stable if part of a united Europe – he even promised to make a deal with the European Union that would make it more appealing for the United Kingdom to stay.
Cameron made a little bit of a mess, however, as he never believed that the results would be as they were: 51.9 % in favour of the UK leaving the EU.
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There were generally two types of voters in the referendum – under 30’s and university educated voters tended to be in the REMAIN camp, while seniors (baby boomers) and less educated people tended towards LEAVE. At 70%, this was the highest voter turn-out since 1997 

Got that?

What does this mean for the United Kingdom?

The UK = England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland.
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Since it officially takes 2 years for a state to leave the EU, nothing will happen drastically or overnight. However, these are some possible/probable outcomes:

 

  • There were a few areas that came out as strongholds to REMAIN in the EU. These were Scotland, Northern Ireland, and parts of England like London.
  • Scotland will likely hold an independence referendum and decide whether or not to leave the UK. They have held one before in 2014, which ultimately resulted in them staying. However, now that they are no longer connected to the EU and being ‘taken out against their will‘, this union could disintegrate.
  • Northern Ireland has seen a ton of conflict since the declaration of the Irish Republic in 1922, and have only *really* had peace for 14 years. There are generally two groups in NI: Irish catholics, who wish to be reunited with the rest of the Republic, and Protestants who wish to keep their ties to Britain. There is still a physical barrier wall between these two groups in cities like Belfast, and a certain religious apartheid continues to exist. Northern Ireland also receives “peace payments” from the European Union. To enact a stronger border and divide the country even further will probably push them to a referendum as well, or Northern Ireland’s borders may not be included in the “New UK”. Read more here.
  • Life in the United Kingdom will change. Border control, passports, visas, working relationships, and life changes – things could get very complicated for those trying to come and go. I’ll admit, I’m not so educated on this one and the changes have yet to be announced. The beauty of the UK being an EU member state is that many people used Britain as a gateway to the rest of Europe – 27 other countries and a wide market to trade in. We can already see changes, as the British Pound has dropped to it’s lowest value in decades as investors scramble.

What does this mean for the EU?

  • Many people are worried that this will pave the way for other states to leave, and that this is the “beginning of the end” of the EU. Sure, the EU isn’t a perfect system, but I don’t think we’ll see the demise of it drastically soon. Just listen to President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker’s speech this afternoon, and then this great comeback!
  • Scotland will possibly try to join the EU, but it is likely that Spain will veto their membership (they do not like the idea of Scotland being recognized as an independent state, as their own region of Catalonia has a lot of separatist movements).
  • The results have yet to be rolled out and seen – the UK is technically a member until 2018, but we hope that their leaving doesn’t destabilize this unique political/social/economic structure.

 

What does this mean for countries like Canada, and the rest of the world?

  • Canada has a lot invested in British markets (yoooo Commonwealth, represent!). Since the pound is dropping, our investments and our markets may too. It’s also possible that we will see the rise of a strong US dollar – making it more expensive for travel across the border.
  • Make no mistake, this is part of the rise of the far right nationalists. The Leave campaign used a lot of xenophobic fear mongering about ‘border security’ – this is all linked to the European Union’s response to the migration crisis (though that’s a story for another day). One of the leaders of the Leave campaign, Nigel Farage, has been compared to Donald Trump (read here and also here). There are euroskeptic, Trump-type figures across Europe as well. America, and the rest of the world, should watching and taking notes.

There is going to be a lot of change in the world very very soon, so let’s brace ourselves to go through some growing pains. Thanks for engaging by reading, responding, and keeping your awareness up!

DFTBA,

– K

Nearing the finish line

I am now more than halfway through my exchange semester in Brussels, nearing final classes and exams now! It’s totally wild. School is really tough, and yet I’m finally settling into a social life here and sometimes that’s all I can think about. Time to put my genius cap on! Across the ocean, my relationships with loved ones have changed, as has my relationship with myself. You really don’t understand the differences that 3 months will make until you take the time look behind you.

With that being said, I thought I’d give you all some insight on some distinct elements of life in Brussels/Belgium/Europe so far.

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One of my first days in Brussels!

It is always raining. Always.

Mother Nature is the moodiest when she’s hanging out in Belgium. A day could start gorgeously warm and sunny, and as soon as you step outside you’ll be greeted with an absolute downpour! Let me tell you – this makes the country bloody flipping cold. Belgians like to laugh at me and say that I’m Canadian and should be used to the cold, but the wind will blow the dampness into your bones and you will experience a chill like no other. Last week, her weather of choice is abrupt and aggressive bouts of hailstones and freezing rain about 6 times a day. This week, I’ve seen unprecedented amounts of gorgeousness – 25 degrees and sunny! Who even knows what is next to come.

