31 December 2019

I Am Trying, I Swear

I picked the literal worst year in the history of Alberta to get married.

I've had almost ten other perfectly good, not-economically-abysmal years that I could have used to meet him and get married. But nope, dumb Kate has to pick this year, of all years. Nobody in Alberta has money, and even less people in Alberta have any sympathy. Alberta is a province of hard, determined workers who will themselves into a job and have exactly zero sympathy for anybody who's struggling to find work. It is worse in Alberta to be on financial assistance than it is to be a Nazi.

It's so frustrating. I only moved back to Alberta because I got no paying work after two years -- read that again, two years -- of job-hunting in Saskatchewan. I have applied for I swear every single job in Alberta. Every single one. I have applied for everything I may be even remotely qualified for, and even quite a few jobs that I am not qualified for. I have applied for everything, in pretty well every field of employment. Cashier, food services, waitressing, construction/contracting, sales associates, secretary, janitorial, grocery clerk, post office, farmhand, dishwasher -- you name it, I have applied for it. I promise. I have applied for all of the above in five different towns/cities in the past two days, in fact.

I cry a lot nowadays -- half because I miss my sweet fiancé so much (stupid long-distance), but half because I can't fund my own wedding and I'm losing to ability to convince everyone else that I really actually do want to help finance my wedding. Even his family seems to think I'm expecting a free ride somehow but I swear I am not. I am trying as hard as I know how and if there was a way I could be guaranteed a job, I would have done it already. My parents are experiencing their absolute worst year financially since I was a very young child, so they can't afford to help me out, no matter how much they would love to. I swear I'm not being lazy. I would absolutely pay for this entire wedding out of my own pocket if I could. If it has to be, I will go beg on street corners to get the money together for this wedding without asking any of our family for any more help. I am NOT lazy, and I am NOT looking for a free ride in anything. I know it takes hard work. All I'm looking for is a job.

It would be so easy to just move in together and call it done. It would be a hell of a lot cheaper and way less stressful. But I really want to do this right. I want to have an official Christian wedding. I want to be married before we live together. I want to do the right thing.

Yes, we could sign documents, get legally married, and have a party later -- but we all know the 'have a party later' thing never really happens. If we don't pull together the money for it now, will we really have the discipline to pull it together later, after we're already married? What's the point of it then? People won't take it as seriously then and then they're less likely to come celebrate with us anyway.

Sure, we could postpone the wedding a year or two -- but I hate this long-distance thing. I hate being apart from him, and I want to be with him as much as possible as soon as possible. (For the record, we already have postponed our wedding three months.)

We've cut down the budget as far as it can go. We got our wedding down from an initial $10,000 projected budget to $4,000. We are getting a lot of things at a reduced rate due to networking. There is nothing else we can cut... except the dance.

I never planned out my future wedding as a child, a teen, or even a young adult. I didn't have a dream venue, or dress, or flower arrangement figured out, or a Pinterest board of decorations, or a playlist of songs I wanted. The only thing -- the literal only dream I had about my future wedding (if there even was one) was the dance. I wanted a dance.

I was flowergirl in my aunt and uncle's wedding when I was young. The only thing I remember about that wedding -- besides cupping my aunt's face in my little five-year-old hands and telling her she looked beautiful -- was the dance. I watched all sorts of people get onto the dance floor and dance to the music and I loved it. From that age, I knew that if I ever got married, I wanted a dance at my wedding. That was the only dream I had about my wedding before my engagement. The only one.

And of course that's the most expensive thing. That's the easiest thing to cut, financially. Both the hall and the DJ are big-ticket expenses, and both are dispensable. This puts me into a state of extreme stress (even more than unemployment already has done)...

I want a dance. It's my only dream.

But it's expensive.

But that was the only thing I ever dreamed of having at my wedding.

But you could cut the budget in half if you dropped it.

But it was my dream.

But you don't have a job. You can't fund it. And you can't in good conscience make everyone else fund it when you're already contributing diddly-squat.

But I've always wanted a dance.

It's not like it's a necessity. Grow up.

But I'm only ever going to have one wedding...

And now I'm crying again.

It's starting to feel like God made me defective. Literally all my passions are the exact things that western society will not pay for. Even my artistic siblings have jobs, side passions that fit neatly into a trade or at least something that will pay them minimum wage. I'm willing to learn stuff outside of my passions -- I already have for previous jobs -- but first somebody in this God-forsaken prairie has to actually hire me.

I pray so much about this. I beg and I plead and I yank desperately at the hem of God's cloak but still He is silent. Just like He always has been toward me when I have been in need. I try to do the George Müller thing and not ask anybody else for money and just trust God for it but then my gas tank is empty again and I have rehearsal in literally forty-five minutes and I have no choice but to beg my friends and family on Facebook for money again. And I feel like scum doing that. I feel like the worst specimen of humanity when I have to beg my friends for money just to put gasoline in my vehicle. A lot of times it does feel like I would be better off dead -- I wouldn't cost anything anymore. The literal only thing that stops me is the thought of how devastated my fiancé would be.

I hate that all I think about now is money. I hate that everything is so tied to money. I hate that I'm obsessed with it now, but I have to be -- you cannot exist in western society without it, even if your tastes aren't expensive and you know how to stretch a dollar. A dollar only stretches so far before it breaks.

Everyone talks about the faithfulness of God. Everyone else talks of His miracles of provision. I can't even tell you how many people just in the past week have said to me, 'just let go and let God,' or 'just pray more, and I guarantee...' You don't think I haven't been doing that? You don't think I have prayed my face off for the past two years of my unemployed (and therefore worthless) existence? I have confessed sins, I have prayed for guidance, I have taken risks, I have worked hard, I have tried. What yet do I lack? What magical ingredient am I missing that God still requires from me? I thought His grace to us was just that -- grace. Not based on our merit or our works, but our need. Not once have I pointed to my Bible college degree. Not once have I pointed to a lifetime of church attendance and tithing. Not once. All I have said, over and over and OVER again, is, 'God, you know I need to be able to pay for this. Please help me. Please provide.'

And He is silent.

I have great need, God -- and only some of it is financial. Do You care or not?

23 October 2019

The Cost of Dance

Life update: I have moved back home -- as in, to the little town where I grew up. My focus right now is on theatre and it's killing me because what I really want to do is dance. The city I was in this summer has WAY more dance opportunities and even training options than my home city. But I have literally zero savings to fall back on and it's cheaper to do theatre than dance. Yes, really.

First -- auditions.
I have never in my life paid for a theatre audition. I've auditioned for the biggest theatre company in Regina (twice), as well as the one in Edmonton. This past September alone I auditioned for thirteen small volunteer-based organizations. Not one of them -- not even the one that's several thousand dollars in the hole -- charged me an audition fee.
Conversely, every single dance audition I have ever done has come with an audition fee. I've paid as little as $25 and as much as $80 for a single dance audition. That's a lot of money to throw into the abyss on the tiniest off-chance that you might actually outshine the 300 other dancers who are no doubt also sending in video auditions.

Second -- training.
I had the opportunity this fall to train with one of western Canada's only tap ensembles but I had to pass it up because I was barely able to scrape together the last few dollars of my savings account for the audition fee (see above), let alone the $400+ required for registration for the actual training.
Dance training -- just to keep up your technique FOR auditions -- costs about a thousand dollars a year, per hour/week. (It does depend on the region a bit, but that's about average in western Canada.) Ideally, dancers at a professional level should be taking at LEAST twenty hours of class per week. That's $20,000 a year. That is fully half the average annual salary (in US dollars) for a professional dancer. That doesn't count transportation, pointe shoes ($120/pair, new pair every two weeks at that level of training), dancewear (one bodysuit averages $100), physiotherapy (every two weeks at least), and things like medication, counselling, food, rent -- you know, regular living expenses that everyone has to pay for.

On the other hand, I have never, ever had to pay for acting training (my degree doesn't count because I got exactly two acting classes out of a $100,000 degree and the director straight-up, to my face, refused to give me more even though my degree program actually required me to have more acting credits than that). All of my acting training has come on-site -- actually on the stage, in the rehearsal room, doing shows. I'm basically self-taught because nobody thought I was good enough for them to bother actually trying to teach me.

Third -- costumes.
In dance, there is always a costume fee. Always. From the time you're a three-year-old in a costume-shop tutu sickling your feet to the time you're a college student taking professional-level classes, you always, always, pay for every single costume you wear -- whether or not you are actually allowed to keep it.
In theatre, I have only paid a costume fee once. I've had to supply parts of my own costume -- slips, blouses -- but even the pieces that come out of the company costume room are free for me to use as long as I am in that particular production.

Fourth -- mentally.
Theatre is (usually) quite good at meeting their actors where they're at mentally and emotionally (my college and their 'you MUST be happy all the time whether or not the script even actually portrays this character as happy' attitude notwithstanding). They require a lot, but they also give a lot of empathy. If your depression is acting up, they'll accept whatever you can do with gentle encouragement. If you've twisted an ankle, they are happy to let you sit to the side with an ice pack as long as you're paying attention to what your blocking will be. If you haven't eaten in three days because you haven't had time, they will cobble together all their collective snacks and feed you, and they'll probably all remember your allergies and texture issues too.

