Monthly Archives: July 2012

Pros and Cons of Taking a Gap Year

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Due to the ridiculous cost of post-secondary education and my own indecision about that quintessential high school question “What do you want to do with your life?”, after graduation I found myself still at home while a majority of my peers went off to start anew at college or university. Over the summer I was a nervous wreck, not knowing how the following year would progress. Taking a year off was leaving too much unknown for someone who had spent the past 14 years in school. This was a feeling I should have had after university, not before. But I had no other options.

The truth is I needed to take the year off. Without it I would likely have enrolled myself in some program I was only mildly partial to at some university I hated. Likewise, without it I wouldn’t have realized how desperately I needed to be in school. There are two sides to my gap year and so I share with you the pros and cons of taking a year off…

The Pros

  • Like I said, I had no idea what I really wanted to do. This year allowed me to take the time to really think about how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. Without the year off, I probably would have taken Sociology at the university closest to my house–the program is general, I can do quite a few things with it, and I had a lot of friends who were applying/planning to go to the same school. Now I realize I would have hated it. Come the fall I will be going to my dream school which just happens to be across the country and will be focusing on the thing that I am most passionate about: theatre & film. I’ve set up my timetable already and am more than excited for the school year to start.
  • I was able to save up some money to help contribute to my education. I never scored a full-time job, but I did work fairly steadily for six months. (More on this in the cons…)
  • I got to visit quite a few universities to see my friends. Everyone wanted me to see how they were living in their new setting, so I got to really understand university life and see places that I would potentially want to go to. I even sat in on some lectures to see how a university classroom worked! At the end of the year, I got a slice of university life at 5 different schools. On top of that I gained a lot of insight from my friends who told me things they wish they’d known before applying for their program or to their specific school.
  • Room preferences! Because of my year off, I have the extra student attribute when applying to residence of being a gap year student. To be honest I’m not quite sure what this means–I’m crossing my fingers that because of it I’ll end up getting a single room like I’ve asked for.
  • Though this isn’t something I did, I know a lot of people who returned to high school for at least one semester to raise some marks. I considered doing this, but then realized I would probably have hated everything and gotten rebellious. (“I’ve already done this, I’m above your petty little high school!” &c.)
  • I made quite a lot of new friends–not just at the schools I visited, but also from my own high school. There was a handful of people who stayed back/took a year off as well, so I ended up getting to know a few more people in my own area who I never really hung out with in high school. It’s a nice phenomenon how much everyone changes between high school and university; everyone is so much nicer and open to making new friends.

The Cons

  • I hate my house. I hate living at home. The amount of breakdowns I had because I’ve been ready to “fly the coop” since grade eleven and yet have been forced to remain for a year longer than expected really took a toll on me. That’s perhaps why I’m going to school so far away.
  • I cannot begin to describe how lonely I felt as everyone left in late-August/early-September. One week I could call on my friends as I wished, the next everyone was moving in, having orientations, posting photos on Facebook about Frosh Week, making new friends, and forgetting about little old me sitting at home doing nothing.
  • It took me forever to find a job. I spent the whole summer looking and was finally employed in mid-September. Maybe not too bad, but two weeks without friends was terribly lonely when I didn’t have any distractions.
  • Not being busy with some kind of work that challenged me intellectually drove me crazy.
  • Building on that last point, because I have had so much time in the past year I have taken procrastination to a whole new level. I thought I was bad in high school but nowadays I’ll take months to do simple things (i.e. getting my G2, getting new headshots, filling out my “Statement of Activities” for my school application).

This year off has been anything but enjoyable. In November, when I realized I had ten months of suffering left I wasn’t sure I could make it. I fell into a major depression. Come February I struggled to make it through a shift at work without crying. Finally in March I had to quit. I started focusing on getting healthy, both physically and mentally. It was a relief when I received my acceptance letter in early April after my birthday, but that didn’t cure me. I’d been applying for different jobs since February and hadn’t had a single interview–this brought on a whole new stress about contributing to school, though my parents told me we’d be all right and I’d still be able to go.

Thankfully I’m doing better now, 31 days away from my big move. I know more than ever where I want to be and that is at school. I’m not worried that I won’t be able to fall back into being a student, it’s one of the things I enjoy most in the world.

Everyone has their own reasons for taking a gap year, and not everyone has a choice. The truth is I might be stronger now because of what I’ve gone through in this year. Twelve months means so much more to me now and I refuse to let another dozen get out of my control. I know what I want to do in life and that is not to sit around waiting for things to happen. September 1 is when my new life begins and I promise there will be no gaps from here.

There are pros and there are cons, but a gap year is only positive or negative based on what you make of it.

