I spent four years, 9th through 12th grade, trying to learn Russian.  I would sit in a classroom 4 days a week and stare at an online language learning software for 70 minutes. Usually, I ended my sessions more confused than I had started, wondering where all of the information I was supposed to have learned over the years had gone.

For the last three weeks, I’ve been in a French-speaking country. By just making an effort to speak the language as much as possible, I have learned more about linguistic concepts in 20 days than I did in 4 years of classroom education. Albeit French is much closer to English than Russian, I believe there are many other narratives similar to mine that would support this idea. It frustrates me to think that I spent 70 minutes a day, four days a week, 9 months a year, for 4 years trying to learn a language in a totally unnatural way. That’s 43,000+ minutes or roughly 720 hours of wasted time.

I can’t say anything sophisticated in French, but I can cash out at the grocery store and make baristas smile when I mispronounce something. I have made a lot more connections with people while trying to learn a language naturally than I ever imagined I could. Making an effort to speak in French has been a straightforward and considerate way to make good impressions and even gather a few friends. People generally want foreigners to try to fit in (assimilate, if you will, but that sounds a little too Manifest Destiny for this piece) and doing your best to speak their native language is a fantastic starting place. I want to encourage every linguistics student to think about their time spent in the classroom and then think about how much of that could have been used speaking languages, making real-world connections, and gathering a network of diverse, intelligent people.

Linguistics is a passion of mine so I wouldn’t put down anyone who wants to go to school for it, but I tend to think that a degree in it might be a little silly. What’s more impressive to an employer, a degree in linguistics or fluency in four languages? Which of those accomplishments is going to add more value to their business? I have always been drawn to languages, but I am only beginning to understand how difficult it is to comprehend them without being submerged in the culture they developed from.

I don’t regret my time spent learning Russian. It taught me patience, devotion, and the Cyrillic alphabet, which I probably could not have learned without a classroom. However, it also showed me that my time is something I should give out very cautiously. Those days clicking away on Rosetta Stone were not the most efficient way to learn. Language and the history of communication are so fascinating; I want to absorb as much of them as possible, which means I should be using the most effective tools possible. Language connects people and gives them a common ground. Teaching something like that in an academic setting with very little back and forth communication turns the entire class into an oxymoron.









I am a creature of habit. My life is very repetitive, very organized, and very scheduled. I use Google Calendar religiously, I mean, I think it may be becoming unhealthy. However, my habits and rituals help keep me on the track I want to be on. I love to stay busy, but being a busy person is unforgiving.

My rules are strict but straightforward: I clean up every mess I make as soon as I make it, I make my bed every morning, I vacuum twice a week, I sweep every day, I switch my sheets and wash them every Saturday, and I “deep” clean my apartment every Saturday as well. I say “deep” clean because it’s not really a deep clean. I keep my place so together during the week that a deep clean is never really necessary. Really, it just means that I dust and clean the inside of my stove and microwave.

I tried to live like this while I was at home, but I found it tricky; not everyone in my family wanted to adhere to my meticulous schedule. Now that I’m on my own, I really see these rituals as peaceful and productive ways to start my day and keep me sane.

Some people can live a transient lifestyle. I don’t mean the vagabond, gypsy, never-settle-down type of people, I mean the people who wake up in the morning not knowing what they’re going to do that day. Sometimes, those days can be fun and adventurous. Most days, though, I already know what I’m doing because I planned it out the night before. Today, I am cleaning my apartment, doing my laundry, going to a new cafe, taking a phone call, and spending time drinking coffee and getting some work done. It doesn’t sound like a demanding schedule, but a lot of work went into planning it.

I sometimes think I put too much effort into being spontaneous or exciting, ironically. I try to do new things in my free time, but end up stressing over how many new things I could do and eventually just settle on something safe and reliable. Today, for example, I really wanted to go to a new cafe, and it took a lot of convincing to actually do it. I am always thinking about money and how I spend it, so risking some cash on an unfamiliar restaurant or coffee shop is really a big decision for me. I almost decided on a bakery that I know has an amazing breakfast menu, but I pushed myself to do something different.

There are some benefits to rituals, such as organization and peace of mind, but there are also some downsides. Rituals can catch you in a cycle of comfort and perhaps keep you from making progress in your work or life. Just like everything, it takes balance to regulate how you use your rituals. Breaking away from your own self-sustained mold will open your mind to new opportunities and ideas. I hope you do something different today.


The Bleeding Edge

My recent introduction to Rogers Innovation Bell Curve was an interesting one. I spent a long time evaluating where I may fall on the graph and concluded that I was most likely crossing the “chasm” between “early majority” and “early adopters. That chasm is the most difficult to overcome, as it is full of shocking new ideas and concepts that would frighten most of the rest of the curve.

That 2.5% in purple labeled as “innovators” is also referred to as “the bleeding edge.” Those are the people who propose things that 97.5% of the rest of the world think is ridiculous. They are the people who believe in ideas like competitive governance and solutions to world problems that don’t involve political action or intervention. There is a lot of fear around the bleeding edge and being involved in it.

I desperately want to be on the bleeding edge. I have always lived a safe and reliable life, so the bleeding edge is exciting to me. It’s full of risk and adventure and potential rewards beyond the ends of my imagination. That particular demographic of society is teeming with people who want to change the world and alter how people think the world should be changed.

