A very good friend of mine wrote this. I’m used to doing a lot of talking; however, when someone not only listens but benefits from SOMETHING that escaped my face (or the tips of my fingers), I’m truly humbled and ridiculously grateful. Thanks Sheri. I REALLY appreciate this.
For the past seven years, I’ve worked for the government. I don’t have one of those indeterminate contracts that eliminates any all job insecurity, but I’m routinely told that I’m lucky to have what I have.
On the one hand, yes. I am lucky. I am a decently paid employee with cushy benefits, and in this current culture of government instability, I actually have a job. On the other hand, the last five years have been…thoroughly uninspiring. Do I have the right to reflect on this time and call it…uninspiring? Or should I shut my mouth, enjoy the golden calf while it lasts, count my blessings and pretend that everything is ok?
Well. I have a blog and I can do what I want. And shutting up will make for an extraordinarily lame post, so why even go there?
My first job out of school was with Elections Canada. It was pretty entry-level but it was a lot fun. I worked with good people. I had the worst kind of contract you can have in the government, but what I did there made a difference and gave me a feeling I first identified as a warm fuzzy but later learned was actually called a sense of accomplishment. Everything since Elections Canada has been…a paycheque.
Since my first public service endeavour, I have worked at Service Canada, the Translation Bureau, Transport Canada and the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada. I have done approximately the same job at all those places. It’s been translation or writing/editing, or a combination thereof. The work has been flat (I translated tax court stuff at the Translation Bureau…there is nothing unflat about this) and mostly related to compliance with the Official Languages Act. Strangely, it’s not the work that’s been the most disappointing thing about my so-called career. It’s the complete and total lack of inspirational management. Since Elections Canada, I have not met a single manager who has cared about anything other than their own paycheque. When you work for someone who doesn’t give a shit, it’s really hard to…give a shit about what you’re doing for that person. Most of my managers would fall into the category of “uncommunicative”. They filled out the paperwork, directed traffic, and learned my name when necessary.
What’s the point of this rant? Well, I think it’s “interesting” that as my career trundles on, that such a culture of complete disregard exists in a machine that runs this country. Having this kind of career is considered classy. I’ve moved up in the world. Former teachers congratulate me and my dad reminds me that I get a year of mat leave and work in an environment sensitive to women in the workplace. Why am I such a spoiled brat? Why do I care that my last few managers have been there for their own purposes? Why do I bother pointing out that leadership involves taking an interest in overall development?
Because that’s the kind of person I am. I am engaging. I need a relationship to be two-sided. I don’t just wanna clean the bathroom and pick up the groceries. I want to help make dinner. And I’d like someone to take the time to show me how. Elections Canada was like that. And every single job I ever had before that was like that. At Future Shop, they sent you to training, to learn how to talk to people, to learn how to use stuff. They encouraged you to get your hands into everything. When I worked at Fido, it was the same way. They put stuff in our hands. They rewarded good performance. They knew you. The people who owned that crappy coffee shop I worked in years ago took more of an interest in what I was doing and how I was doing it than anyone in the last five years has and when I asked them how the business worked, they took me through it. When I asked Future Shop how it worked, they showed me. Every step. If I were an employer and I had someone working for me who was interested in the work that was being done, I’d hold onto that person. Hard. In fact, when someone expresses an interest in doing something for the derby league, I grab their hand and throw them whatever I can find to keep them interested and engaged.
The past two years have been particularly depressing. I’ve watched people around me get up and go. I was part of a three-person exodus from Transport (in a section of seven people), due to how poorly things were being done there, and how little anyone cared, despite consistent attempts at getting anyone to pay attention, even for a few minutes. I then walked into the biggest nightmare of my career…and find myself here: a small office that seemed so promising and is simply a further reflection of the past five years.
So, here I am. Lucky to be working? Should I be fighting for my contract renewal on December 31? Or should I be running, quite literally, for my life? Do I tell myself everyday, when my alarm goes off, that this too shall pass? Or is it FINALLY time to admit that I can’t stand this anymore and take action while I don’t have screaming, hungry babies? There will be a time in my life where it will be too late to address this. When mortgage payments and dependents will make it impossible for me look this “you’re so lucky” rhetoric in the face and call it out for being a big lie.
