This is my life

A Rough Year, A New Beginning

Last year was rough for a great many people, myself included. I went through several months of unemployment and unhappy employment. I lost my much loved grandfather and two cats. I finally acknowledged my lingering depression and took steps towards bettering it. I stopped writing for myself, in both fiction and this blog.

And this is just what happened to me. I’ve family and friends who’ve dealt with this and much more.

I have few good things to say about 2016. It’s been a year where I’ve felt a lot of defeat. A lot of exhaustion. A lack of inspiration. Trying to get into my field is still proving difficult. Trying to get my writing done has been even harder.

But I think with all this upset, all this exhaustion, has given many of us a feeling of “I’m done with this. It’s time to push back.” I am one of those people.

We’re all hoping for a better 2017, I think. Anything better requires work though. It may be hard for some of us to gather up our energy and motivation after a long, draining year. Some of us may be stuck in the mindset that, given everything happened in 2016, 2017 will not be much better.

We need to make it better. If not for everyone around us, then for ourselves at the very least.

I’m not going into 2017 with a full plan. We’re not even a month into this new year, and anything can happen. But I have steps. Apply for more jobs. Consider further schooling. Get back to fiction.

Get back to this blog.

I know it won’t be easy to break the cycle 2016 caught me in, but if I don’t try, I will get nowhere.

Thank you, readers, for your support and patience. Now, let’s push back together.

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Where did I go?

This blog has been shamefully dead for several months, despite my frequent promises of returning. Suffice to say, I believe I’ve disappointed many people, myself included.

The past year or so has been difficult for me. A down-turned economy means there’s lay-offs everywhere, and the few jobs in my field are seeing fierce competition. I started 2016 off unemployed. got a new job, and ended up having to quit after a few months due to the conditions there. While I was able to get another job straight away, I felt like I was back at the beginning, and that I would never get anywhere. That I had let everyone down.

My writing has suffered. I have not worked on anything personal in months. The inspiration I once received from the Steampunk community I was part of dried up after too many elitist encounters. The manuscript I had written no longer appealed to me. I started to make moves to improve it, but stopped somewhere along the way.

I’ve been living my depression in distractions. Finding ways to write that, while fun for me, are not working to further what I want from life. I just stopped trying.

But in recent months I’ve made a choice. I’ve taken steps to improve my mental health. And I feel they have worked. Slowly, my depression has alleviated. I feel more motivated to do things. I’m applying for more jobs, going out more.

But my writing is still lagging behind, this neglected blog being a testament to my own failure.

I can’t be a failed writer before I’ve even gotten started. If inspiration will not come, I will make it come. I will start here, returning twice a month with more writer’s thoughts and advice for my readers. I will return to my research, to create a more believable world for people to get lost in. I will look back to the things that had inspired me before and see if they can’t do it again.

Most importantly, I will stop hiding.

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Apologies to be Granted

There’s been utter silence on this blog for several months.

I would like to say that I’ve been busy. That work has kept me busy and that my writing is coming along steadily. But to say that would be a lie. I have scarcely written anything in months, not because I lack the time to write, because I have that in abundance. No, my motivation and inspiration have dwindled. Sitting at my desk and trying to type out words seems more a burden than a challenge. My love of steampunk is nearly gone.

And my job prospects are not too hot either.

I’m in a pit, so to speak, feeling like any efforts on my part go nowhere. It’s paid havoc on my writing in ways I can’t describe. And no matter how I claw, I can’t seem to get myself out.

Perhaps, I just need to sit back and reboot.

While I say I haven’t written anything in months, what I mean is my own stories have seen no progression. My ideas seem unable to stay in my head, nagging endlessly until I write them out. I have been writing, yes, but nothing I can really use for my own purposes. I’ve been using a different medium. Learning how to better delve into characters. Writing things that I’ve never written before, and getting a hang on it.

