Thursday, 3 November 2011

Fighting the Last War

Ever notice how a lot of times you end up having arguments with people that make no sense? You brace yourself for the reaction to some minor thing and then launch into a counter-offensive that makes no sense (and probably seems as if it is coming out of NOWHERE - good gosh, no wonder X thinks I'm crazy!). Maybe it's about time. Or about appreciation. Or about a mutual friend. Or about expectations. How many times have I argued with someone I love about expectations? I lost count a decade ago.

When a military (or government) does not adapt to a new conflict situation, it is often accused of fighting the last war. It is characterized by a blindness to new circumstances, new technology, new tactics, and new theories of warfare. It knows how the last war was fought (maybe it wasn't even won) and it uses that strategy as its template. (See: Vietman, the second Gulf War, et c.) Generally, not such a hot plan. Lots of wasted time, wasted ammunition, and unnecessary casualties until everyone smartens up and realizes that time is a continuum and that they have to look at what they're actually up against and adapt to conquer it.

About a week ago, I was having a conversation that showed dangerous signs of spiraling into an argument when the response I got to something I said snapped me off of autopilot. This was not the same old conversation leading to the same old argument. This was new, and maybe it was a new war, but maybe it wasn't a war at all. It was a jolt, one that made me realize I'd been imposing expectations of behaviour on someone I love that weren't based on precedent. Not precedent if his behaviour alone was the basis of my expectations. I had inadvertently assumed I was fighting the last war on a personal front. I'd assumed he would react as other have in the past. I was wrong. That jolt got me thinking about how often I must have done this, and whether or not it was warranted.

Yes, it's true that we learn how to deal with situations based on precedent of what we've experienced before in similar situations. It makes sense that we learn to recognize patterns, but is it really fair? Just because one person treats you unfairly, doesn't mean everyone will. Just because one friend ditches you, doesn't mean everyone will. And just because one guy (okay, multiple guys) can't commit to anything more serious than calling you his girlfriend, doesn't mean every guy is afraid of commitment.

How often do we end up in disagreements because we assume we know what answer we're going to get from the get-go? How often do we, when we have the chance to cool down and talk rationally, realize that neither party wanted to argue, or that there wasn't really anything worth arguing over in the first place, that -shocker of shockers- you wanted the same thing all along? How often are relationships ruined because we don't stop to listen to what someone else is REALLY saying?

I've had to stop and catch myself a lot lately because the relationship I'm in is different than I'm used to. I've always had issues speaking up because often people have misunderstood my priorities or thought I was kidding when I said I need to be alone a LOT. I know myself well. I have for a long time, and while I've had a few crises du coeur in my time, most of the time I'm pretty (brutally) honest about my needs and my feelings. It's a bit disorienting being confronted with someone who doesn't question that. I say, "X", and he nods and goes, "Okay, X. Got it." I'm not used to that. And I'm not to having such similar priorities with someone. Education comes first. Money is only as good as what you do with it. Life is best lived in the moment.

I have high standards. They apply to me and my life and the way I want to be. Do not interpret this to mean that I want a 8M$ house with a view and a Lambo and season tickets to the NHL franchise in town (not gonna lie, I'd take the season tickets if I was anywhere but Vancouver); I want to live at a high standard for myself. I want to write WELL. I want to cook good food. I want to have a garden and compost and be able to breathe deeply when I watch the sunset. I want to stay up all night editing and I want to be with someone who understands why I consider it a labour of love. Thing is, I have never been interested in molding someone into the perfect partner (I'm WAY too lazy and way too busy doing more interesting things with my life to be bothered with that), and I waited it out until I met someone who actually holds the same inherent values and the same type of standards. I don't judge people who don't want the things I want, but I also can't lie and say I'd be happy spending my life with someone who didn't understand why one word can change everything.

I am in uncharted territory for the first time in a very long time, and it's a nice change. The most important change is that everything from here on out is a known unknown: I know now that I know nothing. It feels surprisingly fresh. And free. I'm not fighting this.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

"Higher" Education

I'm not myself lately. It's not an accident, but it's definitely not much fun.

The reason I'm not myself lately is because of school. School + my full-time job = no time to be myself. This means no time to go skating. No time to read anything extra-curricular. No time to have fun. No time to really relax. No time to make presents for the people I love. No time to write, good GOD no chance in hell of that. All because of school.

Here's a secret: I hate school. There, I said it. I. HATE. SCHOOL. Don't misunderstand me: I love learning, I love reading, I LOVE writing, I love education, and I love keeping my brain nimble, but I really, really hate school these days.

I ran into an old friend last night who laughed when I admitted this. "You're almost done your BA, then," he laughed. I told him I didn't believe in the education system anymore. He repeated himself and I had to laugh because he's right in a way. I am so, so sick of school. I am so, so sick of the stupid writing assignments and the idiots who say the STUPIDEST things and having to write things that are the academic equivalent to beating the dead horse.

I don't even really believe that university educates most people. I know I've learned a lot, but most people seem to have simply acquired more information they can freely regurgitate. It's like their human computers that just got more RAM instead of updating their processor. What's the point of that? The point of 'higher' education is supposed to be about learning how to learn. So you can learn indefinitely. Isn't it?