If I step up to the plate, I have to be prepared to swing. I don’t even know how to look for a job that isn’t government. In a town where most people work for the public service, I’m not even sure where to start. What I do know is that my window is going to close soon, and the freedom to at least try to find something that is a better fit will soon be wishful thinking. And then, my dissatisfaction will be on me entirely. Right now…I have a fighting chance; I can still be anything I want.
Three years ago today, my good friend Jayna Carter dragged me to a roller derby open house held by Ottawa Roller Derby (ORD). I put on roller skates for the first time since I outgrew my size four, Snoopy-laced, old school skates. I had no idea what I was starting…Jayna had it in her head that our whole football team would go and it would be amazing. The women on our team did not show and frankly, I wasn’t sure what we were even doing there. I didn’t really know what derby was, the whole Whip It thing had not yet made it to my eyeballs and I was barely thinking about it. It only dawned on me 45 minutes before the thing started that I needed to get some protective gear. I grabbed a bike helmet, drove manically to a sports store to pick up some pads, while on the phone with my sister (not while driving) to see if I could borrow her snowboarding wrist guards. I showed up in shorts and a t-shirt and a bunch of mismatched equipment. ORD was supplying the skates. After one practice, something happened inside me. I couldn’t identify what it was then, but I now know that obsession was giving birth in my insides.
After that first practice, I bought my gear online and there was just no going back.
That first year had plenty of ups. I went to L.A. for a derby training camp where I discovered which way the sport was headed. Roller derby was in this funny place when I first started playing. It was struggling to gain legitimacy in the face of some rather WWE-esque stereotypes. The sport had this mix of serious athletes and serious fashionistas, prancing around in tutus and making sure their make-up didn’t run during a practice. I was somewhere in the middle of all of this, resisting the more outrageous styles, but somewhat afraid to deviate too much from shorts and tights.
That fear died pretty fast. Tights are ridiculously expensive and Lululemon makes a great running crop that takes endless floor sliding in stride. And has a great pocket for my mouthguard.
That first year also came with a lot of struggles. At the time, I would have called them “downs”, but given what resulted, I’d say it was just part of getting to where this is all at today. Today, I have the great fortune of being president of the Capital City Derby Dolls (CCDD). I also had the honour of the being the captain of CCDD’s travel team, the Dolly Rogers. There were a lot of growing pains involved in starting this league and working from the ground up. The thing about derby is that it attracts some amazing people. And these amazing people saw what was happening and they started helping. When CCDD hosts an event and I need to send out thank yous, the list is so extensive that I often don’t even know where to start. Well, I start by thanking my lucky stars…and go from there.
So, here I am today, three years into something I can’t picture willingly giving up. Three years ago, at my first practice, I met Val Paquette. I met sMel Tayler. I ran into Jane Hosek, a girl who was in my program at Ottawa U. Today, we’re all still here. And we’re surrounded by so many good people. And those good people brought good people with them. Not only has derby given me the opportunity to direct my rabid competitiveness in a healthy direction, but it has filled my life with this unexpected abundance of people and friendships that kinda get me all choked up. And as if that wasn’t enough, it bridged a gap between me and my sister. We struggled to find common ground, and well…here it is.
So, to sMel, Val and Jane, I say happy anniversary. To those who chose to be part of this, thank you. To those of you who help make it the amazing place it is today, you have no idea how much of an impact you have. Whether you’re a coach, a ref, a game volunteer, a league member,a member of the board, a player supporter, or a fan, you’ve made a huge difference.
I think the last thing anyone wants to read about these days is women bitching about their weight. Most women have some kind of complex about it, we judge people thoroughly for it, we make grand statements about embracing our curves and we pretend not to be jealous assholes when our friends’ pants are looser, while quietly experiencing joy when friends give us clothes they’ve outgrown. We are all, to a degree, vain jerks, adhering to impossible standards and we obsess over them. I’ve read “statistics” that claim that women spend up to 79% of their time thinking about/worrying about/contemplating their weight.
