5 things I thought would be different when I left home

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It has been almost 10 years since I left home and went out into the wild, scary, unknown world of adulthood living. I feel like I was truly and utterly underprepared for what was out there, and had I known, I’d have pulled a jew-dude (TM) and stayed at home until I was thirty.

But just like with black, there’s really no going back once you have fled the familial nest.

I just had so many misconceptions on what I thought living away from my parents would look like.

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  1. “I can eat whatever I want!”
    Oh, oh…ohhh how I dream of the lovingly prepared home cooked meals of yesteryear. So angry and angsty was I, when a meal was NOT EXACTLY what I felt like eating, but instead an equal measure of vegetables, meat and grains. MEAT! Do you know how expensive that shit is?! What I would give, to have two middle aged people cooking for me three times a day…
  2. “I can stay up SO late”
    Want to know what I did Friday, Saturday and Sunday night this past weekend? Binge watched The Wire (because I’m about 15 years behind in my television programming at this point). I am a morning person, so around 10/10.30pm I start to fade fast. I used to think living away from my parents would be sooooooo wicked because I could just drink and party and watch movies all night long…Turns out my favourite thing these days is sleep. Yeah. I’m pretty cool actually.

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  3. “I do what I want!”
    So long as it doesn’t cost money. Seriously. Sometimes over the last few years I have had all of the freedom and none of the money (funemployed/between contracts) and other times I have had some of the money and none of the time (J.O.B). When can I have all of the money and all of the freedom? (right…right…when I rob a bank Oceans Eleven style…got it…have you guys SEEN that movie? It just came out recently in 2001)
  4. “I can date whoever I choose!”
    Remember when your parents hated that guy you were dating in High School and you were like IHATEYOUWEAREINLOVEyoudon’tunderstandmeGETOUTOFMYROOM! Yeah well. Turns out they were right. Man when I was single, I would have given my left ovary (she’s the gimpy one I suspect) for my parents to be hovering over my shoulder as I swiped like: “No. No. No. Yes Paris. No he will have a weird thing for feet. No. No. What about that nice boy from the coffee shop?” It turns out I just wanna date guys that my parents will like and not weirdo’s with spider-man face tattoo’s. Go figure.
  5. “I’m going to get a creative job and YOU CAN’T STOP ME!”
    In grade 12 when picking degree time came, my mother said to me: “Do a degree with the name of a job in it” and I laughed in her face as I applied for my Bachelor of Arts. I guess, if you were to squint your eyes, choke yourself a bit until no oxygen went to your brain and then smoked some meth – you could really consider my whole life one elaborate “Art”. “So what do you do Paris?” oh me? I’m Art. Yeah I studied it at University. In reality, life has been interesting in the working world (#noregrets) but I definitely find myself veering more towards the corporate world as I see all my fellow creatives struggling and think fucccckthatshit. Oh you live in a basement apartment with your sibling, sister and co-business partners and you work in a deli 3 days a week but your new album just dropped on myspace? Cool dude, Imma go over here and work on my excel skills though….

So many people I know have babies now. Literally holding an infant a week ago and thinking: “this adorable squishy baby girl is going to slam a door in your face some day.”

I wish I could go back ten years and slap some sense into my 17 year old self. Eat my free meals, get my free laundry, and remind myself that unfortunately…your parents were right. Uh! Gross.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…or maims you horrifically for life

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I like that saying: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”(WDKYMYS). It sounds good, it’s inspirational. It makes you think “Heck, things were tough/awful/soul destroying – but I’m still here!!”

People have appropriated that saying into songs (looking at you Kelly Clarkson), put it on T-shirts, tattooed it on their bodies, put it over pictures of sunsets and posted it on each others walls when their friends have been dumped by jerk’s named Derrick (fuck you Derrick you meanie!)

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I like the expression, but I don’t know if I always agree with it.

Because sometimes things kill you a little bit inside and they make you feel weaker, they throw off your game.

