Category Archives: blogging

Mental Health: In Which Steff Calls a Spade a Spade

A couple months ago, I proposed to talk about writing for therapy, how to kinda “go there”, via blogging.

The conference was yesterday. It was an “unconference” put on by end-patients and people who work on the peripheries of mental care.

Why did I want to get involved?

For a million reasons. I’ll get to most of them shortly.

But, first: I proposed my talk without knowing the conference’s “reputation” or anything like that. I just wanted a forum to talk about depression.

Unbeknownst to me, I stepped into the thick of a controversial “unconference.” It wasn’t until Friday that I really realized just how controversial it was. Whether it’s because ballsy speakers like Steven Schwartz speak in dismissive vernacular, saying edgy-yet-funny adjectives a lot of boring people object to, or because of who was organizing it, or even the press some of us speakers were getting, the reactions were ridiculously sharp and pointed.

Late Friday night, I saw comments some anonymous dumb fuck left on the Mental Health Camp’s website, and I got pretty riled up. Since then, all the comments were deleted, which I take serious issue with.

Me, I never would have deleted the comments. We convened the camp to fight stigma against the “idea” of mental illness, so why would you delete, and not fight, that stigma when it stands up and attacks you? Deleting and silencing the attack does nothing to neutralize it. But that’s where I stand and it’s not my blog. So, yeah. Moving on.

The asshat’s comments varied, but the most offensive of them all were that a number of those involved in the Mental Health Camp were doing so only to propel their image and get their allotted moments of Warholian fame. Media whores, basically, all faking their interest to get noticed.

Heh. Yeah, okay. Fucking shrewd, that.

A line in the comment made me wonder if I was one of the people they alluded to, just because I had the audacity to do an interview with CBC about the conference.

Here’s the deal, all right?

I’ll be the first to admit there were organizational issues with the conference. That’s what happens with not-for-profit amateur/volunteer organizers, people who have organized a conference just to have discussion and don’t have experience organizing them.

Oh, well. That’s life. It happens. But it’s not about the organizing.

It’s about the messages explored — mental health, stigma, and the fact the lives are destroyed by mental illness every moment of every day, and the fact that EVERYONE in their lifetime will experience mental illness at some point, and YET we don’t talk about it.

Well, I do, and I have for years.

I’ve been writing about depression, weight issues, self-esteem, lack of confidence, and everything else I’ve battled in life since 2005, and blogging since 2004. I’ve been getting real fuckin’ raw and honest since 2006.

There are a whole lot of things I’m willing to do to have success as a writer. Do you know what the least smart of them would be?

Letting myself in any way be any kind of poster girl for any mental illness.

Let’s see, when was the last time a Hollywood publicist suggested their celebrity client embrace their mental illness for the public as a means of netting better starpower in the press? Um, never.

Know why?

No one wants to be thought of as “nuts”.

Why?

Because people who are strong, intelligent, articulate, engaging, and well-liked don’t come out and admit their mental illnesses. They don’t talk about them. So stigma exists because all we see are the nutty fucks you try to avoid in hallways, or the whackjobs they put on television shows.

But those are extremes.

When assholes like that anonymous commenter attack a conference whose only purpose is to bring the overly-shamed and constantly-silenced issue of mental health to the forefront only because they dislike the people behind it, and they use that opportunity to suggest it’s basically Starfucking by those involved, it’s an insult to the seriousness of the issue.

It also suggests they have no fucking idea what it’s like to have been, in my case, an otherwise strong and intelligent person who took the wrong medication and considered suicide before spending the next year-plus trying to claw my way out of the depths.

It suggests they have no idea what it’s like to live under the clutches of your mind, body, and chemistry’s whimsy on a day-in, day-out, year-by-year basis, never being able to rise above a sick world of fear, chaos, and hopelessness that can’t manifest outwardly, that you hear inside your head every time you wake or lie down to sleep.

It suggests they don’t fathom that mental illness is the most costly and insidious of sicknesses in society — it destroys the fabric of life, of all the lives around the sufferer, not just the body of the afflicted. It ends relationships, destroys marriages, causes debt, and is the largest reason for employee leaves of absence in the modern workforce.

I don’t WANT to talk about depression.

But I need to.

Because what happened to me can happen to anyone.

Because it happened to my mother, and, as a 17-year-old girl, I walked in on her attempting suicide with the very pills that caused her chemically-induced depression — one like I myself would experience 17 years later.

Because doctors will tell you birth control pills don’t cause depression.

Because I know my birth control made me want to kill myself and feel like life could never have hope again.