As stupid as it is, I am no different. I INTELLECTUALLY recognize the stupidity of the impossible and imaginary standards established by today’s media. I still do not feel comfortable looking down in the shower because the torrent of self-loathing makes it too traumatic. And this has been my life since I was a teenager. I shouldn’t hate myself; there are far more important things to focus on and worry about. And the time wasted. If I’d dedicated the time I spent lamenting about my big ass to learning calculus, Archimedes would have nothing on me.
Knowing this, understanding this, realizing this, changes nothing, which is, quite frankly, ridiculous. So. I’m making an effort to change. I want to stop complaining about my ass to people who can RELATE, but have no interest in anything but the size of their own bodies. My whining to someone else doesn’t alleviate my concerns and it likely bores them to death. Even when someone tells me I look great, I think they’re lying. My own mother can tell me I look wonderful; I’ll still secretly assume she’s lying. Sizes lie, scales lie, women lie, men lie, mirrors lie, and worst of all, there’s the whole lying to yourself part. Why do we insist on being this crazy? Why do I take part in all this? And yet…why I am broken-hearted over no one noticing when I’ve traded my size 12 pants in for some brand new size 10s? Why is this a thing? Yeah, it’s a question we’ve all been asking ourselves for years. And it’s a question that has no single answer. It’s “a thing” for so many reasons, reasons we’re fully aware of, reasons I don’t need to get into because we’ve all heard them 349058573829375758906458945734747 times before. The horse is so dead that even its ghost has been beaten to death.
I need to free some real estate in my head so that I can focus on other things. And given that it’s entirely possible that 79% of my time is spent in that dark, self-loathing place for no reason whatsoever, a change is most definitely overdue. Thinking about my health and addressing issues that could affect my plan of living to be 130 years old is one thing. Wasting mental tears on something that’s totally within my power to handle is just that: a huge waste. It’s bigger than my ass.
A year and a half ago, I read a book that changed my life. You have to write quite a masterpiece to do something like that. I’m a stubborn person who is easily influenced in the short-term. I entertain all kinds of life-altering scenarios and feel like a good person inside my head, but my everyday life doesn’t exactly reflect all that. In reality, I’m an opinionated asshat who always knows better. In order to become “one” with the great human being inside my mind takes a campaign equal in effort to a U.S. presidential campaign and probably costs twice as much.
So. Book. It’s called No More Dirty Looks by Siobhan O’Connor and Alexandra Spunt. In plain English, bad words and all, the book details what goes into beauty products. This book changed my life because it’s a horror book. When people say the truth can be ugly, they have no idea how accurate that statement can be. If you like to be scared, read it. At high noon. In the bathroom. Naked. With all the lights on. Without any make up on. Without any hair products. Preferably, with unwashed hair altogether. Actually, do yourself an even bigger favour. Don’t wash your hair for a week. See the real you.
And see why that’s the real you.
My teen years sucked in the looks department. I suddenly got curly hair, my complexion was the pits, I needed to carry a stick of deodorant with me everywhere I went because I sweat a lot, I had a scalp condition…basically all that crap that they warn you about in your pre-adolescent years hit me like a mack truck. My doctor and my parents just told me to ride it out and when I was all grown up, everything would settle down. They were right, in part, but it didn’t all go away. The scalp condition persisted, I had a RED, RED, RED complexion and I was using some hella powerful anti-perspirant to control a constant sweating problem. It stung like bladder infection going on. In light of these charming aspects of my daily existence, I became a beauty product whore. I spent thousands of dollars over the years on tar shampoos, cement concealers, over-the-counter deodorants and perfumes due to my B.O. paranoia. I went for expensive scalp treatments and had so many tubes, bottles, jars, containers, creams, ointments, pills, and soaps for different body parts that it took me two hours just to pack cosmetics for a weekend getaway. I washed and dried my hair daily and by the end of the day, my hair was gross and my part was like a bloody streak across my head. I washed my face twice a day. If there was a new product, I knew about it and chances were, I’d tried it. And the leotarded thing about it all: I NEVER QUESTIONED IT. This was normal. The fact that products burned my skin meant they were working, right? My parents questioned it and the medical advice I was getting, but because my doctor basically kept handing me more creams and pills, I just assumed my health was less than awesome and that this was my lot in life.
