Monday, March 28, 2011


The more I put myself out there, the more I start realizing that I'm constantly attracting more people with similar thoughts, perspectives, ideas and attitudes that are similar to my own.  I used to wonder if I was crazy, if I was drinking the proverbial punch, if I was the star of some "Truman Show" of the 21st Century.

How could it be possible for my life to change to drastically, so seemingly seamlessly, in such short periods of time?

It all started back in my sophomore year of university when I stopped listening to what society thought about what I should do with my life.  I stopped being concerned with whether or not there would be a job or significant money for me waiting at the end of my degree, and I started listening to my heart.  I kept thinking, "What use is a well paying job in a field that I hate?"  That's when I realized, it's of no use at all.  Why go through four years of misery, which is only going to inevitably lead to more misery?

I remember the day it all hit me.  I was going to a leadership retreat in the south shore of Nova Scotia with Tim Merry among others, for a session called "The Art of Hosting" which focused on facilitating meaningful conversations through more organic methods of communication, like Circle and World Cafe.  On the way from Halifax I carpooled with a young woman, not more than a decade older than myself.  During our ride she asked me about what I was taking in school and when I told her Business Administration she asked me, "Why?"  It was the first time anyone had asked me that.  Most people just accepted it as a socially responsible course of education and moved on.  The worst part was, when I thought about my answer, I really had no idea why I was taking Business Administration - not a good sign!  And the more I thought about it, the more that bothered me.

I ended up being roommates with two older women - around my mom's age - that weekend.  I wish I could remember their names so that I could thank them, because they're really the ones who inspired me to follow my heart, not my head, which was so infiltrated with other peoples' opinions and expectations that I'd forgotten how to follow my own dreams.  These women spoke to me about their opportunities, or lack thereof, when they were my age; forced into adulthood, being a wife, a mother, a provider.  They wished they had the freedom that I had and they encouraged me to make the most of it.  It took them another 30 years to get to where they wanted to be at my age - to be able to listen to their hearts, follow their dreams, and live their passion.  They assured me that no matter what, if you're pursuing your passion the opportunities will present themselves.

As the weekend progressed I felt empowered and liberated by this new perspective on life.  At midnight that Saturday I sent an e-mail to the registrar's office at St. Francis Xavier University, requesting that I be transferred from the BBA program to the BA stream, majoring in Anthropology - the one course I felt a driving passion for.  

I called my mom, who is typically endlessly supportive of any choice I make.  When I told her that I was switching programs, as a mother, she was obviously concerned.  She hesitated, "Well, Allie... what kind of jobs can you get with a degree in anthropology?  I mean, what kind of salary are you going to be making?"  And although I understood where she was coming from, I couldn't help but feel a tinge of disappointment.  But I reassured her, "Mom, we've never had money and we've always been happy.  So would you rather me continue my education in the Business program and become rich and miserable?  Or would you rather me follow my passion?  Maybe I won't have much money, but I'll be happy."  She sighed and knew that my happiness was more important, though she just wanted to make sure I was secure and not suffering in the tight grip of poverty, which can cause so much stress.

Since then I've adopted the mentality that following my heart will yield the most positive results, for me, for my work, for my life, and that will help me to be the best individual I'm capable of being.  And if I'm my best me, I can be a better daughter, sister, cousin, friend, lover, employee, citizen, etc.  After transferring to Anthropology I became a more involved student - I was a student assistant and liaison for a semester, I founded and was the president of the Anthropology Students' Society for two and a half years, my grades skyrocketed, I completed two field seasons working as an archaeologist, and was invited to participate in a field season with my Thesis Professor in Panama after graduation.  Things seemed to just fall into place.

The key to this strategy, for me, is being attentive.  If I know what I want, I make sure I do everything in my power to get it.  I decided I wanted to go to grad school for journalism, so I did my research, decided on the school I wanted to attend, and began drafting my application.  I had friends help me to edit my letter of intent, so that it could be the best version possible, and I put my heart and soul into it.  

