Category Archives: Rants

The Tyranny of Happiness

Yesterday on Q, Jian Ghomeshi had the author of This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike, Augusten Bourroughs, on the air.

Curious, I downloaded the sample from Amazon.

After a few pages, my thought was “Finally! Someone who understands that ‘thinking positive’ is a load of crap”!

I’ve never pretended to be a particularly happy or positive person. I have a bit of a tendency towards negativity and brooding. In a weird sense, I’m usually pretty hopeful about life, but in general I need something really special to make me feel happy.

According to all the self-help books and articles, everyone should try to be happy, all the time. Showing up at work with a frown on your face is, well, frowned upon. Sometimes I walk on the street and people tell me “Smile!” and all I want to do is to punch them in the face.

Something else about me: I’m blunt.

the cranky cat

“Feed me and leave me alone.” Eesti on Flickr.

Once, I was told how people with different moods can handle each other through a blood transfusion metaphor: positive rhesus can accept positive AND negative rhesus; negative rhesus can only accept negative rhesus. Just so with people: happy people can handle both happy and unhappy people, but unhappy people can only hang around other unhappy people. Pity likes company, if you will.

So let’s be honest: if I’m in a bad mood, I don’t want to hear your “be happy” comment or read your “how to feel awesome every day” article. I want to wallow in my bad mood, complain and bitch at the world without people telling me I should “look on the bright side”. When I feel like looking on the bright side, I will, thank you very much.

It’s similar to how society views depression.

It’s risky to admit to depression. People will secretly consider you weak, unable to cope, and think that you should simply “get over it”. As countless studies have shown, one cannot just “get over” depression.

If I’m in a bad mood, for whatever reason, I cannot simply “get over it”. If I was meant to be a good mood, I would probably be already. But it’s risky to admit to a bad mood. When asked “How are you?”, the person doesn’t really want to hear how you really are. They want to hear “fine, thank you, how are you?”. So you slap a fake smile on your face, and muster an “I’m okay, how are you?” that doesn’t betray how much you don’t want to talk to that person. Or to anyone.

So today I want to declare for the right of all the crankies, bad-moodies and meanies of the world to be allowed to freely feel and express their mood, or at least to not to have to slap on a fake smile to pretend that they feel awesome.

No, it may not make us socially attractive, but we probably don’t want to be social anyway. So that’s a win-win.

How do you act around others when you’re in a bad mood? Do you find that faking it makes you feel worse? Tell me your stories of crankiness!

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“Don’t Move to Vancouver”: Why I Changed My Mind After 6 Months

It's pretty enough.

***Note: Due to the sudden (and rather unexpected) popularity of this post, I will fiercely moderate the comments. I thank everyone who shared their thoughts and stories with me; I encourage you to write your own and let me know on Twitter (@anabellebf) or on my blog’s Facebook page so I can link up to it.

This post is entirely my own opinion, based on my personal experience and has no claim to objectivity. It does not mean to represent in any way the “truth” about Vancouver. It just represents my truth. I’ve recently written another post that attempts to put some things in perspective. Please give it a look.

While you’re here, why don’t you drop by my home page for my latest post, and subscribe by email or RSS? I do like to talk about other things :)***

There’s this thing we have back East about Vancouver: we think it’s a mystical land where there is no snow in the winter and summers aren’t crushingly hot. There are beautiful mountains and glass skyscrapers and the ocean. Everyone is a hippie and people are friendly and mellow because they all do yoga and run while breathing clean, wholesome ocean air. You can grow pot on your lawn and it doesn’t get you arrested. There is no snow. There is no snow. There is no snow.

You should have heard me in my first two or three months here: “I’ve always wanted to live here. It’s so beautiful. There’s no way I can go back home after seeing this, being here! You should totally move here. Yeah, it’s expensive, but this view makes up for it!” I was gaga for Van; if it had been a person I would have waited in line for an autograph.

Now, not only am I leaving, but I never want to come back.

So long! Adieu! It’s been nice, but now I feel like a young naïve girl who’s been tricked into having sex with a pretty but vapid jock.

Despite the good things about Vancouver, it has disappointed me on so many levels that I wonder why anyone in their right minds would choose to stay here. Let’s see a breakdown, shall we?

Disappointing thing #1: The job market

I wasn’t expecting it to be easy, don’t get me wrong. Times are hard and jobs are scarce, but I am a highly trained, skilled and experienced person and when barely 15% of the jobs you apply for actually call you back, you’re starting to take it a bit personally. “Is it me? Am I not good enough?” you ask in tears as the pretty jock dumps you after he’s had what he wanted.

