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Shaking Off 2015, And Remembering Bowie

this is paradise cameron street

Well, the end of January is here – and I had planned to post this review of 2015 a few weeks back, but then David Bowie died – and it felt wrong to post about my year when I (and the world around me) was feeling so sad about losing this music legend. So I put it off… but then I wasn’t sure if there was any reason for me to write about Bowie after literally anyone and everyone wrote everything that could be said about him.

But then I remembered how shitty I felt (in retrospect) for not writing about Lou Reed when he passed away. Lou’s I don’t give a fuck attitude made him arguably even more of a personal icon for me than the colourful Bowie, so I wasn’t expecting Ziggy Stardust’s death to hit me quite as hard as it did. I am well aware that I will be a mess when Dylan (and Springsteen) leave this world, but I wasn’t expecting it with Bowie. Maybe because I had never thought about it, because he really did seem like a beautiful immortal alien.

What I will say, is that I hope everyone can exit the physical world with the level of creativity, grace, humour and acceptance he did with Blackstar. As he always did, he used his fame to shine a light on something seemingly scary if you’re struggling with it (gender, sexuality, diversity… being different in any way, and now death) and made it into something beautiful.


Now for that 2015 year in review I wrote…. Well, the last one I posted was all the way back at¬†the end of 2012.

By the end of 2013, I was working my ass off during Christmas break for free – the year end was so stressful I just didn’t have time to write about the year as a whole – but the majority of the year was actually some of the best times of my life – I traveled for free to many festivals, I attended all the events, ended toxic friendships, met someone special, and opportunities came my way that I will remember forever. While I don’t know that this Weakerthans song really summed up 2013 for me, it was an important one for a few reasons, so it gets the title.

In 2014, some shady shit went down. I made mistakes, for sure, but something so vile was done to me that I didn’t feel it would be a positive thing to write about. My privacy was violated in a huge way and lies were spread – I could have sued (and some say I should have because of the proof I have) – but my decision was instead to let it go and use my time in more positive productive ways. The experience made me understand completely why so many Ghomeshi victims chose to stay silent about what happened: you can try to get justice, but you will only stress yourself out more – and after the months I had already spent being in a constantly stressed out state, the last thing I wanted was more stress. I chose to focus on being happy, and put it behind me as much as I could. As the year came to an end, I was very happy. My song of 2014 was Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off. It was the anthem I needed, right when I needed it. Just remember, if you address the lies, you are playing into it. Don’t spend your energy on negativity, it will only drag you down with them.


So here I am at the end of 2015¬†start of 2016. My song of 2015 is Ryan Adams version of Shake It Off, because 2015 was hard as well, but for personal, rather than outside reasons. This song fully exemplifies the way it feels when a truly important relationship ends and you’re trying your best to move on. Taylor’s version is the anthem you need when people that don’t matter are fucking with you (haters gonna hate), Ryan’s is the version that feels exactly right when it’s someone who matters the most (players gonna play).

2015 was a hard year. I hadn’t fully healed from what happened in 2014, and it’s quite possible I used my relationship to ignore it. If I had someone, I was okay, and I could forget what happened to me and how it tainted my relationship with the thing I had always loved most – music.

As my relationship ended, I struggled deeply to be happy. I had lost my passion for the local music scene, and now I had lost my best friend.

I am lucky enough that I had great friends to pull me through the hardest days. They lifted me up and invited me out, stayed up with me until the sunrise made it safe to sleep again, and reminded me to shake it off, and to know my worth. I also have amazing parents, a family that loves me, and a pomeranian who is still the light of my life. So, while I felt a giant void from the events of the last 2 years, I am well aware how lucky I am, and how the ones that matter never go away, or make you feel like you’re unworthy of their time.

2015 was also the year that I moved to a new apartment. When facing heartbreak, a new home is a good way to wipe away memories and start fresh – but after 7+ years living on Cameron street in the literal heart and soul of the city, I really did not want to move. I started my blog there, ran my business from its moldy, damaged walls, and watched my life radically grow from something I was bored of into the purpose driven, opportunity drenched one I created.

