I’m setting my bar lower… and that’s okay


There is this saying I once overheard – no recollection of where, or when, or from whom – that has somehow haunted me more, and more deeply, than any profound segment of prose or stanza of poetry or line of literature that I’ve come across in my many years as a student and a reader: “You have as many hours in a day as Beyoncé.” Simple, succinct, unpoetic, and yet a low and searing blow that still makes my soul ache tenfold each time I reflect on how unfulfilled I feel in my life (which is essentially every few minutes, every day.)

Beyoncé, a damn idol, talent, luminary, ostensibly inhuman queen, manages to do all that she does in the same timespan that I manage to do essentially nothing. She probably gets in a killer workout, low-cal healthy smoothie, makeup, hair, interviews, rehearsals, fittings, flights to wherever the hell, performances, second workout, meetings, appointments, and even some mothering/wifing and more in the time it takes me to roll out of bed, haphazardly turn myself into a somewhat presentable-looking human, walk to work (late), and sit at a desk for 8 hours browsing “ways to grow your butt if you’re a white girl” and window shopping on Amazon while writing the odd 300-word newspiece here and there. Hell, even on my days out of the office, doing a load of laundry and tidying the house are real achievements for me. Leaving the house? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. And when my daily tidal wave of self-loathing and confusion about WHY THE HELL I AM THE UNPRODUCTIVE HUMAN I AM comes, it’s not just Beyoncé I have to compare myself to, but the millions of celebs and pseudocelebs who tout their glorious lives on social (and in traditional) media, pretending to be normal people.

The thing about it is, just like the models in the magazines we grew up with before the advent of the internet, these people we worship aren’t normal people. Anyone who has the time and resources to devote their entire life to appearances and exceptional – read: unrealistic – accomplishments (platinum albums and the like), whether it be a full-blown celebrity or an “influencer” who was able to quit her job when she hit 80,000 Instagram followers, does not have the same obligations and goals that a “normal” person does or should have. Beyoncé manages to be Beyoncé because she has a team of hundreds behind her every move. Jen Selter’s butt looks like Jen Selter’s butt because she has an entire day to devote to working out her butt. A fitness model has the body of a fitness model – and the beautiful tan and hair and makeup to boot – because that is their fucking job. (I’m sorry to make things so physically focused here, but it’s in my nature as a woman and as someone in ED recovery, because these are the standards I hold myself to the most and feel the guiltiest about not achieving.)

I have felt ashamed of myself and my lack of tangible accomplishment nearly every day of my life in recent memory. My parents taught me that there was no other option than an 85%+ average and a university scholarship and a decent paying high-status job, and so, in my little three-car garage inground pool faction of Canadian white suburbia, that was the life I held myself to, thinking it was the norm (still working on that last bit though…). As is potentially expected given my circumstances, I became somewhat of a perfectionist, which I believe many women can relate to – and though I easily measured up in some ways, I fell short in others.

It is only now, approaching 27, that I’ve realized this is called “the natural damn balance of things” and not “I am a fucking failure.” People have strengths and weaknesses, highs and lows, admirable qualities and shortcomings, good luck and bad luck, regardless of whether it seems that way or not. I am learning to trust that the universe, and so people and their lives, have to balance out somewhere.

My prior mode of thinking was obviously the springboard for my more than decade-long issues with eating, as diet and exercise are two things very easily quantified and controlled; even more easily sorted into “success” and “failure” with only myself to congratulate or blame. And though I’m still struggling against the quicksand that is this mindset, I find as of late that I’m more forgiving with myself. Though only a microscopic shift, it’s made all the difference, and I wish that I could impart the same tiny revelatory kernel to others.

I’ve stopped setting myself up for failure by making and reiterating mental lists of things I insist on getting done each day for that day to be a “good” one. Sure, I’ll set my alarm for 6:45 each morning in the hopes that I’ll be inspired to go for a run, but I no longer beat myself up and write the day off as failed from the start if I’m too exhausted to get up and exert myself that early. If I manage to do it once a week, I appreciate myself for that. The same has gone for eating, which is something that seems to have just happened on its own and is so goddamn scary that I’m hesitant to even talk about it… but for the past few weeks, I haven’t really given a shit if I go over 1,000 calories a day, or eat “bad” foods. In the past, these would be classified as “binge” or “no care” days, few and far between, to be separated with “repent” days of guilty abstinence from food and overdoing it on workouts or then continuing to eat, but purging up to ten times a day. Eating healthy is good for health’s sake, but sometimes restrictions and rules aren’t good for an already weakened mental state. Especially for someone who too often falls down the slippery slope from “healthy, positive, yay!” to “restriction, binge/purge, depressed!” If I’m functioning with what I’m doing, I’m going to just keep it up and be fine where I’m at until I feel okay enough to make a change and have it be a positive thing for the right reasons (i.e., not trying to drop 10 pounds in a week because I feel like I can’t live in my body today).

And as far as accomplishments go, I’ve stopped holding myself to everything I think I should be doing, or the things the person I theoretically want to be would do. Yes, there are normal, non-celebrity people who go to the gym for 5am, run errands, go to work and kick ass, meet some friends for dinner and drinks, go home and work on creative projects, and carry on relationships and maintain entire lives on top of that. Statistically, I have no idea how much of the population these types of go-getters make up. And though it’s definitely important to have goals and to aspire to things, after knowing myself for almost three decades, I’ve come to realize I’m just not that kind of person, and wanting to be/hating myself when I can’t be doesn’t get me any closer to it. I won’t accept a day of laying around in bed (come on self, you’re better than that), but I’m more realistic when trying to carve out my day or my week or my life. If I don’t feel up to that social event this evening and my absence isn’t harming anyone, I make the decision to stay home and refuse to guilt myself for what I’m missing out on. If I planned to get to a coffee shop and write for a few hours on the one day I have to myself each week, but didn’t get around to it between working out and errands, I pat myself on the back for getting something done. These things may sound sad and babying of me, but self-care and self-love is so, so fucking important and it’s something most of us have neglected for most of our lives. On the contrary, I know for myself personally, self-hatred and self-punishment have been my norms. I may want to live life at the highest level and the fastest speed, but maybe I’m just not a damn Beyoncé; we can’t all be, right? Or maybe just not right now. I’ll continue to shine in the ways I’ve overlooked my whole life, and will maybe learn some new ones along the way.

