Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Training Your Humanity Skills

“The World is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”

Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles

The world is an eternal showcase of art for humanity to appreciate. If they are willing to observe.
 Something is always happening. It's the blanket fort of the universe under which life unfolds. 

Usually those somethings are rather small and insignificant. Like a child stubbing her toe in a doorway, or bumping shoulders with the sardined individuals during rush hour on buses.  

Except that neither of those are small and insignificant. 

Put yourself in those situations and suddenly stubbing your toe or being squashed around many sweaty, tired bodies and their packs and phones and perfumes, is the biggest thing to happen to you in that moment. Simply because it. Happened. To. You.

Sometimes though, things happen which are very large, nebulous and shockwave cities, nations and numerous governements.

A plane disappears over an ocean, a ship sinks and a thousand people die. A shooting occurs in a midnight city street while an earthquake rocks the ground elsewhere.

Media has a large part to play in putting us into those situations. Many of which, 95% of the world might have never known, had we been back a few hundred years, or at the least, most of the world might not have known as quickly as we do now.

Media might be wonderful for how it has connected many people who would not have been connected and how it has allowed us humans of Earth to help each other on a much larger scale than ever before. 

However, media also is largely to blame for the heart of our problems. 

It inspires fear, distrust, judgement and confusion.

All the things which cloud our perspectives from the obvious. 

The obvious, of course being that we are all human. At the centre of things.

Being human means we can relate. If we use a bit of imagination.

But instead of "putting yourself into someone else's shoes" figure out what the heart of the matter is. 

Namely, if an earthquake inspired panic in people. Imagine a time when you felt panicked. 

Yes, your panic is being felt in a completely different context and level than that of people experiencing an earthquake but the basic concept of panic is still there. 

It's not a safe feeling. Obvious right? Wrong. When you drag media into the mix of big situations then you are sparking all sorts of extravagent titles and phrases designed to flash you to death via sensory overload than by allowing you to connect to the cold hard, human emotions. That's why people start getting shocked by such events. The media over does the drama to such an unrealistic degree, that is so far removed from the actual situation that people start to shut down. 

Again, that's not to say the media is bad and needs to be removed or ignored. It's a valuable tool. The problem is just that most people take thing straight up, without observing beyond what they see. 

Like that person you just passed on the street who has a laptop bag smelling of fresh leather. It is slung over one shoulder and a manila folder is clutched tight under one arm. A wrinkle is on the back of one sleeve of their iron-pressed, navy shirt and they are striding to the beat of the peppy music blaring out of their ear buds. Their free hand fiddles with a gum wrapper, which drops to the ground as they pass you.

You might be irritated by the peppy music and think them rude as they brush past you. You might think them to be messy and lazy. But you don't observe beyond that and see the obvious underneath.

Perhaps that individual is new at their job (fresh leather) and slept in, but are concerned about their appearance, hence the rush-job iron. The peppy music is their method of calming themselves and getting pumped for something they are uncomfortable for. The gum, well to freshen their breath and further calm those nerves which sparked the absent littering.

Now, whether or not you are correct with your observations of this individual is irrelevant as the key is always to find the core human emotion. In this case it could be nervousness (but remember there is no right or wrong answer, you just need to find an emotion that pops out for you that you can relate to).

What makes you nervous? Think on that for a moment. You'll find yourself not getting irritated by the loud music of that individual as they passed by, or that perhaps they brushed into you as they moved passed. 

Once a day. Find the humanity in a situation. Imagine your humanity. Make it up if you have to.

After all, nothing good is ever going to get done for that child who stubbed their toe or the families who lost loved ones to that sunken ship if you cannot start by observing another human. You'll find life to be a lot more obvious.

And a lot more fun. (Particularly when it involves finding favourite quotes and finding odd angles by which to examine them which were probably not intended in the first place).

Always watching with a curious perspective.


Monday, 26 May 2014

Can We Control Fate?

Sometimes I feel like the world has it in for me. Then again, don't we all at some point?

Bit like how Nature does with abandoned human habitations
That is a perspective however. Same as all the things that happen to you, whether they are said, seen or felt. Those are other people's perspectives clashing with my perspective of their perspective.

Thing is, when you go through daily human interaction, there are numerous levels of intimacy that impact the perspectives being created on all sides in addition to the simple logica that there is honestly no other way to deal with thousands of people a day without herding them around a bit like sheep. No one has the time to actually get to know every single individual they run across, down to their intricate life stories, fears, hopes and dreams.

Even then, it's my belief that you can know a person for decades, and still, they will always surprise you.

So that brings be back around to perception. My perception of myself often reminds me I have no right, rhyme or reason to feel like the world has it in for me. After all I am sure that many of you reading this have dealt with worse things than I am. Like those which have prompted the amazing movement #WeNeedDiverseBooks. But none of who I am, regardless of perceptions, means I am stupid, incompetent, unworthy (insert negative adjective here), in terms of anything I think, do, or say. I'm just human.

We all are. Humans are often uninformed or unable to see over the nose blocking their rear-view windows. It goes for me, and probably you. After all, even if you are the most informed and enlightened individual, there is always something to learn and grow with, otherwise you may as well be dead. It's my belief, if we are not constantly observing ourselves and others, we aren't going to be learning at least one thing every day.

Learning is just another way to spell Life.
Tweet: Learning is just another way to spell Life. http://ctt.ec/8OM2z+


Either way, an individual's perspective of themselves and others all comes down to one thing.

Fate. The Three Sisters with their thread and looms, busily stringing together lives or snipping others apart. Randomly. Stories might give reasons for a grand hero getting blindsided by fate, but to me, that's just us humans trying to comfort ourselves in hours when we are faced with "but why me?!"

Thing is, most of life doesn't make sense and it isn't going to get better any time soon. Science doesn't explain everything, most of it is theory, religion doesn't validate squat if stuck next to science and fiction lets us play around with both to the extreme point of a messy child's sandbox.

Before I get you flaming with hatred, let me say that those three things, do however provide the most important thing we humans need in life:


They give us the powerful belief of hope that enables us to get past the feelings that "the world has it in for us," they help colour our personal perspective on life and of other humans around us.

They also allow us to put things in order. To make sense an endless circle of philosophical chaos. (Though hopefully not just tidy file folders that will get dusty in some closet in your mind. Do take them out and examine them once and a while). 

