Category Archives: Musings and Aphorisms

Tomahawks and Giddy Up

‘If we wonder often, the gift of knowledge will come’ ~ Arapaho

Hay bales line the streets. Restaurants and bars take on a saloon-like appearance. The crowds, a sea of cowboy hats. Dusty boots, clicking spurs and faded-worn jeans walk the streets. I never realised what a big deal Stampede would be to Calgary, not only is the city transformed into a metropolitan version of the Wild West for the tourist invasion but I got a real sense of genuine local pride for the cow-herding, gun-slinging heritage of the province.

On Friday I went to the Stampede Parade, spectators lined the streets awaiting parade floats in the 31ºC heat. I love parades and festivals, on the condition I get a decent standing place in the crowd (I’m a little 5’3”) to watch the colourful celebrations. I love how the music fills the air and everyone is in high spirits and there to enjoy themselves. I love the dancers, the marching bands, flag wavers, balloons, bejeweled costumes, the horses. Maybe I’m just a really excitable person? Here’s a few of my favorite images from the day:

Perhaps this is the appropriate time to tell you that back in the deep dark dawn of time I bought Horse & Pony magazine and replaced my Transformers wallpaper with my Little Pony. Even now I have to say, horses are quite beautiful animals especially when they’re in motion cantering and galloping.

The parade lasted for about 2 hours, so I was shifting between standing and sitting, doing a little jig on the spot to keep my legs awake. I finally got to see the Chinese Cultural Society do their lion and dragon dances which was worth waiting for. Now cowboys are rootin’ tootin’ and all, but Native Americans are pretty awesome. Totem poles, tomahawks, dreamcatchers, battle cries, potlatches and pow-wows. Brave warriors and hunters of the old West.

So what else has been going on?

  • I have caught up with snail mail, so instead of online activity I’ve put pen to very pretty paper, mailing postcards and dusting off those air mail envelopes. I love the thought of my friends’ faces lighting up when something drops into their mailbox and they know I’ve thought of them. Now to tackle that scary looking pile of emails.

  • Uploaded nearly 1000 Banff photos, intrepid traveler tales will follow.
  • World Cup withdrawal. I get sucked in by world sporting events – the passion, the frantic flag waving, crowd eruptions and goal celebrations. I had backed Spain since England came crashing out, the final was very physical and tense. But I did cheer when Spain won especially after the Dutch ninja-kick foul that never got red carded. Must add to Bucketlist – Will attend one World Cup in my lifetime.

  • Becoming more and more demoralised by the job (or lack of) situation. I’m trying not to question my achievement and self-worth, but I see so many things I lack the requirements and experience for. Applications I’ve made (via job sites and speculatively) are hardly setting the place alight.  Should I reassess my career dreams? Should I go to graduate school? I’m really asking myself these things. If I don’t find employers willing to sponsor me to stay in Canada I will need to return to the UK by March. I graduated almost 1 year ago and it’s really denting my confidence that nothing has worked out. I don’t know how to sum up this year with a positive tone that recruiters will drool over. I have really been trying but it feels like I’m running out of steam. Limiting my job search to Calgary is really frustrating, maybe going back to England wouldn’t be such a bad thing. The term double-dip recession scares me, but maybe we’ll be out of it by then. It’s so tough. Especially when David has got a nicely paying jobs here.
  • Volunteering – been enquiring about tutoring in homework clubs for Grades 1-12, an internship at Shaw TV (something a bit different!), becoming a member of Big Sisters and having conversation meet-ups with Korean students wanting to get to grips with English. Not exactly career-related but I’m not one to sit around and do absolutely nothing.
  • Getting excited about Shark Week on Discovery next month. My first ever science career dream was shark and marine mammal research.
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Filed under Building my CV, Calgary, Canada, Career, Graduate, Life, Life Lessons, Musings and Aphorisms, Nature and Planet Earth

Dream Recurrence

‘A dreamer is one who can find his way by moonlight’ ~ Oscar Wilde.

Sometimes the setting changes or the people around me but the theme is recurrent. Exams. Even though I have left my academics behind for now I still find them creeping into my dreams. The general premise is an imminent exam, whether that day or standing and shaking outside the exam hall. What is so unnerving about these exams is that I’m totally unprepared, I haven’t studied for them and I know that I won’t be able to do my best in them when they’ve just been thrust upon me. I’ll feel terrified, a sinking feeling in my stomach and sick because in my dream these exams are really important and failing is an unthinkable.

