Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Road is Long, With Many a Winding Turn

I made a big step today - a big step forward on the Road of Life; a step that I hope will begin the rest of my life.

It is something that I've been thinking really hard about for a few months now, something that has given me a lot of stress and has loaded my mind down with questions and confusion and just plain weight and worry. That weight and worry is still there, of course, as there are still many arrangements to be made, but I at least feel some of that weight being replaced with excitement and relief - excitement for what's to come and relief that I finally made a decision!

The decision to which I refer is the one I made to register for the i-to-i Teach in China internship! I'm departing August 23rd, 2010 (which seems far way but really isn't on the grand scheme of things) and will be joining a group of other interns from all over the world in this grand adventure!

We will all be meeting in Beijing for a 5 day orientation in which we get acquainted with the country and each other (I'm SO excited to make some new friends from around the world), then will be placed in schools all over China (we can specify our preferences in terms of area - I hope to end up in southern China, somewhere around Hong Kong) to work teaching english for 4.5 mths. To be frank, the pay honestly isn't great, but our accommodation is covered and I feel this will be a great way for me to gain some experience (my current teaching experience amounts to exactly ZERO, so I'll take any experience I can get) and make some contacts, all while living in one of the largest, most exciting countries in the world!

I'm still not sure teaching is for me, but this internship will give me a chance to try it on for size. If it doesn't fit, I always have my degree to fall back on and I have many options - I could come back to Canada, I could travel around a bit (take a break from working for a change - perhaps visit my brother and his husband in New Zealand?!), or stay put and try to find other work. On the other hand, I may find a new calling (you never know!) and want to stick with TEFL, in which case Asia is my oyster - I could stay put, or move to Korea, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan (wherever!) and sign a bigger, better-paying contract and continue on that path. The great thing about TEFL as a career is the flexibility, and the fact that you never really want for a job.

Honestly, though, I'm not really thinking in those terms at this point. I just see this as an adventure right now - a chance to break out of the rut I've been in for the past few months. I've felt a profound shift in the past year - I became single again and found myself in a temp job that I enjoy, but nevertheless fell into because I needed the money (not exactly a romantic reason) and one which I don't see myself in in the future (and has nothing to do with my degree). All of my friends are either moving away or settling down - getting married and having babies, becoming home-bodies - or finding their own careers and niches in life. I'm not doing any of those things and in a way I've felt like the furthest I've ever been from these things in my entire life. This life-shift breeded an enormous restlessness in my core.

This restlessness has been plaguing me for more than 6 mths now - I've had this urgent need inside to break out of my current life, move somewhere far away to live and work, meet new people, see new places (exotic, foreign places that I've only read about in magazines and books), rack up funny and wacky stories to share and hopefully find my 'place'. This restless feeling has threatened to topple me into depression at times and even once I decided TEFL would be a good way to shake this feeling, there were still countless worries and questions weighing on my mind. I felt so overwhelmed with information for what felt like forever that I NEVER thought I would see a light at the end of the tunnel, that I would never take that step forward. But now that I have, I feel confident and my mind finally feels free (well, as free as my mind can EVER feel).

I'm really scared, of course, and I'm going to miss my loved ones and my home so much. But when it comes right down to it this feels right for me at this stage in my life, and the fact is no one ever knows what's going to happen. Life is one big winding, seemingly endless road with twists and turns and crossroads and off-ramps - all you can do is make the decision you feel is best for you at the time and hope it works. And that's what I've done for myself.

Sorry to blab on all philosophically and all, but give me a break! I'm just in a very introspective, emotional place right now having made this decision. I have a million feelings and thoughts swimming around in there! But I also have a newfound confidence and excitement - I can't wait to move onto the next step.

Is it August yet???!!

