Today is a big day. AS OF TODAY, I have worked out every week, at least twice a week, for a full year. This is a major accomplishment for me. I have never, never, gone a full year working out. This is the first time in 22 years that I have had any consistency when it comes to physical activity.
And in coming to be a more physically active person, I’ve learned people love to talk about numbers. Everything is quantitative. How many reps can you do? How many pounds can you lift? How many kilometres can you run? And the answers to all those questions are: what exercise are we doing? I don’t know but probably not a lot, and I can run 10 km. But those aren’t even the most insidious numbers. What’s your BMI? What are your measurements? How much do you weigh? How much weight have you lost? How many calories do you eat? Each of those questions are vicious but thriving in conversations about healthy lifestyle. It is important to note that all of them can be answered with a simple, “None of your business”.
When it comes to this more active lifestyle I’ve taken on, there is only one number I consider important. The number 4. Over the last year, I have only had 4 panic attacks. I’m actually smiling right now, I know you can’t see it because this is a blog and not a YouTube video or a Tik Tok, but I’m smiling.
I have two different anxiety disorders and a long history of panic attacks. If you’ve never had one before, it feels like your heart is going to explode, your skin is on fire, and your brain is made of lava. Additionally, despite having around 8 years of experience with panic attacks, they don’t get better. They are just as terrifying, unsettling, and uncomfortable every single time. I don’t know the last time I had less than 10 panic attacks in a year.
I’ve had people tell me that I look different, or even better. And those compliments are nice, I do appreciate them because I understand that there is value in appearance. But that cannot compare to the feeling of being happy. I ran into an old friend the other day, and she told me, “It makes me so happy to see that you’re happy”. And she’s right, I am.
There are some important points to note here. Numero uno: I did not get rid of any of my other coping mechanisms. Working out did not replace anything, it is now something I do in addition to music and therapy and talking to friends and creating lists and the 3,000 other ways I have structured my life to manage anxiety. Numero dos: I still have anxiety. She rears her ugly head and makes me feel like a bag of garbage, but those periods are less frequent and more manageable (yay!). Numero tres: I do not know what will happen in a world post-vaccine. I have social anxiety and a lot of my triggers involve large groups of people, which hasn’t really been a problem over the last year. I’m aware that things could change.
Numero cuatro: I did this for me. Working out (especially when you start) can suck. It makes your body hurt and you get sweaty and sore and uncomfortable. It can be defeating and demeaning and frustrating. So, you need to show up for yourself, and accept that some days just suck. There were days this year I ran 10 or 11 kilometres and felt like a goddamn icon. There were also days I ran 3 or 4 kilometres and STRUGGLED. My first run was 2 kilometres, and I walked a good portion of that. But I kept working because showing up for me felt good. It’s better to run 2km than 0km.
I will never be a gym rat that can run 100km and lift a zillion pounds. I will never be super flexible or proficient at any sport. However, I show up for me and I take care of my mental health and that’s more than enough. And I can see that in the number 4. It shows strength and resilience. It tells me that I’m doing something right. That for a full year I loved myself enough to do something that I thought I couldn’t do.
Over the last year, I have spent 183 days in lockdown, gone to 0 bars, eaten in 2 restaurants, gained 1,628 Instagram followers, got started on 1 new social media platform and worked out at least 104 times. But it’s all because of that last one, that I get to be most proud of the number 4.
From me, with love, to you,
In December, my cousin and I went for a walk to celebrate the end of a shitty, shitty year, and celebrate the beginning of a shitty, shitty year. And while walking, we started talking about New Year’s resolutions (it was December).
I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, I much prefer “themes”, which is a term I stole from my older sister. New Year’s resolutions are usually arbitrary, unrealistic, and lead to disappointment. You cannot predict what is going to happen in a year, which is why I’m sure many of you threw out your 2020 resolutions around March 2020. But themes provide more flexibility, there are no hard and fast rules you set, no deadlines or metrics. It’s just understanding what you want your year to feel like.
So, my cousin and I are walking, and I’m explaining that she should “theme” her year, because she too wasn’t keen on New Year’s resolutions. And almost immediately, she comes up with “setting the bar high”. And she says this:
“I set the bar really high for myself, but I always let people act shitty and get away with it. I would never treat someone like that, so why do I let other people do it to me?” (Or something like that, I don’t remember verbatim, it was December). However, “setting the bar high” is important, not simply as a yearly theme, but as a general framework for your life. You should set a high bar for the people in your life. Your friends, your family, your significant others. The relationships you have should not be one sided, and they should not be your sole responsibility to maintain.
Relationships (here comes the neuroscience) are transactional. And I will use my cousin as an example. My cousin provides me with humour, social support, a good drinking buddy and unconditional love. So, in return I provide her with humour, social support, a good drinking buddy and unconditional love. And these four things are not always equal in distribution, but what I give her and what she gives me, is equal. For example, if she stabs me with a pen and I continue to love her unconditionally, she can expect less social support, because my unconditional love has gone up. Does that make sense?
and receive in relationships is not always the same. For example, you provide your boss with a service and they ensure you get paid. There is still an exchange here. If you perform poorly, your boss will start reprimanding you and making your life more difficult. The “social etiquette” part of your relationship will decrease, because your quality of service (which is your primary value in the relationship) has decreased. Ta da. Neuroscience.
And some relationships will always be unbalanced and there is nothing you can do about it. Maybe your neighbour is an asshole and blasts Metallica at 3am. Maybe your co-worker is a really close talker during a pandemic and you have to keep yelling, “Back up Janet!”. Maybe your friend’s boyfriend smells like bologna. In that case, I suggest drinking wine straight out of the bottle whenever you get the chance. However, for the relationships you have control over in your life, make sure you’re not letting people walk all over you.
You’re an icon. You’re a damn treat. Don’t let anyone act like you’re a mouldy zucchini when you’re actually a fresh baked cookie. You treat others with kindness and respect and that is the bar you should be expecting that from other people. Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself, just to check in.
Just some things to think about.
You’re a fan-fucking-tastic person. You should know that. Make sure the other people in your life know that too. Set the bar high.
From me, with love, to you,
My mom tells my sisters and I, “A tired brain is like glue, things stick to it”. That’s why sometimes in the middle of the night you think of something and you can’t let it go. It’s why you can’t think clearly when you haven’t had enough sleep. Your brain likes sleep. And unfortunately, most tired brains don’t stick to good things. They aren’t Kris Jenner saying, “You’re doing great sweetie!” from a chair off in the corner. They stick to your mean thoughts, and your unkind thoughts. They stick to all your worries and anxieties and don’t want to let go. A tired brain is like glue.
Unfortunately, my brain is tired a lot. My brain does all the things your brain does to make it tired. It makes to do lists and grocery lists. It remembers anecdotes and passwords. It has conversations and reads social signals (not well) to figure out situations. But my brain also does a couple other things. It spends time trying to make extra serotonin, because it doesn’t really make enough. It spends time engaging in coping mechanisms, I have to get myself to deep breathe probably at least once a day to calm little anxieties. It works to identify when I’m ruminating and then tries to stop.
And when it gets tired, it becomes Gorilla Glue. It sticks to everything and anything. Here’s the thing about my anxiety, it catastrophizes. It creates the worst possible outcome and presents that as the only one. It spins and spins and spins until it makes me dizzy, and I’m so disoriented I can’t distinguish up from down. Years ago, I couldn’t let go of the fictional catastrophes and I would spiral into a panic attack, but now I use coping mechanisms. I go for a run, read a book, watch a Marvel movie, drink some tea, talk through the problem with a friend. But like I said, coping mechanisms can make my brain tired too. Coping mechanisms can be hard work, but they’re worth it.
I get convinced of things that don’t really have basis in reality. Every morning when I go to work, I assume I’m going to get fired that day. My brain thinks everybody hates me. And when I say everybody, I mean everyone except for approximately 10 people, five of which I’m related to. Its stressful thinking that every co-worker, friend and acquaintance I have hates me. It’s very tiring. My brain sticks to the idea that I’m fat and ugly, and tells me horrible things about the way I look and the food I eat. It sticks to the idea that I’m stupid, and that my degree was a lucky stroke in a life where I can never be academically successful. It sticks to the idea that I’ll get in a car accident, get followed home from work, get COVID from a customer, end up alone and practically every other negative thought. A tired brain is like glue.
But most problems have solutions. How do I stop the spinning and the sticking? With facts, when I feel myself starting to latch onto worries, I try to think objectively about a situation. I have a degree so I can’t actually be stupid. I’m an attentive driver so I won’t actually crash. I wear a mask and use hand sanitizer frequently so I won’t actually get COVID. Anxiety likes to play pretend, so I keep at least one foot strongly planted in reality.
Secondly, I use sounding boards. I talk to people I trust about what I’m thinking. I tell my dad that I feel like my life is going nowhere and he says, “Get over yourself, you’re 22 not an old hag”. I tell my cousin that everyone hates me, and she says, “Fuck that, then I hate them too”. I tell my sister I think I’m ugly and she sends me a list of Nicki Minaj pump up songs. I ask for help. That’s an okay coping mechanism to use.
But I also need to learn to wind down my worries on my own. At the end of the day I am my own responsibility, so I need learn to unstick my brain. I ask others for help, but I also need to know when I’m using them as a crutch. I need to take care of myself. I need to get extra sleep or do yoga or take a rest day. I need to recognise what is a “normal worry” and what is an “anxiety worry”. I need to not stress about “normal worries” and simply attend to the “anxiety worries” without letting them rattle me.
Worrying is natural, I remind myself that everyday. Worrying about money keeps me from spending every dollar I have. Worrying about my social relationships shows that they are important to me. It’s okay to worry, but it’s also important to know when a worry is out of touch with reality. When to just recognise the worry and let it go. I’m working really hard at just letting the sticky thoughts pass through my brain and move on. It’s not going as well as I could hope, but I’m getting better at it. I just need to stay in reality. I just need to keep calm. I just need to get some sleep. Because a tired brain is like glue.
From me, with love, to you,
I’ve worked in retail for four years, there are parts that I don’t necessarily love, but that’s work . On the other hand, there are parts of my job that I truly enjoy, one of those parts being working in the fitting rooms. Working “fits” is satisfying for a whole host of reasons.
First and foremost, I’m a talkative person, and it means I get to talk to people all day. Not only talk about clothes, but I’ve gotten music, podcast, movie, and recipe recommendations. I’ve had in-depth nerd chats about Marvel movies, psychology, and financial planning. I’ve met people with incredibly interesting jobs. Retail allows you to meet a large variety of people, and working fits means I get to interact with all these people.
Second, I love shopping. I know it’s a cliché that women love shopping, but I do. It’s not even the act of buying clothes but there is a shopping “culture” that I really enjoy. And in helping other people shop I get to live a bit vicariously through others.
