Deficit

My health has always been a source of anxiety for me. I’ve been overweight, underweight, all over the scale, but never intentionally. For most of my life, I ate intuitively. That is to say, when I was hungry, I ate, and when I wasn’t, I didn’t. I’m fairly sure almost everyone operates off of this system to some degree or another. However, when my health became a primary concern, I started counting calories and macros to give myself a better idea of how much I should be eating and where my energy should come from.

I haven’t tracked my food intake in roughly a year. Similarly to many people who follow their food for any period, I became a bit too involved in it and had to call it quits. I did gather a good amount of data on how I eat and how to optimize my intake before my control began to falter. Ever since then, I’ve maintained a healthy weight and continued my routine and diet.

When I stopped eating meat in October, I had to readjust to make sure I was still getting adequate amounts of protein and calories. I started eating more calorie dense foods such as peanut butter, frozen meals, and energy bars to make up the intake lost by leaving meat behind. I quickly learned that the energy held in these dense foods made it easy for me to get my calories without spending a half an hour eating. I restructured my diet to be calorically dense during the week and calorically spread out during the weekend to maximize efficiency and socialization.

Ballet changed that. I’m almost done with my four week intensive in Montreal, and I haven’t quite felt myself during it. I’ve been irritable, irrational, upset, lethargic, and not performing well. Yesterday, I tried on a pair of my shorts to find that they no longer fit. I was pretty upset; I hadn’t changed my diet that much, I had been working out more than usual, and I was walking everywhere. I decided to call it a night, not wanting to dwell on the knowledge that I had gained weight.

This morning I woke up early and realized I had no coffee in my apartment. I went to a nearby cafe and, essentially, said fuck it and bought a chocolate croissant and a vanilla latte. I don’t eat much sugar, but this morning I was hungry and unhappy about my experience during the previous night. Low and behold, my energy levels were significantly better today. I was able to focus better than I had since the first day of the intensive. I often talk to loved ones about the importance of blood sugar and keeping it stable to maintain my sanity, but I hadn’t thought much about it during this intensive.  It still didn’t add up though – I realized that I hadn’t been eating enough to make up for all of my lost energy, but why didn’t my shorts fit?

The reality is, I have gained weight. However, that weight is primarily lean muscle. I was not eating enough, that I know for sure, and it was causing a lot of fatigue because what I was eating was being directed towards my exhausted muscles. So, my shorts don’t fit because I’ve lost fat and gained an inch of muscle because of my excess rotation during the day.

What did I learn? Well, I discovered the same thing that I learned from my intensive last year – weight fluctuates. I gained ten pounds when I went to CPYB last summer, but most of my clothes still fit when I went home. Everything I own except that one pair of shorts still fit well. I’m not willing to sacrifice all of the efforts I have put into this intensive because it’s causing my body to change. I came to Montreal because I want my body to change. I want it to become stronger and more flexible and capable of enduring six hours of dancing every day. If that means I lose a pair of shorts for the time, so be it.

When I find myself focusing on how much my body has reacted to this experience, I try to remember that there are many more ways to measure my success. I can lift my leg higher, I can hold my rotation better during difficult exercises, and I feel stronger than I did before I came to Montreal. Life is often about aesthetics, but health cannot be sacrificed for them.

Eloragh

Pain

Watching a loved one go through a painful experience is difficult. Someone in my life is dealing with both physical and emotional pain. They’ve really been dealt the short end of the stick this week. Sitting with them, talking with them, and listening to them spew every problem they’ve come across has been really hard for me. I didn’t want to tell them, but I’ve been unconsciously trying to make our conversations shorter because of it.

It’s not that I don’t want to talk to them, I very very much do. I am just awful at comforting people and dealing with my own sense of inadequacy. I feel inadequate because I can’t be there physically to sit with them and offer them a shoulder to cry on. However, as I said, I’m bad at comforting people in general. The distance just makes it that much more difficult.

I tend to distance myself from situations where any kind of pain is involved – a reasonable response to such a scenario, wouldn’t you say? I called my mom not too long ago and explained my frustration to her. I said I didn’t know how to be there for this person without actually being there. She reminded me that relationships are rarely 50/50 and usually end up somewhere around the 80/20 ratio. It was my time to give 80% and suck up the uncomfortable, awkward feeling I had.

So here I am, sitting on the phone with the person I love, listening to them tell me that just being on their screen was a source of comfort. I wonder how I am so lucky to have such loving and beautiful people in my life. As my second to last week at Ballet Divertimento is on it’s downward curve, I realize that my first experience living alone wouldn’t have been half as fulfilling or exciting without all of their support.

