Lost in Translation

I am actually a little disappointed to be posting this with the title “Lost in Translation” when I realize that “A Foreign Language” would have actually fit it perfectly. But alas, that was the name of my last post and of course hindsight is 20/20.

Oh well. Anyways.

I believe I mentioned at the start of the year that I rented a violin in December and was playing around with that and having a lot of fun with it. Well, it actually worked out that a barn friend of mine had a violin from when she was learning as a kid and she generously gifted it to me, which was pretty amazing. It’s a gorgeous instrument and I am very much in love, and after fixing up the strings and buying a new bow (and learning just how painstakingly difficult it is to apply a new brick of rosin to a brand new bow–it took me two days), it really feels like my own.

Actually learning how to play it though?

That’s been an interesting adventure.

I mean, I’ve learned how to make it sound like something resembling music and not a horrible hybrid between nails-on-chalkboard and dying-animal-sound, which is good, and I’ve learned to play a couple short and simple songs that actually sound like the songs they’re supposed to be, which is great, but wow what an instrument.

What an instrument, truly.

It’s quite interesting, because music is something I’ve always loved from a listening standpoint, but is something I never really felt a part of from a creating standpoint. I mean, I did take a mandatory music class in eighth grade so I did have some exposure to music, but learning three notes on the flute in order to play Hot Cross Buns doesn’t exactly equate to understanding and grasping music. And seeing as how I got a B in that class, I clearly wasn’t any kind of musical prodigy.

So jumping into the violin (which is on its own a much more difficult instrument to learn than most) without any real prior musical ability or knowledge has been a little bit disorienting. I mean, I couldn’t read a lick of sheet music a month or so ago, so trying to figure out how the little sticks and circles on the page are supposed to transform into sounds feels like trying to understand ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Lots of confused faces and question marks, let me tell you.

And what the heck is with this whole “an A note could either be an open A or the fourth finger on the D string or the third finger on the E string or the first finger on the G string” nonsense? Why couldn’t we come up with different letters for each? I am so confused????

But I’m slowly piecing it together and am actually making music. Which is. Wow. It’s really wow.

I mean, I’ve sort of got Mary Had a Little Lamb and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star:

Which are two songs that would really only entertain infants (and even then they would want me to be a lot better at violin first) but hey. It’s certainly a start.

And, and! I’ve also got a classical song by Beethoven in my musical repertoire. Yeah that’s right, I learned how to play a snippet of Ode to Joy. I actually only learned it yesterday, so I have a clip from then and a clip from now, which already shows a little bit of improvement (such as actually being able to remember the tune of Ode to Joy).

Warning: this song sounds a little torturous. Sorry not sorry.

Personally, I think it sounds a little more impressive than Twinkle Twinkle. I actually was a little surprised that Ode to Joy was in my learning level. I mean, I guess I never realized it was actually fairly simple in practice? And I guess when you think of Beethoven you don’t really think “beginner”. So it’s kind of cool to me to see that making music isn’t quite as astoundingly, impossibly difficult as I previously thought.

Although, that being said, I’m not finding every song quite so easy to get a grasp on. The song that is my kryptonite? Jingle Bells. Yes. Jingle Bells. I attempted it four times in the following clip and boy oh boy was that fun.

Yeeeah. Not very impressive.

I think perhaps the most fascinating part of this whole experience thus far though has been actually learning the music. I mean, I still don’t really know sheet music, but I learned how to do Auld Lang Syne using tabs and that’s actually a song I’ve memorized. And it’s really interesting to me, because to some degree I’ve got the finger positions numerically memorized (0 3 3 3 1 0 3 0…) but when it comes down to really playing it, I’ve actually got it memorized more by sound than anything else. I know the tune of the song, I know whether the next note will be higher or lower, I’ve learned the finger position associated with the different notes, and so playing Auld Lang Syne feels a little bit like speaking a fluent sentence in a foreign language.

Learning music feels like learning a language.

Because with this song in particular, I no longer have to sit there and think “okay what’s the note that comes next?”, my brain just knows it, and knows how to make it. I’ve got it memorized to the point where it feels intuitive and natural and it’s such an incredible feeling. This is why I wanted to learn an instrument–I wanted the feeling of music being an extension of myself and I wanted to feel the sound pour from my hands the same way the words pour from my mind.

I mean don’t get me wrong, you can hear plenty of mistakes when I’m playing it (I am so impatient and you can totally tell, ahaha), but it just feels so amazing to play and agh I love it.

I have a hell of a long way to go with violin before it’s quite what I hope for it to be, but I’m just so grateful that I get the chance right now to start to integrate something so amazing and meaningful into my life. The fact that I’m learning this new language, that I’m finding a new way to express myself, a new extension of my soul? It’s inspiring and powerful and breathtaking and I love it.

Y’know. When I’m not struggling with Christmas songs.

-Alex

Exciting News!

Well. I have some pretty good news.

I got accepted into college!

Yup, for the second time. I liked it so much the first time I just had to go back for more.

