The Friends Who Frolic Together, Stay Together

 

All right, friends, buckle up for story time.

Back when I was in eighth grade (and attending a Catholic elementary school, bear in mind) we had a class retreat to a place called Mount Mary. Mount Mary is a Christian retreat run by nuns, and if I’m remembering correctly, it used to be a private girls-only school before it became a retreat. It’s a gorgeous, remote property with beautiful forested land. Our retreat was only for a few days and a couple nights, but those days started early and were packed with all sorts of lovely activities.

“Lovely” activities.

I did not at all want to go to Mount Mary, but it was the kind of thing where you all but had to go, plus all my friends were going, so off I went. We had to do so many team-building activities, such as Chuck the Chicken and some sort of game that was about economics that I can’t really remember(?), and as someone who doesn’t really like being in a team and also doesn’t really like activities, it was a drag. Add in the fact that we were woken up at the buttcrack of dawn by music BLARING through speakers directly into our rooms (I didn’t much enjoy being deafened by Miley Cyrus’ Party in the USA at 7am), plus having to put on plays for our peers after every meal, plus having to share a room with half a dozen giggling girls (at least I was with my friends), and you’ve basically described my version of a highly effective form of torture.

I mean sure, it wasn’t all terrible. We did go on some pretty extensive hikes through the forest that I quite enjoyed, and we did play a massive game of Survivor where I was a prey animal and survived all the way to the end, which was so friggin’ fun.

But because it was the kind of place that encouraged team-building and peer relations, we were often divided into groups where we weren’t with our friends and were forced to work with people we might not have necessarily liked. That meant that everybody got to know everybody else probably better than we perhaps wanted to. Especially me, who’s not really a “friendly” or “social” person.

Let me introduce you to the guy in the picture here. His name is Ryan, and I never talked to him all that much in elementary school. He was definitely a class clown type character, but he was also a pretty harmless guy, and him and I got seated at the same lunch table together during the retreat. And for some reason he kind of fixated on me in a way I didn’t expect.

During one of our first meals, he made a big show of pouring me a glass of water and serving me like a waiter, and spent the rest of the retreat intermittently showering me with attention and pretending we were buddy-buddy. It was ridiculous and made me laugh (and made me feel kind of good to be entirely honest, because he was actually being nice and thoughtful) and it made the horrible, torturous retreat a little more bearable. At one point he even photobombed a picture of me and my friend, making it look like he was meant to be in the photo in the first place. His comic relief was small and silly and unexpected, but it’s something I remember fondly to this day.

Then there was one day when the teachers released us in this big field with a massive hill and told us we could roll down it and the whole place erupted into giggling, tumbling, frolicking chaos. It was hard to see any sort of friend groups in those pictures because everyone was just scattered everywhere making fools of ourselves and having a fantastic time. Everyone was there and it didn’t matter who liked who.

The second-last picture I have in the Mount Mary album is a picture of me on the bus ride home, sitting next to another guy I never really talked to or considered to be my friend. But there we are, smiling side-by-side, him still wearing his name tag for some reason or another, both of us looking incredibly happy.

I went from not wanting to be there at all to genuinely enjoying the company of the people I was with.

Mount Mary was definitely one of those better-in-hindsight kind of things, and now that I look back at the pictures and all these classmates I haven’t seen in years, I am fondly nostalgic of that retreat. I maybe didn’t particularly like everyone I was with, and I probably still wouldn’t like several of them to this day, but they were people who shared some of the formative years of my life. They were people who rolled down a grassy hill with me and frolicked like happy toddlers. They were people who showered me with silly little gestures of affection and made me feel part of a caring, meaningful group.

I think the good people in your life, no matter who they are or what they mean to you, can form incredible bonds that have lasting impacts even years later. I think they can, if only for a little while, feel like a big family.

And as I’m writing POTS and working on all these character relationships and crafting a little mismatched family, I can’t help but think of the people who did the same for me.

I’m so glad that some of those people are still close friends now.