In short, whether you believe in science, religion, fiction or a combination of those three (or something else entirely), they are the one stop between us and jumping off the cliff of insanity because the sheer incomprehensible Size of the Universe was making our brains overheat.

So that brings me to ask, whatever your perspetive on life, or the perspective of others:

Does anyone deserve what happens to them? Good? Bad? Boring?

I'd say no.

No, because sometimes good things just happen, and bad things generally do too. More often then not, most of life is spent waiting, falling off into a daydream, or avoiding things entirely.

Is that bad? Nope. Sure, plenty of meditation and enlightenment experts will say it's the worst thing possible because the only way to live, is the moment.

So what I say in return is this:

As I said before, we are all human. Mistakes are supposed to happen. That's not learning otherwise. Just, no matter what you let yourself do, think or say, be aware of it. Take the thought, the action or words and hold them in your mind for a moment. Whether you catch it after the fact, or before, does not matter.

Just catch it. Observe it. Recognize whether it for what is was: something said in hate, did someone say something hateful to you and how did you react, was it an assumption and ultimately, who are you at heart, in this moment? Who are you going to be?

Now, let go.

You are controlling your fate.

Always learning something.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

The Value of Mundane Activities

I love to imagine all the things the moon sees through windows as it treks the night sky.
I always make it a habit to observe people and read their stories.

It makes the time pass, first of all, but even better, it gives me things to use in my writing and a chance to play around with conflicts, characters and dramas in my head.

I've done plenty of lining up, queuing (whatever you want to call it), over the years. Whether it's recently for the reams of paperwork required to get you a job in another country, for a geeky panel at a convention or just to buy the monthly bout of groceries, there is a lot of waiting to be done.

What I've come to learn through all of it has nothing to do with patience, though I will admit I probably have spagetti strings more of it than most people simply because I can occupy myself for hours picking apart people's stories.

What the lesson does have to do with anything, is realizing a great value lies within the mundane. Well, the publicly done mundane things (I have yet to understand the value in laundry or heavy cleaning. The most I get with homey mundane things is baking, because, well, it's a giant learning experiment when you use recipes as guidelines rather than rules. Chemistry is useful for something).

The value of the mundane is this:

If you look at life as a never ending sequence of observational periods and outcomes of experiential learning, or in other words, you look at life as a lesson planned by your universe, then even your grocery trips will never be dull.

There are a million things I've picked up about humanity from observing them during these mundane moments, but seeing as that could take a whole series of books to get through, (I've got notebooks full of odd things), I'll share just a few tidbits right here.

As you stand, waiting for your turn to present your problem, to buy some clothes, hand in a form, you are taught that human nature is full of errors.

It is impatient.

Lines are the best places to discover the rude sides to humans. They bring out the huffy growl of a suit, one ear on a phone conversation, the other on the airport employee warning of the plane's delay in landing, for the fourth time in six hours. They bring out the flowers and lace woman with fifty's style spectacles, who butts in the converged group in a police office (because apparently small towns don't do line ups), when the woman who was unanimously noted as next doesn't realize it was her turn because she was is busy sniffling and staring at the floor mumbling about how an officer had assaulted her the night before.

It is needy.

Lines always make people blab to strangers. I've come down to pinning it on a desire to rant, to compare or just to share because waiting allows for a lot of space for too much thinking, no matter if you're in the line or the one dealing with things at the end of it. That gets exhausting too. This blabbing lands on the grocery clerk in the form of a mother with a baby carrier on one arm, wielding her credit card in another and shouting at her other two children to stop running relay from the end of the check-out to the optometrist store on the opposite end. It comes out in an elderly secretary at the city hall who just dealt with a loud and grumpy couple debating a building permit as she sighs and asks what I'm there for and I land on the receiving end of a tale about her sweet and talented granddaughter who is currently teaching in Dubai, but had spent two years in the UK before that.

But sometimes it is kind.

Waiting for things often inspires a ridiculous amount of opening doors and phrases like "no you go first," "be my guest," or "would you mind watching my stuff?" These are always met with "thank you's" and "certainly's." Also smiles. Lots of smiles. And then no other exchange happens after. It's just too strangers continuing on. Yes, more often than not, this happens in the aftermath of the lines when you leave the buildings you were waiting in, get off the planes or what have you, but sometimes people band together when that same plane takes eight hours to show up before you can get on it, let alone getting off. The best come at conventions, where everyone is there for the same geeky reasons and everyone is waiting in the same long line ups. Which brings me to the next highlight of lines.

It can spark temporary companionship or long friendship.

It has generally only been by waiting at conventions that I've managed to discover people who are now long distance friends, there is plenty of temporary companionship to be had too. Like deep conversations about travel and business dreams bouncing between a ponytail and shorts girl and a young man in a suit jacket and jeans after the he asks if she'd mind watching his stuff while he pops off to grab a snack. They spend the whole eight hour wait for the plane chatting, negotiating seat switches with various people once the plane arrives, chat for the whole flight and they walk off together after landing. A deep discussion over the merits of coconut yogurt versus Greek yogurt gets volleyed back and forth between a dreadlocked university student and a guy still in a construction vest for the five minutes of a grocery line. They end, shaking hands and wishing the other a good day, going off to separate lives with their respective grocery bags.

I cannot say enough how fascinating watching people can be and how much you can learn from it. Plus, there are often times when you are just confused by it and you save the bits you pick up for later use or mulling over of.

I got on a bus once, most of the seats were full but nobody was having to stand yet and a scraggly bearded man with a toque and a box still covered in post stampage and tape kept muttering "nine-hundred and ninety nine stars. The sun is burning." Over and over and over. He sat there muttering this for the ten minutes I was on until he got off at his stop, walking as straight as anyone.

Other times I've been witness to hushed phone arguments between couples, or the excitable hand-waving of tourists from the top bus window who thought double deckers only existed in England.

The next time you are waiting for something. Watch the people around you. You might learn something about humanity, or yourself, or pick up a fun conversation starter, or writing prompt. You don't even have to wait to do so. Find a busy spot like a food court, a harbour, a tourist area, bus stops, ferry terminals, airports, parks, beaches or even wandering the streets and drink in it and all the people, with all your senses.