It’s so strange to be going through the process a second time. Part of me has this laid-back, “been there, done that” attitude that contrasts so starkly to the anxious and excited high schoolers who have just applied for the first time. The other part of me is just like them–am I gonna get in what if I don’t get in ugggggh when am I going to find out?

But yes, I got accepted, and I could not be happier. I’m so excited I actually wish I could start classes sooner and waiting a whole six months feels like torture.

You might remember that when I was in university last year and the year before, I was doing an animal bio major as a prerequisite for entering the vet college, and that lovely major featured thrilling courses such as biochem, physics, and statistics–three of my absolute favourite subjects, of course. You might also remember that I took this past year off of school because depression is a thing and stress really sucked and trying to do biochem and stats while you’re already feeling crummy is pretty friggin’ hard.

I was really worried about what I was going to do next, because I really wanted to go back to school and keep learning things and pursue veterinary medicine, but I didn’t feel confident that I’d really be able to tackle those difficult courses and keep up with the studying and homework.

However, I found a pretty perfect solution to the problem.

May I present: vet tech college.

A vet tech is basically what a nurse is to a doctor–they do a lot of the same things and have a lot of the same knowledge, but the tech is often more hands-on (running tests, drawing blood, etc) and the vet is often more knowledge based (diagnoses, treatment plans, etc).

This also means that the actual education required for each differs quite a bit; a tech does 2-3 years of college with lots of hands-on work, while the vet does 7-8 years of university with lots of theory work. So instead of taking courses like biochem and statistics for three years before I can even apply to the vet program, I’ll be jumping straight into courses such as medical exercises and animal nursing. Which will not only be slightly easier than memorizing the structures of amino acids, but will also be so much more interesting.

The other amazing thing about this program? They offer it in an alternative format, which means that I can keep working at the vet clinic (and learning/practising a lot of the skills that I’ll be taught in the vet tech program anyways) during the fall and winter semesters while taking a couple online classes, and then when all the other university students are off during the summer and looking for more working hours (therefore able to cover my shifts), I’ll be going to the campus to do the actual hands-on courses.

I’m actually so thrilled that I found out about this program and was accepted into it. I’m excited to be able to learn practical skills in the field that interests me and I’m just really happy that it feels possible for me to go back to school again without worrying about the stress I had before. I think this will be a lot more manageable and make me a lot happier in the long run.

There’s a part of me that feels like I might still want to go back to vet college and get the full doctor’s degree, but why not take this opportunity while I have the chance? I mean, in the grand scheme of things I am ridiculously young, so I’ve got my whole life ahead of me to go out and learn more and do whatever I’d like.

And it’s not like I’m going to be bored. In my time working at the clinic I’ve come to love doing things like lab tests and nursing care–things that the vet often doesn’t have time to do. So heck, maybe this is actually a better fit for me than being a vet. Who knows?

All I know is I am incredibly excited to be embarking on this new adventure and I can’t wait for it to start.

-Alex

A Fish that Doesn’t Swim

I’m certain that this will come as a shock to you, so it might be best if you read this sitting down.

Several people in my life have told me that I am, in fact, too hard on myself.

I know, I know, why would they say such a thing? That’s not like me at all!

Except that I know it is, and even though I know it’s true, it still doesn’t seem to help.

Well, that’s not entirely truthful. I’ve definitely learned how to tone it down recently. I no longer feel the need to call myself a lazy loser if my only accomplishment for the day is reading thirty pages of a book, or threaten myself with visions of future doom and destitution if I don’t manage to write anything creative by the end of the day. Life is stressful and difficult and tiring as it is without adding on all this internal pressure to do more, do better, be better.

I know I’m not alone in this idea of being too hard on myself, and I’ve seen it in some of my friends too. These impossibly high standards, this very strict definition of success, this merciless idea of what is “acceptable”. It’s an understandable trap, the desire to do more, because it comes from all the best intentions. We believe we can do amazing things, we want to do amazing things, and we want to constantly push ourselves to do the best we possibly can and always strive to improve.

It’s great to want to improve and make or do something you’re proud of.

There is, of course, a point where it goes too far, as is the case with most things.

Because when you start pushing yourself for more and better and greater, you sometimes forget that you’ve actually achieved quite a lot.

And when you start basing your worth as a creator or a person on how “well” you think you’re doing or how much content you’re producing?

That’s a dangerous game.

One big thing I’ve experienced while being depressed is that it is absolutely impossible to live up to any of my high standards while simultaneously fighting through a mental illness. In fact, it’s impossible to even be able to do what I was doing before, which I used to think was “barely adequate”.

No focus, no energy, no motivation. It makes those already sky-high standards feel truly exorbitant.

So as somebody who is often too hard on myself, not being able to accomplish very much is beyond frustrating. It started to eat into my sense of worth, my sense of value. If I’m not producing 2000 words in a day, what kind of writer does that make me? If I’m not writing stories to share, then what am I doing with my time besides wasting it?

It was really easy to fall into this trap of “wasted time”, as if every minute of the day had to be spent doing something “meaningful”.

It’s probably pretty obvious that beating up on yourself like that isn’t a good way to feel better when you’re depressed.

