Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Badges of Honour

I'm posting this blog I wrote after i dropped out of the education program, just to get you all caught up!

January, 2011

My decision to quit- no, not quit...

My decision to drop out- no, not drop out...

Ok, well, there’s no pretty way to say it. There is so much stigma built up in those words. Quitter. Drop out. I am neither a quitter, nor a drop out. I did not give up on my education. I did, however, give up on being unhappy. Pretending to be someone I’m not was terribly exhausting and I couldn’t wear that mask anymore.

Have you ever gotten an order of french fries and stumbled across an onion ring? I felt like I was that onion ring. I felt this way since the beginning of the semester. My peers and fellow student-teachers were so keen and adamantly passionate about teaching (and everything that made up the program). On the first day of classes, we sat in a circle and one by one introduced ourselves. I listened to everyone’s seemingly rehearsed responses about why they were in the program: “I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.” “I absolutely love kids and I want to be a part of their learning experience.” I’d list more but I’ll be honest and confess that I zoned out and didn’t much care to hear anyone’s answer. When it came to my turn, I smirked and honestly stated, “I’m here, because I don’t want to be a starving artist.”

I did want to share my passion for art with students. It wasn’t that long ago that I sat in the high school art classroom. I remember exactly how it was and how the majority of students took it as a bird course. That infuriated me. I wanted to change that. I wanted students to be hungry and crave for art the way I did. I thought the education system (more so, the art program) needed me - not just another teacher, but an artist.

So, I suppose that’s what initiated my decision to go into education but I don’t regret going into the program and “wasting all that money” (as friends feel ever so inclined to mention so). I didn’t waste money. I spent money - and I spent it good - finding out exactly what I didn’t want to do.

I fought through the first semester. It dawned on me that I wasn’t meant to be a teacher during my first practicum of practice-teaching at a nearby high school. I sat in the corner of the art class, desperately fighting the realization that I did not want to teach art - I wanted to make it.

My last four years of doing my Fine Arts degree was exactly that - making art. It was a priority. It was my life. I didn’t realize how much I missed making it until I didn’t have time for it anymore.

I was contemplating the possibility of “dropping out” (ugh, there’s that phrase again) for awhile. I had talked to many people about it. A common response was, “Beth, being a teacher is such a great profession! You get holidays and summers off!” Are you kidding me? I’d snidely shoot back with “I’d work every day of the year if I absolutely loved my job.” The majority of people told me to suck it up - that the program was only two years and that it would go by in no time. But truth be told, I didn’t want to suck it up. The thought of dreadfully dragging my ass into another practicum was enough to make me throw up. It reminded me of when I was in swimming lessons many many years ago...

I had been in swimming lessons since I was five years old. I always had a fear of diving. Any time my instructor would tell us to hop out of the pool and line up on the side, I’d get the worst gut-wrenching pain. Every time my swimming group was about to do dives, I would ask to use the washroom and wouldn’t return until they were all finished diving. For years, I ended up passing each level without having to dive. But my fear didn’t subside; it only increased and I would go out of my way to avoid having to dive. Eventually, I was enrolled in the course to become a lifeguard where I confessed my fear of diving to my fellow swim-mates and instructor. Everyone lined up on the side of the pool and dove in, one by one. I watched their techniques. With the help of them, their patience and their understanding, I was able to conquer my fear of diving.

So, every time I sat in class or even thought about going into another practicum, I’d get that same gut-wrenching pain and temptation to just run and hide.

I, in no way, am putting down the teaching profession. If anything, I respect teachers a hell of a lot more after experiencing life from their perspective. Teaching isn’t for everyone and it certainly isn’t for me. I was dying inside. I felt like I was a square trying to be shoved into a sphere-shaped hole. I was absolutely miserable, stressed, and had little time and energy to do the only thing that ever made me happy. I had no motivation or inspiration to do the only thing that ever meant anything to me - art.

