edmonton, I’m gonna miss ya.

It’s less than two weeks until I move (I know!) and now that I have a moving date set, and it actually feels real, I’m starting to think about all the totally Edmonton things I’m not going to be able to enjoy anymore.

Like the River Valley, for example, arguably the best part about living in this city. I know, I know–I’m moving to Vancouver Island, there’s trees, flowers, and ocean there. But I’ll miss my River Valley–a wooded escape from the hustle and bustle of the medium-sized city.

And thunderstorms. This summer we’ve been blessed-ish with a thunderstorm almost every day. It can be a bit alarming being woken up at 1:30 AM by the crack and boom of a thunder clap, but these storms are summer to me. I love hearing the rain pour down (I’m sure there will be plenty of that where I’m going) and watching the lightning spread across the sky (not so much of that, though), and I’m gonna miss it.

And I’m going to miss Oodle Noodle, Burger Baron, The Olive Garden, Montana’s (I like their cheap ribs, okay?), and Block 1912 and their perfect, little tasty pastries.

I’ll miss knowing exactly where I am and where I’m going–geographically, anyway. And I’ll miss fitting in, because as I’ve said before… making friends doesn’t come so easily to this girl.

I’ve been so fortunate to meet some of the best people in this city, and even more fortunate to call these people my friends. And they’re what I’ll miss the most, I think (I know).

the ol’ pack & purge

I’m completely convinced that you have no idea how much shit you have until you have to consider the logistics of moving said shit across a province and an ocean and into a tiny basement suite on an island.

I started purging early. Or, at least I started trying to purge early (I’m a bit of a hoarder/packrat/overall disaster and I’m sentimental to boot). My early days of packing consisted of putting everything I wanted to keep in the big box that used to house a barbecue, and putting the 1 or 2 or maybe 3 things that I decided to donate in a black garbage bag (that’s still sitting in my room, by the way). Soon, the big BBQ box was overflowing, and I moved on to filling smaller boxes.

So, what I ended up with is all my shit rearranged into way too many boxes. Looking at it I know that it’ll be absolutely impossible to cram all of that into a minivan, and that means I’m going to have to go back and seriously purge.

And so I did.

I started going through my clothes again, and again, and then one more time for good measure. I think that’s the secret to a deep clean–repeated purging. Each time I went through my shrinking wardrobe I was able to get rid of something new. Some of it was too small (leftovers from my tiny days) and some of it was just not my style anymore (I went through a Missy Elliot-influenced Adidas zip-up phase) and some of it I was holding on to for sentimental reasons… and it’s not practical to hang on to an orange chiffon skirt and pink cardigan from Primark (although, as I write this, I am re-thinking getting rid of the skirt. Hmm.) just because I bought them on my trip to Scotland in 2012.

By the end of it, I was sweating buckets and my back was screaming at me, but I’d collected 3 almost-overflowing black garbage bags of goods to donate. Shoes, outerwear, jeans, dresses, etc. You name it; I donated it. So, if you live in Edmonton and you’re in the market for a nude pair of patent leather, platform Maryjane pumps, or black and white floral-patterned chinos… there’s a good chance they are coming to a VV near you. 

As much as it was a really emotional process–I have a tendency to get attached to things–it felt really, really good to clean out my closet in a real way. And I mean, all of this stuff was just sitting in my closet, never getting worn by me… but now it can have a new life and actually get used by someone else.

house hunting

I’m in Victoria this weekend with my mum searching for a place to live (thanks mum!), and I am already blown away by the city that’s going to be my new home.

Everything is so lush here. And everybody is so nice. And the university is so big (that last one I’m a bit anxious about, but I’m working through it).

The campus is huge, and I mean huge, but my supervisor has reassured me that I’ll mostly be hanging out in the Fine Arts building, probably in my office (!!!!) or one of the other rooms dedicated to massaging those creative juices. After a quick visit with my supervisor where we talked about all the amazing classes I can take for almost-free (thanks to scholarships, grants, etc.–god bless my big brain), my mum and I wandered over to the University Centre to pick up my ID card and check out the “cafeteria”.

I haven’t been in many cafeterias in my lifetime, but I’ve definitely never been in one that looked or smelled like this. It’s massive and it’s beautiful and it had a selection of food places that made the sad Subway in MacEwan’s Building 6 look even sadder in comparison.  Like, is this a university or a resort? 