There are many things I want to do that would put me very close to the bleeding edge. Every day, I inch closer to this cliff of ideas. Who knows where I would end up if I jumped? Is the risk better than the anticipation of not knowing? That’s always the question we are posed with – if we don’t try, we will never know what may have come of it.

I remember when I was 15 and fell in love with ballet. Every single person in my life, including those closest to me, encouraged me to pursue it without the hopes of a future career. Most people were kind about it, saying this such as “you should enjoy it and embrace your love for it, but understand that your physiology and late start would never allow you to get anywhere with it professionally.” Yet, here I am, at a four-week ballet intensive, in a level with people who have trained for 10+ years, after I have only trained for 2.

That fear of being told that I couldn’t turn what I loved into a sustainable way of life was what gave me the energy to push myself. I come home sore, with aching feet and new blisters every day, but I get satisfaction from knowing that they are products of hard work and will only make me stronger. If I had listened, if I had only ever seen ballet as a hobby, I would never have known what I was capable of. I have fallen many times, but those failures pale in comparison to the joy this passion has brought me. In some ways, I was on the bleeding edge of ballet. I shoved my way into an art form that wanted to spit me out the second I set foot in a studio. I refused to be told what I could and could not do.

In some ways, I think that experience is one reason why I am so drawn to the bleeding edge. I love proving people wrong, especially when I gain a lot from doing so. It’s that combination of satisfaction and achievement that motivates me. I love being told I can’t do something, only to turn around and do it better than everyone else.

So I say don’t fear the bleeding edge. Embrace the possibility that it offers. Yes, people will think you’re crazy when you proposed your wild, innovation ideas, but their words will become their own humiliation when you prove them wrong. The mere fact that you exist at the time you do is so unlikely, why not stand at the edge of the cliff? You will only have one chance to do so.


Dealing with People

Here’s the long and short of it: you’re going to have to deal with people. I’m suffering from some serious concentration issues right now, so lets keep this short.

I dealt with a complete ass today. He decided it was his job to police the grocery store self-checkout line. I decided it was my job to put him in his place. We both ended up angry and giving each other shitty looks, but that’s how it usually ends up.

Life is teeming with people who would rather stick their nose into something that really doesn’t concern them than mind their own business and go on their way. This dude was obviously one of those people. As I’m writing this, I wonder if I have already let him win by letting his actions bother me this much. But that’s not what this blog is about.

This blog is about how to deal with them. Just tell them off if you need to, other than that leave them alone. They don’t deserve your time, effort, or attention. You have much more important things to be worried about.


Marché Atwater

Earlier this month, I wrote about the Westside Market in my blog Being Home and about how the different cultures of the market influenced my desire to travel. It’s become somewhat of a tradition for my family to visit a local market when we travel. Fortunately, Montreal has six, so I have plenty of overpriced produce to shop for.

All jokes aside, markets bring me a sense of peace that I don’t experience anywhere else. The closest people in my life often make fun of me for my love of grocery stores and supermarkets, but I won’t deny that I adore them. I especially love going to groceries alone, because I can just wander aimlessly and pick up weird foods for as long as I want.

I believe it comes down to a sense of individuality within a public space. Grocery stores and markets are wide open and full of people, but those people are all there for a similar but slightly unique experience. That dichotomy in-and-of-itself is what draws me into markets. I like knowing that everyone is there to buy their groceries, but I wonder what meal they will make or who is coming over to their apartment for dinner that night. I often stop to think about each individual that passes by me and wonder what thought propels their feet forward. What motivates them to continue throughout their day.

There’s a word for it: sonder. It sounds sad, and sometimes it may be, but I find it is more often a feeling of relation and understanding. It reminds me that our differences are truly the only thing that can unite us.


Feeling Stuck

Sometimes, we look at big daunting tasks and feel like we will never achieve them. Right now, I am looking at the big daunting task of a four-week ballet intensive in a foreign country that will be taught in a foreign language.

However, I kick myself for worrying about achievement. What am I achieving? Completion? Completing the intensive won’t mean anything unless I give 100% of my effort as much as I can. Am I trying to achieve progress? Possibly, but that may not be measurable in just four weeks. So, why am I worrying about achievement instead of focusing on working to my full capacity every day?

I have a placement class tomorrow that will dictate what I focus on for the next four weeks. I know plenty of my technique is weak or poorly trained, but I won’t dwell on those ideas. My habit of constantly focusing on what I need to improve on is somewhat important but detrimental if not kept in balance with the reality of how much progress I have made. Tomorrow should be about how much I have accomplished since this time last summer.

It is hard to be kind to ourselves when we really want something. It is hard to remember that making mistakes or being imperfect is the epitome of humanity. Finding peace in the idea that you are meant to be flawed is comforting.


Pissed Off

I was pissed off today. I’m not really sure why and I couldn’t shake it. I went for a 40-minute walk, which was quite a lot compared to what I usually do. I took 2.5 hours of ballet, thinking that would calm me down. It didn’t.

Some days the reality of your shitty situation hits and you finally understand that every decision you have ever made has led you to this point in your life. You can blame anyone you want, but it’s your fault in the end. That’s what sting so much, I’m pissed off and it’s all because of me.

I’ll fix it, I’ll do what I want to do eventually. Waiting is the hardest part of realizing a dream or removing yourself from a bad situation.

I leave for Montreal on Wednesday. I’m spending all day tomorrow at professional development for the curriculum I’m working with. I am not even close to done packing.

Yea, I’m angry.