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Thoughts on Kesha

Okay, this isn’t really thoughts on Kesha. But it is thoughts brought on by the current Kesha situation. More specifically, a comment that I saw a friend of a friend post on Facebook about it. I don’t actually know anything about the situation aside from what I’ve seen on my very feminist-biased social media feeds but, I digress.

The comment that I saw was extensive but began thusly: “Sexual assault and rape are VERY different.” I’m not going to lie, I almost puked when I read it because it was said in defence of the alleged attacker. The poster went on to accuse Kesha of making up a story to get out of her contract and attempting to ruin the producer’s life with a rape charge. Wait, hold on a second. Ruin the producer’s life??? Yeah. That’s the kind of society we live in that we’re more concerned about an attacker’s tarnished reputation (notice I say tarnished and not destroyed because we’re pretty forgiving when it comes to men doing shitty things) than we are about a victim’s well-being and safety. For the record, it’s called rape culture and it’s out of control. There were a lot of sickening things about this post that I could delve into but I don’t want to get into my thoughts about the specific case because, like I said, I really don’t know anything about it.

What really got me was that first sentence. Sexual assault and rape are VERY different. Legally they might be but to the victim of sexual assault? Believe me, when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter what the violation was, it’s traumatic and it can affect the rest of their lives. The memory of that violation never goes away. The fear of it happening again, or even of something worse happening never goes away. But for some reason the objective degree of severity was still a way for this person to defend a sexual predator. I could be totally off the mark but I’m willing to bet the person who originally wrote that (male) has never been sexually harassed or assaulted. And I’m even more willing to bet that even if they have they’ve never been forced to work in close quarters with that person again.

When it comes to feeling unsafe there is no difference between sexual assault and rape. And no one should EVER be forced into a situation where they feel unsafe regardless of the reason. No one should be expected to be able to work in that kind of situation much less create. Those feelings of being constantly tense and ready to fight back, of always trying to make sure there are at least two of your people in the room, of trying to stand up for yourself but being silenced are torture. Pure and simple. It leaves victims terrified, exhausted and completely emotionally wrecked. When it comes down to that? You can take your legal semantics and stick them where the sun don’t shine. The law is one thing but how on earth could you be a living, breathing, feeling human being and not understand this most basic need to feel safe? How on earth could you defend someone who prevents others from fulfilling this need?

If celebrities can’t even win a fight for their safety, what hope do the rest of us have? And furthermore, the fact that anyone has to fight for something like this is disgusting. I can only hope that someday empathy and human decency win out over this horrible victim-blaming and shaming thing we’ve got going on right now.

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Thoughts on Being Here Now

Be here now.

I first came across this saying in the 11th grade. My drama teacher, whom I was fairly close with, was getting it tattooed on her wrist in Sanskrit. (It remains, to this day, one of the coolest tattoos I’ve ever seen) The saying has been stuck in my head pretty much ever since. Like a song lyric that won’t go away but it’s a constant reminder of something that I am not very good at. I don’t live in the moment, I plan and schedule everything to the point where I plan when and for how long I need to sleep in three to four day increments to make sure I’m getting at least six hours a day. It’s completely outrageous and probably unnecessary but it’s the way I’ve always operated.

But over time I’ve come to realize it’s not just about living in the moment. It’s about accepting where you are at any given time. That’s not to say you shouldn’t dream or make plans for the future, those things are fine. But those things are only productive and positive if you’ve accepted where you are first. As I was laying down to a pre-planned nap today this saying popped into my head again and I think that’s because it’s extremely apropos to where I am in my life right now.