Judging from the Brown-eyed Susans and cattails we saw on the way to the bookstore (our next stop), perhaps a bit of both?

 

After walking, walking, and more walking around campus, we dragged our tired, hungry and maybe kind of grumpy (on my part, anyway) butts to get food at this little pasta place, aptly named The Lil Pasta Place. We enjoyed the most delicious pasta I’ve ever had, the freshest tasting calamari in the world (I’m convinced) and authentic, in-house-made tiramisu. Yeah, it was pretty tasty. But, it might have been trumped by the seaside fare we enjoyed for dinner–mussels and clams for me, a piece of deep-fried fish for my mum, followed by my favourite treat: ice-cream! All eaten dock-side–it doesn’t get much better than that.

 

 

 

Basically, it’s not going to be a hardship to live here… in some ways. I know that I’ll stick out like a sore thumb, and that I’ll go through a roller coaster of emotions when I move out here and have to go to school and meet new people and do new things and take care of myself completely, but, if those mussels are any indication, living almost ocean-side will be worth it.

 

 

As long as I can actually find a place to live.

 

Finding the ocean–no problem! Finding a place to live however…

 

reasons I’m scared to move: chapter 2

I like to think that I’ve got it pretty together, most of the time. And I do a decent enough job of taking care of myself and making it through most days relatively unscathed.

Until my car breaks down on the side of the highway and I’m stranded in Red Deer and I’m blocking holiday traffic, anyway.

I’ve always had the urge to be fiercely independent–probably because I’m shy and socially awkward and it’s just easier to do things solo. If you want something done right… well, you know. But there are certain things that I can’t do alone (tow my car, or replace its timing belt, for example) and when those things arise… I lose my mind. 

In situations where normal people would just, I don’t know, ask for help… my brain short circuits and instead of reaching out, I implode. And then I explode. And then I can’t recall what happens next because I’m probably in the throes of a panic attack.

Luckily, I’ve got a very understanding mother who has spent the last 26 years bringing me down to earth when I spiral out of control. And a dad who’s willing to shell out the money to pay to have my car repaired.

But what am I going to do when I’m 895 kilometres away? This past weekend sent me into a spiral of catastrophization–I was going to starve to death, fail out of school, lose my apartment, and just be overall incapable of taking care of myself when I lived away from home.

How can I take care of myself when I can barely take care of myself?

I don’t know and I’m terrified to find out.

I’m happy and I know it

I know that positive people are the worst because others’ happiness is just disgusting, but because I don’t give a fuck about all that I’ve decided to take a moment to reflect on how lucky I am.

I used to hate my life a lot. My BFF can attest to how much of an asshole I was–a pessimistic piece of shit who hated everything and everyone and mostly hated myself. I was probably depressed and I needed to change. I don’t know how I kept it up for so long to be honest; I spent the better part of 2009 being miserable and that carried into the following… 4, almost 5, years.

I was sad, self-destructive, mean, hateful, and just really unhappy. And I thought it was everybody else’s fault (naturally). That’s the thing about being seriously depressed–there’s always an excuse, and always a reason, and always a something to direct the blame away from numero uno and onto somebody (anybody) else. Depression is self-centred, it’s selfish, it’s a sickness. And as soon as I realized that, or, more aptly, as soon as my BFF told me I needed to get help or else, and I got help, and that led me to realize how sick I was  and how selfish I was and how miserable I was… I started the journey towards being better.

And it’s been a journey, and it’s going to be a long one. I know I still struggle with perfection, anxiety, and self-destruction–I have a tendency to catastrophize and get wound up and worry and explode emotionally. But, I’m aware of it and that helps. It also helps to have my BFF, my fucking rock, to lean on when things get shaky. And, because she’s across the country, I’m also fortunate to have a support network here that I can fall into (you know who you are, Peaches, et al). And not only do I have an emotional support network, somehow I fell into a pretty solid professional one, too (thank you university).

Isn’t that happiness just disgusting?