The weight of my own decisions

7bba1b3e1b7aa094fc5d4d2f7fdf91afThe impact our daily, sometimes seemingly inconsequential, choices have on our lives long-term is absolutely oppressive to consider. If the “butterfly effect” is a concept any of us can find a even a grain of truth in, it’s paralyzing to think of the consequences of which subway car you choose on your route home tonight or which convenience store you stop into for gum and at what time or essentially where you are at any given moment and what you’re doing. The people you make fleeting eye contact with – or, even worse, talk to – the minor catastrophes you fall into or avoid completely, the scenes and images that serve to inspire or depress you in an instant. As an indecisive person whose panic swells and stiffens at the prospect of options and making a selection between them, decision-making to me is so overbearing that it almost invites a kind of recklessness; to relinquish control to fate or “what’s meant to be” for fear of forcing things unnaturally. For fear of later remorse and self-loathing. For fear of picking the wrong alternative when my natural inclination is to regret, regret, regret.

The people with whom I’ve once been intimate, or even shared a life, who are now strangers? The friends inexorably tied to my strongest memories- be them good experiences or bad – with whom I no longer speak? All of the what ifs, could have beens, why nots? My thoughts often gravitate to these circumstances, and how things would be now had a different decision at some point been made. My entire path in life thus far, and also into the future, digresses at various points to open possibilities that lay empty and unfulfilled. If only it were that a door could open without closing another. If only it were that I could try out my options and retrace my steps back if I change my mind. Or, if that’s rendered impossible, forget that I had any options in the first place once I’ve committed.

Being a very dysfunctional person for myriad reasons, I often marvel at how people can live with the burden this presents: that their life can be altered irrevocably by every tiny choice they make. I’ve found myself in both the luckiest and the least desirable circumstances imaginable, only to wonder what would have happened had I not walked down that street that day, or gone to that gathering, or went for a run or to grab a coffee at that location at that specific time. We stumble into and out of these nexuses of opportunity, often unknowingly, and end up where we are; some ever-changing, ever-fleeting place in time and space and relationships and life.

I had to review a book for work this month that invested a lot of time on this concept thematically, with the narrator finding himself in an absurd point in space-time that permitted him to relive and ruminate on his entire life, endlessly (the author was deft enough to aptly suspend disbelief). The details and nuance the protagonist failed to register the first time around, the types of microscopic, fleeting truths that can and would have changed the track of a life, become jarringly apparent upon his second and third visits to any given situation. And with limitless time on his hands and no other means with which to occupy it, he draws connections between the pinpoints of light that map his life, creating constellations and elucidating far more meaning than his real-time, 20-something self could discern. The regret I felt by the end of the narrative, for Daniel Solomon and for myself, was crushing… yet not substantially more than the amount I feel every day (for some reason or another, or for all of the reasons at once). My daily stream-of-consciousness feels like not the former iteration of Daniel, or like most people I suppose should and do carry on, but like the suspended-in-animation Daniel, more absent from the current moment and present in my thoughts than anything else. But where does it get me?

In some part, years of insecurity and self-conscious mannerisms – which I find to be more profound and affecting in women, who are taught to be so aware of themselves and their bodies and how they are perceived – have manifested in a lifetime of regret for almost everything I do. Even if there is no blatantly negative outcome, the fact that another choice may have been preferable and that I did not make that choice eats at me every day. Just not knowing for certain what reality another option would have yielded is all-consuming. And when things don’t go so well, oh boy… unfortunately there is no way to mitigate these feelings or even punish oneself appropriately. There is just sitting there, with an immense weight of regret and a nostalgia for a past or future I will now never have, and a whole slew of other less-great feelings. I admit that I spend too much time in the past/future/my head, but there’s no exact way to force yourself to exist solely in the moment; there’s just too much of life to contemplate and, really, complicate. But I’ll take my ruminations over some thoughtless, carefree existence nonetheless, because they give things – everything -texture and a greater significance, even if they are only varying shades of dark; my grand, dark, meaningful, rich (albeit myopic) internal world. Blaming myself for everything bad – or even just the absence of the spectacular – may be stupid (more painful than anything else), but so is remaining ignorant and inculpable and trusting that some force is making everything happen just as it “should.” As tempting as it is to be at either end of the spectrum, I’d like to think in time that I can drift somewhere further towards middleground. Where the burden of choice and accountability is there, but I’m okay with it. Functional. Here. And the only assuaging force that comes to mind is to take every opportunity that presents itself and just try.


Dealing with depression, being a miserable loser, etc.

Bq6DhZ2CYAAiDS_.jpgI’ve been in a slump for a few weeks – though I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been an enthusiastic, outgoing person and my life has never been that damn exciting – which has drawn me even tighter into my depressive little shell, reaching one hesitant fingertip out and into the waters of socialization and real life every once in a while, but of course always finding them unbearable. I’ve been drinking. I’ve been over-eating. I’ve been under-interacting (with people and with life). I’ve been spending money I don’t have on stupid things when I shouldn’t, thinking they’ll offer me a single moment of consumeristic joy, but they don’t. I’ve been neglecting the things that make me feel okay about myself and like a human progressing, such as working out and writing. I’ve been doing a whole lot of nothing, seemingly just to make myself feel like an unproductive asshole for not using my free time more to my advantage. I’ve been beating myself up a lot, then continuing to engage with bad habits that I know will lead to results I’ll later beat myself up over. This is what depression does. And it seems like almost all of us have it.