– K

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The Daily/Weekly/Monthly Fresh Start

I write this post from my new laptop. I just got a Sony Vaio and I can tell you I love it already! But, okay, let’s get to business…

Are you familiar with the term “food baby”? It’s that terrible bloating you get after eating too much (usually carb-heavy) food. Well I have one right now. In fact I’ve had it for the past few days and I’m sick of sucking it in. But it just dawned on me today that, “Hey, it’s July 30–that means I’ll have a new start in the new month!”

Am I the only person that does that? The commencement of a new month means a new attempt at health. And when that fails in the first week, I change that start day to Sunday…and then I realize that, “Wait, it’s only Monday, okay I’ll start tomorrow” and then it goes to the next day and so on and so forth until “Oh, it’s September! Time to be healthy now!”

Why can’t I start now? There’s no better time like the present.

Well, now that I’ve asked that I already have an answer. Eating healthy sucks. Working out sucks. I would much rather just imagine myself having the body of my dreams and then opening my eyes and that imaginary me becoming real me.

But, if you want to look a certain way, you’ve got to do it. Which…sucks.

Tonight I have a soccer game, and I’ll play hard to make up for not working out or anything during the day today. And tomorrow I’ll start being healthier. And if tomorrow doesn’t work out, the next day I’ll begin.

Okay, maybe this post hasn’t changed anything, but I’m going to make a real effort this next month before I leave for school to get ma shit togethaaa.

– K

I Apologize Before You Read This: “YOLO”

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Since I was young, everyone has always told me that I act older than my age. I’m just very mature, I suppose. I was the girl reading books for grades higher in grade two, being the friend to the girl everyone shunned in grade five, learning HTML out of curiosity in grade seven, and giving advice to my friends about drama all throughout high school. My reputation is (or maybe I should say was, considering some recent events) flawless. So, naturally, people trust me very easily and expect me to get things done.

It was in March of last year when I went on my graduation trip to Punta Cana with a small group of my friends (the rest of the grade went during the summer) that I realized that I was different than most of my peers. I had not been in a fight with a friend since grade four, never been involved in any drama or had rumours spread about me, liked to party but didn’t mind sitting at home reading, wasn’t interested in having a boyfriend because the boys I knew were simply not good enough (to put it bluntly)… Meanwhile my friends were around me having fights with their boyfriends and girlfriends, guzzling alcohol from sun rise and back, having sex with strangers, and experiencing their own little “flings”. Now I definitely enjoyed that trip and didn’t hold myself back. I certainly drank every night, more than I would if I was at home. I had my first kiss. And my second. And third. But I found myself more interested in actually experiencing the trip by going on a trip on a catamaran, taking a jeep tour, and learning how to surf. Why would I want to sleep with a stranger just to “get the whole virginity thing over with before college”? Why would I want to wake up every morning hungover? What’s so great about tanning and why am I expected to want to sit in the sun for X amount of hours (risking heat stroke!)? However, this post isn’t about my trip so I’ll move right along…

I’ve always been the responsible one. Though I would say that I am by nature impulsive, I usually avoided doing anything “out-of-the-box” in fear of ruining my reputation, running into any drama, or having any regrets. But after coming back from that trip I had an epiphany: I was not having any fun the way I was living. I was surprised at the regret I felt from not doing anything crazy and not making mistakes!

Most weekends I was at home. I was not happy with a majority of my friends who I felt I had next to nothing in common with. Guys were non-existent in my life (if you didn’t guess that, seeing as my first kiss was at 18). Now these aren’t necessarily things that had to be fixed, and I certainly found happiness at one point with these things as they were, but they were the root of my discontentment.

At the time I wasn’t in a position to change it up. I was taking a class that organizes a huge conference every year and I was in charge of getting the guest speakers. It was a stressful job and a social life wouldn’t have been possible if I wanted to do the very best job I could. So I held off…

I really hate to say it because it’s become so lame/obvious, but you really do only live once. I despise people who use this acronym in a serious fashion day-to-day, but it is a valid reason to say, “Fuck it!” and live.

So this past year I’ve started hanging out with new friends. At one point I did go through a little bit of a depression (and am still working against it), but I found that improving my life not necessarily through productivity but through keeping busy and trying to make my life interesting has helped. But I’m staying grounded, avoiding that drama that I’ve never truly experienced. At the same time I’m allowing myself to be a little irresponsible sometimes, to do things just because I want to. Or to avoid things just because I want to. (Like quitting my job–I wrote a letter and had my mom drop it in the mailbox because I didn’t want to deal with confrontation–not my most responsible choice, but the best for me at the time as the stress I felt even thinking about it was insane.)