You might just be surprised with how fast the time flies.

Always observing from corners and high perches.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Unpacking People's Perspectives

"A philosopher once asked, "Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?"

Pointless, really..."Do the stars gaze back?" Now that's a question." 
Neil Gaiman (Stardust)

I love to imagine the sort of people statues like this one in Athens see on a daily basis.

Haven't done a quote of the week post in a long time so this is me getting back on that particular train after I stumbled across this gem, scrolling GoodReads between writing CV's the other day. 

Today's feature is another one of my favourite authors. Known for Stardust, Coraline, American Gods, Neverwhere, episodes of Doctor Who, among many other things. This is one of my favourite quotes because depending on how you read it or what you focus on, you could take it multiple different ways. Sometimes I take it to mean we should wonder, we should imagine. Today I took it as being aware of the perspectives of ourselves and others in the world.  

I'd don't have any piquant tale, nothing that deals with dark and cruel issues, from the world's and my own perspective I am a middle-class Caucasian Canadian female; in reality, I should have nothing to say in terms of bad perspectives, I have no right to say anything really. I'm one step down from the top of priviledge, which, if I had been male, would have been it.

Then again, I am writing this as me, authentic with my "curious way of viewing the world" as someone recently said to me. I couldn't tell you what is so curious about my perspective though, because it is my perspective. I can however recognize there are faults in my perspective, and at the least, that is a good start to always learning how to having a less judgemental one, whether the perspective is being turned on yourself, on others, or one which others turn on you.

I have two experiences which involve someone's perspective of me and how I took the words from my perspective. From your perspective you might feel they were completely deserved and I overeacted and that is your perspective and that's okay.

"You're too mousey. Fix it."

One of my managers said this to me a couple years ago. It hurt. Badly. It hit all the corners I knew were holding me back, all the corners which had always left me in shadows, forgotten, even by individuals I called friends. I know I am an Introvert (yeah, blog title a giveaway much?), I know I have a tendancy to be shy and it takes time before I'm comfortable with a person, especially when I am aware they are sonic-scanning my every move for some fault. Like not giving good eye-contact, apparently I visibly shake, rambling, mumbling and speaking in a breathy voice. I've been shot down all the time because of those first impressions that failed, even though I know, give me time to get comfortable, get me focused on something, so I forget I'm being stared at (like with piano performances or Irish dancing), and I'll be a fantastic at whatever you want me to be. Sadly, the business world doesn't have the time or patience to allow that and I live in fear because of that knowledge, when logically I know, they are just as human too.

After all, I look back on that experience now and I realize, she said it probably to help me. She was a blunt individual and working in the Wal-mart PhotoCentre as your main job is going to do that to anyone after a while anyway. Businesses don't have time or energy to be quiet and kind. She also might have just been having a bad day and I was a week into being new and wasn't "perfect" enough with a few of the processes. It happens.
What have employers said to you in your past that hurt? Why do you think they said it? How did you react? Have you let it go or is it still dragging you down? 

"Hahaha! Stupid elephant ears! You shouldn't wear it up."

Second day of high school, my hair in a French braid. I wore a pink collared shirt, practical beige shorts and Teva sandals. I look back on it now, mortified that I didn't have a better backbone to not just wear what I thought my mom would want me to, or that I didn't have enought of a perspective to know what I truly wanted to wear. Either way, I was thirteen, impressionable and still very, very shy.

That didn't go very well with the boy in science class who sat next to me and made the comment when he saw my hair (and ears). I later pegged him as a trouble student who was always mouthy to teachers, got suspended a lot, somehow graduated and I haven't a clue what he's doing today. Either way, he was my bain of existence for the first few years of high school, after which he got bored when I would just mumble a response back or ignore his shoving and pushing.

I know now he probably said that stuff because he was trying to make himself feel better for who knows what reasons. He might have done it because he thought he was funny. Most of the guys in high school tended to say rude or mean things, flat out ignore me or would gang up to pull my hair at my locker (yay for curls, not). I still haven't cracked their perspectives and don't know what prompted those words or actions, but I moved on. I ignored it and stuck it all into a box in my mind.

However, I never, ever did wear my hair up again in high school or around high school people. (Nor have I spoken to many since graduating). It took until about two years ago that I finally was confident to wear it up in public. I let someone else's words dictate me into a state of fear.

Fear. That is all perspective come down to. It might be your self-perspective, which is actually by far the harshest because it takes your own voice and the things you've learned and experienced in the outside world. Then it becomes internalized, running a marathon of self-hatred 24/7.

It might be the perspective of others on you, which comes out of their own internalizations of self-perspective and of their present emotions, because humans are quite fantastic at just blurting things without thinking of the ramifications first.

It might be your perspective of others, which could be skewed because you are not that individual person. I'll never know why that manager said what she said or why she was the way she was, let alone whatever went on in the head of that hormone-raging trouble boy (and his friends). Even my friends of the time. Though they are a huge anomaly of confusion and misunderstandings that will probably wait for another day to explore.

It has however kept me aware that I am a very shy individual who finds it hard to be comfortable around people until some time and acquaintance passes. Get to that point and I'm an intuitive and intelligent conversationalist. However I'm also abnormally sensitive to words, invasions of space, and especially jabs on my ability to perform exceptionally at whatever task I am set.

For now, I invite you to think back on things people have said to you, or how they've acted around you.

How have those words or actions impacted you?

Think about what they may have taught you about yourself and your own perspectives. Grow from these experiences. However small, however serious. Grow. Don't stop. Open your leaves to the sun and learn lots.

Always observing.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Refurbishing "I'm Not Good Enough"

We could all use a little more love. Prick yourself with it at least once a day.

How many times have you said "I'm not good enough" today?

How many times this week? This month? This year?

Has anyone ever told you "you're not good enough," either directly, through a bed of fluffy flour or through actions?

How many times has that happened?

Stop thinking.

Now. How many times have you believed any of that? Either of your own self-talk or the opinionated talk of others?

I'm going to step up and say I battle with it daily. My mind is a veritable ping-pong table with negative on one side and positive on the other. Bouncing back phrases left, right and center because all I have ever read, all I have ever heard, is, don't believe that "you are not good enough" don't tell yourself "you are not good enough," otherwise you will end up in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Then there are people like Tony Robbins.