I dream most vividly when I have woken up and then fall back into a deep sleep, like this morning. I was having a French A-Level exam (I never even took French A-Level!) and I was scrambling through the notes in my rucksack to get some last minute study time in. All I could find was notes on bioluminescence. I can feel an internal panic coming on as I acknowledge that I don’t even take French but I’m still going to have to sit this exam. My high school friend Kat appears out of nowhere to tell me, ‘You’ll be fine’, in the real world I was writing her a letter to congratulate her on her wedding yesterday which I think explains seeing her face. What happens next – well when I sit down in the exam room my mind will go blank, I won’t be able to answer a single question and time will speed up, the minute hand on the clock will race along and before I can do anything it’s over. Then I wake up, and take a minute to realise it’s not real and sigh in relief.

I wish my dreams were more like this...

Meaning? Well I’m not sure if this is delving into my fear of failure, maybe something else deep in my unconscious. Maybe feeling unprepared or not having things mapped out is something that scares me more than I think. I have always found exams stressful and dreaded those times of year. The expectation to do well. The feeling that study time is running out and I’ve nowhere near learned everything as there is simply too much to go over. Feeling a bit out of control of the situation no matter how well I planned out my time. This scenario crops up in my dreams every so often and I’m hoping as I let go of one stage of my life, so the dreams will fade away too.

Normally my dreams border on the silly to the weird. The strangest dream I had, which I’ve kept with me today is one I had when I was still in primary school. I dreamt I was trapped inside the Captain Planet computer game.

The only things I actually remember – having to overcome platform game-style obstacles, seeing the girl with the heart ring and worried about getting a Game Over. Oh and it was all in 2D to add to the weirdness factor. Maybe my imagination was in overdrive or I had a crazy gaming session that night.

The only pleasant dream in remembrance is awakening in a colonial style home, with amazing stonework and columns. Walking out onto the balcony and gazing upon an Italian mediterranean landscape and seeing the striated green and yellow landscape, a swaying wheat field beyond a grand fountain. The sea winking at me in the distance with one of those diamond cut gleams. Cue running through fields and walking through the fountain with the white airy goddess dress dragging across the surface. Becoming heavy with water. It was a feeling of being free and anything being possible. It was so real at that moment and probably why it has stayed with me to this day. And by writing it here I have immortalised it in print, never forgotten.

A hilly and striped landscape in the foreground would complete the scene.

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Not Great Expectations

‘I am not in this world to live up to other people’s expectations, nor do I feel that the world must live up to mine.’ ~ Fritz Perls.

Panicked. Anxious. Questioning what I should doing and where I am now. There was I hoping my twenties would be a carefree existence with the distinct joy of finding myself and my place in the world. The moment the pressure lifts from academics, then the job search/be successful pressure hits full throttle. I feel guilty not knowing what I should do with my life with absolute 100% certainty, I’m chasing ideas and running with them (stong pull:fertility lab). But if something isn’t happening, when do I decide to give up and try another avenue.

The Daily Mail released an article today. It’s crazy how many of us fledgling adults are slumping into a ‘quarter-life crisis’, and sad that the pressure of life are getting to us at a time in our lives when we should be enjoying our newly found freedom and be full of hope for our futures. Instead many of us are directionless and uncertain. I remember a few months after I graduated feeling this way, I read the quarter-life crisis section of the Prospects.ac.uk forum and was shocked at how low some people felt. I remember one girl who had graduated in 2007, had been working temp jobs and just felt like a robot, sick of living with her parents still and wondered how long it would be til something came her way that was even loosely related to her degree. One guy shockingly felt so down that he had contemplated jumping in front of the train as his life felt so static, lacked meaning and had spent so much time unemployed and feeling useless that he thought he would never get employed. My heart broke for these people, would I feel the same if nothing had worked out for me years in the future? A shade of failure and inadequacy.