I need to talk about depression because I’m tired of bi-polars, schizophrenics, and other more acute or rare mental health concerns having the limelight in “mental illness,” when it’s depression that’s most likely to touch, and destroy, the average life.

I feel like their more “stereotyped” afflictions make it less likely for seemingly average Jolenes like myself to come out and say, “I’m not that afflicted, but it still really fucked me up, too, and no one saw any big signs…”

I am a good writer. I’m a really, really good writer. I’m a passionate speaker who will not mince her ideas. I don’t back down from a fight. I’m engaging, funny, and even self-deprecating. I’m a great communicator with friends, family, everyone.

And yet depression almost took me out of the game of life.

But I survived.

I made it to the other side. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m happy most of the time.

Still, I’m surrounded by people I see who are skating through life with the cool indifference of someone struggling with depression. I see it everywhere. And we’re NOT TALKING ABOUT IT.

You want to attack my IDEAS? Go for it.

But don’t fucking attack ME or any of those people who’ve had the STRENGTH to write about all the things YOU make fun of, that YOU won’t trust, or YOU can’t admit about yourself.

We’re out there only for the reason that we can’t be silent anymore. Society can’t AFFORD our silence anymore. We need to hear our thoughts expressed on the page, we believe our experiences are real and representative of the whole, yet largely ignored by the mainstream.

And we’re not going to be quiet about it.

Not anymore.

Until you’ve lost your job — like I once did — for writing in the public eye about your darker self, until you’ve had the courage to write without tempering your weaker thoughts and fears, until you’ve been able to admit you have an affliction the majority of society can’t understand and doesn’t know how to act around, you have no right to criticize us for the moments of acknowledgement we might finally receive after years of having the courage to tell our stories no matter what the prices have been.

Now it’s easier for me. But where the fuck were you in 2006 when I wanted to commit suicide only 9 days after writing the most harrowing things I’ve ever published? Where were you when my traffic dropped to nothing as I used my blogs to work through my depression? Where were you when I lost a job and nearly my home for having a voice on less acceptable topics? Where were you when I struggled to maintain faith in speaking out? Where were you when I constantly had to lower my voice when I said what I wrote about?

Sure, now you know about me, but I’ve been doing this for a long fucking time and I’ve paid a LOT of steep prices for my honesty.

But I’ve paid ’em and now you can’t shut me up. Just try it, honey. You’ll only wind me up more.

If I finally have an audience and a wider means of getting my message out, you’d have to be a fucking moron to think I’d walk away from that opportunity.

Oh, and being single and getting press for having gone nuts, been suicidal, and longterm depressed? Yeah, that’ll be a fucking brilliant way for me to get laid. I hear men are wild about that shit.

Marketing GENIUS, clearly.

Whoever you were, you anonymous spineless motherfucking commenter: Grow up. You’re a fucking idiot. Open your eyes. See that some battles need to be waged with faces on them.

At least I have the guts to show mine.

In Which Steff Talks About Mental Health

Come Saturday I’ll be giving a talk at Vancouver’s “Mental Health Camp,” where the goal is to get people thinking about stigmas attached to a wide range of mental conditions — from ADHD and depression through to eating disorders and compulsions all the way to harder-core afflictions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Me, I’ll be talking specifically on two things — one, I’ll give a 45-minute session on blogging for therapy in my solo “Ripping the Scab Off through Blogging” talk, and two, I’ll be on a panel discussing how each of us 4 panelists have used social media to share our psychological struggles and what it’s meant for us.

This posting is sort of to just touch on both of those, in support of the event, and to let you know what’s going down.

_____

I’ll be honest: Yeah, I’m not particularly wild about talking at something called “Mental Health Camp.” There is stigma, yeah. Damn right there is.

I also know that if there’s anyone who can overcome such stigma, I’m probably at the front of the line.

I’ve spent much of the last five years already writing about myself in very open ways as I take the journey of going from She Who Was Very Unhappy to this much more interesting and fun-to-be-with version of self I’m excavating from under years of neglect.

Writing about myself has been a huge part in how I’ve been able to accept where I was, where I needed to be, and what it would take to get there.

By learning how to write in an open way while still hanging on to details that weren’t really necessary to share, I’ve managed to be open yet keep some of my struggles inside, too. Snapshots, that’s what y’all get.

In homage to one of the great Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, I call the writing technique “surfacing” and it’s pretty simple to do, it’s just a matter of perspective. Shifting that perspective ever so slightly creates a whole new reward from the writing.

