I will be trying to post regularly now. Besides it being fun and a good writing exercise when I’m blocked on other projects, I should be doing interesting things this spring. Until the next one! – S
As I approach graduation the question of what comes next is pounding repeatedly at the doors. It’s not a consistent rhythm, more of a randomized banging, clanging, and clinking that keeps me up at the most inconvenient of hours.
Hello early 20s. This is the time to make plans and long term goals. Of course, what goals I make probably say a lot about me.
Let the over-self-analysis begin.
Goal One: Living Wage
Goal Two: Writing/Producing Credit in a TV Show
Goal Three: Settled Down
Goal Four: Live on the West Coast (San Francisco, LA, Vancouver)
Prejudice goes both ways. Wanting family would supposedly mean that I don’t have ambition. Career goals automatically stereotype a woman as cold. This idea of being both feels uncertain. I’ve grown up around a plethora of strong female role models: women who pursue careers and raise their children.
I’m at that incredible greedy point where I want everything, and am yet still uncertain of how to achieve any of it. The only thing I do know is that all of this is going to require a lot of stubbornness.
Guess it’s lucky I’ve got (maybe more than) a healthy dose of pigheadedness.
If you’re friends with me on Facebook this won’t be new to you…
Last Tuesday I was walking home. I had just gotten off the subway and I’d taken a path to my building I don’t usually take. The street doesn’t look any different than the others. Same dim light. Same shadows in doorways and gates, observing the street like sentries. Only, one set of shadows didn’t belong to a family patriarch. It was a group of young boys, maybe twelve or so, and they were clearly bored. It was 7pm, and the sun had just gone down.
As I passed their building one of the boys passed in front of me, very close. He was pursing his mouth like he was about to spit, but he didn’t, and I figured it was just a kid fooling around.
The first rock hit my back a few seconds later.
I knew they were looking for a reaction, so I just kept walking as a mocking “sorry Miss” echoed behind me, and a second rock skittered across the pavement to dent a car a few feet in front of me. I was terrified, but I didn’t know what to do other than finish my walk home. There were maybe six of those boys, and while I could probably scare the living daylights out of one, a group was another story.
I get home, pace a bit, cry, shout, rant to my roommate, and gradually come off of the adrenaline high.
Two days later my roommate asks me to borrow a stepladder from our neighbours and I take the opportunity to ask the lady what she thought of the situation. After about five minutes of being told in various ways to avoid the street (she doesn’t even walk on it, she’ll drive it, but walk on it? Never!) and to call 311 with a complaint (loudly, so my harassers know I’m doing it and that cops are on the way) if it happens again. Then she told me her brother would give us the stepladder when we needed it.
It was a matter-of-fact lecture on not taking shit from people, while simultaneously advising me to be smart and stay where I’m safe. The usual lectures are “stand up to them” or “stay away,” but this wasn’t. She just accepted that it was going to happen, but that they shouldn’t get away with it.
There’s a statement on female equality in there somewhere, but mostly I’m focused on how my faith in my neighbourhood was restored.
Here’s a fact about me you may or may not know: I have Social Anxiety Disorder. S.A.D.
Seriously, they couldn’t come up with a better acronym than S.A.D.? I’m not particularly in favour of blanket diagnosis anyways. Suffice to say; I have an anxiety disorder that is worst around interpersonal interactions.
Anyways, this little fact about me makes stuff that is anxiety inducing for most people even more difficult. Such stuff includes meeting new people, public speaking, and anything where I’m on the spot. The weird thing is that I can be quite good in such situations. There’s a threshold that I have to hit. Before I hit it I’m a shaking, stuttering, hyperventilating mess that can’t get out of bed. The trick, I have found, is to turn off my thoughts until I can get to the point of no return – the threshold where the anxiety turns off. Once I’m there, with no where to run, the thoughts turn from “I’m going to screw up, everyone’s going to hate me, I’m going to ruin my life,” to “well, guess all I can do now is my best.”
I was one of those people who walked into exams completely fine, which kind of rocked. Afterwards I would be a mess, wondering about every question. In a social situation its worse; try analyzing every single thing you or someone said and then come up with the worst possible hidden meaning behind each and you’ve got the general idea of what I used to go through.