I got my first semester marks back. Four A-’s and one A+. Are you kidding me? Please, please, please tell me you’re joking. I would rather a C- and know damn well that I earned it. I would take that C- and wear it proudly on my chest. I should’ve felt proud. I got straight A’s; however, I absolutely did not. I felt terrible that I was doing just as good in the program as the students who were taking it seriously and were as passionate about teaching as I am about my art. I knew then, that it was time to bow my head and step back. I didn’t want to invest any more time or money into something that meant nothing to me.

So, eventually I found myself on the edge of the pool with my family and friends lined up beside me. I listened to their advice and comforting words. With the help of them, their patience and their understanding, I was able to take the plunge and take my teacher hat off. I realized that there is a difference between being an art teacher and being an artist. I am an artist.

I spent the last two days making art. I’m sitting in my tiny apartment with paint, canvas and every other precious art material spewed over my kitchen table, floor, walls, and myself. I stare down at my paint-stained hands and I remember what my father once said to me during supper as he glanced down at my then, too, paint-stained hands. He smiled and said, “badges of honour.” I clenched my blue and green paint-splattered hands into fists and smiled. I missed these hands. I missed this feeling.

I realize now, that even if my failed attempts at becoming any tiny bit successful in the art world land me nothing higher than a starving artist, I will accept that title because I’ll surely be happy. Life is too short to be anything but yourself... and to be anything but happy.

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I'm back!

I can't believe it's been since September of 2010 that I've written a blog entry. I used to have to fight the craving to write during inconvenient times. I still carry the urge to get my thoughts and feelings out... life has just effortlessly gotten in the way. Or at least that's what I'll tell myself for abandoning something I love.

I had logged into my Blogger account, only to be bombarded with messages from people who used to follow me, wondering what had happened and why I hadn't posted in a long time. I never before really paid attention to the fact that people actually may read what I post. I guess it's because I don't really have that purpose in mind when I write. I write for my own satisfaction. When I write a blog that I really enjoy, it's like quenching my thirst on a hot summer day with a cold glass of ice water (with a lemon wedge). Oftentimes, I'll reread posts getting lost in my own words. I miss that feeling.

Which is why I'm back and ready to quench my thirst to write!

So... keep posted for posts to come!

Monday, September 13, 2010


I often find myself sitting in front of the computer, rifling through trip packages and flight sales. A huge part of who I am is wanting to see the world. I figured out that it would be a smart idea to start saving for a trip for two years time. I suggested it to my boyfriend. He paused, staring at the television. I looked at him, "...or do you not want to go?" He was hesitant to respond, which is an evident "no". I looked at him and said, "I am going regardless."

It's sort of a bummer that I'm in a relationship with someone who isn't as passionate about traveling as I am. It would be so fantastic to be able to share those experiences with somebody whom I love, but at the same time - maybe it's not such a bad thing to do those things by myself. It's not just about discovering the world - it's much about discovering myself.

Once you travel anywhere out of where you've lived your whole life, it's a huge wake up call. I recognize that not all people will be able to gain this opportunity and won't thrive to experience the cultures of the world the way that I do. I can't force my boyfriend to travel with me. Maybe he'd much rather spend his money on tangible things. This is how we differ. I would much rather spend my money on experiences and memories to last a lifetime. I don't want to be on my deathbed looking back on my life, regretting not seeing what is out there in the world. And let me tell you, it's a lot!

All over Facebook, I see friends posting albums full of photographs of themselves tanning on beaches down South. This is not the kind of experience I'm talking about. I'm not saying anything bad about people that do that - I'm just saying, I think that vacating to a resort isn't the route to go if you want to experience the many worldly cultures. When you are on a resort like that, you're completely cut off in isolation from the actual place that you're visiting. You don't get a real sense of that place in the least.

