Follower of Sunshine

A young woman's adventures, thoughts, creativity and love.


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Fraction

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Driving around the city, I can feel my heart racing, I can feel it in my throat, and all these other things are rising, too – that mild, unfounded panic, a twinge of remorse, the urge to fight – and I want to call my decision to come here in the first place, the time I spent here a mistake, but I don’t believe in that kind of thing.

But not here. Here the rocks are smooth and banded and glistening with water. It’s crazy windy, damp cold, and the Bow is a menacing grey-turqoise, capping, moving quickly. I’ve never been here on a day like this, and each time the sun bursts through the clouds I turn my face to it, close my eyes and smile, breathing deeply.

Back on the path, even with my camera bag and boots and bulky jacket I find my stride easily. My feet pound the pavement, faster and faster, and I’m searching. I turn back when I reach the field.

At the lookout the air is heavy and the quiet is charged with something I can’t identify. It’s not the comfortable kind, and in that blustery frame of confusion it occurs to me that I rarely get what I came for, and I wonder if I can even name, or if I am prepared to have what I came for, anyway.

The next day, back in town I wait at the counter for my lunch. Mable and her grey-haired cronies sit two feet away from my back. They drink their coffee and don’t hide their stares so I smile at them, and they don’t hush their whispers so I turn to face them completely and ask if I can help them. I want to pick Mable’s brain, ask her if she’s seen anyone new in town lately, but I let her pick mine instead.

She’s the type of person with roots, and I acknowledge that I am not that type of person.

When I realized I had the freedom, when the going got too tough, when I got stuck or lost, I pulled the ripcord and I ran. Maybe I’ve tamed that part of me, the part that bolts at the first indication that things aren’t quite right. But I still hunger for new places, new people, anonymnity, fresh starts and adventures.

I used to think that was a weakness. I used to want to change it, but I don’t anymore.

It might be my greatest strength.

 


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Regeneration

Return of the birds

 

There are geese returning to wherever they spend the summer months in quantities that I can’t describe in words or even photograph properly (the above is only a fraction of what I saw). Spring is in the air (occasionally; temperatures flit from sundress weather to parka weather from day to day) and with spring comes regeneration, new life.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about where I was at this time last year, and for someone with a steel trap of a memory I’m having a hard time coming up with the details. What I do remember is feeling stuck and directionless, looking for someone to pull me out of my pit, looking for a golden opportunity that simply wasn’t coming.

Looking back, I don’t recognize that person. She looks the same and laughs the same (though maybe less then than she does now), but that’s about it. I can’t put my finger on where she started to change, but if I had to guess, I would say that she needed to be alone – very alone – to get what she wanted and to get to where I am now.

But it’s more than just getting what I wanted. Where she was soft, I am firm. Where she needed closeness, I need space. Where she cried and pleaded, I speak my words calmly and matter-of-fact. Where she was desperate to hang on, I let go easily. Where she was quickly discouraged, I am tenacious and determined. Where she was so affected by others’ words and actions, I am confident and self assured.

Where she was passionate, I am passionate still.

When I arrived in Ontario last July, I felt the walking definition of a complete mess. I was astounded when my mom told me, “I look at you and I see someone who has their sh*t together.”

I couldn’t buy it, because I didn’t believe it.

But now I do. I’ve got it together.

I used to say I loved myself because I wanted to love myself, and I thought if I said it, it would be true. But it wasn’t quite.

It’s true now. I’ve never felt so good in my life. This self-love is the kind of love that makes me wonder if I’ve ever really loved anyone properly before.

So it’s spring. Let this be MY new life, my regeneration, and let it grow throughout the seasons.


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The Valley

The mountains are up to their old tricks again
their rumbling laughter
sleights of hand
and they never hold in their valleys what you came for.
You thought you might wrestle with
your ghosts,
but instead you find only a single Present
in the smile of a stranger or the shake of a hand
in the music of a Legion band
though you can’t find Sam and you just met the people behind the bar.
“It’s all for you,” the mountains roar
and this is what you [really]  came here for and now
you can come and go as you please.
And you don’t see that you’ve entirely let go
until you’re on your way out and you know
you never coveted an old life
down in the valley.

