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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Filed under Life, Life Lessons, Musings and Aphorisms, NABLOPOMO, Personal Development

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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Filed under Calgary, Canada, Career, Life, Musings and Aphorisms, NABLOPOMO, Personal Development

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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Treasure Troves of Chinatown

Chinatown shops are treasure troves of the weird, wonderful and kawaii (‘cute’). Amongst the jade dragons and lucky cats you’ll find Hello Kitty, paper lanterns and garlands, resting or jolly laughing buddhas and miniature Chinese lion puppets. There’s no real logic to what goes where on the shelves,  it’s a colorful assembly with a splash of red and gold and a hint of disorder and chaos. Which all adds to the charm. Surrounded by Chinese script on the packages it almost feels like leaving behind the English-dominated outside for a moment or two, being immersed in something quirky in a language you don’t fully understand, besides the dollar signs on the goodies that is.

The little girl in me couldn’t resist ‘Milk’, clearly David couldn’t either.

The Chinese Cultural Centre in the area actually has a Lion Dance society, it’s not only the lion’s vivid colours which cause the audience to marvel but the group of skilled people inside the lion’s body – they are able to move in such a coordinated, harmonious manner that the lion’s movement is nothing short of fluid, almost appearing to sweep effortlessly over the ground without a stumble. The head dancer controls the lion’s ears, mouth and eyes moving them rhythmically to the music and giving them dramatic expressions. Making the costume leap to life. Hopefully I will get to see this spectacle mark the Chinese New Year in China one day.

What do I think is really awesome right now? This video. What a tradition! Wait till the champion lion starts balancing on the poles and rearing up to really see the skill involved, this isn’t child’s play.

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Filed under Arts & Culture, Calgary, NABLOPOMO, Nature and Planet Earth, Travel

Wings of Freedom

‘The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage’ ~ Thucydides (Ancient Greek historian).

I thought…

Gazing up into the sky, eyes transfixed on flocking birds. Sometimes darting unpredictably, other times in synchronous formation. Sometimes dropping through the sky, confident in their recovery. Dispersing and swarming. Encircling.

Fighting the oncoming air currents, riding determined, battling to regain their freedom.

So much space, so much sky. Their playground limitless.

I scribbled this down today in my sketchbook. We can’t sprout wings but I think we can learn a lot from birds – the importance of traveling together and learning from others (the reason birds can effortlessly switch direction is their movement influenced by those beside them, this following allows them to move in an interconnected network). They can make us pine for more freedom and fill us with wanderlust to up sticks and traverse the continents. We may question what boundaries prevent us from being truly happy and content. Birds illuminate the truth that you can go where you wish, you are not tethered, you can go where the wind takes you or let determination drive you to where you want to be. They remind us we are each battling our own air currents so we can open our metaphorical wings and glide on the breeze.

A favourite Postsecret, making a very good point.

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Down by the Lazy River

‘When you arise in the morning,

think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive –

to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.’

Marcus Aurelius

Just a reminder to live in the NOW and to appreciate our presence on Planet Earth. More than lucky.

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