I have nothing against the guy. He's brilliant. Inspiring. A tornado of optimism and extroversion.

Thing is, that is Tony Robbins. Should there be other Tony Robbins in the world? No. (Well, not unless he's somehow cloned an exact copy and even then the personality will differ, because that clone is a unique person with a unique perspective through a different set of eyes, no matter if they genetically match Tony Robbins).

That said, stop trying to be someone who you are not.

Now, that doesn't mean I am just rehashing another overused phrase. Nor am I telling you, if you want to be like Tony Robbins, you never will be. Hey, if he's a mentor, an inspiration, well, use him as one. It's how we grow. I've got plenty. Nor am I also saying, stop being jealous. We're human. It happens. Just, make sure you moniter the green guy before he Hulks out on you and you can't find "you" anymore.

What I do mean is create your Self. Do this by taking who you are and define it. Use labels to empower yourself, rather than the usual segregating and exclusion they cause.

Also, create things that only you can come up with. Sketch. Sing a favourite tune backwards, or off key. Put together a series of dance moves to the song. Organize a race among friends, or a marathon, if you're in that camp. Making a weekly hiking group. Catalogue your book collection and take note of the different themes they explore, or how many of them illustrate diversity. Make muffins and draw mosaic pictures with dried fruit on top.

By creating. Something. You are sharing a piece of yourself with the world. You are showing off the unique perspective you have on the world.

You might not "Be Good Enough" to be a famous singer, a top chef or an Olympian but you are good enough for you. Cover the phrase (or variations of) "I'm Not Good Enough" with your creations, and the pride you feel when you complete whatever you created. Cherish that feeling. Refurbish your phrase with pride. We all could use a little more.

After all, you shouldn't need Tony Robbins to tell you to be extroverted and outgoing in order to succeed because in order to succeed, just create for yourself. (Hint: It's called love).

If someone doesn't like it. There are a billion, trillion other things out there, throughout all of human history for that person to choose from.

Be You. That's Good Enough.

Currently being creative with job searches.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

The Best Way to Choose Your Own Adventure

Welcome to the distant land called Adventure. Occasionally it's just in your head. That's an adventure too.
In the short-ish life of this blog this has probably been the longest I've gone without rambling away with something on here that might provide curious insight at the very least to you all.

It's probably going to happen a lot more (at least for the recent future). I've got a potential job floating about. It's currently very nebulous but it's certainly been an adventure and will continue to be for the foreseeable future as it involves living in another country for at least a year, for starters. It's taught me quite a bit about going for things, and a bit like those yellowy old "choose your own adventure" books that were in my elementary school. So let me tell you my half of the story so some context can be applied to my reasonings behind how best to take hold of your own adventure and future.

The Call to Adventure:
Unexpected phone calls at odd hours. Unexpected meetings. Unexpected tragedies. Unexpected celebrations. Unexpected deers jumping into your path.

Notice those. Immediately. If you breezed past them. Back up now, either literally, if it was a person, or phone call, or if it was a one-time event, just go to your memory.

The Door. Crossing the Threshhold:

That unexpected thing just opened a door. Walk through it. Dive through it. Roll through it. I don't care how, just get your bottom off your couch and go through it. That is my advice as your personal wise Wizard with a pointy stick (staff). 

Tests, Ordeals, Possibly a Death of Some Sort:

Cheers for going through the door. Things aren't all robot rainbow unicorns though. You've got a monkey barrel of tests, possibly lots of paperwork, using acting skills that you don't actually have because employers sometimes need to see an image before they see you. You might screw something up. Fantastically. A great big bomb of a boom because you pulled out the red wire instead of the blue one.

Okay. Breath. Sit back. Make lots and lots of lists. You might go through a metaphorical death, maybe there will be a literal death somewhere (and I give you a pre-emptive hug if that is the case). It'll pass. You might not have talking eagles at your beck and call to help out when your stuck between a warg and a tree, but you'll figure it out. Make lists. What's important to you? What steps need to be done to get there?

Reward! You Got the Sword!:

Yay! You passed all your trials. You got the job. You got the house. The boyfriend. The barrel of monkeys. The raise, the book deal, the green-lit script. Breath. Relax. Trust. Enjoy. Unlike Joseph Campbell's tidy hero cycle, this current reality has a set of Physics rules that dictate you'll have a new set of trials and adventures and all that. Sort of like mini cycles within a cycle. But hey, the world's round, so it does make logical sense that our lives are going to be like that too.


Your adventure is going to be over at some point and you'll probably go visit whoever lived with or around you before you got the Call to Adventure. This is a chance to go thank them for putting up with you during that period when you were miserable and didn't realize all you needed was to stop hiding and just grab on to an adventure. You'll also probably realize you're really different and probably not happy back in that old place anymore.

That's okay. You've grown. Your a hero. You are living an adventure. It's called life.

Aren't you glad you listened to that wise Wizard with the pokey stick (staff)?

Navigating an adventure to other lands on Earth.

Monday, 12 May 2014

What Interesting Things Have You Done?

The Internet is a wonderful tool. Especially for connecting us to like-minded individuals. The problem however is that in addition to all these like-minded individuals we are more easily aware of those who are not like us; often better, much better, and on occasion, worse. Though being human, we focus the most on those who are much better than us, though really, a more accurate phrase would be, those who are at a different place than us. Thus leaving us space, to strive to grow to those places. Sometimes we might reach them, sometimes we might not, but either way, we will grow to be our unique selves.

The challenge through all of that however is remaining authentic and realizing it is better to be authentic than to try and be that "better" person we admire.

That challenge is one which I daily face and recently I stumbled across a lightning-bolt of a blog post which will from here on be as much as working mantra as any I have yet possessed. The mantra, and the blog post, have to do with this phrase: "Do Interesting Things."

That's it. All you have to do in life is strive to "Do Interesting Things."

You don't have to be a celebrity, you don't have to be a billionare, you don't have to gain renown in an obscure corner of the internet. You just have to strive to do interesting things.

That's it. Therefore, so long as the movies you watch, the conversations you have, the walks you go on, the photos you take and the hobbies you pick up are interesting pasttimes to you, then you are living famously. (And I mean that both in the old fashioned definition of "fantastic" and potentially a bad pun).