I’ll be talking about it in  detail on Saturday, and don’t want to blow my hand by writing all about it here and now.

The talk will include a lot more than that, though.

I’ll look at the differences between journal-writing and blogging, and point out all the pros and cons of turning to the web for an audience. I’ll tell you who should be blogging more openly (almost everyone) and who shouldn’t (and there are some).

I’ll tell you the top 10 reasons I think anyone willing to blog should be willing to be more personal, and why blogging for therapy just makes sense from a societal point of view — both from solidarity and healing perspectives.

I’ll also share the prices I’ve paid while attempting to cash in* on living the revealed life. It’s not something one should enter with the foolish notion that “I’ll write it and they’ll read it.” There’s a lot that can go wrong. There’s a lot that can play out well. There’s much to consider.

____

Later, I’ll be on a panel with three friends — all of whom have had far, far harder mental health journeys than I have — discussing how we’ve been “out” about our lives and the prices/rewards it’s cost/yielded us.

In both situations, I’ll briefly outline the facts: I lived with mild depression for most of my life. I’ve learned that, when it comes to natural depression FOR ME, it’s controlled with diet and exercise. I have indeed been medicated on a few occasions, both for “situational depression” as well as ADHD.

I’m on no meds now. It’s not a prize I’ve won for being a Good Mental Health Patient. It’s just that I’ve found a way to mostly regulate my chemistry.  When I was ON meds and began eating well and exercising, what WAS a good level of meds went sideways fast as I started building my own seratonin and dopamine.

Do NOT fuck with meds just because I’ve been able to get off mine. It’s NOT about the meds, it’s about what’s safe for you. Talk to doctors!

But all this is to say I’ve been to my mental health hell with a chemical depression that took two years of medication to regulate back to normal. I’ve been on the verge of suicidal with a desperate cry for professional help in the past, all while being an intelligent person who felt trapped in this chemical mood I couldn’t shake for months and months.

Before that, I had to overcome a head injury. Since the chemical depression, I’ve had to learn to adjust to an adult-ADHD diagnosis and how it makes me see the world.

So, I’ve had some experiences, and they’re probably more common to the general populace than my colleagues’ are, so I’m happy I can provide a “mental health light” perspective to balance it out.

Being on the other side now, I remember how hard it was to be in the chokehold the disease of depression had on me. I never thought I would escape. Suicide seemed like a smart plan.

Here, now, and looking back, it does shock me how putting my head down and keeping on keeping on, fighting the fight, eventually paid off and has brought me to a better sense of self than I’ve ever known before. Yeah, I’m proud of the stuff I accomplished.

The journey was long and strange, and I feel I’m still on it and I’ll always have to be aware that depression can find me again, but having this kind of self-awareness and openness, as much as it’s been problematic at times, is something I feel that will probably help me navigate whatever stormy waters might one day roll my way again.

The truth shall set you free?

Yeah. Maybe. Let’s talk.

____

People in Vancouver can see these talks, among many other good ones, for a lowly $10 at the door. There are plenty of tickets, and, yes, it’ll be air conditioned in the heatwave. Wahoo. There’s a chance it’ll be streaming live, and if so, I’ll be posting that URL for my followers on Twitter, and you should check there Saturday morning, in case I forget to post it here.

*Figuratively, not literally.

On Capote: Writing is a Dangerous Business

On November 16th, 1959, Truman Capote read a New York Times article with only 300 words that would change his life, and American literature, forever. The article began:

A wealthy wheat farmer, his wife and their two young children were found shot to death today in their home. They had been killed by shotgun blasts at close range after being bound and gagged. The father, 48-year-old Herbert W. Clutter, was found in the basement with his son, Kenyon, 15. His wife Bonnie, 45, and a daughter, Nancy, 16, were in their beds. There were no signs of a struggle and nothing had been stolen.

It’s ironic that it’s on American Independence Day that I’m watching Capote, the film of how the book Capote would write transpired.

An early cover from Penguin's release of In Cold Blood.

I’m starting to realize what an important movie it is in my collection, from a million different perspectives, almost all of them to do with writing and what it means to me or what I feel it says about writing.

And in that realization, I found myself at a loss for a brief moment there, “pause” frozen on my screen, pondering what effect Truman Capote’s original book, In Cold Blood, must’ve had on the mindset of America.

The murders themselves, of course, resonated with the country then, but I wonder who, other than Capote, realized what it meant in the adolescence of his country. These days, it would seem he was ahead of the pack in those observations.