As the article suggested – take a break from the rat race and do something meaningful to lift your spirits. Which is precisely why I’m in Canada – avoiding stewing in my anxiousness and an unstable economy (plus the small matter of love). I have dipped my toe into the volunteer realm, the thoughts of making a difference at the dog shelter and getting started in a new project freed my mind from the worries of what I should be doing, but happy to do something I wanted to do. If it takes me longer to find my calling (scientific journalism? creative writing?) or be given a chance in the working world (Health Service hire me!) then so be it. It’s hard to say that and I do worry, especially when I see the busy streets and roads at 7am of people making their way to work and thinking ‘Shouldn’t this be me?’. What if my untapped potential fades away? What if no opportunity presents itself even though I keep my ears a-prick? What if I’m out of employment too long, does that make me a loser? Should I go to graduate school?

Something that always hurts when reading these articles is the insensitivity of some of the comments. Claiming Gen Y are a bunch of whiners and feel we are ‘entitled’. I certainly worked hard to get my degree but I never feel like I was owed anything. I think if it was known how many resumes some graduates have sent out to secure a single interview, the number of young people working for free just to get experience for the hope of an entry-level job in the future, the competition, the moments of feeling worthless. The vicious cycle of ‘needing experience, but needing some experience to compete for the experience opportunity’ plus the curse of student loans, maybe they could understand the upset.

The authors touch on pressures from the celebrity lifestyle. This certainly isn’t me, I love a new pair of shoes and something sparkly to add to my accessories carousel  as much as the next girl but if need be I can live minimally and on a budget. I think we’re bombarded with images of what ‘success’ is and by some mystical osmosis we start to absorb these projections. Which is the source of unhappiness. Success is purely subjective, it’s where you want to be. Expecting something unrealistic is only going to lead to heartbreak and stress. I’m still trying to figure out my definition of success (with happiness leading the list) but it certainly won’t be shaped by anything other than my wants and desires.

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Filed under Building my CV, Career, Graduate, Life, Life Lessons, Musings and Aphorisms, NABLOPOMO, Personal Development

No Second Rate Substitutes

Why would an orange try to change itself to become an apple?

Just because there are more apples?

By doing so, it negates its own value – Vitamin C.

A fruit analogy to display just how important it is to stay true to yourself.

Never negate your own value and try to be something else because if you do, you’ll be nothing more than a second rate substitute. Brian Kim

Now I’m not too familiar with a fruit analogy telling me to be myself! But here are some things I do know…

When we are children, we are told to be nothing but ourselves, people would like us better that way. But as our childhood gets stripped away so we begin to hide ourselves away, maybe confused about what we think we should be and losing ourselves in the process. Well not losing, more like hiding who we are. I’ve always felt an internal demand not to reveal my true colours too suddenly but let them out in slow, controlled trickles. But lately I’ve been letting my guard down and they tend to burst out in pulses, uncovering who I am through gestures, conversations and expressions. No longer being chipped away at, more like stripping off layers. I will accidentally let my quirks and strange sense of humour out the bag and the best thing is people don’t seem to mind that. And I’m even surprising myself when I shine. Feeling good to no longer masquerade.

Before I was about 19 when I met new people I would either be really quiet (often mistaken for being cold and aloof, even though I was listening to everything being said and very interested, thinking of questions to ask) or I would feign super confidence and feel utterly exhausted for playing this character. I really didn’t know who I was. I have no idea which stone my confidence has hidden under or who paid its ransom but it finally found its way into me, better late than never. I have less qualms about saying what I really think in conversations, giving my views on controversial topics and slowly the awkwardness of revealing my true self is dripping away. Even feeling more comfortable taking the spotlight when it falls on me, when did that happen. The best part about it is I don’t have to fake the confidence it’s radiating externally and through my being because I’m more sure of myself.  I have always had so much to say and finally I’m voicing it.

I’m breaking down walls and resisting building new ones and I know people like me for being me and not a part I’m playing. I love meeting like-minded people who I connect with instantly, we understand each other from the beginning in an unspoken-but-it-will-show-soon way. Maybe through a passion for animals, books, science, life, living, making a difference, a whole myriad of things with a hope for it to run deeper over time. I might have the occasional moment where I feel a bit wobbly and uncertain of myself, but I just need to take a good look in the mirror and remember this.

