Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Milestone

I reached a milestone this year - my 30th birthday. I'd like to say it was a great occasion, but I had mixed feelings about the whole thing. I refer to the 30th birthday as the occasion where you now have the perception of maturity, without actually being mature. A year ago I was excited to be turning 30; to leave my 20s behind me and forget about the decade that did not treat me so kindly. Instead of being excited, it was a bit of a let down. Quiet Confidence is pretty wrapped up in his work and quite distracted. Things have also been a little more stressful at home these days, something I couldn't have foreseen a year ago.

Despite all these things QC and I decided to go away to Montreal to celebrate my 30th birthday, and our 3 year anniversary. He also desperately needed time away from the job so he wouldn't burn out. We booked an amazing room at the Auberge du Vieux-Port, in the heart of old Montreal overlooking the St. Lawrence river.

Our Room

We had also booked a couples massage for our first morning there. The idea was that we'd start off super relaxed and take it from there. Instead of having the relaxed, romantic vacation I had envisioned it turned out to be some what stressful for me. I also slipped and fell on the narrow stone steps of our hotel the first morning there - badly bruising my tailbone. It had been raining and the flats I was wearing didn't have the greatest traction. I'm still dealing with it two weeks later. We were also having communication issues during our vacation, which only added to my stress. I'm not sure what was going on, suffice to say that it has been an issue for the past little while and still continues. Despite all these things I still managed to really enjoy aspects of the trip.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Uncomfortably Intimate

Somewhat recently my grandfather passed away. It was some what expected because he had been experiencing progressively worsening health problems for the past 10 years . That being said you are never really ready for a death in the family. He also had this uncanny ability to be hospitalized, knocking at deaths door, and somehow persevere and come home again. It had happened so many times in the past 10 years that I never really believed he would die.

I have somewhat mixed feelings about my Grandfather because of some of his behaviours, particularly towards my Mother (his daughter in law) and us as children. We grew up next door so it was like we had an extra set of parents, and as you can imagine in a household of 5 active boys plus me it wasn't always an ideal scenario. I remember constantly ducking and hiding out from him on the farm with my brothers, so as not to get in trouble for doing something or other that he disapproved of. It was so bad that even my parents played the duck and run game on occasion when they didn't want to deal with him. He was a man with an omnipresent personality. He was the undisputed patriarch of the family and the village tin god amongst the wider clan. He had a presence and he could orate, which put him in good stead when he entered the political arena. It was this that carried him right to Ottawa as a backbencher Member of Parliament.

Once it became apparent that I was going to be a professional Historian he began to campaign for me to write his memoirs. As his oldest grand-daughter, and now a real historian, he thought it was justly appropriate and I could give his life story the gravitas and importance he felt it merited. For years I deftly evaded the question when it came up - being sufficiently vague and non-committal, but also not completely ruling out the possibility either. I wasn't sure about researching his life and finding the real truth to his tales. One thing I knew was certain, it was a project I wanted nothing to do with until after he had passed away. I didn't want to have to compromise my historical integrity and unbiased appraisal of his life by editing it to his satisfaction.

In the last few years, as part of the memoirs project, he started asking me to go through his office with him to sort out what papers and documents would be useful to me and what could be thrown out. It was a monumental task since his office was crammed full of books, Hansard reports, as well as a file cabinet's worth and then some of papers. It would be overwhelming in normal circumstances and nearly impossible if we were supposed to go through it together and I was to get the story of everything along the way. We would have been at it for months, if not years if I had agreed to his plan.

I finally got around to starting to clean out his office this past weekend. My Grandma thought she was ready for it to happen, which it turns out I don't think she was. I spent an afternoon packing files into boxes for me to go through at my own leisure at a later date. I got through the file cabinet, the Hansard reports and some miscellaneous stuff near his desk and it doesn't look like anything has been touched. I thought the softer, more gradual approach would help my Grandmother cope. I had such mixed feelings going through his personal files. Even touching his office felt like sacrilege, particularly since his office was completely off limits when we were kids and was his sole domain. There were things in there that I know not even my Grandma was aware of.

It was all so uncomfortably intimate going through his personal files and paperwork. Seeing what he saved, filed or collected revealed aspects of his personality that I wasn't aware of. As his granddaughter it felt slightly inappropriate for me to be the one going through his personal things and independently deciding what to do with it all. My Grandma didn't want to have to make any of those decisions or even know about it. I also don't think any of my Aunt's or Uncle's wanted the task. A large part of me thinks that the only reason why my Grandmother was ok with me doing this is because my Grandfather expressed this desire so many times before. If he had never mentioned it I doubt I would have gone anywhere near it.