And I’m having fun with it! But I need to get my focus back. Even if it’s only for a couple hundred words a day.

This is the start.

There is little more I can do about my employment prospects beyond what I’m currently doing. But I can get back to creating. I can force myself to focus, for an hour or two a day, and get back to what I love.

And once a week, provide you with writerly insights and commentary.

Thank you, readers. Now let’s get started.

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Holiday Hiatus

Despite my promises of on-time blog posts a few weeks ago, I have failed to deliver.

I have no one to blame but myself for this. On top of my own lack of motivation to work on my personal projects, this holiday season took a bit of a stressful turn. I had to quit the job I had for four years, and am seasonal staff at another. As of now, I’m not a hundred percent certain they will keep me on in the new year. It seems like a possibility, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

Aside from that, this new job and all the hours it provides has left me busy. And often tired.

And so, with half-finished blog posts in my documents and a fire that needs rekindling, I have decided to go on a hiatus until the new year. At which point, it is my resolution that I shall get back to being a writer.

Happy Holidays, readers, and a Happy New Year.

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Return from Hiatus

It has been a few months since I last wrote in this blog. I have not been away or injured or sick. My lack of updates is the result of a motivational downfall. Writing has started to seem like a chore recently, and my mind seeks to distract me from it at every turn.

It’s hardly an excuse, but it’s what has happened.

What brings on such a fugue of words? A great many factors, I think. There’s a recession where I am, and I am having difficulty getting a job. With mass lay-offs left and right, competition is rising in the job market. I’ve been looking for a full time job–a career–for over a year now, and my odds don’t seem to be improving.

I haven’t had much contact with fellow writers recently either. Normally, an afternoon spent talking out stories with my peers energized me to write. Our bi-monthly writer workshop gave me a goal to reach and have a new piece written by. But my friends have lives and events as well, so I have not seen many of them. My extroverted side is a bit starved for their companionship.

The last factor is probably a loss of inspiration. My mind doesn’t wander to scenes or dialogues when experiencing down time. Or it does, but not towards my own stories. I’ve been distracted lately, and. I think I need to spend some time watching the movies that inspire me, re-reading the books by authors I wish I could write like, or playing the games that give me ideas.

But does this mean I am not writing? Not at all! While nothing I’ve written recently has the potential for a mass market (or so it seems, who knows), I have been putting my fingers to the keyboard and devising plots and stories and characters. Most of the writing. I’ve been doing recently is reactive, and it’s given me better insight on how to get into a character’s head or assisted me in writing things I had never written before.
Perhaps this dry spell was a period of learning for me. But it has lasted long enough. I return to you now. Starting next week, I will be sharing new thoughts and observations and opinions.

I’ve missed you, readers. Let’s return to our discussion.

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A Week at the Street Show

I apologize for the lack of an update last week. My time was being filtered in all sorts of different directions. Particularly new for me was my volunteer work at our local theatre festival: The Fringe.

Running on its 34th year with the Mary Poppins-esque theme of SupercaliFringelistic, the Fringe is an ode to theatre both on stage and in the streets. Venues host shows ranging from local to global, and street performers come from all over to perform for thousands for a period of ten days.

I only took in two shows this year—which I will talk about next week—but I saw a lot of street performers from my post. I worked with the Community Engagement team, helping Fringe sponsors and getting people to sign up for the Fringe Fanclub newsletter and our big draw. I spent about four hours every day for a week inside the gazebo that was facing the big outdoor stage, where some of the better street shows get to perform.

Here were a few of my favourites:

Eden—A stunt performer working with ladders and whips. I can attest from personal experience that whips are not easy to use without hurting yourself—though, in my case, it was a cheap Halloween whip and my sister was the one wielding it, but her thigh severely regretted it—but this guy makes it look easy. In addition to demonstrating his skills cracking two whips at the same time in rapid succession, a major portion of his show had him aiming at spaghetti, which he would hold behind his back, between his legs, or on top of his head.

