Loud.

“Konichiwa.”

Setting the stage for what was to be a wildly uncomfortable 9 minutes of unwanted bar conversation, he inserted himself into our circle with a single sarcastic utterance of the word. It rolled off his tongue with the same casual ignorance of a Gwen Stefani song. There we were – four girls – three of which look vaguely “ethnic,” body language completely closed off to passer-bys, and yet here he was – entitled to have his say, to be heard, to be validated. “Made in Asia?” he states pointing to a couple of us. I’m immediately bored. I know this conversation by heart. And so does anyone who doesn’t look like they could’ve come to the Mayflower’s reunion. “Where are you from?” – Insert X predominantly-white-albeit- cultural-mosaic/ melting-pot-country – “No, but where are you from?” “Carbon, you asshole. I’m mostly Carbon.” But instead… “Oh well my parents are from Y-acceptably-non-white-country-that explains-my-complexion-my-dark- features–and-confirms-the asker’s need for a “different” tickbox.” Then the conversation goes down one of two paths. The asker either smiles knowingly, pleased with their keen eye, or he/she spews a series of invariably misguided facts/ question about country Y. There’s also a third path which is generally much more pleasant and leads to a real conversation about place and identity and culture and leaves both parties feeling enriched, but that conversation doesn’t often start with “but where are you from.” The uninvited guest last night didn’t stop there however. He went on to comment on the beauty of eyes that go like this, pulling at the side of his face, before carrying out a lengthy inquisition about our choice to live in a country that’s not our own.  

I’d been under the impression that passive aggressive, systemic, or otherwise discrete racism was the way to go in this day and age…

So why was this man so unbelievably inappropriate? And blatantly racist?

– Lack of exposure to multiculturalism? Maybe.

– One too many Vodka Cranberries? Possibly.

– A systemic, entrenched sense of entitlement to voice any and all opinions and to have them be deserving of acknowledgment? Definitely.

– The right to be loud and proud? Always.

At 7 years old, I learned that my ankles were too loud. I had been wearing white capris at the airport and my mother was chided by the security guard for raising a slut. I think he took the “never wear white after labour day” a little too heavily to heart. At 8, my hair became too loud and was tamed under a veil. At 9, we moved somewhere where my hair and ankles could sing, but my voice was only tolerated. I became quiet, polite, a model student. Eventually, because my parents are awesome, I found my voice again (albeit metaphorically given that I probably still need a microphone to be heard across the dinner table), but I’d been trained to use it carefully.

Nevermind the absurd racism, the “Konichiwa” greeter was imposing himself on us as a man and allowing himself to judge our looks, our lifestyles, our core. You would be hard-pressed to find a women who would make similar comments to a group of men regardless of lack of exposure to multiculturalism or too many vodka cranberries, whereas the reverse is so much more common. You could argue that it’s because men still feel they have to take on the role of pursuer, and that’s all he was doing. But no, it was so much more (read: less?) than that. It was aggressive, it was with a sense of ownership and entitlement, and it was entirely unresponsive to the reactions he was receiving.

We should all grow up believing that we are deserving of being loud and proud, but with a level of critical thought, kindness and reflection. Otherwise, the resulting cacophony from the chorus of imbeciles is enough to make the US congress sound like Chopin.

Razor Blades

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 5.10.34 PM

Yes. It boggles my mind. It boggles my mind that an entire industry can be created and designed and financed and consumed based on a socially constructed desire. Seemingly inconsequential, these 1- or 3- or 4- or…5-(?!?!)bladed configurations presumably do not save lives or better humanity (except for apparently, in the realm of a larger social construct, increasing the potential for copulation among its subscribers – but then, depending on how you look at it, this could also be argued not to better mankind’s existence in any sense – but I digress).

Yet, as I stand in Walgreens, I am forced to make a resolute selection between number of curve-hugging blades, pre-determined “feminine” colors, ribbons of moisture and conditioning strips, titanium coats, and micro-fine combs, between the Embrace and the Swirl, Slim, Hydro, and Xtreme. And it occurs to me, as these things often do – so…this is someone’s job, possibly life’s work, to design this simple device, and offer all of this choice diversity in the product, for my consumption? Made to cut the little hairs and peel the skin from my legs. To make it acceptable for me to walk about in society barelegged. To make me desirable to touch and feel. And are they…satisfied? Did they grow up dreaming of coming to work everyday pouring over design tables, plastic parts, sketches to design and manufacture…razors? This is significant to this person…?

