Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Dead things are beautiful, too

One of my favourite things about Canada is the changing seasons. I'm from the middle of the Albertan prairies, where we drag our Ugg boots through the grimy slush, mutter about the state of the gas fields, and wait in the Tim Horton's drive-through for half an hour for a coffee. We have four seasons: Melting, Sneezing, Cooling, and Shivering. Sweatshirts, shorts, scarves, down coats. 

By the time we get to Shivering, a heavy layer of snow covers the aerated school yards. Mittens and toques, red noses. Everyone grumbles about the weather and kids these days and rushes to fit winter tires to their four-wheel drives, lest they be caught unprepared. 

I can't sleep. It's Shivering, and I'm too young to know the difference between failing and learning. I've spent the last two hours huddled underneath my two duvets, the radiator beside my bed cranked. Two hours is a long time for me. You can only imagine how long a school day is. I watch the clock on my dresser, the two dots between the hours and minutes blinking sixty times a minute. I know because I count them. 

I can't take it anymore, so I slip from between the covers and yank open my window. The ice that's collected on the edges of the window panes makes it difficult, but after some scraping and a bit of luck I manage to pry it open. Freezing air rushes into my room, fills my insomniac lungs. 

Outside is dead. The neighbours are all in bed, and our street has never been one for nightlife. A snowplow has come through recently, so although the streets are cleared of snow there's still a layer of ice covering the pavement. I'll probably slip on the way to school tomorrow morning. Above me, the sky is black and empty and the lights from the city drown out the choir of stars but it doesn't make it scary, only dark. The darkness isn't so scary if you spend enough time with it. 

The whole whole feels like it's holding its breath. There's an expectation, a waiting, a deep knowing in my soul that if I sit and wait for long enough the bubble we're stuck in will collapse. My world will be turned upside and inside out, like the stories in the books I devour. But no matter how long I wait, nothing happens. 

So I sing. I'm not a great singer by any stretch of the imagination, but I think love is a good enough reason to do something. It's one of the songs from the iPod my parents bought me, and I only half-know the lyrics to but I do my best. I sing softly at first, then pick up volume. I don't want to wake up my slumbering family. 

My unsteady voice vibrates the ice crystals hanging in the air and floats down to the street. The song and the deadness in the air permeates the sleeping plants buried deep underneath the snow, sinks into the foundations of the houses on the cul-de-sac, warms my toes. 

Not a soul stirs. The whole world is sleeping, barren, comatose. Yet somehow, with the dead air and the black sky and my quiet voice, it's beautiful. 

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Let's talk about Manic Pixie Dream Girls

Manic Pixie Dream Girls have fascinated me for nearly as long as I can remember. (A MPDG, for those of you who don't know, is a female character who's wacky, outgoing, beautiful and decently shallow. She exists to help the male character find life, adventure, and romance. She's "not like other girls" and usually has a crazy name or hair style (it's usually dyed? Not sure why) and listens to weird music. She's eccentric, quirky, gorgeous... and a cardboard cut-out. Think Zooey Deschanel in pretty much everything she does.)

I'm pretty sure I've used this picture before but I love it way too much to not use it again.

The first time I was introduced to a MPDG was in about third grade when I read "Stargirl" by Jerry Spinelli. Stargirl is new to Leo's school and turns heads everywhere she goes. She wears kimonos, 1920s flapper outfits, hippie clothes. She sings 'happy birthday' to each student on their special day with her ukulele and leaves coins on the sidewalk for people to find. When Stargirl and Leo begin dating each other, she changes the way he sees the world. Life is more beautiful and strange and wonderful with Stargirl, after all. 

When I learned about MPDG, I immediately thought of Stargirl. (I was really disappointed that one of my favourite books had this trope, but the second book turned it around by fleshing out her character.) I've run into a few MPDG in my time, between books, movies and TV shows. Before learning about the trope, I kinda secretly (definitely?) wanted to be like them. And why not? They're beautiful and smart and different, and who doesn't want to be different? She's not like the other girls, she makes her own way in life. Compared to the other female representation that's out there, being different isn't too bad. 

Of course, I wasn't aware of the MPDG trope yet. Being quirky isn't the problem, but existing to kick-start the male character's arc is a problem. Proud of not being like the other girls is a problem. We are women. We need to stand together and help each other, not tear each other down. Dying your hair pink doesn't make you any better than the girl who's kept her hair natural her entire life. Listening to The Beatles may make you a bit quirky but it doesn't mean you're any better than the girl who listens to One Direction. All women are valid, all women are humans and worthy of respect. 

