For those of us who want to nourish our minds AND our bodies, I’ve got a great blog to help with nutrition and feeling good from the inside out! Check out Voice of a Dietician, or click the link below. Great advice and fun recipes for girls and guys on the go!
I was privy to a conversation the other day where the woman in question was disillusioned with feminism. She was lamenting the fact that in this day and age women are often subject to invisible barriers, invisible walls. Women seem to be in constant servitude to factors not immediately obvious to the eye. Her qualm was that feminism succeeded but we are still enslaved to social constructs, slaves of social acceptance and constantly struggling to keep up with the idea of the ‘norm.’ She wondered about the validity of the feminist movement.
I understand her point of view. I still feel like men rule the world, that my ‘freedom’ of sexuality is a farce, that there is a reason we still have slut-shaming and rape.
But I have to defend feminism. For one thing, we get to vote, we get to work, we have freedom of educational and vocational choices not afforded to our grandmothers, or even some of our mothers.
My other defense of feminism is that it didn’t actually succeed, it failed. It failed not of its own accord but because the label of ‘feminism’ was stolen. It was stolen to sell things. It failed because in the process of success it was appropriated by the patriarchal powers that be, by clever marketers and brand managers, by wily advertising executives sensing a powerful tool to uphold consumerist capitalism was sitting right in front of their beady little eyes.
What happened? They packaged up feminism into something they could sell, and pretended we have the freedom to pick our identity.
The choices we are afforded are often fake choices, steeped in a false presentation of freedom: I can choose what color of lipstick to wear? I can be subversive with a dark purple, or *gasp* a bright orange? Oh, if I wear something different I will be unique! Perhaps even lipgloss? I can choose to wear a bra (make sure it’s a push-up to make your boobs look bigger) or choose to go bra-less (with a shirt that emphasizes the sexiness of the female physique and shows your nipples). I can choose to wear pants – form fitting skinny jeans – or a skirt? Long or short?
But I can’t go around in public in sweatpants. I can’t go in public with dirty hair, appearing undone at the seams. Have you the choice to go without make-up? Sure you do. But people will judge you, they’ll wonder why you didn’t put the effort in to get ready in the morning – it’s expected of you – they’ll wonder if you’re lazy, or they’ll pity you because they’ll assume something has gone wrong in your life. Don’t believe me? Try it, and record how many people ask you “what’s wrong?” or comment that you look sad or tired.
Do women have the freedom to be who they want to be? Not entirely. Women who dress in certain ways are still objectified constantly. If you choose to show off your God-given body you are a slut. If you choose to dress conservatively you are a prude. If you choose to dress like a boy you are a dyke. Our dress is not our own, nor is our style. It is sold to us in pretty little packages. We have no choice as to who we are, we are just faced with packaged ideals and we have to buy them. We can’t leave the store and go elsewhere, we have to fit into a certain social stereotype, we have to fit into our spot, or else we don’t fit in at all and are ostracized to the outskirts of society, become lepers in our own world.
This is not a judgment call, this is not a “holier-than-thou” article, this is how I see it.
Someone, somewhere, is selling us our image, and it is almost always defined in terms of sexuality. Slutty, prudish, athletic, dykish, professional, bitchy.
Here’s the real farce. Somebody (probably a man), somewhere out there, got wind of this movement of feminism, figured out that we wanted real bodily choice, real sexual freedom, and they got an idea. They took over feminism. This person moved aside the original thinkers, the women in charge, and this person stole the term. Then feminism, and all its accompanying ideals, was sold back to us in a diluted and much-altered state.
So now are we women free to express ourselves through our bodies, through our dress, through our appearance? Again, not entirely. We are constantly expected to please men – with our appearance in public places, with our appearance at the bar. We are expected to be as sexual as acceptable by the men in charge. Don’t get too sexual, god forbid you ooze sexuality, or they’ll call you a slut. Maybe they’ll even blame their actions, their choice to rape, on the fact that you looked like someone who liked sex. And, on top of all this, we have to buy it from them and they sell us the illusion of freedom.
What happens if you don’t have the money to buy the jewelry, buy the makeup, buy the outfits that exude your femininity? Well, for the most part you’ll be considered a hippy. If you don’t shop to re-affirm your style, if you don’t find pleasure in buying new things to make you feel (re: look) good, if you find pleasure in used and outdated clothing, if material purchases aren’t your focus, chances are you’ll be pegged a tree-hugging hippy type. And that’s that. No real validity to your perspective, people don’t really take ‘hippy-types’ very seriously. They don’t fit the norm.