In the five decades since the Clutter Killings, one could say we’ve witnessed the death of the American Dream. With a look across the cultural landscape, one can’t ignore the economic strife America’s battling, the crime that has redefined the geography of the land, and the loss of the Here-vs-There that once existed — the “safe”-country-versus-the-“bad”-city mentality.

Where is the America that existed before it all? Gone, like any culture any other place in the world — a victim of modernity and technology?

About In Cold Blood, Wikipedia says:

The book examines the complex psychological relationship between two parolees, who together commit a mass murder, an act they were not capable of individually. Capote’s book also explores the lives of the victims and the effect of the crime on the community where they lived. In Cold Blood is regarded by critics as a pioneering work of the true crime genre.

It’s safe to say that In Cold Blood was one of the first mass killings in which the rest of the country had to say, “My god, if it could happen to them, it could happen to us.”

With that came fear, a fear that’s forever stained the fabric of America.

Anyone who’s paid attention to USA’s politics since 2001 knows just how destructive it can be to adapt to life under a regime of fear.

Well, by 1960, America had inklings of what “fear” was. It was the time of McCarthy and the Cold War, and a decade-plus of post-Holocaust reality that, out there, Evil existed.

And now, with the handiwork of killers Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, the fear lived at home, too.

Capote’s true-crime masterwork is a book widely accepted to be a jumping-off point for what fine literature was able to do to real-life on the pages.* In it, a real and tangible look was given into the headspace of these killers — one of whom had very much the same sort of horrible childhood of abandonment and abuse as Capote, offering this brilliant author the opportunity to internally juxtapose the life he’d been able to create for himself despite his tragic beginnings, versus the horror Smith wreaked upon others as a result of his own.

And that, friends, is often what brilliant writing is — the seeking of truth in everything, and the ability to own it within yourself. The inability to do the latter in a lasting way, however, can be devastating to a writer, and Capote’s decline should be a warning to all writers.

Reading In Cold Blood was a defining point in my life as a writer/reader. True life’s tragedies could be rendered in beautiful language that conveyed so much more than just photographic evidence of its horrors.

I doubt it was Capote’s work alone that stirred a new consciousness of the possibility of Evil Within amongst Americans — much of society was headed in that direction at the time, powered by media and politicans.

But Capote did what I love that good writers can do: Through a seemingly miniscule event, he correctly understood the quickening pulse of his country, and that this event — a seemingly small rural tragedy, buried a few pages into the newspaper on his morning read — was something that spoke of a world to come, of changes that loomed in his country’s previously untouchable heartland.

______

As much as this film makes me want to be a writer, it terrifies me — the price it suggests one would pay for being great seems far too high.

Capote, I feel, was destroyed by his subject (and himself).

A young Truman Capote by Irving Penn.

With his book’s success bound to his subject’s journey to the electric chair, and his need to understand the parallels in their lives, Truman Capote slipped into depression and guilt. He almost certainly was traumatized by the reality that he knew Smith’s execution was necessary for his book to be the brilliance it could be.

Deep down inside, I’m sure Capote realized having Smith living would contradict the “truths” the writer would write in the book, that it might be dangerous to his masterwork’s longevity. No one wants to think like that, but I guarantee you the thought would occur to any intelligent writer. What if…

Today, speculation does exist that Capote fictionalized entire passages of what was boasted to be true in every word. Evidence of the fictionalizing has been hard to come by.

Having that “what if” of execution work out in your favour — guaranteeing the “truthfulness” of what would be your masterwork — standing there to bear witness as the noose snaps the neck of the man who is all that’s wedged between you and literary immortality, that must induce some pretty horrific guilt-laden realities for a writer.

In the end, it took him 4 years to write the book, and 18 years to drink himself to death before his 60th birthday in 1984.

The book came out in ’65, and Capote became somewhat a mockery of himself within the next seven years. He would never again write anything considered “great” and, by 1978, was comfortably threatening suicide on national television, the punchline of many a joke.

I believe, ultimately, that his willingness to go as far as he could to write about those murders and to draw parallels between his life and the life of Perry Smith is what drove him into his alcoholic haze that choked the greatness from him.

Writing is a dangerous business.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

The choices we make of holes to dig and skeletons to reveal, they define who we writers are in that moment and who we’ll become down the line. Writers must accept that these words they trifle with hold powers they maybe don’t expect, and the journeys taken to weave words can burrow deep into a writer.

Some opened doors will never be closed.

Capote couldn’t close his, so he drank to numb the opened doors away.

One could say he should have truly dived into the abandonment he felt as a child — that he was only comfortable peeling away the truths about others but terrified what doing so might reveal of him.