So. Slowly (and painfully), I had to learn to not be hard on myself. Which felt a little bit like telling a fish not to swim, or a dog not to wag its tail when it’s happy. I had to let go of this idea of “wasted time”, I had to let go of this idea of my value being in how many words or stories I was writing, I had to let go of this idea that it’s not okay for me to spend my time reading books and watching YouTube videos and eating snacks in bed.

Because it is okay to do those things. Of course it is.

There is no right or wrong way to spend your time, as long as it’s something you feel is good for you.

Just because you’re not producing or accomplishing something does not at all decrease your worth as a person.

Not gonna lie, for a long time it felt like if I stopped pushing myself, if I told myself it was okay to spend my evening lying in bed listening to music instead of writing, then I would never do the work that makes me feel happy and meaningful and I would never feel better. But making myself feel guilty for not being able to do very much work wasn’t making me feel good at all.

It does feel better, to just accept your limitations. To be gentle with yourself. To admit that broken bones can only heal if you give them lots of rest.

I know that the world favours the capable, that it praises those who can do big, remarkable things, and it feels lonely and disappointing to not be one of the achievers. But it doesn’t stop you from being beautiful or wonderful or incredible or important.

You can be sprawled out on the couch for hours watching Netflix and still have a gorgeous head full of astounding hopes and dreams and beliefs.

You can be wrapped up in a blanket in a dark room and still have a breathtaking heart that is brave and loving and kind.

You can spend your time doing nothing but breathing and still have a laugh that makes the earth shiver and a smile that makes the sun soar and a body made of atoms that started their lives in the hearts of stars.

Your worth will never be tied to how much you can do, you hear me?

You have my full and wholehearted permission to stop being hard on yourself.

I know, it’s like telling a fish not to swim. But you’ll get used to it.

Turns out, floating is kind of nice.

-Alex

Lucky Number Seven

20170101_103517

Ah, 2017. The year that couldn’t come fast enough.

I’m not the only one who thinks 2016 was especially terrible. Not even just with world events, but in my own personal life there were lots and lots of stumbles. There were of course good things tossed into the mix that shouldn’t be ignored, but largely I’m welcoming 2017 with open arms.

My first real accomplishment of 2017?

Applying to college.

Y’know. For the second time in my life.

I’ve recently decided to make a slight change of direction regarding my career path, so instead of going back into the animal bio program this fall, I’ll hopefully be going into the vet tech program at a different university. The vet tech program will be nice because I’ll only be taking a couple online courses in the fall and winter semesters, allowing me to keep working at the vet clinic I’m at, and then in the summer I’ll go to the university to actually do the hands-on courses and build on a lot of the skills I’m already learning at work.

I think it’s going to be a more exciting and fulfilling experience for me than taking biochem for the third time, and I think it will be good to be able to continue my education without drowning in coursework that’s beyond my current ability. Therefore, starting off 2017 by finishing up my application is a very positive beginning to what I hope will be a very good year.

Speaking of positive beginnings.

2016 was a rough year for lots of people, requiring tons of strength, courage, and hope to get through it. But we made it. We are here starting over, redefining ourselves with resolutions and commitments to change. We are counting blessings and celebrating victories. And I think we should be celebrating. Because whether your last year was spent with endless struggles or with personal victories, I hope that everyone can acknowledge how remarkable and wonderful it is that we’ve completed another long year. I think one way of celebrating that accomplishment is with another round of your personal stories.

I skipped Your Story last summer because I was so swamped, but with the new year happening and myself being in a much better place, I’d like to take the opportunity to share your strengths and victories once more. I’ll make another post for that explaining the details and whatnot, and will hopefully have it up sometime tomorrow. So keep your eyes peeled and get your stories ready my dears.

So. Shall we review the past year?

October

Ah yes, my favourite time of year. I was a lot more relaxed about October this time around, trying not to stress myself out too much about the whole Halloween thing so I’d actually have time to enjoy it. And I did. I really did. My costume this year was Red from Transistor and I should really take the opportunity some time to talk about it more because the character means so damn much to me. I also just felt really good about myself in October. Lots of body positivity, lots of happiness. It was a good month.

20161104_181802-01

November

November, not so much. I did try to do NaNoWriMo, as per usual, but I really just struggled. I mean, things were changing at work and I had more hours and I was starting on with a new therapist and Christmas was starting to gear up and I just didn’t have the time or energy or focus to complete NaNoWriMo. I wrote a few thousand words, so I still accomplished something, but I was still a bit disappointed and discouraged to have failed this year. I know I can accomplish incredible things when I put my mind to it so it feels like a more personal failure.

December

Ugh, what a crazy month. Christmas snuck up on me for sure. I had one super stressful week at work where everyone but me had final exams so I was covering basically everyone else’s shifts, but I survived and impressed myself with my own capabilities, which is always a good boost to the old self-esteem. Christmas itself wasn’t even as stressful as I expected, me learning to take extra breaks and lower my expectations of myself when needed, and Christmas morning with my family was really, really lovely. This was also the month I decided to rent a violin and start learning to play, which has been such a fun experience so far.

So that was the past few months. As for the year as a whole, well. Many of the resolutions I made last January 1st didn’t quite take hold as well as I’d have wanted them to.