Maybe this isn’t the way to spend the rest of my life, but I’m definitely in a better place than I was last year at this time, in terms of having fun being myself. And I know life isn’t all parties and lack of consequences, but those are things I never experienced going through high school.

It’s time I acknowledged that I’m still young. I’m allowed to be a little irresponsible sometimes. I should do things just because I have a sudden impulse. In the end, I’ll be happier.

So fuck it. YOLO. Or carpe diem. Or “live every day like it’s your last”. Or some other cliché.

– K

Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game

After about three months of unemployment, this week I finally got a job as a marketing associate for a promotions company. I was ecstatic–I’d finally get some money in my pocket, the job was full time, and in addition I would be working with one of my friends! However, upon “hitting the field”, I soon realized that the job wasn’t quite what I imagined…

Have you ever gone to the grocery store, for example, and seen a table decorated with products with a few (pushy) salespeople behind it, insisting, “You’re gonna love this!”? That was essentially my job. I would have a partner and we’d go to different locations in my regional area to set up tables and sell…car wax. I was taught to give demos without asking if it’s all right to touch someone’s car and to “assume the deal”. I was taught techniques to trick people into buying the product, like inserting “key” words and phrases into my pitch to pique interest, such as “free” and “everybody’s getting it”. The things I was told to tell customers was a lie, claiming, “One can retails for $45 in the States, but today we’re doing 2 for $35 plus a free gift.” Truthfully each can was only $15 and the free gift $5.

I had been thrust into a culture of dishonesty where the prime goal was not truly to market this new product but to make more money and sell, sell, sell. (In defence of the product, it actually worked really well.)

Though I despised the job on the field, the people I met were fantastic. Everyone was kind, outgoing, and, most admirably, driven. They would set goals for themselves everyday and do everything they possibly could to reach them. I felt very welcomed into the workplace from the first day and everyone was intent on helping me to be better and feel comfortable.

After this, I wish more people would sympathize for those “pesky salespeople”. I don’t think I would be writing this if it weren’t for the extremely rude way I was treated by the public in the past four days. I understand that perhaps what’s being offered isn’t for you, but when I ask how your day is, you can actually respond instead of ignoring me, putting your hand in front of my face, or simply and vehemently telling me, “No.” I never asked you to buy anything! In this week I was treated like I was scum by a majority of the people I talked to. I worked 12-hour days in boiling heat and rain, coming home with barely anything to show for it, except for an irritable attitude and overall depression.

My point is, it’s a hard job. Everyone’s trying to make enough money to get by. The unfortunate part of this kind of job is that it is commission-based, so for those 12-hour work days I barely scraped $40 for myself a day. I know salespeople can be a nuisance, but more often than not this line of work is all that’s available for that person at the time. More often than not, that person is dreaming of bigger and better things. From talking to people in the office, I’ve realized that the majority of them want to go on to have their build their own businesses and have their own offices–this is just a stepping-stone for them.

Anyways, I now have to write up a letter to resign. Yes, it’s only been 4 days, but there’s only so much I can take. I salute the people that can stay in this line of work, because it’s just not something I can personally handle. It would be nice to have some money in my pocket, but at what cost?

– K

No, I Do Not Need Another Acting Class

If you don’t know this already, here’s a pretty important fact about me: I’m an aspiring actress. Or, no, I am an actress, you just haven’t seen any of my work.

I had my first agent when I was fourteen and immediately found success. The first audition I had for a lead in a future Family Channel (the Canadian Disney Channel) show lead to multiple call backs that spanned into the next year. My second audition landed me a small supporting role in the Family Channel original series called “The Latest Buzz”. But after that, I didn’t have much success. However there were many factors at play in this other than just my acting (which I must admit, back then, was rather uninspiring). For one, I am biracial and was being submitted for “African American” (or as “African Americans” say, black) roles when, but for my curly hair, I look more Hispanic (in addition I don’t have a hint of African in me, which is why I hate that term, but that’s for another post). At fourteen and fifteen I looked slightly older for my age in an industry adamant to cast me younger and reluctant to cast me my own age or older because of older actors with my looks and capabilities who could legally work on set for longer hours. My agent’s solution? “Kiah, you should consider taking more acting classes.”

The first class I took was in Toronto just before I began going out to auditions. It was called “Audition Prep Part I”, or something along those lines, and was a (very expensive) four day intensive program. Without it, I likely wouldn’t have gotten called back for that first audition as before it my knowledge of auditioning for film was non-existant.

As you may have noted, the class was just the first part of many. Meaning there was more to learn. Meaning my parents would have to shell out another $400-$500 for another four days. My agent, kind lady, didn’t force me to take the next level of classes. But I knew she would have preferred that I did.