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Unity…is just not a thing.

Most of us Canucks can agree that Canada is not the greatest example of cultural unity ever – we are generally united only in diversity itself, and the idea that we are NOT Americans – just really polite maple syrup aficionados who say ‘eh’ a lot.

Yet Belgium is even more befuddling to me. First, you have 3 competing languages – French, Flemish, and German. There are political and cultural regions divided linguistically with their own councils and responsibilities, not to mention a heck of a lot of levels of national government for ONE COUNTRY. Two intelligence forces. A Flemish separatist movement. A constitutional monarchy. Several competing transportation institutions, both regionally, nationally, and municipally. Not to mention that each city in Belgium has at least 2 different names and pronunciations, for example;

Bruges = Bruge = Brugge

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Anvers = Antwerp = Antwerpen

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Brussel = Brussels = Bruxelles

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Louvain = Leuven = Löwen

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This country hangs in a balance that I will probably never understand…and yet I still try!

OH…and let’s not talk about the magically impressive yet headache-inducing creation  that is the European Union.

Canadian undercover? NOT GONNA HAPPEN.

I am IMMEDIATELY singled out whenever I say more than a few words in French. The Belgians have ‘Canadar’, I’m telling you! English is my first language, but I’ve studied French from a young age – my particular way of speaking is a bit of an ugly mutt, influenced heavily by Acadian, Québécois, and Montréalais rhythms. It’s going to sound silly to anyone, really – but it is very distinctly Canadian, and people in Belgium WILL ask about it, 9 times out of 10. Even my Canadian friends who speak French as their first language will often have shopkeepers immediately switch to English when talking to them. Even so, a lot of people here think it’s super attractive to have a Canadian accent. I’ve even been called a “sexy caribou”…WHAT AM I MISSING HERE? AM I EXOTIC NOW OR SOMETHING? This must be how people with British accents feel…

OH! And before I forget: are you wearing a scarf and carrying an umbrella at all times? No? HA! You’re a newbie foreigner FOR SURE.

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We Canadians found a Trudeau lookalike in a Museum last week

French fries aren’t French!

First of all – the reason they are called French fries is because some silly Americans during World War One came across these lovely fried potatoes and didn’t know which country they were in – they just heard French being spoken and made a snap judgment. Don’t you be thinking that the fast food industry in North America is the top player when it comes to fries; it’s the Belgians that have NAILED the recipe! True blue “frites” are made by double frying the potatoes in oil (and sometimes duck fat), and served with a variety of mayo-based sauces in a paper cone. Great snack at any time of day or night – and you will definitely run into your friends at the local snack hut!

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Other things that are distinctly Belgian? Waffles, truffles or prailiné chocolate, René Magritte (surrealist painter – “Ceci n’est pas un pipe”), Stromae (singer of Alors on Danse, Papaoutai), and famous comics like TinTin.

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Traveling is a cinch

Europe has a beautiful thing called Schengen – the ability to move between countries in Europe freely. Belgium is a small country bordered by France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. There are several cheap airfare companies, like Ryanair, where you can get a return flight to many places in Europe for under $100 CAD. Not into flying? There are 3 major train stations in Brussels alone with trains leaving for all sorts of destinations. Buses and rideshare programs like BlaBla Car are abundant as well! Get out and go!

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Snap of my time in Berlin last weekend!

All in all, I’ve really enjoyed my time living abroad so far. It took a lot of getting used to, but I’m hoping to make a lot more memories here before I head back home. Remember – exchanges aren’t just about where you choose to live, but the experiences you have. Successful semesters abroad are what you make of them!

Stay tuned and DFTBA,

-K

The life of a lab rat: my RMP experience

Now that I’m across the ocean, I’m meeting a lot of new people and there is always the obligatory “Where are you from/what are you studying/what do you want to do with your life?” conversations.

And then of course, when I tell people I go to a small liberal arts college (where the large lecture halls here in Belgium could probably accommodate all of our first year students), they usually can’t relate – and often question why I chose to go there.

When I graduated high school, I was lucky enough to have good grades and enough community involvement and leadership experience to get into all of the programs I applied to. I could have chosen to go anywhere! All of my choices seemed viable, and were really great options for me – each school and program had it’s own perks that made deciding on ONE very confusing and difficult.

While I chose Glendon for many reasons, there was a really cool opportunity that really stood out for me and helped to define my first few years of my undergrad.

It’s called the Research Mentorship Program, and I set my sights on being a candidate pretty early in the game.