Was Leo’s character stronger at the end of the Revenant after he got fucked up by a bear, watched his son get murdered, was left for dead and then had to crawl through the snow and shit of 1800’s Canada to Murder my future ex-husband/baby-daddy Tom Hardy’s character? (Oh yeah, spoiler alert… but seriously if you haven’t seen that movie yet get your shit together – it was nominated for and lost best picture like 5 months ago).

I mean…I guess he was stronger – like how calluses get stronger on the tops of your feet. But he was also weaker because he had lost his humanity, and he was a murderer murderer and he was gross (like a callus – see how I tied all that together? Yay Creative Writing Masters degree)

I wonder if people use WDKYMYS as a way to excuse awful situations they don’t know how to extricate themselves from?

I’d consider myself a strong person who has faced some challenges. Would I exchange them for an easy life where some of the shitty things didn’t happen to me? Yes of course! I’m not insane. Faced with two choices: an easy road and a hard, bush-basher of a path, I think most of us would choose the easy option.

But life doesn’t work like that, and there are plenty of things that will try to throw you off the plans you’ve made, a death in the family, a financial set-back, a painful divorce, an unexpected illness.

So I propose a re-word. “What doesn’t kill you makes you different” – because not all things make you stronger, and thats okay too.

You are not a failure if you come out of a near-death-esque experience and think: “well that fucking sucked” and you’re not stronger.

End of Thought.

 

Do battle, be brave.

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Every new day poses a question to each of us: how are you going to live today?

Though the internet has moved on to its obsession with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, I still find myself unable to quite process the “old news” of Robin Williams death a few weeks ago.

I did not wade into the fray of online grief and tributary at the time, I did not want to add my voice to the collective cacophony. His death brought back some pretty frightening reminders of a time when the Black Dog stalked in the shadows of my family and the outcome that could have been.

I see Robin Williams death as a very real and present reminder that you never truly know the daily struggles of the person standing next to you. To the world, this very talented and hysterical comedian was Robin FUCKING Williams. If you have ever seen the man do stand up or speak in interviews, you know that he is an incredible performer and improvisor, one who is vibrating on a different frequency than the rest of us.

And yet the man took his own life.

It just stands as a reminder that we are each doing battle daily with our own demons.

From the girl I know, who is Cancer free a year later, who has been quietly fighting since her diagnosis, to the friends who have JUST moved to Toronto to start a new life – leaving their old ones behind and struggling to figure out where they belong in this jigsaw puzzle. To those fighting heartbreak over lost love, and still others bravely facing the frustration over unemployment, financial difficulties, and family trauma – everybody has their something.

Sometimes I need the gentle reminder to be kinder to those around me, because as the quote reads, everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about, and it is all too easy to point the finger and say “they don’t have it as bad as…(fill in the blank).”

Every day we are faced with challenges, be they big or small, and it is the way that we navigate them that makes us who we are. Sometimes there are days when getting out of bed is the hardest thing we have to overcome, and to do that requires immense strength and the flexing of determination and will. There is no way to say that achieving one foot in front of the other on a given day is any less important or incredible than fighting a dragon or climbing Mount everest.

I try to be as open as possible. There are few things you could ask me that I wouldn’t be brutally honest about.

Why is that?

Too much of life is airbrushed and photoshopped out into the perfect image of what we think our lives should look like.

When I have struggled in the past, I would look around and think “everybody has it all worked out, but me” and I would feel like a failure.

And we all know that is not true, we’re all just winging it daily, fighting our battles the best we can, and going on.

Because the only other option than to continue on is to stop.

I wish someone had helped Robin see that wasn’t his only option.

Not all battles have to be fought alone.

http://www.beyondblue.org.au/

I’m really glad I didn’t successfully murder you during our childhood

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I’m not one to get all mushy (pffft yes I am) and write about how schweet my life is (all the time… that’s literally all I write about)  or how great my family is (they fucking CRaYcraY) but I just have to take a step back today and tell you about my awesome brother.