*An addendum to this post (as of Feb 23, 2010) - I am no longer taking the i-to-i internship as financially it's just not in the cards for me. I do still plan to go overseas possibly, but if I do I plan to find a job with a school that will pay my way. Kinda freaked to again be in the position where I am not sure what the future brings, but I'm sure I will figure it out. Who knows maybe I will stick to Canada for now, I dunno yet. In the meantime, I'm still working on my online ESL course so that I can become certified as an ESL teacher, and as for the question of "where" - we will see what happens!*

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Olympi-add me to your suitcase?! Yes, please!!

Unfortunately I am one of those annoying patriotic people that could go on and on all day about how much I love my country and how grateful I am to live here. It all sounds like a bunch of self-righteous fooey, I know. But it really is true (no, seriously)! And I'm not some green hick who lives in a tiny hick town and has never been anywhere - I've travelled quite extensively (England, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, Amsterdam, St Lucia, USA, etc) and I can honestly say I've returned home from all of those trips with a renewed perspective on where I come from and the great things about it.

I mean it's certainly not Utopia (I could also go on and on about things that are crappy about living here, although I'd have more trouble coming up with as many examples) but it's pretty darn sweet. If nothing else, I'm grateful for the fact that I have the freedom to come and go and do and see whom I please when I please without reproach (except maybe from my mommy). As a young woman in particular I think that's pretty much the definition of darn sweet.

Anyway, I'm going on again (do you sense a pattern here?) but more to the point, national pride is at a zenith at the moment with the 2010 Vancouver Olympics approaching (which I'm sure you know about, unless you've been living under a rock...or anywhere OUTSIDE of Canada), and I must admit I myself have been caught up in it all. It was pretty thrilling to stand in the middle of the crowd in Halifax's Grand Parade and watch the Olympic torch as it was sprinted in and lit. And, I wasn't really into jumping on the whole "red mitten" bandwagon but when my friend picked me up a pair I was kind of excited and I wore them all day Sunday and felt all warm and fuzzy inside with a glow of Proud Canadian-ness (and my hands were pretty darn warm too!).

The Olympic preparations (as extravagant as they seem at times), particularly the Torch Relay, have really brought out a sense of community pride across the entire country that's rather heartwarming to see. Oh how I wish I were in Vancouver to see all of the festivities up-close (though I'm certainly glad I don't live there and have to contend with the traffic and crowds).

What I really mean to get at (yes, I'm still blabbing on) is that I'm particularly envious that I'm not able to experience the events that make up the Cultural Olympiad. Anything culture-related I am SO there for, and this is the ultimate of all culture-fest - 60 days of dance, visual art, performance art, music (ALL types), theatre, comedy, and every other cultural category you could possibly think of.

Being a big Joni Mitchell fan, I would love to see The Fiddle and the Drum, featuring dancers from the Alberta ballet and political music/video installations from JM herself. Also high on my wish-list is the Neil Young Project, a fantastic live music tribute to one of the greatest musicians our country has ever exported, featuring some of Canada's other (though less gray and crusty) greatest-musicians-our-country-has-ever-exported (Lou Reed! Ron Sexsmith!).

CODE, aka Cultural Olympiad Digital Edition, offers some artistic innovation in the form of unique collaborative digital art and electronic music performances; the highlight for me (or at least it would be if I could actually see it) being CODE Live, taking place from Feb 4th to 21st, and which the website describes as "an 18-day landmark event with visual art exhibitions, music and performances fuelled by digital technology and audience easy to take in and get into {translation: close to public transit}...and daytime events and exhibits are free of charge". LOOOOOOOVE!!

So, in other words (I told you I could go on and on; don't say you weren't warned!) I would give my right arm to be in Vancouver right now, or at least for the month of February. And I'm right-handed, so that's saying something. I mean, I would severely maim and or commit minor atrocities to be in Vancouver at any time but if there was ever any time to be there, this is it.

Guess I'll have to settle for watching it all unfold on the much-more-boring and one-dimensional boob tube. Woo-freakin-hoo (can you sense the eye-roll??)