I would be so lost without them.

-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

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

Bookshelf Tag UPDATED

I’m reposting this tag with some updates because, in the span of less than 24 hours, it has developed that not all of my answers are entirely truthful! Gasp! Haha, let me explain.

Update 1: For answer #8, I state that I don’t technically have any autographed books. This is a lie, I tell you! Because I do indeed have a signed book, and that book is Ilimoskus: Times of Oldsigned by the ever-wonderful Jennifer K. Marsh herself. Well, sort-of signed. I have a piece of paper in the front cover that was signed by her, so close enough! One day, Jenny, I’ll attend a book signing of yours and get a good and true autograph from you :D

Update 2: In answer #3, I mention wanting to reread Unicorns of Balinor, but hadn’t been able to do so because I couldn’t get my hands on a copy of the book. Well lo and behold! My mom and I went book shopping today at this incredible store with floor to ceiling shelves crammed full of books, and stacks of books on the floor and on beams, and just books everywhere. So many books, you can’t believe it. And by a complete fluke, with some incredible stroke of luck, I spotted out of the corner of my eye a special edition 3-in-1 copy of the first three Unicorns of Balinor books! I have never seen a single copy in any store until just today. Right after I mention it. Bizarre, isn’t it? But I guess I can reread it after all, huzzah!

Updates over, here’s the original post.

***

Woo, here for another tag! This one I forgot about way back when I was tagged for it, hehe. Bad Alex, bad!

Back in August, Olivia on Often Clueless, Always Shoeless tagged me to answer a set of questions about books, and since I love me some good books, how could I refuse? And so, without further ado…

(I actually started writing this post in September… and I thought it was old back then, ha!)

1. Is there a book that you really want to read but haven’t because you know that it’ll make you cry? Ummm…. I don’t think so… Lemme think… I don’t really have any sad books on my reading list, and certainly none I’ve been avoiding. So can I change the question to books that have already made me cry? Brave Story made me cry a bit, and I used to cry all the time reading Black Beauty as a kid. There aren’t too many books that get the waterworks going but I’ve certainly shed some tears for the end of series when I realize I’m not going to be reading about these characters anymore.

2. Pick one book that helped introduce you to a new genre. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. I really enjoyed his steampunk series (but never read the last one… oops.) and the illustrations in the book are breathtaking! Oh, and another one is Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve. That was a very cool sci-fi, although I didn’t like second book as much.

3. Find a book that you want to reread. There are a lot… One series I really want to get my hands on again is Unicorns of Balinor by  Mary Stanton. I read those when I was a kid and they quickly became my favourite books in the whole world. They’re not quite my favourites anymore, but I’d love to be able to read them again since they were such an inspiration to my younger self.

4. Is there a book series you read but wish that you hadn’t? Ooh, series? There are quite a few singular books I read and wished I hadn’t, but generally I don’t get far enough to hate a whole series… Well, I guess one example is the rest of the books in the Inkheart series. I loved the first one but really struggled through the other two. I wish I’d just left it at Inkheart and moved on with my life, because I was honestly quite satisfied with Inkheart on its own.

5. If your house was burning down and all of your family and pets were safe, which book would you go back inside to save? Seriously, I can only pick ONE?! Gods above… Well, I guess I could technically replace most of my books, but one that cannot be replaced ever in a million years is a reeeeally old collection of Tennyson’s poetry that my grandparents lent me. It is beautiful, the cover is elaborately decorated and embossed, the pages are perfectly yellowed with gold edges, there are beautiful ink illustrations on the inside… Here, I’ll just show you a picture.

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6. Is there one book on your bookshelf that brings back fond memories? A lot of them… (These questions are hard!) I have a lot of fond memories though of Lionboy, by Zhizou Corder. This is another trilogy I read as a kid that I absolutely adored. I remember reading these books in class when I finished my work, and I remember this was where I first learned the word “latter” (I very distinctly remember asking my mom what it meant because I came across it in the first book).