So there’s my problem with acting classes: a lot of the time they are arranged in levels with guarantees they cannot truly commit to. To me, it’s a trick to get more money out of the actor. In a lot of cases yes, the actor may be on part five of five, but is that actor really any better than when they began?

My point is, I don’t believe that acting is something that can necessarily be taught. You either can or you can’t. But the idea of fame and fortune gets so many people without much talent wanting to be a star and losing a fortune in the process.

That’s not to say classes and coaches can’t help you, I just don’t think an actor can be forged from nothing. Rather, we are molded, all unique, responding to different types of training.

Having put myself through a number of classes throughout the years, from audition classes to master classes to method classes to “forget the method, it’s bullshit!” classes, I can confidently say that I know how to act. Personally, I think that I am a good actress (as I believe all actors and artists should think–it’s good to be critical of your work, but if you don’t believe in it what do you expect others to think?). I don’t believe that taking yet another classes will help to develop me in a huge way.

Put me in a class and I can shine for those few lines you’ve given me on the page. If you want me to repeat a line as if I’m trying to seduce someone, I’ll do it. Now, if you want me to become a character, that requires a little more work. That requires performance. But, in an acting class, there is no true time for performance. You always have a second and third and fourth chance to get it right. In acting class you’re always looking for approval.

To me, the only way to improve as an actor is simply to act. I think, to grow, you need to have fear, to be thrust into it without much thought or practice. From there you can adapt. From there, you simply are.

Anyways, who can teach you to become an artist but yourself?

– K

Suck It and See: Why This Is My Favourite Arctic Monkeys Album (IDST)

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Okay, so anyone who knows me knows that my favourite band in the whole entire world is Arctic Monkeys, a group of four from Sheffield, England (my father’s birthplace) described as an indie rock band on the all-knowing Wikipedia.

My obsession began in 2007 when I first heard “Fluorescent Adolescent” of their second album, Favourite Worst Nightmare, and I have been hooked ever since. Last summer they released their fourth studio album Suck It and See. Though some people I’ve spoken to loathe it as it is a departure from the sound that brought them into the spotlight, it immediately became my go-to playlist. This album is pure gold.

Being an occasional writer, what draws me to a lot of music is the lyrics. Here, ladies and gents, is why Suck It and See just may be my favourite album of all time. (To elaborate, I’m just going to post my favourite lyrics from each song…)

Track 1: She’s Thunderstorms [x]

My favourite line is in the title. “Thunderstorms”–immediate imagery. She’s electric, she’s the rumblings in the sky, she’s the girl you want to fall asleep with…how romantic! I’d love to be called thunderstorms.

She does what the night does to the day…

Track 2: Black Treacle[x]

This song is my favourite of the album. I will never forget the joy I felt when it started playing in the middle of my shift at work.

Now it’s getting dark and the sky looks sticky, more like black treacle than tar…

I have an odd interpretation of these lyrics. So I’m not sharing. I’ll keep it to myself and let you think of it what you will.

Track 3: Brick by Brick[x]

And Matt Helders, the Rhythm Panther, takes it away with the vocals!

I wanna build you up…I wanna break you down…I’m gonna reconstruct…I wanna feel your love…

Relationships. Ups and downs. Cool tune. Got it? Moving along…

Track 4: The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala[x]

Her steady hands may well have done the Devil’s pedicure.

Metaphor! Just a good one, not cheesy or stupid. This song is just too groovy too. It inspired me for one of my Facebook profile pictures. Goodness, I love this tune.

Track 5: Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair[x]

I’ll be honest: I was not a fan of this song the very first time I heard it. The title is a hit-or-miss, and at first it was a miss to me. However it very soon became a hit once I started listening to it more. I felt bad ass doing my “kung-fu fighting” hand motions. Anyways, point of the song (imo) if you didn’t get it: don’t mess with [the singer] because he’s not someone you want to take chances with. Do any other “dangerous” thing, but watch your back when he’s around.

Break the mirror, roll the dice, run with scissors…

Track 6: Library Pictures[x]

Give me an eeny, meeny miny moe. Or an ipp dipp, dog-shit rock and roll.

Okay, Alex Turner even admitted this wasn’t a lyrically-driven song. All about the guitars. Not my favourite of the album, but it’s a killer song to run to.

Track 7: All My Own Stunts[x]

And sorrow slow dances around the edges of her eyes…

Track 8: Reckless Serenade[x]

I love this song! Yet another of my favourites.

Call up and listen to the voice of reason and got his answering machine.