There’s this weird myth about being a writer, or any type of artist, that you have to be miserable to make art. And that’s such a lie–I mean, there’s value in reflecting on past misery. But real art doesn’t come from living that dissatisfaction. It comes from living through it.

summer of sarah: update

I unofficially declared this summer to be the summer of Sarah, and I did that because I wanted my last few months in Edmonton to be all about me. Selfish? Maybe. But it was something that I knew I needed after weeks and months and years of maneuvering my life around everybody else.

I thought that this would mean working out and eating well and writing lots, because those are all self-improve-y things that I know I need to work on. I wanted to become the best version of myself—making up for four long years of treating my body like trash in four short months.

That’s not happening. It started off well—I was running three times a week. I was working out every other day. I was buying groceries. But then something clicked—this wasn’t actually making my summer about me. This was putting my life into an (unfairly) extreme schema. I was spending more time improving myself (in between work and tutoring and fulfilling major human needs like sleeping) than actually enjoying myself. And doesn’t that completely negate the point of making this summer about me in the first place?

I think so.

So, I decided to refine my approach a little bit. And by refine, I mean now I’m just doing whatever I want. Anything. Anytime. With anyone.

And it’s awesome.

That means that sometimes I do work out. And sometimes I do buy groceries. And I get an average of 8 hours of sleep a night. But it also means I eat Oodle Noodle or Panda Hut Express more than I should. And I sometimes lay in bed binging seasons of Law and Order SVU for several days. And I go on impromptu road trips with my boyfriend where we spend too much money and eat too much food.

And I’m so fucking happy.

I have a little over 2 months left in my hometown before I head west and I want to make the best of it. I’ve done the time (4 years of university, a lifetime of being a doormat, et cetera) and now I’m going to do whatever I want.

father’s day

I took my dad to the grocery store a few weeks ago. He needed to pick up vegetables–a cucumber, and some red onion–for a big salad he was making.

“Rachel Ray says ‘Make it big!'” he told me on the way there, “That way there’s lots of leftovers.”

My memories of my dad are stretched across my youth, and adolescence, and early adulthood; each one a mile marker for one thing or another.

He worked night shifts at the Edmonton Journal when I was a kid. He’s a millwright/machinist, so his job, as I understood it, was to maintain the huge printing presses as they churned out the daily, overnight.

Every night when he left for work he’d pick me up and rub his stubbly cheek against my smooth one. Scratch scratch scratch.

He kissed my cheek when we rang in the Millennium as I watched the fireworks explode on our old Sony TV in the living room of the Old House. And I hugged him good night every night before bed until I was a teenager.

Summers are punctuated with evening swims, tinted pink by the setting sun, and fishing trips in his aluminum boat, where we lost lures and caught fish and let the B.C. sun bake our shoulders into the same golden tan.

On Father’s Day, I can’t help but think of this awful wooden craft I made for him in elementary school. It was a wooden moon attached to a wooden rectangle that we were allowed to paint and decorate in any way we chose.

I didn’t know when to say when with mine, and it ended up as this over-painted, over-decorated, over-everything monstrosity. But somewhere beneath the artfully splattered dark blue paint were the words “Happy Father’s Day”. And he left that on his bedside table for a long, long time.

Now, I never know what to get my dad as a gift because he has everything, and anything he doesn’t have he buys himself. Over the years I’ve gotten him stuff–fishing stuff, camping stuff, car stuff. I don’t know where any of that stuff is now–shoved in a Rubbermaid tote in the basement of the New House, or stored under a tarp at the trailer, maybe.

But the conversations, and the evening swims, and fishing trips, and the scratch scratch scratch of his scruffy beard, those are all left over.

body posi, part 2: dress shopping is hard

So, I went on the prowl for a dress to wear to a special occasion (I’m graduating!) that I have coming up. I spent the whole day at the mall, trekking from store to store in search of the perfect outfit to pair with my hot pink pumps and I ended up coming home empty-handed. Now, I know–that’s not a hardship. Not all shopping trips end successfully, (a. And, b), I’m just privileged to have the opportunity to go shopping in the first place.

I acknowledge my privilege and I have had unsuccessful shopping trips before. But, this time it was different.

It’s not that I couldn’t find anything, and it’s not that I wasn’t willing to try everything, it’s that nothing fit right. Six different stores, multiple different outfits, one single body that looked wrong in most dresses, and flat-out didn’t fit into some of them.

It was… upsetting.

