Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Trying To Move On? Read This.


Once, in an anti-smoking ad, producers sent kids to the streets on a smoke break.

They smoked faked cigarettes around adults that were on a smoke break as well. Nearly every single adult was bewildered by what they were seeing, and told them to stop. When the kids asked why they should stop, the adults said, “Because it’s bad for you.” And the kids responded, “Then why do you do it?”

Now that is a good ad. It gets the message across clearly and very effectively, but more importantly, it illustrates a very familiar human concept:

That many things are easier said than done.

Not swearing in fits of rage, not eating food we know is bad for us but tastes so, so good, and lastly, walking away from something we know is bad for us.

One thing I’ve been hearing about since my entrance into womanhood, and a thing that I have certainly experienced for myself at one time or another, is how hard it can be to move on from someone that does us no good whatsoever.

The tough part of this whole thing is that once someone enters into your life, it is next to impossible to imagine a life without them. Not everyone can be so easily dismissed.

What if the smoker never picked up the first cigarette?

A lot of people think that moving on is the part where you’re just over someone. You’re over their ways, your over their words, and you’re just so fed up. But that, simply, is just being over someone.

Moving on is different because you get to a place where you genuinely wish the best for this person. It might even mean smiling at them finding love with someone other than you. But most of all, it’s being at peace.  Peace with the past, peace with the present, and peace within yourself.

How does one find peace?

The best, and sometimes the only way to find peace, is to give it time. It is the most dramatic and cliché saying and suggestion, but that’s because it is deeply rooted in truth.

In many ways, a broken heart is like a wound. Sometimes it’s so deep and so internal you don’t even know it’s there. But after a while, the pain becomes unbearable, and you finally realize it. It then turns into a scar or a cut, and while it can be so present for the first little while, time passes and it slowly starts to fade away...

And even after it’s almost fully gone, you’ll see the little mark, the little difference between who you were then and who you are now.

Don’t be afraid to be changed by your experiences. Don’t apologize for being more careful. And don’t apologize for the steps you took to grow. You are the result of your life experiences.

But being bitter about the past is perhaps one of the most toxic ways to be. It disables us from truly basking in the greatness that is our present, even if it doesn’t feel so great at times, or ever. Because greatness doesn’t come from what we have. It doesn’t come from our luxuries or our ability to fulfill our materialistic desires.

Instead, greatness comes from being at peace. It comes from knowing that even if you were stripped of all that you had, you would still be at peace because of the greatness that lives within you.

So, if the greatness lies within us, why are we so caught up with people who only seem to take it away?

Simple.

We have not realized our greatness yet.

And to you, I say that you are worth the discovery of your greatness. And you’re certainly worth the discovery of your peace. You do not need to exhaust yourself with the process of trying to extract blood from a stone or assign meaning to things you know will mean nothing in the end.

You’re better than empty words and broken promises and repeated mistakes.

The good news is that you can still love a person and get over them, and you can still love someone and move on. But hate fits nowhere. Because all hate means is that a part of you is angry at the person, the situation, or yourself. And frankly, all three things go hand in hand.

Fill yourself with love. Look for love and light in everything that you do and everyone that you meet. Smile when you want to frown and be thankful when you feel there is nothing left.

I know it sounds like the most abstract and indirect route to getting to the place you know you need to arrive at, but there really is no final destination. Just a journey. And you ought to keep an eye out for the beautiful things you’ll see along the way.

So what if the smoker never picked up the first cigarette?


They would not have learned the beautiful lesson in finding the strength within themselves to conquer something they once felt they couldn’t.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Why Girls Really Post Explicit Photos (and How it Really Makes Men Feel)



I’ve been told I have terrible taste in television.

And that’s a fair statement considering that lately, I’ve been eating up excessive amounts of TLC’s Gypsy Sisters. I really didn’t think I’d fall victim to it but one day, while flipping through channels, I saw two catfights and horrible crimes against the English language and for some reason, got hooked. 

There is, though, a method to my madness.

Today, while my new show was on commercial break, I turned to my phone for entertainment during the intermission. I came across the photo profile of a rather beautiful girl.

Beautiful women always seemed to ignite a curiosity within me into their lives. I felt that maybe, they led these interesting and fun-filled lives that were so extraordinary that I myself might, for a brief period of time, be made to feel ordinary.