Finally, I get to make other people happy. Shopping, specifically jean shopping, can feel very defeating. There is variation in wash, material, style and size, leaving so many variations that the whole process is daunting and exhausting. Additionally, women’s clothes is atrociously inconsistent in sizing, which can be frustrating. I personally have felt defeated by jean shopping and it’s not a nice feeling. However, working in fits, I get to ease the experience for other people, or at least that’s what I try to do. Finding someone their new favourite pair of jeans is satisfying because I know how I feel when that happens for me. No, I’m not curing cancer or building houses or saving puppies, but I get to help give people those little moments and that feels really nice.
And despite loving this aspect of my job, I’ve noticed something over the last couple weeks that I find frustrating, so I’m sharing it with you. Toronto just came out of lockdown round 2 and people are ready to get out and move around a bit more. We were all stagnant for 100 days, and the cabin fever hit us pretty hard. People coming into the store often want to chat and want to engage, because we have all been lacking some social connection. And many of the conversations I have are unique, however, there is a common thread – especially with female customers: “I’ve just gained so much weight during quarantine”.
And if it were just this comment, I wouldn’t really care. It would simply be a factual statement. However, it’s never just this comment. It’s followed by a parade of comments where women comment that they’ve gotten fat, or feel ugly, or are disappointed in themselves, or have been “bad” over the last couple months, and so on and so on. Essentially, the women are constantly dumping on themselves for their bodies changing over the last couple months/the last year.
And I hear so many women say, “I was so bad over quarantine, I ate so much”. Bad? Food is allowed to bring you joy, especially when there is not much else going on. We need to stop associating our food choices with morality, as if you could actually “be bad” by eating something that tastes good. Something that brings you joy. I drink Starbucks hot chocolate more often than not when I’m at work. It’s about 3 zillion calories and has enough sugar to power the energizer bunny. But it makes me smile and I know it makes me just a little bit friendlier at work so I’m not going shame myself for drinking it.
Of course, I want you to take care of yourself. I want you to get 10,000 steps and eat your vegetables and drink enough water during the day, but most importantly I want you to be kind to yourself. I want you to allow yourself to be human, and part of being human involves weight fluctuation, especially in times of change. It’s okay to acknowledge change in your body and have feelings about it. But don’t be hard on yourself over changes that occurred while in lockdown.
Women of all sizes are complaining about how their bodies are inferior, when that is so far from the truth it’s laughable. My sister told me once, “when you hate your body, think of all the things it allows you to do”, and I try to do that. When I grab the wrong size of jeans and feel “fat”, I remind myself that my body ran 10k this fall for the first time in 6 years, it can sing a C#6 and it can walk around for 8 hours a day, 5 days and week and sell jeans like it’s nobody’s business. It can also eat an entire pizza in one sitting, and that’s pretty impressive.
I just want you to be kind to yourself. You’re a lot more than what a scale tells you, and frankly, it’s not worth the energy you put into stressing about it. You’re built for so much more than stressing about weight, you just need to get out of your own way.
From me, with love, to you,
What if you told me I’m pretty to see how the words taste?
Sometimes you meet someone, and your mind plays a trick on you. For a split second, it plays out a future with that person that doesn’t yet exist. It plays out an evening, or a week, or a month where you and that person are together. I wrote this song, wanting to play out that trick.
I wanted to play out this scenario where two people just fall for each other, without reserve. Because when you’re teenagers, that’s how love works. My first boyfriend and I just started dating. We decided that we liked each other and just went for it. We didn’t go through the stages of hooking up, hooking up exclusively, seeing other people, dating without labels, dating with labels, and all the other combinations that can occur in between. We just decided to fall in love, which is something only kids do.
You are so gentle, so I will get caught up in you
I often feel like I’m still that 16-year-old girl. Who falls without looking. I allow myself to get caught up in people, wrapped up in tiny relationships. I catch feelings and run with them, I let my mind play that trick out as I try to imagine that person fitting into my life.
And frankly, I would rather be that person who is reckless with their emotions, than someone who spends all their time trying to pump the breaks. I would rather look back on situation and think “I was honest with myself, and I went after what I wanted”. I’m a full throttle kind of person, and I want someone who wants that. It doesn’t mean I want a relationship right away, but I want someone who isn’t afraid to move forward and see what happens.
I am just holding the place for somebody else
However, that also means I get hurt a lot. I get shot down and ghosted and let down by people I care about. And I watch those people who hurt me move on and fall in love with different people. But you can’t really avoid that. For all the people you date in your life, you are only going to end up growing old and grey with one person. Everyone else will be a place holder of sorts until “the one” comes along. Similarly, I have been in a place holder in other peoples’ lives.
And realising you’re not the one, you’re simply a place holder, is a painful realisation. When you’re in the middle of end and your brain catches up with reality, it can hurt. But often you look back and realise how wrong that person was for you, how inevitable your end was.
It's always me being reckless and crazy
But it only needs to work once. One time for you to be happy, and that one time will be worth all the mess that came before. So I’m going to keep being stupid and childish. Yes, I get hurt and yes, it can be abrasive and yes, I know it’s statistically more likely that I’ll get my heart broken than I’ll end up happy. But fuck it. If this mess of a year has taught me anything, it’s that life is unexpected, so you might as well just go for it.
What if it worked?
I wrote this song this past July/August when I was at my cottage. As much as I wanted it to feel specific to me, I wanted people to be able to relate to what I was feeling. I didn’t want it to be about any one relationship, as much as I wanted it to be about one feeling.
I hope you like it, if you want to listen to the full song you can go to YouTube which I have linked to below.
From me, with love, to you,
In all honesty, I didn’t really want to talk about mental health today. Which is weird, because this is the day to talk about it. But right now, in this moment, I’m happy. Happy being slightly relative because the pandemic has us all swinging back and forth like pendulums when it comes to mood. Cabin fever comes in and out, I get irritable pretty quickly and although I feel energised by small victories, small losses can set me off. (I cried the other day when I couldn’t find a parking spot, it wasn’t my shiniest moment)
And this is one of the hardest things about mental health, to keep working at it even when things are good. Mental health is like eczema. You have to constantly work to maintain a status quo. I know this because I have eczema. I’ve had eczema since I was a baby, I knew the names of topical steroids before I knew my parents’ birthdays. So, after 22 years, I have a fine-tuned, regimented system to keep my skin under control. Creams and ointments and moisturisers keep me looking like a human rather than a scaley crocodile. And occasionally I have flare ups when the weather changes, if I forget to fill a prescription, if I have an allergic reaction to something that leads to a bigger rash. But I still work at my eczema everyday.
Which is why I’m writing this. Because even though I’m happy right now, tomorrow and the next day and the day after that are unpredictable. And if I don’t keep working, don’t keep managing, I could get a mental health flare up, which is so much more difficult to manage than day to day maintenance. Similarly, to eczema, there are things that I do regularly to help manage my mental health. So, I’m going to take you through my favourite coping mechanisms.
Stuff I do regularly:
You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it, we’ve all heard it, but I swear to God it works. I try to have 3 “active days” every week, two of which I seriously get my heart pumping. So usually that’s one walk and two days where I kick my own ass and scream at Chloe Ting on my computer, telling her how much I hate her.
Don’t come at me and say, “But I don’t know how to sing” because anyone can sing. At least once a week I make sure to sing for fun. In the shower, in the car, in my room, I sing at the top of my lungs and let out all that pent up anxiety. Yes, I still do my warm-ups and sing more technically 3-4 times a week on top of that, but at least once a week I make sure to get all my jitters out by…well I guess it can be described more as screaming than singing but you get the point.
3. Making To-Do lists:
Anxiety and spontaneity are not friends. Anxiety lives in “I don’t know” so I make to-do lists and set alarms and arrange plans. Of course, my definition of “plans” has changed over the last year. Whereas a year ago plans involved seeing other people, currently my plans involve going to the grocery store. Still, I create structure when structure is sparse, and it has calmed my nerves.
Stuff I do occasionally:
1. Strip down:
Sometimes I when I feel overwhelmed, it feels like I am coated in anxiety. So, I go back to basics. I take off my makeup and my nail polish and shave my legs and cut my nails and clean my cuticles and wash my hair. Think about resetting yourself, putting everything back at square one, that way you can rebuild the way you see best. A hot shower can fix a lot of problems. P.S. Put on clean pajamas afterwards, it really seals the deal for me.
2. Have a dance party:
By yourself, with your roommate, with your friends. I have a playlist called “Health Coping Mechanisms” and it is all the songs that make me want to dance. It ranges from Motown to Rap to Musical Theatre, which I understand is a weird combination. I would suggest creating a playlist of songs you find irresistibly dance-y and keep it in your back pocket. Sometimes you just need to get out of your head.
3. Give something a deep clean:
Maybe you’re being triggered by your environment. A clean, organised environment can lead to a clean, organised brain. You’re likely a lot more influenced by the space around you than you’ve realised. Sometimes taking a couple hours and scrubbing your stove and washing that glass plate in your microwave and sorting all the random condiments in your fridge can give you that piece of mind you’ve been looking for.
Stuff I do when I’m going to have a panic attack:
Anxiety is an attention-whore. The more attention you feed it the bigger it gets. Time and time again I hear people referring to panic attacks as a spiral, but what if you cut the spiral? It has nowhere to go. Like cutting off the oxygen to a fire. Next time you feel a panic attack coming on, try to distract yourself before you start to feel out of control. It takes a lot of practice, and I’m still learning how to do it, but here are my go-to distractions:
a. Investigate an object:
My doctor told me this one. When you get really anxious pick an object around you and analyze every detail of it. What does it look like? How many colours are in it? How many shades of every colour? What size is it? Try to measure it. What are all the different ways you can use it? I once counted every ridge on a bar napkin when I was nervous at a bar. Pick an object and study it like you’re writing a PhD thesis about it. Like you’re trying to explain it to a sketch artist.
b. Number patterns:
When I get anxious my dad tells me to count to 62,357. In sevens. I’ve never gotten to 62,357, but the point is I’m focused on counting. 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49 and so on. Try counting to 100 and clapping on every prime number. Do long division and try to go as many decimal places as you can. Do BEDMAS equations. Solve basic algebra. Math being math makes it perfect, because it requires focus and energy. All of which you have to take away from your anxiety, therefore not giving it the attention it needs to blow up. And don’t use your phone as a calculator, that’s definitely cheating.
c. Play a game on your phone:
Download one or two games that, similar to the other two examples, take some serious brain power. You want it to be more complex than 2048, and more fast-paced than Words with Friends. My go-to’s are sudoku, Tap Tap Revenge (yes, I’m bringing it back) and this game I have with a kiwi bird (it’s kind of like Flappy Bird). You want something that takes extended focus, because the point is distraction.
