Such pretty words

In January of this year, I wrote four essays in two weeks, along with some journalism assignments, totaling some 10,000 words. I posted about how I never wanted to write another word again. Later that day, I posted the first bit about how Fae and I were starting to work on The Book.

The truth is that I can’t live without writing. I have been doing it as long as I remember. I even enjoy writing essays and journalism assignments (except when I procrastinate too much). I love words. I love communicating. I love creating an image with words.

In 2009, I started to take my writing seriously. Fae and I wrote over 50,000 words of The Book. We even attempted NaNoWriMo (we failed though… we got maybe 5,000 words in November). I started blogging regularly, something I greatly enjoy. This time last year, the only person who read my blog was Fae. Over the summer I managed to post nearly every weekday. I started to feel my way through this blogosphere, and where I wanted to be in it. I still have a lot to think about, and big plans for this blog. But the point is that I was writing. All the time. And in writing, as in all things, practice makes perfect, right? I’m learning how to write the stories that make up my own life.

I also started to write some other things. Things I never thought I’d write. Like right now I’m working on a series of monologues.

I’m learning how to think like a writer. How to be serious about this, as a possible future. How to grow as a writer. I have a long way to go, but I am really loving it so far.

Enjoy your own company. If you don’t, who will?

My fortune from a cookie in a bag of Christmas treats. Appropriate, I think, to how I’ve been feeling recently.

Someone, the kind of person who was used to being around people, once asked me how I stand living alone. And I replied “You get used to being around yourself. More than that, you start to like your own company.”

When I first moved to Newcastle, I was a wreck. I went days without speaking to anyone. I traveled by myself, took self portraits at arm’s length in front of beautiful scenery. The first night in my new apartment, I wouldn’t open the door to my  bedroom. The rest of the place was too big, if I thought about what was outside the bedroom, I would feel small. There was too much space for one person. I was terrified that I had made all of the wrong decisions. I made my sister talk to me for hours, because I couldn’t sleep and I needed to feel like there was someone else in the world.

my "flat" in Newcastle

But slowly, it started to change. I started to enjoy being alone. I stopped fearing being left with my thoughts. I sang loudly and walked around in my underwear and I started to realize that I was kind of a fun person to be around. That I actually *gasp* liked myself.

This is a huge accomplishment for me. I have spent over a decade hating myself. I was really good at it. I wasn’t thin enough. Pretty enough. Smart enough. Funny enough. Kind enough. And it wasn’t anyone else who thought I wasn’t enough. It was just me.

Love yourself. If you don’t, who will?

I almost don’t believe myself as I type this. But in the past four months or so, I have quite learned to love myself. It’s pretty bad. I mean, I can’t get enough of how awesome I am. I’m pretty, I’m smart, I’m funny, I’m nice. Enough. Or more. Crazy to think, eh? It may sound vain, but I can’t seem to care much, after so long of hating myself.

Because I have always been my biggest critic.

So I gave myself a break. There are things I don’t like about myself. There are things that others don’t like about me. But it’s the same for every other person. No one is perfect. And I think I’m finally learning to accept that. I may be more than a little lost. I may procrastinate too much, eat too much chocolate. But I’m doing okay. Truly.

Of course, give me a few months (days.. minutes?) and I may hate myself again…

2009 has taught me a lot about myself. Probably more than any other year. And hopefully that means that 2010 will be a year of loving myself, of enjoying my own company.

Pretty Good Year

I didn’t have any resolutions for 2009. At least, not as far I as can remember. Mind, I don’t remember much from New Year’s Eve 2008. [Oh, apparently I resolved not to drink hard liquor... I didn't manage that one.]

I don’t know if I agree with the idea of resolutions. One one hand, they are ideas for personal and professional growth and improvement. But they often seem to end up as a list of the things you hate about yourself that you wish to change. Lose 20 lbs. Quit smoking. Find a boyfriend. Eat healthy.

I already have a list of things to do before I die. I consistently makes lists of things I want to do, to buy, to be. I don’t want to resolve to do or be anything in the next year, because what I want seems to change everyday.