Regarding dance, Sydney Magruder Washington has actually described it much better than I could in her excellent post on ballet and mental illness. Dancers are constantly told to shut up and smile. Grin and bear it. The show must go on. No negativity allowed. Ever. At all. Not even a hint of a breath of anything less than sunshine and rainbows and unicorn poop. And if you can't do it, there is NO END to the emotional and verbal abuse you will get if you can't fit the artistic director's mould of perfection and happiness, even during barre when you're still trying to get your exhausted eyelids to stay open. In dance, if you're having a rough depression day, you get fired on the spot. And then the director blacklists you to anybody who will listen for the rest of your life.
Also, for reference -- one (1) counselling appointment can be over $200. Each. When I was in my most intense period of counselling (which lasted for about eight months), I was going once a week, but probably should have been doing twice a week.

Don't tell me this huge financial disparity is because nobody goes to the ballet anymore -- nobody goes to the theatre anymore either, and yet the theatres somehow manage to run without soaking their usually-not-well-off performers for money. And when can these performers work? All the job openings insist on evenings and weekends. When do performing arts companies rehearse? Evenings and weekends. We can work OR we can perform, not both. And if we choose the latter, we can't even afford to get proper dance shoes, let alone get our properly-clad foot in the door with an audition.

All I want to do is dance, and I HATE that I'm too poor to afford it.

19 October 2019

The Bottom (?) (Part II)

29 August 2019, 9.52pm.

I think I've hit bottom. Or at least I hope I have.

On the surface it doesn't look like I have. I'm not wearing rags and sleeping under a bridge. I'm not in a padded room in a hospital eating with plastic forks for my own protection. I'm still living in a decently nice place in a mostly nice city and have food in my cupboard and nice clothes in my closet.

The best way to say it is I have been spiraling since I moved here. The behaviour I described in this post was not limited to that week or even that month. It has characterised my entire time here. If it wasn't for one person (a friend of mine from my most recent show), I would literally have starved to death in the lap of luxury -- starved by my own volition. I had no reason to live and as such I had no reason to eat, so I didn't. I lived literally on Mini-Wheats, and that only because this friend insisted I eat something and that was the only thing I had the energy to make.

My last year at college (this past year) was easy academically (I only had three or four classes over two semesters), but it almost (and may still) broke me mentally. The professors and directors started giving me the cold shoulder and a couple of them started outright telling me I wasn't trying hard enough and that I would never be good enough to be an artist. Even though the school focused primarily on vocal development and had basically zero dance program to speak of, the director (who spent a total of five years in dance and has never taught it) appeared to make it his personal mission to remind me that my body is just not built to be flexible and to tell me constantly that because of that one fact and that one fact alone that I would never, ever be a decent performing artist and nobody would want anything to do with me -- full stop.

You can only hear that for so long before you start to believe it. Especially when this person is a mentor to you, and especially when the second-in-command in the program wholeheartedly agrees with him, and especially when there are no other influences telling you otherwise because 'your director knows best.'

Eventually he stopped having to say it (though he didn't actually stop saying it) -- the voice recorder in my brain had his voice on permanent file, playing back and rewinding and repeating the recording 24/7. By the time I graduated in April, I was already well into the self-starvation pattern. If I couldn't be a performing artist -- and he told me, clearly and repeatedly, that I couldn't -- then I didn't want to live. I had three other shows lined up, so a quick, violent suicide was not an option, but a slow degenerative spiral would be perfect. I could fade out shortly after the last show. It would be a fitting, sad, poetic, ending to a sad, moderately poetic life.

It got to the point where I couldn't even practice dance -- even for fun, even for my own choreography that nobody would ever see -- without hearing his voice in my head, telling me I would never be good enough. It was deafening, and it was infinitely heavier than my increasingly-fragile body could bear. I could hardly stand up, let alone lift the weight of his words off my heart long enough to lace up my tap shoes. There was no way I could practice on my own, and there was no way I could afford classes to push me to actually try.

So I accepted my fate -- I stopped dancing. I started telling people I 'used to' dance. I stopped listening to music, stopped seeing the dances, stopped singing, stopped dreaming.

At the same time, it seemed that my dire financial situation was about to turn a corner. I actually managed to land a job -- delivering the morning paper six days a week. However, about a month into the job, I had already been sexually harassed by a superior, taken three sick days (unrelated to the harassment), called a mental health help line because I felt so trapped, had to start a stronger asthma medication because my asthma worsened so much with the disturbed sleep schedule, and figured out I was only making $10.50 a night for my trouble. Minimum wage in Alberta is $15 an hour, and I was only making $10.50 for three hours of work, plus I was putting in $20 of gas in my vehicle every night. I was paying more than I was making.

The idea had been to deliver papers until I got another job, and I had been looking, but the paper-delivery job had drained so much out of me that I was spending fourteen hours a day in bed and still literally falling asleep on the job every single night. I hadn't found a better job, but I put in my two weeks' notice. I was going to end up in the hospital if I didn't.

03 October 2019

Numbness and Rebuilding (Part I)

28 July 2019, 2.01am.

I've just begun the process of rebuilding... rebuilding everything.

In June I completely uprooted and moved to a city I'd only seen three or four times in my entire life. I had $200, no job, and only one show lined up. As alluded to on this blog, I was already not in a great place mentally or physically (college had sapped the last of my strength), and the anonymity of the unfamiliar big city gave me the chance to do what I'd always wanted -- to spiral.

I deliberately put on a brave face at rehearsal. I did more acting backstage than I ever did onstage for that show. Because I knew if anybody knew I was about to give up, they would try to fix me for about two weeks (a month at best) and then turn their backs on me, most likely with a cutting tirade about how I was 'too much' and 'not trying hard enough.' I already knew all that, I didn't need to hear it again. I've had this happen so many times I have the script memorised, even though the other person always thinks it's improv. Better to not even start the show.

By the last weekend of the show, I had almost completely stopped eating. The cooler I brought to the campground was mostly just a prop for the show of 'I'm fine.' I did a three-hour performance on a pizza pop and a container of yogurt -- as in, that was all I had eaten all day. At the cast party after the final performance one of my castmates literally had to carry me to the food line because I was so depleted I couldn't stand on my own. I wanted to tell someone but I knew no-one would believe me because I've struggled with this so publicly and I knew I was beyond help because of the sheer severity and stubbornness of my condition. It was my last show anyway, with no plans or hopes of any others on the horizon... this was the best way to go out. Just fade away into obscurity, like so many artists before me. Literally, physically, fade out. It was better than burning alive. And it was better than suffocating.

The only person I had even sort-of opened up to on that cast was that castmate who carried me to the front of the food line. Even he didn't know the whole story, but he knew I had a history of depression and he had figured out that I hadn't been eating. For two weeks -- probably longer -- he texted me every day, multiple times a day, insisting that I eat something. I literally only ate one bowl of cereal each day for at least a week, even in the face of his insistence. I was so depleted that I couldn't have made anything more substantial even if I had wanted to.

At some point, for some reason, I decided to rebuild my tap repertoire... it had deteriorated significantly since I had essentially stopped practicing in February. I made up a schedule, holding myself to only half an hour each day, just slowly and calmly learning a piece I had choreographed about a month and a half before. I gave myself two weeks to learn it. Just that, nothing else. No rush. No pressure. Just learning the dance.

The first (spoilers: only) day wasn't hard on my body so much as it was hard on my mind. The last time I had practiced dance consistently was at a time when I was trying desperately to prove myself, as my program director and I were clashing with greater frequency over my lack of ability and whether or not I was actually trying, as my carefully-laid plans to move to Regina and pursue my career there crumbled around me. I had largely forgotten all that -- not 'gotten over' or 'worked through,' forgotten... numbed by the ache in my hollow stomach and the fog clouding my undernourished brain. Dancing again brought all those old feelings back, all that barely-cold criticism, all that still-smouldering self-hatred.

But the numbness didn't completely go away. And I was able to hold onto that numbness through that practice session. The venom of the words that so many have spoken to me didn't bite anymore. The sharp sting wasn't gone, but it was dulled. I had accepted my fate of literally physically fading into nothing and as such I had nothing to prove anymore.

'You'll never be good enough. You don't try hard enough.'
Yeah, I know. So what does it matter to you that I'm stretching today?

The overwhelming numbness drowned out the answer.

12 August 2019

Quality Time

In order to understand this post, you'll have to be familiar with the five love languages. You don't need to take the quiz if you don't want to, just be familiar with the five different kinds.

Read the overview? Good.

I am a STRONG quality-time, with a healthy helping of words of affirmation. I scored a perfect zero in acts of service (which explains a lot for those who know me in real life).

On one hand, quality time is the easiest. It requires no money (gifts), very little prep (gifts), not a lot of effort (acts of service), no eloquence (words of affirmation), and no physical contact. Certainly all of these can go into loving a quality time person, but they're by no means requirements. Literally all you have to do is sit with us and talk/listen. Honestly one of my favourite things to do with my college friends was to go to the grocery store. Nothing crazy, nothing fancy, nothing expensive. Let's just get in the car and drive to your chiropractor appointment and the car wash together. We don't even need to get coffee. All I want in my life is to spend time sitting in the same room (or vehicle) as you, with more than 60% of your undivided attention (if you're scrolling through your phone or watching a movie, that absolutely DOES NOT count and in fact actively makes me feel even more unloved because you have a beautiful chance to share a few moments with me as another human and you're deciding that your Instagram is more important).

But on the other hand, quality time is the hardest. You can't just toss us a hug or a pat on the back and we're good for another three months. You can't take out the trash and expect us to suddenly be okay. You can't buy our satisfaction with gifts and you can't smooth over a wound with some nice words. The very thing that makes us easy is the thing that makes us impossibly difficult.