Why am I talking about this? Because I want to express how proud of myself I am. I got a job. A real, honest-to-God job complete with pay and potential for continued employment after this “internship/consultancy” is finished. I went into that interview after worrying about it for days. I worried right up until I was in the boss’ office. During the interview I was fine. Clearly I did well enough that I got the job.
And the best part?
When I walked out of the office I went into the building’s bathroom to cool off (the office was really overheated) and I noticed that I had sweated through my shirt. Sweated RIGHT THROUGH.
GIANT sweat stains across my stomach.
I had two options; I could be horrified and think up all the things the boss could be thinking of me – ‘she’s insecure’ ‘she can’t handle this’ ‘she’s unprofessional,’ or I could laugh.
This is my triumph. I laughed. I giggled non stop until I got to the bagel shop and filled my growling stomach because THAT was my main concern. I didn’t analyze every moment of the interview. I accepted that things would go as they were meant to, and I went back to looking for jobs until I heard that they wanted me in their office. They picked me, and my first day in the office is tomorrow.
Wish me luck!
If you are on Facebook you have probably seen my insane amount of Susie B related posts. She’s the brown tabby with white feet and a lot of attitude. She weighs less than 8 pounds and currently has a nasty ear mite infection, and sneezes a lot, which has resulted in me having to force medicine on my baby.
Yeah, my baby. I’m totally in love with this cat, and it’s rather ridiculous how much time I put into looking after her… or maybe it isn’t. Maybe its the right amount of time to care for a cat who was abandoned by owners who didn’t want to deal with a pregnant cat. She never did get to have her kittens. She’s what the volunteers at the Animal Care Center call a “Spay/Abort” cat. So she’s confused about why she hasn’t had her babies, and she’s in a new home, eating a new brand of food, surrounded by new people.
Oh, and I’m putting drops in her ears and forcing her to swallow antibiotics.
And yet she’s the cutest, happiest little fuzzy I’ve seen. She slept all last night behind my knees and spent a good part of this morning trilling as she wandered around getting attention from Neha and me.
Having a cat on the buses here in Brooklyn induce a lot of conversation. Everyone has opinions about cats. Although, I’m not entirely certain its the cat, or just the attitude here. Almost every time I’m on the bus I seem to end up having a conversation with someone. Yesterday my conversation was with a girl coming home from pre-K. She was very enthusiastic about swimming and animals, and her favourite food is rice and chicken.
About a week ago I was on a bus that was full of self-righteous African American and Hispanic women telling off the bus driver for not stopping when a woman with a walker requested the stop. It was a full five minutes before the driver stopped, opened the handicapped access door, and let the woman off. The whole bus was in an uproar. One woman yelled “Puerto Rican bastard.” The bus driver’s response was “I’m not Puerto Rican.”
Its a pretty big change from London underground, or Victoria buses, where you don’t talk to anyone. On those buses and trains, unless there are groups or pairs traveling together – and sometimes not even then – the only sound is the transportation itself.
NYC buses are filled with laughter and yelling, children screaming and a vast range of languages and accents that make me feel like I don’t really speak English at all. Still, at least I can speak cat. Susie B says “hello!”
You know that moment where you look inside your own head and wonder “when the *%@# did that happen?” Well, I’ve been having one of those ever since I asked Rev. Winnie at St Mark’s if I could be confirmed this academic year.
I’m just going to warn you now, this post is going to be LONG.
I’m getting confirmed in the spring. I know a lot of people go through confirmation a lot younger than 20, but my parents left confirmation up to me. It is my decision. My commitment. So I left it for a while. Then I kind of got wrapped up in university and enjoying my last three years of being a teenager. It wasn’t something I thought of much.
