Sunday, December 25, 2005

Who Am I?

Nike of Samothrace, circa 200BC, Artist Unknown.

This week a person dropped by the site and left me a comment. MC asked a few questions that I’ll attempt to answer now. This is a post I’ve struggled with for months, namely, who am I? Part of the reason I began writing in this space was to find myself again. After I broke up with Mr. Intellectual I woke up to the fact that over the years I had lost myself. I lost touch with who I am and what I really wanted out of this life. It is the over-riding question that drives me- not why am I here, but rather who am I?

I first saw the ‘Nike of Samothrace’ sculpture when I was 14, in a high school art class. Also know as ‘Winged Victory’, it spoke to me in a way that a piece of art had never done before. There was something about the way the fabric strained against her body, her wings in flight against the wind all rendered in marble, that amazed me. So much so, that I didn’t even notice that her arms and head were missing for quite some time. I still find this work to be incredibly beautiful and inspiring. I remember that I photocopied that picture and it remained tacked to my bulletin board for years to serve as an inspiration and muse. After that I took a deeper interest in Art, but it wouldn’t be until University that Art History became a minor passion of mine.

Apart from the depression that runs deep through my life, an appreciation and passion for fine art is a second stream that makes up who I am. I view the world as though it is being framed up for a painting, a photograph or to be rendered as a sculpture. It is so much a part of me, and yet I rarely carry around my camera anymore, or even sketch out pictures. Somewhere along the way, I put aside the artistic side of myself since it didn’t really meet with much approval from Mr. Intellectual. It makes me sad that my adolescent self stopped cultivating the humble art skills I possess simply because the man I loved wasn’t all that interested and didn’t care to learn about it. Instead I cultivated my passion for art by taking an Art History minor in my undergrad. I wasn’t able to get a full double major out of it because it would have meant taking a fifth year, and I was eager to graduate. I'm sad that this is one of the "sacrifices" I believed I had to make for the success of the relationship.

As for the other questions, MC: am I an actual person? Yes, I am. I’m a graduate student who is trying to complete a Master’s degree in Canadian history. Do I have a real job? Well, in the summer I work on contract for the Government, but for various reasons I can’t speak about my job or disclose where exactly I work. Do I work with real people? My winter “job” of the degree is pretty isolating and I rarely see any of my fellow students and colleagues unless I go out of my way to seek out their company. I’d love to talk about my summer coworkers, since there are some really fascinating and colourful characters there, but again that’s off limits if I ever want to return.

As for who I am, I’m not really sure, to be honest. I guess you’ll just have to keep reading if you really want to find that out, since I'm just beginning to figure that out myself. Previously I’ve defined myself by my relationship and my job and now that both of those things have crumbled away I’m having a difficult time figuring out who I really am, stripped bare and all alone. I don’t want to define myself by external forces anymore and yet I am reluctant to completely give them up. Which is why I struggle with my residual feelings for Mr. I, and the possibility that I may never be able to return to my summer job unless I can transfer to another location. What I do know is that I need to find out who the woman that I stare at in the mirror every morning is and be comfortable with that again. In the meantime I’ll continue to strain against the adversity I face, just like the Nike I love so much.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Worth A Rewind

I was watching the movie, Love Actually tonight since it's getting closer to Christmas and I'm not really feeling it yet. So, what better way to get in the mood than to watch a romantic comedy set around the holidays?

Hugh Grant plays the British Prime Minister, and the scene where he dances to the Pointer Sisters', "Jump (For My Love)" through #10 Downing Street really is worth rewinding to watch a second time! Hugh really is too cute for words sometimes. As long as you don't remind me about his mishap with Divine Brown.

Philosophy Lesson's From Miss E

Today has been an introspective day for me. I woke up in silence and I’ll probably spend the entire day without saying a word since I have nowhere to go and I live alone. On days like today I spend a lot of time in my head, which may or may not be a good thing. I’m still grappling with what has happened to me in the past month and trying to make sense of something that makes absolutely no sense. I’m finding it hard to just accept it and move on without satisfactorily answering the why of it all. I will never know why he chose to become obsessed with me to the point where it ended with me hiding in my bedroom closet, in hysterical tears on the phone with a 911 operator, while he pounded on my front door- yelling at me. In situations like this I’m not even sure there is an answer.

It reminds me though of a conversation I had this past summer with my niece. Little Miss E was about two and half years old at this point. We were hanging out at my parent’s house playing with my childhood Fisher Price Little People’s Schoolhouse set and reading books. During a lull in the play she noticed a mosquito bite on my calf that I was itching. I unfortunately have a bad reaction to mosquito bites that result in angry red welts the size of quarters that eventually turn black and blue.

“What’s that?” She asked while pointing at my leg.

“A mosquito bite,” I replied, “But it doesn’t hurt, it’s just a little itchy.”

She sat looking at my bite and pondered this for a moment before responding.

“You’re tough Aunt Jane. Soon it will be better.” She said with a little nod of her head.