Every other love language can have their needs satisfied in thirty seconds or less. But not quality time. We are not satisfied with a quick 'hi love you bye.' We are time sucks. We are the black hole, the awful vortex in your busy lives that you avoid because you have two meetings and a birthday party and an office dinner and a dance lesson and rehearsal and three classes and you don't have any energy left to give to us, let alone the four or five hours we would prefer -- no, need -- to have from you. God help the parents of the quality time children. You barely have time for yourselves, let alone for us.

And we know that. We know we ask a lot. I cannot even begin to communicate the depth of my guilt that I need you so much and that I interfere with your busy life so much. You have no idea how much I wish I could be as easily satisfied as everyone else. I can't even explain how much I pretend I'm fine or I pretend I'm satisfied with the two-second greeting you give us when everything within me screams for you, for somebody, for anybody, to just spend an afternoon with me, with no limit and no other agenda. I know I'm expected to be okay on my own and so often I pretend that I am, but I'm really not. The need in my soul is vast, and deep, and so incongruent with how our society operates. Nobody knows HOW to just sit and co-exist with another person anymore. We underscore our days with Netflix and Skype meetings and the six o'clock news and sports and Snapchat and Bejeweled knockoffs and the ever-buzzing phone and your quality time friends and family quietly shrivel into dust in the corner, edged out of your lives by f*cking pixels on a screen. In this world of opportunity and money and privilege, the one thing nobody has to give, the one thing nobody can earn, the one thing that nobody can deposit in a savings account for a rainy day is time.

And sometimes I hate that something so impossible is often the literal only thing that I really want from you.

30 July 2019

The Birth of the Curse

I'l just get this out of the way: I hate my birthday.

Not because I'm another year older and closer to death. I hate my actual birth date -- 2 August.

In Canada, the first Monday is August is a statutory holiday. I don't know why they felt this was necessary -- the month of August literally is holiday unless you're one of the lucky few who have actually managed to land any kind of full-time job in this economy. Yours truly was literally born on that God-forsaken Monday. To be born on a holiday Monday -- especially in the summer, and especially the last one of the summer -- is a curse straight from the lips of Satan himself.

Do you have ANY idea how hard it is to plan any kind of birthday party when literally everyone goes camping in the mountains or goes to the lake on that weekend? There are 51 other weekends every year, but all the vacations magically converge on THAT weekend -- the weekend of my birthday.

These circumstances literally incited my lifelong battle with depression. My own birthday doomed me. I was sunk from my first breath.

I was nine, going on ten. My birthday was coming up and I had carefully made up invitations and sent them out WAY in advance -- having learned in the previous three or four years that people apparently make plans for my birthday weekend in April sometime. But it was now late July and the RSVP calls were rolling in -- 'Sorry, Lindsay can't make it, we're going to the lake that weekend,' 'Sorry, Katie's camping with her dad that weekend,' 'Sorry, Brittany can't come -- we're all going to Disneyland that weekend...'

I was with my dad in his workshop when my mother came out and relayed yet another message like this -- my best friend couldn't come. And it was kind of the last straw. I had invited probably about a dozen people, and now probably about ten of them had already backed out. I had long been reduced to inviting even my much-younger and significantly more annoying cousins just so I would be with someone on my birthday.

I excused myself and headed back to the house to process. How could my best friend be busy? She knew my birthday. It happened every year on the same day. How do you not start to remember 'oh yeah, my best friend's birthday is that day, don't book anything'? This was my best friend. I had never missed her birthday party. Why then did she and her family seem to think it was okay to miss mine?

I was walking up the steps to the back door of our house when a solution presented itself to my nine-year-old brain: nobody likes you. Nobody wants you around. And that's why they're making all these excuses. They didn't forget -- they just don't want to come.

And suddenly everything made sense.

The problem was not the date, the problem was me. I was annoying and stupid and nobody liked me.

The knowledge was enlightening. Suddenly my entire life made sense -- my mother's seemingly unprovoked rages at me, my dance teacher's constant needling comments at me about how I wasn't good enough, the fact that every social gathering I ever tried to plan flopped spectacularly, the fact that literally nobody ever talked to me unless forced to.

It was because nobody liked me. It was because there was something wrong with me.

That thought opened up a whole new world of explanation -- a Pandora's box that not only could I not shut, I didn't want to because I would rather know that I was worthless than live under a delusion. I would rather have known the truth -- the truth that nobody wanted me around and would do whatever it took to avoid me. That thought still pervades literally everything I do and everything I think. I know nothing else.

I still had one faint hope -- that when I was an adult and my friends were all more in control of their work schedules, they would know to keep that day (or at least that weekend) free. They would remember that that was my birthday and maybe my adult friends would somehow be able to love me enough to not want to back out of whatever I might plan.

But now I am an adult. I'm alone in a city with very few (and somewhat tenuous) connections. I can't go visit my family because I work two days in a row and can't make the trip. My best friend is on vacation -- her family plans the same stupid trip to the mountains ON MY BIRTHDAY every single stupid year, despite knowing that that's my birthday. I had made plans with another friend to spend the day together on my birthday -- nothing fancy, just literally being in each other's presence -- and that friend just found out today that there's a family event that he can't back out of... on that day.

My one birthday wish -- to spend my birthday with people who care about me. It's not about the event. It's not about the gifts. It's not about the party or the food or the beverages. It's about being with people I love. That's all I want. It's so simple, but it's the one thing I can apparently never have.

Nobody should have to be alone on their birthday. And yet that's my constant reality.

25 July 2019

The Voice in My Head

Around February I started letting my dance practice routine slip. At first it was busyness, then sickness, then both... then I moved away and couldn't access the studio anymore, and the practice pretty well ceased entirely. There have been a couple of one-off practices over the past few months, but there was no consistency. My motivation was completely gone -- depression and a general sense of purposelessness had eaten it all.

Today I hit the wood for the first time in a while. Nothing spectacular -- some warm-up and improv, some learning (trying to add a new piece into the rep), quite a lot of troubleshooting (where IS my weight after a turning cramp roll?).

Then the stretch session.

Back in January, I had finally gotten my (left front) splits down. This was the culmination of literally YEARS of work and pushing and stretching, often multiple stretch sessions a day. I have footage from May of me in the splits, and that was probably honestly the last time I did them. I knew I had probably lost them, but I also now knew that they were attainable. I did my usual stretches that I had been doing at the beginning of the year, mentally pre-accepting the likelihood that I would not have the splits today.

And it's funny -- the entire time I was stretching, it took me back to that time. And I heard the voice of my program director, telling me I wasn't good enough, nagging me to 'just be more flexible' -- as if that was up to my willpower rather than my horribly short muscles -- all of it, the things I had almost managed to forget, racing back in around me as I stretched, ringing and echoing in my ears as if he had just said it this morning. I had already accepted that I wouldn't have the splits today, but still his voice prattled through my head, all about how I would never be good enough. Not because I lacked grace, or skill, or discipline, or artistry, or ballon, or experience, because I have all of those things (at least on some level), but purely and only because I didn't have a 180 extension. And that was all he could see and all he could talk about, and by extension that became all I could see and all I could think about.

And even now, trying to stretch in order to better myself, because I want to stretch, it just took me back to that time where his voice screamed through my brain about how I wasn't good enough and I never would be and it exhausted me all over again, even though I've graduated, even though I don't have to answer to him anymore, even though I'm not even in the same province anymore. I still carry his voice with me, embedded in my head. I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't -- practice, that is. If I practice, I'm not trying hard enough and I'm not good enough. If I don't practice -- well, then I'm lazy and am still not trying hard enough.

I'm too tired to even be angry anymore. I spent so much energy trying to please him, trying to find the magic bullet to instant flexibility, trying to be good enough to at least get him off my case. It used up my last reserves of energy and willpower and motivation. There's nothing left. I gave it all to this formidable man who could not, would not be pleased with my absolute best efforts. It's all burned away, a flash in the pan. And here I am sitting on the couch, having eaten only three meals in the past week because not only do I not have motivation to dance, I don't have motivation for anything. It's all been used up.

I know it's possible to retrain my brain to think on a different line, to hear a different voice when I'm stretching besides his saccharine sweet, syrupy voice telling me very nicely that I would never be any good at anything if I couldn't do the splits, but that will take a Herculean amount of effort and I don't even have the energy to pour myself a bowl of cereal half the time, let alone retrain an entire thought pattern during an already physically demanding activity.

Nobody here in Alberta knows him. He has little, if any, influence with anyone here. Nobody here knows he thought I was the worst performer he'd ever had in his department, and honestly nobody would care that he thought that because what he thought doesn't matter to them. I have the chance to prove myself here on my own merits, with or without his f*cking approval.

But his voice is in my head, and it's sabotaging my own merits.

And no, I didn't have the splits today.

17 July 2019

Update... The Big Pond

Update on living in Alberta again...

It's beautiful. But it's also probably been the darkest, most difficult time of my life so far.

It's MUCH harder even to get an audition here. I've responded to quite a few audition calls and not even been invited to the auditions. I've landed more job interviews than auditions (and given how the job hunt has been going, that's saying something).

The original plan, back in April, was to stay in Saskatchewan (probably Regina) for a year or two, for more experience (which would hopefully eventually translate into actual ability...). It's a relatively small theatrical pond, sure, but I'm also a pretty small fish. It would have been a good place to learn and grow and get a chance to hone my skills -- at least in Regina, some theatres did like my work enough to at least stick me in ensemble. In the past year especially I did a huge amount of hustling in Regina because that was where I expected to stay, so that was where I made my connections.