7. Find a book that has inspired you the most. Ohhh, another tough question! I would have to say really any of the Dragonlance: The New Adventures books. I’ve already talked about Catriona’s impact on my life, but this series as a whole was what got me obsessed with the fantasy genre. I clearly remember writing the first version of my current story shortly after having picked up the Dragonlance series and I know that these books were crucial in the early development of my writing.

8. Do you have any autographed books? Not technically, no. The closest I have to books that are “signed” are books that have been given to me as gifts or books that had been given to other people that I picked up at a used book store. None that were well and truly autographed by their authors though.

9. Find the book that you have owned the longest. I’m not positive, but I have to guess The Mystery Hunters at the Haunted Lodge by Capwell Wyckoff. It’s an old book too, and my grandpa passed it down to me just as it was passed down to him. I remember reading this book with my mom before bed, just when I was really learning to read. I have a picture of this one too.

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10. Is there a book by an author that you never imagined you would read or enjoy? Um… to be honest, I don’t typically pick up books I don’t think I’ll actually enjoy, haha, but sometimes my friends do convince me to read things I originally didn’t want to. Actually! Funny story! So I have mainstreamaphobia, where I basically avoid lots of mainstream things or else I get a rash (that’s not true, but that’s how I feel about it), and so I never read Harry Potter when I was younger because it was sooo mainstream (I’m rolling my eyes at myself too). But in grade seven my friend Lauren pushed me to read it, saying I was crazy to not have read it because I’d love it, so I read it and indeed loved it. I’m sure there have been more books she’s forced me to read that I ended up liking, but that was one of the most prominent ones. 

So those are some of the books on my shelves that I love so dearly. I tag Jenny, Airlia, and Partial Prudence. If you guys wanna give it a go, have fun with it :)

That’s all for me tonight. I shall be back tomorrow with something that isn’t a Q&A ;)

Take care everyone.

-Alex

Brave on Horseback

Last week, I was taking care of a horse named Dom for a friend of mine. It entailed me going out every day to ride, clean his stall, and provide lots of treats. I’ve taken care of this horse for a long time, whenever my friend goes away, and I even used to ride him before my friend bought him, when Dom was just a school horse at the barn. So I’ve known him plenty long enough to begin to understand his quirks and personality.

I’ve also ridden him long enough to notice my growth as a rider.

I’ve fallen off Dom at least once… probably two or three times, really. And I’ve been on his back when he’s spooked and run around like crazy before I could settle him. But the scariest time I’ve ever had to ride him was while doing cross-country jumping out in the field. There were two key problems with that situation:

  1. With his original owners, he was taught to fly over jumps as fast as he physically could. That in itself is terrifying.
  2. He’s also a very shy horse and is nervous out in the field, where a rabbit could jump out of the bushes at any time. Being on a skittish horse’s back in a place that makes them scared is also terrifying.

Combined… it was the jumping lesson from hell. Seriously, I have nightmares of that day. I remember one jump in particular, made of car tires lined up and standing upright, that he was afraid to jump. So not only did he reach a breakneck pace approaching it, but he also unexpectedly tried to swerve away from it. I miraculously didn’t fall off, but there were a couple times when I was clinging to his neck, staring at the ground with horror and struggling to stay on his back.

But that was years ago, and even though he’s still very much afraid of being out in the field and still tries to speed over jumps, I’m not afraid to ride him in those situations. Because I’ve learned what he does and how he handles his fear, and have subsequently learned how to deal with it.

And I expect I’ve become a little braver too.

I’ve been riding for nine years now, almost a full decade of my life, and I started when I was in grade three–just a small little bugger clinging to a massive horse’s back. I remember being so afraid in those days. I didn’t like cleaning the horses’ hooves because I thought I’d be kicked, I didn’t like putting the bridle on because I was afraid of being bitten, and I was afraid to canter or jump because I thought I’d fall off. And when you’re scared, the horse becomes scared as they sense your unease and are wary of it.

