The Top 10 Lessons I Learned Backpacking Across Europe

#1. Don’t actually backpack. A suitcase will work just fine. And keep the skin on your shoulders intact.

#2. Go to the bathroom everywhere you can, even when you don’t have to. You do NOT want to be stuck somewhere contemplating the repercussions of actually peeing your pants on this train. And don’t be scared to poop. It’s going to happen.

#3. We all need next to nothing, most of the time. So remember than when you pack.

#4. Be okay on your own. You really can take care of yourself, especially when it counts.

#5. It’s okay to get homesick. Just keep it in check and think about how much you’ll regret wishing you were home when you get home.

#6. You’re not a paid photographer (unless you are), so don’t spend your trip sussing out Instagram or profile pics. BE on your trip, in the moment(s). Take photos of the things you genuinely want to remember if it happens to work out.

#7. Then print them. I’m just such a big fan of keeping up actual hard copy photo albums, I think everybody else should, too.

#8. Acidophilus. Buy it. Take it daily. Refer to #2 on this list if you need more information.

#9. Take care of yourself. In that, don’t get sick. Wash your hands, get some sleep at some point, and try to find a vegetable or two. The only thing worse than being sick is being sick anywhere that’s not home. Or being sick AND hungover anywhere that’s not home. Trust me.

#10. You may come back exactly the same as you left, and that’s fine. Don’t expect this to be some life changing holiday on which you find the meaning of life. That kind of pressure will just ruin things. If you do decide to view things a little differently during or after your trip, rad; if not, rad.

A Cohabitating ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’

It’s dinnertime! What is the most appropriate meal for two fully functioning people in their late-20s/early-30s?

A) Make pita pizzas.

B) Order pizza.

C) I dunno, what do you want to eat?

D) I DON’T KNOW, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO EAT?

Hurry! It’s 5pm, which means you only have 30 minutes to come up with a creative way of saying: “Welcome home, I’m sorry I used all your hockey tape for my arts and crafts.” Do you: 

A) Answer the door wearing the last two tiny pieces of tape as nipple covers in the hopes that boobs will make everything okay, because boobs make everything okay.

B) Immediately embark on a lengthy diatribe about how recreational sport is repetitive and replaceable in comparison to your fleeting and spontaneous artistic inspiration.

C) Call in a bomb threat to every local community hockey rink in the city.

D) Boobs?

A storm has cut off your cable and Internet. As you learn to navigate this new, terrifying, Netflix-free world, do you:

A) Uncomfortably stare at one another until it dawns on you: …I have no idea what this human wants or thinks or enjoys other than Orange is the New Black and Breaking Bad I mean who IS this stranger I sleep next to does he even have a middle name have his eyes always been brown am I going to die tonight I’m going to die tonight aren’t I?

B) Play Scrabble by candlelight, with the condition that all words played be a colloquialism for sex and/or the genitals.

C) Make all of the sex! (Bonus points for role-playing as: “It’s the apocalypse and we’ve been running for our lives for hours, yet somehow my makeup and hair is perfect and I’m scared but all we have is each other and this moment so take me now, you brute, and put a bullet in my head if I go Full Zombie.”)

D) Eat absolutely every singly thing in the refrigerator out of fear and necessity.

While digging through a kitchen drawer in a desperate effort to find double-A batteries for the remote control you stumble upon various, long-forgotten relics of Girlfriend Past. Do you:

A) Curl up into a ball on the kitchen floor clutching everything you’ve found and shake silently until your partner gets home.

B) Shrug and continue rummaging for those batteries because this Chopped marathon isn’t going to fucking watch itself, is it?

C) Allow the fire of a thousand suns to consume you and spend the afternoon smearing the words “THIS HOUSE IS NOT A HOME” across every wall in your own blood.

D) See these relics for what they are – forgotten leftovers of abandoned love – and choose to acknowledge them as a token, a gift, a reminder that despite your fabled history, you haven’t always been the central plot point of his narrative. Allow them to remind you that he is a separate being, a vehicle of his own history, and even though you have traveled so far in this life together, you remain in the passenger seat, navigating but not steering. What matters now are the lessons he brought with him in the trunk and how soon you guys are going to stop for snacks on this new journey of yours.