  • Work through the 3rd draft
    • Get some people to read it
  • Blog more (I’ve missed it)
  • Find balance and bravery, one step at a time
  • Build up my self-esteem
    • Start by admitting that my words and my self are important
  • Let go. Just let go. It’s the past. Let it go.

POTS, for example, didn’t get quite as far as I wanted, and nobody ended up reading any of it. Which is fine. It was a difficult year. I did what I could. Unfortunately, the blogging also went rather poorly. As did the whole finding balance thing… I’m maybe a little braver, and maybe think a little better of myself, but yeah–I could definitely still learn a thing or two about letting go.

Which is all right. That’s not really the point of the resolutions, you know? You don’t have to succeed, you just have to try. And I did, and I can see where I made progress, so that’s good. It’s all good.

But. This year has some resolutions too.

  • Keep writing. Always keep writing.
  • Blog more (for real this time)
  • Continue learning to love myself
  • Continue learning to breathe and let go
  • Spread more love to others

They’re not very specific, they don’t come with any particular plans, but they’re things I’d like to learn to do and they’re things I want to have as part of my life. I’m especially hoping for the writing and blogging ones, because I think they’ll help with the rest of it. And I’ve really missed having lots of words in my life.

As always, I’ll leave you with a song that meant something to me this past year. It’s High Hopes by Kodaline, because I have high hopes for this upcoming year and I believe that we are capable of amazing things. Sure, there are stumbles, sure, there are struggles, but we’re here. We are going places. I am hopeful.

Happy New Year, guys. I hope–I genuinely hope–it’s a good one for you.

Any resolutions you’d like to share?

-Alex

Mundane; Magnificent

I’ve always gone on about how life is the greatest adventure, but sometimes it feels like life is actually just a crummy, mediocre version of a really boring, really difficult adventure.

I mean, come on. Filling out tax forms, paying bills, buying groceries, getting the flu shot–none of those things are particularly fun or exciting or daring like adventures are supposed to be. You could probably argue that you could turn those things into an adventure if you had the right mindset, but the reality remains that they’re pretty mundane things to do.

Of course though, adventures aren’t 100% danger and excitement and thrill. Adventurers still have to do things like cook food and buy supplies and pay for places to sleep and walk on a path for gods-know-how-many hours a day if they’re trying to travel somewhere. And if the adventure is set in the real world, it makes it even more likely that the adventurers will have to do some of the mundane things required to stay alive and get a good (or at least decent) sleep at night. Adventures do have their dull moments, we just tend to write those out of the story.

But really, you could argue that adventures are just mimicking real life, except that they’ve been glorified to exhibit all the fun, dangerous bits and modified to leave out most of the boring ones.

In a way, that can make it pretty difficult to relate to adventures, when we feel like our lives aren’t very similar.

Which is something I feel a lot in my own life, and in my writing too. I mean, I’d love if my life was more exciting, made of more than just work and school and sleeping and writing, and I could go travelling and exploring and learning and all the exciting things that adventurers get to do. But at the same time, in POTS (the story I am presently writing) I find I have almost the opposite problem. My protagonist (who’s from this world) is off doing all these crazy exciting things and I’m trying to find a way to keep her human, keep her relatable. After all, she’s modelled after a teenager from our world, so I want her to really feel like a teenager, and not some distant action hero. So I almost have to pay more attention to the mundane bits of the adventure, whereas in my own life I’m trying to pay more attention to the exciting ones.

It’s quite a situation.

But I think it kind of emphasizes what exactly we find appealing about adventures. We like the danger, the excitement, the exploring and exploits. But we’re looking for the relatability, the parts that let us see ourselves in those same adventures, no matter how fantastic and out of this world they might be.

And that’s why the characters are so important, you know? We need a character that has the same fears and doubts that we do, the same morals, the same view of the world. We need a character that is going to react to an extreme situation in a way that we can understand and sympathize with. When the adventurer finally becomes the hero and does something big and brave, we still need to feel like, if we were in their shoes, we could have reached the same state of courage.

So I think it’s kind of cool to put characters through mundane situations, to see how they would act and behave. It’s like… this character can take down dragons and supervillains, but could they handle taxes? Would they know how to pick a ripe avocado at the supermarket? Can they cook a fancy quiche when they’re more used to kicking butt?

Which is probably why coffee shops and dinner dates are common scenes for fanfiction. We just love seeing our heroes act human.

I’m thinking I may have lost my original point through the course of this post, but ultimately I think that adventures aren’t that different from our everyday lives. They still have mundane, human moments amidst all the chaos and thrill. They just happen to have a lot more chaos and thrill than the typical life of a layman.

And like I said, with the right mindset, you could make just about anything into an adventure.

What was the last adventure you had?

May all your adventures have a touch of humanity in their magnificence.

-Alex

Race or Ruin

Every once in a while, I stumble across some article I never meant to read, and it gets me thinking in unexpected ways.

The other day, the article that sparked my brainstorm happened to be this one. It was about why animals can’t have schizophrenia, even though they can have other mental illnesses such as OCD and anxiety. The article discussed how schizophrenia, and humans’ susceptibility to it, likely has to do with evolution. As humans got smarter and our brains and genomes became more complex, there was more room for error and mutation. Thus, schizophrenia arose.