Friday, January 22, 2010

So, That Explains It!

I'm going to sort of cop-out on my post today and post a blurb from a book I'm reading - but I AM posting because I found it to be very profound and thought-provoking. Definitely gets the brain waves moving, forming various opinions and impressions. It is an interesting treatise on romantic partnerships and a neat metaphor for why we silly singles keep going out there trying to look for love. It strangely makes this whole business sound really silly and useless, while simultaneously validating it, proving that you are not alone in this search and that there's reason behind it. Think about it! Very interested to hear impressions, if any...enjoy!
"Once upon a time, Aristophanes relates (in a scene from Plato's The Symposium), there were gods in the heavens and humans down on earth. But we humans did not look the way we look today. Instead, we each had two heads and four legs and four arms - a perfect melding...of two people joined together, seamlessly united into one being. We came in three different possible gender or sexual variations: male/female meldings, male/male meldings, and female/female meldings, depending on what suited each creature the best. Since we each had the perfect partner sewn into the very fabric of our being, we were all happy. Thus, all of us...moved across the earth much the same way that they planets travel through the heavens - dreamily, orderly, smoothly. We lacked for nothing; we had no unmet needs; we wanted nobody. There was no strife and no chaos. We were whole.

But in our wholeness, we became overly proud. In our pride, we neglected to worship the gods. The mighty Zeus punished us for our neglect by cutting all the double-headed, eight-limbed, perfectly contented humans in half, thereby creating a world of cruelly severed one-headed, two-armed, two-legged miserable creatures. In this moment of mass amputation, Zeus inflicted on mankind that most painful of human conditions; the dull and constant sense that we are not quite whole. For the rest of time, humans would be born sensing that there was some missing part - a lost half...and that this missing part was out there someplace, spinning through the universe in the form of another person. We would also be born believing that if only we searched relentlessly enough, we might someday find that vanished half, that other soul. Through union with the other, we would recomplete our original form, never to experience loneliness again.

This is the singular fantasy of human intimacy; that one plus one will somehow, someday, equal one. But Aristophanes warned that this dream of completion-through-love is impossible...the original cleaved halves of the severed eight-limbed humans were far too scattered for any of us to ever find our missing halves again. Sexual union can make a person feel completed and sated for a while (Aristophanes surmised that Zeus had given humans the gift of orgasm out of pity, specifically so that we could feel temporarily melded again...), but eventually, one way or another, we will all be left alone with ourselves in the end. So the loneliness continues, which causes us to mate with the wrong people over and over again, seeking perfected union. We may even believe at times that we have found our other half but it's more likely that all we've found is somebody else who is searching for his other half - somebody who is equally desperate to believe that he has found that completion in us."
*Taken from "Committed", by Elizabeth Gilbert, page 97-99*

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What Mario Isn't Telling You...

So, I was unpacking our new brochures at work the other day (I work for a Canadian retail pharmacy company) and I got to thinking about the people pictured on the covers. *I should mention that these brochures are informational resources about common diseases and chronic ailments, otherwise you won't get the point of what I'm writing here*

For example, does the pretty, young girl with the glossy black hair realize that her photo is on the cover of a brochure on Constipation? Or the older (but very attractive and healthy looking) couple on the front of the Obesity brochure? I mean, seriously, when these people are photographed are they told what it is being used for? Do they audition or are they specifically singled out for such an assignment? ("Sandy, we feel your look is perfect to represent all those in Canada suffering from Constipation").

(And moreover, what makes the manufacturer put these photos on these covers?? Do they feel this person actually reflects the subject of the brochure or just that they are pleasing to the eye?)

Anyway, I'm sure the above is not in fact true, but these are questions I can't help but wonder about. It reminded me of that Friends episode where Joey's photo ends up on a poster for Gonnerhea in various NYC subway stations. Or the smidgen of "Family Jewels" I saw the other night where Gene Simmons was taping a commercial for some Armenian tv channel and didn't realize he was talking about dealing with HERPES until a PA actually told him (his lines were all in Armenian). JOEY didn't know that his photo was going to be used for such a purpose and GENE didn't know what he was promoting!