Track 9: Piledriver Waltz [x]

So I think I’ve listened to this song the most on the whole album. Mostly because it’s included on the soundtrack for the movie Submarine, which happens to be one of my favourite movies. Alex Turner, the lead singer, wrote 6 songs for the movie. And they’re all awesome. This song was revamped with a full band for the album.

I constantly describe myself as breakfasting at the Heartbreak Hotel (see my tumblr and twitter). I also love the line:

If you’re gonna try and walk on water make sure you wear your comfortable shoes.

If you’re going to do the impossible, at least be comfortable while you do it. Which is a bit of a contradiction. Or maybe not…

Track 10: Love is a Laserquest[x]

Another beautiful song. Rather slower than expected from Arctic Monkeys, but…wow.

Do you look into the mirror to remind yourself you’re there, or have somebody’s goodnight kisses got that covered? But I’m not being honest, I’ll pretend you were just some lover.

Track 11: Suck It and See[x]

Be cruel to me, ’cause I’m a fool for you.

The premise is that he’s found a girl unlike any other and he wants her so badly, he begs her to give him a chance. It’s just put so poetically. Though, being a song, I suppose that’s to be expected…

I poured my aching heart into a pop song, I couldn’t get the hang of poetry.

Track 12: That’s Where You’re Wrong [x]

This was my first favourite of the album.

Make a wish that weights a tonne. There are no handles for you to hold, no understanding where it goes.

Sometimes in life you have to make choices in which you don’t know the outcome. Don’t always go with the safe option.

But it could mean something else too. Again, I just love the lyrics.

I can tell you, I’ll be listening to this album for a long time. In addition, they have some excellent B-sides such as”You and I” and “Evil Twin”.

– K

*IDST: If Destroyed Still True

Separation

I thought I’d write about this now rather than later. I haven’t told a lot of my friends about it and so, by the time most know about this blog, this article will hopefully be lost amongst my many others.

Now I present my thesis…or question, as I’m more pondering than proving:

Does parental separation affect a person more if it occurs during childhood or during young adulthood/beyond?

As a child with parents deciding to separate, I imagine future relationships would be slower to develop of slightly restrained. How can one believe in a lasting love when the prime example presented during childhood has broken? I suppose that’s the main argument I see. I’m sure behavioural issues can develop depending on how the parents handle the situation. In the case that the child truly believes it’s their fault, perhaps more developmental issues can evolve.

Of course these are all inferences as my parents have stayed together as I’ve grown up. It’s only now, that I’m 19, they decide to end things.

It was Canada Day. My mom and I went out to rent a few movies that morning. In the car she told me she was nervous because she had to talk to my dad about something–something she refused to tell me. I had a sudden gut-feeling of dread, intuitively knowing what was about to happen, but I shook it off…

An hour later they called my brother and I to the basement, where they had been talking, and told us they would be separating. Mom’s plan was to move out at the end of the month. Dad might have to sell the house. It wasn’t our fault, my mother stressed.

I couldn’t speak.

Despite my intuition telling me what was going on, this was unexpected. I had walked down the stairs forcing myself to think they were going to tell us something else, like that we were moving. But in truth their separation is no surprise to me. I’ve been expecting it for years. I can remember when I was nine going camping with family friends. My mom was talking to her friend in our tent about how unhappy she was, thinking I was asleep. For the decade since I’ve known my parents aren’t right for each other. But as the years passed, I began to believe they’d make it. Or at least stick it out until my brother and I had moved out.

I barely talked to or looked at my parents for two days. Finally I broke my (moderate) silence and cried. Hard. My mom had no idea I was upset. My dad must have known as he always knows these things about me, but he didn’t bring it up.

I leave for university in six weeks. I’m only coming back for Christmas and by then everything will have changed. Though, biologically, I have a family, all that I know of this family will be gone. I’ll need to split my time between my parents, between their houses, between their Christmas dinners… I’m so alone, but for my brother, but we’ve never really been close and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

I resent my parents, not for separating, but for doing this now. I wish they’d gotten it over with sooner. Now I have no time to grow accustomed to this. No time to forgive them…

Happily this shouldn’t affect my character. While I’ve never been the kind of girl who wants to “find my Prince Charming,” I’m vowing not to make the same mistakes my parents did. I will never settle. Perhaps I’m slightly more skeptical, but the little hope I have for love isn’t completely lost. I’m already the woman I’m meant to be and I doubt I’ll change much from the person I am now.

But, gosh, do I wish it had happened sooner…

My tears about it have all dried up, but my hearts still hurts. And I don’t know how long it will stay broken. Or how far this will drive me from the ones I call family and the place I call home.