 

 


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Kerouac

He tells me he can’t write worth anything and he doesn’t have the heart for it anymore, so it’s settled.

He asks if I want to see the competition’s building (they say it’s something else) and I tell him, “of course.” We hop in the car and he says, “We’ll just stop in real quick,” but now we’re on the highway and I know we’re going in the wrong direction but I don’t correct him and he doesn’t turn around.

We’re talking and talking and you can’t shut us up, and when did I get so good at having genuine conversations with strangers? We’re talking about life and growing up and changing and the backbone of this town, and what matters and what’s next and what we value, and, “You’ve got a friend in me,” he says.

We turn right into the upgrader, and he tells me “I want to show you this. It’s an industrial landscape of sorts.”

We drive down a dusty washboard road, in behind the upgrader, through the back gates, and now we’re trespassing.

“Security is so lax, here,” he says, “the wrong person could just come in and BOOM! This place is history.”

“That’s not what we’re here to do, right?” I ask, “Because, like, I don’t KNOW you.”

He chuckles and I smirk and I look at the upgrader and think about how incredible it is, how a town really was built around it, and how sad it is, how it is destroying the Earth.

We exit the premises, back down the dirt road to the highway, talking a mile a minute, and I mention that maybe I could live a little outside of town.

“Kitscoty!” he exclaims, “It’s very quaint, it’s about 15 minutes away. Do you want to go?”

“Yes.”

We’re driving down the highway again. West. We break out of town and he says, “I always feel so good on this part of the highway,” matter-of-fact and no whimsy about it and I get him.

“Like you could just keep going and drive forever,” I reply.

He talks about Kerouac-ing it and I grin at the reference because it’s one of my favourites and it is endearing as hell.

“What you don’t know is that I’ve got everything packed in the back. I’m kidnapping you and we’re going to Tofino,” he says and I throw my head back laughing and when it’s on straight again, for a solid five seconds everything melts away. It’s just me and this character in a car going as far west as we can, and it seems doable and it sounds like the best idea in the world.

The post office in Kitscoty is tiny and the lady at the desk asks if she can help us but she can’t, because we’re looking for something that doesn’t exist.

In the car again, and he’s rough around the edges in the way he talks and it’s the strangest combination of thoughtful and carefree I’ve ever seen.

“I’d just live in my car and work when I have to and play my guitar and write poetry,” he says.

“You just told me you couldn’t write!” I exclaim, slapping his shoulder.

“I can write bullshit,” he looks at me and grins. I roll my eyes.

I’m the faintest bit disappointed when we turn left onto the highway instead of right. I am outright delighted when we head for the airport instead of downtown.

We sit and watch the planes and talk about our families, going further than skimming the surface but not delving too deep, either. I’m horrified when he tells me he should put on his glasses so he can see, and I give him grief for the last two hours of driving he has done, in my mind, mostly blind.

Finally we arrive at our initial destination. The competition has the most beautiful building I have ever seen and I can’t stop saying so in the most incredulous and disbelieving tone I can muster. We have no good reason to be there, just curiosity, so when someone asks if they can help us, he tells them “No,” and I avert my eyes and try to be invisible, but this leads to a case of the giggles and I have to get out of there ASAP.

On the drive back to my car, the fact that I’m afraid of aliens comes up and he’s pretty merciless in his making fun of me. Then he tells me an equally embarassing story and we are friends for life.

He shakes my hand like he did the first time.

When I get home, I add “Kerouac-ing it” in cursive to my list.

 


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Hate Mail: A Love Story

Maybe I shouldn’t refer to it as ‘hate mail’ – only one letter I received yesterday was truly hateful. The rest of the letters were mostly ‘You are wrong, and I have hurt feelings.’

Last week I published a post listing three things I have found useful in life, vaguely directed in a well-meaning manner at an unnamed group of people that I met briefly, spent time talking to, and have been watching from a distance ever since, but mostly directed at a general Internet audience.