Exercise, singing, cleaning, distracting, all these tricks took time to develop. The list has shuffled with time, and I am still fine-tuning it – it’s no eczema-routine. As you all know, exercise just recently made the list this year, whereas singing was a coping mechanism before “coping mechanism” was a term in my vocabulary. And I’m guessing in the next year this list will change again as vaccinations allow us to live a life that resembles normal.
I know that accommodating the change can be exhausting. I know it’s tiring and frustrating and working at this everyday feels like an uphill battle. Sometimes mechanisms that used to work start failing, and sometimes it feels like nothing works. Like every tool in Batman’s tool belt is broken or in the wrong place or missing. But I promise you’re doing a lot better than you think you are. Just trying, just working at it at all is a step in the right direction. You’ve got this, and remember I’m always in your corner, with an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on and a very weird playlist to dance to.
From me, with love, to you,
Kids Help Phone: https://kidshelpphone.ca/live-chat/
Canadian Crisis Hotline: 1 (888) 353-2273
Better Help: www.betterhelp.com
So obviously the dating game has been a little dry. It’s a pandemic.
I was on the dating apps for quite a while, but deleted them all right before Christmas because I realised how futile it all was. I was never going to meet up with any of the guys I was talking to, Toronto is currently under a “stay at home” order. However, upon deleting the apps, I’ve realised my brain has a lot of space to think about things I wouldn’t otherwise. So, my brain stumbled across the topic of blind dates.
I have a slightly backwards opinion about blind dates. I would be happy to set someone up but for some reason I’ve always been opposed to being set up. Which seems silly in and of itself. It’s even sillier knowing my family history. Blind dates are commonplace in my family. My family has a good history with getting set up. My parents, my grandparents and two of my uncles have marriages that resulted from blind dates. That’s 80% of my maternal family. That’s a lot of family. So why don’t I want to be set up when I know so many successful instances?
Blind dates make complete sense. My dad always said, it’s the most personal dating app you can have. Two people get set up based on interests and personality, not a random algorithm. Let’s say you know Fred from high school. Fred loves family, the Toronto Raptors, cooking and works in finance. You also know Michael because you and Michael do yoga together. Michael is a chef who is runs a family restaurant (because he really values his family). Michael is also an avid follower of the Raptors and appreciates financial security. It would only make sense that next time you go to yoga you say, “OMG Michael, I have a guy that’s perfect for you.” And then Michael and Fred have a Raptors themed wedding and BOOM the rest is history (okay, I may have lost you on Raptors-themed wedding, but I didn’t create very dynamic characters so I didn’t have a lot to work with). The point is, you set up Fred and Michael because you saw that they would work well together. And maybe, if you’re quite the psychologist, you would see that Fred and Michael have traits that compliment each other. Maybe Fred is strong headed and can help Michael become more confident. Maybe Michael has good ideas but doesn’t have the execution skills that Fred has. The point is Fred and Michael weren’t a random match. They weren’t strangers that met at a bar or swiped on a dating app, you saw potential and created a scenario in which that potential could be acted upon.
And, because it’s me, I thought of How I Met Your Mother. For those of you that don’t know, HIMYM follows the adventures of Ted Mosby as he attempts to find love, settle down, get married and have kiddos. And Ted doesn’t just stumble through his own love life, but consistently dive bombs it. Just crash and burn after crash and burn. So, during one particular episode, Ted goes to friends Lily and Marshall and requests a blind date. While the episode is good, there is one line in particular that stands out: Ted says, “I’m bad at picking [dates]”. DOES THAT NOT HIT HOME? Because holy shit that hits home for me.
I’m terrible at picking dates. When I want a relationship, I find boys who only want to hookup, and when I want to just hookup, boys are looking to settle down. I pick fuck boys, frat boys, boys with commitment issues, boys that are still hung up on their exes, or boys that want to get married tomorrow morning. Oh my god…I’m Ted Mosby.
Here’s the curious part. As much as my family is full of blind date success stories, I can’t think of a single couple my age that resulted from a blind date. You see them in movies and TV shows, but nobody I know is the result of a blind date. I’ve never even met someone who has gone on a blind date in the last 10 years. The idea seems so simple, so obvious, so untapped.
And maybe it’s an idea that has simply fallen out of favour. Blind dates feel a little antiquated. Why would you need blind dates when you could use a dating app? And sure, Tinder, Bumble and Hinge give you more options, but they’re not setting you up for success. Yes, Bumble has made some strides by adding features like “I’m a dog person” or “I want to have kids when I’m older”, but I don’t think it’s the same as getting set up by a person who knows you very well. I’ve really given dating apps my best shot, but I’ve come up a little empty handed. I want a boy that has the same type of humour I have or at least is kind enough to laugh at my crappy jokes. I want someone family oriented with good communication skills and likes to ski. I think dating apps have great algorithms, I think they’re giving it their best shot, but they will never know me as well as a close friend or family member.
Anyways, so I’ve decided, blind dates are the bees’ knees. I know right now they’re not really an option, dating is kind of off the table entirely for the time being. But when the world opens up again, I’m thinking this is the way to go. I mean, I hear the success rate is pretty high, so what do I have to lose?
From me, with love, to you,
In November I wrote about how I was struggling with the lockdown:
Because I was. I found the shorter days and increased social restrictions difficult to manage. I had a wealth of coping mechanisms, but none of them seemed to do the trick. I watched Marvel movies, I ran, I played piano and guitar, I sang, I talked to my friends on the phone, but still felt extremely anxious. However, the lockdown was going to persist with or without my anxiety, so I had to figure something out.
Christmas provided distractions to the anxiety, with my sisters coming home and the organization of the holidays. I got back into baking after a brief hiatus, however I need to take another break because I’m a little sugared-out. I took on the challenge of attempting a more consistent YouTube schedule, a little unsuccessful so far.
But I wanted a better way to waste my time. I love watching YouTube and Tik Tok and movies and Netflix. Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook and just getting absorbed in the lives of other people. But everyone knows that social media and mental health mix like oil and water.
At this point it’s important to remember that wasting time is healthy. You shouldn’t be productive 100% of your day. First and foremost, your brain literally needs to take breaks, it gets fatigued and your productivity will drop. Secondly, you need to do things for the sake of enjoyment, not everyday is about “checking things off your to do list”. As satisfying as productivity can be, your entire life shouldn’t be geared in one direction. You’re going to burn out if you never pause.
So, in a pure lightbulb moment, I remembered a de-stressor I picked up during university. Painting. In second year, I bought a bunch of paints, brushes, and canvases from the dollar store and just played around. I mixed different colours and made essentially colourful blobs on my cheap canvases. And then painted over them. I painted flowers and trees and butterflies. And then painted over them. I had probably four canvases and each was covered in layer after layer of paint throughout my time at UBC. I would simply let my painting dry, be satisfied with my hard work, and then paint something new.
Painting wasn’t about being good or producing something meaningful. In fact, being mediocre was part of the draw. The whole event was low stakes, there couldn’t be associated anxiety. If it turned out pretty, it was a pleasant surprise, if it turned out okay, that was expected, and if it turned out awful, then I laughed at myself and painted over it. There were days I skipped the brushes and finger painted and made a mess as well as days where I tried to paint meticulous details to no avail. But no matter what I attempted I felt better.
It gave me a way to step back from all my stress and take thirty minutes, an hour, sometimes longer, and do something for enjoyment’s sake. Once I sat and tried to paint every bit of the canvas perfectly black, and it took probably only 30 minutes, but at the end it was oddly satisfying and I painted over it in two weeks.
Painting doesn’t take a lot a space, isn’t a large investment if you’re just playing around, and can take as much or as little time as you want. Yes, there are fantastic artists with big studios and expensive acrylics who spend hours painting individual hairs on someone’s head, but that’s not my goal. My goal is to be an idiot for a bit and then start over and be an idiot all over again.
Over the break I dragged my younger sister into my schemes and she and I turned my room into a mini painting studio for an evening. We listened to music and painted and chatted and mixed colours and tried different things until it was midnight. And she reiterated the same sentiment, “I don’t care what happens, because I don’t need it to be amazing”. When I dropped her off at university, we stopped by the dollar store so she could get her own supplies.
I’m not saying it will fix all your struggles and your strife. It won’t make the lockdown go away and you can’t see your friends and everything is still closed and 2021 is still rolling out to be a magical shitshow the way 2020 was. However, maybe for a little bit you can think about something else. And then let it dry and do it all over again.
From me, with love, to you,
Okay, I’ve been on Tik Tok a lot lately (follow @VictoriaStaff21) and there are an ungodly number of posts that talk about the “hottest things that boys do” or the “hottest things that girls do”. Obviously, a lot of these videos are about (teehee) sex things; actions, behaviours, things people say that are “turn ons”. However, there is a second category of these videos that surrounds behaviours, personality traits and characteristics.
A lot of this second category talks about traits that could fall under “maturity and human decency”. The creators on Tik Tok are just looking for a good communicator who will be honest and give you a hand when you need it. I must agree, all these traits are super important. Communication, honesty, and support are definitely huge pillars in a relationship. Although, I would like to propose a new “hottest trait” that puts all other “hot traits” to shame.
Taking care of yourself.
Now, before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s define this term. I’m not talking about someone who makes 6-figures, has a huge house, is in ridiculously good shape and drinks green juice daily. I don’t need, nor do I want, the pinnacle of perfection, because those people don’t actually exist. Nobody is perfect, and people who think that they are generally aren’t. The person I’m talking about understands how to make a budget and stick to it. They have open and honest conversations about their mental health. They eat balanced meals and are active. This person is not perfect, but they're working on it.
So, why is this so attractive? Why have I claimed it “the most attractive”? Because it tells you so much about a person. Can they stick to a budget? That shows self-restraint. Can they support their own mental health? That shows maturity. Do they have successful social relationships? That shows good communication.
Do I want a lot of attention in a relationship? Fuck yeah, I’m super high maintenance. But I also want someone who can acknowledge when they need some personal time, because sometimes I need that too. Stepping back from socializing and just unwinding is important. I want to be with someone who appreciates a night in after a long work week. Someone who takes time for them is someone I really respect, because it’s not always easy to admit you need time alone.
Someone who understands that a healthy doesn’t always mean drawing harsh lines in the sand about what to eat or what not to eat. I’m not talking about “my body is a temple” and “I can’t eat fast food people” but I’m just talking about people who keep health in their mind when they make decisions. People who want to stretch their legs and walk places.
I know I’ve already said this but: someone who can talk about their mental health. Fucking, HOT. Wanting to be proactive about stress? Super attractive. Understanding the differences between normal and abnormal anxiety levels? I will propose. Creating positive coping mechanisms? I will have your children.