After all, he was an openly gay Southern man when being gay still meant being “one of them”. He was an outsider, born poor, spent a lonely childhood never belonging anywhere, and found his solace in writing.

When he stopped pushing envelopes and didn’t publish anything of significance beyond In Cold Blood, I would suspect he lost that solace and instead felt as though he had betrayed some part of who he was.

Not having been true in life and now not on the page, I’m certain Capote probably felt like a fraud and found himself seeing life through the eyes of Perry Smith, believing he could never really belong where he socially was perceived to be.

In my lowly opinion, the greatest, most tragic men in “big” American literature in the last 100 years were Hemingway, Capote, and Hunter S. Thompson.**

Each searched for an ideal, a life they felt obliged to enjoy or a dream they held about Their America and what the modern world could be. Each never found what they sought. Each engineered his own demise.

Ironically, though, Capote did achieve what he sought — the execution of a man he fell in love with after identifying with everything that made Smith the monster America believed him to be, a monster Capote possibly wondered if he himself had inside — and it gave him the book he dreamed he could write, solidified his placed as a master of American English literature, and it is, one could argue, that achievement (and guilt for it) which destroyed him.

Writing is a dangerous business.

*Some would argue too that Capote’s take on the killings romanticized and even justified the murders from a sociological point of view, and that the “literary” non-fiction approach may have led to the erosion of facts and journalistic irresponsibility. These aren’t entirely wrong, nor right.

**Without getting into a lengthy debate with hugely relevant but lesser-knowns like David Foster Wallace & John Kennedy Toole. Just of the “big scene” American writers.

RANT: Elite? Who’s “Elite”?

Yesterday, someone in the Vancouver social media scene* sort of thought it ironic that I should slag “tweetups” as being elitist and circle-jerky, since I was avoiding the whole worldwide “Social Media Appreciation Day” thing that Mashable sponsored and launched right here in Vancouver.

Apparently the thought is that I am now “elite” in Vancouver.

Yeah, whatever.

I was taken aback a little, to be honest. About being called elite, not that Mashable should say we are the seat of the world’s social media scene right now.

So, about that. Let’s talk about social media in Vancouver and maybe how I do or don’t fit into it, okay?

These days, compared to a lot of people, I don’t have a “huge” Twitter following — it’s about 3,500, but in there are a lot of really notable people in media. I suppose that’s why Klout thinks I’m up there in my influence now. Weird shit.**

Now, you gotta know: I logged onto Twitter back in April of 2008, looked around, and said “This is fuckin’ lame. No way this will ever catch on.”

I didn’t log in again until August, when it sorta started making some sense to me.

Then I found myself liking the challenge of coming up with interesting things that people might get a kick out of, or respond to — I loved the resonance I had when I was creative and/or funny.

For me, Twitter has always been about the thrill of creation. I challenge myself to see the world uniquely, and try to relate it to others in a way that makes them indentify and think, “YEAH, TOTALLY.” I like to make observations most people have only the inclination to think, but seldom to speak.

I try and be to Twitter in lifestyle observations what someone like George Carlin might’ve been — that’s my goal. I’m falling short, sure, but that’s the goal. I’m not fucking there to be all buddy-and-chatty, but I do let myself get social on there, and love the friends it’s brought into my “real” life.

Frankly, being on Twitter has changed and improved my life in EVERY way. I don’t deny that, and it’s why it’s such a valued role / time-focus for me. I do LOVE the opportunities it generates.

When it comes to blogging in Vancouver, I can count on one hand the number of official “blogging” events I’ve attended — and one was as a speaker. I’ve been to less than 10 tweetups in two years. I’m hardly “on the scene” except via what you see online, and that’s how I’d prefer it.

To be truthful, I have social phases, they come and go — usually with the seasons, literally. Winter, I hibernate, but summer, I love to see people more.

As far as celebrities and/or “connected” people on Twitter or in blogging, know whose ass I kiss? No one’s. People I talk to, I talk to because I’ve got something to say or I genuinely like them, or, as is often the case, they’ve said something that springboards into the perfect joke for me to crack.

I think blogging/Twitter celebrities are a fucking laugh, because I’ve “been one” in the past, and I know what my life was like behind the scenes and how hard I had to work to keep that wagon-wheel turning — and how much I personally began to compromise to see that happen.

I know how disposable we “social media stars” all are. Think you’re a creative genius? Yeah, you’re just one of millions — and it can go as quickly as it comes, as I’ve learned myself. Get over yourself, ‘cos pedestals and empires both come tumbling down, my friend.

