Chapters Passing

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Life feels like one giant slip and slide. No matter how much you try to cling to time, it passes you by. My life seems to have been divided into very distinctive chapters. It’s as if when something changes, it really changes. The chapters also seem to be getting shorter, and yet more intense. No subtle transitions for me.

Chapter One – let’s call it “Growing Up on The Snowy Prairies” – was the first eight years of my life. The second chapter was also long – from eight until 13. If that chapter had a title it would be something like “Crazy, Wild Child Of the Woods”. It was when I spent my time running barefoot through the forest by myself and climbing a hundred feet up trees.

Chapter Three was only a year long and it sucked. Like, it really sucked. A lot. It would have had the title of “Crazy Wild Child Gets Her Soul Ground Into The Dust”. Grade Nine. High School. I spent that year not talking and trying desperately to survive an environment that simply did not like me.

Chapter Four was the best of my life so far. It was two years long and would have been titled “Home”. Because that’s when I found where I belonged. That’s where I changed schools to go to an alternative program on a small island, where my classmates became first my friends, and then my family. I learned who I was. I grew in confidence. I was wild and free but I also had friends. Friends who were just as crazy as me. We did incredible things. We went on amazing adventures. We swam in the ocean in the rain and the dark of fall nights. We lit things on fire. We had water fights and played ridiculous pranks on each other. We presented to important members of the education field and blew them away. We were smart, and passionate, caring and crazy. We made a game of seeing if our English discussions could be so intense, thoughtful, and deep-minded that we could make whoever was visiting that day cry. We always succeeded at that.

Somehow, our passionate teacher took a bunch of students who were all, very clearly, broken, and made us into an intelligent, thoughtful, crazy, caring and supportive family. We were all so different. We were all, without a doubt, more than a little lost. But we came together to prove that the sum of a whole is greater than its parts.

Ending Chapter Four was hard. I don’t know if I’ll ever have a chapter as incredible as that one again, though I hope I will. That ending was the first time I started realizing that there are definite chapters in life. Things change and you can never go back. Change comes slowly sometimes, but in my life it often comes thick and fast and I don’t do much to dissuade it. Within two weeks of the end of Chapter Four I had embarked into Chapter Five, which was a huge responsibility and an adventure. It’s shaped me almost as much as Chapter Four, despite being just a year long. I guess I’d call it “Growing Up” or perhaps “The Year When Responsibility Came Calling”.

I’ve always been a bit mature for my age, but there is a definite difference between being mature for your age and being seventeen and living by yourself in a cabin in the woods working full time as assistant editor and producer of BC’s largest independent newspaper. Admittedly, there are only two employees at the paper, so this title isn’t as fancy as it sounds. But there was a large learning curve to be had in Chapter Five. I learned so much. I could spend hours telling you about everything I learned. Days probably. I guess you could easily say that I became an adult, against my will. I answer phones, my hands springing across keyboards, doing seventy things at once to keep the paper running. My job involves editing, accounting, photo managing, people management, public relations, layout, ad design, writing, proof reading, vacuuming the floor when it get’s dirty, and, well, a million things besides. I like being confident and in control, calling the shots.

There’s been plenty of incredible things this year. I took a month off and traveled Europe by myself. The job taught me a ridiculous amount, as I’ve already mentioned. But all of this came with the price of a little bit – a lot? – of my sanity. For instance, I’ve only had one or two real conversations in the last month. There seems to be no one living on this island my age, so I spend all of my time alone. I talk to myself. I wake up alone, go to work alone, work alone, come home and spend the evening alone, sleep alone… rinse, repeat. I’m going just a little bit crazy. It’s a very unusual life for a seventeen/now eighteen year old to lead. But then again, the unique, wonderful and bizarre chapters of my life have led me to being a very unusual eighteen year old.

And now I can feel Chapter Five slipping to a close. Everything is going to change radically again. Living in the city… college… contact with other human beings… not being alone… not being expect to take control and run a newspaper… everything is going to be different. But that’s the way life is. It changes. All the time. One giant slip and slide that we have no choice but to hurtle down.