All these traits are so attractive because it shows that person is ready for a relationship. Relationships are hard and complicated and require effort. How can someone be asked to manage a relationship when they don’t have a hold on their own life? How can someone be asked to support me when they can’t support themselves? Don’t be mistaken, nobody needs to take care of me. I can take care of myself. But I want support in a relationship. I want a sounding board to bounce ideas off, and someone to help me clear my head. However, its unfair to ask that of someone who can’t do that for themselves.
Plus, and this cannot be overstated, your significant other is not your babysitter. I have been in relationships where I have been the babysitter, and I have been in relationships where I have been babysat. I will be the first person to admit that I have asked other people to take care of me, which is not fair to them. But I feel like I’ve grown a lot and I don’t want someone to hold my hand when I cross the street or wipe my nose. I want someone to be my cheerleader and help me make the big decisions. I’m an adult and I want an adult relationship, one that is built on support not dependency.
Finally, taking care of yourself is not a something you achieve and have forever. You have to constantly work at it. (IT’S AN ESCALATOR) You need to be in it for the long haul. And what does that show? Commitment! Someone who can commit to a job, to a plan, to a budget, to social relationships, is more likely to commit to you.
Friends, you know I’m right. Someone who can take care of themselves is hot. It’s refreshing to see someone who is open and honest and working on themselves. Someone who wants to learn things and grow and mature. All super attractive traits. Traits I’m trying really hard to take on personally. And it can be difficult to go for runs, but I know it’s good for my mental health. It can be difficult not to order McDonalds, but I don’t want to have a heart attack. It can be difficult to pass up on plans for a much-needed nap, but it’ll be worth it.
Ladies, gentlemen and all in between. Selfcare is fucking attractive. So hit the spa, call your therapist, and balance your books.
From me, with love, to you,
Thank god that this shitshow of a year, this dumpster fire of a decade-starter, the 365 days of 365 pains is coming to a close. And usually, around New Year’s I outline some goals that I’m setting for 2021. However, the bar for 2021 has been set so low, that setting goals seems excessive. What do I want for 2021? I want it not to be as bad as 2020. But to celebrate the end of the monstrosity, and in hope that it doesn’t repeat itself, I’m going to list 20 things I’m happy did not happen in 2020.
1) America didn’t start WW3
Remember when this was a thing we were all concerned about? Wow, January was actually 200 years ago. But I do appreciate our southern neighbours for not creating a nuclear apocalypse and killing everyone.
2) Donald Trump didn’t get re-elected
I understand that the Cheeto currently inhabiting the White House doesn’t directly impact my life, however, it is nice to know that for at least the next four years I don’t have to deal with Donald Trump. I’m not American, but there is a certain amount of respect the President of the United States holds, and it was disappointing when that position was held by a misogynistic asshole with an unyielding distaste for humanity.
3) I didn’t get pregnant
The opportunities for this were few and far between. January through March presented some interesting opportunities, however, all in all it was a statistical unlikelihood. I will still take it as a win that I remain childless.
4) I didn’t fail out of university
Still don’t know what I’m going to do with my degree, however, there is a piece of paper on my desk that tells me I have a BSc.
5) Murder hornets didn’t end up being that big a deal
I was really concerned about this one for a second, but it never became a big deal.
6) I didn’t give myself bangs
It would have been a goddamn disaster. The bangs would be so much curlier than the rest of my hair. I definitely would have cut them too short. The maintenance of the whole situation makes me want to cry. If you care about me, never let me get bangs.
7) Canada Post never lost any of my packages
This was the year of online shopping. I probably bought more clothing this year than I have any other year purely out of boredom (which is a problem for another day). However, Canada Post never lost a single package. So that’s a win.
8) I didn’t break any piece of technology
I have the same phone and laptop that I started the year with. And this year both those things have turned out to be more essential then expected. Go me.
9) I didn’t gain “the covid 19 (lbs)”
I’ve talked about my new hobby of exercise quite extensively, so I won’t bore you too much. I do want to acknowledge that getting into shape during this year was extremely difficult, I still somehow managed! Wow. I’m a damn icon.
10) I didn’t participate in a super spreader event
While many people took to secret house parties and bars as soon as things opened I did not. Part of this was the strong IRON CLAD GRIP OF MY MOTHER that kept me from having fun. But also, I was partially personally responsible for being responsible.
11) I didn’t spend as much money as I usually do
I also didn’t make as much money as I usually do. But a penny saved is a penny earned, and I saved a lot of pennies…or I guess nickels because Canadians don’t have pennies.
12) I didn’t get an STI
Similar to the pregnancy situation, there were not many situations in which this would be possible. However, I don’t have to worry about syphilis, AIDs, herpes or any other infection that I could get from a man friend. I’d call this a success.
13) I didn’t get evicted
So, this would have been fucking brutal, because I live at home with my parents and I think them evicting me during a global pandemic would have been a little heartless. But it didn’t happen all the same.
14) Donald Trump didn’t entirely undermine the concept of democracy
Okay, I understand this is the second time I’ve brought up Trump and the third time I’ve mentioned the States, but a lot happened in the States this year. Additionally, any Canadian would be daft to believe that there is not a direct connection between the US and Canada. The two are intrinsically linked and for that reason I keep a close eye on what goes on south of the border. To dismantle a democratic country, while almost impressive, would have been a goddamn nightmare. (But also, I’m not counting my chickens until January 20th)
15) My liver didn’t shut down
I gave my liver every reason to give up on me this year. While I didn’t not work much this year, my liver was picking up extra shifts, and continued to work on holidays and weekends. I was unemployed while my liver was making enough money to buy a Tesla. The point of this? I drank a lot and my liver continued to struggle to deal with that. Thanks liver.
16) I didn’t start an Only Fans
My parents would have murdered me. I would be deceased. My gravestone would’ve said: “Survived COVID, taken out by Only Fans”.
17) I didn’t learn any Tik Tok dances
I am an atrocious dancer. It really should be illegal for me to dance, it isn’t pretty. For embarrassment’s sake, I’m happy I didn’t attempt any Tik Tok dances, or even worse, try to film any.
18) I didn’t hit anybody with a car
I’m really running out of positives here.
19) I didn’t get hit by a car
I’m really, really running out of positives here.
20) I didn’t get COVID
In all seriousness, this is one thing I am grateful for. Additionally, I’ve been really diligent during this last year to ensure I stay healthy. Not simply for me, but for others. I am happy that all the precautions I’ve taken have worked and that my family and friends are still safe.
So that’s my year in a nutshell. Was it flawless? Far from. Was it bad? Yeah, kind of. But as I said, the bar for 2021 is low and I’m optimistic. In Ontario we are starting 2021 in lockdown, but I’m determined to make sure my 2021 is better than my 2020. It can’t get worse…can it?
From me, with love, to you,
Do you ever wake up in the morning and feel like the sun shines out your own ass? Those days when you are unshakable in your confidence and unwavering in selflove? Those days where a smile is the easiest thing to wear. I live for the days where bad bitch energy pumps through my veins. But my bad bitch energy is new, she is fresh out the womb. And new confidence is fragile. It balances on the edge of a blade, so even the ways in which I am most sure of myself can be shook with a small wind in the wrong direction.
If I have a moment where my jeans are too tight, bad bitch energy dissipates. If I get ghosted, she runs off into the night. And god forbid I open up the selfie camera on my phone when I am unprepared. I look like a raw potato, all pale and nasty. And I want to love myself so badly because true, unapologetic confidence fills you up in a way that is pure and kind. I’m not talking about narcissism, which can be draining, but confidence. Just the ability to recognise flaws and faults and be okay despite them. That feeling makes me happy. Love for myself makes me appreciate everything around me so much more, I can get out of my own way and just enjoy life.
But as I said, I have a fragile ego. It bruises easily and it’s covered in bumps from all the years I allowed myself to hold a negative inner monologue. I want it to be shiny and new, but it never will be. I want it to be strong and resilient. I want quick fixes to my self-doubt, so I seek out others who will call me pretty or tell me I’m funny and act as though that’s enough. It’s not enough.
I said once, “I am a damn treat because I made myself that way”, and I stand by that statement. I am a damn treat. I know that, in my bones I know that. I know I can write music that makes people laugh and cry. I have put myself back together more times than people should have to, and I did that (with the help of others). I am strong, now not only mentally but physically, because I’m STILL WORKING OUT AND IT’S BEEN 7 MONTHS AND I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M STILL DOING IT. And my dad says I’m a good driver, so all in all, I’m a fucking catch.
But even the term “catch” gets under my skin because it refers to me as a benefit to someone else. However, I’m not for someone else, I’m for me. I can’t love me because other people love me, I can’t see their affection as personal validation. Because people can leave, but I can’t. I’m stuck in this life regardless of what I want, so I better find a way to enjoy it.
I think sometimes I forget that the best things in life take so much work, and not even, they take maintenance. Day in and day out, you have push yourself. It’s like working out, or eczema, or mental health. This shit isn’t a mountain top, where you reach the top and can just stand there. This is an escalator, if you stop moving you’re not just standing still, you’re going backwards.
So, I want to work hard at myself, I feel as though I am. I’m working out, I’m writing new music, I’m being honest with myself and others about what I want, I want to be a better person. This is just me admitting that I’m not there yet. I’m not yet at the top of the escalator, I’m simply making my way there. And it’s not that self-love will fix all my problems. I’m not narcissistic enough to think that the struggles in my life are caused purely by myself. Nor am I saying that self-love will make everyday fantastic. I don’t think people are meant to have only good days. We’re supposed to have bad days to appreciate the good days more. I just want to be more in control over myself. I don’t want it tethered to other people because self-love should only involve 1 person.
And possibly it’s this shit bag of a year that has me caught in this existential, quarter-life crisis. But that’s 2020 for you. And likely part of me should go easier on myself, let things slide because life is far from expected so I need to bend a bit to account for the world around us. I guess I just want to keep working, keep moving forward, because I’m over going backwards.
From me, with love, to you,
Yes, you are not mistaken. We are going to talk about sex. Doing the nasty, making loving, boinking, the good ol’ devil’s tango. There are a million ways to say it, but they all fall under this big umbrella of “sex”.
So, let’s jump in.
I grew up in a pretty openminded household. My parents encouraged discourse and honesty and the nightly dinner table discussion was lively. It ranged from the most recent political scandal to “what would your stripper name be?” (on one night where I was really contemplating the validity of my university degree in the real world). My parents wanted to know about my life and the lives of my sisters out of genuine curiosity and care. It was more than a distracted “How was your day?” over the buzz of background TV noises, it was:
“How were your classes?"
“What did you have for lunch?”
“You had a chemistry test today, right? How did that go?”
