A Toronto Transformation

20-something

A Moment’s Peace

Cemetary Angel in Snow (A moment's peace)Cemetary Angel in Snow

I can’t pinpoint exactly when time began to feel blurry.

Well, that makes sense, doesn’t it?

Whether it was two or three winters ago when my grasp on it started to slip.

I didn’t think about it too much then. Not when the pieces of the life I envisioned for myself seemed to be so effortlessly falling into place.

I thought we had an agreement, time and I. I thought I had it licked.

But of course, time cannot be beaten, and It damn sure doesn’t care if your plans fall through.

Now, as it whips by ever faster, a quick, clear stream I cup my hands to catch even as it rushes relentlessly through my fingers, I’m terrified of wasting even a drop.

But I don’t know what that means, exactly.

I don’t know how much of it is mine to control, how much I’ll have in the end.

I know there are things that I would like to do, given the choice.

I know I’m hardly ancient, but I also know now, how fast time can move.

My life is blessed, no doubt.

Is it greedy to worry about wanting things like a partner and a little family to raise, when I’m so lucky already?

Would it be foolish to keep letting time tiptoe past without actively trying to cultivate those things?

Which is more wasteful, to spend my time trying to capture a life that might not even be in the cards for me, or to wait passively for the things I want until it’s too late for me to enjoy them?

These are the questions that chase each other around my mind, even as I celebrate friends’ new loves, their weddings, and pregnancies. Even as I celebrate my own accomplishments in other areas.

So it was nice, Sunday night, in the middle of running errands, doing chores and trying to get myself ready for another busy week to dash out the front door into a world transformed.

Even my mind quieted as I stopped on the porch to stare at the snow, coming down in magic slow motion, the way it does sometimes, lit up by the streetlights.

I stuck my tongue out to catch a lazy flake and it really did feel like time stopped.

At least for a moment

LXL8: Frances Ha and The Little Mermaid

This week on the League of Extraordinary Ladies, we are giving spoiler-free reviews of our favourite movies. I couldn’t choose an all-time favourite, my enduring love for The Little Mermaid aside, but I sure am fond of Frances Ha.

What’s the best film you’ve seen lately? Do you have an all-time favourite?

5-9: Serving Brunch by Day, Lighting up Screens by Night

 Start calling yourself the thing you are in your heart, the thing your mind bends towards when you dream, the thing your fingers itch to do.

Start describing yourself in terms of the things you do from 5-9. Because we’re not defined by our 9-5s.

Imogen GraceImage courtesy of Alice Irene Whittaker-Cumming

By turns a quiet, soulful, observer of the world and a gorgeous goofball with a wicked sense of humour, it’s hardly surprising that my decidedly multi-faceted friend Imogen is no one-trick pony when it comes to her work life.

While she does hold down a steady restaurant gig, that barely skims the surface of the remarkable number of pursuits she could answer the question, “What do you do?” with.

“I  say I write, I make films, I act, I do copywriting…I rarely mention the work I do in the restaurant industry. Not to hide it, but because at this point I just don’t consider serving to be ‘what I do’,” she explains.

“I stopped answering with “server / actor” a loooong time ago. Usually people would respond with “Oh, one of those”, or perhaps just a pitiful chuckle. Then I’d spend 5 minutes reassuring them that, don’t worry, I’m going to be all right.”

Rather than attempting to get to know her based on her 9-5 job, Imogen says she’d be happier if people formed an opinion about her based on the fact that she feels that “it’s really special to get to do what inspires you, and to take big risks. And though my path is difficult and not quite traditional, it’s f***ing amazing to work hard at what you think is important.”

Work hard she does. I’ve never known her to not have a project or two on the go. Most recently she wrapped up directing a short film called #Cold, set to premier at the Reelworld Festival in April. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Imogen says the experience was, “such a great ride, I learned so much about film and being a leader. I really bit off more than I could chew and sometimes it was messy and sometimes it was victorious.”

True to form, that’s not all she has on the go, with an ambitious online project next on her horizon.

“I’m also just beginning a venture called Herstory 101,” she explains,

“It’s going to be an open source website where people can contribute stories in any medium on women through history – scientists, artists, pioneers, travellers, rebels, villains, lovers (think comic strip of Joan of Arc, infographic on the women’s lib movement, a short film about Alice Guy Blanche, one of the first filmmakers ever, man or woman). Basically, we are going to rewrite history in a way that celebrates the contributions of the many badass women that have come before us and changed our world. I want all of Toronto to be involved.”

I asked Imogen if there are any benefits to pursuing her passions independently of a 9-5. Her answer is an emphatic, yes. “I’m starting to get spoiled by the amount of creative freedom that comes from writing and directing for myself (rather than for a studio etc.) I make whatever I want! Like a big baby!”