As I scrolled through her photos, I couldn’t help but realize the increasing explicitness of her posts. And what came to stand out more than the natural grace of her face was…her butt.

Literally.

The more I scrolled, the more of her body I saw. I couldn’t comprehend why someone this beautiful would feel the need to post these tasteless photos. I wondered if I was being too judgmental or too pretentious, but I truly felt that she deserved better than to be reduced to this.

That is, until I overheard the conversation taking place on my tasteless show.

I tuned in just in time to understand what was happening. One of the gypsy sisters had suggested flashing the people of New Orleans in order to get beads during Mardi Gras.

The tour guide had responded with a simple, but meaningful statement:

“The locals don’t do that. Only the tourists flash people. The locals know that they’re gonna get the beads anyway. So really, there’s no need to.”

If I hadn’t been looking at these photos, perhaps I wouldn’t have understood the significance of what the tour guide was saying. But I was.

And I did.

The truth is: I think we’ve all been there at some point in our lives. We feel like we have to over-compensate for something, anything. We might feel that we’re not smart enough, not pretty enough, not skinny enough, not rich enough, not cool enough, and the list just goes on and on and on.

So we find ways to draw attention to other parts of ourselves, our lives, or our bodies to remove the attention from where we don’t want it to be. It’s also safe to assume that everyone is ten times more aware of their flaws than anyone else. We tend to magnify our imperfections and minimalize our assets. And how sad is that?

I think that women think that if we show ourselves off, it gives men something to lust after. And while that’s true, they’re only lusting after what we show them. And if all that they're seeing is our body, all that they'll want is our body. 

But if it’s our accomplishments, our wisdom, our education, our passion, and should they be so wise as to be attracted to that, then it’s not just our bodies they want. But our minds and our spirits and our intellect.

I think the other reason we do it is to make other women jealous. So we’ve created this culture of women who are all head-to-head with one another to see who can get the most naked, who can get the most likes, and lose a lot of their respect in the process.

Now I’m not suggesting that we sit down and wear aprons and become housewives. But I am suggesting that we did not fight and march and demand the right to vote to maintain and sadly, expand our reputation as sex symbols.

If you think about it, women like this have a habit of throwing the whole steak to the dogs. We let them eat it all in one bite, and wonder why they want it all at once all the time, or leave after they’ve had their dinner. 

And if you think it's inappropriate or rude to be comparing men to dogs, I ask you to please consider how often women are referred to as bitches. Even amongst themselves.

This new perspective provided me with 3 small, but significant lessons.

The first is that there is knowledge everywhere, if you are willing to be a student. You could be watching trashy television, talking to a child, or in a class. If you are willing to learn, the universe is willing to teach.

The second is that there is a huge difference between tourists and locals. It’s up to us to portray ourselves accordingly. Tourists are here for a good time, not a long time. They can come party and drink all the alcohol they want and not worry about what they do while they’re here, and might not remember it anyway. And while the romance of this idea is so intriguing for many of us, we have to establish a home base somewhere, sometime. Locals might not be as exciting, but they know what they’re doing. And they know they’ll get the beads.

Lastly, it’s not one’s face that makes them extraordinary. It’s not their body or their poses or their captions. In the same way that it’s not one’s lack of beauty that makes them ordinary. Instead, it’s the choices that they make, the choices they do not make, their self-portrayal, the understanding of their worth, and the beauty of them figuring that out independently that makes them extraordinary.

When another commercial intermission came, I revisited her profile. I had tried to give her the benefit of the doubt and suggest that maybe she was reclaiming her womanhood and celebrating radical feminist theories. Logic and probability told me that it was likely not the case. Hiding or running away from her flaws? She didn’t appear to have any. Low self-esteem? Perhaps.

But the most likely answer was that she was figuring out her worth. And a couple hundred likes on a nearly nude photo might seem like her yellow arrow to "worth" and "significance". But it is misguiding.

A lot of things are misguiding.

Listen to me carefullybreasts and butts are located in the same place on every woman. As are the other sacred parts of their bodies we have come to devalue. You might know where to find her heart and her brain, but without heavy pursuit, you will never learn what is inside of it. And if we don't make it worth the wait, and certainly worth the while, he won't care to look for where your beads are hidden. In turn, you won't get his.