It's generally accepted that MPDG are a trope to avoid. We are not plot devices for men to use, we will not tear each other down. In saying that, I still love the trope. I kinda hate myself for it, of course, but I relate to MPDG too much to roll my eyes every time one comes on my screen. (To be honest, I think it's because I'm almost a MPDG myself. Purple hair? Weird taste in music? Eccentric hobbies?) 

I hate the negative side of the trope, but I'm willing to make the argument that it's not necessarily a cliché that needs to disappear. (I KNOW. Hear me out.) Of course, the negative sides of the trope need to be wiped off the face of the earth (I AM NOT A PLOT DEVICE) but the more positive aspects of a MPDG character are amazing. A MPDG challenges social norms. She ignores what other people think of her and does what makes her happy, not what's expected of her. That's something to celebrate and encourage. You want to listen to weird music? Go for it. You want to dye your hair? Alrighty. In saying that, we need to consider the other side, where "basic white girl" music and plain hair is great too. 

I would love to see more MPDG who have their own lives, who flip the trope and stand with women instead of trampling them underfoot (unintentionally or otherwise). All women deserve to be represented and to have agency and a life outside the male main character. (Besides, coloured hair is really cool ;) ). 

What do you think of Manic Pixie Dream Girls? 

Friday, 17 November 2017

Citizens, finally

Well, we made it. My family and I are finally Australian citizens. 

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017. We showed up, hugged our guests, took the pledge and became Australian citizens. Just like that. Of course, it was easier for me. Mom (Mum?) and Dad did the hard work while I just showed up. 

It feels good. It feels like another piece of the Me Puzzle slotting into place. God knows I've spent enough time trying to figure out who I am and this is one thing that feels right, like I was meant to do this. I am so blessed and thankful for this opportunity. I'm now fully Australian and fully Canadian, right where I belong. (Plus when I get my Australian passport, I'll be the real-life spy of my dreams with a stash of passports. Watch out, world.)

I'm not the same person as I was six years ago. A girl with strawberry-blonde hair who couldn't talk to strangers turned into a sort-of woman with purple hair who still gets lost in her head but knows how to find her way out. I think thirteen-year-old me would have been proud of the eighteen-year-old me, and I pray eighteen-year-old me will be proud of the twenty-four-year-old me. I think I will be. God hasn't let me down in the past, and I don't think He will in the future. 

I want to say thank you. I could write a whole book trying to thank everyone, so I'll try to keep this short. Thank you to my readers, who took the time to read the ramblings of a shy girl from the Albertan prairies. Thank you to everyone who helped us through the good times and the bad, who made the transition bearable (and also really fun). I couldn't have gotten through without my friends (old and new), family (again, old and new) and everyone in between (teachers, coworkers, pastors and kind strangers). I have borrowed mattresses, winter coats, tea, cars, dogs (plural), shoulders to cry on, Netflix accounts and homework answers. The kindness of the people in my life - Canadian, Australian, and everyone in the middle - has never failed to astound me. 

Thank you. 

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

It's good to be creative again (and my brain is weird)

It feels really good to be creative again. 


After a full year at university with little to no creativity going on, I'm surprised at how good it feels to sit down and write again, to get violet gel pen smudged across my fingers. Camera clicks and candles, late-night poetry, tending to my army of succulents lined up on my window sill. Mascara, musty pages of my favourite books and figuring out how to match my wardrobe to my new dip-dyed hair. 

I've always been a creative person, whether or not I've wanted to admit it. My creativity has taken many different forms over the years, the results both good and cringe-worthy. In either case, I've learned something about my art and myself. 

I won't pretend anything I've made is perfect. Good, even. But if I've enjoyed doing it, does it matter what the end result is? 

My brain is a bit weird. I'm both left-brained and right-brained, a mix of gears and cogs and pastels bleeding together like the sunrises across the horizon. Calculus is relaxing, getting lost in derivatives and integrals. Writing is beautiful, a whole world on its own for me to tumble into. 

I'm also a bit weird in that I want careers with both halves of my brain. I've always been a hard-worker and a dreamer, and for some reason it hasn't sunk into my heart that I've chosen to pursue two different careers, both difficult on their own to achieve. I guess when you have so many privileges you want the galaxy instead of just the world. 

And I think that's ok.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Life's Like That: Stupid things I've done during exams part 3 (in which I wreck a pillowcase (and still can't sew to save my life))

(You can find part 1 and part 2 here.)