But after nine years, you learn a lot of things. You learn to watch the horse’s body language, so you don’t get kicked or bitten. You learn how to keep centred and balanced, so you don’t fall off. You also have to learn to trust yourself. You must stay calm and collected, you must conquer your own fear, so that your horse will be a little braver.

I’ve done all sorts of wonderful things, too, like riding bareback and sidesaddle, and vaulting (gymnastics on horseback), and riding through trees and creeks. Things my eight-year-old self would hate to imagine.

So riding Dom in the field last week, feeling his nervous energy, I stayed calm. I knew he wanted to run but I knew he was obedient and sweet–he would do most anything I asked. I knew that if a bunny spooked him, he would run towards the barn, and I knew that I would be able to sit it out, like I had many times before. Dom had taught me to trust myself, and I had learned to be braver.

I often criticize myself for not being brave. In a lot of ways, I’m right to do so. But it’s encouraging, to see a part of my life where I’ve got this bravery thing figured out. Where I’m able to trust myself as much as I trust my horse.

I’m glad I started riding when I did, partly because it’s a really cool hero-ish thing to do, and partly because I would never have had this opportunity for bravery. I would never have proved to myself that I can do it, that I’m capable of conquering my fear.

Perhaps there’s hope for me after all ;)

What makes you feel brave?

May you never lose hope in being brave.

-Alex

Old Book, New Book… and Doubts

So at the end of June, I graduated from high school (yay me). There was the painful 3-hour ceremony, the silly gowns and even sillier hats, and the enormously endless line of graduates. There was a girl who passed out and a girl who screamed, “I did it mom!” on stage, as one might expect at such an event.

I hated it quite cheerily, to be honest, and was happy to just go home and devour an absurd amount of food. Did the ceremony mean anything to me? Not really. Besides making it official, I couldn’t have cared less whether I had a ceremony or not. As far as I was concerned, I had graduated at the end of my last exam. The grad night was superfluous.

But holy crap, I survived.

I didn’t punch a single person, either (though there were both teachers and students who I think fully deserved it). And I didn’t lose my individuality, or my creativity, or my friends–or any of the things my grade nine self was worried about. Okay, so the first two years were full of kicking and screaming, but I got used to it, realized it couldn’t define me, and managed to endure my way through it. There were moments when I perhaps didn’t try very hard on homework or didn’t study enough for tests, and maybe I could’ve gotten a better grade in chem this year if I’d really applied myself, but after the stress and the tears and the resentment, I’m just glad I’m done.

And hey, grade 12 wasn’t even that bad. It was kind of fun.

Will I miss high school? Not likely. I’ll keep in touch with the people there who mean most to me. I’ll keep close to my heart all the experiences that truly influenced me. But there was so much about high school that I didn’t agree with, I think I can safely say that leaving it behind will be no problem.

Except that university comes next.

With the closing of one book comes the opening of another, right? Which is fine and dandy. I closed the book on elementary school and opened the book on high school. I closed the book on high school and am now opening the book on university. But…

See, this is where I don’t know what to say. The frustration I mentioned earlier, yeah, that’s still here. It’s probably been here since the summer started. I feel so tired, so frustrated, so done. Why? What the heck’s wrong with me?

I keep trying to get over it, to figure out what’s wrong, to do something to feel better, but the summer just keeps slipping away and I just keep letting it go. This is not okay. This is not okay. But I don’t know how to make it okay.

And I’m realizing that it’s only getting worse the longer I let it go because I feel like I’m running out of time until the end. Instead of university being the start of a new book, it’s becoming the end of my freedom. I keep thinking of it as the time when all the torment I went through in high school is going to kick up again, only ten times worse, and I have just a bit more than a month to enjoy what freedom I have left.

I’m not getting cold feet, no–I’m still going to go through with university (seven years to be a vet, woo), and I’m going to take it head-on, aggressively, like any warrior would. But I guess I’m just worried about myself. The way my soul feels, right now… this is not okay. This is not an acceptable way to feel for seven long years.