So are we free? No. Has feminism lost its great battle? No. Is feminism to blame for our current struggles? Absolutely not. We have won great victories and freedoms. But feminism has lost its way. It’s been purposely misguided, I should say, it’s been stolen, and we need to take it back. I want feminism and female liberation to mean something, I don’t want it to be a slogan for cosmetics and clothing companies, for corporations that sell us our ‘freedom of choice’ in carefully pre-conceived packages so that we think we are free.
I like make up, and I like lipstick, and I really like feeling (looking) good. I don’t think that excuses me from being aware that I am sold these things and I buy into them. I don’t judge people, everyone likes different things to make them feel good (and God knows this world needs more of that), but it is definitely necessary to know that we buy these feelings of freedom. It would be very beneficial to grow good feelings and true freedom within ourselves so that they are not dependent on purchasing power or money.
I woke up this morning humming the words to “Under the Sea,” from the Little Mermaid for no reason. Although it may have something to do with the fact I live in a basement apartment. Maybe, subconsciously, when I sleep I feel like I’m sleeping in a big, pink, conch shell under the sea. That’s where I imagine Sebastien the crab sleeps and I like him the best.
My mood? Average. Anxiety? Average – all the usual. Except I have a bum knee from a skiing mishap. I like to have adventures but it is a rare adventurous day that I don’t come out with some sort of injury, or lost passport, lost ID, or even lost money. It’s just the way I am. I am imperfect at an almost predictable level.
I come out of the subway today, this snowy, chilly, Valentine’s day, and I stand in front of Starbucks for a second. My stupid knee hurts.
Out of nowhere comes a man. He asks me, “Excuse me, can I ask you something?” He seems rather nervous, I immediately start writing him off in my head. A slew of options runs through my brain: fundraising, one of those salon packages, something creepy, even perhaps that he was just another crazy person. I’m being honest here – these things go through my head sometimes. I am a product of my environment, but sometimes I am guilty of being negative too. It’s not a commendable quality but it’s true. I judge and sometimes I judge hard.
He continues, “Are you having a stressful day?” I pause to consider. Here’s another sad fact: my default answer to that question is usually yes even if I’m not particularly stressed. I suffer from anxiety and from some other minor mental health issues, so I feel constantly anxious. But I considered my answer and given the circumstances I think it best to cut this conversation short. I respond, “No, not really.” “Well, would you like it if I made your day a bit better?” he inquires. I am immediately overwhelmed by a surge of skepticism. I put up my personal wall of defense and rather shortly respond, “Um, how?”
What he does is he hands me a Chapters-Indigo bag with a heart-shaped box of Godiva chocolates inside (unopened, might I add). He says to me, “This is for you, I hope I made your day better,” and walks away. I stand for a second, partly dumbfounded and partly embarrassed. How have I become this jaded and bitter as to assume the worst?
I walk into Starbucks and I stop and think again. The man returns and offers an explanation. I notice he has a timid nervousness about him, and his voice holds with it just the slightest hint of an accent. “I just wanted to let you know why I gave you that. I have had some bad things happen to me lately.” I look at him for a second and say, “I’m very sorry.” I feel really bad now.
“Well they’re not so bad, compared to some problems other people may have, but they were bad to me. And I decided that today I was going to make just one human being’s day better, because it’s Valentine’s day, and everyone has problems,” he pauses. I offer a sincere, “thank-you,” and an, “I really hope it all gets better.” He says, “Thank you so much, enjoy.” And that’s it. That’s the end. This whole ordeal took a total of six minutes, at most.
But I sat down and I was ashamed, grateful, incredulous, and all sorts of mixed up. I needed to think for a second.
It just takes something small like that to make someone’s day. It really just takes a hello, or a short encounter with a kind soul to make you feel happy.
It also takes just a little encounter like that to make me doubt the person I’ve become. Do I live in such a constant fear of the unknown, with such a jaded and bitter outlook to the world at large, that I trust no one? Have we become a place where people fear each other, where people are scared to look into each other’s eyes on the subway, scared to smile in elevators, scared to acknowledge the presence of other people outside of our small and comfortable social circles?
Instead of becoming bitter and jaded, this man took his own pain and turned it into something beautiful. He was a sculptor of emotions, an artist of the human experience. He took loss and turned it into an experience for a random stranger – he decided to help someone else avoid feeling like he did instead of hating the world and wishing it ill.
I feel really badly about my behavior today, and I am grateful in so many ways that this person shared 6 minutes of my lifetime. I’m ashamed that I judged and that I was so stand-offish. In a way, I was a royal bitch. I salvaged myself towards the end, shamed and humbled by this random act of undeserved kindness. He taught me a life-lesson I’d forgotten, a truth I may have never known otherwise. Sharing is the foundation of our experience together in this crazy world. Being there for each other, strangers or otherwise, is the most important aspect of what makes us human.