I left home like most expat brats I know, at 18, to attend University in a far off City. I had not been living with my siblings for a couple of years before that due to THE DIVORCE (duhn duhn duuuuuuhn) and because my parents loved my siblings more than me and sent them to an awesome boarding school in Thailand (kidding, they fully love me most). After graduating with an Undergraduate in black-out-binge-drinking and a Masters in enjoy-struggling-to-find-gainful-employment-sucker, I went home to Mother for a few months before promptly fucking off to an even further away city at the top of the globe that made my whole family go “huuuuhhhh?”.

I didn’t even like my brothers when I was a kid. Good GOD I thought they were annoying. They followed my friends around, my Mum was always making me include them, and they were SOOOOOO embarrassing because I was SOOOOOO cool (I was definitely, definitely not cool – I know – I have the diaries). I would have chosen staying in my room alone brooding over Hanson and Avril Lavinge songs, rather than be seen anywhere in public with my two closest blood-relations, EVEN if there was free food and dessert (oh how things change…).

HOLY HELL! Look at the size of that new born! Seeyalater pelvic floor

HOLY HELL! Look at the size of that new born! Seeyalater pelvic floor

So it was a great win for me to convince by younger brother to move to the same city as me. Almost a decade of living 5-9 hours plane ride apart, we now reside in the same hockey-loving, negative degree weather 6 months of the year, maple syrup guzzling, Parlez-vous garbled french, city of Toronto. And honestly I love having that younger, taller, genetically pretty similar version of myself around.

I dare us to be cuter

I dare us to be cuter

Aside from the fact that I now have a very conveniently located meat bag of organs to steal from were I to suffer an horrific accident, I also have someone I can easily manipulate to try weirder and weirder brunch places with me every weekend. Having my brother around means busting out my awful Cantonese when I go to Chinatown and order everything off the menu (and eat until I think I might die) and not have someone stare at me like I’m some kind of freak. Having my brother around means feeling like not a crazy person because we have both led big, wide, international lives and it isn’t weird that we had to get new passports before our old ones ran out. Having my brother here means I don’t have to go do shit by myself that I don’t want to do alone. Having my brother here means I can bitch to someone that’s not 12-16 hours in the future…MY PAIN IS REAL AND PRESENT!

I’m really proud of that dread-locked giant and what he has achieved since he moved to Canada. I was getting worried that small town Australia was going to suck him in and never let him go. Australia is a great country – but there is a lot to see out there and a lot more to care about than Australian X-factor.

Our same-city dwelling will probably be short lived as he plans to venture out West later this year, and I’ve started getting that itchy brain thing where I might pack up shop at any moment and shoot off somewhere new, but for now, I’m just grateful we had the opportunity to reconnect as adults. I can’t think of many people I still know (and like) 23 years later.

Do yourself a favor and call your sibling.

If for no other reason so that you know how far that Kidney is going to have to travel to get to you.

Nawwww

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Things that I am actually really thankful for that might not seem obvious all the time

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Well…it’s Thanksgiving weekend in Canada (America is doing its own thing in november I think) and because I like to embrace things I feel I missed out on as an Australian child in Asia, I’ve decided to embrace this tradition whole heartedly.

I think it’s fantastic to have a national holiday related to the giving of thanks and I’m cool with the idea of stuffing your face, whatever the reason (even though our Thanksgiving this year is going to feature more Veggie friendly options due to my roommates non-meat-eating-ways… “no no you’re right, this tofurkey IS delicious” *cries*)

There are just so many things to be thankful for in life, and the obvious ones like my parents, my friends, blah blah, those are boring. Here is a list of things I am actually really thankful for that might not seem obvious all the time to you, but that we should take a moment to be thankful for once in a while.

Thanks Mr Garbage Man

Thanks Mr Garbage Man

I am really thankful that other people work shitty jobs, so that I don’t have to:
I used to work in retail, and it sucked, hard. But one thing I learnt from that (shitty) experience, was that I needed to be mindful of people doing kindof crappy jobs so that I don’t have to, and to make sure I give them my thanks. Like people who work in Cafe’s doling out life-giving coffee at 7.45am. Do you know what time those people had to get up so that they could be open and ready for you as you start your morning commute? Like, 3am. That’s fucking early man. Or garbage dudes who take my smelly refuse away from the place that I sleep and eat most days. Ew.