If you had looked around my room in university you would see things everywhere. Show posters, quotes, calendars, schedules, pictures of friends and family covered the walls. I lived in that room. If you looked around my room now you’d see only two things on the wall: my calendar (colour coded, of course) and one, single poster that I got for my birthday and didn’t put up for a month. I don’t live in this room, I’m staying in it. Which is sort of silly and very sad because this has been my bedroom for my entire life but ever since I came back to it I haven’t committed to being here now. I’ve been so focused on how unhappy I am with my current situation and so determined to get out of it that I’ve made my home feel transitional and temporary. In a way, it is. I don’t plan to live with my parents forever (and I’m sure they don’t plan to let me stay forever) but this is where I am right now. There’s no shame in it, there’s nothing wrong about where I am it’s just not where I want to be. But until I can accept where I am now, I’m never going to be able to take productive steps to change anything because I’ll just remain depressed and unmotivated.

Be here now might be easy for a lot of people but nothing about it is easy for me. I always want something else, something better than what I have. Part of that is determination and drive to accomplish the things I want to accomplish in my life but the other, darker part is that I have trouble seeing how good things right now. I have a lot of dreams but avoiding acceptance of where I am currently, is my way of protecting myself from failing at those dreams. The problem is, if I never even try, I’ve already failed. If I do try, yeah, I might fail but I might succeed and get exactly what I want and things I never even dreamed of in the first place. The road to anything begins with acceptance.

 

भवात्राधुना

*I do not speak Sanskrit and this was found via Google, from what I understand this is a correct translation but it may not be

Here’s a quick rundown of the top 5 things I really don’t want to hear when you find out I have a degree in drama:

 

5. “That’s cool. I did acting in high school.”

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t think that’s awesome, cause I do. I always think it’s awesome when people are getting involved in theatre, or any arts for that matter, even if you only did it cause you thought it would be a bird course. But first of all, you don’t “do acting.” Please, people, grammar is still a thing. And also, I know you’re just trying to be relatable but I can relate to you on other levels where we have mutual knowledge. Theatre isn’t the only thing I know about. (Cause, you know, I went to an actual university so I learned about other things too.)

4. “So, like, how do you memorize all those lines? It seems so hard!”

I don’t know, I just do it. I don’t understand how you crunch numbers or make graphs and stuff but I also get that that’s your thing and you do it. Memorizing is my thing and I just do it. (And also it’s a seriously negligible part of my thing anyway.)

3. “You should do this cool thing I heard about called the Fringe.”

Please. Do you really think I graduated from theatre school and I don’t know what the Fringe is? Did you graduate from teacher’s college and not know what what a classroom is? No, I didn’t think so. And also, you don’t just “do” anything in the established theatre world. Yes, you can make your own work but if you want to participate in any existing theatre, festival, major company etc., there are processes you have to follow. I don’t make ignorant suggestions to you about how to get by in your industry, please don’t patronize me by thinking you know the inner workings of mine.

2. “And now you’re….????”

Am I working in my field? No. Did you graduate with your business degree and immediately become the CEO of a major corporation? No. Graduating from anything doesn’t guarantee you a job in your field. We’re all just trying to do our thing okay, so don’t judge me because you don’t think my degree is valid or something.

And the number 1 thing I really never want to hear you say when you find out what I got my degree in:

“Oh! That must have been so fun and easy!!”

Oh yeah, taking a full class load on top of rehearsing a minimum of 22 hours a week and also working in a theatre to get practical experience in my field? Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Writing academic* papers when your university doesn’t take your department seriously enough to subscribe to any actual resources? Piece of cake. Not only being marked on your artistic work (that you probably poured your heart, soul, blood and tears into) but also being publicly judged on it? No sweat off my back.

*Yes, academic. I went to university too and there are as many legitimate discussions to be had in my field as there are in yours.

I know you think that all I did in school was sit around in a circle and talk about my feelings or something but believe me, we didn’t have time for that kind of BS. When you’ve got monologues and scenes to prepare, a production opening in two weeks and two papers and a midterm the day after opening you don’t have time to think about your feelings let alone talk about them. My degree entailed just as much work as yours. Just because your work was different doesn’t make mine invalid.

If you’re actually interested in what I do, then by all means, I’d love to chat. But if you’re just going to say something insulting, just stop before you get there. “Oh cool!” is totally good enough.