I started wondering about why we’re so darn intelligent as a species. There’s a lot of argument out there that we’re not the most intelligent species in terms of sheer brainpower and cognition (which I could definitely agree with), but there’s no denying that the society we’ve created far surpasses anything seen in the natural world. With our cities and electricity and medicine and technology, we’ve done some pretty mind-blowing things. Things that animals wouldn’t even imagine doing.

A lot of humanity’s intelligence is of course due to our evolution. I never really learned about evolution until last year in university, and we mostly talked about animals rather than humans. We talked about how natural selection picked out the most useful traits in the species, developing the instincts and behaviours of the populations to increase their chances of survival. It’s simple enough when you’re talking about Darwin’s finches, but it becomes a heck of a lot more complicated when you’re trying to understand human evolution.

Darwin’s Finches

What process of natural selection determined that we’d build concrete and steel buildings? What form of evolution led us to the creation of machines and technology? It’s wild, to see how we’ve come down this insanely advanced path while the rest of the animal kingdom has followed a much humbler course. Why us? Why humans? Why so far?

Big questions, I know. Certainly not anything we mere mortals can answer. But it’s fascinating to think about such things, and intriguing to imagine what it would be like if we weren’t the only ones.

What if there was another species that could build cities and computers? What if there was another species that could speak a bunch of different languages? What if there was another species that had the same profound thought patterns as us and could do math and science and art?

Well, if you’ve ever read a sci-fi or fantasy novel, this concept probably isn’t that new to you.

Because when it comes to those kinds of stories, “race” is rarely a matter of skin tone. More often, race determines whether you have fur or scales, a tail or wings, or even what planet you were born on. It determines if you’re human or elven or dwarven or draconian. And while each of those races may be fundamentally unique, they all share one common trait: they’re the most intelligent and advanced species on whatever world they live in.

You barely have to think about it to be able to name a hundred examples. Video games make good use of this, often allowing players to choose between a wide variety of races:

Guild Wars 2 race selection

Elder Scrolls Online race selection

Tera race selection

Then there are the legendary worlds, the kingdoms that rule the fantasy/scifi genres. I’m talking about Tolkien, Lewis, and Lucas here:

Middle-earth

Chronicles of Narnia

Star Wars

And not to mention all of the mythology and real-world legends where many of these races were born or inspired. It seems humanity has long been intrigued by the concept of other species being as smart and advanced as we are. Why is that, do you think? I wonder if it’s because it’s so hard to believe we’re the only species that has the potential to evolve in such a way. Or just the excitement of having competition in this universe that is advanced enough to give us a challenge, but not human enough to feel like we’re fighting ourselves.

Or perhaps do we believe, deep inside, that this earth should not belong to us alone? Why would we be the only ones to develop so enormously? Why wouldn’t animals also have their cities and civilisations? Why wouldn’t they have their own nuanced languages and cultures, similar to our own? Why should humans be the only ones when the world is so big and incredible?

Or do animals already have all of these things, but in a way that humans simply can’t perceive? It’s food for thought, in any case.

I think it would be interesting to see what the world would be like if we weren’t the only race upon it. Would we learn better tolerance, seeing as how we wouldn’t be the dominant species anymore? Or would the racism that already exists today be a thousand times worse?

I want to leave you with this clip of a speech given by the wonderful Bill Nye the Science Guy, science hero of my elementary school days. It’s a beautiful point he brings up and just another reason why I love science. If you start at 13.55 and listen for a couple minutes, that’s the part I really want you to hear.

“There really is no such thing, scientifically, as race.”

Like I said, food for thought. And definitely something that the world as a whole would do well to think of more often.

What do you think? Why would humans be so evolved? What would happen if there were other “true” races?

May you always remember that we are much more alike than different.

-Alex

The Warrior Within

I’m sure you’ve heard me say before how it was always my dream, even as a kid, to be a warrior. I’m sure you’ve heard me say before how that lifestyle has inspired me and guided my steps. And I’m sure you understand how pleased and proud I am to be able to confidently say that I feel like a warrior.

Given all the chaos and stress of the past three months (which has doubled in the past month alone, with this new job situation), it’s no surprise that I’m as exhausted as I am. It’s no surprise that I feel just as weary as if I’ve come out of an epic battle. It’s no surprise that I’m wound tighter than a bowstring and that it’s been so easy for me to cry lately. It’s no surprise and it’s not my fault. I’m handling it as best I can.

The fact that I’m still sane, that I’m still belting out songs in the car and dancing as I make my food, that I’m staying connected with my friends and am meeting new people, that I’m writing and gaming and dreaming–all of that is pretty incredible. I’ve had to ask for help a few times (and have been given so much support by both old friends and new acquaintances), but I’ve made it through time and time again. And even though I’m feeling the ache and discouragement of my hardships, there is a resilience within me that has kept me going. Forged into the toughest steel, it gives me strength.

It is my inner warrior.

