Speculating: Life Online after Chris Hyndman’s Death

Today, one of Canada’s most-loved TV personalities has been found dead. A home decor guru and gay role model for over half his life, Chris Hyndman is more loved by Canada than I even realized, and today the internets are a sad place to be.

Police have yet to release a cause of death. They say foul play has not been excluded but are releasing no details.

Speculation so far has drugs/alcohol as the cause, someone else reports his body was found wrapped in a tarp in the alley, and still more speculation has him jumping/falling to his death.

All are just that — guesses, speculation.

All we know is this: He was on vacation, he came home, he was dead by 11pm in an alley. That’s it.

Every time news breaks that has people talking, the speculation runs rampant. People try to pull me in and I keep saying “I won’t speculate” but folks always say they’re thinking out loud or curious.

Chris, on the right, plays with Travel Bunny on Steven's shoulder. From http://travelbunnygetsaround.com/steven-and-chris/.

Chris, on the right, plays with Travel Bunny on Steven’s shoulder. From http://travelbunnygetsaround.com/steven-and-chris/.

My journalism degree won’t let me do that. It’s gotten me in trouble in the past and now I read between the lines. In accredited news reports, there are no references to drugs, alcohol, jumping, murder, or anything else. All the police are saying is that it has yet to be “determined” and it is an open case.

I know most people are just consumed with curiosity and just want to talk about it. It’s as much about coping as it is fascination.

Still, it’s a public death. Police have to investigate. They will have to release some kind of account of his death because it was in the streets.

Probably within hours, or tomorrow, we’ll know what they believe is the direction to pursue matters in.

I guarantee you, most of the early guesses on his cause of death are liable to be false. That’s breaking news for you.

When it comes to news like this, I urge you to slow down as you read the reports. The police are widely quoted saying: “We don’t release information in regards to people who’ve died unless they’re a victim of foul play and that hasn’t been determined yet,” he told the Post. “It’s an open investigation.”

That means everything from a fall to aneurysms to murder and more are all on the table here.

But a fall to his death? A jump? Sorry for the graphic nature of this statement, but that makes a loud noise, and with his body found at 11pm last night, it would have been heard, likely, and we’d have witnesses talking to the news today. It’s likely not that, but who knows, maybe it is indeed the case.

Either way, we’ll find out soon. Speculation is futile. Much speculation can suggest victim-blaming too. I urge everyone to avoid it. Not just today, but well into the future.

10 Years, Man. What’s Next?

10 years ago today I made my first post on a little blog called Cunting Linguist.

In those years, I’ve had it held against me by an employer, I’ve seen booms and I’ve seen busts. I enjoyed 5,000 visits a day for a year or two there, and then I smote all that for what would eventually be a crowd-please speech at Northern Voice called “How to Fuck Up Your Blog” because I took a neutron bomb to my web traffic and knocked it down to 50 lonely souls a day for a long while.

When I got mad about Facebook conversations regarding Jian Ghomeshi, that’s where I vented and broke the internet with about 250,000 hits in a couple days. The “most popular” post on my blog before that had something like 150 Facebook likes, but that one had nearly 27,000.

Ahh, that was fun, but also crazy. For what it’s worth, I don’t think “going viral” ever lasts for influence and getting a huge ongoing audience. It’s not that easy, man. It’s fleeting at best.

I’ve been in love with blogging and I’ve hated blogging. I’ve overshared and vagued my way through it all.

blogger-image--508432599

Blogging’s made me a better writer, but in the next five years, travelling will be my master class, and I can’t wait to see what it does for writing.

While The Full Nomad​ will be my primary blog, I’ll always go back to The Cunting Linguist​ when I wanna rip the Band-aid off or shout into the wind. It’ll always be my soapbox.

If you’ve been around for most of those years, thank you for the roller coaster companionship. If you’re more recent, thank you too!

In Which Steff Travels the World

Search of place

Hey, all!

My travel plans are coming together nicely, and so it is time to launch my Indiegogo campaign.

I don’t want you to GIVE me money, I want to earn it. I’ll send you things, or you can subscribe to my blog, or heck, you can come hang out with me in Europe.

I think my campaign explains it all well enough. Please have a look by clicking here. And please also watch the video! I popped my video-making cherry on that and I’m excited to up my game when I go abroad. I think movies might be a fun other diversion!

If you’re not yet following my travel blog, you can do that here.

Meanwhile, you can watch the video over on my campaign, or right here:

The Adventures of Fat-Ass Begins

It is a new day, a start of my final chapter. In 89 days, I’ll be homeless and off to live a life of adventure.