What did they do in the good-ol days before government controlled waste disposal? I don’t know, and I don’t care to briefly google it to find out. So thankyou Garbo’s, and people who work in human waste-getting-rid-of-…ness. I am glad I don’t have to deal with my own shit figuritively and literally. And people who work on farms/turning animals into the food I eat. I don’t want to kill things and feel bad… so… thanks to you guys also for making my life less shitty. And such.

I am really thankful that I do not have an STD:
Last year a rumour was spread amongst a group of people I knew that I had herpes, which infuriated me at the time (obviously) but now just makes for a great story and something to laugh about with my friends (because I actually sortof accidently kindof  started a rumour the year before that a friend of mine had an STD…Karma is a swift and unforgiving biiiitch). But really, I don’t spend enough time being thankful about the fact that there are no viruses in and around my Vajajay. I definitely do not have the money to be spending precious drinking dollars on fancy anti-herp or wart creams, and, lets be honest, I don’t have the commitment to apply that shit on the reg, so. Yeah. I’m thankful that my parents always stressed that CONDOMS were whats-up with getting-down. Thanks Mum and Dad, you guys are the greatest.

I am really thankful for Sand:
It’s tiny smashed up rocks and shells. Isn’t that amazing!? Yes you guys, yes it is.

I am really thankful that I am a blonde, white woman with big boobs:
I know, I know. You’re sick of me mentioning my breasts at every available opportunity (sooooorrrrry, they’re literally in front of my face all day every day) and now you’re kindof worried that I’m about to say something semi-racist. But no. Ish. I’m just saying that I’m grateful to be me, because if I was me, but a dude, I might get punched in the face a lot more than I do.

I pull a lot of shit and get away with it because I can play the ditsy-blonde-girl card, the foreigner card (like the time the cop wanted to charge me for jaywalking… hellooooo we don’t have roads in Australia…how was I supposed to know), and the outraged-indignant-feminist card (are you saying that because I am a WOMAN?!)

So thank you Genes, and circumstance and evoltion, for allowing me to be a bitch and still get free drinks on a semi-freuquent occassion.

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I am really thankful that Sharks do not have legs:
I fucking hate Sharks. Have you ever seen ‘Deep Blue Sea’? That is the scariest fucking movie of all time (apart from ‘The Candyman’ which I watched at an innapropriately young age, about a man with hooks for hands that can come at you through a mirror if you say “candyman” three times in a row) about Sharks that get smart and sink a Shark Research centre in the middle of the ocean and try to kill all of the people working there. Why Sharks, WHY?!

Sharks are dicks.

So I guess I don’t spend enough time being thankful that Sharks are safely in the ocean, and I am safely on the land. Really, in my day to day urban life, I have no natural predators (except for rapists and gun-men) and for that I am truly thankful. And I’m glad to live in Canada now because all the things that were very real dangers in Australia (deadly spiders, snakes and sharks) would all freeze to death over here in the winter. Yay -20 degrees. Kill all the things.

I am really thankful that when we cry, we cry tears, and not glass shards:
The human body is an amazing thing that makes me go “wow” on a regular basis. Like, WOW you grew a human person from your orgasim and a tiny egg-thing we can’t even see. And your partner carried it inside them somewhere between their guts and where they pee? Humans right!? Astonishing.

So it’s good that our humanly functions (apart from childbirth) aren’t too painful. Like crying. Tears are soft water droplets that you can’t even really feel, but imagine if they were tiny sharp shards of glass so that when you cried, you probably would cry more because of the pain. And then your cheeks would just be all scraped and torn up.

Children would be a lot quieter, there would be less sad movies, and people in general would mostly be hardasses. So thankyou evolution for making me not bleed from my eyes when I’m having a bad day/meltdown/PMS.

I am really glad that weekends exist:
Imagine if we lived in a world where there were no such things as days off or weekends. It would be like Brave New World or 1984.

Bill: Hey Gary, what you up to today.
Gary: Work. And you?
Bill: Same! And then the next 7 years of our lives?
Gary&Bill: Woooorrrkk!