S.

Notes to Self: 07.07.14

 

  • there is no shame in being still; plenty of life can be found in these small pockets of silence
  • putting on mascara nearly every day for over 15 years will not prevent you from getting it all over your face on a considerably consistent basis
  • you owe your body more care than you have been giving it; you deserve the full potential of its strength
  • do not let overwhelming peace and happiness wrap their arms too tightly around your chest and trick you into thinking something must be wrong
  • although delicious, pizza is not its own food group that requires daily consumption
  • avoid bearing the load of other people’s grudges
  • bras are unnecessary contraptions of discomfort that, if necessary at all, should be removed with haste
  • perform exercises of gratitude; be vocal with love

S.

My Breakups, In Memoriam

1999.

I was 14. He was a tall and lanky 9th grader and he smelled like soap, which never should have bothered me but it did. He asked me out during gym class. Our gym uniforms were heather grey squares of shame that hung like curtains off my late-blooming body. I had stuffed my bra with toilet paper before heading out to the soccer field that day, and when he motioned for me to come talk to him and his friends I knew exactly what was coming. “Hey… you got a tissue I can borrow?” would be followed by raucous laughter, high-fives and all the other forms of social currency that popular teenage boys siphon from their victims. But he asked me out and that naturally convinced me it would last forever. We kissed at his locker every day for two weeks, only once with tongue. He had one of the most popular girls in school break up with me for him in the girl’s washroom. We were in our gym uniforms.

2000.

I was 15. He was from a broken home and had an anger problem. It would take me years to realize how intrinsically tied together those two facts were.  I didn’t actually like him, but I wanted to fix him. I wanted to occupy the most prominent spot on the mantle of his memories. I was determined to leave a lasting imprint, a legacy, a mould that all the other girls after me would try to fit into and fail. We welcomed the year 2000 together sitting on a damp hill with a few friends, hoping for a good view of the city-wide blackout we all desperately hoped would be happening. We had three cans of Coors to share between the six of us. They were gone before the clock struck midnight. We left shortly after, mad about something, mad about nothing. I don’t remember how we broke up, but I can guarantee it was my fault.

2002.

I was 17. He was the boy who taught me how heavy the burden of loving me can be. We were long distance, so it happened over the phone. He broke up with me, but I had given him no other choice. He needed to protect his heart and I needed to make more mistakes. Our relationship was relegated to mixtapes of “our” songs, emotional notes scribbled on yellowing scraps of lined paper, movie ticket stubs and photographs from various disposable cameras stuffed into a shoebox-turned-time-capsule that I’ve been lugging around in secrecy from year to year, apartment to apartment, city to city, relationship to relationship. 11 years later I spontaneously invited him to come on a two week trip to Europe with me at the last minute, and he did. We moved in together last week.

2005.

I was 20. He was proof that I had yet to learn a single lesson.

2010.

I was 25. He was the first boyfriend I ever lived with. Even though we shared a roof over our heads, I was a satellite lover; constantly orbiting around him but always so distant. It’s hard to break up with someone who hasn’t done anything wrong. But there were holes in my heart that were still slowly leaking poison, and I knew staying together would only continue polluting him. I gave him space and I gave him sadness. I hope I gave him bluer skies.

2011.

I was 26. He was an artist and I was insatiably in love with the idea of him. I tried and tried – embarrassingly and unrelentingly tried – to mould him into someone he wasn’t. He had the emotional maturity of a peanut and I was poison ivy wrapping myself slowly around him. We went to New Orleans together for my 26th birthday and I drank enough red wine to convince myself it was working. He broke up with me over the phone, the weekend after he met my mom. We were only together for five months. I stayed single for 2.5 years afterwards, learning how to fall in love with the idea of myself.

S.