My parents worked hard to create a mutual-respect relationship, and it’s helped me in so many ways in my life, because I know whatever problems I have, my parents will help me through it. But despite the lengthy chats about my life, my sisters’ lives and even my friends’ lives, we rarely brought up sex. We talked about peripheral sex topics (i.e. the stripper names) but we never discussed the whole rough and tumble explicitly. My parents would say it’s “not dinnertime talk”. There was no obvious “sex-talk-ban”, my parents play Cards Against Humanity with me, and my dad whips my butt every time.
Here’s the problem though, I didn’t know what to ask, because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Part of me was desperate to learn because it was the only topic in my life that was taboo, and I wanted to see behind the curtain. The other part of me knew that at some point in my life I would need to figure out what was going on. However, my perspective on sex was so logistical I was more afraid of getting herpes or getting pregnant than what actually to do when that big moment came (tee hee, pun intended).
Needless to say, I was pretty “blank slate” during my first relationship. I was a bit of a chicken with my head cut off for a good portion of my life there. A lot of my friends hadn’t started having sex and I was kind of foraging my own path, which was terrifying, because all I could think is “MY PARENTS WILL MURDER ME IF I GET PREGGO MY EGGO”. There are lots of things I wish I knew my first time. I wish I knew it was going to hurt. I wish I knew that it’s okay if the first time is awkward. And most of all, I wish someone told me to pee after. You can only imagine my horror when I got a UTI and fully thought I was dying. (Which, if we’re talking about safety and health the whole UTI thing should really be brought up in health class.)
Currently, I always try to talk about sex, with my sisters, with my friends; I try to make sure other people don’t have to walk blindly the way I did. And in all these conversations I’ve had, I’ve realised one thing:
WE NEED TO TALK MORE ABOUT SEX.
And not just sex, but the entire accoutrement. And why? For starters ladies, uneducated sex comes with a lot of negative consequences. I learned recently that a majority of people with STIs are asymptomatic so even if someone thinks they’re clean, they may not be. Plus, Canada doesn’t require STIs like herpes to be reported, so your previous partners don’t need to report them or let you know. Morally they should, but there is no requirement like with syphilis and HIV. And secondly, we’re pretty much all going to do it at some point, so I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to learn about it. Your body set you up to do pretty much three things: eat, sleep and have sex. We talk about eating and sleeping all the time.
And finally, when you start talking about sex and make the softer subjects more palatable, the big conversations become easier too. How can you be expected to discuss consent, orientation and STI testing, when you aren’t comfortable talking about orgasms or masturbation?
It only makes sense to talk about sex. If you turn sex into this big, scary monster of a topic you’re just setting yourself up for a world of disaster; if something becomes a grey area for you, who are you supposed to go to so you can understand what’s black and what’s white?
I’m not saying do or don’t have sex. I’m not saying when or where or with who, that’s none of my business. All those are up to you, but how are you supposed to make informed decisions when you don’t know all the info? Tons of people look up the menu before eating at a restaurant, but when it comes to sex, we just jump in blindfolded and go “I hope this works out!”
So, whether it’s with a partner, your friends, your siblings, or even your parents. I encourage you to rip off the band-aid and embrace the topic that conservatives everywhere are avoiding:
Let’s talk about sex.
From me, with love, to you,
I've tried in so many ways to let people in on how songwriting works, but I don't think it ever comes out right. So I just decided to let you in and watch me at work. If you want to watch me be an idiot for a couple minutes, here you go:
Or if you want to skip ahead and watch the song:
It is currently a little after midnight on Monday, November 23rd. Toronto is officially in its second lockdown and I need to talk about it. However, I feel the need to clarifying a couple of things before we begin:
With that being said, let’s get into it: I’m struggling.
Over the last couple months, my anxiety disorders have been creeping back into my life in a way that I don’t think I noticed at first. It started with a general unease, but a general unease is normal in a pandemic. You can’t see the virus, so the general unease keeps you safe and vigilant. It reminds you to wash your hands and wear a mask. Honestly, people without unease during a pandemic scare me a little bit. Are you not concerned for yourself? For the people around you?
But the unease developed into restlessness. Like my entire body was jittering. It was the kind of jittering that kept me up until 3am just lying in bed. And the jittery-ness and the unease made me exhausted, but I couldn’t fall asleep no matter how hard I tried. I couldn’t take a nap, I couldn’t rest, I couldn’t find enough space in my mind for a peaceful sleep.
So, I used my new hobby – working out – to try and manage the stressors. I did yoga, I ran farther, I tried new workouts. I worked out more and pushed myself, but it wasn’t working. When I started working out in May, I could almost “burn” off a stressor. I could make my anxiety seem obsolete with a spin or a long walk or a brutal workout. But recently, there was no distance I could run, no number of reps I could do, to get the restlessness out of my body.
And it started creeping into work. During the pandemic, I’ve been working in retail and I’m really happy with my current position. But I had to step off the floor more to take breathers. I found myself doing stretches in the hallways of fitting rooms when nobody was around and doing downward dog in the breakroom just to try and get myself to relax, but it wasn’t working.
At this point I want to sideline the progression of my anxiety to talk about why this was happening. In my life I have developed a three-pronged coping strategy: music, social interaction and structured activity. These three pillars hold up my mental health and keep me grounded in reality when the rest of my world is spinning. Music provides expression, social interaction provides support, and structured activity provides distractions. Throughout my life, these three categories have changed in content, but the general structure remains the same. For example, structured activity used to include school whereas it now includes work.
Early on in the year, we all lost a ton of our social interactions. And during the beginning of the pandemic, while I adjusted the weight I placed on each pillar, I had a difficult time. However, I was able to put more focus on activity and music to make myself feel more balanced. I also learned to change the way I was interacting with people, as we all did.
And now we return to the progression of my mental health, because (like many people) I just lost my job. Temporarily of course, but for the next four weeks I am unemployed with too much time on my hands. That prospect alone has caused a slight spiral. There is not just jittery feelings or general unease but panic.
2020 has me exhausted, frustrated, and anxious. My structured activity, one of my remaining pillars has been removed from the equation and I am unsure what that means to me. I don’t know how to fill my days. I have made such incredible progress over the last couple years regarding my mental health and while 2020 in ruthless in what it takes, I am determined to hold my ground here. I just don’t know how yet. It’s easy to say I will be better than my panic attacks, than my anxiety, but I also know that I don’t always get to make those calls. I don’t always get to decide what’s a trigger, especially when I’m losing coping mechanisms faster than I can replace them.
I don’t know what I want you to do with this information. Maybe I just want to scream into the void “FUCK THIS” and this is my way of doing that. Maybe I want to know if other people are riding the struggle bus the way I am. Maybe I just want to write it all down so I can finally admit it to myself, because that in and of itself can be difficult. All I know is that I don’t want this to be a pity party. It’s almost Christmas and while “normal” is in short supply, I want to find a way to stay keep bits and pieces of my life the same. Even though the world feels heavy I want to find a way to make it manageable.
I guess all I can say is keep reaching out and supporting each other. Find humour in new places and fun where you least expect it. Try a new hobby and fill everyday with at least one good thing. I say this knowing it’s 1) super cheesy and 2) something I haven’t been able to do yet, so I don’t blame you if you laugh at this advice. But all we can do is our best.
From me, with love, to you,
When I broke up with my ex, my sister came over and brought poutine and ice cream and I cried on the couch in my living room. We drank red wine and wore pj’s and had a sleepover. The next morning, I was a wreck. I was hollowed out and destroyed. It was a true and tried breakup.
Which makes sense. That relationship had been a big part of my life, so untangling the strings associated with it was a lot to deal with. However, not every relationship ends the same. And if you’ve been around a while, you know that I can use the word “relationship” in very broad terms. For the newbies, I’ll explain it: relationships aren’t just “boyfriend-girlfriend” situations, but any interaction between two people. They cover the long expanse from causal dating to marriage and all that’s in between.
Although, acknowledging that there are different types of relationships, you must acknowledge some relationships are bigger than others. Similar to friends, some of my friendships are deeper and longer lasting than others, but they are all friendships. Some relationships are long and involve anniversaries and meeting people’s parents, and some are informal and brief.
You can watch makeups and breakups until your eyes dry up and Netflix asks, “are you still watching?”.
But less formal relationships, baby relationships, come with less guidelines. There is more grey area to play in. During the relationship, it’s easier to formulate your own ideas about what can or cannot happen. Titles and interactions and “rules” are easier to play with because you don’t have as many preconceived notions about what should be going on. And that freedom can be exhilarating, without the seriousness of a big relationship, baby relationships can be a lot of fun.
However, the end of a baby relationship. When a big relationship ends, you know what to do. I described it earlier. You drink and eat ice cream and cry about what you’ve lost. But a baby relationship isn’t serious, so you shouldn’t have a serious breakup, right?
I’m going to argue no.
Whether you ended a crush or a friends with benefits or anything in between, you ended something. Something you once had you no longer do. And it’s okay to feel sad about that loss. It’s okay to be upset that something you enjoyed is done. That person lent an ear when you wanted to talk about your day, they cuddled you when you fell asleep, they made you laugh, they were company (especially in a time where company is a hot commodity), or maybe they were just killer in bed. That is also a loss you can be upset about.
I’m not encouraging that you get swallowed by your emotions. Don’t let them eat you up, because that isn’t healthy. But supressing emotions isn’t healthy either. You’re allowed to shed a tear or have a glass of wine or watch a movie to make yourself feel better. You’re allowed to mourn the end of a baby relationship with a baby breakup. Your emotions are going to be there either way, you might as well deal with them and move on.
And because these relationships are less formal, there will be less to tell you what to do. There is no movie about a girl getting ghosted. Nothing tells us what to do when your friends with benefits decides to catch feelings for someone else. Or when a global pandemic ends something that was just starting (sorry if that hit close to home for some of you…I understand). So, you’re going to have to find your own way out.
Maybe you chug an entire bottle of wine like a damn champion and have drunk karaoke in your living room. Maybe you go for a run. Maybe you Marie-Kondo your kitchen and finally sort the junk drawer that everyone inevitably has. Just don’t cut bangs, please for the love of all that is good. But find your baby-breakup. And it might change over time. But allow yourself that moment to let it out.
Allow yourself baby heartbreaks. Be kind to yourself, you deserve it. You also deserve someone who doesn’t cause your baby heartbreaks, but that seems like a new can of worms. So, for tonight pour a glass for me, because I’m in your corner.
From me, with love, to you,
I first introduced this concept here:
But I feel the need to elaborate. .
I’m fairly confident you know what a catfish is. If you don’t, welcome out from under the rock in which you’ve been living, it is currently 2020 and the world is on fire. A catfish is an individual who poses as a different individual online. For example, a 40-year-old man posing as 20-year-old girl to lure out unsuspecting individuals.