One day, I was home with my parents and following a long talk about my life, they gave me a copy of No More Dirty Looks. And when I was finished the book, I cried like I hadn’t cried in years. I’m not going to spoil the contents of the book by going into too much detail, but the gist of of the book is that everything that was wrong with my physical appearance was my own doing. All the products, all the crap that I depended on to make me look “normal” were actually causing me to look (and feel) very abnormal. The beauty industry is pretty unregulated, there’s a lot crap that companies don’t need to disclose and there are few restrictions in terms of how this stuff can be marketed. If it’s a contaminant, it’s not an ingredient so there’s no obligation to disclose its presence in the product. Nice. And clearly, my skin is sensitive, so all these contaminants were wreaking havoc with my body. But I didn’t even know they were there.
This led me to make some huge changes in my life. The use of the word “huge” is not a hyperbole. I got rid of EVERYTHING. My friends got all my make-up. All my creams, lotions, potions went into eager hands. I chucked the tetracycline that was “controlling” my complexion. I poured Costco-size containers of Nioxin, Nizoral, T/Gel (that’s hundreds of dollars in shampoo/conditioner alone) down the drain; I couldn’t even bring myself to inflict that poison on a friend. I threw out the burny anti-perspirant. I gave away the hair spray/wax/pomade/gel/texturizer. I boxed my perfumes (I couldn’t quite bear throwing a NEW bottle of Dolce Gabana perfume away). I went out and got food-grade raw, cold-pressed coconut oil and Dr. Bronner’s castille soap. And I detoxed. I stopped washing my hair. I used only castille soap and the only thing I put on my skin and hair was coconut oil.
It was an ugly detox. I looked homeless. My skin flared up. My hair was so greasy, I started fashioning outfits around a toque. I avoided social gatherings because my skin was moulting off my face. I looked revolting. It was easily the grossest I’ve looked in my entire life. Ever. I probably looked better fresh from the womb, covered in afterbirth and baby poo. The only thing that got me through this period of heinous digustingness was the fierce hope that what the book said was true. I was fortunate that it was January and it was dark 23 hours a day; staying out of the light and hiding my gross wasn’t too great a struggle. After about a month, I started noticing some changes. My face was less red. My hair was still gross and smelled like a horse’s ass, but my face was decidedly less scary. After six weeks, my skin was actually respectable. My hair was less greasy and I didn’t have to change my pillow case every day. By the end of February, I could leave the house without a toque. Well, it was still winter so I wore the toque outside, but inside, I could actually sport a hairdo. And my no make-up look was actually fresh and more than passable. Actually, you can be the judge. This is the picture I sent my parents mid-February 2011, after I stopped using everything.
Barring the ridiculous expression on my face (top): in the harshest of light, with a red t-shirt on, after a football game (so running and sweating), this is how my untreated, make-upless face looked. This is super model face, compared to what I’d been sporting previously (middle). You can see some pretty unattractive acne and that glaring red strip that covered my cheeks and my nose, visible under several coats of concealer, which I was NEVER without.