See, RMP is very unique and an AMAZING way to apply classroom learning to hands-on research in academia. It creates a forum for:

  • certain professors to hire students as research assistants to aide in the execution of many different tasks
  • students as early as 1st year to be a part of the research process and discover more about the everyday investigative work that shapes what they will learn about their chosen field of study WHILE being paid fairly for their contributions.

Once my application was reviewed and approved, I eagerly awaited to find out more about who my mentoring professor would be. I was incredibly grateful to be paired with political science professor Francis Garon.

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I took this photo from the York website, I swear

I’m an Anglophone, and Garon is a native French-speaker from Québec, so right away our research relationship was intensely bilingual. I was really grateful to have a mentor who encouraged me to speak French, and helped me get comfortable with my fluency. Of course, we also mastered the art of Franglais and that of word-inventing.

When it came to the research job, I had a lot of different tasks. I catalogued a lot (and somehow managed to teach myself how to use a spreadsheet), ran literature reviews, analyzed interviews, and colour-coordinated so many things. I was also surprised and humbled to be a part of the brainstorming process when deciding where to go next with the research.

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I also usually brought candy to our morning meetings…that’s brain food, right?

We used qualitative and quantitative methods to study the management of the settlement of immigrants in Western cultures. We questioned EVERYTHING; What kinds of administrative and cultural aid does one receive from organizations, charities, and the government? How are immigrants perceived when they arrive, and during their integration into a community? How are communities changed?

One of the most frustrating parts of our research also turned out to be one of my favourites. We spent months brainstorming up a matrix system to link one’s privilege (race, language, gender, age, class) and one’s ability to participate in deliberative democracy. During this period, we threw all caution to the wind and wrote on nearly any paper we could find (including receipts, napkins, and paper bags) with hot pink highlighter. I still have this smorgasbord in a folder somewhere…

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How I look during brainstorming sessions

Looking back on it, I am so grateful to have had the chance to connect with this program – it shaped my academic and life goals a lot. I learned that I require a lot of patience when it comes spreadsheets and paper work. I can write a comprehensive literature review, which has been super helpful in my upper years.

Being a part of Professor Garon’s work and the inspiring mentorship I received were invaluable for me as an undergraduate student. He is an incredible mind who cares a ton about both his students and his work, like many other Glendon professors I know.

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I have since realized that while I like learning about the academic side of organization and community management, I would much rather be on the ground and in the thick of it. I hope to take the theory I learned from him and invest it in my future goal of working with immigrants in changing communities.

Much lab rat love and DFTBA,

  • K

Little bit of loving: #GLAmour

Well friends, take cover: Valentine’s Day is upon us.

‘Tis the season for over-priced chocolate, newly-released rom-coms and declarations of adoration for lovers, friends, and family..also Netflix and cats.

After fumbling around for the majority of my dateable years, it turns out this is the first Valentine’s of my entire life that I am in a committed relationship. (You can all gasp now, trust me – I’m as shocked as you are).

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But this hallowed 14th of février, I shan’t be writing a letter to my weirdo. Frankly, it’s too mushy of a gesture even for me, and if I want my non-celebrating man to stick around I should probably avoid professing my love for him on the internet.

Instead, I’ll be writing a lil’ note to someone who actually doesn’t get a lot of my affection.

Me.

In the spirit of the #GLAmour challenge, I’ll be writing a valentine to myself. Oh sweet baby Jesus, here goes nothing

Dearest Kier,

Let’s start this off by admitting that writing this is hella awkward. You are your own toughest critic and to give yourself props in cyberspace is just bass-ackwards and belly up for you.

I mean seriously though, you don’t toot your own horn very much…anymore.

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When did that change? When did you start becoming cynical and self-doubting? When did your insecurities start to present themselves in self-deprecating humour? How did those jokes become entrenched in your repertoire, when did you snuggle into them like a second skin and get real damn comfortable with ’em? Was it because you realized if you told the joke, then the world would be laughing with you, rather than at you?

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I mean sure, you do talk a lot. When you’re nervous, it’s total word vomit. And you can often find lots of distractions before getting a task done, if you’re determined enough 😉 . You’ve been to a gym 3 times, and since 3 times is the charm you’ve vowed to never go back. You’re incredibly messy in your own spaces. You don’t get the top grades anymore, and you seem to be muddling through the forest of life without a map. And you NEVER seem to remember to add an extra 10 minutes to the Google Maps estimate anyways, so really, you’re damned if you do or damned if you don’t.

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But all these quirky faults aside, if you don’t love yourself, who will?
At the end of the day, you’re stuck with you. Might as well snuggle up with that reality, and give yourself some credit.

For starters, you’re an upstanding citizen. You pay your bills, abide by the law, and engage in the community by volunteering your time and resources. Tick off those boxes, girlfriend!