But then there are other things, decisions that aren't quite as clear, ones that don't have a definitive answer.  How could I possibly decide what to do in a situation where there is no clear choice?  I do what I now like to refer to as "putting out the feelers".  I come up with a variety of solutions to said problem.  

For instance, when I moved back to Nova Scotia after my southern adventures, I didn't know what to do.  So out went the feelers - some went to Ottawa, some stayed in New Glasgow and some went to Montreal.  I made sure to stay aware and attentive and before I knew it I had my answer: Montreal was calling me, via loud speaker!  I had 5 job interviews, 4 job offers, a free place to stay until I got on my feet, and the support of tons of my family and friends.

Now, I know it sounds easy, right?  Not so much.  I often hear the whole spiel about "luck," and while luck has a little bit to do with it, if that's what you want to call it (I prefer to call it fate), it takes a lot more hard work than that.  To tell me I'm just "so lucky" is almost insulting really - it suggests that I did nothing to achieve the experiences I've had in my life.  

I didn't come from money, I've never had anything handed to be on a silver platter or a silver spoon, and I certainly haven't surfed any coattails to get to where I am today.  So, yeah - I am insulted when people suggest that I'm lucky.  I've worked damn hard to get where I am today.  I've overcome hurdles of poverty, discrimination, stereotyping, sexism and just about any other barrier you can dream up.  I'm an underdog, and a loud, tough one at that, so don't get me wrong.  Following a passion isn't for the faint of heart - it's for the courageous, the determined, for those who are willing to sacrifice everything they've got for everything they want.

Firstly, you have to trust in yourself that you know what's best for you.  No one else knows better than you what's best for you, but sometimes our own opinion gets clouded.  We need to clear away all of the external influences and listen to our hearts.  Once you hear your inner voice and trust yourself, you'll know what path to take.

Secondly, you have to be open to change, which isn't as easy as it seems.  We all get comfortable, complacent with our current situations, by the familiar, the safe, the known.  The unknown is scary as hell and facing it confidently is a challenge!  To be truly open to change you need to be open to giving up things you've already worked hard for, in order to trade them for things that are going to make you even happier.  But often times, people are too afraid - afraid that things won't work out, afraid that they'll make a mistake or regret their decisions - to welcome change with open arms.

Third, you need to watch for the signs.  Often times these signs are right in front of us with big flashing LED signs saying, "Hey, you!  Over here!  I'm your lifelong dream and all you need to do to achieve me is forget all the rules and just do whatever is in your power to make me reality."  But we're often too busy listening to what other people have to say, or we're too concerned about what we're supposedly giving up (really though, when you think about it, what is the value of giving up something that doesn't make you happy?).  When I make a choice, or put out my "feelers", I wait for an answer, and usually it manifests in a matter of days.  Oddly enough, it's usually the path of least resistance that ends up being the most fruitful.  And although that doesn't equate to the path being easy, it does mean it's the most obvious answer to get you from where you are to where you want to be.  It's almost like the path chooses you and it's up to you to take on the challenge, dodging the road blocks and pot holes along the way.

You can't just sit there, think about what you want, do nothing, and expect to get results.  Life has never, and will never, work that way.  The only way to make progress is to take action, responsibility, and stewardship over your own life.

After living my life like this for the past 7 years, I'm still making progress and working toward my goals. Life hasn't always been rainbows and puppy dogs, but I've always been able to look at my life and think, "I'm pursuing my life genuinely and passionately."  And that feels pretty good.

While it wasn't so common for me to find people at the tender age of 19 who shared in my perspective, it seems to be getting easier now that I'm getting older.  So maybe I wasn't drinking the punch after all.  Maybe there's actually something to this.  Maybe everyone else is drinking that proverbial punch, sentencing themselves to a life of masqueraded misery.

I guess I'll never really know.  I can only know what works best for me and keep working toward that inner happy that I can feel radiating from inside of me.  I seem to have figured out the equation to the meaning of my own life.  What's your equation?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Talking to Myself

For some people, internal dialogue is an effective way of working through problems.  For me it does quite the opposite, especially when it comes to interpersonal relationships, the future, and the unknown.  