But getting back on track–one Saturday following grad, I had nearly all my family together for a BBQ, celebrating my graduation. Having both my mom and dad’s relatives in one place, seeing them come together as a single community, was wonderful. And when my mom gave a speech, thanking my family for their support, for helping me become who I am today, I couldn’t have agreed with her more.

I am approaching university, something I am prematurely and subconsciously dreading, without any idea of what to expect in reality. But behind and around me are all of the words of support and love that my family has given me, and beyond that, the words of my friends. They have indeed helped me get to where I am, and I know they will continue to do so.

I don’t know where I’m headed, but I know that I will need them, friends and family alike. I will need their words, their love, their belief.

I sincerely hope that university doesn’t start the same as high school did, and I don’t let the same resentment and loathing build up. Even if I do, though, I’ll have to cling to the faith that I can do this. I somehow survived high school, so I can survive university, right?

To all my family and all my friends who have been with me this far, thank you. Thank you for all your support and love, both in past and in future. I will try to lend the same to you in return.

This is what heroes do, isn’t it? When they are afraid, they reach out their hands to the ones they love most. They reach out for help.

What new book has scared you the most?

May you always have support to lift you when you fear that you may fall.

-Alex

PS: I should introduce you to my Aunt Catherine. She is my, em, eccentric aunt who’s been dying to make an appearance in my blog. She likes to dye her own wool (she’s got sheep) with bark (apparently?) and play the tin whistle. Aunt Catherine–I’m still waiting for you to learn to skip across the yard while playing your tin whistle. I’d give you a whole blog post to yourself if you did that ;)

The Stirling Sound

If you’ve never heard of Lindsey Stirling before, you’re certainly in for a treat.

This spunky girl is a musician like no other. She’s a dancing violinist, meaning she literally dances while she plays the violin. And we’re not talking classical music here, no–her violin chords are mixed with dubstep, electronic beats, and sometimes vocals or other instruments to give it a uniquely contemporary flair.

You might recognize her from America’s Got Talent. Back in 2010, she made it to quarter finals but was told by Piers Morgan that her music sounded like rats being strangled, and that was her last performance on the show. In the cover booklet for her first, self-titled CD, she wrote, “Piers Morgan (bless his heart). When I was on America’s Got Talent, Piers’ comment humiliated me and made me wonder if I’d ever have the nerve to step on another stage. My self-confidence was briefly shattered, but my desire to prove him wrong gave me the motivation to believe in myself again. Overcoming that experience made me stronger than ever.”

Boy, was she right. She came back stronger than ever and proved that there was indeed a place for a dancing, hip-hop violinist in the world. Her latest album, Shatter Me, hit #1 on iTunes and she’s toured all over the world. From a music standpoint, she’s got lots of talent and has done something very impressive with said talent.

Her success even prompted a response from Piers Morgan (kudos to him!).

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I first came across her music maybe a year ago, when I found her Zelda Medley cover on YouTube. I loved the sound of it (I’ve always loved violins and appreciate me some good LoZ tunes) but remember thinking at the time, The dancing’s a little much though, isn’t it? But then I started sniffing around some of her other stuff, namely her cover of the Skyrim theme, and then of a Lord of the Rings medley, and began to adore the beauty and passion of what she was doing.

I then took a chance listening to her original stuff, and by the time Shatter Me came out, I was hooked. Then, when I found out she was including Canada in her tour, I knew I had to go.

When I walked through the venue door, I was just a girl inspired by some awesome violin music. When I walked out, I was a girl inspired by the story of an incredible hero.

The concert was incredible. The anticipation was nearly unbearable as I thought of the inspiring songs I was about to hear, and when the first violin chord cut through the air, the waterworks began. Just seconds into the concert and there were already tears rolling down my cheeks.

There is something about the violin that just speaks to me. The tenor, the sound, the emotion–it’s the instrument of my soul and I certainly felt it that night. There were certain songs I just couldn’t bear without crying. They had such an impact on me, reverberating straight through, that I felt my own emotions–my gladness, desire, sorrow, and hope–rising and falling with the voice of the violin.