Now, my kind of vacation is packing everything I need in a backpack and adventuring through parts of Europe (for example) - experiencing the different cultures that it has to offer. I don't seek a five-star hotel with all-inclusive treats; I'd much rather a hostel filled with other young travellers from all over the world seeking adventure the same way I do - filled with energy, accents, different languages and new friends to make connections with all over the world. Now, that's my kind of vacation!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

That's so "gay".

"That's so gay."

GAY IS NOT A SYNONYM FOR SHITTY OR STUPID. If you want to associate something as being stupid or shitty, USE THOSE WORDS - NOT the word "gay".

I'm infuriated with how the word "gay" is used today. "Gay" is absolutely NOT a synonym for stupid. People in today's society have become completely numb to this saying and maybe don't realize it. They let it leave their lips without thinking of the harm built up behind it. When you say that something is "gay", referencing that something is bad - you're inevitably saying that GAY is bad. You're using it as an insult. And when you let that three letter word slip from your lips in that manner, you're throwing homosexuality into a bad or negative category.

Homosexuality is NOT something to be ashamed of. Today, it is an extremely normal and acceptable way of life. It's time that "gay" as a synonym for "stupid" is swiped from everybody's vocabulary. It's time people STOP associating homosexuality as a negative connotation.

I'm not gay, however, I completely accept anyone's decision when it comes to love and whom they're sexually attracted to and who they fall in love with. I believe homosexuality falls under the category of nature, not nurture, and you can't help who you fall in love with and who you're attracted to.

I 100% believe in gay rights and the right to love/marry whomever - male or female - no matter what your sex is.

I still see guys that I graduated with, chatting over Facebook, calling each other "faggots". I've never in my life let that word slip from my lips and never would I let it. It's a homophobic slur against homosexual males. Generally meant as a joke, people don't realize the meaning and impact of their words. Words like "gay" and "faggot" are used WAY too casually. It's time to grow up and knock it off, people.

Gay, lesbian and bisexual teens are up to 4 times more likely to attempt suicide. The number one contributing factor is the feeling of not being accepted. Out of many causes of feeling this way, the abuse of derogatory terms such as "that's so gay" is top ranked.

Seriously folks. Knock it off.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Figuring things out

It's been three weeks since I left Toronto. I feel like when I left Toronto, I left a huge part of me there. My summer there was the most eye-opening experience I've ever had and it truly made me re-evaluate myself. For the first time in my life thus far, I felt like I truly belonged and I felt like I knew what I wanted in my life. The thirteen weeks I was there, I completely reinvented myself and changed, in my opinion, for the better.

The biggest struggle I'm dealing with since moving back, is the loss I feel. I feel like everything I had finally pieced together has fallen apart... and the puzzle pieces I need are back in Toronto. I feel like I've hit a wall and I'm not really sure how to bulldoze it over. Doing my Bachelor of Education is what I wanted, right? Then why do I feel like being here and doing it is a huge step backwards? I need to figure out a way to feel like myself again... the new me...

I miss feeling free, walking through the busy streets with unfamiliar faces. I miss doings things that I've never gotten to do before with people who I never thought I'd be friends with. I miss sailing through Lake Ontario, feeling the rush of the cold breeze hit my face. I miss getting lost on the Toronto Islands, way past the closing time of the ferries, and feeling scared yet completely excited at the possibility of being stranded there. I miss going to Madison's and getting trashed with my best friends... and having to wait for someone who forget their ID - even though I reminded everyone to make sure they had it.

Maybe it's the friends I miss more than Toronto itself. Maybe it was them who helped me realize myself. It was witnessing their care-free attitude and ambition that made me crave to feel like way they do about life. My friends do see me as having ambition and a care-free attitude, but this past summer was the first time I saw myself that way.

I'm remembering the fear I felt when I first got on the airplane - the fear I felt when I had the whole summer ahead of me. I was terrified that I wouldn't meet friends, that it would be a treacherous experience and the worst summer of my life. That was the best part... realizing how oblivious I was to how amazing the risk I was taking would turn out to be.