All textbook definitions comprising “feelings of helplessness,” “suicidal thoughts,” “loss of interest in activities you’d previously enjoyed,” etc. aside, depression is often misunderstood in its magnitude and effect, truly. If you’re upset or down one day, especially if it’s over a concrete argument/dynamic/some other event, then I assure you that your assertions of “I’m depressed” are unfounded. Yes, you may feel depressed, but depression is not a fucking mood that you wear for a few hours or something simply caused by an outside factor. It is an all-encompassing, stifling cloud that masks itself simply as the air you breathe and your way of viewing and experiencing the world. It makes you question every single minute of every single day if and why you want to bother living, and makes that question into a very real decision that you have to grapple with moment-to-moment. There is always the out, and your life ain’t worth shit. It’s been hard for me, despite [now long-gone] years of diagnoses and medication and treatment of various kinds, to bear witness to my depression as a separate sickness rather than just my mode of being or my personality. I always did, and still often do, perceive it as just me as a person and how this world has shaped me, not a thing to rid myself of. And that goes for the things it’s inextricably married to, be they anxiety or eating disordered in nature.

So anyways, I’ve recently slid into one of my depressive lows (though really, it’s the “happy” periods that are rarer, so this is just my normal), and haven’t been blogging or writing whatsoever, or seeing friends or even interacting by any other means of communication, or leaving my house other than to go to work. (And for that irritating distraction of a 9-5 I am so incredibly thankful, because without structure, I think I would rot and disintegrate into a heapy hole of misery and nothing.) I also deleted my Facebook months ago, which I guess could be seen as either “oh no, she’s preparing to disappear and kill herself” or “her life sucks and she has nothing to post” or “she’s pretentious and thinks she’s above this social media life” or “who?” Social media just fosters in me this fire of equal parts anxiety and annoyance, and I feel lost and awkward and pissed off trying to use it most of the time. Instagram especially was a toxic outlet for some bad body image and life-shaming shit, so I deleted it for more than a week, but felt too obsolete and off-the-grid without it. Like a dead person. A dead non-person person. If I at least had real-life interactions and a social life to solace me, I think deleting my online presence could have been both helpful and successful, but meh. I’m beyond trying to salvage lost connections at this point or bother with people who can’t be bothered with me, be that good or bad – some people are just hopeless, and the ones who matter will be there when I am able to be present, too.

When I think about the way people scramble to shove as many posts as they can about how awesome their lives are in other people’s faces, I get sad. Sad for myself, for leading such a lame, uninspired life, but also sad for the poster and everyone else who engages in this way, for this culture that compels people to pretend. You’re not fooling anyone with your spates of content: photos of you standing places, so obviously and awkwardly posed that it’s painful to see you guise them as a candid expression of you having a good time; paragraphs of you talking up your recent moves and achievements when you’re not actually as important as you’d like us to think, or doing as much as you yourself would like to believe; your forced group pictures of times that you should just be living instead of trying to feign some party person lifestyle you wish you had. It’s as if people are partaking in things just to turn an experience into a picture or video other people can consume and bear witness to YOUR SUPER COOL LIFE, and it’s so fucking lame. I have no problem tweeting jarringly dark and emo stuff, or not posting anywhere at all, which would *gasp* maybe indicate that things aren’t that fun for me lately. I don’t fear other people judging me or my life as pathetic, for whatever reason. I may be evidently sad and pathetic, but because I can look past your bullshit, I know you are too. And your inability to acknowledge that, and attempts to make things seem otherwise an unnatural 100 per cent of the time, just speaks to your lack of depth and authenticity. I’m so frustrated with everyone’s “highlight reel as real life” mentality of social media, the compulsion to one-up everyone else experientially and fear to seem vulnerable or sub-par. Life isn’t always great, things aren’t always fun, people get bummed, nights out end up lame, sometimes we just aren’t doing anything worth noting. And sometimes we’re just fucking depressed. These things happen, but no one ever wants to admit to the darker side of anything, which I think is the space that is most conducive to actually bonding over the disorienting,  disillusioning, dejected experience that is being human.

Travelogue: places

In the past two years, I’ve traveled more than I have in my life hitherto. Any family vacations I was forced to undergo in my youth can be described as dramatic failures at best – most taking place prior to the age of 10 – and I’ve lacked that quintessential hot girl gang with which to travel in my late teens and early twenties. Moreover, the anecdotal travel experiences of my friends are bleakly symptomatic of North American complacency, as it seems the most those around me can muster is a week at some nondescript all-inclusive beach resort that could be on any coast anywhere, a whirlwind weekend in an American city with some reputation or another, or maybe a foray to our homegrown mountains out West (admittedly, something I hope to do in the near future) once before the age of 35.

That’s not to say that these experiences aren’t great or are in any way less than others, but it just seems that young people elsewhere, mainly in Europe and Australia, experience some general cultural undertone that we are found wanting of – a social push – to see the world. In some aspects, I feel like North America is stuck in a ‘50s mentality, when the dream of acquiring a full-time job, settling into some real estate, and establishing a family as young as possible was the ultimate goal of adulthood.

I’m no rookie to ongoing existential anxiety, and I sure as hell wouldn’t consider myself traveled or experienced in the ways of life by any means, but I’m glad I’ve at least taken the first baby steps away from the boring, philistine 20s that would be very normal for me to have subscribed to.

For now, here are some places I’ve been in the past little while and the things I miss most about them (as I’m currently sitting at my desk in my office very much missing them).

