Life in a Cabin on Pender

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It’s been awhile since my last post, but at least I have an excuse. Getting wifi requires sitting under a tree outside the local grocery store, watching as my computer’s horrible battery life drains away. None the less, I have made the trip to the tree this evening with lots to say.

It’s been five days since I moved into my tiny little cabin, and it is going pretty well. There are drawbacks – wifi and rent – and things missing, but the other perks of my new home make up for it. My house is full of quirks, to say the least. It came ‘fully furnished’, but the selection of kitchen tools was a bit strange. There are eight tea mugs, for instance, and no tea pot. There are also three pairs of chopsticks. I’m not entirely sure why. I don’t know what I’m going to use the for. There is also a giant frying pan, and yet the only pot in the place is tiny and has no lid. I honestly made pasta in a frying pan the other day. New experiences abound.

My toilet has an instruction manual. Bet I’m one of the only ones who can say that. And I needed to read it to. I have a composting toilet, so there’s all sorts of weird things to do to upkeep it. I also don’t have a shower, and instead clean myself by sitting in an ancient clawfoot bathtub, pouring water over my head from an equally ancient copper pitcher. I guess it takes a romantic book and fantasy nerd to be thrilled by this, but thrilled I am.

A final quirk of  my house, or at least, the last I will tell you all about right now, is the bookshelf. I love and need books. So I’ve decided the best place in my house for them is on the shelf above my head. They are balanced quite precariously there, in danger of falling on me as I sleep. It would be a fine way to die, I told myself as I arranged them. Death by falling book. The authors only way to go.

Anyways, I could go on into philosphical ramblings of what it is like to be independent and live alone, or talk about what I do in my evenings – write, read, pick blackberries, explore and jump in the ocean – but my battery is nearly dead and it never gives me any warning now – it just shuts of and leaves me staring at a black screen. So farewell for now. Until next time.

Moving Day

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Today is moving day. Tonight I will be alone in my own cabin, without wifi, unpacking and taking inventory of everything my fully furnished house comes with. Somehow, in some bizarre twist of fate, today I will begin living on my own. 

It’s weird – a year ago I would never have dreamed of doing this. And now I approach the date with curious nervousness. Is this what it feels like to be independent? It is a beginning to new things again, a new chapter. There seems to have been a lot of those lately. The author is moving the pace along quite fast and I must simply attempt to keep up with their pen.

I’ve spent the morning packing, though most of the things I’ve gathered together won’t make it to my cabin until next week, when my parents are bringing it. I made a raid of my bookshelves, which ended with me sitting beside a towering stack of books that my family looked at with disbelief. There must be at least twenty of them, some of which I read only weeks ago. But I can’t exactly bring only half of my Harry Potter series, now can I? That would be nothing short of criminal. 

Along with the books is a pile of other strange Natalie possessions, such as a teddy bear as big as me, which I’m sure will barely fit through the door of my cabin and will take up most of my bed. But if I’m going to begin life as a hermit, I might as well have something to hug. There’s also an ancient book of sheet music I got at a used book sale and have been meaning to start learning, and a puzzle game I haven’t played since I was little. But I love games, and it was the only one I could find that is meant to be played alone. My laptop is coming, obviously, and my flute and – hopefully – my piano. 

In all this packing of belongings it has begun to sink in: I am actually doing this. Seventeen and living on my own. How bizarre. As I’ve said before, I’ve never been that independent. But I’ve stopped thinking about things as much. I’ve stopped letting things make me nervous. I’ve begun to learn to take things as they come. What will happen will happen. There is no point freaking out. Take the adventures as they come, enjoy them, and then move on to the next one. That is life. Change comes and there is no point worrying about what is being left behind. 

Food

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Food is a big part of culture, there is definitely no doubt about that. It has been since the beginning of time. I mean, besides the symbolism behind breaking bread, the fact that some foods represent parts of culture and religion, and that some are sacred, there is also the whole need-to-eat-or-will-die thing. So we obsess over food because of necessity, taste, religion, culture, society, health, history and future. There are a thousand different diets out there, all representing different opinions about what should and shouldn’t be eaten. Hundreds of studies have been conducted, millions of products invented, dozens of heated debates sparked. 

There are vegan and vegetarian diets, gluten free ones, dairy free ones and processed-free foods one. I know people who fall into each of those categories. I know a boy my age who eats raw meat he catches with a hunting knife when deer wander through his garden. I know vegans who forage for mushrooms in the forest. I know people who have never eaten meat in their lives.

And then there is the other side of things. I know people who follow the Atkins diet, and also those who eat strictly meat, potatoes and processed foods. In all of this chaos, where is there reason? When the organic hippies are shaking their fists at GMOs, the vegans are crying for the end of animal cruelty, the fast food shops are yelling the importance of cheap and easy, the scientists are bickering among themselves, the health nuts are surviving off of juice and bee pollen, the university students are dumpster diving for free food, the consumerists are stocking up on wagon wheels and chocolate cereals, the coffee lovers are petitioning for fairtrade, the fishermen are begging for the end of farmed salmon, and the ordinary person is shaking their head and trying to fight the dazed expression from their face as they scan the health column, where is there reason? 