Sometimes we have to trust that we are enough. In our natural and bare, but not bare naked, state. We have to believe that fully clothed, and soft-spoken, we can get our messages and points across loudly and clearly.

We have to believe that we too, in our own flesh and skin, will get the beads anyway.


Thursday, 10 July 2014

Why I Had to Grow Up Even Though I'm in My Twenties

Let-Go

I always detest it when people say cheerfully, “Change is good!”

I mean, change is very subjective. How can we possibly assume that all change is good?

Personally, there are a lot of changes going on in my life right now, and yesterday my head nearly popped off and rolled itself around on the ground at all the madness.

Firstly, my parents have decided to put our house up for sale and move us into an apartment.  They say home ownership is becoming too costly, they’re getting older and mowing the lawn and plowing the snow is not as easy as it looks.

Secondly, one of my sisters and I are on the outs. The last time we had a dispute it lasted three years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this one followed suit.

Lastly, I’ll be attending a new campus this coming September. After spending the last four years familiarizing myself with the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus, I’m afraid of petty things; where I will park my car, whether I’ll find the washrooms easily or have an accident in the hallway, and whether the doors are push, or pull.

While all of these changes seem manageable, for some reason they seem to have been interfering with my life a lot lately.

Yesterday, to avoid my head popping off, I decided to go to my old elementary school to take a walk around one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city. The houses that fill the tree-lined streets are just beautiful. They’ve got big bay windows with beautiful panes and decorative doors, and long front porches that I would love to sit and drink tea on.

But when I turned into the parking lot, I saw my old school being bulldozed. As I exited my car and looked at the pile of concrete that had once been the place I made amazing memories, I had to answer one question about my resistance to all the changes going on.

What’s the real problem?

As I began walking, one foot in front of the other, step by step, I realized that the problem wasn’t that I was going to have to make small talk with people I did not know in the elevator until I got to my floor. I realized that it wasn’t about the fact that my sister didn’t care to speak to me, or that I would have to face the possibility of the door not opening if I leaned on it.

I realized that the problem was that I was going to have to grow up. And I mean really grow up.

Through all of this, my partner has repeatedly told me that I need to let things go.
“But how?” I sobbed to him with tears and boogers streaming down my face.

This was the question I would have to answer if I wanted to enter the next phase of my life with grace and dignity. I would be 23 years old in exactly 8 months and I had a lot of changes to make.

As I continued to walk, I felt the sun on my skin. Even though it was setting, it was still bright enough for me to feel the warmth of it touch me. And it felt really good. The warmer it felt, the more I was able to really understand the root of my emotions.

As I walked, I realized that I wasn’t upset we were selling the house. I knew it would be so much less of a burden on my parents. I had thought about this idea a hundred times over, more concerned with their well-being than waiting on an elevator. I realized that instead, I was upset that they hadn’t asked me about how I felt about it.

This was a good sign. It meant that, sure, I was an adult now, and wanted to be a part of our family’s decision-making instead of just dragged along in whatever worked best. Despite them being the parents and not really having to run anything by me at all, I wasn’t (contrary to popular belief) just a little kid anymore.

I was upset because I didn’t have a say.

When it came to my sister, I don’t think I was upset because she wasn’t speaking to me. I was upset about the circumstances surrounding the issue; the lack of closure. While explaining this to my partner, I told him, “I like there to be periods at the end of my sentences, not just ink that fades away.”

Truthfully, there was no period at the end of this sentence. There was no closure, no finishing statement. It was just one of those things that would hang in a cloud until someone decided to clear the air.

I walked back towards my car, parked in the lot of my old school. I stared again at the pile of concrete. I had flashbacks of recess, track-and-field day, and running long jump. I looked over to the two baseball diamonds I played slo-pitch on. The grass was growing over the gravel, what a shame.

Then I thought about how sad I had been to hear of this place getting bulldozed. When really, what did it matter? I didn’t go there anymore. It was no longer my school. It was just the school I had gone to at one point in my life.

It was then that I realized that I was too focused on the institutions where my memories took place, my house, my school, rather than the actual memories themselves. I was so fixed on cherishing the home of my moments that I almost forgot that the moments would have happened anyway.

As I walked back to my car, I hoped that my new school would have a parking lot just like this one. And I hoped that I would even be lucky enough to get a spot. I felt the fear of starting at a new place start to fade, and the excitement start to grow.