I think, I need to realize this about my life ahead of me. It's unknown - just like my summer was. Maybe I just have to let it fall into place... and it will be amazing.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Wake up call

Most people, anxious to move from their parents' humble abode and into their own complex, are completely oblivious to the complexities of it all. Think of your life right now if you're still living at home. Your fridge is always full. You can just go grab whatever you want whenever you want. You don't have to worry about having to go get groceries or being able to afford them. You can use the telephone whenever you want - not having to worry about running up the phone bill. You probably leave the bathroom light on without thinking. You probably don't worry about turning off the television when you leave to go eat. I imagine that you just crank up the heat when you're cold in the winter time.

All of these luxuries (yes, trust me... they are luxeries) will fade when you're on your own. One day, it's like the carpet will be yanked from underneath you and you'll see how quickly the scenery changes on the fall down.

You'll have to balance the cost of tuition, books, rent, electricity, phone, cable, internet, and groceries. Note other luxuries not listed above (alcohol, shopping money, money for things like shampoo and toilet paper). You may think it will be a breeze and that you're up for the challenge... but boy, oh boy, you are in for a treat! Perhaps your parents still plan on paying for everything while you're living on your own - but that won't last.

You will quickly develop OCD, making sure all of the lights are turned off (even when you leave the room for a second). You will resort to a sweater (or two or three sweaters) in the wintertime instead of turning up the heat. You will probably even resort to lighting candles for warmth (or at least you should.) As great as living on your own is, it still sucks. Responsibility sure seems like a luxury from the outside, but on the inside it's just a ball of stress that vomits all over you every month when you receive your multiple bills.

Once upon a time, your cell phone was equipped with voice mail, caller ID, unlimited texting and web browsing. As soon as you acknowledge your lack of money, you'll be downgrading your cell phone plan so you can have the extra forty dollars a month to buy food.

Advice? Keep track of it all. There's nothing worse than getting paid and then wondering where the hell all of your earnings went. Buy a notebook and keep track of how your money is divided and how much goes towards what. You will learn to budget and you will also learn how to fight the temptation to buy the new leather boots in the store window when you realize you'd rather not starve. Before you buy something, ask yourself... "Do I need this? Or do I just want it?" There's nothing wrong with treating yourself to a meal out or a night of social drinking every once and a while. But there's a huge problem if you're going out boozing every weekend and you're getting harassed by your landlord to pay the remainder of your apartment rent.

Keep your priorities straight folks! And remember to budget!

Happy living!

A precious memory

Leaving Toronto was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I was in my room, listening to music, when my Irish friends piled into my doorway. Tears clogged my eyes when they handed me over an Irish flag penned up with messages that they each had written out to me. It warmed my heart to see that my friendship meant a lot to them and that they were going to miss me.

This summer was one of the best summers I've ever had and I'm so glad that I decided to go. Saying goodbye to each of my friends from all over the world was harder than I could've imagined. It's seldom that many people can say they spent their summer becoming friends with people from France, Ireland, America, England, Holland and Austria. We were a close-knit group who loved spending time together. So, as devestated as I was that I couldn't go to camp this summer... I'm doubtful that I would've had a better time there. For years, my summers at camp were as good as it got - I couldn't imagine anything better... until now. I'm not sure if I'll ever have a summer as memorable as my summer of 2010.

I thought a part of me would be happy to fly back to Cape Breton. I thought for sure that I would feel right at home driving through the streets of my hometown, right by the ocean. But all I can think of is how much I miss the glowing city of Toronto at night time... and all of my friends that I left behind there. The saddest part of it all is that I know if ever I return to Toronto, it would never be the same. The huge part of why my summer was so unbelievable was because of the people whom I met and spent time with.

So, when I was leaving Toronto... I recognized that it would probably be the last time I would ever have a summer like this. I recognized that a lot of these friends that I've made, I'll probably never see again. It's terribly sad to recognize that my summer of 2010 is just a precious memory that only exists in my mind. It's a memory I'll forever long to escape back into...