Look at all those issues above. And then consider this: according to the site ‘worldometers’ there are 888,098,519 undernourished people. 25, 896 people died of hunger today. Puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? While we are sitting here arguing about whether or not eggs are healthy for us or not, their are millions of hungry people around the world. They would give anything to be able to eat as we do, to have the choice, the variety, the overflowing cornucopia of food wealth that we hold so ungratefully in our palms. 

The issues we have to sort through are of great importance, don’t get me wrong. We do need to address the problem of fish farms, fairtrade and animal cruelty. Ethics are a huge part of eating. But please, everyone, show a little gratitude. One of the many valuable lessons my parents have incorporated into my being is to be grateful for food. If someone makes, buys or offers me food, I eat it. If I am at a meal with things I have never tried, I try it. If I don’t like it, I eat it anyways. Why? Because food is a gift, a precious commodity. There has never been enough of it in the world, and I doubt that there ever will. The very fact that I am one of the people who is rarely hungry, one of the fortunate humans to exist in a place – and a time – with as much access to food as I have is incredible. My diet, the one I stick to much as a vegan sticks to their principles, is to be grateful for whatever I do eat. 

I try to stay healthy, with a balanced diet, plenty of local, fresh produce, eggs, the occasional bit of meat, and whole grains. But if life gives me lemons and no sugar, I simply shrug and eat the lemons as they are.  Because the point is, life gave me something. Life gave me a gift of food. I will take it, I will eat it, and I will feel glad for it. For me, food is as precious as the air we breath. It is just as necessary for life, after all. 

Do I Feel Like An Adult?

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Do I? I’ve been asked that a couple of times lately, my normal reply being, “what does an adult feel like?” What does an adult feel like? I mean, really, what does that word even mean? We use it so often, and yet it is one of those things that represents a thousand things to a thousand different people. Like success and failure, it is a word that is seen only through the lens of perspective. I have a feeling that if we scrubbed all opinions from it, the word would mean nothing whatsoever. 

My brother says that feeling like an adult is feeling like you have freedom, independence and responsibility. The dictionary says the word means “a person who is fully grown or developed or of age.” Urban dictionary says lots of things, only some of which I feel like sharing, such as “A person who has stopped growing at both ends and is now growing in the middle” and “A depressed child. Adults have the notion that juveniles need to suffer. Only when they have suffered enough to wipe out most of their joyous spirits and innocence are they staid enough to be considered ‘Adult’. See also: Mature.” This last one is subject to some debate, of course, as it seems a rather negative take on life. 

But now that I am approaching that point in life where people are wondering whether I feel like an adult, I can’t help thinking that the word only contains the meaning each individual gives to it. I feel just like I always have: like a work in progress. I am still growing so much in personality that I wonder if my soul has stretch marks on it. I am still evolving, changing, learning and making mistakes. Yes, I have more independence, responsibility and freedom, but I wouldn’t say that I have reached full growth, as the dictionary pronounces. I am not a legal adult either, and there is so much in life that I do not know that it would be impossible for me to truly believe myself an adult. 

I’m not a child either though. I have a full time job, I’m going to be living by myself within a week, paying my own rent and buying and cooking my own meals. I’m seventeen years old and I have left home already. 

I guess there is nothing to do but settle on the bookstore term of “young adult”. It’s the prefect term. Freedom, responsibility, independence… and then just a cup or two of what-the-frick-is-going-on-there’s-so-much-to-do-and-learn. Add a dash of confusion, a bucket full of excitement and a swimming pool worth of dreams and you’ve got my present state of mind. 

 

Universal Popularity

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“If you are holding out for universal popularity, I am afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time.” – Albus Dumbledore. 

This is one of my favourite quotes of all time, one I use often in conversation and in life. It is also one of the lesser known pieces of J.K. Rowling’s brilliant wisdom in the Harry Potter books, possibly because it never made it into the movies. But take it to heart. If you are holding out for universal popularity, you will be in this cabin for a very long time. In other words, don’t hesitate. Don’t hide. Don’t lock yourself away because you think the world won’t approve of you. Open the door, step outside and get on with life.

No one is ever liked by everyone, just as no one is ever hated by everyone. So what do you have to lose? Life isn’t about living so that every single person, whether they understand or care about you or not, will be okay with you existing. It isn’t about bending yourself to the world’s rules. Be who you are, because “those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.” I know I’ve made a lot of blog posts about this, but it has to be said. 

No matter what it is you want to do or be, someone is going to disapprove. There will be someone who is disgusted, someone who thinks you’re crazy, someone who shuns you. But the love and acceptance that matters most is your own. If you love yourself than you can find a way to be happy. Why bother straining to be someone you aren’t just so others will like you, if it means you won’t even like yourself? We weren’t put on this planet to shine and glow in a spotlight as others admire us. If anything, we were ‘put here’ to be dirty and broken and imperfect. We were made to raise hell and change the world. Anyone who has ever accomplished anything has made a few enemies along the way. It’s the nature of the game. 