Recently, particularly on TikTok I have been witnessing gross misuse of the word “catfish”. Beautiful girls post videos in which they straighten their hair and do their makeup and put on a cute outfit. Other users claim that they are acting as catfish, which I vehemently disagree with. Catfishing is pretending to be someone else. I would like to introduce a secondary, and better term, for what I feel we are trying to get at:
In a Big Mac ad, the Big Mac always looks fucking incredible. The bun is all shiny and the sesames seeds are perfectly placed. The patties are centered, and the cheese is melted. The lettuce pokes out the sides without falling all over the place. The Big Mac looks like it was assembled by tiny burger angels. However, you order the Big Mac and it is…disheveled. It always leans to one side and the lettuce is all over the place. It’s never quite as tall as it looked in the picture and there are always more pickles on one side of the burger than there are the other. Don’t be mistaken, the Big Mac still tastes incredible, but what was given to you is not the same as what was presented in the advertising.
Of course not! A team of advertisers put that Big Mac photo together. There was photoshop and lighting and all the fake-ness associated with food photography. Obviously, the minimum-wage-paid-15-year-old didn’t not assemble my patty with the intricacy that I had hoped. First and foremost, I don’t live in an advertisement, and secondly, I’m about to down this burger in a parked car outside a McDonald’s drive thru, this isn’t quite Michelin star material.
There is no difference in content between the Big Mac at the drive thru and the Big Mac in the photo, it’s the same. However, the Big Mac in the photo received more love and attention, and better lighting. Similarly, you are the same person you presented as. If your dating profile is funny, you’re probably funny. If your Instagram features political activism, that likely still remains a part of your values. It is possible that the way you appear in your photos requires a tiny bit more effort, but that’s okay! Because that person is still you! You are still the same Big Mac, just with a bit more time and better lighting.
You are not a catfish! Catfish should be reserved for complete misrepresentation. To Big Mac, however, is totally okay! What do I look like right now? I have no makeup on, old sweatpants pulled up way too high, a ratty sweatshirt and wet hair wrapped in one of those “plop” things from Tik Tok. I’m not going to post a photo of me looking like this. I’m not cute right now. I am the same person I am when I’m glammed out to do a photoshoot, however, this look is not my finest.
Lying to people about who you are: not cool. But to advertise yourself is fine! Everyone does it, on resumes, on social media, on dating profiles, on dates. You are not a catfish. You’re simply a Big Mac.
Fuck…now I’m hungry.
From me, with love, to you,
I usually write an introduction and talk about this story or that story to build into my point, but we’re going to jump into it today:
“I don’t know” is an appropriate answer.
And if you’re currently thinking, “You never asked a question” well, I guess that’s kind of the point. Whatever your question is, “I don’t know” is an appropriate answer.
I have been lucky enough to grow up in the age of the internet. And I only say lucky enough because I am a very inquisitive person. If I wanted to know the capital of Russia, Google would tell me it’s Moscow. If I wanted to know what uranium is, Wikipedia would tell me it’s the 92nd element which use predates its discovery and was discovered by a German chemist (yes, I Googled that for this piece, and yes, that’s kind of the point). What I’m trying to say is that for almost 22 years, I have never had to settle for “I don’t know” and I think that’s a bad thing.
I love knowing things. A running joke in my family is that when I say, “I have a question,” something dangerous always follows. A question pops into my head and directly out my mouth, because I have lived in an age privileged enough to always have access to answers. If my parents didn’t have the answers, I could text my friends, text my sisters, Google it, post it on a forum, watch a documentary on it, watch a “how to” on YouTube, or (in a last resort) read a book about it. But answers have never been far out of reach. And I’m beginning to think that has done more harm than good.
Nowadays anyone can know anything, but that doesn’t mean everyone knows everything. In fact, most people know very little. And this doesn’t at all mean most people are dumb, but nearly every single person on this planet knows very little.
I’ll use me as an example. I don’t know:
How baffling is that? I don’t know how parts of my own body work. That’s insane. But the reality is I don’t know those things and an infinite number of other things. I don’t know so many things. And here’s the crazier thing. I’ve studied music for 10 years. I don’t know so much about music. I have a degree in Neuroscience. It’s sitting on my desk as I write this piece. I don’t know anything about neuroscience. Like, I know maybe, MAYBE, 0.00000001% of what there is to know about neuroscience, and that might even be a bit generous. If I know 0. 00000001% of a topic I HAVE A DEGREE IN, imagine how little I know about everything else.
how my elementary pen pal is?". And you may also not get answers to the big questions like “Why didn’t I get that job?” or “What the fuck am I supposed to do with a degree in behavioural neuroscience?”. Okay, may that 2nd one is more of a me-problem than a you-problem.
I hate uncertainty. That’s why “I have a question” is kind of my catchphrase. Because I want to know the answer and I want to know it right now. I want to know what to do with my degree, what career path to take, how to be a successful musician, how to be a good friend and sister and daughter, how to be a better songwriter, how to apply my nerdy passion for psychology in a way that makes me happy, and HOW TO FIX THE LITTLE HOSE IN MY FUCKING TOILET (it is one of more minor inconveniences, but it definitely makes the list).
In this day and age, knowing the answer seems more and more necessary. Everyone on Instagram has their life together, why can’t you? Society is falling apart, what are you going to do about it? The pandemic is garbage, how are you going to stop it? And the internet, while supplying information, can also be overwhelming and stressful and wrong. The internet is often wrong.
So, I’m going to arm you with a phrase that is totally okay to use: “I don’t know”. Because “I don’t know” is better than lying. It’s better than making something up. It’s better than pretending you’re better than the truth. When I was in university, students would ask questions during class and professors often wouldn’t know the answers. What did the professor do? Say, “I don’t know, but I’ll look it up and get back to you”. These are professionals in their fields, instructing the future generation and even they had to admit that they don’t know everything. And that’s okay. My sexual psychology professor dedicated about 20 minutes every week to answering questions from the previous week. Questions she didn’t know the answer to at the time, so she went home and researched and came back with an educated answer. But her original answer was “I don’t know”.
“I don’t know” isn’t wrong, it isn’t right either, but it’s simply a place holder. A place holder until you have the information. Eventually, I’ll know what to do with my life, what to do with my obsession with music, love of writing and nerdy interest for psychology. I’ll research how a speedometer works, get my mom to teach me how to change a tire, and (if I’m lucky) I might even fix my toilet. But for right now, I don’t know.
From me, with love, to you,
I drink a lot of water, so I spend a lot of time peeing. Stay with me, I promise this is going somewhere. Let’s say I pee 5 times a day and I spend an average of 4 minutes in the bathroom every time. That means I spend 20 minutes a day, 140 minutes a week, 600 minutes a month, 7,300 minutes a year. Based on this estimate, if I live to 80 years old, I will spend 405 days peeing. That is so many days.
However, you rarely see people on TV or in movies peeing. Watching someone pee would be uncomfortable and boring and awkward, so you don’t see it. However, these characters are “real people”, or at least that’s what we’re made to pretend. So, you can assume that these people pee and stub their toes and have idle conversations and take the bus and get stuck in traffic. Sometimes you see these things happen, but often you don’t. You only see what’s relative to the plot. You see the big moments, because what we watch is more often than not about big moments. You watch weddings and divorces and fights and couples getting together and breaking up. You see details about natural disasters and wars and adventures. The moments full of passion and desperation. You don’t watch people pee.
In Hitch, Will Smith says, “Life is not the amount of breaths you take, it's the moments that take your breath away”. Which is a wonderful sentiment. I would love for that to be true, but I don’t believe it is. You could sit around your whole life waiting for big moments and forget how much life there is outside of those moments. Some of it seems mundane and yawn-worthy, but you need yawn-worthy moments. You need to pee.
Why do you need yawn-worthy moments? Sometimes they’re essential stepping-stones. They’re the crappy job you work so you can get work experience for better jobs. They’re the long drive to a campsite where you have an amazing weekend. They’re the time spent shopping for the perfect present to give to someone. If you didn’t get work experience, if you didn’t drive, if you didn’t look for the present, you wouldn’t get the big moments that you crave.
Sometimes, you just need to get something done. You need to do the laundry and make dinner and do dishes and clean the bathroom. You need to run errands and go grocery shopping and fill the car with gas. Do you know how exhausting life would be if all of these mundane tasks were exciting? If every time you ran the dishwasher a marching band walked by? I would throw out my dishwasher.
I watch a lot of TV shows and movies, it’s a bit upsetting if I think of how much time I have committed to screens. And growing up I craved these big moments. For arguments in the rain and grand romantic gestures. I longed for drama and excitement because I thought that would make my life enjoyable. But it doesn’t.
I’ve had movie moments. I’ve had the big arguments and heartbreak and trauma and life-changing moments. I have fallen in love and had big romantic gestures and gone through life’s milestones. For nearly 22 years, I have sought out the moments I’m supposed to want, and I’m going to let you know they’re really fucking overrated.
And maybe I’m just not a “big moments” kind of person. Maybe I wasn’t meant to fall in love in a house swap (The Holiday) or give someone a flash mob (Friends with Benefits) or fight a t-rex (Jurassic Park)…okay, that last one was a bit out of left field but you get my point. Maybe those big moments are for someone else. But I’m equally as content sitting alone at home in pajamas, eating microwave nachos and writing this post. Microwave nachos are fucking awesome and this is the first time in weeks I’ve had time alone to myself in the house.
Life shouldn’t feel like a movie because it’s not. You’re allowed to have movie moments, a beautiful wedding and crazy parties and that upside-down kiss from the Tobey Maguire Spiderman movie. But remember to revel in the smaller moments. And I think I like it better that way. I don’t mind commuting, I enjoy taking naps, and sometimes I just need to pee.
From me, with love, to you,
I wrote this song this past winter and, well, she fucking slaps. (In my opinion of course).
Usually when I write about music, I put the link for the song at the end. However, in this circumstance, I’m going to ask you to listen to the song first.
He lies through his teeth when he’s talking to me.
During my fourth year of university I was constantly “seeing people” and “talking to people” and “hanging out with people”. No commitment, no labels, no fixtures. Sometimes I loved it. I felt like a badass. For the first time in my life I was taking risks in terms of relationships. I was taking a more active part in my social life, rather than waiting on other people. I was so tired of pretending to be meek or mild around guys, because that’s not who I am.
But it was a bit of a double-edge sword. While, I felt like I was finally being honest with myself and with others about what I wanted, I was still hanging out with boys who…didn’t excel in communication. I did my best to be honest with what I wanted (nothing serious), but it kept coming across as overwhelming. Apparently, I’m pretty loud.
We out for blood, gonna getcha,
Try to run but where you gonna go?