Paris, France; Helsinki, Finland; and London, England – architecture/history

IMG_4684.JPGAnyone who’s been essentially anywhere in Europe can attest to the fact that the architecture, very much taken for granted by anyone residing there, is breath-taking in both the figurative and literal sense of the word. I imagine a capital city to be a metropolis populated with glass-and-concrete high-rises and inundated with suits, and yet Paris, Helsinki, and London were possessed of this slow, Romantic (the capital R kind) quality that is so rich in a history we never get a taste of in a country as new as Canada. Physical buildings aside, getting to walk the same cobblestone streets that inspired Dickens or Wilde was enough to make my heart explode – and getting to visit the only remaining home of the former on Doughty Street and grave of the latter in Père Lachaise Cemetery were definite bucket-list moments and pluses of each trip.


Beijing, China – cultural difference

IMG_4680.JPGI’m fortunate to have a friend who was adventurous enough to leave her entire life in Canada to teach in Beijing, and more than four years later, she’s still there and loving it. When I visited her last summer, what struck me most about the city was the fact that I could feel so comfortable, safe, and at home somewhere so distant from what I’ve ever known not only physically, but socio-culturally. Every single object, person, and experience I encountered in China was weird and backwards and new and completely exciting to me, and yet I could still sit on the patio of a tiny brewery decorated to emit a hipster vibe I wouldn’t be surprised to find in Toronto, tasting a smattering of local ales and laughing along with newfound friends (all members of the city’s strong expat community) amid the winding, high walls of an authentic Chinese hutong. The whole experience was full-on sensory overload in the most familiar and unfamiliar ways possible.

L.A. and New York City, U.S.A. – the potential for anything

IMG_2865.JPGAs much as I’m against the concept, being in New York City really does feel like you’re at the centre of the universe. In both cities, I felt like anything was possible, and daydreamed about my high-profile publishing position or inadvertently catching the attention of some big-time model scout (or famous millionaire actor) in the street or a non-stop social life featuring a new, ultra-cool bar each night or my cutesy Brooklyn apartment with exposed brick and airy ceilings or the awesome, fill-you-with-feels-and-realness novel I’d write based on the cast of crazy characters that made my daily life riveting – all things that would obviously happen to me if I lived there. The vastness of both locales made me feel like even if I were to call either place home for a decade, I would never satiate myself or experience all it had to offer.

Melbourne, Australia – home, but as far away from home as possible

IMG_3326A flight to Aus is one of the three longest flights you can take from Toronto. And though I counterintuitively have felt more at home in somewhere like Beijing over somewhere like London, Australia has the perfect balance of familiar customs/amenities and exotic appeal. It’s almost as if the fact that Australian culture is so similar to ours makes the differences really stand out, as opposed to the general confusion of being dropped in medias res into a completely foreign context. I felt altogether at ease but like I was still seeing and experiencing a completely new world. Though the geography has its obvious differences (um, desert and beaches), driving through Melbourne was reminiscent of driving through any large North American city and the surrounding suburbs evoked memories of farms and forests on the periphery of my GTA hometown. Of everywhere I’ve been so far, Melbourne is the place I could most see myself living. But then again, considering the city sent me the love of my life, I may have a substantive bias.





Friendzone vs. fuckzone, and why I really wish guys would stop fuckzoning me

wpid-friend-zone-32.jpgI’m sure everyone between the ages of 16 and 106 is familiar with the term “friendzone”, which has become so hackneyed that it’s virtually outdated as far as colloquial millennial-ims go.

The concept of “friendzone” in the way men employ it in earnest (but really, who the hell even does that in 2016) makes me simultaneously giggle and scream, because guess what, guys? As frustrated as you are of being constantly “friendzoned”, I’m infinitely more tired of being fuckzoned. (I still maintain faith in the fact that I invented this term, because I’ve only ever heard it after I came up with it. This is OBVIOUSLY and inarguably the case, so sh sh shhhhh.)

Yes, fuckzoned. When someone takes what should be the default relationship between themselves and another person with whom they are just becoming acquainted – a casual, respectable friendship – and expects a more sexual relationship. Immediately or eventually. And then gets angry and most often abandons said interaction after an indefinite time period during which they’ve finally realized that the “fucking” part just isn’t going to happen. Unsurprisingly, this dynamic seems to happen one way between genders in the vast majority of cases.

I have a sizeable number of guy friends I’ve lost because I turned down their [most often subtle or half-joking, testing-the-water type of, yet still relentless] advances over time. Not even blatantly or rudely, either, because in that case, I may understand a rift. I just plain platonic-ed the hell out of every near-flirty conversation and tried to act more bro-like to preserve their delicate little ego, but still make it clear that I just wanted to stay friends. (Note: How sad is it that a legitimate defense against unwanted advances from someone I care about, and way of keeping a friendship I value, is acting more like a guy to make myself less sexualized/attractive. Sigh.) I’ve had male “best friends” completely stop talking to me with no explanation sheerly BECAUSE I got a boyfriend. Thanks for respecting our friendship, fellow human! What a waste of my damn time.

And yet, I’m sure they think all those months of friendship were a waste of their time because they didn’t achieve their ultimate goal. (Of fucking me.) I understand that if you are a straight male, your hopes for the relationship you’ll have with an attractive female you recently met may end up being different than your hopes for the relationship you’ll have with an attractive male you recently met, and you can’t help that. Feelings are feelings. But there is such a thing as, you know, respecting a woman’s desires (or lack thereof) as you would any person’s, and just accepting the fact that you guys will only ever be friends, especially if it’s after you’ve both invested a significant chunk of time BEING friends already. Because as I stated, CASUAL FRIENDSHIP IS THE DEFAULT FOR ANY NEW INTERACTION, whether or not you are attracted to the individual and regardless of their gender. Your hopes for the situation are just that: hopes, not givens. Unless, of course, you’ve pre-agreed that this is just a “fucking” situation, in which case, knock yourselves out, Tinder lovers.