I’ve been home, as a university graduate, for a little over six months now. Sometimes I actually still have trouble grasping the concept of not going back to school. Of all the things in life that changed as I grew older, school was the one and only constant. No matter what, September meant school and June meant summer. Until now.

It’s almost an understatement to say that I’m having trouble adjusting. Most of my friends have settled into their post-grad lives and are enjoying the days free of lectures and papers and time spent with less agreeable peers. To put it in sugar-coated terms, I’m a bloody basket-case. I genuinely miss rolling out of bed and stumbling to 10 am classes as if it were 6:00 in the morning and casually wasting time with my peers in the lobby of the theatre and stress-eating 16 boxes of crackers while I try to pound out those end-of-term papers and study for finals. I miss my apartment (roommate struggles and all), I miss my school and my town and I freaking miss my friends who mostly live on the other side of the country. Change has never been easy for me and losing the only thing I’ve ever been good at (school) and the people I feel most connected to in the world all at once has my mind reeling even though it should be a distant, happy memory by now.

It’s not like my post-grad life thus far has really been bad. In fact, if you look at it objectively it’s really been quite good. I had a rocky start, whipping through four jobs in as many months, but I finally settled on my two favourite and now I have basically my dream full-time job (professional baking) and an awesome part-time evening job (bartending and ushering at a concert hall). I do still have friends from high school here so it’s not like I’m completely alone and one of my best friends from university also happens to be from here and I even get to work with her. I live at home so I have very few expenses and I get to go to theatre all the time. See, when you put it like that it seems pretty awesome, right? Right.

And yet my life still feels temporary. I feel like I’m living in this sort of limbo where I’m doing things but they aren’t “my things” and I’m not sure when my things are going to start. I have no posters or pictures adorning my walls, I still have things collecting dust in boxes in the basement and I’m still trying not to make commitments to projects just in case I end up not being around. Something is preventing me from accepting that this is my life now and putting down the roots to make it feel permanent.

I’ve spent hours and hours wondering what’s wrong with me, why I can’t just accept my objectively awesome life and be happy with it. And really the only thing I can come up with is that I want more. I want more out of life than I’m getting. I don’t want to have to work 60+ hours a week just so that I don’t have time to stop and think about how irrationally depressed I am (because, let’s face it, I live with my parents so no matter what I say, it’s not about the money). I want to be engaged in creative pursuits that leave me exhausted just from feeling. I want to be surrounded by people who are as passionate and intense and crazy as the people I went to school with (if I can’t just have all of them back). I want to love and hate and learn and create. I want to be proud of what I’m doing with my life. When my family members ask me what I’ve been up to I don’t want to have to just brush it off and say “oh, you know, just working a lot” because I have nothing worthwhile to tell them. But it’s taking me a while, and it feels like that while will never end, to figure out how to get there.

I try to stop and appreciate the messy beauty of this time every once in a while but ultimately, when I’m really honest with myself, I can’t. Not right now. Maybe when I’ve come out of this and have finally achieved something in my post-grad life I’ll be able to look back on this time and smile with that I-made-it-out-alive sort of wisdom but right now this first year after school doesn’t feel beautiful or glamorous it just feels long, and depressing and  lonely and like I’m dragging boots caked with 20 pounds of clay behind me to a destination that gets five steps farther away every time I take just one step towards it.

Thoughts on Wandering

I recently graduated from university. Woah. I mean, it’s been a few months now but sometimes I still get stopped in my tracks (mentally and physically) trying to process that fact. After 18 years of school, give or take, this is the first September that I didn’t have a back-to-school to prepare for and look forward to. While so many of my friends were headed back to their apartments and their clubs and their lives I was staying still, in my parents’ house which feels a little less like home than it used to. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks thinking about school and my friends that are still there and my friends from there that are scattered about the country. I miss them. I miss my apartment, my town, my school. I miss classes and I really, really miss the theatre. The pictures and videos that flood social media make me feel at once happy, to see familiar faces doing familiar things, and sad, that I’m not there to experience with them. But as the weeks have worn on, it’s died down from a roaring fire to a dull glow. And it’s been these last few weeks of work that have made me realize why.