Instead, I've now ended up in Calgary, which is a significantly bigger (and therefore more competitive) pond, and I have absolutely zero connections here. In Regina I at least knew a bunch of theatre people -- I had a network. Here I have literally nothing. Most of the people in my current show here, while very nice and generally good at what they do, aren't in the theatre scene at all outside of that one show once a year, so they can't really help me.

I'm trying to look at it as a 'sink or swim' situation. I have to get my skills up to par -- there is no other option if I want to survive. I can't grow slowly and steadily now, I have to grow in leaps and bounds. I have to level up. I'm not quite sure how without practice (you know... actually doing shows), but I'm going to have to figure out a way. Preferably an inexpensive way -- as I hinted above, the job-hunt/financial situation is nothing less than terrifying, on a visceral level. I'm in a heightened state of stress and tension 24/7 because I am literally one month away from living on the street. I haven't truly relaxed, even physically, in... I don't even know how long. (Probably about a year -- last summer, before school kicked in again.) The only silver lining about being under this level of stress for so long is that I have no appetite so at least I'm saving money on food.

26 June 2019

Art and Fog (The Raft In The Sea)

I forgot how much I love the performing arts.

I'm into my third week living alone in a bigger city than I ever have before, and last week did NOT go well. As I suspected would happen, I felt unseen and unheard and trapped, not in the concrete/steel jungle, but in this huge empty house. I didn't (still don't) even have gas money to go out to a bookstore or something (nor would I have had money to spend at said bookstore). Longtime readers know this is a recipe for disaster, and by this past weekend I literally did not care about anything. I think I ate a total of three actual meals from Wednesday till yesterday (Tuesday), supplemented by Pop Tarts, watched TV for literally three straight days, and went off my asthma meds completely (mostly by accident, but that did not help matters).

At some point during that fog, between episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I followed every actor/dancer/theatre Facebook group I could find in my new city. Between those and some groups I already follow from elsewhere, I found a handful of auditions, and most of them would accept video auditions.

Most were due this weekend and I'm gone this weekend, so I set aside today to film all of them in one go (I discovered if I pray enough, that piece-of-trash memory card does work intermittently. At this point it's better than nothing). And afterwards, as I sat sipping my peanut-butter smoothie, I felt... just a tiny little bit better. Acting and dancing for the camera all day had distracted me from the dark fog long enough to catch a breath.

I've hinted at this but never actually come out and said it publicly -- in April I decided to quit the arts. I had three shows outstanding at the time I made this decision, and I planned to finish those and then... fling myself into the artless abyss, whatever that looked like. I literally do not have any interests or passions outside the arts. Literally none. I assumed I'd die shortly after finishing my last show (which I suppose is still not outside the realm of possibility as I haven't finished that show yet). I stopped auditioning, I stopped looking, I stopped practicing, I stopped trying.

But today, having spent all day acting and dancing... I don't know if turning my back on all that training and joy is wise... or even sane. I often think I'm exaggerating when I say I can't live without the arts, but today reminded me that's actually true. It keeps me at least somewhat afloat in this dark heaving sea of life and depression that pulls me down into its depths with full intent to smother me.

To quit the arts is a literal suicide mission. But so much of the performing arts is dependent on someone actually casting you.

Say what you will about autonomy and self-sufficiency and independence and all that crap, my life is in the hands of the local casting directors.

25 June 2019


As I mentioned in a recent post, I have a fixed amount of money and that amount is rapidly diminishing.

I managed to peel the entire front off my vehicle, managed to land an audition with a fee that the company conveniently neglected to mention until I'd already committed to the audition, and probably should get counselling as I spent the last four or five days in a pit of suicidal rage. That will pretty well take care of my savings, and I haven't even paid rent yet.

What really annoys me about this (I realised while ranting into the void), is that I can no longer invest in myself. Self-care for me includes dance class, it includes driving around listening to music, it includes wandering shops, it includes photography, it includes writing, it includes auditioning, it includes counselling, it includes creating things.

But dance class costs money. And I need new tap shoes (again), which costs money.

Gas costs money. Wandering around shops usually costs money because I usually find at least one costume piece. Lord knows film and development cost money and my dear Pentax is in desperate need of service.

With Lila broken, my writing is severely curtailed. If I had an income, I could justify buying another word processor on eBay or something but I have no income so I can't.

Auditioning often requires me doing video auditions, and that requires me having a memory card for my video camera -- mine is full, so I went out and bought another but it turned out to be a piece of trash. A good memory card runs into the $100 range... I cannot justify that in my current financial circumstances. And heaven knows counselling costs money.

I can't create anything. I can't do anything. And as mentioned before, that makes me feel really useless. I want to make dance and writing and photos and art and maybe one day that will be a source of income. But right now I'm in a place where I can't continue with any of that until I can make these investments. But can I really justify these investments when I can barely afford rent and gas to get to rehearsals (I haven't really eaten in a week in order to cut down on food costs). I have no assurance that these investments will actually pay off... out of the literally dozens of auditions I've done so far this year, only two actually cast me (and one was with the school so they kind of had to shove me in somewhere though we all knew the director would rather have gouged out his own eyes than work with me).

I want to do all these things. I want to pursue these things, even though they're mere hobbies at the moment. I want to continue to hone my skills and develop my stage presence. I want to keep auditioning and making dance films and writing novels. I want to get counselling. I want to do and enjoy all of these things. But I can't -- I can't justify spending that kind of money on literally zero income with no assurance of return on my investment.

21 June 2019

The Useless Artist

It's been a difficult, discouraging week.

To start off, my beloved word processor Lila may be dead for good -- including some newly-written scenes for Kyrie that hadn't been backed up yet. She's been with me nine years, and I genuinely cannot imagine life without her (what? I'm single, it's not like I have a human to use that line with anyway). There was a scare in February, but she came back... she's a tough little thing, and I thought it was just a bump in the road. She alone was my companion in my teen years when I was isolated in the middle of nowhere, raising four kids, bullied at church, and trying desperately to stay on the nonexistent right side of an abusive parent without also compromising the safety of my siblings. She came with me to Saskatchewan and prevented boredom on many slow days at work. She was a key player in twelve novels and has been a huge part of the Kyrie revision so far. Without her, I don't know if that revision will ever get finished.

I'm living my dream now -- a west-facing window with both a skyline view and a mountain view, my tap floor in the basement for practicing whenever I want (within reason -- the walls are shared with neighbours), but yet, I'm trapped in the house because if I go out anywhere, I'll end up spending money. Money I don't have. Because literally nobody in Canada will hire me for even a basic, entry-level cashier job, let alone anything else I apply for (yesterday morning alone I literally applied for 36 jobs). All I have to live on for probably the rest of my life is a couple hundred dollars. I have zero income to replace what I'm spending on rent. (I'm not spending it on gas because I'm not going anywhere and I'm not spending it on food because I have no motivation to eat and also the money will last longer if I don't eat.)

I can't even make audition videos or even dance videos because I need a new memory card for my video camera. But I can't afford one. In today's online world, you literally CAN NOT get anywhere without the ability to record video and post it online. That's the only way people even have a chance to see what you have to offer.

So there it is. I'm in this beautiful city I can't explore, I can't write, I can't really do anything dance-wise, I'm locked out of a lot of auditions, and I can't even get up and go work a menial 9-to-5 because literally nobody thinks I'm employable... I, who have worked in literally three different fields and have a Bachelor's degree in yet a different field entirely.

Money can't buy happiness, but it can at least buy life... or at least a life worth the air I'm breathing. Right now I'm just taking up space and bringing nothing to anybody. I'm just sitting here quietly spiraling, and since I have no friends here, there's nobody to stop me. I feel unseen and unheard and of no consequence to anybody. For an artist -- for someone who has literally spent their entire life trying to create things that change people and make them feel -- this is the literal worst thing that could possibly happen. If nobody can see or hear me in any of my avenues of expertise (writing, dance, or theatre), that means I'm not having an impact.

And that means I'm useless.

18 June 2019

Anatomy of a Trigger

The worst thing I have ever been told in my entire (albeit relatively short) performing arts career was not "you'll never make it" (thanks, Mom), "you're stupid" (thanks, extended family), "when are you going to get a real job?" (thanks, Grandma), "you'll never pass the exam" (thanks, dance teacher), or even "God can't love you because you're a dancer so neither will we" (thanks, home church).

It was during a meeting with the director of my college program midway through my final year. It's fairly well-known that I'm not a flexible human being. I just wasn't built with long ligaments. Grace, sure, but not flexibility. This program director had been on my case about my (lack of) flexibility for a while by this point so I wasn't surprised when he brought it up again in the context of a course selection meeting. He threw all his old tired phrases at me about how you can't call yourself a dancer if you're not flexible and how I should be stretching more and I said, "I've been stretching every day for two years."

He looked me right in the eye -- pale water-blue eyes right into my blueberry ones -- and said, "You know what? I don't believe you."

I could have slapped him in that moment.

In one single sentence, he destroyed every ounce of self-confidence I had ever managed to scrape together. He invalidated not only my daily two-hour dance practice sessions, he invalidated nearly twenty YEARS of training and practice. I had suspected for years that no matter what I tried it was never good enough, and here was proof of it -- the man who had mentored me, who had called out my ability to act in the first place, who had even saved my life less than two years earlier, had just confirmed it for me. I wasn't good enough, and I never would be. No amount of practice would make up for the fact that I was just destined to suck.