The first place I hit was Aritzia: it’s where I go for most special outfits and I’ve always had pretty good luck finding stuff there (a quick glance at my closet confirms that I’ve had very good luck there). I browsed, I picked up every single pastel-coloured dress I could find (I have a certain colour scheme in mind), and I moseyed on over to the fitting room.

One dress pinched my armpit flab. The other clung to places it shouldn’t cling. Another fit well, but had a button-up top half that created some tension with my girls. I found a dress I didn’t hate, that fit me pretty good, but I decided that maybe I could do better for my big day.

So, I thought, I’ll try The Bay. It’s a department store; they literally have everything.

Everything except what I was looking for. Their selection of dresses ranged from strappy beach chic to Mother-of-the-Bride matron, and there wasn’t a whole lot in between (barring an Ivanka Trump dress that was cute, but not $110 cute). I didn’t even try anything on because I knew that those spaghetti straps and v-neck necklines wouldn’t be kind to my boobs, and I also knew I wanted to look, I don’t know, age-appropriate.

My next stop was Brandy Melville, for a literal second. I hit up Ricki’s, to no avail. Then I popped into Dynamite on a whim, based on a cute floral number I saw in the window. It was the perfect shade of pastel blue I was looking for, and it had a giant flower print that I thought would complement my vision. So, I grabbed the largest size and gave it a go.

It fit, kind of. And it looked alright. But once again it wasn’t the WOW I wanted. I hung it up and left it with the salesgirl, taking my big girl business elsewhere.

Forever 21 was on my way out of the mall, and even though the store is known for its vanity sizing, I thought “Why not?”. After all, how much more humiliated can a girl get?

So, I gave the bottom level a quick run-through, perusing for anything pastel. Nothing caught my eye, so I wandered upstairs to see what else they had to offer. Immediately, a maxi dress in their plus-size section drew my attention. It was beautiful, and although I’ve never shopped in that section before I decided to try it on.  I grabbed the smallest-big size and continued to browse. I would’ve grabbed some other things from the Big Girl section, if everything else didn’t look like total shapeless garbage. Instead, I found a trapeze style dress in the so-called regular section and headed to the change rooms.

After squeezing my tits and the rest of my bad self into the largest-small sized dress and quickly deciding that was a NO, I pulled the smallest-big sized dress over my head.

And I was swimming in fabric.

It was too big.

The other dress was too small.

And I was some sort of mystery size in between.

I’m not going to give up until I find my just-right, but I’m disappointed in my experiences today. Because it wasn’t just not being able to find a dress–it was realizing that my body shape, and type, and proportions limited my fashion choices. And trust me when I say the size of my waist has nothing to do with my sense of style, and the latent assumption that it does is offensive, and hurtful, and it made me feel like my body is wrong for about the billionth time in my life.

And all I was doing was looking for an outfit to make me feel special.

reasons I’m scared to move: chapter 1

I have terrible social skills.

I always have. I don’t know why–both my brothers are well-adjusted, sociable, likeable people, so it can’t be an environmental thing. I’m backwards, though. Shy. Weird. It made things difficult when I was younger. I remember I hated going to church because church meant Sunday School and Sunday School meant sitting in a room full of other kids who I didn’t know how to talk to.

The worst part about being socially awkward is being forced into social situations. It only makes it more uncomfortable. I’d get overwhelmed and I’d lose track of the conversation and my timing would be just a tick behind–so close, but when something is that close to being normal it makes it seem so much further off.

Regular school was tough, too. Every single first day gave me severe anxiety (although, back then I had no idea that this was even a thing–I knew I was different but I thought that I could force myself to be the same as everybody else. You can imagine how well that worked). Even if I remembered faces, names, friends, from past semesters… I didn’t know how to engage with them. Our relationship was forged in the confines of a particular classroom, and outside of that context I had no idea what to do or say. I didn’t have my script. I didn’t have a schema. And everybody else seemed to be doing just fine without one.

When I’m around new people I forget how to be myself. I know I’m inside me; I can feel my personality pressing against the inside of my skin. But there’s just something stopping me from letting it out.

I’m always just a few steps behind. It’s awful.