I’d like to preface this realization by saying I love my job. I really do. I’m a baker and, no, it has nothing to do with my education but I have always baked as a hobby and now I get to do it everyday. I don’t particularly like mornings but because I enjoy my job, getting up at 3:30am to go to work doesn’t really phase me. But as I was getting to know my new co-workers the obvious icebreaker question was “How long have you been here.”

One girl said “A year and a half.”

And I thought, “Man, that’s a long time.”

Really, when you think about it, a year and a half at a job really makes you quite green; it’s not at all a long time. But to me, who has never had a full time job before, it seemed long. And then one day I was talking to my manager and I asked her how long she had been with the company.

And she said “Five years!”

And I thought, “Damn.”

I realized in that moment that the thought of going to the same job and doing the same thing and being with the same people everyday for five years, truth be told even a single year, is unbearable to me. Even in a job like mine, where it’s different everyday and I like what I do and I like the people I work with, the thought of being in the same place, doing the same thing this time next year terrifies me and makes me feel extremely trapped. And five years? Forget it! In all likelihood, I will, in fact, still be at the same job a year from now (and I’m okay with that) but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make me feel paralyzed to my very core.

There’s a line in a song that plays all the time while I drive that goes “I’m a wanderer and a wanderer I’ll always be.” I’ve always liked the line, it’s usually the only line from the song that gets stuck in my head but I never knew why until this experience at work. I guess it feels almost autobiographical, in a sense. I crave new things. When I’m in one place for too long, I get restless and depressed. The longest I’ve stayed in one place since I graduated high school is just over six months and that’s the way I, apparently, like it. It’s a huge part, too, of why I love theatre. It’s never permanent. No matter what, it’s over in six weeks. If it’s a horrible show, well, it’s over and people will forget about it. (Or they’ll remember how horrible it was but at least it’s over!) And if it’s brilliant? It’s still over in six weeks and everyone that was a part of it and everyone that saw it gets this unique feeling knowing they were apart of something special. Even if you go back to the same show or the same character at a different time it’s still a completely different experience than it was the first time. You get to live in different countries and eras for a short, intense period of time and then, you say goodbye and move on.

And to tie this all back to the beginning here, I think that’s why the dull ache has settled in. I’ve gotten really close to a lot of people and places over the years but in the end I’ve had to move on from all of them. And I don’t mean move on in the sense that they are out of sight, out of mind. I just mean that they are somewhere and I am somewhere else. They are still important parts of my life, and I’m lucky to live in the age of technology where I get to stay in contact with those people and see pictures of those places, but they are one part of my life and I live in another part. It’s just the way it is. And so even though I’m sad about not being at school anymore, I also know that I probably wouldn’t want to be there if I was because it was time to move on. It’s hard to picture the future and not know where I’ll be. In fact, it terrifies me almost as much, maybe even more, than picturing the future and seeing myself in the same place next year but there’s a reason I chose the field I did and that’s because given the choice, I’d rather choose the terrifying that’s exciting rather than the one that’s not. And honestly, I did not know this about myself a month ago but luckily, as the great J.R.R. Tolkien wisely reminds us, not all who wander are lost and not all that is over is past.

Let me preface this by saying I am a performer. I’ve been acting since I was a kid and have made my way through all sorts of various arts of performing at some point or another over the years. I love it, I study it, I live it. But the other night, as I was step touching my way through a choir show I was struck with a question: Why?

I have to admit, that despite how much I love the performing arts, I have this thought at some point during every show I perform in, every show I tech for, every show I see. It strikes me hardest when I am actually doing the performing though. It usually comes in the middle of a show when I look out at the audience and see the ocean of faces staring back at me and I am overwhelmed with doubt and wonder. Why do we do this? What is the point of standing up there on that stage? What is the point of sitting in an audience watching other people up on that stage? What on earth would possess anyone to put themselves through all the inevitably hellish aspects of creating a performance? Why don’t we just stay home?