Do something for someone else. No matter how bad your day is or how nasty things have been lately, remember that others suffer in silence too.
I, for one, will reserve my judgments for myself from now on.
Just because it is Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to highlight some of the things I’ve learned about relationships – from experience but also from observational data about other people. Now I know many people hate V-Day because it’s a Hallmark holiday, which is true, but I don’t love or hate it and I think it’s a great occasion to talk about the idiosyncrasies of this crazy little thing called love.
I want to write about how stupidly beautiful relationships are in all their chaos, how amazing they are to share and how heart-wrenchingly “am-I-really-sobbing-on-the-floor-listening-to-Jewel right now?” painful they can get. I want to talk about how much things change every time you turn around in a relationship, and how much comfort they bring to us when they grow. I want to discuss how twisted we become; how they can highlight all the good parts about us, but they can magnify all our insecurities, they have the power to make us monsters, to make us new vestiges and vehicles of detrimental behavior. Relationships make us think beautiful thoughts, act beautifully, to give parts of ourselves we didn’t know we had. Relationships make us say and do things we wish we could erase, make us people we didn’t think we could ever be. They have the power to shame and humble even the most arrogant of souls, to bolster the most timid of hearts.
The beauty in relationships is just how much we crave them, how much we hate them, how simple and how complicated it all is. The beauty in relationships is that they are asymmetrical. Nothing else in this world has the all-encompassing power to make so many people see truth and sometimes, just sometimes, to make so many see that they (we) were wrong.
Let me begin here. The most important lesson I’ve learned in a relationship comes from my partner himself, and I never understood it until now. Imagine you painted a picture of yourself in a relationship with someone (present or dreamed up). Would you paint the two of you facing each other, locked eyes, the world around you? That’s the way I would have painted the picture myself, a year ago, two people face-to-face in a tight embrace. That would be the painted masterpiece of my perception of being with someone.
Since then, I’ve learned that this, perhaps, is the wrong way to look at it. After all, if you are always face-to-face with someone, when do you have time to look yourself in the eyes? When do you have time to look at the world around you? When can you let yourself examine your own dreams?
Here we come to the number one reason I believe relationships fail, why infidelity happens, why people find themselves obsessively calling/texting/Facebook-ing their significant other. It happens when we lose ourselves, in the process we smother our partners and insist that they lose themselves too. We become defined by our relationships – we lose all the interests and personality that attracted us to each other in the first place. We begin to lose our sense of independence and our sense of personal uniqueness. We start asking questions like, “Who am I?” Then we become insecure, we become controlling, and we become neurotic. Because we have forgotten who we are and what makes us special, and we assume our partner has as well. And chances are, if you never look anywhere else and obsessively insist your partner is with you at all times, you will forget why your partner is special.
Which brings me to the next piece of advice that I have recently heard and have just started to live by: you never want your partner to be with you out of guilt, out of fear, pity, or because you force them to stay. You want them to be with you because they think you are special. How do you prevent this from happening you ask? Well this is all part and parcel of my previous point. You never act like their mother, like their personal advisor. You act like their partner and appreciate their uniqueness (remember? What attracted you to them in the first place?). You keep your friends, your interests, your world, and they keep theirs. You enjoy new experiences – both together and apart- and learn new things. They are allowed to be who they were before they met you. A couple cannot become one being, but must stay two separate beings that share one experience together. Being free to choose, to experience, to have friends, will ensure that your partner is always with you because they think you are the most special person, the most special experience, and the most special accompaniment to their main meal: life. There’s nothing worse than realizing that your partner is with you because they’re too scared to leave.
Now I know this sounds obvious, but it is all too easy to get lost in what you think relationships are supposed to be like (movies, other people, mass media, romanticized ideals). I consider myself a pretty smart person, but just about one month ago I was faced with a crumbling relationship. There are real reasons why relationships fail – infidelity, actually falling out of love, circumstantial events/realities that make the relationship impossible to sustain – but there are also preventable reasons.
So after deciding to move out of my boyfriend’s tiny attic room in a house shared with 3 other boys, after deciding to break-up and to move our separate ways, I was faced with a situation in which I really needed to evaluate my behavior. Contrary to mass media (and the opinion of my loving friends), he was not all to blame in this situation. You see I had become hysterically obsessed with his life, obsessed with his happiness, obsessively doing laundry, doing chores, making sure things were not just good, but PERFECT, all the time. This made me neurotic, this made me no-fun, this made me anal retentive to the maximum. It also meant I lost sight of my own dreams, goals, and aspirations. It meant that I would not and could not stop making him the focus of all my attentions, smothering him in the process. I was so worried all the time that I was making myself insecure, losing all the funny, silly, quirky things about me that made him like me in the first place.