Basically, all the good things that happened in my life happened while I lived there. My life only started to feel like it was mine when I was able to wake up every morning and see that big THIS IS PARADISE Cameron House sign out my window – reminding me that it was paradise – and that my life would never again be like it was before I lived there. Before I knew how to be me. Before I knew who I was supposed to be. I had graduated University when I moved there at 22, and here I was, newly 30, having to leave my first real home behind.

I am now 4 months into the radical shift that is Liberty Village life, a whole 20 minute walk away from my former intersection. And I’d be lying if I said I love this neighbourhood even half as much as I loved Queen and Spadina – but I do love my new apartment – and no longer living in a dilapidated, rundown 3rd floor walk-up (that briefly had mice) is actually quite nice. My giant balcony has a view of Lake Ontario, and I have about double the space of my former place, along with a game room, an onsite gym, free parking, storage, and a park for Mr. Bojangles to play in – aka I giant change from Cameron Street. Oh and I have so much counter space, so I can fulfill all my cooking dreams #growingup.

Speaking of cooking – I set out a bunch of hefty goals in 2015 – and I think one of the only ones I successfully completed was learning to cook. I had a goal of cooking one new from scratch recipe a week – 48 total – and while I didn’t hit that number – I still did pretty damn good. I didn’t want to be 30 and¬†still eating chemically modified food from a box, and thankfully I will never have to worry about that again.

My intentions for 2016 are, as always, quite large, but I finally feel like I am back in the headspace to make them happen. I have no more distractions and I know the path I need to take to reach the next big goal.

A redesign of TTRO is in the works, and when it happens, things will feel different – but the content itself won’t change because it will still be my thoughts, ramblings, experiences and opinions. I might be writing more about healthy living, and less about drinking all night watching bands, but that’s because I am no longer 24 – as I was when I started this. My life goals are a little different now, so as I change, the blog changes too.

This is my 2016 manifesto:¬†I will not waste a minute of 2016 on people who don’t have a minute for me, as I have done so much in the past. On guys who don’t text back within a respectful timeframe, on “cool” people I think I need to impress, on writing I don’t want to do, on anything that doesn’t inspire me and anyone who doesn’t give me back as much as I give them and want me in their life as much as I want them. I will spend more time working on the big projects I am excited to produce; with the people I know will always be there for me; and doing more things that are good for my health and well-being.

I hope you had a great 2015 (or at the very least, one filled with big lessons as mine was). Here’s to a productive and kind¬†(rest of) 2016.


Why Robin Williams Death Affects Us All So Personally


I came upon a Facebook status from a friend the night the awful news was announced, getting on a bit of a high horse at the fact that he had read more posts about Robin Williams death in the past few hours than he had read about the dying children of Gaza, and how wrong that is.

This kind of shit is annoying for a variety of reasons that would distract from the point of this post. But I will say that people who sit in their comfy apartments in safe North American cities a million miles away from war posting on Facebook about how awful war is, who then feel the need to call out everyone else for caring about the suicide of an entertainer who spent his entire career making people feel better – really just need to shutthefuckup and do some reflecting on their faux Facebook compassion.

Another friend pointed out how it comes off as sociopathic to not understand why so many people who grew up watching Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, Aladdin, Patch Adams, Flubber etc could feel emotionally connected to an actor enough to be truly sad that they took their own life. And it kind of is.

Of course we feel sad about it. That doesn’t mean we don’t care about what’s happening on the other side of the world, just because we’re not blabbing about it making judgements from Facebook all day. I’m well aware that the wars happening in Israel, Syria and Iraq are terrifying and devastating ¬†– note, it’s not JUST happening in Gaza – Facebook evangelists. I realize there is also a horribly fucked up issue with unarmed African American kids being killed by cops in the States. Yes, the world is a scary place right now and all these things deserve media attention.

But we generally post on our personal Facebook about things we feel a direct connection to. And thankfully, most of us up in Canada are not personally connected to those wars. On the other hand, we all grew up watching Robin Williams.

We all imagined him as our own dad in so many of those movies. We all imagined him as our greatest teacher in Dead Poets Society. As the psychiatrist we could only dream of being lucky enough to find in Good Will Hunting. As the Genie who granted our wishes in Aladdin.


A person we felt connected to, who touched our lives directly through his characters, is gone, and it leaves an overwhelmingly empty feeling.