That was their 80%, now it’s time for mine. I am fortunate to have the partner I do at 18 years old. I believe our paths crossed at a good time, at a time where our values and ideas complemented each other. They are my number one supporter and I am theirs. Right now, I need to remember all of the times their presence has comforted me and try to apply that same feeling to their situation. I miss them very dearly and I would give so much to be sitting right next to them. Staying on a video call is the least I can do.

Eloragh

Preparations

There is this idea that has been sitting in the back of my mind since I was in 11th grade. I have pondered it, doubted it, tried to reach for it, took too much time to grab it, and got a second chance to achieve it. I love public speaking. No, I don’t love the fear of standing in front of a bunch of strangers and talking for ten minutes, but I love the challenge.

When I was sixteen and trying to decide what to do for my senior project, I considered the idea of applying for TEDx events and giving a speech about my experience in public education. I did do that (you can watch it here), just not at a TED event. It was a fantastic event, so many community members and friends showed up to support me, but it just made me want to achieve my goal of the TED stage that much more.

A few weeks before I graduated, I received a notification from a Facebook page I followed called “TEDx McGill.” I had come across this page while searching for a TED event to submit an application to and decided to follow it because it was relevant to me in two ways – TED and McGill. However, after doing some digging, I couldn’t find any evidence that this event would be returning for a 2018 session, so I gave up hope of participating in it. Low and behold, this independent TED stage was coming back and wanted applications for student speakers.

Long story short, I jumped at the opportunity. I took a month to write my application, edit it, edit it again, have other people edit it, worry if I should even apply, edit it some more, and then finally submit it today. I was nervous as I hit the final button, I wondered who I was up against and if I had said anything worth reading. I’ve never applied for anything like this before, so I couldn’t help but think that my words and justification for wanting to be a part of the event may not be relevant.

The people who run this event know who they’re looking for and that may not be me. I don’t know how many people applied or what they put on their application, but I do know that I am proud of myself for even submitting the damn thing. It has brought me so much anxiety and concern in the past weeks, I just wanted it out of my drive. I’m hopeful, maybe naively so, but I know that 98% of success is just “showing up” or in this case applying for what you want. So many people throw away opportunities because they doubt their abilities. Maybe I still doubt myself from time to time, but I don’t let those thoughts keep me from acting.

Eloragh

Coffee

I’ve come to the conclusion that I either need to drink at least a cup of coffee a day or not drink it at all.

I’ll drink during the weekend, but then not during the week. For the first few days, I go through some pretty nasty caffeine withdrawals. I’m irritable, exhausted, lethargic, etc. I am just not on my game. So, I’m going to start having a cup of coffee every morning and see if it helps me out.

I do like coffee and I don’t want to give it up. This is hopefully the solution, but I’ll continue to adjust as needed.

Eloragh

Bilingual

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.

Eloragh

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rituals

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.

Eloragh

Smooth Jazz

This week is the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal or the Montreal International Festival of Jazz. This seven-day extravaganza has made my beautiful city infested with tourists, but I get to listen to some sweet jazz for free, so I really can’t complain. This week was tough, Montreal experienced a record-breaking heatwave, but it didn’t stop the Quebecois from getting black-out drunk on wine and cheese while listening to obscure jazz bands.

The festival has brought back some fond memories. The smell of Canadian cigarettes, expensive weed, and Queues de Castor remind me of Carnival in Quebec City and summer nights in Ontario. My cousin used to come up to our cabin stoned, and I remember thinking of how much I hated the stench of pot. Now, however, it makes me miss him and his fearless attitude. He has not had it easy in life, but he has thrown himself into everything he has done with apprehension or worry. I admire that about him.

My grandmother and I used to sit out on her dock, watching the sun sink into the river after a long day of fishing and swimming and trespassing on islands. It was almost as though the star was just as exhausted as we are, falling slowly into the water where it would wait for us to be ready for another day. I would listen to the crickets and watch the dragonflies chase each other. It was peaceful, it became a moment frozen in time.

The Winter Carnival in Quebec City practically trapped me. I fell in love with the province when I was eleven, promising myself that I would live there when I was older. It was true magic to see a carnival made out of ice and snow. Vendors would heat up maple syrup, make little divots in the snow, and pour the molten sugar into them, making little maple lollipops right in front of the kids. Those bitter, cold days in QC hold some of my fondest memories.

Sitting here, in a chain coffee shop at 9pm, with a shitty iced latte and a protein bar, I wonder how I made it all happen. How I truly let my memories of what made me happy shape my future. There is a musician outside, singing on a massive stage, with a crowd of thousands of people watching her. I wonder if she’s thinking the same thing.

Eloragh