“I also like writing for other people though, too…because they pay me,” she adds.

Still, she says, balancing that independence with making a living, isn’t without its challenges. I asked her where she finds the energy to do creative work after coming home from a brunch shift.

“I don’t,” she admits. “I come home from a brunch shift and curl up in a ball for three hours. But then Monday comes, and I’m definitely energized for the week ahead.”

Then of course, there are the challenges of not knowing what’s coming next, not having weekends free, or paid vacation time and of budgeting when paid projects are not on the table, and she has to rely solely on restaurant work to pay her bills. And of course, there’s the kind of worry that comes from not knowing if a project she embarks on will succeed or fail miserably.

Luckily, along with those challenges, Imogen finds great rewards. For her the most exciting moment that’s come from facing them was watching one of her projects come to life before her eyes.

“[The most exciting moment so far was] last year, sitting in a movie theatre with the lights down, and watching my first short film on the big screen. It affirmed for me that the biggest personal challenges come with the biggest rewards. I was proud of myself,” she says.

Imogen’s advice for anyone who doesn’t find fulfillment in their 9-5, but isn’t sure how to go about discovering what inspires them outside of it is simply to share themselves with people.

“Share what fires you up, what you want to change in the world, what you want to spend your time doing. Just keep doing that and then listen to the universe when it starts throwing giant bones at your head.”

And how does such a busy, hardworking 5-9er define success?

“Getting it done. Just getting it done the way it was meant to be done. At the 75% mark of any project, I want to give up. So when I push through that and actually fulfill on the dream that I had a long time ago, without even knowing why I’m doing it anymore…it feels like I’m Jodi Foster in Contact when she comes back to life after dropping out of the centre of the earth in that weird space ball. Like I’ve done something really scary that seemed impossible and have found a new part of myself.”

Beautiful.

Follow Imogen and #Cold on Twitter, check out some of her other work here, and if you’re interested in contributing to or learning more about Herstory 101 (seriously, how awesome does that sound?), send her a quick email. She’d love to hear from you, (and as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments)!

 

A Letter to My 80-year-old Self

I hope you took chances on imperfect love so that at least you got to feel it now and again, even if it wasn't for keeps.

Dear Sarah,

Congratulations on your 80th year on Earth (God, I really hope people still live on Earth -I can’t imagine you’d enjoy space travel).

I hope you are rocking some elegant, long black dresses and a messy silver bun with crazy headscarves, prompting the neighbourhood kids to whisper about whether you’re a good or a bad witch.

Did someone develop a miracle cure for your chronic DVT so that you didn’t wind up wheelchair-bound? That would be grand. Hopefully either way you’re still finding ways to stay active and healthy.

Is it too much to hope that you found an amazing, kind, smart, funny and deserving man to fall madly in love with and raise a tiny army of environmentalist, feminist, activists with?

Well, if it didn’t work out quite that way, I hope you didn’t spend too much time waiting around for that kind of lightning to strike. I hope you took chances on imperfect love so that at least you got to feel it now and again, even if it wasn’t for keeps.

Most of all though, I hope that whatever else has happened, your life has not become too small. That you haven’t become resigned to dull isolation because it’s easy and safe. I hope you haven’t allowed your life to fold in on itself.

I hope that you haven’t stopped making new friends and smiling at strangers.

I hope you’re still curious about the world around you and about human nature. I hope you always have a book on the go.

I hope that you are still exercising your voice and that you still take the time to educate yourself about the day’s events.

I hope you still volunteer, that you’re still optimistic, that you still challenge the status quo.

I hope you still see the humour in life and laugh out loud at it whenever the mood strikes.

I hope your calendar is full of lunch dates with friends and family. And if it isn’t, get on the phone, girl! None of you are getting any younger!

I hope that you never stop learning and growing and trying new things.

I hope you sleep well and that your heart is full.

So much love,

Sarah

What are your hopes for your 80-year-old self? Leave them in the comments below or write your own post and link it up in the comments on my Steal My Ideas board on Pinterest!

Myers-Briggs meets Harry Potter

Harry Potter Myers Briggs personality chart

My office recently had all of the staff complete an online strengths test. It was a medium amount of interesting to learn what an online test would deduce about me from some bizarrely structured questions, nearly all of which made me insane because I wanted clarification or had a follow-up question of my own, but of course, there was no one to ask.

The results felt a bit like reading my horoscope in the paper. Some things were spot on. Yes, I do collect lots of information, yes, I’m a very positive person, and yes, I like writing and big words.