The Fifth Harry Potter Book

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SPOILER ALERT

If you ask a Harry Potter fan which book is their favourite, they’ll have a hard time telling you. If you ask multiple people, the answers will probably differ quite a bit. But if you ask someone what their least favourite book is, there’s a 95% chance it’s the fifth one. Why? Because the Order of the Phoenix not only has Umbridge, and lots of her, but it is full of Harry’s ‘teenage angst’. It’s the longest, but the hardest to read – Harry is constantly angry with everyone, there’s a horrid toad in pink robes making people write in their own blood, and a beloved character dies because the main character made a mistake. There’s a lot of people you feel like punching in that book – the ministry for magic, Umbridge, Dumbledore, Harry, Malfoy, Umbridge…

But that book could not have been different, and I admire JK Rowling for writing it like it is. She did what a lot of authors aren’t brave enough to do: she told the truth. That book is particularly hard to read because of Harry. The emotions going through him during that whole book have commonly been labeled as ‘teenage angst’. But we all have to admit that they were completely justified and it would have been very false of JK Rowling to write Harry as feeling any other way. A lot of authors glaze over the difficult emotions their main character feels – they take the human out of their characters in an attempt to make them seem stronger.

But that’s not what the Harry Potter series is about. The Harry Potter series, in essence, is about what it is to be human – to feel such powerful love, hate and anger. To bleed and hurt and try to hold yourself together when the world falls apart. To keep going even when it seems impossible to. The series is about great grief and incredible pain, and about the most powerful magic in the world – love.

It’s about how people make mistakes, how they aren’t perfect. It teaches people that no one is perfect. How the world isn’t divided into good people and death eaters. How all you can do is be the best you can, and you have to forgive yourself, and you have to forgive others.

To write the fifth book any differently would have been false. It would have been taking a crucial part out of the series. The fifth book is dark, but it is dark because only the darkness can truly teach us the importance of light, and how to find it in ourselves. At the beginning of the fifth book Harry had just gone through a horrible, horrible ordeal. He saw a friend murdered in front of his eyes, at the age of fourteen, and believed he was about to be killed too. He was tortured, ridiculed, laughed at, injured, and almost murdered. He saw the ghosts of his dead parents. And then he was promptly dropped off into a very abusive household, shut off from everyone he knew, and kept in the dark about what was happening with the crazy on-the-loose murderer who had tormented and almost killed him weeks earlier. He then went to live in a rumour-filled school where the majority of people thought he was an unstable, pathetic liar just because he had told people about the crazy, on-the-loose murderer who was still after him.

And somehow people expect him to carry on with a smile on his face? They expect him not to be broken? A lot of authors would have conjured up this inhuman character who doesn’t truly feel the emotions going through them. Who is so ‘strong’ that you feel like they must have built a concrete wall around their heart. But in the fifth book, JK Rowling teaches us that it is okay to be hurt. It’s okay to feel. That pain is human. She teaches us that everyone makes mistakes. She teaches us that we need to forgive ourselves. That is one of the very, very important lessons this book series teaches – forgiveness. More than anything, the fifth book is a lesson in love, and grief, and carrying on no matter what happens – believing in yourself, being passionate about the important things, never, ever giving up despite the odds, and loving with your whole heart even when you know that love comes with the price of great pain.

I’ve heard a lot of people – non-Harry Potter fans mostly – criticize JK Rowling for the fifth book and ‘the lessons it teaches’. They say this because the main character makes mistakes. He doesn’t tell people how broken he is, he doesn’t tell people of the horrible things that are happening to him and that he’s going through. He tries to do things alone. But this book doesn’t teach people that they need to do things alone. Quite the contrary.

We need to look at the dark things in life. We need to examine them. We can’t ignore them. We can’t pretend that the world isn’t broken. We can’t pretend our heroes never made mistakes, that they didn’t feel pain, or grief. That they weren’t just as broken as us. That’s what fiction is for – it is the tool with which to examine the wounds of the world with fresh eyes and fresh perspectives. Some people think fiction is just an excuse to run around doing magic in an airy fairy world with dragons and unicorns. Those people are missing the point. As Stephen King says “Fiction is the truth within the lie”. It is the best way we have to examine our reality.

Random Thought Gallery

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* Does anyone else have a little tiny morbidly curious voice in the back of their head that cheers gleefully whenever news of the impending doom of the world reaches it? And all the other voices in my head all have to shove it violently into a corner so that it doesn’t keep crowing about how stoked it is for the apocalypse.