If weekends didn’t exist, I would have no good stories to tell at parties because I wouldn’t have the opportunity to shame myself and regret my poor life choices. No good story ever started with “and then on a worknight this one time…”

There are so many other things to be thankful for, like how Kim Jong Il is not your dad, George Lucas isn’t directing the next Star Wars, and Sloths are a creature that really are real in real life (for a long time I thought they were an internet hoax – seriously…)

I hope you’ll take a minute to appreciate the things that you might not normally be thankful for, but that you probably should.

Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

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Tell me I’m Pretty

If there is one saving grace to retail (and it’s a stretch to even suggest there is) it is not, as may be expected, the 50% discount on clothes (because it just makes it that much easier to SPEND your hard-earned cash there), for me, it is in fact the customers.

I guess I haven’t been working in customer service long enough to have a horror story about a crazy that walked off the street and into a rage at me because they were having a bad day (although there was a lady a few days ago who yelled at a co-worker of mine when she tried to “return” a pair of pants my store doesn’t carry with the tags snipped off).

I am a people person, a curious writer, and generally a nosy mole, who likes to try and find out what makes people tick. Don’t worry, I have already quizzed all my co-workers about their life stories (and stealthily tried to figure out how they got stuck in retail after having degrees…more out of horrified fascination than anything else…like looking at the blue flame welders use..bad for the senses but impossible to look away) and a part of the selling gig is to try and figure out what the client wants and how to get it.

The shop/chain I work for sells only women’s clothes and accessories and they are kind of corporate, but on the reasonably priced side. The shop is also located in an underground shopping mall on the PATH system (a rabbit warren-like affair that stretches underground through parts of downtown Toronto to prevent people from having to go outside in the freezing cold. It is like an underground city with clothing stores, banks, food courts…waxing places…juice bars…there’s probably a car dealership down there somewhere. I’m not sure why there would be…but I’m sure there is) and most of the customers we get work in the corporate offices stacked on top of us.

The ladies range in age from Intern-types fresh out of Uni, to the older working woman. And while there are customers I have connected with, and those that I haven’t, my favourite age group is the late thirties to mid forties/early fifties. These are women who ACTUALLY listen to what I have to say, ask my opinion, want to open the fitting room door and show me what they got.

Some of these women remind me of my Mum. They are mostly patient and not used to shopping for themselves so they are willing to listen to suggestions. They have money so they aren’t horrified by a sweater that costs $30.

A lot of them have body issues. A lady today who was gorgeous, Indian skin but with a cool British accent, told me she’d recently lost 19 pounds on some German diet I think she called the “Dukan”? She liked a little black corporate dress and she tried on the Small and the XS. She had a petite frame but you know what? She had a bit of a wobbly bit on front.

“My Kids did that”

She told me. And she tried on both sizes, got a belt to try to jazz it up, put a cardigan over it to see…and she just couldn’t sell it to herself. My approach to this crappy job is that I never want to be pushy. I am a natural talker and I’m honest. I am competitive so, I want to do well in any situation, but I REFUSE to lie and act like a simpering idiot. I was straight with her and told her it looked great but that it was a personal preference. I too happened to be wearing a little black corporate number and you know what? I have a jiggle round the middle too. AND I HAVEN’T EVEN HAD KIDS! No excuse.

This lady, who was super nice and interested in my Aussie accent told me that she hadn’t worn form-fitting clothes in a long time. She was getting used to her body again. She didn’t buy the dress, but I think she felt a little bit confident and sexier having tried it on.

Same deal with the lady who came in on Friday and need an after work drinks type shirt for a last-minute reunion at a pub. She grabbed an XL shirt and I made her get a large. She was shocked. I made her try it on and it wasn’t even tight. It was more form-fitting for sure. I told her the truth, that she had a great waist and that she should emphasize it. We chatted for quite a while and when she left, (after buying the shirt) she turned to my manager and said “I hate shopping, but i’ll be back because of her”, and she smiled and waved, even gave me a cheeky wink!