I guess this is especially frustrating on a personal level because if I, in the past, made a new male friend that I thought I’d like to sleep with or date or whatever-the-hell is more than friendship, I didn’t treat him any differently if he made it clear that wasn’t what he was interested in. Or if he had a girlfriend. I mean, if you’ve spent the time becoming someone’s friend and making memories with them, and like them enough to have sex with or date them, why are you now going to ditch them? Because you can’t stick your dick in them? Is that all they’re worth to you? Wet hole or bust? Or is it because you’re a baby who just can’t deal with not getting what you want? I’ve preserved simple friendships with hot males for years. Even males I actually really liked. And I didn’t push or pressure them into awkward interactions, or make them feel like shit for not wanting to sleep with me, or reduce their entire being to a penis, or stop talking to them because I couldn’t handle “just friends” like a mature sentient adult.

This all stems from a culture of male entitlement, and of “no can be turned into yes with enough persistence”, and of reducing women’s worth as humans to just sexual. Even if a part of me is sadly flattered that you think I’m pretty or want to sleep with me (OMG ULTIMATE GOALS OF PERSONHOOD AND MY PRIMARY REASON FOR LIVING), if it’s not the relationship I want with you, then why am I not permitted to have any relationship at all after all these months or years of what I thought was good friendship? Why is it called me “friendzoning” you? Are our only options strangers or sexual partners because I’m a woman? Do you get “friendzoned” by your male friends, is that possible? I don’t get it. If someone could answer the above questions and explain the population of males who’ve ever uttered the word “friendzone” seriously, I would greatly appreciate it.

How to go out when you feel like ugly crap 101

My early university social life was characterized – really, terrorized – by this toxic habit of skipping out on things I wanted to participate in because of how I looked (A la Dove Campaign For Real Beauty, which in one of its commercials mentions some super high statistic of girls who opt out of activities they’re interested in because they feel like shit about their appearance, which I’m frankly too lazy to look up and include but I assure you it was high.) I actually hesitate to refer to it as a habit, but more like a spectre, as it was a mode of thinking and being that completely haunted and controlled my life.

It started out as just plain “finding clothing to fit this atrocious body is too hard/time-consuming/emotionally draining and I just can’t deal right now”, but quickly turned into some weird sort of self-punishment for being fat. Even if I wasn’t in a hysterical, teary panic, and was actually able to actually compose myself enough to assemble some sort of presentable exterior, I just forbade myself from going out. I didn’t deserve to be seen or have fun given the way I looked, in my mind. And the longer I was MIA, the harder it became to make an appearance somewhere, which I guess was the point: “I’ll show my face when I lose some weight.” Unfortunately, though this mantra was designed to serve as some sort of motivation to in fact lose weight, that of course never happened, as I quite predictably ended up spending my nights alone working out like a fiend and alternately eating mass amounts of shitty food and throwing it up. Repeat nine times in the span of a few hours and you’ve got a recipe for feeling like absolute shit, physically and mentally.

As a self-declared feminist, I’m putting it lightly when I say I’m conflicted in instances like these that concern body image and how I “should” look as a female. I’m quite a bad feminist, to employ Roxane Gay’s term, because I vocally battle against the physical and behavioural ideals society holds women to, and yet battle with myself every second of every day for not adhering to them. I still want to adhere to them, in the end, and I guess that’s the reason I’m so against them in the first place… the fact that I’ve been socialized to want myself to be something unattainable and realistically, unimportant to my existence as a person. And yet for most of my life, it’s been THE most important thing to me. Being intelligent, well-read, well-informed, and well-spoken have been givens that I’ve never credited myself for because they weren’t what mattered about me and they came naturally. How I looked was that all-important part of myself that was so changeable and yet so impossibly so; somehow what was the only determination of my worth as a person. And yet I fought, and still fight, against this concept because I know men are taught their ideas and what they have to say and otherwise offer as people are what’s valuable about them, not just their weight/face/hair/sex appeal/whatever.

I can blame my parents for constantly telling me how “pretty” I was, and how great it was that I was, or for teaching me girls are quiet and polite and don’t act out and aren’t loud. But it’s not all their fault. And I can blame the gendered toy industry for making goal-oriented action games for boys while producing Dream Phone, Barbies with untenable body types and 10,000 items of clothing, and play makeup for girls. But again, it’s not all their fault. I can blame media – along with all of the males in my life – for constantly assessing me and every female in the world solely on their looks and rating as a sexual object. But it’s not all their fault either. Instead of complaining how I was a victim of all of these things, which I’m not going to deny that I am, I just focused on the one thing I could change: lame but true, myself and my paradigm.

Maybe unhealthy, but I permitted myself only seconds of mirror time before leaving the house. Maybe embarrassingly stupid, but I created a list in my head of “fallback outfits” that I knew I looked okay in and felt somewhat comfortable in, so I couldn’t spend hours picking myself apart and feeling like I wanted to don a snowsuit. I guess the most realistic change of all was just distracting myself from the looming cloud of body-focused thoughts that normally completely imposed on my consciousness. Instead of indulging in them, which I apparently loved to do (and which I really think the media, etc. wants me to do), I mustered my most strong-willed effort to think of literally anything else and just make myself get the fuck out of the house before I gave myself any other option. Feel like my face looks like garbage? Who cares. Feel like I’m 300 pounds? Too bad. I didn’t know any other thought process and yet here I was, whisking myself out of my own mind and into the real world. It sounds like I’m naturally inclined to be a narcissist obsessed with my own appearance, and I know a lot of people will read this and think it’s goddamn dumb, but this is the sad reality for a lot of women, and it’s a horrible mental prison of a place to be. It’s too easy to box yourself in a whiny, tragic mess of thoughts about how unfair everything is and how ugly you are and how you’ll never be hot or worth anything and how frustrating it is that you are made to feel this way. But it’s also pretty easy, in time, to give yourself a moment to acknowledge these thoughts and just move on with your evening. Screw your body ideals or whatever and just make yourself get out and live your life. Keep in mind the rest of us are out and about and probably feeling just as self-loathing and uncomfortable as you. But a good time, though seemingly just an unreachable mirage on the horizon of someone else’s life, can still happen and is arguably the best remedy to trump those negative feelings.