(Speaking of, did you guys know that the longest English word to appear in a major dictionary is Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, and was invented in the 1930s by some jerk in the National Puzzler’s league, according to Wikipedia: “in imitation of polysyllabic medical terms, alleged to mean ‘a lung disease caused by the inhalation of very fine sand and ash dust (mostly volcanic silica ash dust)’ but occurring only as an instance of a very long word.” Puzzle that one out.)

And it did say a good career path for me might be journalism. Ha. Thanks test, where were you when I was 17 and freaking out about what to take in school?

A lot of it of course, was just very general, and sure, I could fit myself into the categories selected to describe me, but I could just as easily fit into others on the list.

However, test results I won’t dispute? The online Myers-Briggs personality test results that confirm what I have long suspected: I’m totally Dumbledore.

Check out the full size version of the above handy-dandy conversion chart to find out who your HP Myers-Briggs soul mate is here.

 

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Golden Girls and Fabulous Fashionistas

So I’ve developed a mild obsession with the Golden Girls.

I love the feisty, funny, independent characters and the way they support each other through their adventures and misadventures.

Lately it has dawned on me for the first time in a real way that there is a very real possibility that I will never be lucky enough to come across a guy to share my life and raise children with, and while I realize it’s just a silly sitcom, the show makes me less anxious about the possibility of one day finding myself staring down middle or advanced age without a romantic partner by my side.

Worst case scenario, I’ll just gather up a bunch of fantastic women from my fantastic women friends collection and convince them to move in with me so we can take care of each other while maintaining active dating lives and entering various contests and putting on plays at the local community centre.

Problem solved.

Recently, my mom recommended I watch the documentary “Fabulous Fashionistas” which features a group of real-life vibrant, hilarious elderly women who refuse to fade into the background with the rest of the blue-rinse crowd.

I love that none of them have given in to the kind of folding-in that can happen to people as they age, where they no longer go out and discover new things or people, and their world gets smaller and smaller until they are afraid to venture out their own front doors.

I want to always remember that the world is bigger than I can imagine and I want to always be sure to keep my little sphere expanding. I want to hold on to my excitement to learn, discover, and most of all to connect.

Do you guys ever think about how you want to approach old age? Is it weird that I’m thinking about it in my 20s? Check out the documentary if you haven’t seen it already. I’d love to hear what you think!

Decisions, Decisions

I hoped that if I just didn't decide, somehow, nothing would change

The most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make was probably the decision to apply to journalism school.

Now, I can feel you rolling your eyes.

Fair enough.

Please know that I recognize how privileged that makes me. I firmly believe that every person should have the privilege of such a decision on their hands.  And it’s not that I’ve never faced a more difficult situation, it’s just that throughout my various health scares and heartbreaks and challenges, often, the only decision left to me was to either move on or be consumed.

So, kind of no-brainers, really.

But making what felt like such a monumental decision about the direction of my life at 17? I honestly didn’t know where to start.

I remember hours suddenly speeding up as all my friends rushed around excitedly, collecting references, writing essays and applications and applying for funding, while I, completely overwhelmed by and terrified of the whole process, just, well, didn’t.

I couldn’t understand how they knew about majoring and minoring and loans and deferrals and food cards when it all sounded like absolute gibberish to me.

And I remember thinking, if I’m too stupid to understand the application process, I’m clearly too stupid to go to school. And then, of course, even if I were to somehow puzzle through all that, I had no idea what I should apply for.

I had an English teacher in grade 12, when I had finally decided to stop skipping classes and apply myself at least a little who assigned us some kind of essay, let’s say a persuasive one. I worked away at it and miraculously handed it in on time, only to receive a fairly low mark. In a completely out-of-character move of bravery and proactivity, I gathered up some courage and shyly approached her after class to ask her why.

She appeared a bit distracted (I think she was actually working on a degree of her own at the time, she used to bring it up in class occasionally) and dismissed me saying something along the lines of,

“Well, it just isn’t a persuasive essay, and if you don’t understand why it’s not from reading the handout, then I really can’t help you.”

I had read the handout.

I was crushed.

After all, what do you do in post-secondary education besides write essays? That teacher’s exasperated remark confirmed what I already suspected: my mind was not sophisticated enough to carry me through a university degree.

So I opted to take a year off. My parents were willing to let me continue to live with them rent-free as long as I was working and saving all my money for tuition and as long as I did in fact go to school at the end of that year.
So I got a full-time job, and watched my friends prepare to leave me behind, willing time to freeze with me so that my absolute paralysis could go unnoticed.

When it came time to apply for schools again six months later, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. I fought with my parents every time they suggested a degree or diploma I might be interested in, thankfully they stubbornly pushed back, no doubt alarmed at the prospect of their first little bird clinging resolutely to the nest forever, too afraid to try out her wings.

Looking back, it should have been an obvious choice. I was curious about the world, passionate about human rights, loved to read, loved to write, loved a good story. My favourite class in high school was Media Studies, my final grade was 98%. But the decision to study journalism was a long arduous process of elimination, made longer by fear.