Maybe I've got it all wrong. Maybe I'm applying my normative understanding of education to reality. Pardon my mistake?

Back to me though... school makes me miserable. School makes it impossible for me to be myself, my REAL self, the self that a few of you know all too well (and haven't seen in over a year since I decided to finish university). I don't regret the decision to hunker down and get my degree, but I do miss myself. I miss the freedom to WRITE, REALLLY WRITE. None of this jot-down-a-few-random-ideas-between-classes-and-work shit, either. REALLY WRITE. I miss that more than I can articulate.

Thing is, I would never feel entirely comfortable letting myself just write until I finished this stupid, blasted degree so I decided to just get it over with. I'm glad I got back when I did, and I'm glad I'll be done all this in less than a year, but I am feeling it very acutely. I miss my creative brain, and the ability to travel, and not having to work multiple jobs so I can afford tuition ON TOP OF all my expenses. I miss being able to turn off my phone and just write for three days straight. I miss being able to read what I like. I miss being free.

This is worth it, right?

I can't help wondering if it is. The number of people I know with degrees (even multiple degrees, and masters degrees) who can't find a job in their field is staggering. Good thing I'm not looking for a job in my field... Seriously though, I'm not. I'm still worried. A friend of mine told me last week that her biggest fear about unemployment is not having health insurance. She's American, and I'm not as screwed if I get sick because Canadian health care is way more subsidized, but it got me thinking about the fact that my health insurance is through school and my job (which I want to quit as soon as humanly possible). The job I think I'd like to have instead is not very well paid. It's not a "career" job. It's not salaried. It's also not (necessarily) full time. And the health plan only kicks in after 6 months.

So do I risk it or do I have a 6-month overlap of the job I have (which is 37.5 hours a week) and the job I'd like to have (which only guarantees 15 hours a week for part-time) for six months? While taking 12 upper-level polisci and history credits next term.

I don't even know what to do.

I just know that I have to do something so that I can just be done with this degree and never have to pay tuition ever again. Now that I've got a bit of my frustration out of my system, maybe I'll be able to focus on those papers about ethnic conflict I need to read and respond to...

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

I am the 1%

In the wake of the "We Are The 99%" movement the past few weeks, I had been thinking about this a lot anyways. I'd been mulling over the sob-stories on the wearethe99percent, some of which are tragic, but some of which I felt were a bit whiny, and realized that, as much as I agree that the financial system in the United States is an abomination and that the debt-culture is positively unsustainable, and many of the people posting are in similar situations to my own, I have a fundamental problem with self-pity. Perhaps it is more that I just have a bit of perspective. I've always been very aware of global politics and of how fortunate I am. Then wearethe99percent posted this:

This is something I actively think about every single day. I have thought about this on a daily basis for over a decade - ever since my mother and my sister both died and, for a while, I fell into a trap pitying myself because my life was “so hard”. Then one day, a voice in the back of my head reminded me of something: I am part of the luckiest 1%.

In a way, it’s a kind of prayer for me. I know how lucky I am and I refuse to let myself forget it in the midst of the frustrating minutiae of everyday life. Sometimes it has been what keeps me going, knowing how much worse it could be.

I AM THE 1%:

I live in a safe, developed social democracy where I have never had to fight for my right to vote in an election (even if I hate my current conservative Prime Minister’s political agenda);

I am relatively healthy (and I have two medical plans and government-subsidized health-care when I’m not);

I am a semester and a half from graduating from a good university (even if I do have 15K in debt and it’s taken me seven years to graduate because I have to work in order to afford tuition);

I have a full-time job and a part-time job that both pay above minimum-wage (even minimum wage is 8$/hr and a “living wage” in Vancouver is 18$/hr, neither of my jobs is in ANY way glamourous, and having two jobs exhausts me some weeks);

I have an affordable apartment in a decent neighbourhood steps away from public transit and 8 minutes from my university campus and my job (even if it is only really ‘affordable’ because I rent out two of the three bedrooms);

I have an amazing family who live modestly (like I do), share my values, and who have helped me out more times than I can count when I couldn’t figure out how to balance my life properly;

I do not live my life in fear of being shot at, mugged, robbed, gang-raped, or otherwise violated by LRA militia-members, gangs, government-sponsored Janjawid or any violent legitimate government;

I am a Canadian citizen;

I am literate;

I had a free primary and secondary education;

I can afford rent, hydro, groceries, my phone bill, AND tuition and books all in the same month because I work my ass off, I budget my money strictly, I only have one credit card (with a 1000$ limit), and I refuse to accrue more debt than I already have;

I have three savings accounts;

I am a 28 year-old woman and I have never been robbed, raped, shot (or shot at), or beaten.

All of this makes me part of a very lucky 1%.


Be productive. Be radical. Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Last Night in Moscow!

It's pathetic that I haven't posted in nearly a year and now that I am, I'm posting a pop song.

That said, I am in love with this song. Someone posted a link to it on Twitter the other day and I listened to it half a dozen times. I thought, whatever. ... And then I couldn't get it out of my head for three days. Proceed with Europop-caution.

Also, for all you W2TBL folks who read this, this is totally an Anna Delacroix song circa about, oh, age 16. ;)