How did I save my relationship? Make it work? Well, I took a step back from it and slowed it down. I made it less serious. I made it less about him and more about me. I released my relationship from its death grip in my sweaty little palms. I stopped smothering him and let him breathe. I realized that when he was free to experience his life, he was a hell of a lot happier to see me during the times we shared.
I stopped being so damn insecure and asking him questions every five seconds about where he was going, what he was doing, was he having fun? Was he enjoying himself? Was he drinking? Did he eat dinner? Should I get something on the way home? Did he want a treat? Should I do this, should I do that? *shudder* Enough already! SO annoying! Who cares about all that shit? ALL THE TIME? Crazy, obsessive, unhealthy-thinking-pattern type girls.
I realized the key to caring is not caring so much. Period.
So that’s my relationship advice. It’s all a very scary and nearly impossible balancing act. Don’t lose yourself or you’ll lose your relationship too.
Aren’t life lessons fun?
Love safe everyone!
P.S. This is the way I paint us now. It’s all about perspective.
Dear Mr. Greif,
I saw you this past weekend walking in Kensington market. I’m sure you didn’t see me. I was sitting in a coffee shop as I watched you and your wife walk by. She was hanging on your arm, like it was the only thing between her and the cold weather outside. You were both huddled against the wind, hunched against the cold, maybe even against the slow march of time. It’s been a decade since you taught me and almost as long since I’ve seen you last. We both left high school at the same time: I graduated and you retired. I guess we both graduated that year.
I just wanted to tell you that you taught me everything I know. You taught me about Canadian history in grade eleven and coached me through being Editor-in-Chief of the yearbook in grade twelve. You took us on a tour of Toronto to show us all the old houses that we had no idea existed. You showed us where there used to be chickens, where there used to be stable houses, where there used to be servants’ quarters, in the very streets we walked through blindly every day. You showed us where we lived for the first time, even though we were already 16.
You taught me lessons no one else had the foresight to. You taught me about immigration. You taught me about the working class struggle. You taught me that this city, this country, was built on the spilled blood of many migrant workers. You taught me that this city was formed, and continues to grow, on the labours of those very people whose survival it threatens daily. The poor, the foreign, the people we most need to protect are the people who do most for us. The people we dismiss are the people who we owe our current existence to. You taught me that history was written from many perspectives. Not to believe everything I read, not to believe everything I see. Because for every recorded history there are countless unrecorded, unread, unnoticed truths that form reality: past, present, and future.
Dear Mr. Greif, you also made me who I am. You taught me to challenge myself. I was your protégé. You, and many of the other staff members, made it possible for me to succeed and excel in high school. I was to be a great success: I won every award, I went away to University on full scholarship, I was involved in all the extra-curricular activities. You made sure I didn’t make any excuses for myself and insisted that I continually challenged my boundaries. You taught me to think outside the box. I wanted to be like you. I wanted to inspire young minds, I wanted to start something like Doors Open Toronto in my spare time, I wanted to win the Governer General’s Award like you did. You were my mentor. You gave me the opportunities to use the tools I already had. You were a teacher that had passion for his students, who didn’t just treat it like another work day. Every day was a chance for you to impart wisdom, to change the life of some young, impressionable, often lost, student.
I still remember when I graduated. You gave me my first Moleskin day planner, and my first fountain pen. It was the single most professional and grown-up thing I had ever owned at that point in my life. I guess you knew then what I didn’t know – that I wanted to, and had the talent to, be a writer. I saw in your eyes all the hope you had for me and all the belief you had in me. You truly believed I would be something. At the time I didn’t recognize the importance of that final meeting, but I do now. It was a mixture of hope, belief, and fear. Because I also think I saw in your eyes a little bit of fear mixed in with the excitement for our mutual graduation; a little bit of fear that life would get in the way, that I would forget my dreams in lieu of a more comfortable – a less challenging and more beaten – path. That I, like so many before me, would give up on my potential and let my passion be defeated. I guess neither one of us thought how much the world would change between then and now.
But it has. Fast forward to last Saturday afternoon in Kensington. As I sat in that coffee shop I really wanted to run out to you and gleefully tug on your sleeve and say, “Mr. Greif, it’s me, it’s Karolina. How are you? You changed my life.” But I didn’t. A huge part of me resisted the urge. It was humiliation, it was pride, it was failure.
You see, what would I say when you asked me what I was doing? You’d hope I would have been published, maybe working on a Master’s degree, maybe doing something else awesome with a string of accolades behind my name – like in the old days. But my answer would have been, “Well, Mr. Greif. I struggled through university and it turns out that sometimes my mental health isn’t 100%. I made mistakes – a lot of mistakes. I lost my scholarship and I drank away the most important two years of my personal education. Now, I am a waitress. Oh yah, let’s throw a cliché in there: I’m a struggling writer waitressing on the side.” Would you be sad? Would you be disappointed?