It’s taken over two decades to get to this stage, but the more I realise THIS IS IT. NOW. The more determined I am to make the most of life and be a first-rate me.  Wouldn’t it be sad to go through this life as a unique, one-of-a-kind person and the world never to see that. To have all these hopes, dreams and desires but be too scared to live them out, to let fear run your life. You can’t let this happen. In us all is a confidence we need to find and as Oscar Wilde said, ‘Be yourself; everybody else is taken’.

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Stranger things have happened

‘Enthusiasm is the best protection in any situation’ ~ David Seabury.

One thing I’ve found Canadians assume about me is – I’m British and therefore I must love football. When someone picks up on my accent, there is a great chance if I’m in male company I will be asked which football team I support, shortly followed by whether I have seen an ice hockey game yet. Now I’m not the biggest footie fanatic, I don’t have a team I hold a season ticket for but I do love the World Cup. More the spirit of the World Cup, watching others parade their country’s colours, their national flags streaming in the breeze from car windows. Painted faces in pubs experiencing the suspense of the game, biting their lips with every near miss to a goal. My photo was taken outside an Irish pub, and these places are packed during games. To the rafters.

The game has just heated up and somehow, somehow, England made it out of the group alive. I didn’t even watch the game vs. Slovenia as I had an awful feeling we would be pummeled seeing as we had failed to win against the other (British media so-called) ‘easier’ teams in our group. One thing I noticed from our games was how slow the play was (in comparison to Brazil vs. Ivory Coast which was so nimble) and how disconnected the players seemed to be from each other. It doesn’t take a genius to realise teams of any sort are non-operational if that happens. Next up, we are facing Germany apparently. Given the traditional football rivalry between the countries I think it will be pretty tense and if it ends in penalties I can barely watch. I think we might be waving goodbye to our South African World Cup campaign by the end of that ninety minutes, but stranger things have happened right?

In other news:

  • I went for a short meeting at the Clinic to speak to one of the doctors. His quirky and bizarre humor aside (and his ability to make me feel very uncomfortable), I think the main problem they see is waiting for medical test results as it would mean I couldn’t begin training immediately. So looks like I will be kissing this job goodbye. I feel like I’m riding highs and lows being a foreigner here, moments of enjoying myself followed by grim disappointment and worry about the future. Seeing the doggies yesterday got me out of that cycle  –> feeling like a go-getter. Gotta keep those positive vibes floating about.
  • Tomorrow is finally a day without appointments or plans, and I intend to keep it that way. So maybe I’ll actually get around to doing something.
  • We have a new digital SLR. So David has been toying with that; photo editing (read: stealing computer, sulky panda face of sadness), doing nightshots and slow-shutter sky shots. Basically taking photos all around the apartment and being an annoying paparazzo. Still haven’t had my turn on it yet.
  • 6 days away from completing NABLOPOMO. It’s been great, letting the ideas out my mind and not sitting stewing in them. Blogging is cheap therapy. Forcing myself to come up with ideas or revisit old ones daily. I cannot believe I’ve managed to last this long and actually be enjoying it, have something to say. Julie encouraged me to do it, and I’m passing on the encouragement to anybody who is feeling daring. My aim is to do NABLOPOMO three times in 1001 days (maybe/undecided). I’m also finishing the challenge just in time to go to Banff next Thursday. With that 30 posts in 30 days achievement high.
  • Some pieces from the Terracotta army are coming to the Glenbow Museum at the end of July. Psyched!

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A Dog Day

Tiresome and stuffy, the bus journey dragged on, I was wondering if I would even get off at the right stop for the animal shelter. After escaping the confines of the vehicle and letting 45 minutes of journey evaporate away I was standing in front of the building. I could sense the creature compassion and happy wagging tails before I even entered. My purpose for being here was actually volunteer-oriented and I had an interview with the volunteer manager – which went swimmingly well and she was super nice.

Not only are neglected, abandoned and surrendered doggies bought here but the biggest lop-eared rabbits you’ve ever laid eyes on, kitty cats, guinea pigs, hamsters, birds and even a rogue snake has found its way into the shelter’s possession. 7000-8000 animals a year are bought through their doors – imagine that!  Using their super powers of love and care they arrange adoptions, offer top-notch care and educate the public, real life animal heroes.