Some people always feel the need to act high and mighty when others care if a celebrity dies, and in some ways I understand that “You didn’t even know them, they’re just people too..” mentality. But there are some entertainers who literally are responsible for saving our lives through their art – and Robin Williams was definitely, easily one of those. He wasn’t just another celebrity. He was the kind of talent the world so rarely sees, and likely will never experience again. The idea of a one of a kind talent always seemed like such bullshit to me, but looking back on the versatility of his work makes it easy to see he deserved such a label.

Could anyone else in the world have pulled off Mrs. Doubtfire? Doubtful.


I also want to mention something I read on this website:

We were saddened to hear of the suspected suicide of Robin Williams, our hearts go out to his family and friends who should be left to grieve in peace.

Suicide is characterised here in the UK, as it is in the US and for almost every nation except China, by a three, four or even five to one ratio of male to female deaths.  In 2012, the last date for which we have figures, 77% of all suicides were male.  It is the single biggest killer of men aged 20-49 in the UK.   Given the disproportionate number of male suicides, in every age band, we hope that the media will explore the relevance of gender rather than just focusing and speculating on the minutiae of Robin’s life in examining this issue.

This might be one of the most important things I’ve read since his passing. It struck me when a friend mentioned feeling hopeless in the face of his death – because if even he can’t make it – what chance does that give for the rest of us who struggle with depression? When she first mentioned this, I feared that his¬†death might push her back into that dark place, but almost immediately I thought to myself not to worry too much, because she’s not male, so she will have a significantly better chance of bouncing back if it does return. That sounds crass, and as someone who struggled with suicidal thoughts as a preteen I do not downplay the fact that both men and women reach that awful end point.

But the stats are overwhelming. And I think it’s something that really does need to be discussed because the fact is, men are obviously at a much higher risk of actually sinking that low and not seeing another way out.

And why is that?

That is a big conversation that really needs to happen.

There is research that needs to be done. There is a stigma around depression and being depressed that seems to be much more taboo in male culture. It’s like admitting you are a Beta male instead of an Alpha, and sadly there is still a lot of shame around that – and there shouldn’t be. Because it makes them more afraid to seek help. More likely to self medicate with booze and drugs. More likely to hide the way they feel. More likely to take their depression out in self destructive ways. More likely to bottle up and explode.

The fact is, when it comes to depression and suicide, the gender issue needs to be a part of the conversation. Too many good men are gone because they are embarrassed¬†to seek help. They think it’s not masculine to admit something is wrong, to talk with a doctor or therapist about their feelings. So they succumb to this other option when they can no longer handle those feelings. Of course, depression is not a gender specific disease – but there is clearly a problem that’s skewing the suicide stats so far in their direction. I think it might have something to do with their different brain chemistry, and even more to do with the cultural standards men are supposed to live up to – and the pressure they feel to be beacons of strength despite their innate vulnerability.


RIP Robin. Thanks for being my psychologist when I was a severely depressed and angry 12 year old enduring daily bullying that made my life a living hell. Not sure I would have made it out of grade school alive were it not for the wisdom and compassion you showed Will Hunting. Until that scene, I really did believe it was my fault.

For anyone who somehow doubts it, movies save lives. That is why we all care so much about someone whose life we couldn’t save in return.


You Spent The Next Five Years Trying To Be With Your Friends Again (AKA I’ve Lived Here For TEN YEARS!)

a better dream

My love of this LCD Soundsystem song (and that lyric in particular) is well documented here. I relate to it with every fiber of my being. As September marks my 10th anniversary of living in Toronto, I am overwhelmed at just how true it is.

I spent the first 5 years trying to get with the plan… aka at York, going to school, going through the motions of getting a degree I felt I had to have purely because NO ONE else in my entire family had one and I just wanted to do it to prove to myself that I could. I am one of those rare kids that was born in the 80s to parents that actually told me NOT to pursue post secondary education because they didn’t want me to be saddled with debt (which I surely still am). They wanted me to live in Welland and work at Wal-Mart and live with them until I could afford a place of my own and have a nice, safe, happy little life – and most of my cousins have taken this path – and I certainly respect it and am at times jealous of them with their cars and their money and the ease of it all – but my god. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

There are small town people and there are city people. City people are usually just small town people with insanely ridiculous dreams.