I found this quote not that long ago and it really stuck in my head:

Do not speak badly of yourself, for the warrior that is inside you hears your words and is lessened by them. You are strong and you are brave. There is a nobility of spirit within you. Let it grow — you will do well enough. 

-David Gemmell, Quest for Lost Heroes

Because even though I’m proud of myself for coping for so long, there have been moments when the frustration and disappointment have caused me to turn on myself. Every time I cry or screw up at work, there’s a temptation to get angry with myself. There’s a temptation to be harshly critical and pick apart my mistakes. There’s a temptation to bully myself into believing that my tears make me weak and hypersensitive. And every time I feel that temptation, I feel my inner warrior losing strength.

That’s when we get into trouble. When even we don’t believe in ourselves, what hope do we have of being successful? How will we have the courage to keep fighting when we don’t deem ourselves capable enough to do so? Why would we fight to protect ourselves, to overcome our trials, if we don’t believe that we are worth fighting for?

There is a warrior within you. Your warrior may not be strong or brave or fearless, but your warrior has potential. And your warrior needs to be nurtured. Don’t let yourself believe that your mistakes make you incompetent; the lesson learned from a failure is worth twice that of a success. Don’t let yourself believe that your tears are an indication of weakness; we cry when we are in pain, and pain is not an easy thing to endure. When your inner warrior falters, believing for a moment that they are not strong enough, you are there to rally their spirits and encourage them to rise to the challenge. You are the one who’s there to support and inspire your inner warrior. You are the one who can make you believe in yourself.

Please don’t forget how important you are. Please be forgiving towards yourself. Please keep believing that you are worth fighting for.

There is a warrior within you, and should you give that warrior a reason to fight, you will be given protection for the rest of your life. While your body may be battered, your soul will be kept safe.

Be kind to yourselves <3

What encouragement would you give your inner warrior?

May the warrior within you never falter, but always find the strength to continue.

-Alex

The Company of Coworkers

All right, this is it.

One way or another, I’m going to blog tonight. I don’t have anything prepared but let’s roll with it.

I guess I can talk about life, since life is an adventure and all that. Life has been pretty interesting lately. I feel like I’ve done nothing but work, write, and sleep these past three weeks. It’s been difficult, that’s for sure, dealing with the new job. Some days have been better than others.

But today was quite the rollercoaster ride. It started out rough, with me getting extremely frustrated with myself, and at a certain point I just lost it. I broke down, tears everywhere, which didn’t make me very happy with myself. They had to pull me off the line and send me to the washroom to recover. But when I came back to where I was training, all the guys working around me felt the need to cheer me up. It ended up being the stupidest comment about someone’s bellybutton busting through their shirt that set me off. I ended up laughing so hard, I was crying all over again. And then the rest of the shift was fantastic.

That’s pretty much what it’s been, working there. 50% misery, 50% I honestly can’t handle the absurdity of my coworkers. They’re what’s been keeping me sane these past weeks. There are a lot of kind and goofy people on my line and I’m so grateful for it.

I think that’s why a lot of adventures are done by groups of adventurers, rather than just one lonely hero. I don’t think there are too many people who could handle the adventures they’re given without aid from someone else. Whether because they need someone to save their butts, or just need someone to keep the boredom away, I think companionship is a vital part of any adventure.

(*coughcough*the Fellowship of the Ring*coughcough*)

That’s certainly how I feel, anyways. It’s been touching, how much some of the people there have done to help me. One guy got me two rolls of finger tape because I complained that my fingertips were sore. And when I got put on my first job by myself and was dying of nervousness, he gave me constant reminders throughout the day to breathe, which I honestly really needed. Then another guy, the one who was training me when I started crying today, gave me a much-needed pep talk to get me back on my feet. And yet another guy, one who says the most hilarious things in the most serious of voices, cheered me up the one day by telling me a deadpanned story of this one time he made a wax model of his thumb.

I think that having people with me as I go through hell is keeping me grounded. I was furious with myself for crying today, feeling so embarrassed and frustrated by it, but they just kept going as if I’d never broken down at all. They stopped me from being too serious and got me past the frustration. They helped me regather my strength and face the dragon of the day, and I’m so grateful for it.

If you’d told me two years ago that I’d be working with lots of people all summer, I’d have turned up my nose. “People? Ugh. I don’t like people.” But boy, has that changed. I like these people. These people are good. Even people on the internet who have offered endless support as I give day-by-day updates via Twitter or Tumblr have helped enormously. The incredible companionship in my life right now is keeping me going. Truly.

And speaking of people, hello you lovely people who are honouring my blog with your readership. I’d like to get back into blogging more frequently, keep updated and connected with you guys, and so I may be doing more of these journal-style blog posts. Hopefully I can make something out of them and not just turn them into diary entries. We shall see.

But I propose that something we should all do (me included) this weekend is write out a list of all the people who you know have your back if you need help. All the people who will listen to your hardships, offer advice, do what they can to help you out. Who are the companions in your adventure? Who are the ones keeping you grounded, lending you strength when you are weak, turning your tears of frustration into tears of laughter?

Who is there to fight your dragons with you?

May your list of companions be longer than you think.