Ultimately, the point is you are being a better person. Simply by doing things which you find interesting, you will be authentic to your growing skills and knowledge. Who knows, maybe you will end up with more renown than you intended. But at the very least, and by far the most fulfilling and important thing to take from all of this is: You will be living an Interesting Life. Not to someone else's standards. Not to society's general standards. But to your standards. When you are lying on that deathbed and you cast your gaze backwards, you will see a life lived with interest. With a childish curiousity and delight in learning and adventure that will lead you to far more fulfilling opportunities and experiences than conforming to paths that others say lead to success.

After all, isn't the greatest success, the private and personal sort that leave you dancing in the privacy of your bedroom?

Striving to Do Interesting Things,

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Harness Introvert Power No Matter Who You Are


What sort of images crossed you mind then? Did you see someone cowering, shy, stuttering? Did you see a shadow or an ant, that larger and louder people cannot stand, so they step on it? Did you see someone who is not successful? Someone who won't go anywhere in life but dead in a ditch from suicide?

Whatever the images were which crossed your mind. Or the thoughts which bounced under them like karoke captions, they were largely untrue. Why? Because all those things I listed are things that could describe anyone. Regardless of being defined as an Introvert ot Extrovert or those people who sit somewhere in between.

Being an Introvert simply means we draw energy and power from being alone. We are most creative and most alive in that state. However that does not mean we cannot speak in front of crowds, that we cannot be successful, that we cannot live a full and happy life.

Steve Jobs and Rosa Parks were Introverts, as is JK Rowling.

An entrepreneur that started one of the biggest companies in the world, a civil rights activist for African Americans in the 1960's and an author of one of the most read series in contemporary history.

But that is all actually quite beside the point of this post, which is to challenge you to spend some time alone, at least fifteen minutes day, for a week. And I mean completely alone. The sort of alone where you are not going to pass someone else walking on the street, or being surrounded by individuals in a coffee shop. If you have to, shut yourself in a closet. Though a better option would be to hike somewhere or somewhen, that would allow you to be completely alone. For at least fifteen minutes.

While you are there, close your eyes. Breathe. Identify sounds your hear. Identify smells. Identify the feel of whatever ground you are sitting on or the wind, the sun, the rain on your body and face.

If your mind wanders. Go back to using some of your senses to pick out the world around you. But keep your eyes closed.

When the fifteen minutes are open. Open your eyes. Breathe in deep.

Now, let your mind chatter away. Let all the worries; what you are making for dinner, whether you'll get an interview for a job, whether you'll pass an exam you just wrote, whether you'll have enough money for rent next month, or what a particularly stubborn character needs to do for your story to conclude. Let it all chatter through your brain.

You'll notice you'll suddenly have answers for some of those things. You'll notice you suddenly feel calmer about the things that don't have instant answers. You'll notice that really, having any solid answers doesn't matter because you are here. You are fortunate. You are alive.

You are alive.

As an Introvert, that is the best advice I can give you. Be quiet. Alone. And just listen to the world. Do a little every day. Regardless of how you identify yourself as an individual, everyone could all do with a little bit of Introvert time.

Illustration by Maurice Sendak from Open House for Butterflies by Ruth Krauss
Sitting on the Rock. Living.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Why You Should Just Do That Certification

Today I wrote my last music theory exam; through the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM). Though I should mention that by last, I mean the last level. Who knows whether I will have to write it again. It all depends on the mark I receive.

Either way, I realized today I've been studying music for over 17 years.

Being musical since the 17th century - circa 1997

Some would say all of that entirely pointless. It's another pile of papers. It's following the dogma of an old system about following rather than creating. Especially because I have yet to challenge the Accredited Royal Conservatory Teacher exam which allows me to officially teach as a RCM member. And that, at least in Canada, is how 90% of music students want to be taught, the other 10% are just causual adults players or beginning children who have parents who don't care about sticking their kid in that system yet.

A part of me agrees that all those years were utterly and entirely pointless. After all, the sad thing about society these days is you don't many prospective job offers, let alone recognition, without a piece of paper from a larger institutional body that declares you as sane, intelligent and generally fit to do whatever job it has said you can do. That bothers me as an individual who frankly would rather hang out in the back corner, as far from the center stage as possible, because it just perpetuates the negative image people have of Introverts.

In short, unless you can stand on a soap box or show off obvious fame (which "always" implies expertise, though I know just as many famous individuals got there on no intelligence, even as there are some famous people who got there through legitimate hard-work, dedication and talent), you are considered incompetent. Cue being passed over as another faceless, boring individual who a potential employer doesn't care a flip about.

So why should you bother doing any certifications period? Especially as an Introvert? Or perhaps you are an Extrovert who loves the trades, or IT work but you are terrible at taking multiple choice exams?
Are you bad at your job? Are you any less enthusiastic and motivated? Are you any less willing to learn and practice?


So again I ask, why should you bother getting certifications? Here are Four Reasons You Need to Agree to Before you Certify for a Certification Attempt:

1. You will learn a new skill

This is by far the most practical though valid of the points but unless you can say yes, to the folllowing four, keep in mind there is little reason to get that certification. After all, a skill is only as useful as one that will be used. Whether eventually for a job or in another aspect of your life. For example, bearing in mind I have no idea if I will ever be a fully RCM qualified teacher as I frankly have a million other things I wish to do, my music education has broaded my understanding of it and thus my pleasure and enjoyment of it. It comes up as an area that has taught me many life skills as well as being a point I can use for discussion through other skills, like right here in this blog.

2. You will have to practice your weaknesses.
3. You will meet new people doing the same thing.

Numbers 2 and 3 are also important because there will always be an aspect of weakness in whatever certification you are doing, whether it is a written portion full or memorizing or being quick on your feet in terms of reaction time, say for something like a National Lifeguard Certification. Plus, people. If the certification is getting you out of your comfort zone but is up the alley of your interests or job, then meeting people means making connections that could help you with anything from forming simple study groups to potentially having a connection through an employee to an employer.

4. You will be trying. Trying is better than doing Nothing.

Yes, this is perhaps the most airy faerie or cheesy reason, but honestly, 99% of times out of 100, to root of your reason to not do something will probably be a fear of failure. With certifications that is almost as bad as being told you're incompetent to your face because it's between you and an institution, not just you an an employer or teacher. (Then again, any teacher who says you are terrible should get their bottoms right out of that position immediately).