On the terrifying/comforting fact that we’re all replaceable

moueI really don’t know why there exist all of these lame love clichés about two specific people being destined for one another: “no one could take your place”, “you’re the one”, the basic concept of a soulmate, that stupid Greek myth about a four-limbed person being divided in two to roam the earth searching for its other half, etc. etc…. not to mention all of the bullshit the beloved RomCom genre has offered in its shitty and tacky – even at its most poetic – way. Call me jaded (I call myself realistic), but after being in love five (maybe more? 5.5?) times, I have unyielding confidence in the fact that almost anyone can fall in love with almost anyone. As long as you share mutual physical attraction, some vague interests (the ones most important to you and your identity as a human, obv.), the ability to spend time together without feeling annoyed/murderous/disillusioned with the human race, and a city – and even that isn’t necessary – the potential is there to cultivate something.

I’ve been in multiple-year-long relationships with individuals that I thought were the loves of my life at the time (more clichés, yay!). I truly believed, at various points, that I would marry each of them. Some of them had more obvious, unforgivable downfalls that eventually punctured and wearied my love for them than others, but I really could have seen myself ending up, in the long run, with any of the men I’ve had a serious relationship with. I’ve endured breakups that left me crippled, alternately vomiting and vehemently sobbing in the fetal position; bed-ridden for more than a week; unable to eat for just as long; engaging in questionable, out-of-character sexual escapades; and adopting anxious, compulsive tics. Even recently, I’ve had this perpetual physically ill feeling that resonates in waves in the pit of my being since my ex-boyfriend moved out a month-ish ago and we stopped talking on bad terms the other week (hey dude, you fucking suck, for the record!)

And yet, and yet, AND YET… in each situation, I’ve gone on to live and love again, to my own surprise. Maybe loved differently – not better or worse, but differently – but still, I was able to move on with a speed and ease and intensity that my mid-post-breakup-distress self never could have imagined. And because it’s happened to me in the past, I find solace in knowing through experience that I won’t feel shitty forever. Or care about someone forever. That person who pops into your head every time you hear a Taylor Swift song or see a couple so sickeningly in love that you want to barf on the street? Yeah, that person you think of will change, probably before you even realize it.

There’s this all-too-necessary realization that you don’t miss the person themselves, but just the idea of that person, a long-gone version of that person, the also long-gone memories with that person, or just having a damn person with which you share a comfortable, convenient routine. (THIS TOTALLY APPLIES TO FRIENDSHIPS, AS WELL). Breakups are far more bearable when you realize how easily you can fall in love with someone else, which I guess is something you won’t comprehend until it happens to you – or to your ex, for that matter. And that’s all up to time and fate, my friends.

I, for whatever reason, was graced with great favour from the universe FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE at a defining moment in my once wonderful three-year relationship that had gone to complete, resent-laden shit (because that happens); that defining moment being: do we try this again, or move on? If it weren’t for the serendipitous occasion of meeting a new, phenomenal man at this exact time, I would probably be a devastated, debilitated wreck over my old one. And before you mumble “rebound” or “crutch,” I’m actually completely enamored and admittedly in love with the guy, actually goddamn happy, and those are feelings I just can’t help – whether it makes me a shitty or resilient person, who knows. What it is, is either horrible or horribly PERFECT timing (hint: it’s the latter).  And aside from being lucky enough to stumble into a relationship like this at any time in my life, it’s been timed to bring me to this stunning existential realization that I think I really needed to have: we’re all goddamn replaceable. All of us. (My ex has a new gf too, if that helps to prove this point any further… though I at least had the guile to tell him about my relationship as it bloomed, while he is another story). If you think you can’t live without your significant other post-breakup because they’re SO SPECIAL – or better yet, if you think you’re so special – you will come to realize how wonderfully/terribly incorrect that notion is. That fact is sad, and it hurts. But it’s also incredibly freeing. Yeah, you had something cool with someone once, maybe; friendship, relationship, whatever. And maybe they’re an asshole now, or maybe you’re still on good terms. But while you’re ruminating on that for months, life is offering the both of you options, everywhere. Better options, worse options, different options. If you’re currently somehow mourning the loss of someone still living, keep your head up and your eyes open, is all I’ll say. 😉

I could run: Don’t resist the travel tick

Not every person is apt for travel. Nor does everyone even have a conscious interest in it.

But even for those busy with incessant obligations, the weak of heart, the slight in bank, or the just plain boring, there always survives this tiny, perhaps impractical sliver of interest in the back of one’s mind. Call it instinct; the inclination to flee. The urge to verify that there are places that aren’t here. The compulsion to seek fulfillment elsewhere, if it’s not within our grasp. We are capable of imagining a double life, a double world, where people live like us, but not. Where cars drive on the other side of the road, the culture is astoundingly eclectic, and the weather is always agreeable. If we base our lives on the myth of deferral, then we can surely satiate ourselves by living out at least some portion of our fantasy in the sheer idea of it. But when our being touches those of individuals who’ve traveled, or who hail from parts unknown, we are jostled back to the realization that fantasizing about, talking about, and planning to travel can not in fact suffice for traveling. Life is not lived in one place, and life is fleeting; forever pulled out of our hands like a perpetually escaping rope, the movement of which we fail to notice due to its familiar monotony.

The appeal of an indefinite absence, an ambiguous break, an indeterminate vacation from life’s taxing everyday is undeniable, though often untenable, and certainly terrifying. In the wake of every simple work snafu, every futile argument with a loved one, every late-night, angsty moment of existential reflection, this idea flows and pools into a murky puddle at the base of the skull, confused about which way it will flow: I could run. Anywhere. Not a necessarily transient thought, but nonetheless dismissed. Like an indelible carving in a primal stone, faint as it may be, washed over and covered in paint, in moss, in distraction, but occasionally re-traced in an act of rebellion.