Faith is… difficult, for me. I’ve grown up in it. It is a huge part of my life. However, for a lot of my life I have been too deep on the inside to be able to keep faith, and the inner workings of a parish, or the church at large separate. The only time in my life when I actual gave something up to God was when I finally admitted to wanting the prayers of my community the day before I went in for major surgery. This admission came WHILE the entire community had their hands on me, giving me their strength. I’d agreed to the prayers, the laying on of hands, because my parents were terrified and I wanted to give them that reassurance. Then I stood in front of the altar, and felt hands on my shoulders and people holding my hand and I just stood there and tried not to cry. I kept my eyes closed, but apparently the people who couldn’t reach me put their hands on the ones who could, and so on until the entire parish was connected to me. I couldn’t see it, all I knew was that I had never felt so supported. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life.
Then I had my surgery, spent a week in a morphine haze, started grade 11, and went back to keeping my personal life and my life at church separate. It was habit. Religion wasn’t a big topic at school, and priests’ children were expected to be perfect, quiet, bible thumping extremists, so I kept quiet.
Do I feel a bit like I’m shoving my faith at you right now? Kind of. This isn’t normal for me.
This summer I spent six weeks traveling by myself, dealing with emotional backlash from being alone in foreign countries, and all the horrific teenager things that I had refused to deal with and suddenly couldn’t run away (have you noticed that? When you’re by yourself, you actually have to deal with YOURSELF). Where does an emotional Sophia go? To a church. To sit in a pew and mutter a prayer that more resembles the format of one of these blogs in the meandering thoughts and random comments than anything out of the Anglican Book of Prayer. But that’s where I went. In every country. Churches were where I was safe.
Then I got back to Victoria, where my personal and spiritual life are separated by a big thick line… mostly. My friends know I’m religious. They don’t question it. They also don’t ask me about it. It’s just a thing that goes in the file. Sophia’s 20, vegetarian, Christian, and dyes her hair regularly.
Then I went to the Sorrento Centre which was full of people fully immersed in Christianity who were very pro-church. It was weird for me. Have you met my generation? The upper middle-class academics of my generation? You may have noticed a severe trend of dissing organized religion. I get it. I REALLY do. I just happen to have gotten lucky and found two parishes that I actually feel safe in, and now that I’m older, I have felt safe enough to actually explore my own spirituality. The point is – talking about church? Not a part of my daily life.
I spend a week there. I actually engage in spiritual projects and thought and meditation and by the end of it my personal life and my religious life weren’t seeming so separate.
While I was at this retreat, the masterful speaker The Rev. Dr. Herb O’Driscoll talked about how the church is changing. He talked about how the church is ALWAYS changing. That was a fun thing to think about. So many people are up in arms about how the old ways are being lost and the younger generations will lose faith entirely. Well, when you think about it, every single generation has changed how the world perceives religion in some way. How faith is practiced is always changing. O’Driscoll pointed out four things that remained the same throughout these changes. Only four things.
And the Story.
I was thinking about this a few days ago. I had just talked to Rev. Winnie about getting confirmed in my NYC church. I was feeling empowered. New apartment. Final year of university. Confirmation of my commitment to live my life in Christ.
The absolute terrifying enormity of the myriad of things that can go wrong in my life at any point.
My internet may have also died on me. I was looking for something to do. So I started writing. Then I rewrote. And rewrote. Then I sent the resulting poem to my mother, who liked it and got my permission to send it to a parishoner who write faith poetry. Apparently they liked it.
I have never written something like this.
Cue the opening sentence of this post. I’m looking at what I’ve written and I’m thinking: When did I become this person? When did I become the person who talks about their faith and doesn’t feel ashamed of the lack of scientific fact? When did God become an entity greater than a tool held in my back pocket for when things got bad?
When did I admit that I do not have complete control over my life? I am very good at convincing myself that I am fine without any help whatsoever.
When did this happen? When did lack of control stop being so terrifying?
The poem below is the result of these thoughts.
Between definitions and understanding
Through history and future plans
All bundled up in today.
I am grasping with all my strength
My ancestors are distant memories;
Their traditions lost to passing days,
But we are fed the same,
By bread and wine
Body and blood.
In a vast highland field
In a smoke choked city,
In a bare walled apartment,
We are fed.
Fed through a ritual
As the Lord has taught us,
To be passed down mother to child
Neighbor, to passersby.
Wherever we break the bread;
We find lineage
Footsteps are washed away by varied evening tides.