Every street performer I saw had a comedic aspect to the show, and Eden was no different. His humour was far more adult than the other performers, and did consist of a lot of Asian jokes (He’s Chinese-Canadian) that were often so bad you had to laugh. Admittedly, his humour doesn’t make him the best performer for your kids to see if you’re worried about them actually understanding those kinds of jokes.

Though, he did give me one of the best lines I’ve ever heard.

“Sir, can you please not laugh while I’m trying to be sexy?”

The Flying Dutchmen—A combination juggling and unicycle act. Upwards of five flaming torches were a staple in their act. They demonstrated their juggling with some flaming torch warm-ups and juggling around a volunteer and knocking a cigarette out of their mouth—no flaming torches here, of course, just regular juggling pins. Their entire performance built up to a tandem juggling trick involving two tall unicycles and fire.

The Dutchmen had a “Smart Guy, Dumb Guy” routine, which was funny, and certainly more child friendly than a performer like Eden. Only a couple jokes would go over a kid’s head, but mostly because it might be a pun as opposed to anything dirty. These two were a treat to watch.

Victor Rubilar—If I had to pick who I thought the funniest performer was, it’s this guy. All the way from Barcelona (though he claimed to be from Argentina), his act was entirely based around his soccer prowess, and the stereotype of the Latin Lover. A holder of five World Records, Rubilar’s act consisted of various tricks involving some of the most neon soccer balls I’d ever seen. Spinning tricks, kick tricks, juggling upwards of five soccer balls at a time, these were the staples of his act.

But between his warm-ups and his grand finale, he proudly demonstrated his dance prowess. He selected a woman from the audience—always one with a boyfriend or husband accompanying them—and brought them on stage. He had this elaborate story he’d crafted for this volunteer, whom he called Maria, about their whirlwind romance back in Argentina. This was followed by a minute-long dance montage that encompassed several songs and several genres, all performed seamlessly, to demonstrate Rubilar’s skills at seduction and rising to a climax involving a bikini tan line.

Trust me, it’s hilarious when you see it.

The Street Circus—If I had to pick the best act overall, I would vote these guys. A husband and wife duo, the Street Circus was an acrobatic show with stunts that could have put the performers straight into Cirque de Soleil. Their jokes were mostly family friendly and their warm-ups simple tricks that I’d seen performed before by other performers, it was the their solo acts that impressed me the most. The wife—Kim—was a contortionist who performed an extended acrobatic, contortion, hula hoop dance to “You Spin Me Right Round,” starting with one, going steadily to four, and ending in a dramatic twirls of forty-two hula hoops. Her husband—Dan—was up next, performing in a giant ring of steel called the cyr wheel. This was where the show took the Cirque turn, with beautiful instrumental music and a hypnotic amount of grace on Dan’s part as he spun within, creating acrobatic poses as he kept the wheel’s momentum.

The rest of their act showcased the acrobatic skills they had learned to do together. Their finale was admittedly not my favourite part of the show, though it was an impressive combination of three different circus acts. I really loved their solo performances the most.

Dan & Kim were by far the best street act I saw this year. I hope to see them again next year.

And with any luck, I’ll have the same great seats.

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A Quarter Century

Over the weekend, I turned twenty-five. My mom considers it a milestone of a birthday. A quarter of a century. It’s a time for partying and for being excited about the future. Your twenties are supposed to be some of the best years of your life, after all!

I don’t know why they say that.

My twenties have been nothing more than a period of uncertainty over the past year and I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon. When I graduated last year, I was excited for what the future held. I couldn’t wait to start my career and meet people and write. I had met so many new people and was ready for the opportunities that awaited me.

I realize now that your twenties are actually confusing and uncertain, especially when you feel like you’re falling behind everyone else. You see the people around you starting their new careers and getting married—some even having children—and buying their first homes. You feel stuck because nothing in your life is changing, and you aren’t certain when it will change.