* Sometimes the only thing to do is keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t look back. And, most importantly, don’t consider failure as an option. Don’t think about it. Don’t doubt. Don’t dwell on how slim the chance of success is. Just keep going forward in blind determination.

* Where do I hope I am in my life in fourty years? Well, for one, alive. For two, I’d like to live on a world that still resembles something remotely habitable. I don’t want to spend my retirement hunting down zombies, thanks. But, if the world keeps spinning and I keep breathing, then I want to be a successful author with a few children and a partner. I want to have helped change the world. I want to be someone who inspires people. I also expect that I will be more than a little bit insane, but in a good way.

* Insanity can either scare the crap out of you, or be a good thing. A release of tension through the vessel of madness.

* Silence is louder than any noise could ever be. I wear headphones like others wear earplugs, to save myself from the noise of nothing.

Back From Travelling and Planning For A New Adventure

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Well, the travel blog posts have been finished. I’ve been home for over two months now, and I settled back into routine uncomfortably fast. After a packed month of running around Europe, I was back to work, writing, netflix and books almost as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. My May and June were packed with weekend visits with friends and family, so I rode a lot of ferries around the islands constantly. Now that July has begun, however, I’ve done very little. I haven’t even left the island for three weeks. Despite this, and very surprisingly, I haven’t gone completely insane yet. I’ve still managed to keep a hold on my mind, even though its straining away from me like an unruly helium balloon.

Sometimes being on the brink of madness makes me wonder if I am weak for being unable to deal with solitude. But then I remember that most people in the city can hardly deal with a day of silent stillness on their own. I haven’t talked to anyone in two days. In the last three weeks, the only conversations I’ve had (not counting online ones) have been with my boss about work, and the two sentence ‘how are you’s I routinely exchange with the grocery store clerks. So I guess I should just be happy I haven’t found need of a room with padded walls yet.

But enough talk of madness and solitude. Exciting things are in the works. I’m all signed up for college for September, and will be moving to Vancouver, to live in the city for the first time in my life. I’m in the midst of searching for a place to live, which is difficult – everything is either overpriced or non-existent. There’s a real housing crisis in that city. Nonetheless, I haven’t yet given up hope of finding the dream place. I spend most of my days thinking about September now, or else pacing my tiny house at midnight, talking to myself and blowing soap bubbles. But that’s another story.

September is going to be a big challenge for me, and a big adventure. I remember before I went traveling, I made a list of things I had never done before that I was going to have to do while travelling. While, I could easily make a similar list for college and the city. Only four years of my education have been in a ‘traditional’ school format without my dad for a teacher. I’ve never lived in a city. I’ve never spent more time with people then alone. What am I going to do when I want silence and there’s nowhere I can go to get away from traffic sounds? What if I really, really just need to look up at the stars, but the light pollution has eclipsed them all?

It’s going to be one big, stressful change. Yet hopefully a delightful one. I often feel like I’m a character in Dungeons and Dragons. I constantly feel like I need to do new things that improve my abilities and help me to level up. Working full time and very independently at a newspaper helped improve one set of my skills – intelligence, constitution – travelling another -strength, endurance, ect. But I’m afraid my ‘charisma’ and other social skills are severely lacking. I’m currently the kind of person, who, in a D and D game, would kill her own quest mates if they were annoying. I’d be the one who would end up battling a dragon alone cause I’d previously killed/abandoned the rest of my party. And in that case, I’d probably get slaughtered by the dragon.

See where I’m going with this? My move to Vancouver is a new quest. A mission to improve the part of myself that has been utterly neglected, so that I can level up. My solitude has given me a unique view of life, but it is time to try something new. When I get to that dragon, I want to have people at my back to help fight it.

The summer is almost half gone and the tension of the new adventure ahead of me is beginning to build up. I’m excited, I’m nervous, and I’m a little bit insane. All I need to do now is make it to September with some idea of where at least a few of my marbles are.

One Last Travel Post – What Travelling Taught Me

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At my highschool, we did a lot of self reflections. Like, a lot. Dozens every semester, at the very least. So what did I do as I was sitting on the plane, bound for home? Self reflections by the dozen, of course! Mainly though, I made a list of what travelling had taught me, and how it had changed me.

Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned Traveling:

* The world is big. Like, really big. Really damn big. Bigger than it looks on a map.