Pushing and pulling at regrets,
Till I am forced to let them go,
And hold on tighter to the straw.
Dirtied hands are washed clean
By the water
Connecting every coast
Stone connected to stone
By the simple flow of current.
I am here
You are there.
Never truly alone;
Brothers and sisters in Christ,
In bread and wine and water,
In the story.
The story carries me.
I adjust to each new step,
Drawn on by the rhythms
Of the story told year by year.
From hushed catacombs
It’s beats lead to Grand Cathedrals
Vast halls to be ravaged, pillaged by change
Only to be returned to golden glory,
With new regimes.
Year by year the cadence changes.
Location, race, all change as the story is told
Again and again.
I hear it through ears filled
By all that my age entails.
I hear it told in my language.
The story carries on,
From age to age.
Always, more time to listen.
I am grasping at straws.
Straws we have sewn together
To be bent into a crosses on a Sunday
Their ashes spread on a Wednesday.
Year to year.
Forever and ever,
My summer at home consisted of spending time with friends and family, and a frantic search for somewhere to live when my plane touched down at 5pm, EST, August 20th.
Clearly, I succeeded. Those of you on Facebook, or on the Western coast, probably heard my various screams/messages of delight when Neha and I got approved for the apartment. It’s in Bushwick. That’s a neighbourhood of Brooklyn. It is primarily Dominican, Puerto Rican… and a variety of other African American and Hispanic groups that speak Spanish. There’s a lot of very silly lines used to hit on women in this area. My favourites so far were:
“Daaaaamn, she FRESH” – two young guys at a girl they were passing.
My first day in the neighbourhood… WELP, I’m not in BC anymore.
“Careful honey, you know what happens when sugar gets wet” – a middle aged guy to me as I walked through the rain.
This one had me grinning. I mean, come on. He’s calling me sweet… I think. And he was next to two other women who just started guffawing when he said it. I got the impression he was an alternate version of my grandfather.
What is it with older men and flirting?
The last one was just… dumb, on so many levels:
“I’m in heaven cus I see an angel”
I didn’t think people still USED THAT! It sounded like one of the bad cliches film and writing students are told to stay away from!
Anyways, I’m writing this from atop the bed that was delivered today. Beside me is a set of drawers on casters that I filled with art supplies and various knickknacks. They’re finally off the floor, so my sense of achievement in this is pretty high. My books are in packing-box-bookshelves (I’m informed I’m stealing this idea from how we stored clothes in Boston in 2001). My closet is organized, for the most part. The clothes I need are accessible. The winter stuff is in a suitcase in a closet. I’m about as organized as I will get this year.
I am not domestic. I cook. I clean. I want to do neither.
From the open front windows (in our almost completely bare living room) comes a Spanish melody accompanied by steel drums, probably played from the car speakers of our Dominican neighbours. I’m not sure how many people live in their apartment, but it seems to be a family gathering place. They always say ‘hi’ to me when I pass. I’m told the music will play all night today. There are children’s voices, which tells me the crowd over there is bigger than normal.
In some ways I feel very much like an outsider here. Maybe that sounds naive. I am pale (I’m still not sure that sugar comment was about my sweetness or my skin colour), and I’m only going to get paler as the tan I acquired in Italy fades away. I speak no Spanish, and to be entirely frank, I’m a bit of a WASP.
I thought I was done traveling. Something tells me that my cultural expansions did not end when I returned to North America.
- The bread in the grocery stores is decent enough for dinner, and it’ll last you the entire visit.
- There are guys everywhere with rings of mini Eiffel Towers, the ring is strung through the top bit of the towers, and they shake them. Walk through the central, touristy bits, and it’s like you have constant percussion surrounding you.
- If you’re studying abroad, with a visa of any sort, bring that permit to the Louvre and you’ll get in free!
- The fact that I’m travelling Europe doesn’t quite kick in yet…
- The beer is amazing.
- The weather in May is not.
- If the weather is bad, the only thing to do is sample all the local beer.
- I finally start to get it that this trip is an opportunity for me to do whatever I want, within reason, and figure out what I actually need to be happy.