I, like many, am an anxiety-ridden, easily mortified, often depressed individual. I have a daily mental battle against the concept of a 9-5 job, of routine, and yet these are the things that solace me during an existence I’m almost constantly in some way or another uncomfortable in. Experiences that I should have found enjoyable, I don’t look back at as the best of my life, because it’s hard for me to look past my nervousness in hindsight. I’m prone to just plain having a bad time and wishing I stayed home every time I do much of anything, but loathe the idea of a boring, adventure-less life. This contradiction draws and quarters me. And so occasionally I fight. And occasionally, from this fight, I grow.

I wouldn’t identify as impulsive, but I’ve made decisions that some, knowing me, would consider as such. These choices naturally incite my occasionally less dormant fear and apprehension, but there are times it’s necessary to build a situation from which you cannot back out of.

I went to China a few months ago (a trip I’ll likely detail in a later post), a quick decision I made when a friend teaching English there encouraged me to take advantage of an airline sale. The initial plan was for the two of us to go somewhere, but she couldn’t swing it between her work schedule and her available funds. Instead of taking my out as my sick unease grew to consume me, I decided to go to her.

This is one of the few choices in my life I don’t regret in some capacity. Seventeen hours of air transit between three airports alone is a little daunting. A foreign country, language, continent, customs… slightly moreso. Meeting new people every day, being in seemingly awkward, unfamiliar situations, lacking the placating general certainty of knowing what each day and interaction will yield… yes, daunting. But cliché as it sounds, being in these situations builds character and confidence, as much as they make your stomach turn. I experienced a whirlwind of people, sights, food, culture, and experiences, and though I felt relieved when I returned home, it wasn’t relief at finally being home. It was relief at being able to sum up a nerve-racking, trying, unpredictable week as “amazing” in the end. Relief at having pushed myself and done it… or at least, having come one step closer to it, whatever “it” may be.

Everyone lays awake at some point thinking of other people in other places, wondering if they could establish a life on the other side of the globe. But how can you possibly know where you’ll be most happy if you haven’t ventured elsewhere? So take your chances; go and see. The blunt reality is that the potential regret of going on an unpleasant trip will always pale in comparison to the “what if?” regret that will eat you alive if you remain stuck in stasis.

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Pictures of me in China!

“The only body image issue I have is that I inhabit one”

Two evenings ago, I spent more than six hours alone in the emergency department of Toronto Western Hospital on my day off, alternately crying in panicky despair (very, VERY weird for my very socially-conscious and easily embarrassed self) and anxiously jiggling my leg while shooting terrified, beseeching stares at the triage and registration desks and attempting to maintain some semblance of composure as I greeted my surely and rapidly impending death. After switching to a new brand of birth control and experiencing pretty severe lower leg pain for the duration of the day, I’d convinced myself that I 100% had deep vein thrombosis, a.k.a. a blood clot in my leg, which is the most fatal side effect of the pill I’ve been on for 10 years and my greatest health fear – like all maladies that don’t make their presence explicitly, very visibly known. (Air embolism is my second-greatest, FYI).

At age 25, I’ve had three barium swallows, a head CT, a breast ultrasound, a Doppler ultrasound, rounds of EKG/ECG tests, a heart ultrasound, a colonoscopy, and self-diagnosed “suspicious” moles removed, presumably without cause; most of which took place in the past five years, and all of which were at the request not of a doctor, but of myself. (I actually don’t even have a family doctor, who would usually be the person to recommend these tests or to dispel the concerns of an unnecessarily wary patient).

My overbearing paranoia and anxiety married with my uncharacteristically vast knowledge of physical ailments – thanks to a childhood spent in the home of a doctor and a nurse and amid household literature like the CPS and Merck Manual – have rendered me a full-fledged hypochondriac. I’ve stayed up nights unable to sleep and sick to my stomach for months at a time fretting over my positively thriving brain tumour, which is likely a met of my pre-existing breast lump (as most brain tumours are secondary cancers, duh)… which may or may not be related to the esophageal cancer I have almost willingly acquired from years of throwing up daily, a poor diet, binge alcohol consumption, and bad genes… all of which are things that have contributed adversely to my already struggling liver, which is probably twice its size and full of cirrhosis, especially considering my acetaminophen overdose at 17…. etc. etc. Can you see where I’m going with this?

Texts From Your Existentialist has so nicely summed up my general anxiety about having a body, which includes my lovely habit of psychosomatization:
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Meat prison is right, man, I hate this thing. I go all day in a perpetual state of physical discomfort wanting to rip my skin off because my pants are too tight or I can feel my stomach not being flat or my hair isn’t being co-operative or it seems as if I’m wearing some sort of fat suit. Or somebody else’s skin. What is this skin outfit, even? Ugh, it’s not “me”. And yet, I really, really care when I think it has something wrong with it.

This anxiety (for lack of a better word) also includes my general preoccupation with my physical self and appearance – hey girls, I know you feel me –  and I’d like to add a quick nod to media and advertising culture for forcing me to see my body as a completely foreign and changeable object that I am CONSTANTLY aware of, and not something that is a part of me. This bodily dissociation is both a cause and a result of my (ironically self-diagnosed LOL) hypochondria and all of my other physical-based anxieties. Was I the only one who had to get off the bus before it even left for a class trip and go home because I was terrified I would have to pee and wouldn’t be able to stop somewhere? Or because my anticipatory anxiety made me a vomiting, out-of-control crying mess? Or the only one able to starve and abuse my body to no end because it is this… alien thing that I hate and feel at odds with? Anyone? Bueller?