I did eventually start wearing make-up again. I found products with food-grade ingredients. My face doesn’t get irritated any more. I rinse my hair, but no shampoo or soap ever touches my “locks”. I put coconut oil in my hair, I rinse it out…and that’s my hair routine. I put coconut oil on my face and only wash my face once a day, if even. That’s it. My deodorant: lilac-scented clay that I can opt out of wearing any time. Because of this book, I’ve reclaimed my looks. I’m not saying I’m a super model and I’m SUPER CRAZY PRETTY or anything and that under all that crap lay a stunning Snow White-type beauty. NO. Under all that crap was a woman with a healthy complexion and healthy colour who can bleach her hair and not look like a tomato. The bottom picture is me, right this very second, stupid expression and all. The only thing I look for in the mirror these days is escaped mascara nesting in the fine lines under my eyes. Oh. And my roots, because now that I can run around with blonde hair, I DO. My hair stylist accepts that all she can put in my hair, other than highly toxic bleach (hypocrisy?), is coconut oil. (Also, going down to one poison has still made all the difference in the world…so.) NOW. If that much can change based on what I put on my outsides, it would stand to reason that the same goes for what you put inside you, which is a journey I began a year ago, about 8 months after I dropped my bad cosmetics habit. I’ll save that story for another day…
I pride myself on being a reasonably intelligent person. With that pride comes the need to show said intelligence off sometimes. Winning arguments tops my list of favourite things to do, followed by making people laugh, motivating people (or screaming at them while they’re in skates, whatever the interpretation), shooting my mouth off for the sake of eliciting reactions and gossiping over coffee. Or over a German riesling. I recognize that there are certain limits in each of these scenarios that need to be respected, mostly due to the fact that my personality is somewhat abrasive and my opinions rarely remain unknown to general company. I used to be pretty good at maintaining a bubbly, borderline airhead status quo, due mainly to (commission) sales jobs and a general fear of being rejected for having a point of view, regardless of what that point of view was. Then, I turned 30.
Turning 30 did not result in a sudden personality shift; rather, the fear of showing my true colours began evaporating until I was sick and tired of people getting away with doing and saying shitty things just because they had the balls to do it. To this day, I’m not really sure why the people who seem to have the least to say are the ones who have the courage to say anything at all. Please take a moment to consider the media you’re exposed to daily, in the event that you’re wishfully or idealistically disagreeing with this. The tiring, endless materialistic whining that has become today’s discourse is so widespread that it doesn’t even end at the Jersey Shore. Remember those dippy whinos that cyberbegged for a free wedding last summer? That happened in Ottawa. They cried about being too hard-done by to pay for a wedding, but have miraculously managed to buy a house and go on vacation in less than a year since then. Hypocrisy and BS are photoshopped, dyed pink and chocolate-flavoured and I’ve had more than my fair share. But that’s not mainstream thinking so it’s not like I can just turn my back on this crap and pretend it isn’t there, nor can I simply swallow it and console myself with a platitude like “knowing better makes everything okay.”
So. Knowing better doesn’t make it okay. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. But, ignoring it will give me a little respite so that I don’t waste a good German riesling on hours of bitching about what’s wrong with the world and why *I* know better and how if people just did what I told them to do, things would be fine (ahhh…if only). Now, while I can do my part to shut out the world, I need the world to do its part and respect my quest for a little peace and quiet. Why do I want the world to respect my desire for a break from the endless nonsense? Because I’m here, I don’t kill people, I buy stuff, I work and I try to make a bit of a difference and as with all relationships, there’s some give and take and in my relationship with the rest of the world, I choose to take a little peace and quiet. Given I’m not a recluse and enjoy being out and about, I feel like I can combine my need for a little bit of a break from the clatter by picking my own clatter; I put on headphones when I want to put the world’s noise on the back burner. Sun and blue skies, the warm wind in my hair and the soothing voice of whoever is reading the book I happen to be listening to.
Today’s post was inspired by the hispter douchebag at Roots yesterday, who wouldn’t stop talking at me. I was strolling through the Market, listening to my book when I decided to walk into Roots. I smiled at douchebag hipster and gave him a nod. He’s been seen and acknowledged. Then he’s right next to me. I pull out one earbud and thank him for telling me something is on sale. I then exaggeratedly put my earbud back in and continue browsing. His lips are moving again. I pull my earbud out again and listen to him explain to me that he’s having a good day. I smile and return my earbud to my ear. Then he’s next to me again. I pause my book and smile painfully. Thanks, I’m glad the socks are on sale. Unpause. I continue browsing. And…he’s back. Pause. I now learn that the men’s stuff is upstairs (thanks?). At which point, I’ve had enough. Social cues like strained smiles, the obvious handling of my iPhone, a refusal to emit anything other than a nod or affirmative ‘hmph’ have not achieved the desired results. I left. So, dear world, let me just make this clear: my headphones are my way of telling you that I’m not interested in any obvious interaction. If I remove my headphones and tuck everything into a purse/back pocket, we’re good to go.