That one sentence nearly killed me.

My depression intensified. I hated myself with a renewed passion and vengeance. I would practice dance until I literally collapsed, then get up and keep going until I collapsed again. And then I would get up and keep going some more. I neglected legitimate academic homework for practice. I went home for Christmas break and took pictures of myself doing a two-hour stretch session on Christmas freaking Day so I would have proof that I was actually trying. I was logging six hours of practice per day, and berating myself for not doing more. My sleep schedule -- which has never been solid to begin with -- slid completely off the rails as I stayed up later and later in an attempt to get more stretching in, to figure out why the heck I couldn't be good enough given the intense hours of practice.

I stopped eating, even though he never said anything about my weight. Partly because I didn't have time to actually make and eat food (that was a waste of valuable time that I could spend on practicing instead), but also partly in hopes that I could starve myself to death. If I couldn't practice myself to death fast enough to satisfy the insatiable need of ABSOLUTE PERFECTION, then I would take away food and hasten the process. And I grew to love that hollow ache in my stomach from the lack of food. It meant I was actually trying. It meant I was sacrificing. They say you have to sacrifice to be an artist and darn it, nobody was going to be able to say that I wasn't making sacrifices. Nobody was going to be able to say that I wasn't trying. Maybe if I starved myself I would be light and lean enough to be a good jumper without being exhausted after four jumps and maybe it would make it easier to get my leg up higher because it would be less encumbered with flesh. I grew to enjoy the feeling of my heart threatening to explode within me, the sound of my own strangled gasps for breath. My hemoglobin levels dropped to half what their normal levels should be and in response I pushed harder physically, because pushing through adversity is what artists do -- you're not a real artist if you're not facing insurmountable odds. According to the numbers I needed a blood transfusion and I talked my way out of it partly because I didn't want to be kept alive. If I died, I died. All I wanted was to be enough for everyone and maybe death was the only way to achieve that.

I was in the middle of a performance run at the time they found out how low my hemoglobin was and at the end of each performance I was coughing so much I would taste blood, so oxygen-deprived that I would start blacking out on the way back to the dressing room -- but every night I would dance even more full-out, push harder, strain further, smile bigger, knowing what the cost would be but doing it anyway because I would rather die than give a lackluster performance. I gave everything -- almost literally everything.

And it still meant nothing.

Nobody even noticed. At the cast party after the show closed, everyone was sitting around the table comparing texts that their friends/family/long-lost school mates were sending them congratulating them on their performance, and I got nothing. Literally nothing. I had friends at the closing show. They sent gushing texts to two of my castmates, fawning over how good they were... and I didn't get a single one. Not even 'hey, good job.' Nothing.

I had almost died to give the performance I did. Was it not good enough simply because I hadn't actually died? What more could I have possibly done? Was it even possible to be good enough for anybody or was the deck just permanently stacked against me? Should I just give up and save everybody the trouble of having to actually tell me to give up because I'd never be enough for them anyway?

I still don't have the answers to these questions.

09 June 2019

Living Deaths

The problem with being single and living a fairly transient lifestyle (like, say, freelance performing) is that people don't stay your friends after you've left their city. There's no loyalty anymore. I have lost DOZENS of very close friends because they couldn't even be bothered to try the long-distance friendship thing. It's not that it's 'too difficult' -- some of them literally do not even try. I'm constantly texting and emailing and writing to them (with some I even consider calling), trying to keep the lines of communication open, trying to keep updated with their lives, but no replies... no acknowledgement of receipt... nothing.

Eventually I just stop trying. You can only scream into the silence for so long before you finally get it through your thick skull that you're invisible and nobody will ever answer and so you stop trying because there's no point anyway. After all, you don't want to annoy them either -- assuming they're even seeing your texts.

It's so ridiculous. In this age of smartphones, texting, Facebook, Messenger, email... nobody can be bothered to stay in touch because (verbatim) 'I just don't talk to even my very close friends if they're far away.'

Yes, it takes a little intentionality. Yes, you have to sit down and type an entire 'hey, miss you, how are you doing?' into your phone (back in the olden days we had to actually HANDWRITE letters on actual paper and put it in an envelope which we then licked closed and put an address and stamp on it AND THEN had to take it all the way out to the mailbox or -- horrors! -- the post office three blocks away... but yeah, tell me again how typing two sentences on your phone is just too much effort for a person you claim to care about).

I know you all have jobs and 'are busy' -- but if you're too busy to at least fire off a ten-second two-sentence text three or four times a month, maybe it's time to re-evaluate your schedule. I have a married friend with a full-time job who volunteers a LOT at her church as well as teaching art and taking dance classes on the side and she still has the time to text me at least once a week asking how I'm doing. If she can do it -- I daresay a lot of you can.

This means that every single time I move to a new city, I have to start from square one. None of my friends from my last place of residence carry across. I have to start completely over. It's sad, it's annoying, it's upsetting. And what's more, when I do go back to visit, the reception from my 'friends' is inevitably cool, because 'life moves on and people grow apart.' I'm sorry? We grew apart because YOU DIDN'T EVEN TRY.

I've already grieved enough deaths in my short life. Please don't make me grieve the relational deaths of my still-living friends too.

04 June 2019

JCS Debrief

I was recently in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

I initially turned down the role (for several reasons) but two and a half months after the show was cast, just before rehearsals started, the producer asked me if I would reconsider my initial refusal. I agreed to reconsider and within three days I committed to JCS. At the time I had heard the soundtrack exactly once in my entire life (the day before I said I'd do the show).

Even at first, I didn't particularly enjoy the show. The ensemble work in the first act felt like paper to me -- happy, happy, light, light, fluff and fairy floss. I am not any of these things and I kind of despise shows that require me to be that because life is not that.

Then I had to take a week off from JCS to open my concurrent show (Sound of Music), and when I returned to JCS, they had blocked all of Act II. I saw it for the first time in rehearsal on a Sunday night. I was coming off of nine straight days of rehearsals plus the opening weekend of Sound of Music (which, Nazis aside, is arguably one of the lightest and fluffiest feel-good shows ever written) and I was not prepared for what was about to hit my heart.

Even in the high school auditorium we rehearse in, even with a dollar-store toy gun for a stand-in prop and the cast still dressed in jean shorts and assorted show t-shirts, the second act completely arrested my attention. I watched unblinking as the priests surrounded Judas, then left him to spiral alone, the scream, the clatter of coins falling... that was the day I began to get excited about this show.

I knew going in that I would be stretched vocally (and heaven knows I needed the help), but as we got into opening week my acting abilities were also challenged... as ensemble in the show, I was part of the mob that screamed for Jesus' crucifixion. We were told to spend the second act in a state of joyous murderous glee, enjoying the trials and the whipping and the death -- "you don't have television -- this is your entertainment. You're loving this," the director told us. And somehow that clicked in my head. I developed an alter ego, a person who grow more evil and twisted with every rehearsal and every show of the run. The sardonic smile grew bigger, the screams grew louder, the facial expressions more judgemental. I'd watch, breathless from the weight, as Judas died in agony and thirty seconds later I'd be out on the stage, watching in a dark and horrific glee as Jesus was whipped.

The crucifixion grew harder to watch every night. Even though I knew it was acting and I knew the man on that cross on the stage wasn't the real Jesus, it still took all of my concentration to keep up the persona -- to keep laughing at the cross. It wasn't the remnants of my religious upbringing making it hard -- it was the experience of watching this kind man suffering and struggling and then ceasing his writhing, that sudden awful stillness. The line from the show that haunted me most was Jesus, on the floor before Pilate, gasping, "Everything is fixed and you can't change it."

Usually after I've done a show I have to abstain from hearing the music for at least a year after the show closes because it's been so overplayed (even if I like it... I have a VERY low tolerance for overplaying music), but within a week of closing JCS I was listening to the soundtrack again. I have never, ever done this with any show I've ever done before. This is how deeply this show impacted me, even as a performer -- I can't imagine what it was like for the audience, to go in blind and have the full, finished product radiate out in its full intensity from the stage. I fully believe that it would have taken an audience more than one viewing to fully comprehend the depth of what the director did with that production.

By the end of the run, I felt that I'd grown in my acting abilities, but it was only a subconscious feeling -- I didn't dare admit it even to myself. I shone bright and big -- that was my goal and that was what I did. I was screaming for his death, darn it, and it couldn't be half-hearted. To be so into the role scared me a little, but I convinced myself to press into that dark space, just for the week, just for the run, just for the stage. But I didn't dare acknowledge that this might have been growth -- how many times do I think 'wow, I've grown a lot in this area' and then someone tells me I'm the worst actress/dancer/singer they've ever seen? Better to not even have the initial hopeful thought than to hope it's true and then have that hope torn to confetti.

At the cast party, one of the other actors -- who I'd only met during this show -- looked me dead in the eye and said, "You are amazing. I'd always watch you from across the stage... I really think you should keep acting. No -- actually, I don't 'think' -- you NEED to keep acting." I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd already planned to quit the arts. But my friend who did know I was planning to quit was sitting right beside him, unnaturally quiet, undoubtedly listening, most likely making an 'are you hearing this?' face at me. I could only manage a 'thank you,' from the deepest part of my heart. He barely knew me. He didn't know I'd planned to quit. But here he was, not just hinting -- literally telling me not to quit acting.