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You’re a kind person. You’ll happily hold doors for people, give them directions, or help them carry awkward and heavy loads. You’ll always donate to the street musician, and share a smile with strangers…even if eye contact is scoffed at in the big city…

You’re a good friend. You are honest and generous in your relationships. “What’s mine is yours.” is extended to everyone you meet. You are loyal beyond measure, and feel so fulfilled when lifting others up.

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You love your family. They may get under your skin sometimes, but there is nothing you wouldn’t do to support them or bring a smile to your face. They are a huge part of your identity, and you of theirs. Keep them close!

You are emotional in the very best of ways. You love hard, and want to hug people tight enough that their sorrows and joys become your own. You are a nurturer, a provider, always gentle, yet intensely reliable. You feel things deeply – the highs and lows, and those core emotions drive you forward every day. THAT IS SO AWESOME!

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You are smart. Intelligence isn’t solely determined by a test, so don’t get too down on yourself if you don’t come out on top. You are a problem-solver, a communicator, an innovator. Do not sell that brain of yours short!

You have talents. Even when your confidence is shaky, you ultimately have some awesome gifts. You can ski like a boss and climb like a spider monkey. You are an expressive musician with an ability to share emotions in ways many others can’t. You are a hilarious and entertaining tour guide, helping create memories for hundreds of people every year. You cook awesome food, so your friends and family never go hungry. You’re a weird dancer, but hey – always good for a laugh at parties! Oh and people are still reading this blog, so your writing must not be awful!

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Truth be told, you’ve been going through a lot. Life has thrown you some curveballs in many areas of your life. But you crack jokes to ease the tension and worry of those around you, and plug on because this is your reality, and you will not let these challenges paralyze you. That is admirable – now work hard and plug on, champ!

Above all, you are hopeful. Optimistic, and yet reasonably realistic about your future. Even when your days are less than sunny, you get up and face the days. You have goals and dreams, and have made quite the impact in your 21 years. Your intentions are good and your integrity is top-notch. You have ambitions to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves, and have dedicated much of your life to doing so already!

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Kiera, you are learning to care for yourself and listen closely to your intuition. Start being mindful of the ways you define yourself, and don’t be afraid to talk yourself up sometimes! You will turn the stumbles into dancing and become more resilient every day. Stop stressing about the blunders in the past, and for goodness’ sake don’t fret over blunders yet to come. All anyone can ask of you is your best – so remain present in your life and give it all you’ve got! You’ve got this.

All things told, I’m pretty damn proud to be you. 

Kudos, chicka.

With love and brutal honesty,

  • K

 

#OneWord365 : Risk

Let me begin by admitting that resolutions are so not my thing. I mean really, are they anyone’s? I’m willing to bet that more than a handful of you muse over your goals on New Year’s Eve and *maybe* even write them down, only to forget a week later or absent-mindedly lose the slip of paper you etched on.

So as I watched 2015 come to a close and the clock struck nearer and nearer to 12, I didn’t even pause to reflect on the goals I had set for myself that year because, SURPRISE! I hadn’t bothered to make any.

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Perhaps this is a direct correlation between my passive attitude about New Years celebrations in general, or perhaps I was just incredible lazy last year and not willing to work on myself from January to December.

However, I think this lack-of-resolutions roots itself in my particular fear of failure. While I am aware that this is hardly an original thing to be worried about, I am self-aware enough to recognize that my fear of failing has become intoxicatingly paralyzing over the last couple of years. So much, in fact, that I refuse to even ruminate on the idea that I could actively change something in my life because I have CONVINCED myself that I have already let myself down before I start. I mean, I’m really freaking good at messing things up! Frankly, I believe my aptitude to do this increases as I age, though for the sake of positive vibes I’m not about to draw up a laundry list of my failures. (You’re welcome)

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The fact is, I WAS a really big goal setter. I WAS totally gung-ho about resolutions – for years, even! God, the old diaries I could dig up would be evidence enough (though thoroughly embarrassing and not at all worthy for the internet)! In my adult life, however, I have felt the need to innately shrink my world and possibilities because I am so desperately afraid that I won’t achieve even the smallest of things.

And so, in my third year of blogging for the Glendon eAmbassadors, I am FINALLY taking the #OneWord365 challenge.

Instead of writing down a laundry list of possible achievements, I am hoping to join #TeamAwesome in choosing one itty bitty word that will govern my reflections, behaviour, and self-talk as I awkwardly waddle and skip through the year.

It took me all of 6 seconds to realize that my word would be risk.

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I’m not likely to jump off a platform with an umbrella. Don’t get any ideas.