It did occur to me that maybe douchebag hipster was trying to make a point—maybe I was the jerk who wasn’t engaging him, the snotty government employee who thought I was above him. I dismissed this due simply to the fact that had I gone into the store with my mom and had I been having a conversation with her, I doubt he’d have been in my face to the same degree. Being alone does not merit more attention, nor is it a cry for such a thing. Alone with headphones is a polite request for a little distance.
I’m in one of those moods where the world seems kind of foul. And I’m about to ask said world for a favour, which may not be the greatest way of going about things. Even my delicious cup of Peruvian coffee (note: Bridgehead, you need to keep that shit on all the time) did nothing to improve my feelings towards mankind this morning.
My feelings have nothing to do with politics or any of the daily social injustices we are subject to. I’m not going to gripe and complain about why the world super sucks or ask you all why Ottawa continues to destroy its chances of building a sustainable, effective and reliable means of public transit. All I want to do is ask everyone the following question: WHY CAN’T YOU JUST KEEP RIGHT?
Why do I have to drive up your @$$hole on the highway?
Why do I have to run into you in hallways across the country?
Why do I have to dance with you on the sidewalk when the last thing I want to do is even make eye contact with you?
Why do I have to walk on the street?
Why do I have to exercise extreme caution when rounding corners?
Why am I stuck behind your giant tuches on the escalator?
The answer to all these question is: because you don’t keep right.
If you keep right, and I keep right, then we eliminate several awkward situations. We won’t run into each other when rounding corners. We won’t come face-to-face on the sidewalk and do that awkward thing where we both try to pass each other by moving in the same direction. I won’t stare at your bum on the escalator because there will be a passing lane. Then you can critique my ass instead. If you keep right, your whole group will move over on the sidewalk so that I don’t have to step out onto the street or tiptoe through dog pee because this recognized social convention will dictate that opposing traffic get appropriate space. And least frightening of all: if you observe this practice, you will never have to experience my car attempting to devour yours as you crawl along in the passing lane.
If the more practical reasons just don’t do it for you, consider the following: hugging people. Keeping right will eliminate that strange moment when you’re in close proximity with someone and both heading in the same direction.If you know someone’s going to go in for that cheek kiss, if you both go right, you won’t bang faces. Weird hugs and face banging are not awesome and leave you with that lingering embarrassment that haunts you long after the “incident” has occurred.
And while you’re here and paying attention, I will take advantage of this opportunity to also strongly suggest the following (and by strongly suggest, I mean…c’mon!):
1. The only reason you should be biking on the sidewalk is because you still have training wheels and streamers on your bike.
2. When you’re biking, you observe the rules of the road. Stop signs, traffic lights, proper lights on your bike, they all apply. You’re operating a vehicle. Please bike the way you expect people to drive. If people drove the way lots of people bike…think about it.
3. WAIT UNTIL I GET OFF THE BUS BEFORE YOU GET ON. The same applies to elevators. The bus isn’t going anywhere ’til I get off, so please keep your pants on and give me space. If you don’t, as of today, I’m going run you down every time I get off the bus. And I’m going to walk right on your shoes if you don’t clear the elevator door.
4. Don’t litter. Ima pick up your trash and ram it into your bag if you do, your cigarette butts included. This is Ottawa. There are garbage cans and ashtrays everywhere.
These aren’t huge changes. These are conventions that once existed and in some places, continue to exist. I felt like I’d died and gone to Heaven in Zurich. England left me with the same happy feeling. Because that’s simply how things are done there. So, can we please make an effort? Can we strive to make life a little less awkward and a tiny bit more efficient? PLEASE?