I don't know yet if I'll heed his advice. It's been a difficult year in many ways (including but not limited to performing). But I'm glad I got to be in this production. It was one of my greatest artistic experiences and if it does turn out to be one of my last, then I'm glad to go out on such an incredible note.

15 May 2019

The First Empty Birthday... Again

You know, I had just gotten kind of used to celebrating Brittney's birthday without her. I had only just started to be sort-of okay. And now I have to start all over again, to re-learn to celebrate a birthday without the birthday girl here, to re-learn to hunker down and hold on on yet another date on the calendar -- there's so many of those now, and I'm not even thirty yet. I have to re-travel that entire path of grief, all those years of birthday parties that will never happen, and I have to re-condition myself to at least pretend to be okay again on yet another date when I'm really not.

Yet I'm not allowed to die. The four of you were, Brittney and Grandpa and my cousin and M, but somehow I'm not? How does that make sense? Today on your empty birthday, in some ways I wish it was mine. Why couldn't you take me with you? Why did you get to go and I had to stay here, in the shadowlands of the oxygen-dependent? You had so much more to offer than I ever have. Why leave me here? What could I possibly still do here that you couldn't have done a thousand times better? Am I just a cosmic punching bag and mere sweet death would be too good for me? How long -- how long must I watch my friends and family marry and have children and work in fields they enjoy and excel at their hobbies and I just watch a steady parade of caskets go past me, I watch my friends fade off my 'recent contacts' list because you can't text the dead. My still-surviving friends roll their eyes when I talk about stuff like grief and death because to them it's years away. They won't have to worry about that for another forty or so years yet. How have I seen more deaths than some sixty-year-olds? How is this fair? They got to at least enjoy their friendship. Mine are always cut short before we have a chance to really see how much we can create and explore together. Am I just destined to be companionless forever? How is that fair? How is any of this justified? Why do I have to be the only one?

I had only just begun to be able to put some of these questions out of my mind, at an uneasy rest. But now they're all back, and I'm so tired of not being able to ignore them and not being able to answer them.

And now I'm back at the beginning, once again. That first not-right, empty birthday. The first 'wish you were here' in a long, LONG neverending line -- given how long my mediocre existence will drag on at this rate, I might end up celebrating eighty of these empty birthdays, the days without you here, though that fact that you even have a birthday means that you were here, and it only emphasizes just how much you're not here anymore.

13 May 2019

(Metaphorical) Split Jump

I feel like I have one foot in two provinces and it's honestly exhausting.

Earlier this spring I had made plans to stay in Saskatchewan fairly long-term (despite graduating college in April). I notified my housemates, job-hunted, started looking at places, told my entire extended family/friend group -- and then it fell through. Completely. Entirely.

I came up with a backup plan fairly quickly. Since it involved me moving back to Alberta, I officially ended the perennial Saskatchewan job-hunt -- no point in prolonging the frustration of not getting hired if I was only going to be there another month and a half anyway.

However, because I have zero income, this means I am literally scraping together couch change to pay for gas to get to rehearsals. I have $18 to my name right now. I literally can't even break a twenty for change for the parking meter at the doctor's office.

This leaves me in a very tight spot. I'm still in shows in Sasktachewan till mid-June. However, I don't have money to even fuel my van this week. The one saving grace was that there's a week and a half between performance dates here. It's a long enough period of time to go back home and work for my dad's company for a week. And that should earn me enough money to pay my final rent bill in Saskatchewan and cover gas till I move back to Alberta. It's really kind of stupid that I'm having to commute nine and a half hours (to a different province!) to work, but I swear literally NOBODY ELSE on the planet will hire me. Name it and I've applied for it. Even jobs below minimum wage. I have applied for literally everything.

I've just confirmed my place in a renting option in Alberta. I guess it's official now -- my time in Saskatchewan is ending, much sooner than I anticipated. I really only have about two weeks total here -- the rest will be in Alberta, working to afford to actually move.

It hurts. 98% of my friends -- my support system -- are in Saskatchewan. I really only have two Alberta friends left, and they'd be in a different city than me. I would be well and truly alone in a strange city, when I'm already not in a great headspace.

Don't get me wrong -- I love Alberta, and I love the city (both cities in general and the particular one I'm moving to). But I feel very much like I'll lose all the friends I made here in Saskatchewan, and I'll have to start rebuilding a support system from step one all over again -- do you know how long it took to cobble together the one that I currently have? And that was in a school environment, where you're together with people all the time, in a setting that's fairly conducive to building relationships.

It still doesn't seem real that one day, in less than a month, I will be leaving this house, driving away from this town, taking the exit off the highway... and never coming back.

04 May 2019

What I Will Never See

I don't know if I'll ever fully realise just how sick I am. I'll probably never be able to see what the people around me see -- my friends who have looked me in the eye and said, "You need to go to sleep," the ones who still 'like' my (now-rare) dance clips on Instagram, the ones who have literally taken me out for food because I haven't been eating. I'll never be able to see the potential that they see in me; why they keep prolonging my life. I wish I could -- for just five minutes. I wish I could see what they see, why they insist they don't want me to die. Because all I see is guilt -- I think they say they want me to live because they'd feel guilty if they didn't say that.

29 April 2019

Honest Ramble

Can I be very, very honest about my life right now? Here is one of the few places I can be, because here, on this website, on my domain name, nobody is required to read anything I write. If you want to read it, fine. If you don't, fine. Nobody's forcing anything on this blog down anybody's throat. On Facebook and Instagram, I have a persona to keep up, at least a little bit. I do show frustration on there sometimes, but I try to balance it with humour (even if it's sarcastic/dark humour).

I'm frustrated beyond words at my lack of ability to get a job. I've been job-hunting for three years. And I'm not being picky. I've applied for waitressing, cashier, reception, janitor, construction, literally anything that I'm even kind of half-qualified for. I feel like a failure as a human being because I'm not self-sufficient, because I still need financial assistance. People tell me, 'just apply for everything.' I know... I've been doing exactly that for three years. And I feel like I'm defective, like something's fundamentally wrong with me because despite being very qualified for a variety of different types of work, literally nobody even contacts me for an interview or anything. How is it so easy for everyone else to get a job and not me? What's so horribly, horribly wrong with me that it's immediately obvious even to those who have never met me in person?

I haven't practiced dance since February. I just -- haven't. I was busy, then sick, then injured, then recovering, now sick again. And now I'm wondering if I even bother picking it up again because now I'll be so far behind -- again. And it's not like all that practice was serving me well anyway... I was easily the worst dancer in Fame.

I am bored as heck. Having no job and no more schoolwork (ever) has left me with a LOT of free time that I really wasn't prepared for. Ordinarily I would just use it for practice, but I'm not even sure I want to put in that much effort anymore... I'm not sure it's going to be worth the time and energy I've put into it, and I have so little energy to play with as it is. I'm not sure I should even bother pursuing the performing arts anymore. I'm not sure what I should be pursuing or what I should be doing. I feel very, very purposeless. Up till now, the arts was my purpose. But now... now I don't even have that. Never before in my life have I not had the arts, some kind of creative project, to capture my imagination and my days. Never, never before. Is this how people live? Is this the hell they wake up to every day? How do they breathe under that weight?

I just feel so, so useless. I feel like I have nothing to bring to the world that somebody else isn't already doing ten times better. I feel like everyone's got everything taken care of and they don't need me for anything. I worked so hard and I tried so hard and I practiced so much and it wasn't enough to be of use to anybody. I feel like I have nothing to contribute, nothing to say that hasn't already been said, nothing to do that hasn't already been done. They say to put your own unique stamp on the world and to live life as only you can, but my only calling card is that everything I do is subpar. And maybe that's not even my fault... but it feels like it is.

I don't want to just spend my life watching YouTube. I don't want to spend it scrolling through Facebook. But right now those are literally the only options available to me. I don't have a job and I don't have talent and I don't have money to start something even moderately big. I can't even do another dance video -- I don't have the money.
I'm scared that I'm just wasting my life and that I'll be mooching off my family for the rest of my life. I'm scared no-one needs me. I'm scared I'm missing something.

My brain literally feels like it's being eaten by acid -- melting, burning. I wanted so much to create things, but they're always, always subpar and I'm exhausted from expending so much energy into something that's worth nothing.

When you're a kid you can do something as stupid as make bracelets and sell them for $5 each and make money that way. But when you're an adult they expect so much more from you. They expect the world. They expect complete perfection. Nobody will pay $5 for a string with three beads on it made by a fully functioning adult human who's perfectly capable of going out and getting a job... right?

I feel unheard -- completely invisible. I send emails and it's like they're never received. I talk to people and it's like they never heard my voice. I stand by them, I even touch them, and they look right through me. It's like being gaslighted by the entire world -- 'I never ignored you.' Then why do you refuse to acknowledge my existence?

I'm aware that time is marching on and I'm doing nothing with it and it'll end soon and I'll have nothing to show for it, but it's not for lack of trying. I tried -- I tried. I freaking tried.

I feel like I'm trapped and I'm drowning and I can't get out.

25 April 2019

Too Personal

I've touched on this rant before. However, I've reined myself in in those instances. Here, I am going to give you the full, unadulterated, 100% pure-from-concentrate rant.

(Buckle up.)

In the more immediate aftermath of the Year from Hell (2015/my second year of college/when literally everybody I ever loved was dying), I was so consumed by the pain that admittedly, it was all I talked about. I was trying to process it, trying to hash it out, and as a result, I talked about it incessantly. I was angry, I was wounded, I felt like everybody was abandoning me (dying) and I was crying out for somebody to just not. I felt like everybody was leaving, despite my cries for them to stay -- it was like nobody heard me. I call this phenomenon 'screaming into the void.' I was screaming for someone to stay and they kept walking away, without even glancing back or checking their pace. As if I wasn't making any sound at all. As if they never even heard me. As if I wasn't even there.