-Alex

Welcome to the Family

Happy Star Wars Day! May the Fourth be with you.

(And also with you.)

Ah, Star Wars. There’s been quite a lot going on in the Star Wars corner of the world lately–the new movie, the TV shows, the Battlefront game. Lots for the fans to get excited about. And boy, are they excited. You can hear them screaming in the streets every time a new piece of info is released.

I have always appreciated the existence of Star Wars, but I never really got into it, truth be told. It’s not that I don’t want to, I just… don’t want to. There’s not this driving need to go out and watch the movies. I suppose if someone offered to marathon them with me, I would say yes, but I have no need to do so on my own. Star Wars is cool, the fandom is great, but I’m a-okay if I’m not a part of it.

Well, sort of.

It was an accident, I swear. I never meant to get into it, but Star Wars Rebels just happened to be on TV and I just happened to leave it on that channel, which led to me just happening to watch one two three episodes. And then the rest of the season. Which then led to me obsessively looking online for info as to when the new episodes would be coming out.

And now I’m hooked. Yet another cartoon I’ve fallen head over heels in love with.

So of course, naturally, I feel the need to gush about it :P

Star Wars Rebels is a beautiful show in a lot of ways, from the symbolic lighting to the wonderfully expressive graphics to the oft-dark storyline (torture, guys–literal torture), but perhaps the most powerful virtue it has is its representation of family.

“We’re not exactly anything. We’re a crew. A team. In some ways, a family.”

Sabine Wren, Star Wars Rebels

Star Wars itself has created an amazing family of fans. From the tiniest of toddlers to the grey-hairedest of adults, there’s an incredible sense of unity between generations. You see it today, on Star Wars Day, and you see it in conventions like Star Wars Celebration. The common love for the Star Wars world bridges the gaps and brings all kinds of fans together. And once you enter this intergalactic family, you’re in it for life.

Star Wars Rebels does a lot to emulate this sense of family. This group of rebels joined together under some pretty dire circumstances. Living in a dangerous galaxy, fighting against the oppressive Empire, narrowly avoiding death time and again, doing all they can to give hope to the people around them, helping those who can’t help themselves. There are a few small victories, but a lot of massive losses. It’s hard to not succumb to despair in a time like this. But when things seem too overwhelming, this precious Space Family has each others’ backs.

There’s something incredible about the bonds that can form in such grim situations. It’s incredible, how people who are at one time strangers can very quickly come to trust each other wholeheartedly when lives are on the line. Time and again in the show, you see someone who is uncertain, afraid, vulnerable, and you see how they are strengthened, comforted, and supported by the rest of the family. There is a deep love between these motley rebels and it’s what gives them their indomitable courage in the face of such overwhelming odds.

I mean, I’m always a sucker for character dynamics, but Star Wars Rebels gives me a lot to work with. Seeing the way each character interacts, seeing how they express their care… it’s heartwarming. You see Kanan, surviving Jedi of Order 66, faltering in his leadership because he’s afraid he’s not good enough. You see Hera, brave Twi’lek pilot, making the most heartwrenching decisions for the good of her crew. You see Sabine, young Mandalorian explosives expert, questioning the crew’s path because she’s afraid of losing everything. You see Zeb, a surviving Lasat of his planet’s annihilation, unsure how to express himself after being so strong for so long. And you see Ezra, the young Space Blueberry padawan, experience all sorts of growing pains as he learns how to open his heart to others. There’s so much emotion in this show, it’s insane.

Every member of the crew has experienced something different–something painful that the others can’t truly understand. They come from different walks of life with different perspectives and motivations, but they’ve all come together because they’ve all shared the same hopelessness. The same fear, the same loneliness. And in each other, they found hope, courage, and comfort.

And then there’s these two. Agh, they make my heart explode with feels. They drive me insane, but I love it. The relationship they have is golden. The bond they’ve formed is so precious. I love them. But they drive me nuts.

I’m such a big fan of the family-but-not-really-family dynamic. It takes a lot, for people to trust each other so deeply like that. Especially when living in such difficult times. It can be so easy, to let pain and fear harden your heart and strengthen your defences. It isn’t easy to let someone in and see your vulnerability. But when you do… this is what happens. You gain a family.

It happens in a lot of stories. It happens in a lot of real-life situations. A special camaraderie can be found on the battlefield, out on the streets, in impoverished countries–even in places like high school. Anywhere that people experience a common despair, there is the potential for bonding. There is the potential for trust and love. There is the potential for family.

And when such a family is formed–a true family, with bonds that will never break–that is when we find our greatest strength.

Together, as one.

Incredible.

What family-but-not-really-family have you found?

May you always have a family to support you, whether blood-bound or soul-bound.

-Alex

The Boss Battle Awaits

As of Friday, I officially finished my first year of university.

It seems so strange to think that I am actually finished with school. In the middle of April. And I don’t have to go back till September. My brain is so confused, honestly. And I’m still experiencing that residual stress, where I keep thinking there’s work I need to do even though I know there’s not. I’m off the hook. I’m freeeeeeeee! *sails away into the sky*

*descends back to earth* But now is a good time to sit down and think. Reflect. Because this last year has been… wow. A lot less and a lot more than I though it would be. A lot less because it wasn’t as terrifying as I expected. A lot more because it changed me in more ways than I ever anticipated.