In my mind, the post was a bit goofy – reflected in the title of the post, and the preface of “I’ve never been in your situation, but here’s what I think, anyway.”

Whenever I read something of that nature (and thanks to the Internet, these pieces are abundant), that type of preface is a gigantic warning sign that the piece of writing is meant to be taken with a  large grain of salt – take whatever you find useful from it (if anything) and ignore the rest.

Still, sometimes I struggle with sounding like a jerk even when I have the best of intentions. It’s a work in progress, but I also try not to censor this blog too much and keep it honest. So I put this post out there, expecting at least one opposing comment from my long-standing critic and friend, Wyll, who I am convinced entered my life simply to keep me on my toes.

An hour went by. Nothing.

Then I started getting messages here and there from people in the journalism industry who, like me, have been out of school for years, telling me that the post was well written and that it is solid advice.

Still I waited for criticism and received none.

Then I woke up yesterday to a note from a photojournalism student. They weren’t happy.

Then another came. And another. And another. By the end of the day, I had been told that my observations and/or the post and/or I (some of the notes were a bit more personal) are/is/am:

  1. Judgemental
  2. Pretentious
  3. Condescending
  4. Belittling
  5. Inappropriate
  6. Ridiculous
  7. Rude
  8. Arrogant
  9. Self-righteous

 

While I genuinely had no intentions of being any of the above, and while I am constantly trying to work on my tone, I stand by my observations, because that is what they are. My interpretation of what has been presented.

I was feeling pretty good by the end of yesterday. I had written something that had affected someone so much that they shared it, and shared it, and shared it (my stats are through the ROOF – my blog got more hits yesterday than when I wrote about that time Doug Ford screamed in my face). People were talking. People were thinking (or at least feeling). People felt so strongly that they were taking the time to write to me and tell me how ridiculous, condescending and rude I and my opinions are.

What I found really interesting about this experience are the following things:

  1. All of the people who wrote to me to tell me that it was a well-written post with solid advice were males, aged 25-40, who have been working in the journalism field for 1-17 years, except for one female non-journalist.
  2. All of the people who wrote me to tell me that they were upset with what I had written were females and part of a journalism program, with the exception of one male in the same program.
  3. All of the people who wrote me to tell me that they were upset did so because they didn’t like my personal opinion, or the fact that I had posted it on the Internet. Now would be a good time to point out that I didn’t name names or even name the school that they attended. I write a little blog that, until yesterday, literally no one except my mother cared about. As the unhappy notes I received mentioned over and over, I barely know these people. They barely know me. So why did what I wrote make them angry? Why do they care this much? I’m still trying to figure out what the big deal is.
  4. All of the people who wrote me to tell me that they were upset took something relatively impersonal – a wide observation I made about a group of people – and made it about themselves. I have literally never met (nor heard of) several of the people who wrote to me. While there is one well-written response to what I wrote that provides some great opposing arguments and a different point of view (you can find it in the ‘Comments’ section of the original post – check out the response by ‘Hallo.’), most of the letters I received were simply defensive and opposed to how the post came across. This leads me to believe that these people identified with at least some part of what I wrote, but didn’t like my take on it.

 

This blog is probably the most narcissistic thing that I engage in. It is about my thoughts, my views, my experiences. Sometimes people take value from what I write, sometimes they don’t. But what it comes down to is this: What I write here is entirely a reflection of myself, not of anyone else, whether I name them or not.

On the flip side, the letters I received yesterday are entirely a reflection of their authors – their perceptions, opinions, thoughts, beliefs, and feelings – not of me or my own.

I have been writing long enough that I am used to criticism, to people being unhappy here and there, to people disagreeing – it is something I welcome, because it is the sharing of information, and when done properly, it can be a means for improvement.

This is the first time I have had several letters of disapproval from a single group. In the last day I have learned a lot about what affects people, how they react, and what they react to. It has also been an experience in remembering that I am human. I am entitled to my opinions and I am free to voice them (even when people think I should stop). I am even entitled to sounding condescending, arrogant and self-righteous every once in a while.