Now, I do realize that these are tv shows, and it's safe to say that both Joey Tribbianni and Gene Simmons are a few cards short of a deck, if you know what I mean, but I wouldn't be surprised if this happens fairly often in real life.

I suppose it could be a case of "what they don't know won't hurt them" and I suppose if you're a starving actor and/or model, you will pose for any photo or commercial that will prevent you from starving for another month. But I can't imagine these people liking the idea of being the poster-person to an STD or a gastrointestinal syndrome. And actually this is all the more reason not to tell them what they're posing for, because if they were, there is a good chance they would have second thoughts (I know I would!).

Anyway, regardless of these oh-so-deep-and-pressing questions, I just find the whole thing very funny. Be advised - if you ever are asked to pose for a photo or a commercial, make sure you ask what for. You never know - you could open up the paper the next week and find your smiling face urging readers to try the newest erectile dysfunction pill or anti-fungul cream that helped you so much with your "problem" *. That kind of shit follows you forever. Observe:
(*Then again you could also end up photoshopped next to David Beckham in his underroos, which would be pretty frickin cool.............oh who am I kidding that wouldn't happen, unless you resemble Gisele Bundchen, and let's be honest not many people do NO ONE does).

And yes these are the kinds of things I wonder when I'm doing mindless work. Don't judge, your mind has to think about something when unpacking brochures!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Today, on the Crazy Files...

Ah, fashion, how I love thee. But it must be said sometimes you don't seem to have your pretty little head screwed on very tight.

I watched a video recently recapping the debut of the Ungaro Spring/Summer 2010 line, which also happens to be the debut of Lindsay Lohan as Artistic Advisor. What a joke - a joke of a title for a joke of an appointment. What is the world coming to that a strung out celebrity whose career and fashion experience (aside from her own line of leggings that must have taken a huge leap of creativity to envision) stands at the creative helm of one of the oldest, most-respected fashion lines in the world? What, was Heidi Fleiss busy?! (oh wait, she is, on Celebrity Rehab's pretty bad when this chick is appearing on celluloid more than you are, Linds).

I gotta be honest though, even though my immediate reaction to the news of Lindsay's appointment was disgust and sarcasm, I was a tad curious to see the line once completed. Who knew, perhaps she would bring it - lord knows she must have enough designer clothing to draw inspiration (read: copy) from. Alas, I was sorely disappointed, as I expected I would be. Not only are the clothes...well...MEH (that's really the best word I could use to describe even though it's not really a word), in interviews Lindsay looks half-asleep, pale and hungry (and is it just me or do her lips look like they were sucked into a vacuum hose?!).

Someone needs to get that girl a Whopper (or 10). Not to mention she sounds like a whiney, cocky teenager when she talks (like, omg! She loves fashion and trying on things, and we just love,fashion). I mean I think it would be a long shot to say that most in attendence expected a lot from this show and line, but at least put SOME effort in. This was your chance to show people you've got what it takes, you haven't gone completely cuckoo AND you had a real designer to help you, but your stuff still turned out looking like an elementary school craft project (if kids in elementary school were asked to create messy, sparkly stripper-wear).

Ok, so I get that the whole appointment of a creative head like an Artistic Advisor is mostly "symbolic" in nature and that this person is meant to attach their name to the brand not their talent per se, but you would think they could find a more respectable muse than someone whose only press coverage the past few years is drunken photos on the front of the Enquirer. I mean the old head designer left the company because he didn't want to work alongside her, for god's sake, and who could blame him. I would say a minimum requirement in a professional partner is that they at least be able to form coherent and full sentences.