Maybe it wasn’t the fact that it was a new school, but that it was the last of two years that I would be a student. And truthfully, I loved being a student. I loved learning, I loved doing tests, I loved doing assignments, I loved reading. I loved the student life.

When I got home that night, I talked to my parents. I asked them if I could help in the search for our new place; townhouse, apartment, or shack. Surely, as long as I got to live with them, I would be fine.

And when I woke up in the morning, I apologized to my sister. It wasn’t about who was right or wrong, it was about the fact that I didn’t want to be the one who didn’t try to make it work.

And then I googled my new school. There is a parking lot. It looks just like the one my old school had. I even located the washrooms on the map. Couldn’t find any information about the doors, though.

I can’t say I always detest people who say cheerfully, “Change is good!” But maybe I can say I envy them. Because they don’t have to go soul-searching for answers to questions other people are too afraid to find out. They can rest assured that it isn’t about the change, it’s about the process.

And if there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that in life, we have to do one thing, and one thing only; trust the process.

Perhaps the reason change is so scary is because we become content with where we’re at, afraid that it won’t get any better than this. We’re afraid of who we’ll meet, whether they’ll be better than who we have in our lives already, and if the grass really is greener on the other side.

Why not just water our own?


But the refusal to believe that yes, there is better out there, illustrates a complacency that many of us, you and I included, are simply too good for.

So I can't face these upcoming changes with resistance. Instead, I can welcome them, walk with them, one foot in front of the other.

Step by step.

Monday, 9 June 2014

The Life Lesson Instagram Taught Me

Instagram for iOS app updated with landscape mode and more

Lately, I’ve been trying to revamp my Instagram profile.

As if I don’t spend enough of my valuable, irreplaceable hours on this planet surfing through people’s images of a life they want us to think they live, I’ve decided to “revamp” my profile.

Seriously?

Sadly, yes. Lately, I’ve noticed this trend of people cropping their photos, putting them strictly in black and white, or using only one type of filter and I feel like their profiles just look so much more sophisticated and clean cut.

So in true Stephanie fashion, I took my inspiration to the extreme and deleted about 200 photos from my profile, aware I might regret this later. (One time I wanted a fresh start so I made a new Facebook profile and lost a lot of my old contacts, photos, and posts.)

Yet here I was, ferociously tapping the delete button.

When Instagram had finally had enough of me and told me that I couldn’t delete any more photos, I complied and searched through popular images and people’s profiles instead.

It was then that I came across a girl who’s profile looked exactly like what I wanted mine to look like. Her photos were cropped, there were clean white spaces between all her photos, and despite the variation, they all seemed to be in uniform.

But as I kept scrolling, I noticed that she must have went through the same exact phase I did in wanting her profile to look more uniform. The more I scrolled, the less uniform her photos were. The more color there was. And the larger the images were.

I thought about the difference between her and myself.

I was trying to erase the past, and she was just building on it.

I thought, maybe instead of deleting my photos, I should just start posting them the way I want them to look. Why did it matter if my previous photos didn’t follow this trend?

Truthfully, I’m just an extreme person I assume, particularly after this event. I see to the very end of things. I try and look at the “big picture” even when the outline hasn’t been placed before me yet.

While it is a blessing to be so thorough, it prevents me from living in the moment, and in this case, remembering and sharing these moments with people who explore my life through my photos, and the instances I reminisce through my photos as well.

Then I thought about how seriously we, or at least I, take social media. Here I was completely restructuring my visual profile to appear a certain way to people I knew, who would certainly remember the time my profile was a mess, and conversely, people I had no idea even existed.

I learned a really valuable lesson in all of this.

The lesson is that one doesn’t need to erase their history to reshape their future. The same way a car does not need to reverse and retrace it’s route in order to take another direction. Sometimes all you have to do is make the turn.

I think ultimately, we allow things from the past that have no place in the present to haunt us and continue to remind us of who we were, and where we were in our lives, no matter how far away we might be from that place.

We hide these things from others, and in turn, ourselves, to try and forget that they ever happened, to try and forget that we were once and still are imperfect beings, when really, those imperfections highlight the most profound and unmatched beauty of being human.

Moreover, we place a sickening amount of effort in performing for other people. We accept things that deeply disturb us, like social issues, vanity, and other injustices, and become so entwined in our constructed fantasy that we, at times, even forget who we are.