One thing that struck me about the dogs here was how well-behaved they were, either greeting you with barks and bounding – wanting to lick your face off in the friendliest of ways, or calm and gentle – to put you at ease in their company. Each dog has such a distinct personality, like people there are those that immediately want you attention and crave it, and those that are happy to sit back and maybe be a bit cautious about revealing too much of their personality till you know them better.

I thought I would share some photos of my day, including my favourite dogs. Yes, if I had the room I would love and look after them all, then buy a sleigh so I can get around the city when the winter snow starts to layer the ground.

Human kindness

Ginger (German shepherd, rottweiler cross) and Yoyo (American Eskimo). Great dogs, great spirit.

Top: Benny. Love at first sight. Here’s 50% American Eskimo, 50% who knows (pure awesome). He looked so full of joy I thought he would burst. Below: Charlie, a giant Saint Bernard, though between you and me I think he’s crossed with a giant teddy bear.

I have such a promising feeling about getting involved here, I’m excited to be a dog walker and carer and looking forward to putting a positive stamp on animals’ lives. Who wouldn’t want to spread kindness in the face of unconditional puppy love?

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Filed under Building my CV, Calgary, Musings and Aphorisms, NABLOPOMO, Nature and Planet Earth

Obsessive Hoarders I

Two shows I always seem to end up catching on TV are Obsessed and Hoarders. Probably stemming from my desire to understand the human mind and why people think the way they do, these rope me in.

Hoarders follows the lives of people who excessively keep objects regardless of how unsanitary or worthless they are. They normally explain their collections through attachments to their ‘treasures’ or believing it will have a use in the indefinite future, many believe they can mend the items and pass them on to someone who will find them useful. The hoarders house becomes cluttered, impairing mobility and their house/apartment almost becomes like a prison both physically and mental.

It’s one of those programs where every week I can’t believe what I see. And as the focus bounces between different hoarders the conditions they live in seem to get more extreme, where you start to question ‘How can people live like that?’. One week a woman is hoarding food and she has containers of putrid liquid she is dubious about throwing away, in another home layers of debris have built up and poor dead squashed cats are found underneath the rubbish and possibly one of the worst ones – a lady couldn’t dispose of her faeces, leaving them hanging round the place in bags and eating through the floor whilst she slept in one chair among all her junk. Unbelievable.

What a hoarder's desk doesn't look like, but I wish mine did.

I’m not a complete neat freak, but I love it when the apartment is tidy as it makes it more airy and nice to be in. I’m a firm believer in a house being a sanctuary and if a few days go by and my desk or the bedroom floor starts to look a bit cluttered it’s about time to suck it up and tidy. Better that than being confronted by a messy mess every time you open the door. I remember moving into a shared student house and the previous occupants had left the kitchen in a whirlwind of filth – a sticky kitchen floor (maybe ectoplasm who knows?), worktops and an oven I wouldn’t even cook or cut food on unless I wanted a terrific dose of E. Coli and, this makes me shiver just typing it, about a mile of coarse hair stuck down the shower drain. That wasn’t fun to deal with, in the slightest. I couldn’t help but wonder how it got like that in the first place.

I think in many ways every one is a hoarder on a minor scale. We all have those things we keep as they’re precious to us but questionably so to others. My big weaknesses are stationary, books and magazines and anything of sentimental value – letters, cards and photos. I have too much heart to throw a teddy bear away. Though I hasten to add, not on a crazy scale that I’m sleeping on a patch of tiled floor in the hallway, actually most of my stuff remains in (many, many) cardboard boxes on English soil and it’ll be a lot of fun rediscovering it and finding little thing I had forgotten were mine.

Something interesting I found out about was the term ‘digital hoarding’. Collecting files, images and websites for later use? Don’t we all do that? Seeing as I can’t imagine it overspilling into real life and prevent me functioning as a normal human being I will not be calling in the professional organisers…just yet. Something I’m guilty of is giving files and photos meaningless names that I will never be able to specifically recover exactly what I’m looking for without poking around in various folders. I often forget just how much I have, just like a hoarder!

(edit: Sorry for lateness getting my post off paper and onto this here electronic journal, David stealing laptop for dSLR software. We fought and he won, but failed to sabotage my challenge).

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