* Anything is possible. Seriously, ANYTHING. So live life without fear.

* Every tiny decision you make really does change your life. Scary thought, right?

* There is an infinite amount of potential out there. It’s all around you.

* People are incredibly different, in so many ways. You can make these differences a source of strife and a big difficulty, or you can embrace them with all the joy of discovery and turn them into a beautiful opportunity. The choice is yours.

* Connection is one of the most important things in the world.

* Serendipity is real and wonderful.

* Communication is precious.

* Time is deep and vast, and so damn beautiful – learning about history is like looking up into the sky on a clear night. You know you’ll never see every constellation, or learn the name of every star. But the dazzling potential of time’s vastness is enough to hold you in awe.

* Going with the flow is one of the most important things you can do.

* There is no such thing as a mistake. They do not exist. Mistakes are just opportunities to learn.

* Live in the moment, and in the place you are in. Because every moment ends. All you have is this one.

* Fear is pointless – go for it and be everything you can be.

What I Learned About Myself:

* I am strong enough to survive what life throws at me. If I get into a sticky situation I can sure as hell get out of it.

* If I follow my instincts, they’ll almost always lead me right.

* I can be what I need to be.

* I’ve got a mind, a heart and a set of feet. I can do anything, go anywhere. Anything is possible.

How I Changed:

* I don’t hesitate as much. I just go for it. I jump right in.

* I am way more confident. I know that I can deal with what the world throws at me.

* I trust myself more – I trust my feet to carry me, my heart to guide me, and my mind to steer me to safety.

* I am more able to give up control and go with the flow.

* I’m far braver.

* I live in the moment more. Life is one big beautiful adventure and I don’t want to miss a second of it.

Well, that’s it. Thank you for sharing the journey with me.

The End of the Adventure

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My alarm went off too early for me to be happy, though I imagine my feelings of disgruntled irritation were nothing compared to those of my one hostel roommate. I hauled myself out of bed, got ready as quickly and quietly as I could, and fled the room. You really gain an appreciation of how loud everything is when you are sleeping in a hostel.

I checked out of the hostel and headed to the train station, the Gard du Nord. My train ride to the airport was 1/2 hour long and when I disembarked, with my heavy bag on my shoulder, it was to find that I had no clue where to go. The Charles-de-Gualle airport is hell. Not as horrid as the Amsterdam airport, but close. It is massive – nothing is more discouraging then seeing a sign that says ‘section 2D is a ten minute walk away’ when you’re not actually sure if 2D is the right place. I wandered in circles with my bag for almost half an hour. 2D wasn’t the right section, and 2A, 2B and 2C didn’t seem to actually exist. At last I asked at an information desk and they pointed me in the right direction.

I found my way to 2E, checked in my bag, figured out my seat sucked – a middle one in a row of three – and went through security. Finding the right gate was easy, lucky. I was glad I had arrived extra early though, because shortly after I got settled at my gate, there was a security problem and they shut down security for almost half an hour. While everyone trying to get through security was no doubt panicking about missing their flight, I spent some of the last of my euros on some very expensive airport food and sat down to wait.

And then it was time. I boarded the plane and sat there in a state of shock, not quite believing that the end of the adventure was near. What a month it was. One big, crazy adventure. I was heading home with a smile in my lips, looking forward to hugging everyone. I couldn’t believe it was over. I’d seen so much, done so much – changed so much. The girl sitting on that plane wasn’t the same one who had waited so anxiously for her flight to Amsterdam to leave YVR airport all that time ago, a world away.

At the end of the journey, I wanted to quote the last verses of Tolkien’s ‘The Road’ poem. But I couldn’t remember them, so I wrote my own poem:

Many paths I’ve walked,                                                         Many dreams I’ve dreamed,                                                   Since I left my door behind

My feet are weary                                                                         From walking far                                                                     Along cobblestones                                                                      And roads that wind,                                                                   Passed wild moors                                                                   And castles old                                                                               Soaring hills,                                                                                  Rained-washed and cold

I’ve walked alone                                                               Through ancient places                                                     Through gilded halls                                                                  And quiet spaces

And now I turn                                                                             My eyes afar                                                                                  In a different direction                                                                   Then the wandering star

I turn to home,                                                                                 And familiar faces,                                                                         To warmth of love                                                                          And precious places