The first semester, as you know, went really well. I fell head-over-heels in love with university. I was having the time of my life. The second semester started out the same way. Woo, life was great. And then… mm. Not so much.

I don’t… I don’t really know what happened. Everything was fine up till reading week, in February, and then things just went downhill really fast. Maybe I fell behind, or maybe things actually started piling on, but it became a series of 100m dashes from due date to due date as I struggled to keep up with all the little assignments I had to do. The stress came suddenly, and it came hard. The whole month of March was disgusting. I was starting to count down the days till the end of the semester. I wanted to be done. I was already done, fed up with it all.

So by the time exams rolled around at the beginning of last week, I was absolutely exhausted. Mentally, physically, emotionally. Uuuuugh. I was feeling beaten down, worn thin, and utterly demoralized. I just wanted to sleep. That was the word of the week: sleeeeeep.

And at the end of it all, I had a bit of a breakdown. It was a very painful breakdown, lots of tears, the whole ordeal, but it was a very important breakdown. First of all, that breakdown got rid of all the gross feelings that had accumulated during March, so it was much needed emotional detox. Second, it made me realize something very important about myself.

I am stronger.

In a moment of helplessness, I confessed to myself that I was afraid of going back to how I felt in high school, going back to feeling like everything was wrong. But in a moment of courage, I reminded myself that I’m not who I was a year ago. I am stronger.

The first semester of university was important because it made me braver, surer of myself. I found new independence. I realized I was capable of great things and found pride in myself. It was a fantastic adventure, one which allowed me to become a better person while having a hell of a lot of fun.

But the second semester was the part of the adventure where things stop being fun. Suddenly, the danger is real. Suddenly, the hero is deciding that she really wants to go home and forget about adventuring. It was the darker half of the adventure that leads up to the boss battle at the end of the road.

That was the part of the adventure that was either going to make me or break me.

Thank the gods it didn’t break me.

Well, it nearly broke me. It broke me down, but it didn’t destroy me. It made me stronger. It forced me to find a part of myself that was strong enough to endure the stress. It forced me to find my inner steel. I made it through. I made it through and came out alive and now I have new strength to draw upon.

Strength I’m going to need for the boss battle.

I wish I could say final exams were the boss battle, but unfortunately it looks as though they were the mini-bosses. The henchmen. The real boss battle is set to take place this summer. I’ve been applying desperately to different summer jobs but the only place I’ve actually been accepted is at a factory. A factory. The pay is great but the work itself… terrifies me.

Ohhh, the past few days have been a game of ignorance. Ignoring the fact that I have to sign the job offer on Thursday. Ignoring the fact that I’m soon going to be doing shift work for the next four months. Ignoring the fact that I’m so damn scared that I won’t be able to handle it. Ignoring, ignoring, ignoring. I’m trying to enjoy the few days I have left.

But there have been a few times these past few days when the ignorance just hasn’t worked. The fear, the anxiety–it kicks in full force, making me doubt myself. Making me doubt that I’m going to make it through the summer without absolutely losing it. And it makes me even more anxious, because I haven’t doubted myself like this in a while.

It’s funny, though, because I’m torn between two states of mind. A part of me wants to do this, wants to go through hell and back just to prove she can, and that part is not daunted by a mere factory job. But there is another part, just as strong, that wants to turn around and go home. She wants nothing to do with any of this. She wants to curl up in a ball beneath the stars and keep herself safe and give up on this awful quest. And it’s a tug of war between them, to see which one comes out on top each day.

Is it sad that I’ve only been out of school for a few days and I already want it to be September again?

I really don’t know what I’m going to do, to get through this summer. The fear is gnawing at me. Maybe it will end up being like university, where I do all this worrying for nothing. One can always hope, I suppose.

I’m sure I’ll end up crying, somewhere along the way. The crying hurts, but that’s where I learn the most about myself. And when all my tears are spent, when the scared part of me has exhausted herself–that’s when the strong, dauntless part rises up to protect her. That’s when I find my strength.

You can fight even if you’re afraid.

You can be strong even through your tears.

You can have faith even when you’ve lost sight of hope.

These are all lessons I’m learning. Lessons I’m trying to live up to. These lessons are the faith that I’m clinging to, the faith that I’m relying on to carry me through to the other side.

So why all the Legend of Zelda pictures? Because Link, Zelda, Sheik, Impa–they all inspire me. They inspire me to rise to the challenge, defy the odds, and destroy all enemies who dare stand in my way. They inspire me to protect what I love, even if it happens to be myself. They inspire me to always find the strength to keep going.

If you can’t find hope, sometimes you have to make your own.

This will be a difficult boss battle, that much is certain, but I will have to prove to be a difficult adversary. I will have to prove myself, prove my mettle. One way or another, I have to do this. It is my quest. I am its champion.

What quest must you embark upon?

May you rise to the occasion and endure all the boss battles that come your way.

-Alex

If I can beat Ganondorf, I can beat this, right?