When I told three of my mentors that I had received some angry letters, without fail all of them told me, “In an opinion piece, if they’re angry and they’re writing you, you’re doing something right.”

‘Hate’ mail, opposing views, any kind of letter – they are good things. It means people are engaged.

Show me what you’ve got. I’ll take it.


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Three pieces of advice I would give to the graduating class of a program I was never enrolled in

I never went to j-school. So maybe I just don’t get it. I also don’t really remember what it was like to be twenty, so I probably don’t get that either.  And I never really had an extended experience – school or otherwise – consume me to the point where it coloured my daily life and affected me so much for so long that it still comes up in conversation once a day. So I guess I don’t understand that either.

But I am doing pretty well. Really well, actually, and there are some solid reasons for that.

During my last month in Ontario, I befriended some boys. They were students. Photojournalism students.

At the time I was employed part-time and freelancing on the side. I was hunting for a job at a newspaper, and I was pretty intense about it. During my spare time I would hang out in their living room, and we would play video games, make food, go to a party once a week and talk about whatever. I was reminded of what it is like to be 20 and in school, and frankly I had much more fun this time around than I did when I was 20 and in school.

Through these boys, I met other people, more friends, all photojournalism students. They would all graduate in a few months, and, like me, were looking for jobs. Naturally the conversation often gravitated toward journalism, and for a time I was fine with that. We were all in the same boat.

But now I am out here. I was one of the first in the group that I assimilated into to get a job and leave, and now I am watching them from a distance.

For many (but not all) of them, what I see is that school and the people they met in school and the stuff that they learned in school and the mentors who guided them during their time at school are their life. They are so concerned with workshops and portfolio reviews and conferences and networking and focusing on the extremely specific skills they have gained in the last year.

It makes me want to grab them by the shoulders and shake them and tell them three things – things I learned long before I even considered working in journalism.

  1. It is SO ESSENTIAL to have other interests in life, and to be able to hold a conversation about something other than work, what ‘important’-so-and-so said about your portfolio and how you’ll hack it in a small town for a while but eventually you want to make your way back to Toronto and work for a wire.
  2. Non-student life is not like this. It isn’t assignments and experts critiquing your work on a daily basis. It isn’t being surrounded by 40 of your nearest and dearest all the time, and no one will stand for or care about your petty gossip or shallow opinions. Learn to stand on your own two feet, and if you don’t have anything that is either a) nice or b) valuable to say, keep it to yourself or find a way to word it so that it is a) nice or b) valuable.
  3. If you want to be relevant and stay that way, start developing other skills. Today.

 

You have been living in a bubble, and that bubble (if you are lucky) is about to pop. Go out and have experiences, and get the job you want and go to those conferences and do those workshops and network and pat each other on the back or whatever else it takes to hack it. But also learn something new, and get a hobby and find that there are other (dare I say more important) things in life.


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***

It’s been a hit-the-ground-running kind of three weeks where work and fun have overlapped and mingled in a way I am not accustomed to, and where any form of a routine has been tossed out the window.

I love it. Like, a lot.

It’s been a packed three weeks, where I curled for the first time (I was awful at it and I had the time of my life), went to a community dinner where grace was said publicly before we ate (my mom and grandma are going to love this), watched a hypnotist show, drove to Peace River, fell in love with Peace River (I fall in love with places everywhere I go), ate homemade poutine, networked, met awesome people, went on a hockey/photography date (hello) and explored my options (it turns out I have a lot of them).

It has been an on-all-the-time three weeks and now I feel the need to simmer down and just be quiet and rejuvenate. I have loved every second of my time here, but I have been forgetting the things that keep me grounded. Like stretching, and meditating, and yoga, and journaling, and quiet time.

So this is a note to myself to slow down just a tad, and remember to take time to do the things that keep my head on straight.


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Perfection

Two years ago, when I decided – or rather, when it hit me in the face and I truly KNEW – that I wanted to be a journalist, I saw myself in my first job as a reporter. I saw myself living in a sunny, small, prairie town, working at a community paper.

Ta da! Here I am.