These women, who are still attractive, functioning, smart, hardworking people, come into a shop for 15-20 minutes and talk to me – blah, under functioning, retail-bum, Masters-holding random (who by the way used to dress appallingly), and they can walk away feeling good because somebody told them that something looked good on them?

I want to stand on the street corner stopping random people and tell them they look nice today, or that that colour suits them. If an item of clothing can put a spring back in their step, then maybe retail ain’t so bad.

Anyway, I’ll keep getting up and going back because I need to support myself while I do this internship and figure out WTF I am doing with my life…but if these ladies keep coming back…then maybe I’ll even learn to smile about it…

a bit…

Paris

I’m proud of you

I tell people frequently that I have two brothers. Okay that’s not true. When people ask me if I have siblings, I often tell people “I have two GAY brothers.”

I don’t know why I say it like that. Being Gay is not the feature that defines them. K is a compassionate, sweet, hardworking, wise guy who takes off to Europe for two weeks just to look around. R is the fiercest and most outspoken person I know. He might still be figuring out who he is, but he’s always questioning himself and the world/society around him. He challenges pre-disposition and assumption.

I am sure they don’t go around telling people that they have a STRAIGHT sister.

I have written about my family in lots of different posts. They are a huge part of my life despite being far away. You have to understand that when you are an expatriate family, you are a tight unit, a cog that spins separate but connected to the rest of a wider machine. You move around, and the only thing that stays the same, are your five faces in the picture frame.

When R came out when he was 14 (I was 19) I was at University and the news shocked me. Not that there was anything wrong being gay, but I didn’t honestly think of my baby brother of having sexual preferences of any kind. He is still my baby brother now, even though he’s allowed to drink alcohol in bars (that’s weird).

That first year, when he was out and honest about his sexuality, I spent a great deal of time making gay jokes with my other brother K. Behind his back, some to his face, some little comments here and there that we giggled about. AND I’M THE OLDEST. I was supposed to lead by example.

I’ll never forget when I got a call from my Mum a year later saying, “By the way K has come out too.”

I was shocked, and I obviously felt ill. I had spent twelve months making fun of being gay (even though I considered myself tolerant and had some gay friends) with my brother, who was also gay, and who hadn’t told me.

I felt like an awful person first off, and an awful sister. These are my kid brothers, the ones who DESTROYED my barbies and who played hot wheels with me, and who rolled around in the dirt and collected frogs in a bucket during monsoons with me. What did it matter who they loved/wanted to bang? Hadn’t I always said that I was colour-blind, having been raised an Expat Brat? Why did my tolerance only extend so far.

I also felt left out. Like they hadn’t been able to confide in me. I used to OVERSHARE with them and they couldn’t even tell me this one, major thing?

I beat myself up a lot for a while. I questioned a lot of my “tolerant” beliefs and my fears, because that is what it is when you are homophobic, and that is what I was when I cracked gay jokes.

I questioned myself every time I used the word gay as a derogatory, such as “That’s soooo gay” to be a bad thing. How could I say that? How could I not have known?

The truth is, there is a lot of ignorance out there, and people happy to reside in that state of mind. I am not one of them. I do not believe ignorance is bliss. Mama says: Ignorance is just ignorance.

And she’s right.

As per usual.

The truth is, I am so so proud of my brothers. I’m proud of the way they are who they are and they just don’t give a fuck. They wake up in the morning with solid self-understanding. I’m proud of the way they can be true to who they are, and have chosen to walk a more difficult path, but one where they don’t hide themselves. I am proud of them for reaching out to the LBGT community and giving support.

I am proud of my parents for being supportive and tolerant and loving. I am proud of my Mum, who is currently directing a play in Hong Kong called “My big gay Italian wedding” and who is promoting it and tackling important issues about being the mother of Gay sons.

I know that I am still learning tolerance and acceptance from my family, and I know that I will always believe that if you are a good person, then please, love who you love, marry who you want to marry. Be happy, be free. I am sure that I have a long way to go where understanding is concerned, but I am trying to be a supportive force, not a fearful negative one.

Hi my name is Paris and I have two brothers.