As a person who struggles with chronic health issues and mental wellness, my reaction to upsetting or unexpected events tends to be to find a safe place. A tight-knit group of friends, a non-stressful and ever-so-mundane routine, a manageable workload. These things have been essential over the last few years in managing my health…

And yet.

And yet I look in the mirror these days and feel a sense of mourning for the high-spirited, top-energy, wild thing I used to be. The girl who worked 2 jobs so she could save up for a plane ticket and then disappear for a while. The girl who was involved in every charitable endeavour, who jumped onstage at any chance, who fiercely let her peers forward.

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I have been struggling with the idea that I have simply lost this girl. That my more hesitant and timid nature is maybe just the by-product of getting older. That maybe that girl is just “too much of a lot of things” to exist in my world now.

Then I found myself playing cards.

I was sitting across from my boyfriend as we played euchre against my parents, and found myself calling the shots even when I had the crappiest of hands. When the cards looked dim, I was taking chances and still coming out on top.

Now, a statistical analyst would probably say I had dumb luck and that in all cases, my choices weren’t the most informed or probable.

But I say that I’ve gotta be gutsy to reap the rewards.

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(Non-Gilmore Girls fans, this pep talk preceded the umbrella jump)

I realized need to take more risks in my life, because that curiosity and gutsiness is at the very core of my being. I might be terrified of it sometimes, but that girl from long ago still adores going out on a limb and proving the doubters wrong.

That spitfire girl has GOT to still be in there, because she has set up a year worth of risks for me, starting with the fact that I’m moving to another country in 2 weeks. New language, new friends, new food, new living arrangements. New life!

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I know that before I even cross the ocean, I’m taking risks every day in preparation for my life abroad. I’m navigating changing relationships day by day. I’m attempting to set up the necessities of life so I can walk off a plane and really start LIVING. Hell, I’m even ordering from Amazon when I’m not sure the items will arrive in time!

Every day, I have a choice to create an adventurous life. To take chances and opportunities as they come. To pick the safest route or the road less travelled.

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I know I’ll have even more opportunity to do so once I’m set up in a place that is (at first) unstable and unknown. I expect the adrenaline to be pumping through my veins for an extended period of time…

WITH THAT BEING SAID. I am hoping to document all of my risk-taking wildness with a video blog as I prepare to leave my safe space behind and venture into the great unknown. Be on the lookout for audio-video versions of my babble!

All in all, I think I know that I have spent too long being comfortable – wish me luck in my attempts to shake things up and roll the dice in my life!

Lots of love, risk, and good wishes for 2016!

DFTBA,

-K

 

Don’t let the wormy people get you down

I am going to pass on some cheesy age-old wisdom that I think every young adult needs to hear, and I especially need to internalize.

Here’s the real zinger…..

metal

Not everyone in life is going to like you.

There will be jerk-wads left, right, and centre in life.

They can take the form of colleagues, classmates, acquaintances, ‘friends’ or otherwise.

And you know what? They will dislike you for absolutely no good reason.

peaches

They will target you no matter what you do. There is no use in being nice to them, because it will likely go unnoticed. They may disapprove of you from the minute you meet them, unfairly judging you and treating you like something gross stuck to the bottom of their shoe.

Please note: this post is NOT meant to make you paranoid about how many people may act cold to you over the course of your life.

I myself am one of those overly-sensitive souls who takes absolutely everything personally. A tricky comment from a supervisor, an accidental exclusion from a social event, a miscommunication from a friend. These little things bury holes in my mind, and my thoughts can spiral in some not-so-nice directions. When all those little occurrences build themselves up, it can really do a number on my self esteem.

BUT…chin up

Truthfully, when someone disrespects you in any way, that is a reflection of THEIR character – NOT yours.

I am slowly but surely learning to put all those stomach twisting situations in a box and keep on keeping on. It hasn’t been easy, in fact it’s taken more than a decade of learning how to let things roll off my back, like the odd duck that I am.

I was bullied a lot as a kid, and quite frankly, who wasn’t?  Kids are really freaking mean! While it wasn’t fair, I was an easy target – a weird child who had no idea how to relate to peers my own age and cried at the drop of a hat, giving my teasers a lot of wind to fill their sails.

In middle school, the tormenting was still present (preteens are gossipy), but I was learning a lot about unconditional respect, loyalty, and love. You see, I was starting to band together with my “people”.

clanquote

I started to bond with my brainiac boys, and together we were like a miniature-version of the Big Bang Theory crew (though I was, admittedly, a less attractive and brighter version of Penny).

In high school, I reunited with my best friends from kindergarten and our little familia was born. I got involved with youth activism and gained incredible friends and leadership skills through regional youth conferences, student council, and Ontario Youth Parliament.