Today, though, I’m a woman who’s stiff, bloated, and sore, who’s gained back 74 of the 85 pounds she lost, and who’s also on the verge of living on a continent without a lot of elevators, where hauling a 40-pound duffel bag along cobblestone streets will be a regular activity.

I’m starting a new plan in hopes of getting a little fitter, more energy, and having less fear about the new chapter. I cycled 8.1km before work, it took me 35 minutes, and was a reality check that I’m not the cyclist I once was.

And that’s okay, because we start somewhere. I remember when it used to take me 1 hour and 14 minutes to cycle 12 kilometres (more than half uphill) to get myself home from work, back in 2008. By the time I was fit just 3–4 months later, that same ride took 37 minutes.

Luckily cycling here is not without its rewards. Dallas Road Sunset last Saturday Night.

Luckily cycling here is not without its rewards. Dallas Road Sunset last Saturday Night.

Taking stock without guilt

I can’t hate myself for the weight I’ve gained back. It’s been 6–7 years since it started coming off. I blew my back out catastrophically in that time not once, not twice, but three times. I had two knee injuries. I rode my bike into a road sign the week I moved to Victoria — stopped myself with my face hitting the metal pole straight-on, screwing up my entire right side for 6 months.

Somehow, I’ve overcome all that, all while earning more money than I could’ve dreamed. By the end of next week, July 10th or so, I will have earned more money so far this year than in any year previous to 2014. In October, I’ll likely become debt-free as I begin travelling the world.

If I’d taken my foot off that work-for-it pedal even a little bit, my trip wouldn’t be happening. If I’d eaten out less, if I’d had more fitness, if I had more friends/social time, I would NOT be leaving for five years of travel.

Every drop of effort I put into my career is resulting in a massive return on my investment.

My fat ass? Part of the price I’ve paid to take my life into a place that most people barely even get the chance to dream about, let alone do.

Today, and I suspect the day I step off that plane, I think I would pay that price again for what I will soon get to live every single day for about 1800 days.

Journey of 1,000 miles starts with 1 step”

But today, I’ve done what I’ve needed to do and now I need to get myself into a position where a travel life can’t hurt me. I need to increase my cardio, improve my energy, take a couple inches off my ass so the plane isn’t unbearable, all while staying focused on my finances and earnings.

I think I can do this now. I hope I can.

Making this choice, though, that’s the easy part. The hard part is getting up every morning and being excited about taking an 8-10km bike ride, eating well, and not giving up. The hard part is saying it’s as important to my day as breathing or putting on pants.

But I know hard. I’ve done hard. I’ve beaten hard. “Hard” ain’t got nothing on me.

Whether I change myself here, or it happens abroad, I guarantee you — a lot more awesomeness, a lot more change, it’s on tap for me in the months ahead.

Because I work for that shit. It is a choice. It’s a choice I have made every single day. Now it’s just a new choice I need to make, that’s all.

And so it begins.


PS: There are healthy “heavy” people out there. I am not one of them. When I am “fat,” I am out of shape and it affects every part of my life. This isn’t fat-shaming of others, it’s accepting that I’ve really done a lot to upend the health and balance of my life, and it’s showing outwardly. That needs to end. I will likely never be a size 6, and I really don’t care about that. I’ll be fine being a plus-size size 14 or 16, as long as I can kick your ass on a bike.

Travelling: The Writer’s Master Class

I wrote this late last Friday night and have only gotten around to editing it now. As of today, the numbers below are right — 90 days until I’m homeless and a world traveller. If you’re not following my travel blog, you should.

It’s hard to find great movies on writers. Funny, that.

But I guess it’s such an internal experience that it’s very hard to relay that visually or in any other way. It’s why a movie like Eat Pray Love can suck so hard while the book is a delight to read.

So it’s with great enjoyment that I’m watching Jane Campion’s biopic on New Zealand author Janet Frame, who I’d never even heard about, despite read. Don’t let my ignorance dissuade you of her import; her list of writing awards spans nearly six decades and would be intimidating to nearly any writer. An Angel At My Table is the name of both the film and the corresponding books.

Frame was unique, to put it lightly, and suffered mental illness in varying (but it turns out manageable) degrees. She was due for a lobotomy when word came that her first book of poems was an award-winning publication, and some wise doctor realized her malaise was also the source of her brilliance.

I’m at the point where she’s coming into her own as a writer but is still troubled by the demons of anxiety and other illnesses, and like any proper writer, she is only her complete self when writing.

 

London, England, by Unsplash on Pixabay. Creative Commons. My first stop in my travels.

London, England, by Unsplash on Pixabay. Creative Commons.