I couldn’t do it. The shame washed over me.
But then I thought about you. I thought about what you actually taught me. The lesson is to do more, say less. Think less, act more. Not to sit down and give up because life gave you a couple lemons. You’d tell me to fuck off (literally) and to get my shit together and do what I knew was right. You would not stand for self-pity and you would make me get up and try again.
You, Mr. Greif, are one of the single most important teachers I have ever had. Next to my own father, you are forever a permanent part of my conscious thought.
So it turns out that when I saw you on Saturday, you did the same thing you always have. You inspired me. To be better, to be grateful, to think outside the box, and to do what I am good at. First, you made me realize I had given up. You, without even knowing it, reminded me that I stopped following my dreams. So, after a few tearful sobs, that evening I stopped feeling sorry for myself.
Dear Mr. Greif: thank you for being in my life ten years ago and two days ago. You may never know just how much you did for me, but I hope you know how many lives you’ve changed. The world needs more teachers like you. Plus, you swore in class.
The next time I see you, I’m going to run out and say hi. I’m going to tell you about the book I’m in the process of publishing (hopefully).
I’m sorry dear readers, but I had to disappear for a hot minute.
Why, you ask? Well, I had some growing up to do. And then when I did grow up, I got scared, and ran away and hid from the world, instead surrounding myself with eons of meaningless tasks and chores as a distraction from certain truths that had come to be.
The thing is, dear reader, I’ve changed – a lot – mostly in my thinking and in my head. And so too has the world that surrounds me. It seems that now I think deeper, and longer. I move slower, more determined on one set goal than a million lesser goals. I have now two families to think of… the one I am building and the one I am maintaining – and neither job is easier than the other. Everyone around me is growing older, wiser (some more foolish) and the world is full of chaos. This chaos I used to ignore, in lieu of the more pressing dramas of my own youth (the early 20’s are a particularly dramatic period in one’s life), but now I see that the environment suffers, that humans suffer, and that we all, purposefully or not, tend to try to ignore the realities of our generation and mask them over with justifications.
But really what happened was that I started to lose the purpose. I didn’t know why I was writing a blog, why I believed I could write a book, what the point was of working the way we work. I can’t seem to grasp that work is the purpose behind life – and yet it is! It is the single most influential activity we are made to do, day in and day out, for the longest period of our lives. It shapes where we live, how we sleep, what our commute is like, how much free time we have for ourselves, what our health is like. It’s all based on the jobs we do. Too many people just pick a job because they need one and ignore the fact that it will affect who they are and what their lives will be like for the foreseeable future. So I know that I must choose carefully what I do in life. But even though deep down I know I am meant to write, I can’t seem to believe that I can.
For this past few months I couldn’t see my purpose in this world, or the purpose of this life, and therefore I decided to temporarily become an invisible part of it. To step back. It was a humbling experience. I stepped back and disappeared and life went on as usual for everyone else. Nothing changed. No one’s world’s collapsed because I wasn’t around as much, I’m not sure anyone even noticed. It turns out, that the purpose of this whole adventure is to make your own purpose. To become the person you want to be and enjoy the ride along the way. It has nothing to do with work or money, it really is a “Choose Your Own Adventure,” novel, and you write it, you live it, and hell, you better make sure you enjoy it.
I think this whole change was just a sudden realization that I was not old, but no longer young.
The thing is this change comes stealthily. You don’t notice it. You don’t notice when you first start to listen to your body: when your body first starts telling you you’re just too damn tired to go out, or to drink, or to put on that mini-skirt.
In fact, you don’t notice when you first stop looking at the mini-shirt/mini-dress aisles of the clothing stores. You don’t notice when you start looking for “figure-flattering” over “generically but sexily genitalia-revealing.” You don’t notice the first time you opt for flats because your feet just don’t want to be shoved into stilletos. You don’t notice the first time you say no to a party. You don’t notice the first Sunday you don’t call or text all your friends to see if you missed anything (you probably didn’t) or what happened the night before.
You don’t notice the first time you look at your BEST friend when you’re sitting on the couch with them and their puppy and thank the good lord that you had a chance to catch up. You really start to appreciate the hours you get to speak one-on-one to your best friend to really make sure they’re ok – not over polar-bears or jager-bombs, but on a couch each quietly musing over your own lives.
You don’t notice the first time you don’t tell everyone everything. The first time you decide to keep a part of your life private: yours.