For the first time in my life I felt like my quirks were an asset, and that people knew me for my heart and not for whether or not my clothes or slang was in style.

OYP demo

An emotional goodbye at my last Youth Parliament

Then I left my little town behind and joined the big, bad world of post-secondary. I’ve met some incredible friends through Frosh week, residence life, classes, pub nights, socials, clubs and the ever-so-lovely eAmbassador crew. I found it easy to make interesting and meaningful friendships, because like-minded people just had a tendency to gravitate to one another.

This year I moved in with the most incredible girls, Ceilidh and Olivia. We went from being mostly strangers (drawn together by a desperate Facebook plea) to a little sisterhood, where whenever something happens, they’re probably the first ones I want to call. Trust me when I say these ladies have seen me at my worst (bed-head and morning breath, am I right?).

roommateshot

And after a lot of weird and hilarious dating experiences, I was even lucky enough to find a partner who sticks by me in my ridiculous life, when most people would bolt (or at the very least flinch).

These days, my dear friend Jasmin has coined a particular hashtag for me, which she loves to pull out whenever folks are being particularly atrocious…

#DontLetTheWormyPeopleGetYouDown

Whenever I lose perspective and start to think the whole world is on my case and I’m clearly the most unlikeable and despicable human to roam the earth, I am reminded of the family I have built for myself.

At the end of the day, it’s not so much about the quantity of friends you have, but the quality of the company you keep. It’s better to have a few good apples than have your whole bushel spoiled by a few rotten ones, right?

I’m grateful for these good apples.

They are the ones I can call on when things feel out of control or I just want to share a night of laughs.

They are my cheerleaders when I lose momentum.

They are the ones who love me when I’m acting pretty damn unloveable.

tequilateacup

 

If you’re reading this and having some particularly tricky people in your life – I promise that the new waves of your life will draw in your people.

These are the ones who will see your beauty, your intelligence, your passion, your humour, and your kindness and would not trade any bit of you for the world.

Those wormy folks are passing ships, but your true friends will be your anchors. They will remind you of all of your goodness when the rest of the world, including you, has a tough time seeing it.

And in the mean time?

Haters gonna hate. So grin and bear it. Smile and nod. Shake it off. Kill it with kindness.

And #DontLetTheWormyPeopleGetYouDown

throwingrocks

Much love and DFTBA,

-K

***thanks to all my rockstar friends and family out there, y’all are so golden ❤

The most exciting and terrifying email I’ve ever received

Three days ago, I opened my inbox to find a particular e-mail that I had been waiting not-so-patiently to receive.

There, with a simple click of my mouse, sat my information package for my exchange session in Belgium next semester. Cool, right?!

ulb

As I read through the package and learned that I had three months before I was expected at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, a number of thoughts ran through my head. In all honesty, I was pretty mixed up in my emotions.

At first, a HUGE wave of relief came over me – apparently, European schools do things very last minute, and for MONTHS I had been worrying that I’d been forgotten or rejected from the program. I finally knew when I would start my classes, and what kinds of things I should be doing to prepare for my departure. Yaaaaaay, progress!

The second thing to happen was, “Oh, crap.” when I thought of all the things I’d have to wrap up at Glendon before I left. I still have my classes and other commitments to follow through on (including some oh-so-lovely paperwork…yuck), and a lot of money to earn to fund my future travels.

Thirdly, a sense of total panic overcame me. I was moving halfway around the world. Across an ocean. To a country I’ve never visited. With people I dont know and who sure as hell don’t know me. On my own. What if something happened medically (a very real concern for someone who is chronically ill)? What if something drastic and awful happened at home while I was away? What if I couldn’t tough out the rain 200 out of 365 days of the year? (Clearly, Belgium is a wet country)

And fourthly, I felt an indescribable sense of premature homesickness.

Leaving Canada means leaving my tight-knit family for 6 months.

Leaving Canada means being separated from friends and colleagues who have become my family in Toronto.

Leaving Canada means a questionable turn in my new relationship.

Leaving Canada means moving out of an apartment with roommates and a neighbourhood that I absolutely love.

Leaving Canada means throwing caution – and routine – to the wind.

Are you overwhelmed yet? Because I sure as hell am.

After telling myself not to panic…and then COMPLETELY ignoring my own advice, I tried to turn my thoughts around.

Arriving in Belgium means attending a university that is world-renowned, and smack-dab in the centre of EU territory. Think of all the cool perspectives and insights I’ll gain on international matters!

Arriving in Belgium means I’m living and learning in French – a language and culture that has always ignited my curiosity and passion. Oh man, can you imagine how much better my understanding and communication of the language will be?