When faced with whether or not to do a certification, don't put it off. Just try. Give it a shot. Yes, you may fail. It happens. A lot. But whoever told a baby they fail when their learning to walk and they keep falling over?

Nonetheless, if you do find yourself coming against failure after failure after failure. Yes, perhaps then you do need to reassess why you are doing it and what it will actually mean for you in the long run, both practically and emotionally but I'll save that for a later post.

Do you think certifications are worth the effort, especially if you fail the first or second try


Tuesday, 6 May 2014

How to Create Time: For Anyone Not a Time Lord

I know. Not a clock. But time flies no matter how you gauge it.

 I'd like to point you to this rather creepy but apt nursery rhyme from one of my favourite tv shows. You know, that one with the time-traveling alien who can regenerate and has a time machine stuck in the form of a 1960's police box from London. Not for nothing has it said to be a "hide-behind the sofa" sort of show:

Tick Tock Goes the Clock (From Doctor Who S6.9)

So time. It's scary. Even without peg dolls and whispery background music.

Then again, I'd say it rather scared of humans, seeing as it tends to run away from us, leaving a lot of shock and confusion when the sun is down and you're yawning and thinking back over what the flip you actually did that day.

I have one piece of advice for you which I found worked a million times better than even the best of lists; which if your curious, can be found here on another amazing twenty-something help site: Milk the Pigeon. For those of you who are not twenty-something, but another something-age, I believe advice aimed at one age (even advice for kids can be valuable, depending on the topic), is just as valuable for any age. After all, if you've hit a point where you believe you are too old or definitely old enough to not learn anything more, well, sorry, but you can. It might me it'll take you a bit longer and a bit more effort and motivation, but you'll get there, eventually. Eventually is the key. 

So all that said: My advice for those of you who want to create more time and don't have the fortune of being a secret Time Lord or owning a time travel machine like the TARDIS, well, use a clock.

Specifically, use the alarm function of whatever clock you choose.

Yes, alarms are loud, obnoxious and all around hateful objects but that's the point. They'll jog you out of your happy scrolling of Twitter, reading a book, re-runs of your favourite sit-com or hours releasing stress via a video game. They'll help you fit in everything you want to do in a single day. Everything.

So what if you don't read all fifty pages of a self-help book, or get that work project due next week entirely finished? Did you get a little bit of both in? Did you even keep up your contacts and connections with friends, collegues, potential business or creative partners?

You did. You'll notice I refrained from mentioning "down-time." Why? Well, simply because we have deluded ourselves into thinking letting our brains go, as we watch a show or jump from cool link to cool link on the internet, we are just avoiding what we actually love doing and what will not only make us happy but make us productive and therefore successful.

That doesn't mean you have to forgo silly sitcoms or digging around the interwebs. Go and do it to your heart content. Just make sure you do it with a goal in mind.

I, for example, don't watch a single t.v. show, movie or read a single book without a pad of notepaper nearby where I actively scribble phrases, character traits, plot points and structures or random facts like what the International Phonetic Alphabet for Aviation is (from my beloved radio drama Cabin Pressure), which has since then found a spot in an airship adventure tale I'm drafting. I make my entertainment time active learning for my own writing.

So I challenge you. Set those alarms! Make those goals. You don't need to be a Time Lord to mould time to your desires.

Happy alarm-setting!

Monday, 5 May 2014

The Death of Books: Why Stories Never Die

Books are aestetically pleasing at times. And $1. If found at Library Sales.

 I've had a bunch of people tell me books are dying. That I should write for ebooks rather than with traditional publishing in mind. I've had them ask me why I read on my tablet more than "real" books.

I've had a tablet for a year. It's a less back-breaking version of my laptop or carting around my one hundred-some hard copy library. Does it replace my laptop? Nope. So why should a tablet replace my hardcopy books?

Besides, books are not dead yet. That's all I am going to say. Nor are they going to die any time soon.

But frankly, I think people are caught up in the whole: "books are stories and so stories must only be books," frame of mind.

Slow down a moment now. Remember, books are made of paper bound together with a combination of glue and string that I don't have the expertise to explain. Stories, are words strung together by a theme, a lesson, a plot, a character, a setting, something which makes them interesting to listen to, something which tells, reminds us, opens our eyes to our world, our lives and who humans truly are.

In summary: Books are physical objects which recorded stories for many people. Stories are the spirit of humanity which filter throughout our consciousness whether or not they are repeated, passed on or developed.

So, why is there all this crying and moaning about how the world is going to get stupider just because stories might not come packaged in tidy rectanglar stacks of squished trees and ink?

Then there's the whole battle between non-fiction and fiction (which doesn't even tip toe near the snobbishness of the literary lauders versus the genre geeks).

A Story is A Story. It is telling you something. It is making you learn something. Whether the lesson is smacked on your forhead with the name of Aesop, or through the biography of Mandela, the life of a vegan or the trials of the Fellowship as they take a dangerous tool to its destruction or the rapid-fire deductions and haunted hound adventures of Sherlock Holmes, you are being confronted with humanity.

It might teach you to think before you act, it might inspire you to stand up for your beliefs, it might open your eyes on another persons perspective, it might teach you to never give up and always hold to hope or it might make you more observant of your surroundings and the effects they have on you and others.

In short. Stories. No matter what label you stick to them give you a way to learn and grow. All without having to go out and fall off a cliff to know why to be careful when you walk near one. That is not to say people might still go out and try crazy things because a story inspired them to do it, but hey, that's also part of being a listener of stories. You might need to recognize starting a revolution like the characters of Les Miserables is possibly not the best thing to do just because you had a disagreement with someone. In short, you need be a critical thinker. If you can do that. Well, you can do anything with stories. Even the crappy ones that have Mary-Sues dropped into the world of Middle Earth. You might just learn how to edit.

So there you have it. Are books dead? Maybe they will be. Maybe never.

What won't die, no matter what form it takes, (how about oral storytelling), are stories.

Well, okay. The day stories die humans probably be long dead too. Unless there are other sentient beings out there who tell stories. It's possible. But that's for another day.

Telling stories. Always.

How to Not Fall Down Rabbit Holes

I've really dipped into the blogosphere lately and I think I've fallen down about fifty different Alice-esque rabbit holes.