Online celebrity that your livelihood depends upon not as enviable a position as you might think, so I don’t care to be a professional blogger. If I did, you’d see oodles of ads on here or affiliate sites.

But, you don’t.

Maybe you will one day — I’m not above it; it’s just that I’m not interested in what it takes to keep going successfully. I have NO illusions about how hard it is to keep that success going, and I don’t want to be beholden to my content right now. Advertising can influence content if it becomes too financially integral to you, and I’m on this blogging journey for myself and to create dialogue about things, not to have a livelihood. Priorities, and I know what mine are right now.

As a result, I don’t need to go to tweetups to whore myself for clients, network, or make buddies, since I’m already stretched for making time for people I care about, so I kinda hate tweetups, for the most part.

Why? They’re awkward. A lot of tweetups can be phony, filled with self-puffery and promotion. Every time you shake a hand, you get a resume. It’s often loud and blarey. No “real” communication happens at them. They’re cliquey — I’m forced to pick people to hang out with, and I don’t WANT to pick a table and stick with it; I’d rather meet a wide assortment of people. I’m a mingler, not a “sit and be exclusive” type, and I hate feeling like I have to stick with who I came with. I prefer smaller events with 10 or fewer people, where I can actually make eye-contact with everyone and talk to each person at the table.

In short?

I didn’t fucking ASK to be liked by you, or anyone.

All I sought to do was be real, be myself, have a place to put my voice, and honour my responsibility to deliver the content I know I’m capable of creating.

THAT’s what I do.

THAT’s what I want acclaim for and feel I deserve it for, because I do take risks and put myself out there, and I’ve been judged, and I’ve lost jobs, and I’ve been ostracized, all while I’ve fought to have relevance for my voice and the beliefs I think deserve to get air time with everyone else’s.

I’m a WRITER. I’m a writer who uses the now-accessible modern tools well. That’s ALL.

I’ve paid the real-life price to get noticed and be outspoken, and I did it on my terms the whole goddamned time.

Yes, I think that’s worth saying.

Yes, I’m proud of never compromising who I am.

You think that makes me full of myself? Then I’m sorry you don’t know what it’s like to have pride in what you’ve created. Pride is good, so long as you realize you’re not the only one with skillz.

I deliberately avoid hanging out with those perceived to be “the elite” because I don’t want ANYONE to think that’s all that I’m about.

I’ve worked too hard for this NOT to be about MY CONTENT and ONLY my content.

Am I going to diss the elite? No fucking way. Why not? Because some of them are incredible people doing incredible things, and they deserve every bit of their acclaim, whether you think so or not. A lot of people slam the “elite” out of jealousy or some sense of entitlement that leaves them feeling like they’ve been robbed via others’ success.

It’s bullshit. You get what you work for in life, and if you’re not getting what you want, you’re doing it wrong.

Trust me, this I know. I’ve spent a lot of time fucking it up over the years. I have a doctorate in fucking up, honey.

These days, I’m just riding the wave life brings me, and if being myself and not censoring my thoughts on Twitter somehow has given me cachet with a wide range of people, then that’s great, but it’s not EVER been the motivation behind anything I’ve tweeted or blogged.

I was the unpopular kid in high school so I get how bullshit popularity is, and how, for every person who’s accepted and celebrated, there are a dozen who are isolated and hurt — and that, too, is bullshit.

I am NOT a part of that circle. I am NOT a part of that hurt.

If I fucking cared about the circle-jerk, or thought my social status mattered, I’d probably try to offend fewer people.

I don’t even know what elitism is anymore, because I know I’m sure as hell not guilty of it, yet I get the feeling I’m accused of it.

I’m an anti-social person who comes to hang out some of the time, but would rather have someone over for coffee, not tweet about their visit, and just keep it real. I’m not snubbing anyone, it’s just not my deal.

Walk a decade in my shoes and maybe you’ll see why I like my quiet, anti-social life.

Know who I had over for breakfast this morning? Nope, you don’t. They’re “elite”, according to some people’s skewed perspectives on things, but I don’t give a fuck if you know. Why? Because I don’t need your approval, I don’t need the reputation-crutch of name-dropping, and I just generally don’t care.

The only time I do care is when people think I’m mean or a jerk, because I’m not, and it’s plain wrong to think so.

Find a time I’ve used cruelty against a person or group for humour. Give me an example. You can’t. Tell me about the time that I publicly ostracized someone who did something inconsequential, making an mockery of them in an attempt to belittle them. Right, you can’t. Tell me about the time that I snubbed people who approached me at an event. Yeah, you can’t do that either.