When I was in my late teens-early twenties, I drank. A lot. I drank because I couldn’t be social sober. I needed to drink until my inhibitions were completely wiped out. That means I don’t remember a lot of 19, 20, 21. Luckily, camera phones barely existed and apps like Snapchat and Instagram were merely a glint in their creators’ eyes, so I don’t have embarrassing photos/videos to fill in the gaps. I drank until I was funny. I drank until I knew the right things to say. I drank until I was drunk, and the rest I can’t quite remember.

University helped. I think it’s because in order to have any level of success in post-secondary school you’ve got to put yourself out there. Even if it’s just a little bit. I also managed to somehow make really good friends. Although, I’ve never had a problem forming strong bonds with people one-on-one–it’s group situations that really throw me off. But in school I found my way.

I faked it, mostly.

I stole behaviour from my best friend (a social situation wizard, god bless her). I would ask myself: What Would My BFF Do (WWMBFFD)?  And go from there. It helped me quite a bit, and I’m grateful for her because of that (and for a multitude of other reasons as well).

In between the social anxiety and faked social competency, I stumbled into myself. I took a creative writing class and that creative writing class led to another creative writing class which led to another… and before I knew it, I was part of a community. Some of it, I built. And some of it was pre-fab. But all of it is a safe space where I can be all the parts of myself, comfortably.

I’m writing this because I’m moving in three months and I’m terrified to leave this community behind. I know I’m going to have to start all over, and that’s scary. I’m afraid this was a fluke. An accident. A mistake. 

And I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it happen again.

 

summer reading list

So, last summer I had the pleasure of working for LitFest: Edmonton’s Nonfiction Festival and it was actually the best job ever. Not only did I get to work with an amazing woman (the executive director has next-level organizational skills, is one of the smartest women I’ve had the pleasure of breathing the same air as, and is just so cool) but I read so many books. So many. And it was awesome.

This summer I’m not working for LitFest (such a bummer), but I decided that it was no reason to let my summer reading slip. So, I decided to make my own list.

Here’s my list of hot summer reads or mostly just books I bought and I hope I can finally read this summer. Wait, before I begin, I thought that it would be fun to tell you why I wanted to read these particular books instead of just making a boring list.

But then I thought, maybe nobody cares?

But then I decided to do it anyway. So, enjoy!

Angela’s Ashes – Frank McCourt

Apparently this memoir is essential reading for, well, everybody.

Pathologies – Susan Olding

My supervisor recommended this book because it might help me form my thesis project.

The Year of Magical Thinking Joan Didion

Because Joan Didion wrote it.

Us Conductors – Sean Michaels

I bought this because it won the Giller Prize a couple years ago and now maybe I’ll actually make the time to read it. (I didn’t read it initially because I met Sean Michaels once last year and embarrassed myself horribly by making a joke that wasn’t funny and this book has sat in my room as a reminder of that. But now I’m finally ready to face that embarrassment once and for all).

Into Thin AirJon Krakauer

I’m obsessed with disasters.

Girl, Interrupted – Susanna Kaysen

I watched the movie and I just want to see how much of it was actually true.

even this page is white – Vivek Shraya

Vivek Shraya is a hometown hero, and I’ve never really read much poetry, so I figured I could kill two birds with one book: read some poetry and read some local talent.

I am Malala – Christina Lamb and Malala Yousafzai & Secret Sister – Helen Edwards & Jenny Lee Smith

I grouped these books together because the reason I’m reading them is essentially the same: they were both very thoughtful Christmas gifts from my family that I haven’t had the opportunity to read–yet.

Not That Kind of Girl – Lena Dunham

I kind of just want to see what all the fuss is about.

40 Below (1 and 2) – Edited by Jason Lee Norman

Edited by another hometown hero and including works from many more hometown heroes, I figured it was about time I support local writers and read these two anthologies.

The DilettantesMichael Hingston

During a talk in my last semester of university this local writer successfully piqued my interest about his novel.

The Horrors – Charles Demers

This book is a hangover from last year’s LitFest reading.

Blackout: The Things I Drank to ForgetSarah Hepola

I have heard great things and I can’t resist reading another Sarah’s work.

There you have it folks—an unabridged version of my summer reading hopefuls.

It might be a little ambitious considering I’m addicted to Netflix (and I’m lazy), but I’m feelin’ enthusiastic. If y’all want to read along with me, that’d be cool! Keep me posted on what you read, what you like, what you hate, et cetera. I’d love to hear it!