High Rise Perspectives like this always feel like I'm falling up. Forever. And ever. And ever.

How do you figure out what exactly your goals are when you're in "soak up as much information as possible" mode? Especially because it's possible some of it won't stick. Or you'll read it. Be amazed by it and then have no coherent thought left by which to respond to it; literally, through a posted comment, or just metaphorically, through your own mind.

Take it from me. Right down the rabbit hole in the rabbit hole in the rabbit hole in the rabbit hole.

Also known as: I am learning about how to navigate life as 20-something who does not want to just procreate the same social norms which have been occuring over the last century and as such is working on overcoming that little thing called fear. Especially the type of fear related to communication.

Ironic? Yes, definitely. I mean, I'm writing this which all of you are now reading. Communication right there.

Anyway, in my rabbit hole of a weekend I realized the way to figure out out what exactly your goal with all this reading is to communicate with the other bloggers you are reading. Even if they're the rockstar elites of the blogosphere.

It's terrifying. It's the thing that sends me down the trail of fear and as far from the exciting rabbits hole of the blogosphere as possible.

On the other hand. That is exactly why you want to do it. And the best part? At least your comment is in writing. So you don't have to deal with choking on your own words, mumbling, speaking too fast, or having that voice in your head after the fact saying "why the flip did I say that?!"

Cheers to the delete button! Except, do not. And I repeat. Do. Not. Use that delete button to get rid of your whole comment as you scuttle off that blog of awesome, like that of Tim Ferriss . He has a post 8 Steps to Getting What You Want...Without Formal Credentials that I am telling about you right now so that if I fall off the wagon of one of those steps in the following months as I work on this blog, one of you can snark at me to get back on because you want clearer content aimed at your desires. (Though I will admit I have yet to comment on any of his awesome yet).

I have however commented on a few posts by the knowledgeable Adrienne Smith whose whole platform is based off how having connections with people is the way to go to get noticed. Of course, as with those simple things, it's actually more complex, particularly when you decide to take up a Corner of Ocean Net. It's a whole sea of little fishes in here, from teens tweeting about their lunches to businessmen fielding their products, to artists just trying to get noticed, to Tumblr...which is a very frightening rabbit hole you will never leave. (Said from an experienced Tumblr surfer, who did it so much very little happened on her blog there).

So anyway, once you start commenting, you will probably, eventually start getting comments back. I did from Adrienne. It was equal parts terrifying and amusing. I know on one level she does it for everyone who comments on her blog, retweets or favourites on Twitter; it's honestly flipping common courtesy to do so. Just as it is in real life.

The point is though, once I started commenting, I started seeing real people. Not just names with the occasional profile picture. Through this I realized my goals with blogging are not all about getting big and business-like as many of the large blogs out there are. I just want to reach out to people who are like-minded in hopes I might offer them some insight or a new perspective they hadn't thought of with a certain problem before. Just create a community. You might be surprised when you also come up with that same goal at the heart of all your business, fame and fashion goals. Once you have that goal however, make sure you don't forget those things likes strategy and a plan with an implementation of knowledge and skills.

But before you start implementing your carefully organized knowledge and skills, you still have to not go crazy. And what's the answer? Just make connections. Find the real people.

Savour those little moments when things stop because your phone just beeped an alert to something. (And don't tell me you don't get a little excited to see who's chatting, whether it's a close friend of many years or a new one through Twitter). Appreciate that human connection, stretched though it is through kilometers of physical geography and the pixels of your device's screen to the other person's screen.That human connection is why you are in the rabbit hole of social media in the first place. It is not to go big fast and furiously. Sure, that's an awesome side-effect and a good goal to perhaps aim for eventually. But even when you get big. Don't forget those connections. They'll probably be what got you there in the first place.

The Earth has been said to be a big, wide world out there, beyond your door but the Internet is even bigger. It's eternity. It's the Song That Never Ends. It is Time.

Now wave hello. Communicate with it. I've heard Time likes carrots. Maybe give it a few.

When you get into social media, whether it's Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, YouTube, DeviantArt, Reddit, Delicious, Digg, Pinterest and all the bits of the blogosphere that go with them, communicate with people. It'll stop you from getting lost. From getting discouraged. And ultimately, from going stark, naked bonkers.

Once you've done that you might realize most things we do as humans all link back to a desire to find like-minds; to find a tribe (if you will) and support it, cherish it, live it.

Happy rabbit hole falling! If you really want to get lost. Start here, with Time Travel, at TVTropes, the one stop drop for all sources of literary tropes in your favourite entertainment.


Sunday, 4 May 2014

The Connectivity Revolution

I stumbled into Seth Godin today. Have you heard of him?

I had. Well, in the name-drop, flash across the screen or bookstore sort of way. I thought he was a comedian. The only comedians I follow aren't exactly active in the comedy business anymore (the comedians to which I refer, being Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry).

Anyway, so I stumbled into this fantastic post of his via another blog of a stuck-somewhere-in-the-middle twenty-something. Milk the Pidgeon. He mentioned this post by Seth Godin:

The forever recession (and the coming revolution)


 It Short-Circuited My Mind.  


(Note: *Few* things do this. It sits on the Hand with JRR Tolkien, an Old English poem "The Wanderer," the Philosophies of Alchemy a la Fullmetal Alchemist and recently, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead).


The gist of it was this:


The world is less about having stuff, showing it off in front of people, in order to be successful. 


The world is more about creating stuff, sharing it, discussing and recreating it, with people in order to be successful. 


Also: This is a revolution on the historic and drastic change scale that the Industrial Revolution was.

Not in the fire and brimstone and burning book sense. Sillies. We love knowledge. Let's share it together. This is the Temple of Apollo at Didyma, near modenr Didim in Turkey.

Awesome to realize right? Of course. Hence the short-circuit of my mind. I am living in a huge historical moment. Things matter. I matter. There are possibilities. I just have to get off my butt. Locate them. Do them. And most of all, appreciate them.


And then I think about this: The Problem of "Gen Screwed" (as a CBC reporter labelled us recently): Us twenty-somethings are ridiculously educated and massively in debt, broke and/or living back with our parents (and siblings) because we cannot find a job no matter how hard we look (or, at least, one that is going to actually get us somewhere more than trapped in retail or restaurants for life). In short, where do we go from the picket-fence picture our parents grew up on and have tried to foist on us, a generation so connected to the world, school is starting to be not just metaphorically a prison but Literally.