Because that’s not who I am.

I’m a scattered ADHD chick with strong but fair opinions and a biting sense of humour who’s just doing her shit, and people seem to like it.

Where you think it places me on the social spectrum is all about your deal, it’s not my reality.

It’s like that line in the Breakfast Club opening voiceover — “You see us how you want to see us.”

But I’m the chick that wakes up knowing I live with a bug problem and have to struggle to pay the rent.

I’m not on the A-list, I’m not hobnobbing, I’m not well-to-do, and I’m not who you fucking think I am.

Just because I give you this strategic view on my world doesn’t mean you really know jack shit about my life, so don’t kid yourself. You know EXACTLY what I want you to know, and not a fucking bit more — because I’m anti-social and things about my life don’t just “slip” into the public knowledge. It’s very much under my thumb. All of it.

You think I’m the ultimate oversharer? Heh. Right. I’m pulling the puppet-strings — I’m a content creator, I’m not a diarrhetic flood with no censure. Trust me, there’s a master plan, but it doesn’t involve hobnobbing with “the scene”.

It’s time to get over what we think other people are, and just take them exactly for what they say and do.

Because, you know, if you actually judge me on my words and actions, I’ll be goddamned proud to stand behind them.

And that’s who I am.

*This person meant it in a casual observation way and I didn’t take offense but it was the first time someone really put into words what I’ve sort of had people suggesting for a while now, and now that it’s out and said, I thought I’d write about it. As I started writing, I got worked up. Thus the cookie crumbles.

**Maybe being interested in Klout seems hypocritical after this rant, but why would I create content if I didn’t want it read or absorbed? I’m absolutely interested in knowing my resonance, I want to be read, I just don’t care about getting on “the list” socially.

The New Post-Relationship World

There’s a couple that have been long prominent in Vancouver’s web community, and last night came the heart-breaking news that they’re ending their marriage.

How did the news reach us all?

They both changed their Facebook relationship status to “…from married to single” within moments of each other, and with one simple “Yes, it means what you think it means”, the cat was out of the bag and their entire friend/peer community knew.

Gone is the era in which they’d have to have uncomfortable dinners or stilted conversations with one friend after another after another, gently breaking the news that their friends are gonna take hard, making them feel even shittier for having a marriage fall apart.

Now, boom, everyone knows. Just like that.

It’s terrible, in a way, the idea we can all receive so quickly and casually such perspective-shifting news affecting people who have genuinely touched most of our lives.

There’s something disjointed about reading one small system-generated line of “X has changed their relationship status from married to single” among a newstream filled with political news and shared videos of a cat dancing.

These “small” tidbits about our changing lives float in “newsfeeds” now, as if they’re just another piece of fascinating trivia we’re supposed to digest while we absently surf the web in sneaky moments on the job, or distractedly click through those social sites where we just vicariously absorb the coolness of others’ lives.

Facebook isn’t just a revolving door of meaningless status changes. It really is a way to keep us all connected.

In all the nauseous sadness that came with the suspicion that, yes, those two relationship status updates really did mean what they looked to mean, I thought “Thank god they can tell everyone so easily now.”

Dissolving a marriage? Oh, my god. I can’t imagine the shattered illusions and sadness that comes from having to admit it’s over, the horror and fear that comes from making the first step to end the possibility of all those dreams you once made together, the feeling of perverse betrayal and anxiousness at telling friends and families the union is over.

It’s unquestionably going to be one of the worst weeks in the lives of both of those people. And here, bang, pow, all of a sudden they have everyone in the know, offering support, and just saying, “We’re so sorry, we understand, we’re here.”

As if any message could mean more to either of them today.

Say what you will about the flash coolness of the internet and how detached it makes us from each other — always plugged in via vicarious tidbits, thus able to stay comfortably at arms’ length while we busily carry on with our modern mad lives — but there are times like these the internet is like a lifeline thrown to troubled souls.

Never has it been easier to rally the support of those who love you, or to just put a desperate plea for understanding, help, or time out to those best able to deliver.

As a society, we need to learn to share more with each other, to use each other as crutches through hard times, and we have to learn how to react when our friends express themselves.

I’m sad for my peers today, for what they’ve lost, and for what I know they face in the coming year as they try to re-find their place in their newly-single worlds, but I’m very glad their choice of being plugged into an online community (that has really strong roots in real life, locally, too) will get them through this time with support and love.

That’s the power of the internet — it holds the ability to unite us, inform us, and keep us tuned into every passing minute… not just globally, but interpersonally.