And then I started feeling bad for myself, which was gross. I couldn’t understand why I was being misheard or misunderstood when I felt like I was the one being honest. However, this is why relationships (in any capacity) can get messy. Because two people can have two different stories.
I stood on one side thinking I was being honest and open and trying to engage in healthy communication. I didn’t want to play games. On the other hand, stood someone who also didn’t want to play games, but had a different way of going about it. In the end, I felt they were being cold and distant, and they saw me as abrasive and overbearing. The ironic part is we both wanted the same thing.
I wanted to write a song that made me feel confident in myself. That helped me to understand the story as a whole, and also make me laugh. I believe I achieved that goal.
I bare myself and pull him in,
I bear the bullshit that he spits
Additionally, I didn’t want to paint myself as a victim. I was so tired of writing “love” songs where I felt I had victimised myself. I’m an adult, I made adult decisions, so it was time for me to own up to that.
When I wrote this song, I wanted people to know that there were steps I took that made me part of the issue. I was responsible for the way I was feeling. I’m not a delicate little flower. I’m not sitting around for someone to save me. In the end, I was and am equally responsible for every time something didn’t play out. It can feel nice to place the blame on someone else, but it’s just a shitty coping mechanism.
Boys think they can play the devil at her game.
I didn’t want to write about one situation or one guy. I wanted to tell bits and pieces of different stories, all compiling to seem like one experience.
“We Out for Blood” has quickly become a personal favourite for me. As much as I love the way I feel about the song, I also am really proud of the way I wrote it. In a way it tells two stories: it’s my story of a jaded girl who keeps meeting up with guys who do her wrong. And it’s the guys’ story of meeting this insane girl who’s playing games. Plus, (as I said) it makes me laugh. And if you can’t laugh at the devil, you may as well laugh with her.
Don’t let the devil, inside your home.
From me, with love, to you,
This is a weird year. Actually, let me correct myself. This is a shitty year. And shitty years provide very little to be thankful for. They provide more heavy sighs than they do moments of excitement. However, it’s Thanksgiving (or at least, Thanksgiving weekend) and I refuse to not sit down and take a moment to be grateful.
Early on the in pandemic, my younger sister and I played a game: “What are you most excited for when corona is over?”. We talked about the life we wanted post-COVID-19. We talked about going to movie theatres and giving hugs. I have not hugged my best friend since February, and I want to cry. We wanted to go out for dinner and not get hand sanitizer rashes or mask-acne. But as weeks passed, we realised that this game was fucking depressing. The farther we got into the pandemic, the farther we were from the end.
So we changed the game: “What is a silver lining of the pandemic?”. The goal was to focus on the good, when everything was bad. We didn’t want to think about the future, because we literally had no idea what it looked like. It’s not that we were attempting to view the pandemic through rose coloured glasses, we understood what was, and is, going on. People have lost loved ones, lost jobs, lost houses and lost all sense of social interaction. The economy sucks, food insecurity is ridiculous, and I don’t even want to talk about politics. We knew the reality of the situation, but we tried to bring something positive out of it.
I understand that the pandemic is (as Jake Tapper would say) a “hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck”, I’m not denying that. However, here are some of the reasons I am (barely) thankful for the pandemic:
1) I got my family dinners back
My family is busy. We all have different schedules and jobs and social lives. During a usual summer, we would be hard pressed to find time we could all be together. When I was younger, family dinners were a staple in my life but in the recent past they were harder and harder to come by. The pandemic and all its misery gave us the time to sit down and have dinner together. To try new meals and revisit old classics. Usually we all run in 200 directions, but there was nowhere to run anymore. I got to spend time with the best people in my life and I can’t be upset.
2) I started learning American Sign Language (ASL)
This has been a long-time goal of mine. I’ve always been a bit of a nerd when it comes to languages, but there was something particularly appealing about ASL. When I moved home, I recruited my sister to my cause, and we started to learn ASL together. We learned to tell jokes and recite old vines, (Whoever threw that paper, your mom’s a ho) as well as everyday phrases we might actually need. My parents were pretty distressed that we picked up a secret language, but it made gossip in a tight space easier. I recently got to use ASL at work to help a customer, which was incredibly rewarding. Learning to bake sourdough could’ve been fun, but this seems like a more useful skill.
3) I started working out again
Y’all have already read this:
4) I learned to make pie
My paternal grandmother was an incredible baker. She could make anything under the sun, and it was all beautiful and delicious. Granted, I’m going off tales of others because she passed away a year before I was born. Over the years, I heard story after story about her different baking adventures, but one fan favourite was her pie crust recipe. Flaky and gorgeous, I have heard many stories about pies my grandmother made. So, one day I called my aunt and asked her to send me the pie recipe, and went to making my dad’s favourite pie: apple. Upon scrolling through my camera roll, I have eaten more pie this summer than I have in years. We kept coming up with new flavours to test. With fall here, I think I’m going to go for the ultimate diabetes-inducing pie, pecan, which is essentially just butter, pecans and sugar.
So it’s not much, but it’s also a lot. It’s four things, which is more than some people have right now. I still have a job, I’m corona-free and so is my family (knock on wood). I’ve got a best friend who I can’t hug but I can see from a distance. I get to see my family, when I know for many people that isn’t an option. Plus, in 24 hrs I’ll stuff myself full of turkey until I’m nauseous. It’s not the life I wanted this year, but it’s what I have. I’m thankful that I get to spend time with my family when many people don’t. I don’t know if I would got as far as saying I’m thankful, but I’m definitely thankful-ish.
From me, with love, to you,
I have a thought, and I’m not sure how to phrase it. I’m going to take my best shot here, but I’m not confident that I will get this correct the first time. So, bear with me.
In this world there are people who are hot and then there are hot people. “People who are hot” are simply attractive people, whereas hot people live a “hot person lifestyle”. The kind that you see on Instagram with beaches in Greece and yachts off the coast of France. They eat vegan food and look good when they work out. They have attractive significant others and hot friends. They have full and thriving Instagram accounts to show off their life and honestly, their lives look really fun. Saying “I’ve never been jealous of hot people” would be a outright lie. I’m often jealous of hot people.
Because their lives look like the life I’m supposed to have. And I understand that I just discussed this topic in my post “Living Unremarkably”
But every once in a while, I’m still tempted to go out and live that dream life where I get served champagne on a boat.
However, the conversation came up between my sister and myself this summer while we were swimming at the cottage. We were swimming in a lake with crocs and pool noodles, having a lake shower and rating each other’s handstands. Yes, this is a real situation, and yes, I recognise I’m 21, but you can always improve your underwater handstand.
Over the course of the summer we both saw photo after photo of girls dressed up to sit by the pool. Hair done, makeup done, jewellery on, with a pool in the background. And my sister and I were baffled. How do you go swimming if you have makeup on? How do you judge each others’ dives without messing up your hair? Do you lose rings or bracelets when you play underwater tag? We had so many questions.
We knew the reality of the situation. These girls likely didn’t swim. They sat on the poolside drinking fun drinks with little umbrellas and sunbathed. Don’t be mistaken, I’m always down for a good sunbathe. I wanted to leave this summer a crispy chicken nugget, and I believe I got pretty close to that goal. However, I still want to jump in the lake and go tubing and have a contest to see who can swim the farthest underwater.
And I wonder about this a lot. Not just the swimming, but the whole lifestyle. Do they lay around in gross sweatpants and bake cookies on Sunday mornings? Do they ever stay in on Friday nights and play boardgames? Do they have family movie nights? Do they have moments that are ridiculous and silly that don’t get photographed? Because not to sound like a boomer but those are sometimes the best moments. All the moments that I’ve laughed until ginger ale came out my nose or tried to find the ugliest outfit at Winners or sang Broadway tunes at the top of my lungs walking down the street. I love getting dressed up and going to clubs and doing things that make me feel (for lack of a better term) bougie. But I also love being a degenerate and re-watching the Twilight movies. It’s all about balance.
I guess what I’m getting at, is although the hot person lifestyle looks fun…it doesn’t always look fun. It looks like a lot of work. Nobody smiles in their photos, as if it were 1910. Nobody is bloated, which can only mean nobody gets pizza delivered, because pizza makes you bloated. And doesn’t it take so much time and energy to always do your hair and makeup? Wouldn’t it be nice just to leave the house? Do you ever go to breakfast, or to the corner store in your pajamas? And not cute matching pajamas, but the gross pants that are too short and a t-shirt from a high school club. Because sometimes you just need to grab milk but putting clothes on is a lot of work. And all this brings me to my question:
Are you having fun?
Because if you are, I’m really happy for you. Whoever you are, hot person, I want you to have fun. I want you to live the life that you enjoy. I don’t really want anyone to be unhappy… okay there’s a couple people but it’s a very small list and you’re probably not on it. I just want to know if you’re ever tired of it all. Because don’t be mistaken, I get frustrated with my life and want to pull my hair out, but all in all I love it. Three years ago I set out to make sure I love my life and for three years I have. I just want to make sure you love your life too.
And maybe you do. Maybe you have no interest in catching frogs with your sisters or washing cars with your dad or playing card games with your friends. Maybe that’s not what you want and that’s okay. I just want to know if you’re happy. I understand that it’s weird someone you don’t really know wants you to be happy, but I do.
I guess I won’t know the answer to this question. I don’t think the hot person lifestyle entails reading the blog of a small, almost non-existent, creator. I’m outside the hot person atmosphere and like I’ve said 1,000,000 times, I’m just shouting into a void. But I have this question and I want to know the answer.
Are you happy? Because I hope you are.
From me, with love, to you,
When I moved back to Toronto, I wrote this post called “Dating at Home” which you can read here:
At the time, I thought dating at home was going to be this big hurdle I was going to have to conquer. However, you should be pleased to hear that dating at home has not yet been a concern. All those pesky things I was worried about haven’t even come up yet! No awkward interactions between my parents and boys, no uncomfortable conversations about curfews, no explaining dating terms to my parents. It’s actually been very easy to manage
And if you find yourself asking, “My goodness Victoria, why hasn’t it come up yet?”. Well, firstly, welcome back from your coma, I have a lot to tell you about what has happened in the world since February. But for the rest of you who have been conscious for the last 7 months, you know exactly why none of these things have been a problem. I have not been dating.
I have not gone on a single date since being back in Toronto and honestly, it’s starting to feel pretty fucking miserable. Don’t be mistaken, I’m not a serial dater. I don’t hop from one guy to the next, getting free meals and drinks. That’s not my style. I’m just a 21-year-old with an interest in guys and I like to act on that interest every once in a while. And it’s not even about being in a relationship. However, the prospect of a relationship, the idea of dates, the feeling of meeting new people you are attracted to, are all things I enjoy.