One thing I have gleaned from the experience is that I don't really want any of my children and certainly not my grandchildren going through my personal papers after I'm gone. I'm extremely torn over my written journals. There is so much in them that is intensely personal and painful. It is one of the few ways I have learned to cope with my PTSD, through writing it all out on paper. A large part of me thinks I should burn them, but I'm not there yet. I don't know what I want done with them once I'm gone. The historian in me feels like there may be some value there to a researcher, but the private part of me balks at the idea of them being made public.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Still Unemployed, Still Depressed

I've been looking for work for the past 4 months, plus a little time before Christmas. Job searching by far is the most depressing thing and can bring anyone down, not just those already inclined towards depression. I guess the hard part for me is that despite all the resumes I'm sending out I haven't heard back from a single place. I have yet to land any kind of an interview. The second part is that about a month ago I decided to stop looking for work anywhere in Canada and focus just on the area around where Quiet Confidence lives. This has presented some problems since it's an area heavily focused on Math related careers and Computer stuff - both of which I'm wildly unqualified for.

I haven't worked a corporate job in 5 years, just academia (TAing and the like), and I think it's hurting my chances. There's no easy answer to finding a job, let alone finding a job as a History major. The best I can do is get up every morning and surf the job boards and toss out resumes to anything that looks like I'm sort of qualified for. I've noticed though in the last month or so that I'm finding it very hard to motivate myself to apply for things. I honestly thought I would have found something by now, even a contract position somewhere for a couple of months. There just isn't a high demand for qualitative research based jobs - if I could rock statistics than I would easily be employed by now I'm sure.

Overall I'm just dissatisfied and my med's aren't working as well as they should be. I'm also growing more despondent about the current state of my personal life. I never thought I'd be one of those girls who gets all upset about not getting engaged/married, but there it is. After 3 years with a person who ticks all my boxes and is the best thing that has happened to me relationship-wise I don't understand what is holding him back. We talk about marriage and future plans all the time, but as far as I know he hasn't made any step closer to asking me to marry him. Just about everyone in my family is asking when we're getting married already - and some are down right aggressive about it. It's to the point where I'm avoiding going home so I don't have to hear it anymore. I don't think he realizes how upset the whole thing makes me since I try not to bug him about it or even talk about it anymore. I don't want to pressure him since everyone else seem's to be doing that.

Monday, March 21, 2011

On Books & Reading

One of the perks of taking time away from my doctorate has been the freedom to read fiction again. I have always been an avid bookworm, however I realized that once I started my Masters I quickly gave up on reading fiction because I had so many non-fiction reads for class and research. I read a couple of novels every year during grad school, usually the books my mom gave me for Christmas, but I always felt guilty for taking that reading time away from my degree. Honestly, I think a lot of graduate students who like to read feel the same way - if you're reading for pleasure you're doing it wrong.

Books have always been important to me. They are a fundamental part of who I am and how I survived some tough years in the public school system. Ever since I learned to read I have carried a book with me almost constantly. That is, until my graduate school years. It has been a great pleasure to dive back into fiction again. As an informal goal I want to read 100 books in 2011. Even if I don't make it to that number, I'm going to give it a run for its money and enjoy myself in the process. I've already made it through 13 books since the New Year and discovered some new authors that are great and some books with lots of press that turned out to stink.

First and foremost of those books which I haven't enjoyed much is Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. Unfortunately this book is being made into a movie. Save yourself the time of both reading the book and watching the movie by watching the trailer. It basically sums up every major theme and plot point in the book and delivers it in 3 minutes give or take. It also gives you about as much depth into the character's as the author was able to give them in the novel. I found the narrator's style of delivery to be sloppy and annoying. It also didn't really further the story or add anything new to make me confront the ambiguity of the scientific ethics of cloning.