If you'll remember from last week's post, I did something stupid which basically involved dropping my blanket in a candle then leaving it until the smell tipped me off that something had gone horribly wrong.

Well. That night I was studying some more on my bedroom floor (yes, I study on my bedroom floor) and I had my pillow propped against my bed frame (as you do (let's assume I'm a bit of a weird individual when it comes to exams ok?)). My pillow was scrunched up and stuffed underneath my bed, but hey, I had other things to worry about besides The Scrunching of my Pillow.

My butt had fallen asleep, so I yanked my pillow out from underneath my bed to rearrange myself (and maybe reassess my life choices). Unfortunately, due to the radioactive string cheese that was my brain I had forgotten the screw sticking out of my bed frame. This dastardly screw had been my downfall on more than one occasion. Out of pure spite it had ripped several holes in my Barbie suitcase filled with my American Girl paraphernalia and I always manage to hit it whenever I wriggle underneath the bed. (This has prompted many a conversation about how I rescued a small child from a crocodile and this scratch on my arm definitely wasn't because I was attacked by my bed.)

As a direct result of this neglected fact, the screw caught on my pillowcase and left a fantastic rip as a gift. Sadly, my mom was in the room and as you could imagine she was less than pleased at my one man army's attempt to destroy every piece of linen in her household. 

Of course, I had to stitch my pillowcase back up and as you might remember I'm not great with sewing. Thankfully, the chaos is mostly over. As long as my pillow is flipped the right way and my blanket is tucked in it's almost as if nothing happened.

Good old exams, right? 

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Life's Like That: Stupid things I've done during exam time part 2 (in which I almost burn the house down)

Imagine this. Unwashed hair in a messy bun. (And not the one where you try to make it look messy and like you don't care, but a legitimately messy bun.) A pencil stuck in my hair, wearing pyjamas that probably needed a good wash. I'm sitting in a sweaty mess in the corner of the dining room on my beanbag, textbooks, pencils and workbooks splayed across the floor. I have a cup of tea to my right and a candle burning on the floor to my left, a blanket across my lap. 

My mind is frazzled. Formulas and random facts float through my brain, wrap themselves around my spine. Exams are just around the corner. I finish my tea in a frantic swig, then throw my blanket to the side and stumble to my feet. I need another cup of tea in order to think. 

The kettle boils, the dog barks, the TV in the next room crackles. I sniff. Something is burning. Then I remember. The candle. The blanket. 

Oh no. 

I race back to my beanbag to find my blanket carelessly strewn over the candle, charred synthetic fabric mixing with the tangerine scented wax. It's not on fire, but the once cornflower blanket is now ebony. 

I yank my blanket out of the candle to find a giant hole on the edge. I sigh. That's exam brain for you. That evening, I sew up the frayed edges with shaky stitches. It's a large enough blanket that you wouldn't see the hole unless it was completely spread out or if you were looking for it, but it's still a quiet reminder of how out of it I can be sometimes. 

(See part 1 and part 3.)

Have you ever done something exceedingly stupid like me?

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Life's Like That: Stupid things I've done during exams part 1 (In which I insult veteran)

Heyo! So I'm back. Exams this term were extremely tough but I think I did alright, but unfortunately I had to drop most fun things in my life (including blogging and like, sleep). Which sucked. But I'm back now! 

During exam time, I was pretty stressed out. I was lacking on sleep, had more caffeine in my blood than usual and wasn't 100% with it. 

I was at work when I found myself serving an amputee. I work in a pharmacy, and we often get amputees and disabled customers so it wasn't unusual. So this guy was about middle-aged, a bit rough looking. According to his prescription, he was a veteran. It's possible he could have lost his leg from diabetes, but my money would be on that he lost it while serving. 

When he finished paying, I took a deep breath. I'd had a thought bouncing around the inside of my head, and like I said before I wasn't functioning at peak capacity. When he finished paying, I said, "So I'm sorry if this is super offensive but about your leg..."

He looked so scared and for a second I thought he was going to turn around and run away. I know I certainly would. Before he did, I said, "Have you ever dressed up like a pirate for Halloween? Because that would be awesome." 

He looked a bit stunned, but managed a smile. "No, I haven't." At about this time I kinda clued in that you probably shouldn't ask an amputee veteran if they've dressed up like a pirate for Halloween but it was kind of too late. 

We both kinda laughed nervously and he hurried away, probably rushing off to move to another country. 

(See part 2 and part 3.)

Have you ever made a social mistake? Tell me in the comments!