Doing what a writer’s born to do

It makes me think that a writer who isn’t writing is a person who can never be happy. Without writing, we’re haunted. If we can’t do what we are, then what are we to be, if not cursed?

I write. Boy, do I write. I can’t say I don’t write. Know how many words I’ve written since April 1st, about 90 days? Over 70,000. Maybe over 80K. Until this quarter, I never knew how much a writer I am. I set a goal, then I blew way past it, so much so that I’ll be the writer anomaly when I travel, as I’ll be completely debt-free.

Strangely though, with all that production going into paid blogging and other professional endeavours, plus some unpaid personal blogging, I have to tell you… I really wish I had some time to write.

There’s writing for the dollars, then there’s writing for the soul, and there’s very little of the latter I’ve been able to execute, only because I’m so riddled by the chase of the almighty buck that I’m too full of emotional holes to really write what I wanna.

Zagreb_1_Ilica

Creative Commons image from Sobrecroacia.com. Ilica Street, Zagreb, my second stop on my travels, and near where I’ll live for three weeks, except for a short stint in the next town — which is… see the next picture!

 

Stealing back my time

In the movie, Janet Frame has just launched herself on her first international voyage. She’s told, to be a better writer, she needs to travel and expand her horizons.

It calls to mind what I wrote about how my travels are, even if others don’t say it, essentially most writers’ dream life. Go abroad. Travel slow. Soak in the world. Record it. Process it. Love it.

That’s writing for you, it’s a writer’s master class — travel.

I’m 90 days away from that life. Travel. No appointments, no obligations, no friends, no family, nothing but a schedule to meet for work, the ability to be in some exotic place for a month or so, and enough time in the day to write for an hour or two EVERY SINGLE DAY. Maybe more! Tee-hee-hee!

Ask me if I’m more excited about the distraction-free time to chase a writing-first life or the opportunity to see the world for five years, and I would honestly struggle to choose. I love the idea of both so completely that it blows my mind I’m getting both at the same time.

Ljubljana, Slovenia, from PopSugar.com's list of 23 places to visit. And stop number three for me!

Ljubljana, Slovenia, from PopSugar.com’s list of 23 places to visit. And stop number three for me!

Writing is not a “hobby”

I’ve been through a lot in my life. It’s all gone whizzing past in a blur of survival and perseverance. Seldom have I had a chance to percolate and absorb it. I haven’t processed half the emotions I’ve felt over the years.

To some, they might say I need therapy. But the writers, they know. They know I need silence, a phone that doesn’t ring and a door that doesn’t knock. They know I need a window with a view, a desk at a good height, and fingers that won’t weary from a day or a year or a life of pounding out the truth.

It’s better than therapy, writing. It’s more honest, and it’s less selfish, in a way.* Put it down, push it into the world, and watch it resonate with others. When one taps into how fucked up they are, shares it with the world, resulting in a cacophony of voices rising to say how much it resonated with them — that’s the original therapy group session.

Something tells me, though, that landing on the far shores of the Atlantic isn’t going to be when and where I realize what a mess I am — it’ll be where I realize how together I’ve got it.

Motovun, Istria, in Croatia, where I'll be spending 4 weeks this fall -- stop number 4. And this photo's from Sobrecroacia.com.

Motovun, Istria, in Croatia, where I’ll be spending 4 weeks this fall — stop number 4. And this photo’s from Sobrecroacia.com.

Choosing passion

It doesn’t matter how I think I’ll do. My expectations don’t matter either. In about 105 days, after I’ve whirlwinded through Vancouver and London, UK, it’ll be my chance to see exactly how it unfolds. But there are no doubts in my mind about travelling improving me as a writer.

There haven’t been many opportunities in my life to spend 10 or 20 hours a week just writing for myself, let lone more, but the few times I’ve had that, my writing has been top-notch and I’ve been enormously proud of it. It’s a whole ‘nother writing level when you’ve got the time, focus, and dedication to achieve consistency.

This is what I hope to experience again. A chance to become more plugged into words and flow. I want the noise and distraction of life to evaporate, and the cadence of something exciting and new to fuel what I write.

What’s that they say about asking and receiving? 100 days.

*But therapy is awesome if you can afford it. For real.

Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down

My friend Sean Cranbury shared an article on Facebook earlier, and a comment debate ensued. Here’s my takeaway.


In my youth, I was a huge U2 fan. For a long time, my listening trifecta were Joshua Tree, Rattle & Hum, and Achtung Baby. That was my “era” of U2.

One song I played a lot back then was “Acrobat.” Something about it spoke to me, because I knew I was an angry person. I was angry then, I’m still a brand of angry now.

And you can swallow or you can spit
You can throw it up, or choke on it
And you can dream, so dream out loud
You know that your time is coming round
So don’t let the bastards grind you down.