Probably not. I’d venture to guess that more often then not, it’s a job. It pays bills and provides. Or if it is passion, it’s not for the final product of the hailed razor. It is difficult for me to imagine for various reasons: One, the inconsequence of the product. Again, presumably. In the grand scheme of life – I would hope – for all of our sakes. Two, how this feeds into individuals’ satisfaction with their work and life. After all, so much of our lives have become defined by our work, i.e. what is your legacy? And that is their LIFE’S WORK, or some part of it. I hope they find it thrilling. I truly do. Three, you’re telling me that this industry creates and sways its own market based on the insecurities promulgated by a strategic narrative of what is pleasing and what should be, a fabricated ideal. Interesting.

And, of course, the questions amass. How many other products out there would encourage the same thoughts? What does it mean to be consequential in the convoluted, awkward, hypercritical realm of social constructs that we’ve created for ourselves? When do people settle? Where do they find their satisfaction instead, accepting that they will spend 40 or more hours a week doing just this? In a society and alleged social structure where we are told that we always have a choice, do we really? In job, career, impact? Especially when time is only shorter. Really, I only have questions. No answers for this one.

Standing awkwardly in the aisle for these two full minutes, I finally press the button to call the attendant to open the case – because yes, in this city, they lock up the razors. And yes, this makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

“That one,” I point.

She hands it to me – green, four blades, all the gadgets and gizmos.

“Thanks.”

Gate 43

Newly polished shoes, he sits there drinking his 5 o’clock beer next to the family of four eating breakfast. Two strangers share an intimate conversation over coffee. The woman in the red heels nervously fixes her hair in a hand-held mirror. Probably off to see a love interest. There’s a girl crying just outside the restaurant. Minimal effort at concealing the tears. Leaving something behind. Family? Friends? Love? Herself?

There’s something about airports that makes them a concentrated microcosm of human experience. People are either leaving something behind or going towards something or, often, both. Excitement, dread, joy, sorrow, anxiety, banality- all of these coexist in the context of overpriced water and kitschy souvenirs.  Somewhere in this world, there’s a girl who knows more about me than some of my friends do because we shared a 9 hour layover in the New Delhi airport. Her name’s been long-wiped from my memory, her face is a blur, her hair could’ve been blonde or not, but her story, her feelings at the time- these I remember with vivid detail. The same level of detail with which I can recount a conversation over wine with a man who would slip in an out of life randomly, purely by happenstance, for years until finally one day, he called my name at an airport. Both waiting on delayed flights going in opposite directions, we swapped our vastly different feelings about a shared sadness we’d both experienced in our own ways. A sadness we’d both been dealing with throughout all those chance run-ins and late-night sing-alongs. A sadness that had never been revealed until the airport effect washed away standard conversation decorum and left in its wake, something raw and emotionally unfiltered.

And then there’s today.

In some ways, it’s appropriate- even poetic- that my drawn-out breakup culminated in an airport goodbye.  It’s interesting to me that the very thing I was trying to get away from by embracing the relationship at the start, is the same thing I’m going towards after entangling myself in a web of feelings and expectations and shared experience. It’s difficult and painful to extract yourself from another person’s world, especially when you can see and feel how it might be hurting them, but the trust you have to have in yourself to know that the disentanglement is necessary, can be a powerfully grounding force.  Our intertwined worlds gave us both (I hope) greater vision and a more robust understanding of the world we want to exist in. Not only did I get to share my world and experience someone else’s, which is always a gift, but through it, I also learned myself better. My decision-making feels more firm. My lifestyle, more purposeful. My values, more clear. Despite the headache I have from being the girl crying outside the restaurant, I would do it all over again because it’s become a part of the person I’m working towards being. At first, I was hoping to avoid feeling the hurt that comes with a breakup, but now… Now, I’m happy to feel it. I’m happy to know that my time was spent well, that it mattered, and that because of it, I will be better. And hopefully, he feels the same.

large

#giddy

Part Deux.