My first five years felt like a waste. I couldn’t figure it out. I was lost and scared and so incredibly alone. Toronto couldn’t be more different from Welland. The only things they shared in common were being located in Ontario. Sure it’s only a 1.5 hour drive, but going from being a 17 year old high school student on top of the world in a graduating class of 350 to an 18 year old in a sea of millions of people at a school where 350 was the average first year class size, far removed from the heart of the city – in a program so open I had no idea what I was supposed to be focusing on¬† – stuck with a roommate who couldn’t be more different, and so far away from all my friends – was all at once both exciting and heartbreaking.


Toronto ate me up and spit me out. I became lost in the internet because I was so unable to do all the things I thought I was here to do, between school and work and all of it. The first five years are a blur – they are so unimportant¬† because I was so unhappy all I could focus on was going somewhere else – I wanted New York, Portland, LA, San Fran, Austin, New Orleans – you name it – I just wanted to go somewhere where I felt like I might be able to have a life and meet people like me. It’s so sad now, looking back, that I thought for so long I couldn’t have that here – when really it was my own fear holding me back. No matter what city I would have magically moved to, I would have been just as unhappy, because I just was unhappy. I wasn’t doing ANYTHING. When you are not pursuing your dreams you will always be unhappy. This is the most important thing I can ever tell anyone. So insanely simple and obvious, yet we let so many people and stupid insecurities hold us back from really doing it.

Because in my non-expert opinion, you don’t hate yourself because you have low self-esteem, or because other people were mean to you. You hate yourself because you don’t do anything. Not even you can just “love you for you.”
Do the math: How much of your time is spent consuming things other people made (TV, music, video games, websites) versus making your own? Only one of those adds to your value as a human being.

The big problem for me was I never really knew what my ‘dreams’ were. I’m still a little lost, but I know that’s a good thing. I always lived in the shadow of my sister, who knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life from the time she was 14. Being younger, I looked up to her and we enjoyed all the same things – so her dreams somehow always became my dreams, even though we couldn’t be more different.

Music was my passion probably from the womb, but performing and theatrics were just as important. When she and I would play house (which sounds so weird typing out now, but didn’t every girl pretend to be a grown up with their friends or siblings?) she would play the mom and I would play 18 different kids. Not even joking. I remembered all their personalities until (she) we grew too old for that stuff.¬†


As much as I was obsessed with music as a kid, I quickly realized my skills in that department were lacking, but my traumatic youth meant I had enough emotions bottled up inside me to give a damn good performance on stage. Theatre became my focus, my passion, and my love in high school (once I got past my unbearable shyness) but part of me knows that was because my sis did it first and loved it, and I just wanted to be a part of her success. But she was (and still is) a director, a control freak, a detail oriented type A – while I’ve always been a type B – the actor, the writer. Always late, wearing my heart on my sleeve, neurotic, passionate but lazy, looking for someone to tell me what to do and when to do it…

She didn’t end up moving to Toronto for school like she had planned on doing after high school, so it became imperative to me that I did go to university, move to Toronto, and do all these things she was intent on doing. But I wasn’t prepared to be here alone, without her, without my friends, without my parents, my teachers – completely isolated in the largest city in Canada.

I gave up on theatre in University because as good as I was, there was a thousand girls just as good as me, with more practice and much more confidence (which is what it’s really about).

So school dragged on, I grew unhappy with my program that wasn’t theatre – but that I decided to stick with because it allowed me to take music and film courses as well which was very important to me – and once I moved downtown I barely even went to class. All that money I spent and I missed half my lectures… makes me sick thinking about it. Make no mistake though, I loved York¬† and have no regrets about going there – I just wish it wasn’t so far uptown. My professors were for the most part incredible – and even though I was a lazy commuter student, I learned so much there that completely shaped the way I think about art, music and culture – and that program is the reason I have this blog, which changed and now helps define my life.

To the point:

My life didn’t really start until after those first five years. Until after I graduated from University. Until after I had to start living on my own and really figuring it out. Until I realized I had reduced all my friends to Facebook status updates. And my god was it depressing. I graduated in 2008. Remember when the recession hit? Yeah. That’s exactly when it hit. All the promises of a great career and financially stability once you get a degree were a big, huge $25,000 debt lie.