Arriving in Belgium means discovering a new city, neighbourhood, and community. I get excited thinking of how I’ll get to learn a new transit system and explore different quartiers and the shops, restaurants, local culture, and people that will soon be familiar to me.

Arriving in Belgium means my insatiable sense of wanderlust will FINALLY be explored. I’ve got Europe at my doorstep, baby! Bring on the unique food, stunning photo ops, incredible people, and unforgettable adventures!

Arriving in Belgium means six months to discover a new part of myself. All the world’s a stage! Ain’t that right, Shakespeare?

I've been ready for this since I was given a suitcase on my seventh birthday!

I’ve been ready for this since I was given a suitcase on my seventh birthday!

It’s going to be a rough three months, I know. I’m going to be an emotional roller coaster (early apologies to all those who come in close contact with me). I will have some tough decisions and plans to make. I will undoubtably be running around like a chicken with my head cut off applying for a visa, finding a place to live, buying the cheapest possible airfare, and ticking off every insurance box that I can.

Yo, exchange life! Hit me with your best shot.

With adventuresome worries and excitement,

DFTBA,

K

“Get ANGRY!” – tips from a chronically ill super hippy feminist warrior

So maybe you looked at the title of this post and, despite ALL THE OTHER WORDS IN THE TITLE, you saw ‘feminist’ and thought, “oh dear GOD, not the F word again!”

BUT HEAR ME OUT! While I think it’s the coolest thing EVER, I will not brand you with a capital F and make you carry it around like a scarlet letter – only you can make that choice, and no amount of me preaching on a soap box is going to change that.

I assure you this is a very different type of post.

You see, feminism saved my academic career.

I was having a tough time in school last year – a much tougher time than I let anyone know. I have always identified myself as “the smart girl”. I loved to learn, and I was passionately curious about the world around me – you can bet I was the one who scored 100% in participation, because I was the queen of questions. I got excited about learning because, for the most part, it came easily to me.

I was probably more annoying than Hermione, let’s be real

This past year was different. I was dealing with a whole slew of medical issues, including memory loss and severe fatigue.  All of a sudden, I couldn’t process what profs were saying. A question would be asked of me, and I would forget it before I ever had the chance to answer. I could barely keep my eyes open during lectures – that was, if I even made it out of bed for class. I couldn’t seem to think critically, unless it came to criticizing myself. I was so disappointed and ashamed – where did my drive go? Where were all my bright ideas and conscientious comments? I felt that I had lost my Smart Girl identity, not to mention any motivation I had left.

I experienced a downward spiral, finding myself at rock bottom and thinking there was no way I could get back in the game. Once we figured out the medical crap, my confidence was still sitting morbidly at the bottom of the proverbial trash can. I felt no sense of direction or purpose, and the thought of being back in a lecture hall was absolutely terrifying to me. I BEGGED my parents to let me take time off school.

They assured me that my education was NOT just about getting good grades, but was about my holistic experience. They reminded me that I was not a sum of my failures nor my successes, and that going through the rough patches taught me life lessons that were just as important as ones I was learning in the classroom. They also promised to support me no matter what (thanks for that, creators of me!).

Thanks, parents ❤

So I reluctantly enrolled in courses, not really paying too much attention . I knew I had to satisfy degree requirements, but that gave me a ton of anxiety…I’d done poorly in the previous semesters, who knew how I’d do this time around? So, I did what all great procrastinators do – avoided it like the plague.

I filled my schedule instead with courses that sounded cool. I ended up selecting a range of courses that covered topics I was interested in – like how we write and analyze women’s and gender history, or how women and families affect refugee and migration patterns. I took some courses in French, and even forced myself to sign up for economics (because if I’m gonna kick butt in the world one day, I should PROBABLY have some basic understanding of how money works in the big scheme of things….maybe? Right? Tell me I’m not making the biggest mistake ever…)

And WHADDYA KNOW!?! I like where I’m at. My classes are really frickin’ awesome. My profs are all incredibly different from each other (I am going to write a fangirl post about one of them, just you wait!), and I’m totally LOVING the material.

Wanna know why?

Every day I walk into the classroom, we talk about issues. Nit-picky issues, big conundrums, and the constant bullsh*t that plagues us as a society every day. I’m engaged because I’m so. damn. pissed. off! Being passionately angry lights my brain and curiosity on fire.

It’s not just that I want to fix things – I want to know why a problem is there. So I’ve decided to look at my university experience as a series of questions that my overly-curious self will seek to answer.

What links can be made between education, poverty and food security? Why are racism/sexism/classism/ableism so rampant and pervasive in our day to day lives? Why do some historians deny that “women’s history” exists – HELLLOOOO WE’VE BEEN PRESENT FOR THE ENTIRE EXISTENCE OF THE HUMAN RACE! How can we work to support people in refugee circumstances, when they often come last on the list for access to healthcare and other valuable infrastructural resources? How do we as a state recognize and enforce international law when there’s an absence of an international authority?