It’s a good power. A life-changing, life-saving power.

Yes, I’m sad for my friends today, but I’m proud of them for having the courage to know when it’s time to change things. What a difficult, but important step. I’m happy to know they have friends who swear they’ll be there, I’m glad to know they have a place to ask for help.

It’s a strange new world, friends.

Interdimensional Limbo

When I transition through phases in life, I tend to find myself sort of mentally overwhelmed, and my response to it is that I find one thing to focus on, to just get somewhere, then I can take a look at the larger picture from a better place.

Or, you know, something.

I’m onto a “me” phase out of necessity. Things are in the works, big change is afoot for this here writer.

Coming up on July 1st, I’m officially un(der)employed.

Happy Canadian independence (repatriation, if yer picky) day, indeed.

The Canadian system allows us to earn about 25% of our working salary on top of unemployment benefits, legally and without financial penalty. It makes life much, much easier — puts the food on the table when benefits only cover my basic costs of living, not even food.

I’m lucky, I’ve got that 25% worktime on my hands. My present/former employers do love me and I get work when I need it / they have it. So, you know, I eat. I like this.

Do I want to go back there full-time long-term?

Well, I’m faced with knowing I’ve given the last 10 years of my life to an industry that is at the mercy of international currencies, cultural trends, taxation policies, and government legislation.

Time and time again, I’ve gotten the ax. It’s unpredictable.

“Well, why do it,” you ask? Working in film is a lifestyle choice. The people are hip, fun, cool. The jobs are plentiful in variety and come in waves. It’s creative but structured. It’s an industry you work in because you’re a fan — anything you can do to be a part of film? Yeah, diggit. You contributed. You’re a part of art immortal, a member of a creation team.

But I’m too old for this shit.

Being Canadian, there’s lots of great options available. As a worker in a long-tenured position, I can return to school — which I’d have to pay for — and receive unemployment benefits for up to 2 years. I’ll be looking into some options in the coming weeks, but sort of know what I’d like to pursue.

What a time of change, though.

Never coulda seen this coming last year. What a wild ride the last three months have been. I already know some of what’s coming for the next three, too, and it’s just more of a wild ride.

When I lost my job, my attitude was “Well, I can’t change that, but I can be open to what this time brings.”

I see some people resisting the change life’s thrown at them of late, acting from a place of fear instead of empowerment. I ain’t judging. I’ve been there before.

There’s a certain salty confidence one gains from hard times. Lord knows I done seen mine.

I’ve never been as confident in myself as I am now, but I’m also at an absolute loss to tell you what my life will entail. I know aspects of it, sure — writing, speaking, doing comedy, losing weight, looking for clients, et al… but where it’ll lead? Who knows.

It’s the mystery that makes it fun. It’s the intrigue that makes my eyes sparkle with curiosity. I’ve loved the weird detours I’ve had so far, and can’t wait for whatever unexpected discoveries come my way.

As long as I’m eating month to month? Well, hey, man. Let’s see.

If you’ve never read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, it’s one of those books that’s in that crowd everyone should read in college — Siddhartha, Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, etc. It’s a book about a young shepherd boy who dreams of achieving his goal one night, and sets off in search of treasures in far away lands. It’s a fable, and it’s a wonderful little novella.

Along the way he is frequently told “Maktub,” which apparently translates from the Arabic to mean “It is written.”

Beautiful thought but I’m not so sure I agree. I can’t believe the strangeness I’ve endured year in, year out is written.

Life seems like a game of celestial pick-up sticks to me, my friends. Throw what you can, get what you can, and see what you can make of it.

Perhaps, though, life is written. Perhaps I just need to have a sly smile and know my life will take me the right places, because I know myself and I know my dreams. Perhaps, in that way, it really is written.

Life really is a gorgeous mystery sometimes. It’s nice to believe in the mystical, to think there’s some cosmic puppeteer helping to orchestrate incredible happenings of rich experiences, if you’re willing to play the role and follow the program.

The last time my life began moving in strange and mythical ways, I landed my ass in the Yukon for a year — living in the land of the Midnight Sun, reading dead writers, learning about writing, and experiencing my dream of seeing Northern Lights night after night.

There’s a lot to be said for sitting back and telling life to take the wheel for a while. Who knows where it feels like goin’?

It ain’t the destination, it’s the journey. If you’re always fucking with the navigation and the “right” way to go, there’s some amazing unexpected happenings you’re liable to miss.

Chill, Winston. Enjoy the ride. Have a destination in mind but be open to detours. It’s the best way to travel.