2008 through 2010 were a huge struggle of contract work and that whole #GirlsHBO period of trying to figure out WTF I AM DOING WITH MY LIFE. I started this blog in late 2009 but had no clue what I was doing with it or what it would be, and it went silent for months on end because of that. It wasn’t until early 2011 that I really started to take it seriously, but once I did, it was like a light switched on in my brain, in my life. Everything changed. I felt like I was doing something. In possibly helping people pursue their dreams by writing about what they were doing, I was fulfilling my own. I had finally figured out a big chunk of my purpose in this life, and how I could use my passion for music and art in some useful way.

The isolation I felt in those first five years dissipated. I found a new group of friends and they have truly changed my life. And as easy as it was to ignore my old friends throughout college, the reason I was so unhappy was because I was doing just that – and putting no effort in being with them. I let the idea that they are off doing their own thing, at their own school with their new friends, stop me from even bothering. As soon as I was out of school, all I wanted was to be with my friends again, as the song says. But by then they truly did have their own lives, and trying to be with them meant the same conversation about days past, over and over again.


It’s okay to accept that people are meant to be in your life at different periods, and it doesn’t make you (or them) a bad person if things fade away and never feel like they once felt. Time changes everything, and if you’re not growing together, you’re growing apart. Relationships of all kinds are hard work, and if you stop working at them, there’s a good chance you won’t just be able to pick up where you left off, once you suddenly start to miss them.

So if you’re in those first 5 years of ‘adult life’ – remember to work really hard on maintaining those friendships that really do matter to you, or they will fade away. And don’t worry if you feel completely lost. Some people, like me, are late bloomers. The real magic happens when you stop holding onto what you thought you were gonna be, and take steps every day to create a life that makes you happy. Everything will fall into place once you do that.


On Dead Poets Society and Great Teachers


I somehow only just watched Dead Poet’s Society all the way through when it aired on TV over Christmas, and of course I loved it so much I proceeded to PVR it and watch it a few more times in a row. It reminded me of just how important great teachers are, and how rare they are.

If we are lucky we will each have one or two who make an incredible impact on our lives the way Robin William’s character Mr. Keating did on that class.

For me, it was Mr. Nelligan. He was the “O Captain, My¬†Captain”¬†to my Todd Anderson, except he inspired me via film rather than poetry (it’s no mistake I am reminded of his genius via a movie). It seems weird to be writing about him more than a decade after I sat in his grade 10 religion class, but I was immediately reminded of him and how much confidence he gave me upon watching¬†Dead Poets Society.

It was second semester of my sophomore year of high school, and while high school so far was a breeze compared to the torture I endured in elementary school, I was still ridiculously shy and filled with self hatred despite having left the agony of 7th grade far behind me.

I entered grade 10 religion class prepared to be bored out of my mind as I had been in the grade 9 version of it (which at this point, I can’t even remember who taught that class – it was that boring). These forced bible readings are the main downfall of attending Catholic school – but I immediately knew this was going to be interesting from the moment Mr. Nelligan introduced himself.


To begin with, he was absolutely hilarious, and would often talk about racing Oprah in Chicago marathons and all kinds of shit where we really had no idea if he was being serious or not. He was American, but apparently left the States for Canada in order to dodge the Vietnam drafts Рwhich I found to be the coolest thing ever as a 15 year old NDP kid (still do).

It was obvious he wanted to be teaching the older grades where teachers have more freedom and kids are a little older/smarter/more self aware and interesting, but something had happened at his previous school so he ended up here, teaching the most formulaic bullshit class to kids who still had no idea what they wanted to do with their lives. He may have mentioned this to me once.

I no longer remember why or how he first singled me out, but at some point, our mutual love for film and his acute awareness that I was painfully shy but smarter than most of the idiots in the class made him talk to me every day in front of everyone before he got started on the lesson, asking me what movies I had watched (something I did most nights in high school). This brief but daily acknowledgement of my existence that I had really never received from a teacher before, this small but significant gesture, made me feel important and gave me so much confidence – I will forever see it as a pivotal moment in my life.