I’m pretty sure Lindsey’s violin was equipped with my heartstrings, because that’s certainly what it felt like.

But as I said–it wasn’t the music that ultimately inspired me, it was the story.

She definitely told a story that was personal, heartbreaking, and uplifting, all at once. One part I loved was when she showed home videos of herself as a little girl, getting told by her dad, “Next time you touch that, you lose your fingers”. It was a piece of her heart that she shared and it reflected her own ability to love who she is and where she came from.

Then there was Take Flight (listen to it while you read the paragraphs below).

I have no words that can accurately describe how much this song means to me. I actually hadn’t heard it before the concert (I didn’t buy her albums till after), but hearing it live for the first time was just amazing. The song itself, of course, is wonderful, but the story is what got me most.

The original inspiration for the song was from a young fan of Lindsey’s, still in elementary school, who had been bullied so badly, he tried to commit suicide. Heartbroken that someone could feel so hopeless, she was compelled to write Take Flight to try to express that, though the road can at times be dark and we can’t even see the light at the end of it, there are people around us–friends, family, even a god–who are there to help. On her tour, she happened to meet a young boy named Hunter who had been diagnosed with cancer and one month left to live. Her show would be the last he ever saw, but he was full of optimism, hoping to leave his last marks of positivity in the lives around him with what time he had left.

At that point, I was truly sobbing. That story isn’t just the elementary boy’s story, or Hunter’s story, or Lindsey’s story–it’s my story too. I endured despair when my best friend moved away, when I thought I’d never write a good story ever again, when I’d had a bad day that was just a little too much to handle. I’ve fought to find hope, to keep myself fighting, to take flight and soar. This story is everyone’s story.

And that wasn’t even the last story. The last story (and the last song before the encore) was the message behind Shatter Me.

Shatter Me is all about breaking free from the expectations of others. Letting your inner spirit out to shine for the world, even if it isn’t what the world thinks it wants. It’s about being tired of lying to yourself, tired of just going through the motions, tired of your glass prison. Even if you shatter, you won’t be destroyed. You’ll just give your inner light that vital chance to escape. After all, our greatest strength can come from our moments of greatest weakness.

This is another story that touches me deeply. It’s hard to be who I am sometimes, to be a girl who believes in magic, who believes inanimate objects have a spirit, who believes in a beauty that not many others may see. But it’s hard too to be a dancing violinist, isn’t it?, and look at how well Lindsey’s done. When it comes down to it, we all have those unique, burning spirits inside us that we keep secret because we fear what the world would do with them. If only we can find the courage to shatter and be free.

My Lindsey loot <3

My Lindsey loot <3

Lindsey Stirling is truly my hero. She is the first non-fictional hero of mine whom I don’t know personally, because I feel like I do know her personally just from the stories she’s told. She is an enormous inspiration to me, in the music she plays and the life she lives, and I hope that I may one day find my courage and take flight the same way she has.

So that was what completed my weekend of tears, and as you can see, it was a good weekend indeed. I am so happy to have such great heroes, the fictional Hiccup and the true Lindsey Stirling, who inspire me to such lengths that I feel the desire to embrace my soul and live my life fully. And I sincerely hope that you have found the same in your lives.

I will leave you will one last piece of Lindsey inspiration. I hope it speaks to you as it did to me :) And I 100% recommend you go look up more of Lindsey’s work. She’s an incredible human being.

lindseyfacebookpost

Do you have a hero who inspires you to find yourself?

May your soul be full of music, hope, and courage.

-Alex

Summer Storms and Windshield Wipers

It was a long uncomfortable day. It was oddly hot, feeling like a whopping 34 degrees Celsius thanks to humidity, and I just kept sweating. To make matters worse, I was stressing about a physics test I wasn’t prepared for and that was making my stomach hate me. Hot, nauseous–not a lot of fun.