I guess a lot of these questions come from the age of technology that I grew up in but sometimes it all just seems so futile and so pointless. There are a lot of logical reasons why we continue to support the live performance industry: entertainment, public platform, education, the ever abstract “art.” And yet, none of these reasons seem to satisfactorily explain my inner conflict. And then today, I was having a conversation with a voice teacher and she brought up something that finally resonated with me. It’s the group consciousness. It’s the same reason that people join sports teams or activist movements. And while I can’t exactly speak to the experience of those things I can say absolutely that there is something about performing, and even watching live performance, that takes you outside of yourself. You are part of a something bigger and sharing that consciousness with your fellow performers, and the complete strangers in the audience, is an out-of-body experience like no other. It allows you to be expressive in away that society would frown upon in any other context. It allows you to literally step inside someone else. Even if you aren’t playing a specific character, for instance like the choir show that inspired this rumination, the act of being onstage allows you to take on any characteristics that you want to. Of course there are other pretty sound reasons that performing and watching performance is pretty cool. Like getting to explore the human psyche in imaginary situations and getting to bring all sorts of art forms (costume, light, set design etc) together in one, living, breathing space. And let’s be honest, commanding that kind of attention is a bit of a rush too but ultimately, for me, it comes down to the freedom that being part of an ensemble gives me to be expressive and to experience some kind of higher, group mentality.

It’s a hard question to ponder and it always brings up some existential crisis within me, but inevitably when the show is over, the set is struck and the lights are turned off I am filled with a great sadness that it is over and a burning desire to start it all over again. I’m sure that as the months and years pass by I’ll get to discover even more of the never ending reasons that it’s all worth it in the end but for now, the next time I’m staring at the crowd and wondering what I’m doing, I’m going to make sure to take a moment to appreciate the people up there with because the bond of an ensemble is something to be truly cherished.

So here’s the thing. I am a completely average human being. I come from a middle class, white family. I’m Canadian to the nth degree. I’ve always dabbled in extra curricular activities and my grades are decent. But nothing more. I’m not a super genius, I’m not an ingénue, I’m not excessively out-going and charismatic. I’m not under privileged; I’m not over privileged and I don’t come from any sort of minority group. I’m not gorgeous, or thin or ugly or overweight. I’m just about as average as average gets. And while I’m not particularly unsatisfied with who I am sometimes being average really gets me down.

You see, I have as much ambition as anyone else. I want to finish my university education, I want to be successful in a, as yet underdetermined, career; all the usual stuff. But I sometimes feel that my average-ness means that I have to work extra hard for all of this. When it comes time to apply for scholarships, I don’t have a whole lot of options. I don’t play sports, so that’s out. I’m not brilliant, so that’s out. I do have a fairly extensive and well-rounded extra curricular resume but it’s by no means outstanding. I don’t qualify for financial aid because my parents make too much money, I’m not an immigrant or descended from a member of a First Nations group, so all those are out too. And my parents definitely don’t make enough money to allow me to live expense free during my university years. What does that leave me with? Well, there are the randomized contests but I certainly didn’t inherit the luck of the Irish and there are the essay scholarships but, while my writing skills would probably be considered above average, they aren’t quite cut out for nationwide writing competitions. And those ones where you have to get people to vote for you? Forget it! Along with all my other average qualities, I’m not excessively popular either.

And then of course there are all the various internships and exchanges and enrichment programs that have quotas and diversity requirements. I definitely don’t fulfil any sort of diversity requirement. (Although occasionally being female can be a little bit helpful with those, one point to me!) And as for quotas, well, I tend to find that middle class, Caucasian females are a dime a dozen. Lucky me.