It’s a feeling I’m becoming familiar with. Over the past year, I’ve applied for numerous jobs, but only had five interviews. One went good, one was an unexpected phone interview that I flubbed, and the other three were only interested in my retail experience, not my education. Now, we’re in an economic slump where I am. There’s been lay-offs everywhere, and now the entry level positions I may have normally had a shot at are being filled by people with experience who have been laid off and are not choosy about taking entry level jobs. I try to remind myself that it is what it is, but a bad economy makes job hunting even more discouraging.

I can’t say where I’ll be five years from now, of course. I don’t know what the coming months will bring. All I can do is fill my time with writing and friends and the things in life that I love to do. I can continue to go on Sunday morning hikes and replay some of my favourite video games. I can learn how to make new foods. I can take a few fun classes. I can volunteer.

I can fill the coming days one at a time, and try not to let the confusion and uncertainty get the better of me.

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Day at the Cirque

This should be a fairly image heavy post, but my camera tragically didn’t want to cooperate with me. I apologize in advance.

Before last weekend, I had never seen a Cirque du Soleil performance. The Cirque passes through my city on a fairly regular basis during their tours, but I’d never gone to see a show, usually because of the price of admission and my lack of funds at the time. Also, any friends who might join me were also affected by a lack of funds.

However, when the Cirque set up a city over with their Steampunk show Kurios, I had to see it. The result was a weekend trip through rain, wind, and weird smelling popcorn.

Since getting tickets, I was excited for the show, but in that subtle way most people are when they’re looking forward to something. That was until I saw the tent.

It was in a tent and I was suddenly seven.

We walked in to the smell of popcorn and cotton candy. Booths sold souvenirs ranging from keychains to soundtracks both vinyl and disc to shirts to DVDs of older shows. The center-most support pillars hosted bars selling beer and wine. Despite the pouring rain outside, the interior of the tent was quite warm. Our seats were nearly ring-side, giving us an excellent view of the stage, and the intricate steampunk devices set up there.

The soundtrack for this show—which I bought during the intermission—was upbeat, almost like swing. A woman in a gram-o-phone hat sang alongside the music, but there wasn’t much for actual lyrics. It was mostly musical sounds like “la” sung, though it fit, giving the illusion of lyrics, without words to distract from what was happening on stage.

The acts were varied, with balancing acts, acrobats, contortionists, and high-flying stunts. If I had to pick my top three parts, I would say the contortionists and the comedy acts. There were two comedy acts done between some major performances. One involved a tiny stage rigged with machinery to play an invisible circus. Another was a skit of a man trying to impress a girl, only for his cat to take over while he was getting them something to drink.

The guy did an absolutely brilliant impression of a cat, from kneading to sticking his ass in her face to hopping off the couch to use the litter box and then coming right back for attention.

While the acts were all very impressively performed and costumed in their own right, I thought the best act was the quartet of contortionists. They were wheeled in on the back of a giant mechanical hand, all intertwined in a pile. Dressed in fully body suits, they invoked the image of an orange, blue-spotted octopus when they moved. They were mesmerizing. Their bodies contorted in impossible ways that seemed to flow so naturally from them. And despite the fact that they were all five-nothing with ribs that were visible in some of their motions, you could see the strength to them.

I wouldn’t want to fight a contortionist. Just saying.

Kurios was a grand show, hampered by only two things: the torrential rain that poured throughout the day, and the smell of salt & vinegar barbeque popcorn my dad had purchased from the refreshment booth.

My first Cirque de Soleil was an absolutely fantastic one. I’d recommend seeing Kurios if you get the chance. And if you can’t see that one, well, they’ve got a plethora of other shows as well!

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Brief Hiatus

Due to unforeseen computer troubles, there will be no blog post this week. Hopefully, I shall be back next Wednesday!