My dad once, in a conversation about my weight obsession, told me a wonderful little anecdote about how when he gets ready in the mornings and looks in the mirror, he sometimes notices that he’s balding, or just how grey his hair has gotten in spots. “I acknowledge it for about five seconds and then carry on, and don’t think about it for the rest of the day,” he tells me… as if this way of thinking is even remotely comprehensible to me. How dad, how?! Is it because you’re a man? Because you’re stupid? (I know this one to be impossible.) Because you’re happy? Ignorant? What is your damn secret?!

Whatever the secret is, I must admit that I feel completely hopeless and crippled in my quest to find it. So I guess to anyone else out there crawling in their skin (cue Linkin Park song), just know that you’re not alone, and if anyone in the world understands where I’m coming from, maybe we can sort ourselves out, one day. I think the first step for me MAY be less trips to the emergency room (which, unsurprisingly, leave me feeling like a complete idiot the next day).


The will power is in you: How getting implants (sort of) cured my bulimia

IMG_4871I’m going to preface this piece by acknowledging that women with breast implants are perceived as a certain kind of person: Superficial, at least somewhat wealthy (on some male’s accord), frivolous, unintelligent, insecure (and yet in our minds, we imagine them as arrogant?), slutty, etc. individuals who spend their money senselessly and allocate their energies even moreso on “the wrong things.” Girls who belong in some pigeonhole media role shopping and being generally irritating within a very limited vocabulary. Girls who want to show their bodies off to the world for social media likes, or to make other women want to skin themselves alive in body shame.

I’m tall, blonde, and drive an unreasonably nice car for my age. And yes, my parents handed over $8000 to a renowned plastic surgeon in Toronto’s Yorkville district for my breast augmentation nine months ago. Yeah, I like to shop and am fashion-conscious, and one could probably argue that I’m irritating, and in ways superficial… but I also collect old editions of Victorian literature. I work at a literary magazine, specialized in English literature and journalism in university, and am a self-proclaimed word nerd. I have tattoos, most counterintuitively a coffin and a typewriter (because hey, death, and books!). I also spent six months living in a day treatment program for eating disorders at a hospital after attempting, almost successfully, to take my life when I was 17 because the burden of my body dysmorphia was just too much to bear that day. Is having an eating disorder (and a brain) congruous with the concept of a girl who gets breast implants? Possibly. Or maybe we’re not supposed to be that self-aware, self-loathing, and fucked up. But, I’d like to think myself a confounding contradiction in too many ways to count.

Bulimia and eating disordered thoughts/mannerisms have served as my shadow for half of my life, normalized in my mind as “just something most girls do.” Everyone is caught in the perpetual struggle to lose weight, I said. Most women I know skip meals, exercise for unreasonable amounts of time every day, or throw up their food in the name of weight management, I said. It’s disgusting, but in reality, very common. Breast augmentation surgery is also disgusting, really. And also common- the second most popular plastic surgery procedure worldwide behind the nose job.

In the weeks leading up to my decision to get implants – which I had been ambivalent about and grappled with for years of my life – I had to reconcile with myself the idea that I would likely have to relinquish my eating disorder to be in prime health for an optimal recovery (and for eligibility for surgery, of course). Was that even feasible for me? Something I had been half attempting to rid myself of and half indulging in for my entire teenage and adult life? After my surgery was booked and the deposit made, I didn’t really have a choice. My hypochondriasis and fear of complications outweighed (lol) my more desperate attempts to lose weight. And my hatred for my breasts was more overbearing that my hatred for the rest of my body. This was something I could have fixed, instantly, with no struggle.

People have trouble quitting things, generally. Cigarettes, heroin, junk food… it’s not supposed to be easy. But imagine my own shock and surprise when I, the girl who had completely lost control of her relationship with food long ago, quite simply changed my habits, ironically losing 10 pounds in the week before my surgery by *shudder* eating healthy and *larger shudder* working out almost daily (take that for a diet plan!). And I made myself a rule that for the month prior, I wouldn’t throw up, and for the first time since I can remember, I was actually possessed of the discipline to stick to that imperative, no-nonsense. Sure, it was out of immense, borderline irrational fear and paranoia, but it was still a milestone for me, and something I never thought I’d see myself capable of doing. This change was no longer something I personally “had” to do for myself. It was something I legitimately HAD to do, and I no longer had an out or an excuse.

And the weeks after? The healing process wasn’t all that arduous (I’ll explain that all in another post for people interested in the surgery), but it’s quite a conflict of interest to want to force yourself to throw up your meals while you’re bruised, stitched up, medicated, and trying to heal. It’s hard to stuff yourself full of garbage food at that point too, which is often the precursor to purging. So I refrained. And so went my little experiment in EDs and mental health.

I’m not going to lie and say I haven’t relapsed, so to speak – forcibly thrown up some nine times a day, or eaten shitty, or starved myself – since, or say that this whole premise isn’t completely fucked up (because it is). I’m also not going to suggest undergoing some sort of medical procedure for which you must mandate a healthy lifestyle to rid yourself of a problem like I had. I guess the point is that I discovered in myself a will power I’d denied I had, and hated myself for not having, for years, and it’s something I keep with me now. Though it may be in the tiniest drawer locked up in the back of my thick, messed-up skull, it’s still there, this realization I hadn’t known previously. I suppose in part due to an (albeit slight) increase in self-confidence as a result of the surgery, I have been able to stop myself, to catch myself, and give in to those shitty habits less frequently; which is saying something given how out of control that whole situation once was for me. I feel as if when forced, we are all able to regain that control, or realize that it’s always been there, despite feeling that we’ve lost it. I feel as if when forced, we are able to see our strength. I try to reconcile this concept, and my own experiences with it (as I’ve had similar health scares induced by paranoia and solaced by some sort of change in habit), when I struggle now, because yes, I’m still weak and yes, I still struggle. But I haven’t lost all hope in myself completely yet, and that’s pretty alright.