- It is possible to visit without smoking a single joint.
- The canals are amazing.
- The Anne Frank House will make you cry.
- The bicyclists are nuts.
- I gain a sense of awe for the sheer magnitude of art and culture that has accumulated in Europe.
- Go to every museum possible.
- Modern art. End of statement.
- Graffiti is everywhere. It covers all the old buildings and every piece of WWII architecture. Solid brick and concrete are covered with colour until the ugliness is hidden beneath the free expression of the local artists.
- Cheapest grocery stores of my entire trip.
- I realize the truth of “history is written by the victors” and also realize how small my world perspective is.
- Good hostels. Good people. Good drinks.
- Going to Munich when the local football team is winning is probably the best way to see how crazy the locals get.
- The Englisher Garten is great… until it’s dark. There are no streetlights, not really. Luckily, there are bicycle taxis.
- There is surfing in the park.
- For the first time in maybe 15 years I discover I’m capable of walking up to people (without any previous interaction) and saying “Hi, I’m Sophia” without having a heart attack over initiating a conversation.
- The taxi driver I got was terrible, and it was how I learned that I cannot understand a word of the Marseille accent.
- Train rides equal amazing vistas.
- The performance artists we found were hilarious.
- I prove to myself (and Jilly) that I can have a conversation in French… a simple one. But a real exchange of information all the same.
- Really damn expensive.
- Way too many people trying to sell you random stuff on the street.
- Amazing glassworks.
- Absolutely beautiful. Walking around for hours, not paying for anything except gelato, sitting beside the canals and chatting with gondola drivers as they pass by. Just about 80% of my visit.
- I realize that maybe I’m not quite used to the number of street vendors (the ones that try to force things on you and then charge you for them) yet, or the gypsy beggars. All the same, these people add to the texture of the experience.
- Tarnevelle. My fav town. Really out of the way, so you REALLY have to make sure you know you’re on the right bus… or rent a car.
- Some places have free wine tasting.
- The wine is really good.
- The honey is better.
- The balsamic is beyond comparison.
- I figure out that when I get rich I’m buying a place here. Not for me. For my parents, so they’ll stop whining about the Victoria weather.
- Busy. Crazy. Full. Beautiful. Expensive. Worth it.
- Finding a tour around some of the historical monuments is worth it. You get to find out all sorts of fun facts and have people to wander with rather than being a loner the whole time.
- My first ever pub crawl. Nuff said.
- Small, and lives almost entirely off of tourism.
- The cook at the Ostella is phenomenal. A few people were considering kidnapping her.
- Good walking shoes, good idea. Expect to be washing dust off of them.
- Day trip to Ercolano (Herculaneum and Vesuvius)
- It is possible to sprint all the way around the rim of Vesuvius and down to the bus stop (2K maybe?) in 13 minutes.
- This results in shin splints.
- And the first sunburn of the trip.
- I’m going to two Sorrento’s this summer :P
- Good cheap shops on the small side streets.
- The town specialty is inlaid wood work.
- Renting a deck chair is fairly affordable if you’re not at the really touristy beaches.
- Reapplying sunscreen is beyond necessary.
- Forgetting the above leads to sunburns that are still healing over a week later (yes, I’m in pain. Yes, you can laugh at me)
- The cliffs, the view of Vesuvius, the city, the climate… it’s a whole other world compared to Victoria.
- Honestly, not much to do.
- Beautiful painted churches… I’m talking every inch coated in frescoes.
- Seeing the Last Supper is something you plan months in advance.
- At about week 5 I start getting homesick and mopey. I write sad FB posts about missing my daddy and my best friend in Victoria. I also end up spending way too much time watching TV on youtube.
- My home base in Europe, for now, anyways.
- Suddenly, Italy doesn’t seem so expensive.
- My grubby, haven’t showered, haven’t done laundry look really stands out amongst the bankers and UN workers.
So, I go back to Victoria in four days. In three, I’m getting on a plane that will take me to Seattle. I’m taking the first clipper ferry of the day, so hopefully my jetlag doesn’t knock me out too bad. I get to meet the family dog, and cuddle my wonderful cats. I get to find out how much taller my brother is. I get to watch my mother exclaim over how tan I am, and when Dad gets back from the East Coast we can compare travel stories.