So, in a desperate attempt to get some measure of sympathy or attention or even some acknowledgement that I wasn't invisible, I kept telling the story of my pain. Over and over. I was waiting for somebody to really, truly hear me. To listen. No-one did, so I kept rehashing the story. I wanted somebody to hear it, and I would keep telling it until somebody did or die in the attempt.

In May 2016, somebody who I had considered a friend told me through text (somewhat rudely) that I was getting 'too personal.' I was too stunned by his rudeness to ask what that meant, but I made a mental note to not bring up anything but fairy floss and unicorns around this person again (which, when your life is a living hell as mine was at the time, means you're never going to talk to them again). As best as I could figure given the limited context, 'personal' meant 'not ecstatically happy.'

Two months later, a very good friend of mine said the same thing -- the exact same words -- after I confronted her about blocking me on social media. This person knows pain very similar to mine, so this one hurt especially deeply. Our relationship still has a rift in it, as I now feel I can't talk with her about anything lest it be deemed 'too personal.'

In November 2016, in an email that was a direct factor in my suicide attempt four months later, a mentor said to me, 'you are being too personal. Nobody wants to hear about your troubles.' To me, this translated directly to, 'nobody will ever love you because your life has problems.' (Even though it was not my fault that everybody around me was dying.)
Even though I didn't attempt suicide till the following March, this email was the point where I mentally/emotionally gave up and these words were ringing through my head the night that I actually attempted suicide. Those words sent a very clear message that I was broken beyond repair and that nobody would ever want me in their lives.

What do we do with things that are broken beyond repair, things that nobody wants?

We throw them away.

People ask why I tried to kill myself. How could I be so selfish? they ask. Answer: Because I was broken and nobody wants a broken person. Broken people are a drain on friends, family, society, and -- I was told in no uncertain terms -- churches. We take energy and joy and hope from people and replace it with bleak despair. And Nobody Wants That. Don't lie to me -- you all told me that yourself, in those 'nobody wants to hear...' messages. I was going to throw myself away -- the way all broken things should be (sayeth society).

'Too personal' bothers me because it means that you think you can impose on me what I can and cannot say. You're trying to censor me. Everyone else gets to pull the 'free speech' card, so -- where's my right to free speech? More than that, it shows that you don't truly care about me. A true friend is there through everything -- good and bad, thick and thin. Yes, tough love is a useful tool, but it should be a last resort, not a wall you put up the SECOND a friend starts struggling. (Also, side note -- tough love really only makes sense if said friend is actively hurting themselves. However, if life is beating your friend down through no fault of their own -- you know, like if someone close to them dies -- that is not, not, NOT an appropriate time for tough love. THEY ARE IN MOURNING AND IT IS ABSOLUTELY NOT THEIR FAULT THEIR FRIEND/CLOSE RELATIVE DIED. STOP PUNISHING THEM FOR BEING SAD ABOUT SOMETHING OUTSIDE THEIR CONTROL.) The instant you throw out the 'too personal' line, you have permanently placed your friend at arm's length and told them that you are not a safe person to come to if they need it (for more on that, read this). I have literally ended friendships over this line (and it takes one heck of a lot for me to end a friendship -- I've only ended two or three friendships in my entire life, but they were all over this or very similar issues).

There's a quote that floats around the internet to the effect of 'If you can't handle me at my worst, you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best,' and that is SO true. Either you're with me through it all, or I'm done with you. I don't have the time or energy for fair-weather friendships who only want my perfect, happy life. If you love me, you love all of me, no matter how sad or frustrated or discouraged.

That being said, please hear this -- you don't have to fix me.

I'll say it again: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO FIX ME.

I don't expect you to make my life perfect again -- that's not possible for anybody. You just have to love me. If I trust you with the information of how difficult things are for me at the moment, that means I trust you. Take that as an honour. Don't destroy that trust by telling me that you have arbitrarily decided that I can't talk about a certain topic or issue in my life that I just want to hash out or verbally process.

Now, that's all frustrating, just on its own.

But even before you get to all of that crap, there's the fact that from an English-speaking standpoint, the phrase itself doesn't even make sense -- at least not in the context of me talking about something that's happened to me. It makes sense if I'm asking you questions about yourself and your life and you say, 'that's kind of a personal question, I'd rather not answer it.' That makes sense to me, but if I want to tell a story from my own life, how is that 'too personal?' What does that even mean? You're asking me to avoid something that can't even be properly defined. And a person who's struggling -- especially if they have a condition like depression -- will tend to swing to the opposite extreme. They will stop sharing their pain -- entirely. To anyone. Full stop. They -- we -- will carry it alone and bottle it up.

And bottled up pain, just like bottled up anger, will eventually explode, and sometimes pain explodes into a suicide attempt. And sometimes suicide attempts don't get thwarted -- sometimes the thing we try actually does kill us. Sometimes nobody calls. Sometimes the person doesn't find us in time. Sometimes telling someone to stop talking about their pain means that we listen -- permanently.

21 April 2019

It's Over (Graduation)

It's over.

It's really over.

It hasn't sunk in yet. My five years in the music program is complete. I have no more requirements to meet. I never have to sing for a grade again -- that weight will take a long time to come off my shoulders because it's been there for so, so long. I'm not tethered to this town anymore if I don't want to be. (Don't get me wrong, I don't hate it/am not completely jaded -- it's just that if opportunity arises elsewhere I can take it without having to work around classes.) Even today I've had to tell myself multiple times that I don't have to worry about class on Monday. I have literally no responsibilities on Monday other than practice -- and even then, it can be self-directed. I'm no longer working for a grade.

I don't think my body realises yet the full implication of that.

The end has come at a good time. I'm tired, mentally, physically, emotionally. I feel like I'm in a fog. This past semester my health started to tank on a couple of different fronts. I have no doubt that if I had to continue school next semester, things would have gotten worse. I'm undergoing outpatient treatment for one issue and have medication for the other that seems to be working, plus of course counselling. I'm half-expecting to finally get some kind of a cold or something because I've been fighting to keep going through sheer force of will since the end of February and I have few delusions that I won't crash at some point. There was a point where I had rehearsal of some kind, somewhere, for I think sixteen straight days. I still don't know when I actually wrote my psychology paper.

There's still stress. I literally have no idea which province I will be in after my current show wraps in mid-June so I don't even know where to job-hunt. But right now I am just completely, entirely spent. Exhausted. I often wonder why and then I realise this is the first I've stopped since February.

27 March 2019

Pieces of Starving

Written 23 March 2019.

Whatever this thing is that wants me dead -- mental illness, demons, whatever you want to call it -- is resourceful. I've started fighting to not be sad and negative all the time (because otherwise nobody will ever associate with me and I want human interaction more than anything), and in the absence of space to be sad, it's turned to other means.
In an attempt to get this out into the open but unwilling to burden my already long-suffering friends and acquaintances with yet another issue, I'm posting it here. If my friends see this, they see it of their own accord. I didn't force it on them, and I take comfort in that.

I've been restricting food. I've discussed this with my counsellor before on a couple of occasions, as it's popped up before. But each time it gets stronger. I only ate one meal yesterday, and it's 1.23pm as I type this and I haven't eaten yet today.

Part of it is finances -- I can't really afford to buy more food, so I'm trying to stretch out what I have.
Part of it is perfectionism -- 'you aren't good enough to deserve to eat.'
Part of it is scheduling -- between school and rehearsals and job-hunting, I don't have time to make food.
Part of it is exhaustion -- again, school and rehearsals and job-hunting take so much out of me that the thought of making and eating food makes me want to lay down and die because I just don't have the energy.
Part of it is for attention -- maybe if people notice I'm not eating they'll start paying attention to me, if only to intervene.
Part of it is suicidal -- if I stop eating, eventually I'll die. Maybe the too-soon death of one who literally starved for the sake of being good enough (too busy practicing to eat) will wake some people up. Plus, I'll be dead and won't have to fight anymore, and I'm just so tired of fighting. It seems pointless and I feel like I'm not really needed. Yeah, it would suck for the shows I'm in because they'll have to respace everything, but really, how much would it affect anyone's soul if I wasn't there? I'm shoved in the back anyway because I'm not good enough, it's not like anyone will notice I'm gone... and that's not their fault, it's mine. For not being good enough. For not practicing hard enough.

I shouldn't feel guilty for eating food, for spending the money, for not eating something other than eggs -- again, but somehow I do. It's not that I think I'm fat or need to lose weight, it's mostly just pure mental/physical exhaustion.

17 March 2019


These are the days that make me miss home. The blue sky, the sun, the smell of damp grass as the snow melts, the overwhelming brown of dead grass, mud, and last year's leaves.