But then, one day, when you haven’t been partying for a few weeks and you can’t think of a better place than bed, you start to notice. You lie on your bed and raise your hands to the ceiling. You slowly twirl your hands in the light as you actually gaze at them; at every detail, for the first time in a long time.
And for the first time you realize that, although not young anymore, you are finally yourself. You are finally making your own decisions, you are finally choosing your own activities. I’m sure you’re all wondering what the hell I’m talking about – you choose what you do every day, right? Yes, but I’m talking about the realization that you don’t care what everyone else is doing. You no longer have that feeling that dictates that you have to do something because in your gut, you’re scared of, “missing out.” Your reputation, social appearances just to make appearances, all that stuff doesn’t matter anymore. You are you.
So cheers to getting older, to realizing who you are, 27 years later, and finally starting to get to know the person that lives inside you. I am me!!!
And I am back!
Hello Dear Readers,
Please excuse my absence as I got overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with work, overwhelmed with keeping a house, overwhelmed with life in general. But that brings us nicely into my next article, which is a focus on the culture of more.
I need to ask, am I the only person on this whole wide continent (as I suspect this isn’t a worldwide problem but more of a North American thing) that is totally and completely fed up with this concept of more?
I am talking about the constant daily push to do more, read more books, clean the house more, do more dishes, go on more walks, work more, make more money, buy more stuff, achieve more goals, write more, see more movies, spend more time with friends, go out more, party more, work out more, diet more, lose more weight, have more hobbies, spend more time alone, spend more time with the cat, spend more time with the boyfriend, send more e-mails, Facebook more, Twitter more, blog more. More, more, more, more…
Is it a strange coincidence that as we are expected to want more, as we achieve more, we also see therapists more? Have more anxiety? Take anti-depressants more? Hell, drink more? Smoke more?
I don’t want more. I like my happy, homey, small little life. I like writing when I want to, I like seeing my friends when I can, I like working to survive not living my life to spend it all at work. I like laying at home, the home I don’t own, and reading books at my leisure. This is what I feel in my heart of hearts that I like, the existence I want. Somehow though, I let myself get caught up. I feel like a loser that isn’t doing enough, no matter how many things I tick off my lists.
Instead I feel a constant pull, like I’m constantly insufficient, like I should have a nicer watch, and a nicer bed to lie in and read nicer hardcover books instead of the used books I buy. In order to do so I need more money! I need to work more! “You only have one job fries or salad? Pfffttt.. get another part time job!”
I know this is a matter of self-consciousness, of personal insecurity, and of an inability to feel successful. I have heard that this is all in my head, that it is up to me to change this perception of myself and reduce my anxiety, that I need to fix myself.
But how much of this is really me? How am I expected to fight an entire barrage of daily ads, news articles, editorials, dire financial advice, economists saying that in order to keep this banal, depressing system afloat we need to spend more, more, MORE… How can I fight this incessant societal push to always be MORE? When did we give up on the arts in lieu of pumping out products that appeal to the masses and produce massive profits? When did we give up on the environment and focus on industry? When did Canada become the least-environmentally proactive country of the developed countries? When did we, collectively, lose sight of the meaning of life? How can I fight this alone? How can these feelings be my fault, when in reality, I am faced with the push for more from every direction?
I can’t sleep sometimes. I can’t breathe sometimes. Sometimes my to-do lists are so long they take two pages. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed I lash out at my close friends and family and cry in a heap. I, honest to God, can no longer function in this way. I’ve reached a breaking point. Lately I have felt so angry, felt so cooped up, I’ve been a raging psychopath on many instances, and a complacent fool on others.
It’s dawned on me, finally, while I reach the precipice of my mental stability: I can’t always be wanting more when I have everything (and more than everything) I need. I can’t look at First World problems like they are actual problems (they are not) and save my pennies to get a bigger and better watch. I can’t spend all my money trying to look like I have a lot of money, even though I’ve just spent my last penny on that blazer from Aritzia.
I can’t be everything to everyone, I can’t text all day, I can’t go out three times a week, I can’t drink three times a week, I can’t be up-to-date on every piece of news. My writing cannot consist of one hour of writing and 7 hours of scouring the internets and the Twitters and the Pinterests for people’s opinions.
That doesn’t mean that I won’t sometimes want something more, that I won’t occasionally go out and get something new. But it will not be the focus of my life. I will go out when I want to, not because I feel like I have to, I will have time for my friends and the relationships that matter and mean so much more to me than anything that can be manufactured. This is not a judgment cast upon everyone who shops, not at all, I think that if you can, you may as well. But I can’t, and I will not break my back trying to. I accept my life as the happy little life it is and I won’t live it exhausted because I want more.