Honestly though I feel sorry for Lindsay more than anything. It's almost painful to watch her stumble through life on spindly legs like a brand new baby deer, with seemingly no idea where she's going or why.
Though, judging by the reception this collection received, Lindsay's title will go from Artistic Advisor back to Party Girl in no time (hey, at least she's fully qualified to hold THAT position).

Until next time on the Crazy Files (don't worry it will definitely be back considering the wealth of crap out there like this to work with)...

Watch great coverage from FT on the collection here (I heart you Jeannie!):

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Get Thee to Greece, Twenty-something!

I just finished reading an amazing book. I read a lot of books and I'm not very picky about such things so I usually enjoy them. But it's rare to find a book that gives one the feeling that the writer is speaking directly to you, as if you are sitting across from each other in a coffee shop having a chat, and that (eerily) their experiences, hopes, dreams, fears and thoughts directly mirror your own.

This is how I felt reading Traveling With Pomegranates, a non-fiction story co-written by Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor. The story follows Ann and her mothers journeys together through Greece and France from 1998-2000. These were not only physical journeys for them, but also spiritual, both women being at a kind of crossroads in their lives - Sue, just turning fifty, entering menopause, and being faced with the inevitability of her own aging and death; Ann, fresh from college, rejected from graduate school and confused and disillusioned about the world and her place within it.

I have read Sue's books The Secret Life of Bees and the Mermaid Chair, and really enjoyed them, so her name is what first made me pick the book up (along with the dramatic, slightly haunting cover - I'm a very visual person) but once I read that this was a non-fiction travel-while-trying-to-figure-life-out story, I wanted to read it even more.

The main reason this story spoke to me is because of the close and complicated mother-daughter relationship at its centre. My mother and I have just such a relationship, and we also love to travel together, so I knew I could relate to it. Once I immersed myself into the story however, I began to hear the book speak to me, mainly through the passages written by Ann, as her struggle at that time is the struggle that I'm going through right now. I guess you could call it a "quarter-life crisis"; a kind of lost feeling in terms of who I am and what I'm meant to do. I have so many questions rolling around in my head concerning these issues that I can barely wrap my brain around them - like a jar full of frantic fireflies, chaotically darting all over with no set path, constantly bumping into each other and against the glass. At the time of her and her mother's travels, Ann was feeling this too. She was a few years younger than I am now, but the worries and questions are the same.

Through the travels that she and her mother take, and the impressions that these experiences leave her with, Ann slowly realizes her spiritual path - to become a writer. Even once she figures this out, the questions and insecurities still linger, mingled together with new ones, but a renewed sense of calm and purpose comes to her. I can only hope that with patience and travel on my part that I will find this too. Mainly it was nice to hear that I'm not alone, that she was in the same place and found her way.

I have tinkered here and there with the thought that I might be able to be a writer myself - this is something I've dabbled in my whole life, something I enjoy and feel good about my skills in, but have never really taken seriously. However, this introspective time in my life combined with the lessons learned about my inner self in the past year, have planted a seed in my brain. I still have millions of insecurities and a whole lot of trepidation inside regarding following this path but Ann's experience made me realize that some of this is normal, and sometimes, if you feel deep down that it's right, you just have to go for it. I'm certainly not going to turn around and publish a novel tomorrow, but it has inspired me to at least explore this side of me a bit further.

Aside from all of this philosophical and self-aborbed bull (from me, not the book), the book also made me want to go to Greece and France SO bad! Sue and Ann's beautiful words really capture the places they visited and were a pleasure to read. I love travel books except for the fact that they just make me want to go to all the places I read about, namely places that I don't have either the time OR money to visit (ironic, eh?).

PLEASE - anyone who is experiencing either a "quarter-life crisis" or a "mid-life crisis" - GO READ THIS BOOK! You may not have a spiritual breakthrough, but if nothing else the prose will make you smile and feel a little more secure about your life problems.