Books, bitch! (Round 2013)

Another year gone, another mountain of books added to the floor of my bedroom like literary lava, forcing me to Frogger-hop my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night every time I have to get up to go pee. In 2102 I had a thing for dystopian teen fiction and in 2013 my life revolved around Harry Potter. I realize I’m over a DECADE late on this and I’m not sorry at all about it. I will take this moment to publicly acknowledge the fact that K. has long been ranting and raving about the magical world of Hogwarts and not only did I not take her seriously, I’m pretty sure I openly mocked her for it on more than one occasion. Still not sorry. But in 2013 I moved in with a new roommate, thereby gaining access to an entire new library of possibilities and thus, my journey at Hogwarts began. I didn’t read all seven books in a row, though. I mean… c’mon. I’m an adult.

Anyways, here’s a recap of everything I read (in order) in 2013 and whether or not YOU should do the same:

Black Swan Green – David Mitchell 

David Mitchell is a popular and critically acclaimed author and yet I haven’t read either one of his most famous novels (Cloud Atlas and number9dream). Up until this point, the only book of his I had read was The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and I loved it so much I will probably read it again this year. Black Swan Green was recommended to me by a friend and I really owe him a high five for it. It’s a beautiful (semi-autobiographical) story about a young boy with a stammer coming of age in England during the early 1980s and even though I have zero in common with that, it stole my heart nonetheless.

Ghostwritten – David Mitchell 

I bought this book at the same time as Black Swan Green because when I decide to do something, I fucking COMMIT to it. And I’m happy I did, because this is a stunning book. It has nine narrators (NINE!) from across the globe whose stories and lives all intersect in some way. If that doesn’t hook you right there, then I have absolutely no way of connecting with you as a human. Goodbye.

Bone Black – bell hooks 

Every human being should read bell hooks. That’s all I have the capacity to say about her and this book.

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through The Madness Industry – Jon Ronson

I’ve always been fascinated (obsessed?) with the fine line between genius and madness and this book just fuelled that fire. This was by no means an academic read and it obviously trivialized some really complex issues of mental health and the societal institutions surrounding it, but I’m no scientist and I found it pretty interesting. I also became convinced that 90% of the people around me are psychopaths which then made me question whether or not it’s ME who is actually the psychopath and then I didn’t leave my house for a few days, so COOL STORY, BRO.

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn 

Meh. I mean, it was interesting. There aren’t many books like this out there. If you like plot twists and suspense and sexy times – pick this one up. It’s entertaining. But I didn’t seem to like it as much as I feel I was supposed to. They’re making this into a movie with Ben Affleck, and I’m already prepared for it to be fucking terrible.

Harry Potter + The Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter + The Chamber of Secrets – J.K. Rowling 

ALL HAIL HARRY POTTER. These first two books were written for 11 year olds and they’re fucking great. I read them both in one weekend which made me feel a lot better about the fact that they’re books for 11 year olds.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames – David Sedaris 

Sometimes you need to take a break from Hogwarts and when you need to take a break from anything in life, reading David Sedaris is undoubtedly the perfect way to do that. He’s a pretty funny dude and his writing is razor-sharp. If you like authors like Chuck Klosterman, or Dave Eggers and you haven’t read any Sedaris, don’t even finish reading this blog post and go start.

Harry Potter + The Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter + The Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling 

I read these on an overnight Greyhound bus ride to New York City. WORST DECISION EVER. Great books, though. 

Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer 

Whether you eat meat or not – read this book. Period.

On Writing – Stephen King 

This book changed my life. It’s also the first book I’ve ever read by Stephen King.

Harry Potter + The Order of the Phoenix – J.K. Rowling 

Yo, shit starts to get REAL in this book. First of all, it’s like 800 pages. That means it was way too big for me to carry around in my purse and whip out on the subway.

Bag of Bones – Stephen King 

The second book I’ve ever read by Stephen King, and I fucking FLEW through it. So good, in that Stephen King kinda way.

Downtown Owl – Chuck Klosterman 

Klosterman, man. He’s hit or miss for me but this one was a hit, folks. I read it in one sitting.

The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold 

This is one of those books that people who don’t read a lot of books consistently bring up in conversation when they’re trying to bond with you and I figured I should read it so that I can be better in social situations. It’s also the only book my mom has read in like 8 years. It’s a good book, though.