Muscles contract. My mind consciously relaxes each, one by one. This has been a practice since I was little – controlling my emotions, not through my face, but throughout my entire body. An energy release. It’s an exercise in calm and control, over and over.

Sometimes accompanied by squeals and sighs and smiles, it starts again when emotions brim to the top and finally overflow in a released cascade. Any attempt at focus is futile. For hours, days, weeks. This is the first time that the giddy has been weeks.

Giddy comes with change. Giddy comes with the unknown. It always has. Changing circumstances – school, job, city, people, opportunity. And not knowing what is in the future, but knowing that it will be different from the present, and it will be different from the past. And thank goodness for that.

This bout of giddy follows a long bout of sameness. A sameness that I thought I wanted, but became dry and damaging. I was becoming dry and damaged, until it seemed that my brain and my body had had enough. The rebellion was too loud and too strong to ignore any longer. Most things don’t go as planned. But thank goodness for that.

It was the often forgotten realization that things could be different. I’m not stuck. I have options; I always have choices. While turning that realization into a tangible reality comes with its own set of problems, it’s necessary for happiness, gratitude, appreciation, and learning. Always learning.

I am different than I was five years ago, different in horrible and wonderful ways. All the same, I’m happy to acknowledge that I am the same person at my core, and finally accepting of what that means and the fact that that cannot truly change. I’m giddy for the fact that I am more of myself than I was before, and that great things can come out of that. I’m giddy because I am not my job, but I do enjoy it. I’m giddy because I have the space to invest myself in what and who is important to me, even if I’m a little late. I’m giddy because I have a new plan that puts my happiness and enjoyment of life first, and that’s okay.

It comes in waves now. The contentedness settles in. And I relish in it. It’s the satisfying calm after an intensive physical and mental exercise. And one that doesn’t always come. Right now, I’m holding the other alternative at bay, hovering at 0° and only riding the peaks. The lows will inevitably come. But not for now. The sun and sky are beautiful today. Thank goodness for that.

Giddy.

Sometimes I just want to bottle up everything I’m feeling and label it “in case of emergency, dose accordingly.” I’ve been having a prolonged period of “giddy.” And it’s incredible. I’ve spent so much of this year feeling down and disimpassioned and disenfranchised and just generally meh. In stark contrast, the past few weeks have been all sunshine and rainbows and hope. Hope for a new start. Hope for feeling connected to my field again. Hope for my inner motivations making more regular appearances in the sitcom of my life. The feeling’s already changed so much of how I interact with my surroundings. Case in point, I’ve made more friends in the past 3 weeks, than I have in the past 9 months. I’ve also gotten to know the big bad city in a more intimate and colourful way, and dare I say it, I kind of like it. I’ve also connected with my work in a different way, feeling a sense of power over its outcome and impact. The 180 degree flip in my feelings and resulting peaks and troughs wasn’t unprompted. It was carefully orchestrated with a combination of reconnecting with people I care about and can be unfiltered around, as well as imposing big changes into a path that otherwise looked somewhat predictable. This has made me realize something: I need constant flux.  My mom used to joke that our family had a “rock-the-boat” curse, where as soon as things seemed to be settling, we’d pick up and change something drastic just to keep us on our toes. This year has made me fully appreciate the poignancy of her statement. When I tried to choose stability, I made myself miserable. Going back to a path with a smorgasbord of unknowns however, perked me right back up. I’m not sure that I’ll really “grow out” of this particular brand of masochism. And you know… I’m not sure I want to. The key to happiness, as far as I can tell, is absolving yourself of expectations, and stability, by definition, lends itself to expectations. If I don’t know what to expect, I’d be more open to the redeeming qualities of my found reality.  But knowing what to expect, I’d limit my repertoire of appreciation to only an appreciation of designs laid out within the tiny frame of my imagination. I’m sure there’s a healthier way of achieving happiness, but for now, this prolonged giddy resulting from rocking my boat feels like something I should hold onto and try to tap into down the line when I inevitably start to get bored again…