Oh, and the closing passage of the book contains my new favourite quote from Anais Nin, which I think is a great metaphor for one of the reasons I love writing: "We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection". Happy travels :)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Date With Fantasy

My heart skipped a beat when I opened my latest Vogue magazine (January 2010), specifically to the feature entitled "Date With Destiny", and saw Canada's own Owen Pallett in this gorgeous photo with supermodel Raquel Zimmerman. For those of you that don't know, Owen Pallett is a musician who records under the name Final Fantasy. His music is an amazing and eclectic mix of classical and synth, past and future. Many of his songs are actually built up with Owen recording himself playing one part and playing it back underneath his playing of another part - essentially accompanying himself! (wow, confusing enough for ya?!). His lyrics are often strange and seemingly stream-of-consciousness, but that's part of their amazing-ness. There is no one else out there today playing music like this.

This warmed my heart in particular because I was lucky enough to see Owen play live, in a concert with Symphony Nova Scotia, back in October! I honestly had never heard of Owen nor heard any of his songs before attending this concert, but I came out with my jaw hanging open in awe at his talent and innovation (and at the same qualities that I feel the Symphony possesses, in my opinion one of the most innovative and professional orchestras in the country). Best of all? They are both Canadian!

You can listen to Owen Pallett's concert with SNS here:

Turning over a new...stone

My old blog has been a part of my life for a few years now, however the time has come to move on. I probably would never have a blog if I wasn't made to start one for a University course back in 2007. I wasn't as familiar with blogs as I am now and one could argue that they still weren't as mainstream as they are now. Therefore, my enthusiasm for it did not extend outside the classroom.

When blogging became more popular and I felt more confident about the things I had to say, I tried to make myself write more, but this still only resulted in a max of 5 or 6 posts a year, and in only the most rudimentary format (none of this tagging crazy-ness!). Aside from its great usefulness as a kind of daily newsletter/diary during a month-long trip to England in 2008, that blog has really never seen much traffic.

Therefore, I felt it was time for a change, for several reasons:
a) I have been following more and more blogs the past few months and admiring the lovely looks and consistency of other blogs has made me want to get more serious about mine.
b) I have been finding my affinity for writing has grown over time, particularly during this introspective year I've been having, and I wish to also take THIS more seriously by practicing.
c) 'A' made me realize how ugly, boring, and inconsistent my old blog really was and I felt a fresh start was the best course of action (in order to fulfill A and B).

So, without further ado, I present my new blog - Gathers No Moss. I realize this is a bit of a strange title but I wanted to make sure I chose a title and look that spoke both to me and about me. Of course, the title refers to a proverb that states "A rolling stone gathers no moss", which has always been one of my favourite sayings and one that I feel is a perfect metaphor for my character. Those that know me well know that I constantly need change and stimulation and movement; I go crazy doing one thing or being in one place for too long; I don't let things get me down for long, I keep going. I am constantly seeking, growing, and moving, or "rolling along" as the sub-title above states. And I plan to be constantly doing so for most of my life, whether that means internally, or in a literal sense, in the form of travelling both near and far. I sense big changes coming for me so I suppose this blog is the perfect manifestation of the hopes and thoughts attached to that.*

There will probably be many formatting changes over the next little while, as I tend to be picky about such things, while I try to find the perfect look and tone. In keeping with the aforementioned points, I plan to blog 3 times per week and my entries will have a variety of subjects - basically anything that strikes my fancy (things that happen to me, things on my mind, things that I try or attend, etc). I will strive to eventually reach a comfortable, consistent tone, look and feel in my entries. These are all tips I've read from other bloggers related to taking your blogging more seriously (and I appreciate continued feedback from any bloggers out there, including constructive criticism! That is part of the growth process for me within this medium).

Mainly I will strive to be authentic, operate according to the title and principle of this blog and grow as much as I can as a writer. Let's get rolling!!

*wow, I sound really serious don't I? Hmm 1st note to self: try to lighten up in future posts