There are no jobs here, and when a good one pops up, the competition is so fierce that you have to send a singing telegram to get noticed. I thought my French would give me an edge–might as well speak Catalan for the little it did for me.

And IF you get one of these rare jobs, the salaries are in no way high enough to support basic living. Vancouver’s minimum living wage is 19.14$. 19$ an hour is somewhere around 40K a year, BEFORE any taxes and deductions are taken. And that’s just basic survival for a family with two full-time, full year income earners. No car, no luxuries, probably no savings either.

So what’s wrong with this picture? 19$ an hour is a lot, you say? Let’s see what else.

Disappointing thing #2: The cost of living

Okay, this isn’t exactly a disappointment. I knew about the cost of living because of the two years I spent in Victoria. But even then, the cost of living here is ludicrous. How many people must cram into a 1500$/month 2-bedroom apartment just to make ends meet? “Why aren’t they moving somewhere cheaper?” you ask.

Well, there isn’t anything cheaper. Well, actually, there is, but the cheaper stuff is often illegal, unsafe and unhealthy. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to rent my room for 500$ because I know the person who owns the house and they have accepted me in the family. The real estate costs are driving the rental costs at levels where even renters won’t be able to afford it anymore. When a one-bedroom rent for one person can easily eat out 50% of your monthly income, there is something deeply, deeply wrong with the market.

And it’s not just about the rents. The food is also ludicrously expensive. On a comparative scale to Montréal, the food can often be close to double what I used to pay back home. Big brick of cheap, Kraft, orange cheddar cheese? 15$. Back home? 8$, 6$ on special. 5 chicken breasts? 15$. Back home? 7-ish$.

So it’s not just about the rent prices; it’s also about the sky-high prices of everything from food to entertainment to personal care items.

Disappointing thing #3: The heart

It’s not like there’s nothing to do in Vancouver. Actually, I was pretty busy during the months I spent there. But the city has, how can I explain it… no soul. It is as superficial and empty as the endless condo towers growing like weeds.

There are good people in Vancouver who give this city some spark and light; but most times I felt no joie de vivre, no… happiness. Everyone is working so hard to maintain the appearance of being affluent that they lose their souls in the process. They lose their ability to enjoy life. And what good is a city surrounded by nature if you can’t find it in your heart to enjoy it to its fullest because you are worried about bills all the time?

Montréal might not be as pretty, but people there have fun. And there’s fun enough for everyone, not just the pretty 18-year-olds. Sometimes it felt to me like Vancouver’s obsession with food is masking a deep dissatisfaction. An interesting study topic for a cultural anthropologist?

Conclusion

I used to love Vancouver as a tourist… but staying there made me hate it. How many smart, motivated young people must you scare out with your over-inflated prices and lack of joy before you realize that you are headed to an economic and human disaster, Vancouver?

Related links:

Avenue Edmonton: Paradise Found

Cunting Linguist: Vancouver, I love you but I’m leaving

Cunting Linguist: The deeper reasoning behind my leaving

Miss Manifesto: Vancouver, Lost

BC Business, Dec 12 2011: Housing has become Vancouver’s toxic asset

Sandy Garossino: Unaffordable (That’s what you are)

Maclean’s, June 11 2011: The real problem with Vancouver’s outrageous house prices

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My Bullying Story

Bullying in high school is real, and it hurts.

It happens to gay (and perceived gay) youth. It happens to ordinary guys and girls. It happens and most adults don’t see it, or don’t want to.

It happened to me.

I’m prompted to write this as my family and friends back home tell me this story of the young Marjorie Raymond who killed herself on Monday after years of suffering from bullying.

Marjorie was 15 years old. She seems to have been a happy, normal girl. Like all girls her age she had dreams and projects and ideas and could have done so much with her life.

* * *

Most adults just say, “they’re teenagers, everyone does it, it goes away, it gets better. They are immature, jealous, just looking to be part of the gang. Just be strong, ignore them.” Yes, it does get better, but while you’re suffering, while every day you have to listen to jeers and giggles and nasty nicknames hissed in a corner or screamed out loud in the corridor as you walk to class, it feels like eternity. When you dread every minute of free time between classes, when your worst nightmares involve oral presentations because now you can see them laugh at you, in your face, it feels like eternity. And I can’t say that the thought of killing myself, ending it, never crossed my mind.