This experience has changed me. I’m still me… but… I think I’ve developed a new sense of self-dependence. I look at the world differently.
Thanks for travelling with me.
Okay. So… The story I’m about to tell is a rather extreme description of my ridiculous pride and subsequent idiocy culminating in something that could have been quite dangerous but wasn’t.
I went on a day trip to Florence yesterday. It was hot, and crowded, and quite beautiful. I saw the Duomo and explored the ancient basilica underneath the floor of the grand cathedral. I tried to go to the Academia, but it was Monday, which is when museums are always annoyingly shut. Oh well. I saw the Ponte Vecchio and wandered the town until I got completely and utterly lost. At this point I’d been walking for 4 hours in the sun, hadn’t had more to eat than a salad, and had run out of water. I bought a 1.5L bottle of water and found a place that did $5 take-out pasta before finding my way back to the bus through a leather market.
At the station I bought a ticket to Tavernelle and asked which platform the bus would be at. Platform 6. I waited and got on the bus at platform 6.
40 minutes later I was the only person on the bus and the driver was telling me I was on the wrong bus. Apparently, the guy at the station was wrong. Also, I had finished my bottle of water.
The driver told me to get off and wait for the next bus. Of course, first I had to find the bus stop. The one I did find, well, the was nnothing that indicated that any bus would be going to Tavernelle. In fact, Tavernelle wasn’t even on the map. Now, this is the point at which it would have been a good idea to find some help. What did I do instead? I used some of the last remaining battery on my trusty smart phone to find out if it was possible to walk.
…Well, it didn’t look too bad.
The first half hour was all winding back and forth down the hill. Did I mention that Tuscany is full of hills? I sang a Fiona Apple and attempted not to cry because, quite honestly, I was terrified. I wasn’t entirely sure where I was going and I hadn’t a clue how long it would take. After the first half hour there was one sign that gave me some hope: Tavernelle. 14k.
The next half hour was a first draft of this post and a litany of curses that find their origins in a variety of books. (Literary curses are always better.) This was primarily spent maneuvering on a stretch of highway with metal barriers that eliminated my walking space. It was pretty steep, but it was only ten minutes.
Now, of course you may be wondering “why didn’t she hitch a lift?” Mainly, because I know the rules of hitching. The roads I was on were far too twisty and full of blind corners for a car to stop. So I kept on, hoping for a stretch where I could hitch. When I did find such stretches… No one stopped. There is, of course, always a risk in hitching, but I know how to be safe. Still, not one of those cars stopped for the red-faced girl carrying a camera bag and a purse strapped bandolier style across my chest and occasionally shaking out my traveller skirt to relieve the heat.
I had started walking at 7pm. The sun was setting around 9. This wasn’t too worrying except that the highways had no lights. No lights, very few reflectors, and did I mention I was completely alone? At 8:30 the sun started to disappear behind the hills. This is about when my anxiety kicked back in and I resorted to singing “99 bottles of beer on the wall” to keep myself focused.
Finally I reached the signs for Tavernelle. The sun was almost gone and in front of me was the final hill. A 5+ kilometer stretch of highway with no streetlights and just a few cars passing. It was scary. I tried to start another round of “99 bottles” (I’d finished the first and hour before) but didn’t have the breathe for it. I’d been hiking for about 15 minutes when I heard a car. I stuck out my thumb in a vain hope… And they stopped. This gloriously kind mother and tween daughter stopped, picked me up, and drove me to the door of the hostel. I think I said ‘grazie’ 20 times.
Once insidethe hostel I went to take a shower, only to find that my shampoo and soap had been stolen. The hostess of the hostel found me some shower gel. Best shower ever.
Cleaned up, I went to the common room and made myself tea and met a fellow girl from Victoria, and a bloke from Vancouver.
I went to sleep certain that from now on I will always double check what bus I’m getting onto.
Anyways, I’m safe and sound, and leaving for Rome tomorrow. Ciao!