I wanted to live a life where the bastards didn’t grind me down, but I also wanted to be of those who shouted at the wind to evoke change.

Somewhere in the middle of it all, it did grind me down. I lost my soul for a while. I was angry about everything. I was the trodden. I was the one looking for the crumbs of hope and choking on any I dared to swallow.

I’m 41 now. I’m tired of being angry. I’ve learned something along the way — nothing will ever be perfect. Nothing will ever make us all happy. Whatever victories lift me up are the same that leave others crestfallen.

We live in an imperfect world. That’s just the way it goes. There are no flawless heroes. No perfect souls we can hold up as an example to all.

But every now and then, we have a great day. Like when marriage equality was finally doled out by the Supreme Court in the USA. That was a fine, glorious day.

Then someone turns around and says “But we need more! There are injustices left! Don’t stop! Don’t breathe! Keep going! Fight, fight, fight!”

Here’s the thing, though.

In the United States, more than half of the states still have being gay as a fireable offense. Show up to work gay and you can be fired for it. Really. “Sorry, Bob, we’re in a no rainbow zone here. Pack your knives and go.”

And yet, in plenty of those states, gays lined up for the opportunity to put their love on display and get married on the least-subtle day EVER to be married in gay history. Some said, well, the strange thing is, I can get married today but on Monday I could be fired for celebrating a right given to me over the weekend by SCOTUS.

But still they married. Why?

Because Monday would be a new battle. This weekend? It was for joy. It was for celebrating. It was for saying that in one brief moment we all had a little more love, equality, and hope in our lives.

Those moments — they’re truly rare. That instant of glorious togetherness, where we don’t have to sing “We shall overcome,” because we overcame. In my life, there are a handful. Berlin Wall toppling. The Quiet Revolution in Egypt. Obama’s Inauguration.

I’m 41 and I’m struggling to remember more moments of true joy, laced with the feeling that comes from witnessing change in the making. The good change.

If you don’t stop to enjoy the feeling of victory, then what is it that sustains you? It’s certainly not hope for a better day, because you just had one and you didn’t savour it. No, what sustains you is anger and frustration.

I can’t hate like that. I can’t be angry all the time.

Love wins.

Love wins.

Choosing your moments

Do you know what I did on the night that thousands died on September 11th, 2001?

After a day spent in horror and fear and lost in the coverage on TV, I went for a bike ride. I wanted to find a moment in time somewhere that reminded me what life was like before planes crashed into two buildings that morning and killed so many.

Remember that first night? We knew over 50,000 people worked there. We didn’t know how many were killed. I’d thought over 10,000, easy.

But I went cycling. I found some kids playing in the street. I stood there and watched them battling out over street hockey supremacy, laughing and giggling and shouting and disputing each others’ goals.

For just a moment, I was in a world that hadn’t changed beyond recognition. I was terrified of the loss of innocence we’d had as a continent just hours before. I guess, like me, these children’s parents were trying to make sense of that loss and death and hate, and they’d not yet spoken to their kids about it. I’m grateful they took a pause because that laughter helped me sleep that night and for many thereafter.

Whatever else the terrorists took that day, they didn’t take my hope that we’d one day move past it.

For one brief, beautiful time, this happened. Did you enjoy it? Or did it pass you by because you were too busy worrying about Monday?

For one brief, beautiful time, this happened. Did you enjoy it? Or did it pass you by because you were too busy worrying about Monday?

All this and so much more

The world is filled at once with unending beauty and undeniable evil. We hate, we love. We contain multitudes.

I guarantee you: On every good day you ever have, there are horrors happening elsewhere. Not just bad things, true horrors. They happen daily. This is humanity, for good or ill. It’s nature, too. Animals eat their young. They kill the weak. We are not so different. We are nature too.

Moments. That’s all life is. Snippets joined together. Vignettes.

The good times, they won’t last. Your righteous rage does you much wrong if it robs you of the ability to find joy and celebrate the small victories that punctuate our banal and fleeting lives.

I, for one, would rather have my world and my values cobbled together by those who can see great moments when they come, not those who brush aside victory because the world is not yet perfect.

All I want from the world I live in is more good than bad. I want leaders who call out injustices but jump to ring the bell of victory the loudest when the good wins pour in.

Tomorrow is Monday. We will have stories of those fired for embracing their love. We will have a new fight. But this weekend, I chose love. I chose gratitude. I chose to sleep in with the warm fuzziness of knowing there was one less injustice in the world this weekend.

And tomorrow, my rage will rise in support of those who show us that there is a new day to fight for. Either way, I won’t let the bastards grind me down.