Okay, so perhaps, it's starting to sound like I'm bemoaning my position at home, rent free, two degrees in five years, with no debt but very broke, and all that. Maybe I'm just another one of those lazy, spoiled twenty-somethings which is another chunk of labels the older generations are dumping on us. 


It's possible. Sure. Feel free to dump all your hate on me. I am who I am in the life that I am in. But who isn't spoiled for something? (In all senses of the word?) On the other hand, I was only hanging at home because I have access to a grand piano by which I could have completed my ARCT. Things happened though and I don't think I'll be doing it any time soon as I would much rather cart off either England or Japan to teach as I am aiming to do. (I want to go to both eventually so I'm applying for both and then, waiting). So it's not like I don't have a direction that will get me some stability right? 


Wrong. Not really. I mean, who lives by hoping from job contract to job contract, country to country? 


Wrong. Again. Plenty of people. It's quite normal. Just not in backwards towns full of more retired baby boomers than actual babies. (Plus literal boats full of Albertans in the summer). See, in the town I grew up in, bless my parents for wanting to give me a carefully cultivated, four corners solid, white-picket fence life, with numerous siblings.


The only difference from the disgustingly sappy, fake black and white Pleasantville-esque creep world, is that I was raised with an ever growing pile of siblings. Three brothers until I was twelve, then finally a sister and by university, suddenly another brother and two sisters. So yes, for most of my life "growing up" I had three younger brothers, not that weird, but in Vernon, where the norm is one or two kids, it was certainly weird enough for people to consistantly express shock. Especially because "oh poor daughter, she's stuck with all those rowdy boys." 


Ha. I didn't care. I didn't like people much period. Loud. Messy sorts. I hide in my room. Eventually of course, I came to find people who were awesome. And like me. And that I could create my own creative messes with. But that didn't happen until I left the creepy life of Vernon. 


A life which warped me into thinking university was the only way to success. That suceess was only measured by your visible accomplishments like trophies, awards, scholarships, grades, certifications and the like. 


Thing is, to get back to Seth Godin, that's not the world anymore. The world is less about boxes and fences and more about climbing over them, making holes in them and shaking hands through them.


Nothing about how the world was in the past is ever going to get "better." It's just going to keep going on changing. A lot of people say it's going downhill, Seth Godin calls it the "forever recession" even but I like to call it the other term he uses: 


The Connectivity Revolution.


Nowadays it is honestly, purely down to utter laziness that someone says "I don't know," "I'm not sure," "I can't" etc. It's called the Internet. An endless pit of information and voices, constantly changing and constantly speaking. Loudly. Except in text. (So much kinder on the ears of an Introvert). 


Things is, all of that it shouldn't and generally isn't (if you're doing things right), staying in the form of pixels on the screen of your device. The people you talk to online. The places you see online. The knowledge you learn online. The things you discover online. 


It sits in your brain. It floats. It absorbs. It influences how you live. What you do, see, make, have and most of all, who you meet.


I can't say I am one of those people who made most of her friends online. But I can say I have quite a number who I have made online. A few, I have actually met in person. Most I have not. And then there are all of those friends I met in person first and keep in contact with online. 


Either way. I have connections with people that filter in and out of the online and physical worlds.


It is through these connections that I have started doing things with my life. Started being happy with it. Because of the people. Not the fences. Not the degrees. 


Because of the people. I have gone to Greece and Turkey. I have gone to many fandom conventions and embraced my geeky interests and the creative outlets it offers. I have become a better photographer and an amateur graphics designer. I have been involved in all sorts of communities of writers, like the amazing NaNoWriMo.  I have developed my debating skills through discussing meta in my favourite fandoms. I have inspired countless students (and my little sister) with creative activities inspired from the Steampunk movement, Indigenous values, world mythology, old-fashioned radio dramas and photography. I have shared this all in forums with other like-minded individuals and sometimes, just out there, in general, against those who think I'm unfit for my voice to influence the "futures" of society. 


I know I am missing much. Life is rich. Far richer than remodeling your kitchen to suit latest fashions, rather than your own taste, or building up a million credentials which you then find won't help you with squat because you would rather stand on your own merit and skill rather than that which some unidenfiable body with a single person or council at the head, deems suitable for society. 


No thanks. I'll take the world of the Internet any day. It's where things start. And I think we all need to go right back to the beginning. 


After all, were humans meant to live in boxes determined by someone, or some group, at some point in a past that can no longer stand strong in the face of what the world *actually* looks like when someone dials up the hue and saturation? 


The world is colourful. 


How about you start letting your life be like that too. 


What have you done Because of the People?




Thursday, 1 May 2014

A Photo Story

I had a whole number of genius, deep and thoughtful posts that have sat in drafts or in my head since my last entry but none of them felt like they were meant to be shared. Yet.

This may or may not bee seen as having been due to a certain idle procuration of a couple Digital Photography magazines at the library a week back while I was mournfully staring at the only avaliable Writers Digest, of which I all read (and some multiple times). It was also in part due to this blog encouraging me to look back through my reams of photos in order to find decent illustrations since I cannot abide blogs that have too much dialogue and too little imagery. Apologies if that seems a bit hypocritical (I recognize I write a lot, and often in a scatterbrained fashion that ends up being circular).

Whatever end you want to stick with, the pointy bit is stuck on the fact I have gotten back into photography, and by relation, Photoshop. It's rather nice telling stories with just images and actually being able to listen to podcasts an music with lyrics for once.

Today the story I am going to tell you is (in technicaly terms) called Photovoice, except I am using it here for any social activist movement or community, other than that of my own Imaginist Mind.

A Traveller's Guide

Colour seeps from land long forgotten.
Pinches the heart of the soldier who never stops.
Until. See it reach peak rush hour. Today's hamster habitation.
In these colours. We swim. We stand.
Desperate for the shades of fruit bowls.
Our wildness contained within. Call out...
Hark now. Heraldry waves.
Watch as the colour cast of two. Equals back to one.
Let fast lanes fade. Colours drain off. Back home.
Return to those distant shades of shores.
An Imaginist always.