I had horseback riding in the evening though, which was good. We rode outside and as the lesson progressed, we just watched the dark grey clouds roll in. The rain held off till after the lesson, when I took my sweaty horse into the barnyard to wash him off. Like a true summer storm, it was calm one moment, and then a torrential downpour the next. It felt nice, the rain cooling me down, and it helped clean my horse too. Just Mother Nature lending a helping hand, I suppose.

It was quite soothing, actually, driving home in the rain with the rhythmic windshield wipers going back and forth, rain trickling down the window glass, and the radio cranked. When I got into the driveway, I sat in the car waiting for the rain to ease a bit, and took a moment to just be there.

I felt safe in the car where the rain couldn’t get me (bad rain, bad!), lulled by its droning patter on the roof. I was in a cocoon, untouched as the humid, sticky world around me finally burst and let out its relieved tears. But even as I sat there safe, the key out of the ignition and a cozy quiet filling the car, I had this impulsive urge to turn the car back on just so I could use the wipers to clear the windshield. I wanted to see clearly, not squint through the blurry tracks the falling rain made.

And at that moment, I realized the world was indulging me in a little pathetic fallacy.

Pathetic fallacy is the literary term that refers to a writer’s use of weather to mirror the emotions and events of the story, such as using sunshine for happy scenes or rain for funerals. The storm that poured on my windshield was my own personal pathetic fallacy, expressing in one deluge all the feelings I’d had throughout the day.

I’d felt hot and sticky right from the start, ill with my stress and worry that I was going to bomb my test. It was suffocating, obsessing over it until I actually got to the point of being able to write it. And after that point, there was the downpour, when I could finally let go of the stress even though the test didn’t go that well and I really just wanted to cry.

But as I let my stress pour out, let it fall all around me while my soul crouched in its protective cocoon, I wished that I could use my windshield wipers to wipe clear my vision, to see that my day hadn’t been so bad, to see that the test wasn’t so awful and that my stress would ease soon enough because hey–it’s almost summer! As much as the rain was soothing me, it was distorting my vision and making things seem so much greyer, so much more uncertain.

I still don’t feel particularly well, nor have I let go of all my stress, but the rain helped me understand. My adventure is reaching a difficult point, one that is clouding my sight, confusing me, disheartening me. But it’s only rain.

And it’s easily wiped away.

How’s the weather looking?

May you always have a handy pair of windshield wipers, whether for your car or for your eyes.

-Alex

I was having a bad day…

…and then I got a haircut.

I had an awful day, I really did. I got 8 1/2 hours of sleep last night and yet all day I was dead tired. I couldn’t focus. I was pissy (I formally apologize to everyone who tried to be nice to me). I didn’t want to run at all at track practice. I just wanted to curl up and cry, except that I also had to write a lab report (story of my life!) so as much as I wanted to be done with the day, I couldn’t.

I was also kind of ticked off about Camp NaNoWriMo. Yeah, it’s the last day, but no, I haven’t finished it. I can’t now, it actually is too late, because I haven’t written anything since The Cost, and that puts me at only 30%. I planned to write last night to try to catch up but even last night I wasn’t feeling great–I was in the kind of mood where I loathed every word I tried to write so I just let it go. The joys of writing.

So all of this crappiness was starting to overwhelm me, but then I went to my hair appointment.

I hadn’t gotten my hair cut in more than a year and it wasn’t anything special, just a trim to fix the edges, but for some reason, I perked right up the moment I stepped in the salon. Maybe it was the fact that I wanted to act happy around my hairdresser, who’s a family friend, or maybe I was subconsciously really excited to get a trim, or maybe it was my split ends that was making me so irritable–I don’t know! But that one hair appointment turned my whole day around.

Well, go figure.

Yup, I still feel tired. And yup, I still have a lab report to write, but I don’t feel like crap. Hurrah!

But sadly I’m still not really in the mood for writing creatively, and so I’ll have to leave that for another day, a better day.