Harry Potter + The Half Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling 

This is the point at which Harry Potter begins to give me nightmares. WHY IS HARRY POTTER GIVING ME NIGHTMARES.

This Is How You Lose Her – Junot Díaz 

This was my favourite read of 2013 (sorry Harry) and it has been sitting in a deep and hidden corner of my heart ever since.

Harry Potter + The Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling 

After reading every other Harry Potter book, reading this one is like a family reunion, a going away party and graduation all wrapped into one. And if you thought that a children’s fiction series couldn’t have a long-lasting impact on you as a fully grown adult with her shit together than BOY WERE YOU EVER WRONG. I’m now that person who drops Harry Potter references into everyday conversation and what makes it even more annoying is that I’m SEVEN YEARS LATE in doing it. I’m a really big hit at parties.

That’s it for 2013. Now it’s time for you to tell me what to read in 2014.

GO.

S.

PETITION: Ban These Office Behaviours

To the Honourable Lawmaker and Regulator of Office-Appropriate Food and Beverage Choices and Actions, Esquire.

We, the Union of Diligent Office Workers with Normal, Socially Acceptable Behaviour Patterns, send you this petition to ban the following from offices worldwide:

  • Chewing gum at any audible level other than DEAD SILENT 
  • Regaling co-workers with details of the ~cRaZy~ dream you had last night
  • Interrupting people by waving your hand in their face while they have headphones on
  • Leaving pee on the toilet seat (Note: Joint proposal, in collaboration with Petition #852C5 – “Petition for Things to Be Banned Everywhere, You Savages”)
  • Eating any of the following foods outside of a common area intended for food consumption: Fish, apples, carrots, celery, kettle chips, hard boiled eggs, et al.
  • Taking personal phone calls in your open-concept office and whispering at that annoying level where we can hear every other word of your stupidity
  • Talking about your family/boyfriend/girlfriend/best friend drama to anybody, at any time
  • Adding people on an email trail who don’t need to be on the email trail
  • Removing people on an email trail who need to be on the email trail
  • Eating food from the fridge that you did not put in the fridge
  • Complaining constantly about how busy you are because HI, EVERYONE HAS THINGS TO DO. WE ARE AT WORK. THAT IS WHAT WORK IS. ACCUMULATING THINGS TO DO AND THEN FIGURING OUT HOW TO DO THE THINGS IN EXCHANGE FOR LEGAL TENDER.

Regards,
S.
Easily Irritated Union Representative

 

 

Books, bitch!

Sweet, sweet books. People often see me reading a different one every few weeks and ask me for recommendations. Well, you’re all in luck! It just so happens that I keep a detailed list of every book I read because I am insane. Here is a list of what I read in 2012 and whether or not YOU should read it.

A Clash of Kings – George R.R. Martin
A Storm of Swords – George R.R. Martin
A Feast for Crows – George R.R. Martin

These are books 2 through 4, respectively, in the series “A Song of Fire and Ice” – the first one being (of course) Game of Thrones. I’ve had to physically stop myself from buying the fifth one, A Dance With Dragons, until it comes out on paperback because, hi, these books are all over 1000 pages. Fuck a hardcover. Read these if you a) really love the Game of Thrones television series and can’t wait to see what happens next and b) you really love reading. You have to invest a serious amount of time and energy into the narrative but gawd DAMMIT it is worth every second.

The Gargoyle – Andrew Davidson

This was an entertaining read. Two souls traveling over different time periods, finding each other again and again. If you don’t believe in that kinda shit, then maybe it isn’t for you. But hey, the main character is a crude atheist and a former porn star who gets badly burned in a car crash. He didn’t believe either. I’m just saying.

Just Kids – Patti Smith

ALL HAIL QUEEN PATTI. This memoir details her early life and subsequent relationship with the renowned photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. If you are drawn to photography, art, New York, the 60s/70s, good music or ALL OF THEM, COMBINED, ALWAYS  – then this is a book for you.

Innocent Erendira: And Other Stories – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabo is my favourite author, period. He does the most delicious things with language and touches my heart in ways no one else ever has. That is all.