It was as though he knew what he was teaching us was complete bs, but he worked for a Catholic school and in some weird ironic twist of fate ended up teaching religion. He taught us the bible literally – which I think scared a lot of the kids in his class, but he knew there were always some like me who realized he was laughing in his head when making us read the old testament and telling us it was all true. Someone who thought The Last Temptation of Christ was one of the best movies ever, surely didn’t take the bible literally. He gave me a list of movies to watch, and I worked my way through them by the end of the semester – he LOVED Mickey Rourke so I watched The Pope of Grenwhich Village and Barfly¬†so I could talk about it with him. That movie education was more interesting than anything else I learned in high school.

After taking his class, I was no longer scared to do the things that mattered to me like take drama class or audition for plays, out of fear of merely speaking in front of people. I never again trembled or mumbled through an English class monologue, holding back tears behind the cue cards. I didn’t care what the popular kids thought of me anymore – he tore up my shell and made me feel good about myself again. He let me know that my voice had value too – and I needed that more than anything when I was 15:


Mr. Nelligan, it’s probably unlikely you would even remember me after so many years, but if you are somehow out there googling your name and come across this – thank you for making my time at Notre Dame interesting and fun – and I’m sorry that assignment I did on drug abuse got you in trouble (I showed a bunch of drug abuse clips from some of my favourite movies – Basketball Diaries, Barfly, Trainspotting etc, for it and passed out some¬†apparently¬†inappropriate hand outs). That was another cool thing about him – he let us be so free and creative that we did something that the school found unacceptable, and he took the blame for it – just like in Dead Poets Society. Beloved by his students for good reason.

I never thought I would be sad to leave a religion class behind, but I desperately wanted to have him as a teacher again. It would mean a lot to be able to thank him and talk to him now that I’m no longer that meek teenage girl stuck in a town she despised.



Did You Ever Have Braces Growing Up? AKA I Feel Like A Teenager Again


Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, however, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

I was one of those kids whose parents didn’t have the money to get braces. That means I was one of those kids who actually kind of wanted them, but couldn’t have them. As an 11 year old I was surrounded by peers full of metal mouths, and I specifically remember one conversation where everyone was talking about how long they had to wear them, and feeling somewhat happy that I didn’t have to go through the pain they were experiencing from the regular brace tightening visits. Not to mention, being a teenager was hard enough without any added things to feel self¬†conscious¬†about.

But I still wanted to one day get braces for my bottom teeth, which were always super crowded because according to my dentist I have an unusually small mouth (keep the dirty jokes to yourselves). I mentioned this in that conversation, and my friend noted that I should get them for my top teeth as well, because my two front teeth were a little crowded. Until that moment I had never felt bad about my smile. I didn’t realize anyone noticed the slight crowding – but with those words I became obsessed with the slight protrusion of one tooth over the other. I vowed to save up and get my teeth perfect as soon as I possibly could.

Unfortunately, it took another 15 years to make that happen because of college and student loans and the recession – BUT – in that time,¬†Invisalign invisible braces¬†were invented, meaning that even though I am well past the ‘acceptable’ age to have¬†braces, I can still straighten my teeth without looking absolutely goofy – and without having my teeth shaved to stubs and paying inordinate amounts of money for¬†veneers.¬†It also means that the teens of today don’t have to suffer through the extra awkwardness of having a metal mouth.


I started treatment in March, and there was definitely an adjustment period where I was talking funny (similar to the way that normal braces affect your speech) feeling like an awkward teenager, refusing to leave my apartment and worrying that I was going to have a lisp for the entirety of treatment – but after about two weeks my speech adjusted and now I don’t even notice them. Even better – neither does anyone else (although that’s obviously going to change now).

If all goes as planned, my bottom teeth will be straight by Christmas, and that slight top teeth crowding that got even worse (pushing me to finally save up and take the plunge) once my wisdom teeth finally started to pop up, will be corrected a few months later. I. CANT. WAIT.

It’s a fact that I would have waited until I could afford veneers (aka another decade) if Invisalign didn’t exist.

Did you ever have braces as a kid?¬†Was it as horrible as it looked?¬†I know so many people who did, and didn’t wear their retainer for infinity, and now they need them again. Hearing stories like that always makes me happy that I didn’t have them before my wisdom teeth came in.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.