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Farewell Frankfurt and There are Worse Things on a Plane than Crying Babies

The last day of our trip was devoted mainly to last minute shopping. We’d been picking up Christmas gifts for friends and family throughout the trip, but this was the opportunity to grab anything for people we’d either purposely left until last, or just thought of during the course of our stay. We began with (complimentary) breakfast at the hotel before heading back out into the Christmas Market.

Part of the deal was that we needed to split up. My sisters and I had been scoping about for a gift to get our parents for their anniversary—something silver, for the 25 years, that we could get engraved. What we decided on was a decorative silver dish, with the bridge carved into it (the very bridge where we had placed a lock at the beginning of our trip). Though there was very little area for engraving, we figured it was an excellent choice.

(We were, in the end, unable to get the dish engraved. Our local engraver wouldn’t do it because the item was from out of the country, and therefore not easily replaced if something went wrong. Our parents didn’t mind.)

We eventually met up with our parents again, and after lunch my sisters decided that they were done shopping and headed back to the hotel. We decided to explore, trying to find areas near the Christmas Market that we had never seen before.

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Strange new friends

Strange new friends

By the time we decided to head back to the hotel, we had gotten lost.

We spent a good hour wandering around, trying to find the train station, since we could easily navigate from there. We eventually had to ask for directions. While it was a long walk and the cobblestone streets had really worn our feet down in the past two weeks, I did get to see the Frankfurt Opera House.

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Once we got back to the hotel and rested a while, my dad decided we should head out for supper. Only my sisters and I went with him, as my mom was done with walking for the day. We tried for a restaurant in the train station, but it was closed by the time we got there.

So, for our last night in Germany, we went to an American-style restaurant.

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The next day was all flying as we prepared for our ten-hour return flights. We went back the same way we’d come—three hours to Iceland, a half-hour or so to switch planes, and then six back to Canada. The first flight was fine, and I spent the whole time of it watching The Originals.

There was one major issue during the six-hour flight, however, and it had nothing to do with the babies on board.

During the entire flight, there was a gentleman who kept wandering from one end of the plane to the other. We had no idea why he kept doing this, but assumed it was because he knew people who were seated in the back. It was a steady back and forth across the plane over the six-hour period.

This would not have been so bad if the guy didn’t stink like death.

It was like something between a full litter box, smoker’s body odor, and some horrific, unidentifiable stank. He pumped that stench like a smokestack and it lingered in the air for minutes after he’d gone by. There were periods where we’d be trapped with the smell because he would stand around and wait for the refreshment cart to make its way down the rows.

We spent so much of the trip trying to suffer through the smell until it faded. I tried to plug my nose in such a way that it looked like I was really engrossed in the movie I was watching. My sister buried her nose in her shirt collar, and later resorted to sniffing my coffee. My dad was on the verge of being sick, and buried his face in my mom’s arm. The smell was so bad that napping passengers actually woke up because of it. Eventually it got to the point where I was actively peering down the rows to see if he was getting up and giving my family warnings of his arrival.

I don’t think anyone said anything to the attendants though. Perhaps someone should have.

We arrived at the airport, got our luggage, and headed home with no major difficulties. It was six in the evening, but I only managed to stay up for a few hours before exhaustion won over and I crashed.

Thus, we conclude my trip to Germany. My thoughts? Easily one of the best vacations I’ve ever been on. The Markets were beautiful, the food was amazing, and our experience was about 85% good (barring the few incidents centered on that one day). I would seriously recommend to my readers to go and see Germany for themselves someday. I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures.

Next week, we return to our regular writer musings.

Bonus: My sister’s friend Michelle house-sat for us while we were gone. These were some Facebook messages she sent us in regards to our pets, Frodo, Neeko (cats) and Jersey (dog).

“Does Frodo always sleep like an idiot? He keeps ramming his face into me.”

“Is Neeko…special needs or something? He won’t stop meowing.”

“Your dog keeps staring at me for no reason.”

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