Look at it this way. Imagine your life is divided into categories. These categories are things like school, work, family, friends, athletics, etc. Things that take up your time. One of those categories would be “relationships”. And within relationships you can label yourself as many things:
But, because of the whole “pandemic situation” all the usual “single” activities have practically been wiped from existence. It’s not that being single defines me or was this pillar in my life. I have other things going on, but the “relationship” category is now kind of empty. I’m just starting to miss the presence of that category in my life, because I enjoyed doing “single” things.
I loved going on dates and hanging out with new people. I loved acquiring new stories and writing new songs and “will he won’t he” at the end of the night when he walked me home. I miss that and I don’t know when I’m going to get it back. Originally, I thought I could wait out the storm and date normally when the world was normal. However, COVID-19 seems pretty fond of the planet earth, and with the 2nd wave rearing its ugly head I don’t think that “normal” exists anymore. At least, not the normal I was hoping for. I want to find a way to do things now, rather than waiting for something that could be years in the future. So this all leaves me with one question:
How do you properly date in a pandemic?
I know some of you have been doing it. I’ve been watching the Instagram stories and Tik Toks and Facebook posts and I know you guys have been out and about. Granted, some people are just completely disregarding the pandemic. But I don’t want to be that person, I want to find a way to date safely, I just don’t know how to do that.
Dating on a good day is a nightmare. Are we going to have enough to talk about? Is he going to like me? Am I going to get catfished? Am I going to get murdered? (Because every girl who uses a dating app has to ask that last question) Now, on top of everything, I need to add: Is he infected with a deadly virus? And this all just seems like a lot to take on. I want to take it on, I just don’t even know where to start.
I guess what I’m saying is I’m reaching out for true and tried advice. I don’t know what I’m doing here, but clearly some of you do. Please message me with how you’ve been dating during quarantine. Are park dates fun? Do you socially distance at a bar? Did you hug your date? Do you have a “quarantine buddy”? I really don’t want to have to rely on Zoom dates. Tell me your secrets because I need to figure this out. Pretty soon I’m going to join a convent and just slap a big “Foreclosed” sign on my relationship category.
I’m in uncharted waters and I need a little bit of a map. So, send me your advice, your quarantine dating stories, your triumphs and your pitfalls. I can guarantee I will read every single one (I have a lot of time on my hands right now). I want to figure this out and learn and there is no manual for this. I’ve looked. I just want to live a life again, because to be honest it doesn’t really feel like I am right now. It feels like I’m just filling time and I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to be productive. I want to start filling up my categories.
Could you give a girl a hand?
From me, with love, to you,
For all of August, I lived in New Brunswick. When I say it like that, it sounds a bit random, but I have a cottage there and my paternal family is from there. The story of how my family came to own the cottage is a bit of a tale, but the SparkNotes version is:
My family owned it in the 60’s, somebody else owned it starting in the 90’s and we bought it back 5 years ago.
And because my dad grew up at the very same cottage, there are 100 stories I’ve heard and 2,000 stories I’ve yet to hear. Moreover, the east coast holds a lot of memories for me, personally. When I was little my family would stay with my cousins for 3 weeks and we would visit them, my dad’s friends and my grandfather. We swam and camped and biked and ate two bite brownies covered in icing and drank ginger-ale and played “store” in their basement.
And like I said, we spent time with my grandfather. My grandfather was a character; he had big eyebrows and wore a fishing vest more often than any other item of clothing. My grandfather told stories about everything under the sun, always with a side of vermouth and gin.
Even as we got older, my sisters and I carved out a space in our summers to go see our grandfather and our cousins. Until I was 16. That spring my grandfather passed away and we flew out to New Brunswick to tell stories and pack up my grandfather’s house.
In the coming years my sisters and I got older and we stopped going to New Brunswick as much. We were in university and working jobs and carving 3 weeks into our summers became more and more complicated. But as I mentioned, 5 years ago my dad bought his childhood cottage.
And coming to New Brunswick is different now. It’s more intermittent; apart from this summer I usually stay for long weekends or at most a week. We don’t spend time at my cousins’ house anymore, and I don’t really go into town that often.
However, a couple weeks ago, my dad and I were in town running errands when my dad suggested we stop by my grandfather’s house. I hadn’t seen my grandfather’s house in 6 years, since I helped pack it up after he died. I had heard that the new owner had made some changes, but I barely even recognised it when we drove up. The siding had changed and the brick was painted. The inside had been gutted into an open floor plan. No ginger-ale in the fridge for when we came to visit. No glass figurines in the living room. No walker by the back door. It wasn’t my grandfather’s home anymore. I stood there on the street and looked at the house I spent so much of my childhood in, and barely recognised it. The only evidence that he ever lived there, was the fact that I knew he did.
But one day, I won’t be around anymore to remember that my grandfather lived there. My sisters, my cousins, my aunts and uncles, my parents and their friends. None of us will be around to tell people that my grandfather once lived in that house. And when that happens my grandfather’s memory will disappear, and I think he would be okay with that.
My grandfather lived simply. He wanted to fly fish on the Miramichi and take drives to Freeport. He wanted to eat breakfast at Burger King and drink cheap gin and listen to classical music. You will never read about my grandfather in books or see him in a TV show or movie. People (apart from me) will not write songs about him and you would never be able to recognise a photo of him. On paper, he lived an unremarkable life.
But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t special.
The month I spent in New Brunswick, every third story was about my grandfather. About bottle openers in glove boxes of cars and getting dressed up in tuxedos to go out to dinner. The time he mucked a bottle of scotch watching Johnny Carson. The times he went hunting and fishing and camping and every story was told with laughs and smiles. The life he lived was incredible, but if I were not telling you about it right now, you would never know.
So, I’m standing there with my dad, looking at the house, thinking about the stories I know and the moments I had with my grandfather, and looking at this unrecognizable, unremarkable house and I realised something. Living an unremarkable life is more than enough.
When everyone is trying to tell you that “special” lives are filled with travel and adventure and wealth, remember that’s not always true. Because I have known people with special lives that had none of that. It’s enough to catch frogs at the cottage and have nachos after skiing and spend time with your family. It’s enough to laugh until you pee because your sister does an incredible Celine Dion impression, or watch movies when it rains, or play boardgames or work on a Friday night for the extra hours or do all the things that people have labelled “mundane”.
And it seems like such a simple life lesson but I forget it nearly everyday. I get consumed by making sure I live the best life. I watch other people have extravagant parties and luxury items and live a life that seems remarkable, and I find myself thinking “I want that”. And I get so caught up in the likes and follows and the shares, that I forget how inconsequential it is. I am so obsessed with living a productive life, I can forget to live a happy one.
In some ways, I think it may be better to live a life that is unremarkable. It might be better to have family dinners and girls’ nights and inside jokes with your coworkers. It might be more important to be loved by 10 people than admired by 10,000.
And it’s so easy to think you know this lesson. To think you understand what it means. But then you’re standing in front of your grandfather’s old house with you dad. And you’re looking at where your dad grew up, the backdrop of your childhood memories, and that place is now someone else’s.
Someone else will live an unremarkable life there, and in 40, 50, 60 years, their grandchildren will look at the house and have the same realisation. And that new family will have no idea that my family ever existed. Even though my unremarkable life overlapped with theirs’. They won’t know about the brown bread and the pies and the Saturday-morning-fried-egg breakfasts made in the kitchen. They won’t know about my aunt’s dog or my dad’s old mustang. But all those things existed, and they were beautiful.
And they were remarkable.
From me, with love, to you,
If you’ve ever spent any time reading my blog, or any time with me in person, or heard me speak for all of 30 seconds, you’ve realised that my sisters are very important to me. It is difficult for me to verbalise how important they are, but I believe it is what people describe as “unconditional love”. It is the kind of love that has no rules or regulations. There are no terms or conditions, nothing could ever change how I feel about those two weirdos.
And many of you probably know this already. The three of us are joined at the hip. We have more inside jokes than any group of people should ever have, all of which is accompanied with jargon that we have created in order to better communicate with each other. What do I mean by that? I mean we use bread flavours to describe our moods and have specific terms for different types of “borrowing” when it comes to clothes. We use sounds like merrrrrr and nieshpa and other non-English words to let each other know what’s on our minds. I drew a circle in the air once and my sister looked at me and said, “Yeah, I know I’m craving paella too”. It can get a little weird in my house, but it’s the best kind of weird.
To say it bluntly, there are no two people in the world that are more important to me. Which is why the last three weeks have been so special. Despite living in Vancouver for the last four years, the three of us are rarely apart. I lived in Vancouver with my older sister, but regularly came home to Toronto or my younger sister came out to see us. But, with coronavirus (fucking pandemic) we hadn’t been altogether for 8 months. 8 MONTHS! That’s so many months.
So, three weeks ago my older sister came home and my god it was hectic. The three of us are like a tornado. I’m talking dance parties walking down the street, laughing in the grocery store so hard you have to sit down, speaking sign language (yes, actual ASL), and singing on the plane for two hours. We are a loud group of people, but we will try our hardest to entertain you. During those three weeks we laughed so hard that one of us peed and one of us vomited.
And that’s what makes today the most difficult.
Today it the first day in 21 years that I have to live in a city by myself. Early this week I dropped my younger sister off at university and today I took the older one to the airport so she could go back to Vancouver. And the house is so quiet. It’s just me here and I don’t know what to do without them. Who do I have girls’ nights with? Who do I get to wake me up in the morning? Who’s going to pack granola bars for me when I get hungry in a shopping mall?
I wasn’t really meant to live apart from those two, but now I have to. And I will let you know right now that I am not prepared for this. That is just a fact. The sky is blue, dogs are adorable, and I am not prepared to live in Toronto by myself. And I get that growing up is about change and being independent and that eventually this would happen, but I’m going to let you in a secret: This fucking sucks.
So, I’ll try my hardest not to cry. I’ll try my hardest to be a big kid. And I’ll teach my younger sister to cook over Zoom so she doesn’t starve to death, and my older sister will hear all my new music over the phone and maybe that will tie me over for the next little bit. Or maybe I’ll be a nightmare for the next week or so because I’ll have nobody to be weird with. Nobody will play Super Mario Bros with me or speak in non-English sounds or understand what it truly means to be “done yoted”.
I don’t believe there is a solution to this problem. This may be one of those occasions where I just rant into the void. Where I tell you that I have the most amazing best friends that just happen to share my genetics. Where I tell you that the life I lead is great because of them. Where I let you know that if this week I seem a bit down in the dumps it’s because I’m just feeling a little lost. I believe this is going to be a pumpernickel, brown pasta, green shirt photo, Felix trying to make it up a hill, losing a poodge kind of week.
And I’m sorry if you didn’t get all that, but I think I know 2 people that did.
From me, with love, to you,
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