I’ve loved exploring these queries over the last few weeks, and I hope to continue doing so. I’ve found that I make the connection from academic inquiry to passion by viewing the issues through a feminist lens. My drive for social justice and equality is what keeps me centred enough to do my readings and assignments and participate fully in class. Not to mention my day to day feminist practices keep my confidence and health up. Yay, #SelfCare!

SO if you find yourself lacking the enthusiasm you need to push forward, be that in school or elsewhere – find what makes you angry. Get passionate. Get pissed. Get invested in whatever it is that sparks a fire in you that makes you want to keep fighting for answers and solutions and outcomes. This is what you’re supposed to do – this is what will prompt you to be committed!

Until next time, I’m gonna keep feministing the crap out of my courses. Oh, and for the record? Smart girl is back, and she’s killin’ it.

DFTBA,

-K

A place to call home

Since moving to Toronto in the fall of 2013, I’ve been itching to put down some roots here in the city.

As bittersweet as it is moving away from the town I grew up in, my life is here now: many of my friends, my extended family, my jobs, my education, my doctors…you get the jist. While it was tough at first to tell my family that I wasn’t going to be joining them back home for the summer, I knew that concept would be easier once I had a place to live locked down.

The Mission:

Find the most awesome apartment possible – with a few stipulations…

It had to be safe.

I’m an independent person and I like to come and go from my home as I please. I’m also a 21 year old female, and while I try to be safe and alert at all times, I definitely wanted to feel secure in my neighbourhood. I am in the big city after all! (This is not to say that Toronto is not safe, but every place has it’s seedier streets).

cop

It had to be cheap.

I’m a student, enough said! I’m very lucky that my parents help to support me in putting a roof over my head, but I didn’t want their wallets or mine to suffer in financing Casa de Kiera. I needed something affordable so I could save us all some financial pain, and sock away money for my exchange next year.

You will be this excited once you hit college, too.
You will be this excited once you hit college, too.

It had to have good people.

I knew I needed to live with at least one other roommate – someone who would make note of whether or not I made it home at night, someone to have the spare key if I got locked out, someone to make sure I wasn’t wasting away in my room during the hell that is finals season. Above all, I wanted someone I could get along with so we could spend time together! It was also important to me that I have a reliable landlord who would help me out should anything go wrong.

Wanted: a roommate to Netflix with.

It had to be walkable.

I have no car, and even if I did, I would NEVER want to drive in Toronto (So many signs, so little parking!). In my first year, I read Jeff Speck’s “Walkable City” for my International Geography class. It touched on some things that I already knew – like the fact that neighbourhoods where errands and activities could be accomplished on foot were more desirable. But I also learned about the impact pedestrianism and public transit have on the safety and vibrancy of a community. These things all led me to look up Walkability Scores for every place I was interested in.

The Process

Let me tell you, apartment hunting is an all-new level of Purgatory. Combining the above factors in a balanced way on a market with high turnover rates can be exhausting and really disappointing, but I knew that I didn’t have much of a choice. It was either find a place in Toronto and keep a job and a lifestyle that I loved, or head home.

All too often, the apartment buildings would be too expensive, and the cheap ones wouldn’t be very clean (Check bed bug registry before you rent – no matter where you rent). Basement suites were often grungy and dark, and the best finds were too far from any major transit lines or vibrant neighbourhoods. Some newly renovated places were in areas we didn’t feel comfortable in, and don’t even get me started on the Craigslist scams!

RED FLAG RED FLAG RED FLAG

RED FLAG RED FLAG RED FLAG

The Result

Thankfully, after nearly two months of searching, I am now the proud renter of a basement suite near Pape Station.

I’m moving in with my gem of a roommate, Ceilidh, who’s also a student at Glendon. We clicked pretty quickly after answering each others’ ads on a student Facebook page, and with two singers living together, our place will be lively!

HOUSE HUNTING SUCCESS!

We were SO relieved to have had an awesome realtor who accommodated every question and even held the place for us while we made our decision. We have a fantastic couple upstairs as our landlords, who measured the place with us and offered to change light fixtures, let us move in early, and gave us detailed instructions on how everything works.

The apartment is bright, clean, and modern – we can’t wait to decorate it together! This space will be ours for the next 12 months – we can’t wait to make memories in our new home!

***Stay tuned for move in woes – did I mention that I have no upper body strength? I imagine move-in day will go a little something like this…

Much homemaker love and DFTBA,

– K