Over the next few posts I want to write about my accomplishments of 2009. And then things I hope to accomplish in 2010. Maybe it’s just a question of semantics. But it sounds much better to me than resolutions…

Listography

I make lists when I can’t sleep. Books I want to read. Places to go. Names. Things. Colours. Words that start with L.

listography by lisa nola

I got this for Christmas. And I am writing an autobiography in lists.

List your biggest fears. Apocalypse. Spiders. Death.

List the countries you’ve visited. Ireland. France. England. Scotland. U.S.A. Dominica Republic. (Note: add more soon.)

List the people you’ve lived with. Jess. Chris. Alaina. Valerie. Rosie. Kristen. Taylor.

List your character flaws. Condescending. Judgmental. Intolerant. Selfish. Impatient.

List your guilty pleasures. Chocolate chips. Fried chicken. Disney Channel movies. Lifetime movies. TLC. Nutella with a spoon.

List things you think everyone should do if money is not an issue. Get amazing hair cuts. Order dessert. Live abroad. Learn.

List the things people should remember you for. Cheesy jokes. Words. (I’m stuck there…)

Something about making lists calms me. In the same way equations in math class used to. It’s a formula. A process. There is no interpretation, no overthinking.

This is a good time of year for lists. I will write a few more before January 1st.

Where you want to be

I like to think that cities have souls. That there’s something that reaches out to us in your favourite cities - atmosphere, feeling, life. Something that draws us to them.

Are you a small town person, a where-everybody-knows-your-name person? Are you a big city, metropolis, crowded subway person? Are you trees and parks or skyscrapers and shopping malls? Are you peace and quiet or lively and happening? Maybe you aren’t these things. But your favourite city is. Maybe it’s the opposite of you. Maybe you’re really shy and quiet but you love a city that screams around you and you just fade into the background?

london underground, par moi

I love London. I have since the first time I stepped off the tube from Heathrow. I’ve been four times in the last two years, and I have never run out of things to do. I like the feeling of London. It’s a huge city- the world happens in London. But it has neighbourhoods and sections that are basically autonomous.  Like Neil Gaiman said in his short story, Keepsakes and Treasures, “London is mad. Multiple personality problems. All these little towns and villages that grew and crashed into each other to make one big city, but never forget the old borders.”

It’s strange because I don’t generally like big cities. In fact, I normally hate them. I don’t do well in crowded places and I find it very difficult to look past crowded high streets and chain stores to find the character of a big city.

I hated New York City. I didn’t much care for most of Dublin. But I loved Galway.

galwaybay21

Galway felt like home. On the bus ride from Dublin to Galway, you pass a beautiful ruined castle on the ocean. The tide was out and there were little tide pools among the rocks. Even though I had originally planned to live in Dublin for the summer, the minute I saw Galway I knew it was where I wanted to be. Galway is a small city, though the third largest in Ireland. It’s cobblestones, small pubs and buskers. It’s the famous Galway Bay of songs. It’s beautiful.

I don’t really feel any attachment to Newcastle. It isn’t, technically, a very big city. But it is a lot larger than I expected and it’s definitely quite crowded downtown. There’s no character in the city centre. There are only chain restaurants serving bad food and big stores. I don’t know if independent business even exists in Newcastle.

I remember, years ago, Fae told me that she was in the car coming back from somewhere, some vacation. When you drive into Pittsburgh, it suddenly appears in front of you from the highway, all hills and rivers and lights. And she said that she knew then that it was home. That no matter where she went in the world, Pittsburgh was home.

pittsburgh, par moi

I didn’t understand it at the time.

When I was young I wanted to be anywhere but there. Growing up in the suburbs leaves lots of things up to the imagination and provides very little inspiration. I rarely saw Ottawa at all, except on Canada Day or when we caught a bus to go shopping downtown. Yes, my house was home. I hadn’t known any other. But my city was not.

Now, I’m wondering what to think of this city that I come from - the one with snow and the streets I know. I used to think those streets would never take me anywhere. But at least I know where I am.

I’m conflicted about Ottawa. I will always be drawn to it, it’s so much a part of who I am, there are so many memories here.

And feeling drawn to a city is what makes it home, rather than just a place you live.