No matter what you do, you will still be disliked by someone. You will still not be popular universally. You will still fail. You will still make mistakes. You will still die. We only have one life – as far as anyone knows – and we need to spend it doing things that we love and that can help us to love us. 

Go chase your dreams. Go hunt down your ambitions. Accept your flaws, I dare you. Most importantly, step outside. Leave the cabin behind. Let the sunlight fall across your face. Reveal yourself to the world. 

The Old And The New

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I’m writing this from the empty office of my work. Sitting here, waiting for the ferry that will take me back to my old school for the weekend, it is easy to start thinking about how much has changed for me recently. A year ago I would never have dreamed of living on my own. Eight months ago I wasn’t planning to graduate early. Seven months ago I had writer’s block and had no ideas for a novel. Three months ago I had absolutely no clue what I was going to do after school, only that I wanted to be a writer. And now… I am planning on renting my own tiny cabin, on a completely different island from my parents. I am working  on the second draft of my novel and I actually think that this could be the one that I finish and get published. I’m graduated. And, to top it all off, opportunity knocked on my door in June and beckoned me to a new job, being the one and only assistant to the one and only publisher/editor/ad salesperson/writer/person-who-does-everything-else of the one and only Island Tides newspaper. My articles have been published and 18,000 copies have been distributed. I’ve learned enough to make my head spin just thinking about it. I feel incredibly fortunate. 

I also feel like I’m running. I can’t stop to think about the speed at which I am hurtling or else my feet won’t be able to catch up with my body and I will cartwheel into space. I have to take things one step at a time so I don’t get completely flustered, and yet I must keep my eyes on the horizon. Most importantly, I have to keep my balance. I am careening wildly into new territory. Opportunity does not wait for anyone, and so I must hurry to catch up with it. If I stumble, should I fall, I will be left dazed and bruised on the forest floor in a place I haven’t been before, with no idea of where opportunity has fled to. Just in case I trail behind, I must weave a map out of memories so I can find my way home should I need to.

This is perhaps the most challenging part. How do I look back when I need to keep searching forward? What if looking back just makes me doubt the path on which I walk? Might it cause me to wish to go back to yesterday even though I know that yesterday cannot be reached? And yet I must look back, because I cannot let myself forget the path home. I need to drop a trail of pearly thoughts on the road down which I run so that I might trace them to their centre should I need to. It’s a lot to keep in mind.

I know this weekend of going back to my old school is going to be wonderful, but I also know that it will tough. I’ll be back home, with my old friends. It will be as if nothing has changed, and yet everything has. I only hope that the sweetness overrides the bitterness of fresh goodbyes. I need to go back to my old island home this weekend – there is no hiding from goodbyes. I can feel the place calling to me, like a mother who wants one last hug before she lets her child run off on their own crazy adventures. And I will take the hug. I will let it hold me close. I will give it a last bottle of my tears, a fresh dose of my smiles and a monologue of whispered thanks. I will murmur to it as the soft twilight falls through the alder forest, promising to stay safe, to be strong, and to return. 

Because, though everything has changed, some things will always be the same. 

Plans for the Future

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Life is exciting. I have so many interesting things coming my way. So many adventures to embark on and epic paths to follow. To have a thousand dreams is to have a thousand fires burning in your heart.

This September is already shaping up to be another crazy learning experience. I’m going to be moving out on my own. Most of the summer I’ve been pretty much by myself, but not completely. And now… in a couple of days I’m going to go check out the cutest little cabin ever to see if I can rent it in the fall. It is seriously adorable. One room and heated with a woodstove… It has a claw foot bathtub instead of a shower and a sundeck and a tangled garden around it. I’m super excited to go see it in the flesh tomorrow. I think I can really make it feel like home.

And I’ve still got my wonderful job to look forward to, now a permanent part of life it seems. I have an amazing boss and I’m learning lots. And of course, there’s also the rising sum of my savings account. I figure by spring I’ll have enough to go travel Europe, which is something I’ve been dreaming of for what seems like forever, more and more intently.

With all of this, and also the excitement of my novel ahead of me, life is giving me enough to smile at. My novel is really shaping up, which I find surprising since I’ve recently decided to rewrite it. But it is still coming together, setbacks and all, piece by piece, word by word, glowing idea after glowing idea. I feel like I might have a chance at everything I’ve dreamed of. I might have a chance to be the author I want to be and change the world with my words. 

Of course, there are problems with my plans, big enough to occasionally wipe the hope from my heart. For one, the ever-present force of loneliness which has preceded over the majority of my life has come back from its temporary vacation leave. I am alone on a small island. I know very few people. My cabin – I’m already calling it that – will have no internet. I have no phone. And, most importantly, my friends are all busy anyways. What to do when you live on a rock in the middle of the ocean with no connections to anyone your age?

But I’ll get through the problems. Life isn’t prefect. It never will be. Things are coming together and that is what is important. Slowly but surely. Little by little. And I have only gratitude for that.