Many reviews talked about a book where you spent a lot of time reading between the lines. While this is true since a lot of the dialogue and descriptions are vague and not fully realized it didn't stir any debate within my mind on the subject. It was not, for me, a "thought-provoking exposition on whose life is worth living and who, if anyone, has the right to set the terms and conditions" as one reviewer wrote. The essence of the book was a great idea, the execution was not brilliant. It was boring and tedious to trudge through all 263 pages. Too much time was spent on minutia and supposedly deep relationships that weren't convincing or even interesting, just petty. Worst of all is that in order to finish up the book the author spells it all out in a final meeting between characters, something he spent the previous 250 pages dancing around and never revealing much. Why bother being so vague and ambigious if you're just going to give me the point blank solution in the end, instead of letting puzzle through it and wrestle with the moral implications. A much better book to read about a dystopian society and the politics of ownership of another human being is Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Over the last few months I seem to have drifted into living with Quiet Confidence pretty much full time. It's not something we've really talked about and officially I'm not actually living here. I still go home to my parents house in between since all my stuff is there and sometimes I need to escape for a bit. It is nice to have that pressure release valve when it gets too difficult to deal with the relationship. Part of me feels that this escapism isn't exactly good for the relationship, but then again I still run when the urge becomes overwhelming. I usually find that 2 or 3 days apart is enough for me to breath and sort my head a bit.

I still find it hard to open up about aspects of my PTSD or depression, particularly when I'm in the grips of a really fierce bout. It's only human that Quiet Confidence would lose patience with me occasionally, or not understand where the anger, passive aggressive behaviour, apathy or silent brooding is emanating from. I think it's particularly confusing because I can be perfectly fine when he leaves for work and he'll come home to me in a funk with no context to understand it. Sometimes I can't even understand where it comes from or what has set me off. It's especially difficult when I feel like that and I can't open my mouth to speak my feelings, no matter how much I actually want to. There is something stopping me - kind of like those dreams where you open your mouth to scream, but you just can't make a sound.

A lot of the time I try to fight through the feelings of panic and escape to stay and deal with the relationship, but there are times when even my best efforts aren't enough. I feel afraid that one day he'll look at me like Mr. Intellectual did, with resentment and disdain that I can't "fix" myself and be normal. I don't ever want to experience that again in a relationship, so I take a breather to cope in private with my issues, so that I don't drag us both down. On some unspoken level I think we both understand what I'm doing, even though we don't talk about it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Big Changes

I've felt myself slipping into something different and yet familiar for the past year. School interested me less and less, stress was aggravating my PTSD more frequently and for longer periods of time, and I slowly stopped doing my hobbies one by one without realizing it. Then one day I woke up and realized I was miserable, walking through my life in a fog. I felt lost and angry almost daily. There were days when it was all I could do to keep myself from doing something foolish - I was consumed by suicidal ideations. I felt like life was not worth living if it was going to be this pointless grind for another 45+ years. I had a lot of self-loathing and hate for myself. This was just not the life I wanted to be living.

I knew I had to make some drastic changes if I had any hope of picking myself up out of this round of depression. Especially since it was really affecting my relationship with Quiet Confidence. After 4 months of agonizing over my decision I went back on anti-depressants and applied for a year-long medical leave of absence from my Doctoral program. I'm burnt out and frustrated with my program and the set backs I've had in the past year trying to get my comprehensive exams done.

I was going to out and out quit my Ph.D program if they wouldn't have granted me the leave of absence. I didn't want to burn any bridges, however, and wanted to leave myself the option of going back if I changed my mind in a year and fell in love with my program again. As of right now I have no intention of going back. I'm disappointed with the administration, with the level of support from my University and with the whole thing in general. But who knows where I'll be in a year?

I started applying for jobs just before Christmas. I'm trying to find something that interests me and will also pay me in relation to the level of education I've recieved. I might be expecting too much at this point, but right now I feel I can be a little bit choosier. The job market is still tough and I might be a little more willing to compromise and just find something that pays the bills if I haven't found anything by Spring. Right now though, I don't want to jump from the frying pan and into the fire - that being another job and situation I'm not happy in. I have a small nest egg to keep me going until Spring, plus the generosity of my parents for letting me stay with them rent free. I've also got the support of Quiet Confidence who is letting me stay with him when I need a break from my parents house. Despite the bad, I'm actually really, really lucky. I've got a great support network, people who love me, believe in me and are giving me the space to explore new opportunities.

I'm slowly taking control of my life again, instead of letting myself drift. I'm trying to engage with life again and take up hobbies and passions gradually. I've also been happier since I left my University and got the acceptance for my leave of absence. That alone tells me that I made the right decision for me. I still have bad days, but I'm slowly working towards having more good days than bad days. Baby steps.