I told my mother–she said to be strong, that it would pass. That it couldn’t possibly be as bad as I said. (Maman, je t’aime de tout mon coeur et je ne t’en veux pas le moins du monde!) I told teachers–they told me to make a complaint. I made complaints, many of them–the direction finally had me confront my bullies and they apologized and started again the next day. They never had any sanctions.

I never wanted to go to school. By the end, I started thinking how I could just read the textbooks, write my homework and the final exams and stay at home for the last few months of high school. I never got involved in any projects or extracurricular groups because it would mean having more contact with schoolmates (I don’t think they even deserve that name).

At the worst of the worst of times, there was one single idea in my head: “If I died, they’d probably throw a party”. When I read stuff like this:

Two people who go by the names Angel Mythe Reck and Gentil Dauphin Triste have created a Facebook page mocking Marjorie’s suicide, posting a photo of a blood-spattered young woman and pledging to post more photos of Marjorie’s death.

then I think that I wasn’t too far off.

* * *

Yes, I survived. But I put as much distance as I possibly could between this hell and me. I moved to Montréal at the first opportunity. I now live in Vancouver, and even Australia wouldn’t be far enough. Because in the end, it’s not the people who hurt you that you’re really trying to get away from. It’s the scars, the inability to trust, the fear of social groups, this feeling of suffering alone, unheard and dismissed by those you trust. It’s been 11 years and it hasn’t been long enough to heal. I live 5000 kilometers away and yet, when I read this this morning, all the pain and all the suffering came back, as if it was yesterday, next door.

Yes, it gets better. I have wonderful, welcoming friends, the most amazing boyfriend in the world and a promising career. But when the only end in sight in the one that, literally, ends everything, “It gets better” just doesn’t help.

My deepest condolences to the Raymond family. Another life lost too soon, way too soon, because of the actions of children who do not understand the basic human concept of respect.

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Spamtastic

The day I feel great about taking car loans is the day spas start selling motor oil:

If you’re in uncomfortable position and have got no cash to get out from that, you will require to receive the loan (I won’t dignify this spammer with the link he wanted to post). Because it will help you unquestionably. I take car loan every single year and feel great because of that.

Can a loan take me out of the uncomfortable position of making fun of terrible spam?

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More Spam

After the incomprehensible spam, here comes the insulting spam:

How is it that just anyone can publish a blog and get as popular as this? (I’m really not THAT popular) Its not like youve said anything incredibly impressive more like youve painted a quite picture through an issue that you know nothing about! I dont want to sound mean, right here. But do you genuinely think that you can get away with adding some quite pictures and not truly say something?

Someone attempted to post this on my post about knitting and writing. There aren’t even any pictures on that post!

If at least spammers bothered to be nice, they would have a better chance of not being dumped into the #13 filing cabinet!

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On Not Celebrating Halloween

I’m not not celebrating Halloween because I think it’s silly or a too commercial holiday. I very happily wore a costume and partied with friends the past couple of years.

This year, however, besides from having no established friends in Vancouver and having received no invitations to a Halloween party (and I’m not fishing here, trust me), I’m also swamped with work. Which is, I suppose, a good thing.

But in moments like this I feel lonely. My boyfriend is in another city, my family 5 provinces away. Twitter is nice but it doesn’t replace actual human contact. Last night I drove home from a play and saw a bunch of people dressed up and going to parties and bars; I couldn’t help but think, “not for me, not this year”. And it makes me sad.

loneliness

Loneliness by JuanSueiro.

 

I’m used to loneliness I suppose. As a teenager I didn’t have many friends and even though adulthood has been kinder, I still end up in moments where I wish I was a more social person. I don’t need social contact as much as other people but I still do, from time to time.

So, I’m not celebrating Halloween this year, other than giving out candy on Monday night. Times like this make me reflect on how I relate to others. I’m hard to get to know, awkward and often a bit annoying (I am aware). I don’t really know how to handle people socially unless there’s an instant connection–it’s rare but it happens.

My loneliness might be my own fault, but it doesn’t make it easier to handle.

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Best Spam Comment Ever

Freezing these days needed to let you know precisely a good deal our spouse and document recognize all of the you have spoken of to help you improve the overall value on the day-to-day lives for men and women from this motif. Over the articles, I had ended up because of basically the unskilled to somewhat of a expert in your neighborhood. It happens to be truly a gratitude for your superior do the job. Regards.

I’m sure this is some deep poetry or theory that only the smartest people can understand.

Right?

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