I've always been pretty good at staying in the present, but it seems sometimes, the more I invest myself emotionally, the more I want to know what the future holds.  I want to have a plan.  I want to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  And most importantly, I want to know the thoughts of the other person that I should be having this conversation with, instead of myself.

Instead, I chase myself around inside my head - speculating, wondering, worrying.  One thought leads to another and another.  Before I know it, I've essentially kicked my own ass through internal debate, in the worst way possible.

"What's the point anyway?" I keep asking myself.  Why bother getting into these downward spiralling discussions with myself when there's no way for me to predict the future or read minds.  All I accomplish is getting myself sufficiently worked up so that I feel like a hot pile of rotting garbage - or actually a sad, hot pile of rotting garbage.  It's not productive.  I don't end up with any more answers or insights than when I started.  I usually end up shedding a few tears.  And I almost always end up exhausted and migraine-ridden.  

So what's the solution when the only person you want to talk to has an addiction to internalizing everything?  How can I put my bleeding heart on the table, when that table sometimes feels like cold stainless steel?  And why bother if the only feedback I've historically gotten had been vague and almost diplomatic in delivery?

It's odd to feel guilty about wanting to talk to someone about how you feel, but that's where I am.  I don't want to freak him out, or worry him, or put him out of his comfort zone.  But where I do draw the line between what's best for him, what's best for us, and what's best for me?

Maybe it's just the 9 hour bus ride with no heat, followed by a night of too-little sleep, interrupted by house guests, followed by 8 hours of work talking... or maybe I'm onto something.  I guess I'll debate with myself a little bit more and get back to you on that.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Brownie promise: I will be a more dependable blogger

So, since I fell so far behind on my blogging but have now almost caught up, I figured I would share that my posts will be much more frequent again because they are also being featured (along with a bunch of articles I will be authoring) at the all new and amazingly awesome online women's community that is set to launch in mere days!  It's a community for the modern woman, for the new-age feminist, and for those of us who believe that we  should be united by our sisterhood, not torn apart by societal pressures to compete with one another.

I'm so honoured to be a part of this project.  I love writing for the website, I love working for my amazing and intimidatingly beautiful boss (I swear I'm not kissing ass - she's really that gorgeous!), I love my new co-workers, and I love the concept behind it all.  I've been asked to hold back on another blog update until the website officially launches, so that my first articles will begin coinciding on both my blog, and the women's community.  No biggie!

Here's a sneak peek at the staff for now:
(left to right:  Cindy - Da Boss, Geneviece - Editor Extraordinaire, Tali - Website Go-to-Girl Event Planner, and the almost unrecognizable me - Staff Writer)
Check in the coming days to see a brand new kind of feminism! <3

Sunday, March 13, 2011

This is me being concise... Enjoy it while you can

So, now that I'm a solid 3 months behind on my blog I've decided I'm going to give the quick and dirty of the last 3 months of my life.  Not that anyone particularly cares at this point, but a promise is a promise.

While in New Jersey I was permitted to watch the slow deterioration of the extremely upper class in a FYEO exhibition of holiday drunkenness and anorexic food avoidance.  I, the lowly server, had the pleasure of pouring wine for people whose clothing was probably worth more than my student debt, while they talked business, then pleasure, and finally ended the night by just yelling "NOOOVVAAA SCCOOOOTTTIIAAAA!!" at me repeatedly.  Yes, Miss - I'm from Nova Scotia, for the twenty-seventh time.  And no, it's not on the West Coast, and it's also not "like the north pole up there".