I've noticed in the past few years that my depression worsens in the spring. Winter has always been my favourite season, and with each passing year I despise its departure more and more. I hate the mud, I hate the brown, I hate the slush and the damp and the receding snow. And I hate more than anything the fact that everybody gets so darn excited about it. Everybody everywhere suddenly starts celebrating the drab brownness everywhere and the mess and the fact that you can't take one step outside without getting covered in mud. How is this something to celebrate...? It's like they're rubbing the horribleness of the season in your face. Just when you thought you'd forgotten it's not crisp and clean outside anymore, someone comes up to you and says, with eyes brighter and wider than any human's should naturally be, 'ISN'T IT SO NICE AND WARM OUT TODAY BOY I THOUGHT WINTER WAS NEVER GOING TO END DON'T YOU JUST LOVE THE SUNSHINE THEY SAID IT'S SUPPOSED TO GET UP TO PLUS FIVE TODAY I'M GLAD I WORE SHORTS.' It's like a firehose of fake cheer in my face, trying to drown me. Have you actually looked outside? It's BROWN. No colour. No life. There's nothing beautiful about it. Don't tell me spring is when the flowers bloom, Martha, that happens in June. This is March.

And the statistics bear me out. Suicide rates spike in May. Not November. Not February. May.

For me, I realised today that one of the reasons my depression bottoms out at this time is because for whatever reason, days like this remind me of home. And I'm not home. And I won't be for the forseeable future. Ach, der mich liebt und kennt / Ist in der Weite.


Written 7 March 2019, 11.01pm.

I'm tired of trying so hard and sacrificing so much and only getting people telling me I'm still not trying hard enough/giving enough. I have sacrificed my time, money, sleep, meals, friendships, health, mental health... everything for this. And still it's not enough. What WILL be enough? What more do I even have left to give up to be good enough to satisfy everyone? Performing is all I have left. My life has become so narrow - there's nothing else I can give up, short of my actual physical life. And at the rate it's going, even that's not going to be enough for some people.

Unfortunately, those are the people that hold the roles in their hands.

04 March 2019


Last night, on a long-ish solo drive, I got thinking.

I've kind of been not-talking to a lot of my friends lately. It's not that I don't like them or have any problems with them, it's just that I know most of them have a LOT going on and I'm terrified to be a further drain on them, even more than I already have been. Of course, hot on the heels on this thought was the time-worn logic that's been dictating my life for over a decade -- if you were dead, you wouldn't be a drain on them anymore.

If only I could somehow make myself smaller. If only I could make myself need less. If only I could be even more self-sufficient. If only I didn't need SO MUCH people-time. If only I could be happy with the same surface-level relationships that everyone else manages to be happy with. If only I could somehow apologise deeply enough for the fact that I need so much from so many -- without immediately regressing back into the same behaviour that I'd just apologised for. If only I could apologise enough for taking up even the little 5'3 amount in time and space and oxygen. If only I could apologise for wasting the time of everybody I've ever said 'hello' to. If only I could be smaller. If only I could need less.

And I realised that I've been thinking these things, in some form or another, for as long as I can remember. Even as a kid. Even today, I'm constantly making myself small -- I draw my knees to my chest, I keep my things piled high rather than spread out and I keep them close to me, I tuck my feet under the chair, ankles crossed, I stand (against the wall) rather than sit, I keep my elbows tucked against my ribs and my hands close to my chest and face. I've been looking for ways to take up as little physical space as possible for so long that I do it without thinking now, and I feel guilty when I make any kind of expansive movement or step into the middle of a room or even raise my voice or start a conversation.

I'm tired of apologising for existing. But I don't know how not to feel guilty for breathing.

01 March 2019

Music Day - Tourist Trap

I recently acquired this album on vinyl. I already have it on CD/my iTunes, but this is one of my top five favourite albums of all time and I wanted it on vinyl.

For context, this is a space-age concept album, born out of the 'not of this world' school of thought that you find in the Bible (referring to the people of God whose home is not on earth, but in the kingdom of God). This is a theme also used by Larry Norman in his Only Visiting This Planet album (1972) and Petra's 1983 song Not Of This World, although in my completely biased opinion Crumbächer gave it the most thorough and relatable treatment.

Until I listened to the vinyl and read the enclosed lyric sheet, most of the lyrics of this song had eluded me. I had gotten the general idea of it -- that this was a song about how alluring fallen-earth society can be and how easy it is to get comfortable and to lose sight of the fact that this is not our home. But on the day I listened to this vinyl, lyric sheet in hand, I was not in a great headspace and I was starting to ruminate on suicide again (I say this casually only because it's such a common occurrence).

This song had never been a favourite of mine (that was an honour given to tracks like Royal Command Performance, Interstellar Satellite, and Solo Flight) -- until that day when nearly every single line leapt through the stylus and struck me, particularly this one:

When the pressure drives I want to stall
It would be so easy after all...

It would be so easy. At the time I was exhausted -- physically, mentally, emotionally. The thought of waking up every single morning for the next sixty years and fighting literally non-stop with the demon in my head when I was already so deeply depleted at such a (relatively) young age was more than I could stand. All I wanted was to stop fighting. I just wanted a break. I just wanted to breathe without something telling me I couldn't or that I wasn't working hard enough or that I wasn't good enough. The song's opening lines capture it so perfectly: [W]hen every day's a constant uphill climb / They say the joy of living can get lost within the bittersweet of time...

In spite of that, the chorus continues:
So I sally forth, try, try again
Passing up a 'last chance' now and then...

I couldn't feel the same determination that Stephen and Co. feel in this song within myself, but I caught enough of theirs that it inspired me to keep going, just one more day.

Title: Tourist Trap
Artist: Crumbächer
Album: Escape From The Fallen Planet
Year: 1986
Label: Frontline Records
iTunes here; YouTube here.

Musically, I think my favourite moment is the key change after the guitar solo (I'm always a sucker for a key change). Other highlights include Crumbächer's trademark harmonies and of course plenty of space-age keyboards. There's a nice little guitar solo in here too (a rarity in early Crumbächer, but I think it gives the song added weight and substance).

17 February 2019

What is Good?

The last two days have been full of despair and fear. I have exactly $20 cash to my name. One of my most promising opportunities for the summer may not even happen -- leaving me very much in the lurch and forcing me to make long-term decisions sooner than I anticipated. And overall I've been feeling very alone. I just want to spend time with someone, but it seems everyone's busy. And this makes me frustrated because I feel guilty for needing so much people-time.

I was reading over the last few posts on this blog the other day and I realised that it's been pretty depressing here as of late. I want to do a 'good' post, a sort of hopeful post, but I didn't know how or what about. So I'm just going to bullet-point it.

- This past week I've finally started work on Kyrie again. I'm truly loving writing this story right now. I'm trying not to think too much about how many plot holes and loose ends there still are and how many characters are severely underdeveloped.

- Peanut butter banana smoothies. Some days this is literally the only thing that makes me happy.

- I recently obtained a copy of Crumbächer's incredible album Escape From The Fallen Planet on vinyl. This is one of my top five favourite albums of all time, and I've wanted it on vinyl for several years. I finally got a chance to listen to it today, while reading the lyric sheet.
I've known and loved this album (on CD) for years now. It was one of only three albums that I could stand to hear for about six months following my cousin's sudden death, so I played it a LOT. But there were always a few lyrics that eluded me, and now, reading them in full, soaking in the rich, full sound of the vinyl, I discovered (as I had rather hoped) another layer of conceptual and sonic depth to this album. This is what I love in good music. This is what I look for -- I look for the music that will give me new things for years and years to come, no matter how many times I play it.

- My mom and my brother came to visit for a few days. It was nice to walk around campus actually talking to someone rather than wandering about all by myself.

- On Friday one of my friends came up and gave me a hug.

- Michael W. Smith's '80s output. (i 2 (EYE) and The Big Picture.) Also the Imperials' ...This Year's Model.

07 February 2019

For Free

The perfectionistic self-hatred is bad tonight.

Will I ever be good enough? Will I ever practice enough to satisfy anybody? Will I ever actually earn the title 'dancer,' without some authority insisting that I'm not good enough for it?

How good do I have to be? How many more hours of practice per day do you want from me? Is the fact that I practice literally to the point of physical collapse -- sometimes twice a day -- still not good enough? What will be? Three times? Five? Ten?

I'm almost up to professional ballerina practice hours -- though I'm still a student and am looking for actual paying work on the side -- and I'm not even getting paid for all those hours of my life that I spend in the studio or the practice room. If I was getting paid even $12 an hour (which I think is roughly minimum wage) for all the hours of practice I do, I would be making $430 a week. A week. I'm currently making $0... but I'm still doing it. (Never mind the fact that 'dancer' or 'performer' is a highly specialised field and probably should be making something more like $50 an hour -- or, $1800 a week at my current practice schedule.)

In other words, every single week I'm doing over a thousand dollars' worth of work -- for free. I don't even get recognition or thanks or anything for the effort I'm putting in... I just get yelled at for going to the place that the choreographer set for me in the choreography two days ago that he apparently forgot about. I get yelled at for turning my face away from the audience -- because I was in the middle of a turn that HE choreographed. I get told by my teachers that I'm lying to them when I tell them how many hours I'm practicing every day because they haven't seen enough improvement to make those hours feasible. (Do they not think I'm just as frustrated about it -- if not even more so -- then they are?)

$1000 per week of time and energy and effort (not to mention wear and tear on my dance shoes).

A lifetime of being told I'm not good enough and not doing enough even though my schedule is maxed out and have literally no more hours in the day to practice -- per week.

For free.

How the hell is this justified?

I just want to be good enough for you. Tell me what that will take. Or have you just decided you hate me so much you will never tell me that I really am a half-decent dancer/performer?

Will anything ever satisfy you -- you, the choreographers and directors who hold my destiny in your hands; you, my teachers who of all people know where I started; you, perfectionism, the demon in my mind with the whip, telling me I don't deserve to live because I'm not good enough and I never will be.