Strange Pilgrims – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

See above.

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins

I wish I had read these books before I saw the movie. They actually weren’t too bad, considering they’re “teen fiction.” Not good enough for me to pick up the third one, but still. I really like dystopian science-fiction, even ESPECIALLY when it involves children fighting to the death.

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Classic. I read this back in school but had a whole new appreciation for it upon reading again, decades later. I thoroughly suggest you do the same. (Also, could I be more excited for the movie coming out this Christmas? Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby? Jay-Z doing the musical score? SEE YA.)

This Side of Paradise – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Also a classic. I enjoyed this one in a very different way than I did Gatsby. There were some paragraphs I just read over and over. Recommended especially if you’re into the mentalities of post-war generations.

Imagine – Jonah Lehrer

This fucking guy. Okay. So Jonah Lehrer has written more than a few books and contributes regularly to my favourite podcast of all time, Radiolab. So imagine my delight upon realizing he has published a book about ~CrEaTiViTy~ right? The book itself was  great, repetitive in some places, but overall it really got me thinking about my own creative process and work environment, blah blah. Super. TURNS OUT… this guy fabricated more than one quote from Bob Dylan in the book. Fabricated, as in, faked. Quotes. From BOB. DYLAN. The book was taken off shelves (I wonder if mine will one day be worth anything??) and resigned from his post at The New Yorker. Not cool, Jonah. You were my hero! How could you do this to me?! Still though, if you feel like you’re in a creative slump, it might be worth reading. If you can find a copy. You can’t borrow mine, sorry.

When She Woke – Hillary Jordan

More dystopian teen science-fiction. Criminals have their entire bodies dyed a certain colour to reflect their crime. This girl gets dyed completely red, from head to toe, for having an abortion (aka “murder” which is funny because SO MANY PLACES ACTUALLY THINK THIS RIGHT NOW, LIKE IN 2013). One of those books you can’t put down, even if you want to. Worth it.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera

Amazing. Heart warming. Heartbreaking. Will probably read it again this year.

How Should a Person Be? – Sheila Heti

So good. Almost a painfully relevant book for me at this point in my life. I read this book ignorant to the fact that the narrator (aka the author) and her best friend/muse Margaux ARE REAL PEOPLE WHO EXIST IN LIFE and not only that, they’re from the city I live in. Mind blown. I must stop myself from stalking them on a regular basis. Although I totally read a blog that Margaux contributes to on a regular basis. That’s not stalking, right? If it is… you are all in so much trouble right now.

Bossypants – Tina Fey

I don’t even need to write anything here. Tina is funnier than you will ever be. Deal with it.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) – Mindy Kaling

Not as good as Tina’s book, but totally worth it.

Nymphs of the Valley – Khalil Gibran

If you’re a fan of The Prophet by Khalil Gibran, I highly recommend you read this as well. It’s short and sweet, but filled with more spirit and soul than probably anything else on my bookshelf.

The Marriage Plot – Jeffrey Eugenides

Author of The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex (both amazing, go read right now) Jeffrey Eugenides is really turning out to be one of my favourites. I really enjoy the way he writes and the way he puts a plot together. This novel deals with love and manic depressive disorder and it is equal parts fascinating and heartbreaking.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – Dave Eggers

I don’t even know where to begin with this one. Dave Eggers, man. I read McSweeney’s Internet Tendency all the time (McSweeney’s is the publishing house that Dave Eggers founded)  and I can’t believe it took me this long to begin diving into his novels. This one, though… shit. This is a memoir of his childhood and adolescence and let’s just put it out there — Dave Eggers had a REALLY fucked up childhood and adolescence.  It’s a bit of a tough read, if you’re not used to his style… but it’s gut-wrenching and hilarious and so good.

THAT’S IT! Go! Be merry! Read books! Tell me what you think! (And just for curiosity’s sake, right now I’m reading Black Swan Green by David Mitchell who wrote one of my favourite books of 2010, The Thousand Autums of Jacob de Zoet. I even bought that bitch in hardcover.)

S.