I’m telling you all that I am shedding this culture of more. I will sew holes in my clothes before I go buy a new pair of pants, I will fix my soles before I buy new $250 boots, I will learn to turn off my phone. I will write when I can. I will work the hours basic necessity compels me too, I will not work more because I want more stuff. I want more time. Time you can’t buy, life you can’t buy, and you sure as hell can’t buy your youth back.
I will not always be available on email, Facebook, Twitter, or via text. I will answer phone calls when the phone rings because that means that someone has taken the time to contact me. Society be damned, no, NO, you cannot reach me at all times. I need to live.
I think I have finally found the meaning of life: to live it. To breathe in the breaths we are so lucky to take, slowly, fully. I will not be unsatisfied anymore. I will appreciate everything I have, because it is so much more than I need. And that’s more than enough for me. I feel freer even as I type this, even as I sit here writing this out, I feel a huge load off my shoulders, because I can finally announce to the world that I am freeing myself from more.
What is with budget advice these days? Reality should factor into budget advice columns, no? Or am I being idealistic?
Let me explain. I read a lot of budget/financial advice commentary/editorials/columns. It seems to be written for someone else, not for someone like me.
Things they advise: “Get a different mortgage with lower this and higher that, ask your portfolio manager for lower fees (portfolio? manager? is that the girl at the counter that tells me I’m in over-draft again?), buy a cheaper car, write off donations with tax receipts, etc.,.,
Things I need to know about: OSAP, saving on minimum wage, how to still like living in Toronto on less than average pay, how to keep my head above water, how to save for any sort of mortgage AT ALL in the next hmmm… 50 years?, etc.,
So I’ve decided to write one myself. In part just to make me feel better, in other part because I like lists.
These are my helpful budget tips for the regular people… this is how to survive in the city.
Secret #1: If you are making more than 3 trips on the subway in one day (wal-mart, work, school, home), then get a day pass! Unlimited travel for you for the day means you can get all your errands done on a mere $10.50. Seriously, this is a good deal. 4x on the subway is $12 already, and you can do 10000 errands in one day with this bad boy.
Secret #2: Wal-mart is cheaper for everything, toiletries in particular. I buy Big of everything, because it lasts longer and works out to be cheaper. I buy the 8-pack of Dove instead of buying 2-packs because it saves me a lot of money.
2.b. Sometimes it’s not worth the extra buck or two to go to Wal-mart. Mostly because there’s a feeling of guilt that this behemoth of consumerism is squashing Canadian chains and mom-and-pop shops all over the universe.
Secret #3: If you can save money on groceries, do it. Food bills will kill you. Fresh Co., is the cheapest (except for Wal-mart but please don’t buy food there). Metro is really expensive because it’s open 24-hours.
3.b. Plan for mini-grocery trips through-out the week to buy items as you need them. Staples (coffee, milk, bread, eggs, yogurt) can be bought all at one time. I find if I buy all my veggies and fruit in a spree of glee at the grocery store once a week, half of them go rotten by the weekend and it’s a waste of money. I prefer to go after work, or on my way home a couple times a week and buy things as I need them to cook with. Saves money and food! No waste!
Secret #4: This one is my darling. Envelopes. I use envelopes for budgeting purposes. I have a few envelopes in my room. These are labelled: Rent, Phone, Groceries, Entertainment, Savings, Events. Events are things like bridal showers, trips, etc., Some people also have a vacation envelope, that’s cool too. I take out money each week and put a previously determined amount of cash in each envelope. I use at will until it’s gone. I also put a pre-determined amount in savings. If entertainment runs out by Wednesday, well damn girl, them’s the breaks. I find it really helps to visualize every dollar if you see it sitting right in front of you. Also, looking at an empty envelope is harder to avoid than not checking your bank account, which I often avoid like the Black Plague.
Secret #5: Write it out! I write out my budgets - I write out my projected earnings and my projected expenses, and how much I would like to save, EACH MONTH. Legitimately, it takes ten minutes. But it gives me a framework, a written promise to myself that I am aware of what I can/can’t do, and something to refer back to when I am looking at $370 leather booties on Queen West.
Secret #6: Be who you are outside of what you possess. I struggle with this one a lot. I feel less cool, less hip, less womanly without new clothes sometimes. Sometimes when I look at my slightly outdated wardrobe I feel like a donkey-loser. Sometimes I feel shitty when I realise all my shoes are from 2 years ago. I just have to sit down and think about how that’s all very deeply engrained marketing. Those thoughts are really just the product of some very creative executives in the 90′s that managed to tamper with my identity through their advertisements. Seriously, I know this sounds crazy but it’s true. You are who you are without buying new things. You do not need more stuff to be more of a person. Once you realise this, saving becomes much easier.