I couldn’t help but smile at her stoicism.

Today as I sat mulling over the events of the past month while watching the snow fly out my new front window on a new street that I’m still getting used to, our earlier conversation came to mind. She was right too- I am tough! Soon it will be better…

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


This wasn’t the topic I was going to write about today, but after looking at my statcounter I found a person who stumbled across this blog after doing a search for, “Should I tell my thesis advisor I am depressed?”

To that question I give a resounding, “Yes!” This is especially true if it’s affecting your work performance and ability to perform on a daily basis. However, there are some things you should do prior to disclosing what is going on in your life. I’ve had to disclose my depression at various points in my academic career and it’s always a drag. If your University or College has counseling services or a good medical clinic I suggest going there first and getting a formal note or diagnosis. Having backup proof always helps your cause. Secondly, don’t just spring it on them- set up an appointment to see your advisor and give them a soft opener, usually done through email. A good way that I’ve found to phrase this is to tell them that they might have noticed an uncharacteristic performance out of you as of late and you’d like to speak with them about it. Then when you sit down, have planned out what you’d like to discuss and what aspects of your private life you just don’t want to tell them, or think they don’t need to know. Write it out in bullet points before hand and bring it in with you. It helps to have crib notes so you don’t forget what you want to say if you start to get nervous or emotional.

All academic institutions have a policy to deal with these situations and sadly they’re all too common. Depression and graduate studies seem to go hand in hand for some reason and trust me you’re not the first or even the last student to deal with this. Your advisor needs to know what’s going on in order to help you as best they can, which essentially is their job- they are there to guide you through your degree, not just judge your performance and work.

Another helpful tip is to have a game plan. Certainly let them know what you’ve been dealing with as of late and then outline what you’re doing to rectify the situation, whether it’s therapy, drugs, changing status from full to part time to alleviate stress, or even taking a semester leave of absence. Let them know that you are working to change the situation and not just wallowing in your problems. If you’re not sure what to do ask them for their opinion on what they think might be beneficial to your project or thesis in relation to your personal problems. Admit that you’re not sure how to work with your project and your depression and ask them what’s worked in the past with some of their other students. Either way let them know that you are actively trying to work on this and find a solution.

I just went through this whole process recently when I disclosed not only to my family and friends but my entire thesis committee that I had been dealing with criminal harassment (a stalker). As a result of the fear I was living in, and in the last few weeks of not being able to leave my apartment unless escorted by a friend, my work obviously suffered. It was a hard thing to admit that I had basically pissed away the past 12-week semester and had absolutely nothing to show for my time here. It was a personal failure for me, and embarrassing not to mention emotional for me to get this out in the open. I felt so foolish and yet relieved. My committee has been nothing but supportive and understanding. The chair of the department has reassured me that he’s seen this before in lesser and more severe degrees, which saddens me- that other students had to deal with this too. I feel like I’ve been given a clean slate to once again prove myself next semester and I couldn’t be more pleased with how this turned out all things considered. It really is a relief to get it out in the open.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

...And Counting

I was talking with someone online last night and as the conversation turned to dating I realized that it’s been almost 9 months since I went out on a real date. I had to really think back to when my last date, (where I dressed up, he picked me up and we went somewhere alone to get to know each other), even happened. The number I finally came to actually surprised me since I hadn’t really thought about it before. I started thinking about a few other significant numbers. Like a year and half, the amount of time since Mr. Intellectual and I called it quits. He has been happily seeing someone for the past six months where as I have had a 9 month drought without even realizing it.

The strange thing is that I have been out more in the past 9 months than I have in years. I’m getting out and doing more group things, meeting up with friends, going to the bar on occasion, hanging out with my hockey team after the game and going out with the siblings to celebrate birthdays and weddings and a number of Stag & Doe’s. I have met a lot of new people in the past 9 months and I have yet to go on a date as a result- but I barely noticed until last night. Part of that has to do with the drama surrounding the Stalkerazzi, but another part of me just doesn’t seem to care.

As I sit here and try to cobble together a more normal life, one where I’m not constantly afraid and looking over my shoulder, I’m slowly awakening to the fact that I miss the companionship that a relationship or even occasional date provides. I’m also very aware of the fact that it would be a mistake to enter into a relationship right now and also grossly unfair to that person because of what I’m trying to come to terms with at the moment. Before I can consider allowing another person into my life in a serious way I need to deal with the demons that have emerged from the criminal harassment and put them to rest.

I need to find my purpose again, I need to reconnect with what drives me and fulfills me. I need to recapture that excitement that my thesis project inspired in me when I began this journey of a masters degree. I need to put aside the mantle of survival mode and start to live life again with a different purpose, one that I’m happy pursuing with or without someone by my side. In short I need to find my confidence again.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Currently Making Me Smile

Upon hearing of my 'situation' with the criminal harassment:

“Just give me a ski-mask, all I need is a ski-mask.”