I think I hoped that if I just didn’t decide, somehow nothing would change. I could stay where I felt safe and comfortable, and I don’t know, grow mould.

So of course, like most of the difficult things in life, while I wouldn’t want to relive it, I’m grateful to have gone through it and come out the other side. I’m grateful for what it taught me and how it has informed all of my decisions afterwards.

Any decision, any move forward is better than staying put and giving up all control over the direction of your own life.

And if you don’t decide, well, that’s a decision too.

A Bellwoods Birthday

playing picnic games in Trinity Bellwoods park The best thing about having a summer birthday, as far as I’m concerned, is one more excuse to throw down a patchwork of blankets, grab some friends and spend an al fresco afternoon in the park. This weekend, I did exactly that in Trinity Bellwoods Park in honour of my birthday, which inconveniently falls on a Tuesday this year.

I couldn’t have asked for better weather or lovelier friends to share it with. They were even kind enough to oblige me with a couple of rounds of Taboo. (Note the intense concentration in the top left photo above).

And I definitely couldn’t have wished for any more food. It was a very good thing my skirt was so stretchy. And while wearing a crop top while demolishing a bucket of fried chicken is not an activity for the faint of heart (literally, you could probably have a heart attack) I think I did myself proud!

awesome vintage sunglasses

I’m pretty sure we all tried to steal Irene’s groovy shades at some point in the afternoon.

 

customizable solo cups

Red brought these genius cups you can scratch your name into. Some people were more into this than others. Ahem. Cole.

Giggles

Giggles

 

So many giggles

So many giggles

crop top and long skirt

One very content birthday girl

 

Tea Party

dainty tea party

This gorgeous weekend was back to the usual mad dashing around the city. Luckily, I had some lovely R&R built into the schedule in the form of a very sweet tea party with five of my nearest and dearest pals.

It was so relaxing to spend an afternoon on Emma’s beautiful, sun-drenched deck. She and her fantastic roommate have done an incredible job of making their entire apartment decor-magazine worthy, and the deck was the latest to undergo an amazing transformation. I don’t know where they find the energy for all of this DIY-ing. I’d have been trying to Tom Sawyer the heck out of all that white painting. but the serene little hideaway they’ve created is worth the effort (says the woman who had to make no effort at all to enjoy the results. heh).

It should be noted, that Henry, the beautiful cat featured above, is not sleeping, but resolutely ignoring me. I think he was mad that we didn’t let him into our earlier photoshoot which Emma was helping me with for a DVT-related project.

He did make it into this awesome outtake though. I love how determined he looks to be there:

Cat and Compression Stockings

We’re Not Defined by Our 9-5s

Sarah and her reflection

The other night, Emma and I were chatting with a bartender who asked us about our work. We obligingly gave vague descriptions of our respective administrative positions. When he left, we started chatting about how boring that was, and how we really should just tell people about our blogging and photography instead.

Emma was way ahead of me. She and her roommate have both being trying to make a conscious effort to tell people who ask about what they do or what their jobs are that they are artists and only if asked how they fund their art, would they mention their day jobs.

I loved this idea of actively trying to change your own perspective through the words you use to describe yourself and taking ownership of the things you love to do.

While I do know a few people who are lucky/brave/hardworking/determined enough to be able to pursue their passion full-time, the reality is, that most people I know have to pursue their passions outside of their necessary 9-5.

I feel extremely grateful to hold the steady position I do (it was a SUCH a relief to stumble into it after months of unemployment when I left the small-town paper and moved to the city), and while I am lucky enough to work with really wonderful people, my job doesn’t have much use for any of the skills or creativity I actually enjoy using, and it has very little to do with who I am or how I view myself beyond the self-esteem boost that comes with being steadily, gainfully employed.

It doesn’t light me up, and set my brain a’ ticking the way writing does. The stories I share here, the things I create say so much more about me than my “official “, paying gig does.

I get so much out of it and I put so much into it and just because I’m not paid to do it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have worth, doesn’t invalidate it, doesn’t lower it’s legitimacy as an answer to the question “So what do you do?”

So, I’m going to try to start acknowledging it out loud.

And I think, if you don’t already, you should too.

Start calling yourself the thing you are in your heart, the thing your mind bends towards when you dream, the thing your fingers itch to do.

Start describing yourself in terms of the things you do from 5-9. Because we’re not defined by our 9-5s.

In an effort to remind people of this, I’ve decided to start a series here featuring interviews with and work of people who pursue their passions outside of their 9-5. If you or someone you know fits the bill, shoot me a message at metamorphocity@gmail.com. I’d love to hear about what you do in your 5-9!

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