The rest of my time in Jers' was spent visiting as many restaurants as possible, hitting up the Museum of Natural History, seeing a few bands (Dark Star Orchestra jammed so hard that I almost lost consciousness - literally), visiting my great aunt and uncle, learning to snowboard (and subsequently crying almost the entire way down a one-mile trail), and of course, I was present for the infamous "Snowmageddon".  We went to three NHL games, got 35 blocks away from Times Square on New Years Eve, and even hit up Carlos' Bakery in Hoboken!  I spent a full 25 days at the Duker residence (much love goes out to Linda and Joe for being so hospitable) and by the end of my time there, between hanging out at the house, meeting lots of new people, seeing lots of older acquaintances, and even working the odd job here and there, I practically felt at home.  But, I wasn't and so I had to leave and come back to Canada and get a real job.

So at the beginning of January I hopped on my 9th airplane of the past six months and headed back to NOOOOVVVAAAA SCCOOOOTTTIIIAAAAA. (ha) Oh and of course, just for me, Halifax got hit with a blizzard the day I arrived.  Luckily for me, my poor-weather rescuer was at hand again to pick me up at the airport, followed by our usual 45 minute bitch session and then parking lot donuts.

Originally, I'd intended to stay in Nova Scotia until May or June - in the hopes that I'd be able to find work and save up some money before going to Concordia for their graduate program in Journalism (which I had yet to be accepted to).  But, as is to be expected with me, my plans quickly changed.

Firstly, being at home after being away for almost 7 years is a dramatic lifestyle change.  I felt like I couldn't accept or relate to the vast majority of the attitudes and personalities that resided in my county.  "No girl at the bar, just because I looked in the general direction of your boyfriend for a split second doesn't mean that I'm going to try to steal him. Feel free to loosen your death-grip on him now." In all seriousness, though, it had been so long that some people didn't even recognize me anymore.  I wasn't home - I was away - and eventually this started to eat away at me.  Within two weeks I was starting to feel anxious and depressed.

Like I may have mentioned before, I'm lucky, or blessed, to have the people in my life that I do.  One of these people came to the rescue late one Friday night when I was feeling particularly gloomy and alone, and she offered for me to move to Montreal.  "Honestly, Allie," she said, "don't worry about anything, just come here. You can worry about a job when you get here - just get out of Pictou County.  Don't let that place kill you."

So, in the next few days I applied on seven jobs, and set up interviews for four of them the coming Monday.  I had five days to figure out a plan and get my ass to Montreal.  My brother and I decided we should rent a car and take a road trip up together with all my stuff, so we made the reservation and specifically told the agency the class of car we needed because we'd be moving some things. "Shouldn't be a problem."

But it was.  That morning, all we could get was a minivan, and because we were leaving the Maritimes, it would cost us $0.18 for every kilometer past the New Brunswick border.  The fees started adding up and eventually it just wasn't reasonable anymore.  So, at 10:30 am I was forced to re-pack all my things, find a ride to Truro and take the train.

Lucky for me again, Janelle stepped up to the plate, and even though we had to pack her car in 30 minutes, and we had to drive the entire way with a snowboard in between our heads, she was a total trooper about it.  I arrived, unloaded my stuff onto three trolleys, headed into the station and started sorting everything out.  I had nine bags total, 2 carry-on, 4 checked, and 3 additional checked bags, one of which shouldn't have been accepted because it was a trunk. Thank goodness for ViaRail's amazing staff that day.

The train ride was 20 hours long and when I arrived in Montreal I was a cold, lonely Anglo in my new city of residence.  The porter for ViaRail on the Montreal end managed to somehow stack all my bags on one trolley, which garnered more than a few stares from customers and staff members alike.  He made sure to point out that generally, porters are tipped $3 per bag.  I gave him all I had left in cash after wasting my money on a too-small, disgusting train egg salad sandwich and couscous, which was only $15, but it would have to do.

My taxi driver stopped at a CIBC for me on the way to the apartment and even helped me with my French, clarifying for me why sometimes one uses the noun "vous" instead of "tu" when speaking to an individual ("vous" is more respectful, by the way).  Since he helped me learn French, and helped me carry everything into my apartment building I tipped him $35.

I'd thought I couldn't be so happy to arrive somewhere.  That is, until I couldn't get inside the apartment... But I'll save the rest for another post.