It’s 10:00pm on a Tuesday. I have been in town for eight days, and only tonight have I had time to process the last two weeks, months, years, without a million things running through my head.

Two years ago I had no idea how to get from there to here. Could I do it without any newspaper experience or the appropriate degree? Should I go back to school? Was I doomed to never have the career that I desperately wanted?

Two months ago I had no idea how to get from there to here. Could I just freelance my way to financial independence? Should I go back to school? Would I be destined to only ever write as a hobby?

Two weeks ago I had just received a job offer. I won’t lie – I was ASTOUNDED. In my head, I had resigned myself to the idea that I would be casually freelancing while I worked a full-time, dead-end job for at least another year, probably longer, gaining experience until I finally got my break.

Two weeks ago I was making a plan to get from there to here, making phone calls and arranging places to stay along my five-day drive. Two weeks ago I was packing like a madwoman (while fighting the flu, I might add), purging my belongings so that I could fit everything into Cordelia, my car and most trusted companion over the last three years.

Tonight I took stock of where I am at, and I am in a really, really good place. I am focused and committed, and so obviously different than I was even six months ago. Things that would have rattled me then don’t seem to have any power over me now. Things that I would have hesitated to address then flow out of my mouth with confidence and ease, now.

I have a clear purpose now, and it is MINE, all mine! I have a fantastic support group of people who are literally cheering me on, and this town is friendly and welcoming. I am surrounded by wonderful people who are making me feel right at home.

After I moved to Alberta, I never thought I would leave. I certainly never saw myself putting down roots of any length in small-town Saskatchewan. But then again, at one point I certainly never saw myself moving to the Rockies, either. I am so grateful to be here, and I am ready to stay for a while.

Tonight I looked back on the last two years, and I saw the bigger picture. I saw how every little thing – the seed planted in my brain, the mountain adventures, the continued best-friendship, the great-but-temporary-relationship, the big-city struggles, the opportunities to learn, the step backwards-but-forwards, the talks, the ponderings, the people, the networking, the ups, and the downs – led to this precise, beautiful circumstance.

There is no place I would rather be right now. I am in the exact place and time where I belong.

That is life’s perfection.


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The road home

I’m in Winnipeg.

Specifically, I am sitting in my ex-boyfriend-turned-friend’s parent’s basement, contemplating life.

On the Trans Canada Highway between Kenora and Winnipeg, something inside me clicked.

I was on the road home. I might not have known exactly where I was at that point. And the place I am going might not feel like home, though I will live there for a while. But I know where that road leads. And it leads home.

I have been to Winnipeg four times in my life. The first time, I was full of excitement and anticipation – the unknown was out there and I was chasing it down.

The second time, I realized that I was in love.

The third time, I was so emotionally hurt that I hardly remember any it. That was seven months ago.

And this time, I am different than I was.

This time, I am more together. I am better equipped. I am not naive, and I am going forward informed, sure of myself, strong, level and calm. I am leaps and bounds ahead of a former self. And I have a lot to consider.

This road leads home. I don’t know exactly where home is yet, but I am on my way, I can feel it with every ounce of my being.

The unknown is still out there, and I am still chasing it down, but this time with a different sense of comfort and conciousness and being at peace with whatever happens.

Tomorrow I will get back on the Trans Canada and head West.

And one day, I will be home.


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3/12

“Welcome to journalism.”

That was an actual statement Skyped to me last night. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure the same person said the same thing to me immediately after I sold my first story. But I’ll take it.

Because I have a full time job. As a journalist. In basically the middle-of-nowhere, Prairies, Canada, which is pretty much exactly what I thought my first reporter job would look like.

Oh yeah, and I AM ECSTATIC AND OVER THE MOON AND EXCITED and, like, a TINY bit nervous but not really because I’ve got this. I’VE REALLY, REALLY GOT THIS!!!

But now I have to pack. So that I can be on the Saskatchewan/Alberta border by Sunday. So that I can work on Monday. Did I mention that I am always up for an adventure?

I will write more from the road.

Until then…

 

 

 

 

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