Long I’ve been lost,                                                                      In cities wide                                                                                 In swarming crowds                                                                       Without a guide

Long I’ve traveled,                                                                            And wonders I’ve seen                                                                   I’ve tales to tell                                                                               Of the things I have been

I return, eyes bright                                                                     To the home in the trees                                                                To the rainforest air                                                                       To the salty seabreeze

I return to the forest                                                                  And the places I love                                                                      To all of the people                                                                        I am longing to hug

The path will go on,                                                                        And I will follow, one day                                                              But for now home is calling                                                            With this sun’s last ray

My Last Day In Paris

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I had a very relaxed, wandering last day in Paris. I was going to go to Versailles, but decided that that would be a little too chaotic, what with my flight home the next morning. Instead, I took the metro to the Notre Dame and went inside to gape at it. It was gorgeous – lofty and towering, elegant and breathing splendor. There simply aren’t buildings built like that anymore, though I suppose that’s a good thing, what with our finite resources.

From there I went to Shakespeare and Company bookstore, which has easily taken the place of my favourite book store in the world, closely followed by the one in Inverness, and the one in Bath that gave out free tea. It was a wonderful, wonderful place, more like a home than a shop. It is a maze of old books and new books of comedy, tragedy, war, peace, fantasy, fact… It almost seems bigger on the inside, with every room leading to another. There’s all sorts of alcoves tucked away for reading, writing, or dreaming. There’s one with an old typewriter on a desk, and quotes and poetry scratched into the wood of the table. I sat there for ages. The typewriter was begging me to write.

The bookstore had a whole room of ancient books that weren’t for sale, just for reading. There was a long window seat in that room, and a cat was curled up on a sofa, purring softly as someone pet it. There was also a room with an old piano in it, open to anyone who wanted to play. The air in the shop smelled heavenly, like old paper and forgotten stories. The store is the perfect haven, a sanctuary. I wanted to live in it forever, lost among the books. It also made me want to write – to disappear in the midst of the nouns and verbs that are my home.

On the way out of the shop, I passed a tour group. I just caught a snatch of what the guide was saying ‘I’ll give you all five minutes to look around inside…” This is why I don’t go on tours. Five minutes. In that shop. I had spent over an hour and wanted to spend more. Heck, I wanted to live there. Five minutes. Disgraceful.

From Shakespeare and Company I walked to the Luxembourg Gardens and explored for awhile. They’re a bit off the tourist beaten path, which was evident from the fact that almost all the signs were just in French and not in English. Paris is a very English city for being in France. There are English signs everywhere, and people always recognize bad French and immediately switch into English. Perhaps it was just the sections of the city I visited though. I would have liked a more genuine experience of Paris, but I wasn’t sure how to find one.

From the gardens I took the metro to St Martin’s Canal and went for a walk along it, then headed to Montmartre again to explore more and to laze on the grass in front of the Sacré-Coeur. I was pounced on my a street vendor while I was there, who grabbed my wrist and had woven a bracelet around it before I had time to realize what was going on. I gave him a few euros rather irritably and went to wander around. Paris is not a friendly city, that’s for sure.

I played my flute in the grass below the Sacré-Coeur, where I one again got hit on by a middle-aged man. This time the guy couldn’t really speak English, so he just kept repeating ‘We should really talk you know. I can only speak Italian and French.” I’d say it was a pity, because I only spoke English, and he’d just nod say it was sad, and repeat “We should really talk. I only speak Italian and French.” He did this so many times I began to wonder if he had short-term memory loss.

I went back to the hostel for the evening to check and double check that I knew my transit route to the airport, then took the metro late at night for a last look at the Eiffel Tower. I sat on the grass waiting with a hundred or more other people for the eleven o’clock light show to happen. When the tower sparkled into brilliantly flashing lights, we all oohed and awed like we were at a firework show, while the usual street vendors hurried around trying to seal alcohol and cigarettes.

I could not believe I would be home soon. I could not believe that my journey, my trip of a lifetime, my adventure, was drawing slowly to a close. Travelling had become my life for a month and it was incomprehensible that the road had almost led back to my front door. I didn’t want it to be over… and yet there was a part of me who was eagerly waiting for the morrow, when I’d get to hug the people I love and breath the clean Canadian air.