Secret #7: If it’s worth keeping, fix it. I have a pair of boots I like that I bought last year. The heel on one of them is all mangled. I thought I should buy new boots. I worked through the equation and realised I could just fix the heel at a cobbler. Cobbler cost = $30 for brand-new looking boots. New boots cost is $300. Only thing missing is that buyer’s high followed by extremely low buyer’s remorse. I’ll skip it.
Secret #8: Do not, I repeat, do NOT give up the one thing you love to do, even if someone else tells you it’s a waste of money (except for smoking, because that is a waste of money). Just downsize.
For instance, I love Starbucks coffee. I’ve been told a million times that I could save SOOOOO much money making coffee at home, and it’s true. But going for coffee in the morning is my thing. I work from home sometimes so I rarely get out during the day. The experience is what I buy. I like to go for the ten-minute walk, be outside, wake up, read the paper at Bucks, and go home feeling like I’ve started my day.
Friends of mine love going out for wine. That’s fine, just downsize. You don’t need to go to the hippest wine bar in the city and pay $20 for a glass, you can go to the bar down the street that has half-price bottles on Mondays! Do it only once a week, do it wisely, but don’t take it away from yourself.
It’s like any diet, if you deprive yourself of your true pleasures, you’ll fail. If you moderate yourself, pleasure yourself rationally (HA!), then you are more likely to succeed. Plus, what’s life if not a little bit of indulgence.
Secret #9: Share. Share, share, share. Take a girlfriend that’s having a hard time out for a coffee, treat your significant other to dinner, take your sister for a manicure. I am, on most days, broke as hell. But nothing makes me feel better about the person I am than sharing. Because we can all be worse off, and we can all give a little. I like to give to my friends and family sometimes, even if it means the budget is off for a week, because it keeps me human. I highly suggest being generous when being frugal, it will keep things in perspective true. As much as saving is important, money isn’t everything.
Above all, don’t forget. Money is important but it really doesn’t buy happiness. Money shared makes for better memories than money hoarded under your bed. Just saying.
For every live concert you see, there are a million things you experience that go unsaid.
You experience this weird sensation that the disembodied voice that so long crooned at you from your computer/ipod/discman/sony walkman is now an actual person. This voice from the music-box is now standing in front of you, after so many years and google searches, maybe even talking at you through a microphone. It’s weird, it kind of blurs the lines of reality a bit, it makes you euphoric and giddy.
Sometimes I suspect that it’s actually the opposite: the music-box man hasn’t come alive, but I’ve just taken a trip into the music box! Am I just sitting in my iPod? In my walkman? Is this concert really just something that happens everytime I press play?
You experience a certain disappointment: no matter how pricey the seats, no matter how close you are, it’s never close enough. The artist in question does not know who you are, you haven’t gotten to shake his hand, he hasn’t winked at you yet. It’s a secret hope, but it’s there.
Anyway, I digress…. the other thing that happens is that the image you’ve conjured up in your mind of your lyrical hero, of your favorite artist, is now faced with its own flesh and blood manifestation – the real deal. All the collages you’ve made in your head, the preconceived notions of what they dress/walk/act/seem like – now they all have to be compared to the original model.
Oh, Neil, Neil the real deal, you are so good. But you are also a frightening reminder of my own mortality. The concert was amazing. Your new songs unfamiliar to my mind but carried a familiar beat to my soul – the Neil Young touch – while your old favorites warmed my insides. You jammed out with Crazy Horse, Neil, you really did. You guys rocked my socks.
But you were still a stark reminder of the relentless onward march of time - because before I imagined you the way I see you in pictures these days, pictures that seem a touch outdated, in hindsight. But your real deal manifestation was different, harsher, more tired, more wise, your face more sorrowful than I imagined you when you twanged at me from Youtube. When you came out onto that stage I thought to myself, “What a fricken legend…” but it wasn’t just your music anymore, it was awe that you were still doing all that at your age. It was disbelief that you’d been doing these shows for, what, 40-something years now?
It also begged the question, will I be in the same position in 50 years? Will we all be so fortunate to be doing what we love, how we love to do it, as a career? Probably not, so kudos to you Neil, because you’ve really fricken made it. You are a legend and a legend I got to see in the flesh, pretty flesh or not. And man, can you ever coax those guitar strings.
You know what else Neil? Your talent is transcendant, your skills beyond expertise, your music is you and you’ve become your music. It is raw energy, no lip syncing, no backtrack playbacks, no choreography. And you’re the first concert I’ve seen that was like that, that was real.
You’ve proven one thing, you’ve shown us all one really important lesson:
You, Neil, you may not be immune to time, but you are immortal.