Of course this whole average thing applies to most areas of life, not just scholarships and acceptance letters. My award shelf isn’t overflowing because nine times out of ten there was someone just a bit better than me at everything. I work my butt off organizing events and coordinating fundraisers but I’m not the charismatic spokesperson so due credit is hard come by for me. I don’t walk into a room and command attention via my lukewarm personality or my exceptionally average looks so I tend to blend in social situations

That being said, I know I’m lucky to come from where I do and to have grown up as comfortably as I did. But sometimes, a little tiny part of me wishes my mom had gotten together with an African guy or that I was absolutely brilliant with perfect test scores just so I could feel like I had a leg up in the world. Most days, I’m okay with being me but every once in a while being 100% pure-bred average is exhausting!

New Year’s Resolutions and I have a strained history and I think that most people out there can relate. You start the new year with all these visions of how this is the year you overhaul your life. Change everything, do everything, see everything. But the end of January rolls around and chances are you’ve faltered more than a few times if you’re even still going. Not everyone experiences this, of course, but for the ast majority the 100% motivation of January 1st is depleted pretty quickly. For me, New Year’s Resolutions are a pretty new struggle. Growing up, my family didn’t do them and if my friends did, I didn’t know about it. Then I got to be a teenager and started doing things that I had “discovered” on my own. New Year’s Resolutions were one of those things. I’ve made plenty of resolutions over the years but I’m pretty bad at self-motivation and completing (non school related) projects so I was never able to keep them going for more than a couple weeks. Until last year.

2012 was the year that I realized my biggest New Year’s Resolution problem: I was too ambitious, I made too many and they were too complicated to tackle all at once. I wanted to change every single thing I didn’t like about myself (and let’s face it, in the teenage years that’s a pretty long list) in one fell swoop. But last year I realized that changing is a process. It does no good to bite off more than you can chew because, chances are, you’re going to get discouraged pretty quickly and give up all together. At least, that’s how it is for me. Maybe it’s a product of being in this generation but I’m pretty big on instant gratification. I need to see progress to keep going. There’s no point in trying to continue a futile effort, right? So last year I decided to commit to the process of change and instead of having a list of resolutions a mile long, I thought long and hard and I picked just one that I thought would be challenging but achievable.

Carpe Diem. That was my New Year’s Resolution for 2012. Short, sweet and simple but it really did make me push myself all year. And for the first time in my life I feel like I can honestly say I achieved my goal for the year. Yes, I had some setbacks, I faltered a bit under various circumstances but when I look back at 2012 I’m really happy with everything I accomplished. I tried all sorts of new things, I lived in new places, I made the most amazing new friends I could imagine and I absolutely attribute it to my constant commitment to the “carpe diem” mantra. And, I have to admit, I’m pretty proud of myself. Not only for all the things I accomplished in 2012 but also for sticking with it and continually fulfilling my New Year’s Resolution all year long. It’s given me the confidence that, if I think hard enough and pick the right one, New Year’s Resolutions can actually be a useful tool to help me become the best version of myself. That’s why, even though I’m late to the party and most folks have given up on their 2013 resolutions, I’m just finally picking mine now.

It’s not like I’ve just written January off completely in the “self-bettering” department, I’ve been working on my resolution all month but I have avoided actually settling on one until now because I’ve been weighting my options and fielding the raging debate inside my head as to what 2013 should be about. On the spurs of my previous personal victory I’ve been tempted to make more than one resolution. But quality is always better than quantity so, even though my list of things I want to improve is still a mile long, I’ve forced myself to just pick one. I’ve got lots of years left for other resolutions but for now I need to stick to one thing at a time. So 2013 for me is all about fitness. It’s absolutely cliche and probably one of the most broken resolutions of all time but it’s very important to me. And I’ll be clear, this isn’t about weight loss. Okay, it’s a bit about weight loss but my resolution is not to lose x amount of weight, my resolution is to be more fit. That’s it. I’m not looking to run a marathon, I’m not looking for a perfect beach bod; those are goals for another time. The goal here is to improve my level of fitness from where it is now. The goal is to be more active and to exercise regularly and if weight loss happens along the way, then that’s just a bonus.

So here’s to a successful 2013 and to getting up off the couch once in a while!