So when I saw this girl’s page, it wasn’t just another page. It was a story. One that I, apparently, was too afraid to tell.

But if I don’t write my own story, who will?

If I continue to self-edit, scratch, erase, and highlight all things that should have been “cropped out” of Stephanie’s story, so to speak, who is going to display the honest me to the world?

Remember when I said that I would probably regret the deletion of 200 photos from my social media profile? Well that moment came the minute I realized that those were pages from my story that were violently yanked from the spine of perhaps one of the most amazing books to ever be written.

And certainly, they couldn’t just be put back in to place.

So from here, I know that rather than pretending to be something I’m not, being too selective in what I share and how I edit it, I’m just going to build on the foundation that I’ve built so far.

With all of it’s cracks.

And all of it’s my imperfections.




Monday, 12 May 2014

To Wax, or Not to Wax?



I had been contemplating whether to buy the Groupon deal for about a week before I stopped myself to ask if it was really necessary.

The promotion was a Brazilian wax for $15.00. Or you could get two Brazilian waxes for $29.99. Or you could get four Brazilian waxes for just $49.99! Pretty good right?

It was definitely a good deal considering that most places charge between $30-$50 for one. But when you think of the idea of the service itself; having hair that grows in perhaps the most sensitive place in our bodies violently yanked from the roots, one might ask themselves, why do women wax?

I listened to a panel discussion on The Social the other day. The women talked about who women dress for. They concluded that they dress more for women than they do for men because women understand female fashion more than men do (except for Randy from Say Yes to the Dress).

Surely, Brazilian waxes are not as visible to the eye as our outfit on any given day, so we don’t get waxes for other women. Do we do it for our partner? Or…do we do it for ourselves?

Apparently, some women do.

I’ve been reading online blogs and stuff and there are some women who, only after the excruciating pain, enjoy the feeling of being bare. Completely understandable. But is hair that much of a nuisance?

I think one factor that differentiates whether you’re better off bare is your lifestyle. If you’re active, at the beach a lot, and maybe allergic to razors, Brazilians can work wonders.

I decided to pay attention to my thought process in deciding whether I wanted to purchase this deal or not. Was I doing it because it was cheap? Was I doing it because I was cheap? Was I doing it because summer was approaching?  I didn’t even know.

Increasingly, women are feeling the pressure to take it all off. And apparently, so was I. I pulled the waistband of my pyjama pants away from my body and looked at my nether region. It wasn’t ridiculously insanely crazy. In fact, I realized that I kind of liked the reminder that I was no longer a pre-pubescent twelve year old and all these years had actually counted for something.

But, I found myself enthralled by the idea of jumping on the bare bandwagon. So I purchased the deal. I went for my first out of four waxes, and had to recite every prayer I could throughout the entire process. After it was done, I felt strangely cool, like I was part of this sorority of girls that have hairless private parts.

Personally, I think people, myself included, define themselves by how well they fit “ideals”. Especially women. We’re judged so much by the texture of our hair, the straightness of our teeth, the clarity of our skin, and even what (and who) we do with our vaginas.

Maybe I’m just a little frustrated with the frivolous demands or expectations of being a woman, according to Cosmpolitan. We should get French manicures, we should wax our vaginas and we should do hot yoga in a posh and expensive studio downtown when really, we could just turn on the shower to be really hot and do some stretches in our bathrooms. For free.

I mean, who is funding all of this stuff?

That’s when I realized that I didn’t want to get a Brazilian wax. I was only attracted to the deal because, well, it was a deal that brought me closer to the ideal.

Because surely on any given day, we don’t wake up and think, “Gee, this hair that’s been there for years has got to go. It’s such an inconvenience and prevents me from doing daily activities.”

What did women do before waxing was even an option?

This, precisely, was when I realized we live in a world where there are too many options to actually savor things, and especially accept them in their natural state.

To accept ourselves as perfect beings in our natural state.

While I did have three waxes left, I really wasn’t sure if I would use them. I probably would because I would hate to think I spent the extra money, but probably not because I didn’t have a problem with being au natrel.

I don’t think women who wax have a problem with being au natrel either. Maybe just a preference. But maybe the difference between our desires highlights the beauty of us all.

To each his her own.