So moral of the story is if you’re ever having a bad day, get your hair cut. Or, in essence–do something strange and unexpected that turns your day around. It’s a heck of a lot better than wallowing in misery.

I’ll be back another day with a new story to tell.

How was your day?

May you have a surprise haircut on the worst of days.

-Alex

This is My Faith.

Today concludes the Easter long weekend, and though I’m tired after having done so much in so short a span of time, it’s a good sort of fatigue. Because this year, I realized something that took me several years to understand.

Easter is the most faithful time of year for Christians. It’s the day that created the religion–yes, more important than Christmas, because even though Christmas is when Jesus was born, this is when Jesus died to save humankind from its sins and open the gates to heaven. Easter made Christianity as powerful as it is, by testing the faith not only of the earliest disciples, but also of Jesus himself. It teaches that one must maintain faith and hope even through the grief of pain and death.

Faith means a lot to me. The word itself, faith, is perhaps my favourite word for all that it represents, and it’s how I try to live my life–on the wings of faith. So you can imagine that a faith-based holiday such as Easter would be extremely important to me.

I was born and raised a Catholic, going through the rituals and sacraments of the church and spending many many hours learning about the Bible and its holy teachings. For several years, this was my faith. I believed in God and Jesus and prayed every night. My religion moved me, comforted me, empowered me.

But as too often happens, I reached a point in my life when my faith was seriously tested. It seemed like I had different ears when I attended mass, or different eyes when I read Bible passages. I suddenly found myself disagreeing with the Catholic doctrine. What the Bible was saying and what I had come to understand in my life were two very different things, and it got to the point where I realized I wasn’t a Christian anymore.

It wasn’t an easy realization. I tried to believe again, but to no avail. I simply do not believe in the Christian God or Jesus, no matter how hard I try to do so.

That shook me up. I’d lived so many years believing in Catholicism, that to realize I didn’t have anything to believe in anymore was a frightening notion. I thought perhaps there was another religion that would suit me, or even another Christian denomination, but it wasn’t until I took a World Religions course* my third year of high school that it clicked: I simply didn’t believe in doctrine. It had nothing to do with the religion or the deity, I just couldn’t believe in something I was told. I could only believe what I had experienced and what I had felt.

I believe in emotions, and magic, and kinship. I believe in friendship, and beauty, and love. I believe in strength, and courage, and selflessness. I also believe in gods, but none that belong to any religion but my own. There is no book that dictates my belief, only my own feelings. My own soul.

So now I come to Easter, a Christian holiday. For a while, I had no idea what to make of it, since I didn’t believe in Jesus. I just tried to enjoy the weekend, spending it with family, laughter, and of course chocolate. Though it had perhaps lost some significance, I was still happy.

But then, when I went to my grandparents’ farm on Saturday, my younger cousin had put a sign on the door. It welcomed everyone to the gathering, and at the end she wrote something along these lines:

“Most importantly, when you leave know that you are loved.”

It resonated with me. Easter was no longer about Jesus for me, but it was still about family. In fact, it was all about family. Being with the people I love, celebrating a time of year when faith is strongest. When I left, I really did know that I was loved. I am loved. I have faith in my family, and that brings me peace. This is my faith.

It was a journey and a struggle, to reach this point of understanding, of solace, but there are things in our lives that are worth fighting for. I believe faith is one of them. So keep on fighting.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter.

What does Easter mean to you?

May your faith not be dictated, but be true in your heart.

-Alex


 

*If there’s one important thing I learned in that class, it’s this: all the religions are reflections of one another. At their hearts, they represent the same core qualities–solace, peace, forgiveness–but simply put different names and faces to them. So while I may not be Christian anymore, I could never deny the power and truth of Christianity, or Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism–any religion. I don’t think the name of the god or the holy book defines anything, I think it’s the power of the faith, which is something we can only feel for ourselves. Just as one disbeliever doesn’t make a religion false, neither does isolation in one’s beliefs make their faith untrue.