Week 26: Dancing on a Pole

This was, hands down, one of the best challenges of my year. So. Much. Fun.

I had planned on doing this challenge with a bunch of ladies from work, but planning an outing for six busy women proved a bigger challenge than I was up for. I ended up going with my friend Dominique, who was enthusiastic about the outing from the beginning.

We registered for a beginner pole dancing class at Brass Vixens in Toronto. Heels were optional, but we did not opt. I was a little nervous going into this – anything new and requiring a fair degree of confidence and booty makes me nervous. And it turned out that “beginner” doesn’t mean “first time ever”, so many of the other students had done classes before and seemed like pros to me.

The real pro, however, was the teacher. She had a real name, but I couldn’t remember it after she told us her stage name – Crystal Chandelier. I liked her. She walked in six inch heels better than I walk. Period. And she had fishnet stockings. And a lot of upper body strength. I really liked her.

Dominique and I picked poles in the back of the room, for obvious reasons. We wiped the poles down (DIY) and started the warm up. I immediately felt like I was all elbows and knees – my body just wouldn’t move the same way as Crystal’s. Her butt and hips seemed to move independently from the rest of her body. How does she do that? But it was a very positive environment. Everyone was trying something new and trying to be ultra sexy and confident, so it didn’t feel weird at all. It’s just like improv – it only looks awkward if you feel awkward about it.

We learned moves such as the body roll, the crawl (so much harder than what babies do), how to get up from the ground without falling over, two types of twirls around the pole, and how to pull yourself up the pole (pre-requisite for moves like sitting on the pole). It wasn’t the hardest I’ve worked in a class, but it was challenging.

I also understood why we had cleaned the poles at the beginning of class – my hands are really sweaty! We did one move where we would hold ourselves up on the pole (just hands, no feet on the floor), and I kept sliding down. Much like a sexy fireman.

The moves themselves were lots of fun, but what I enjoyed most was the atmosphere. It was a very sexy-positive vibe, and we were encouraged to try moving our bodies in ways we don’t usually (or I don’t usually, at least). Dominique and I spent most of the class giggling and attempting to emulate Miss Chandelier.

I am seriously considering a career change.

 

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Week 25: Therapy

Well it might not be as much fun as hula hooping (which is on my list), but this was a good week.

Over the last 18 months I’d been involved in more and more conversations that included someone speaking to a therapist and having really good results. Whether it was after a break up or a big transition in life, or just because, my friends and acquaintances were glad they had gone to therapy to talk through their lives.

I guess you could say that I’ve had some stresses this year – transitioning to a new (and unknown) career and being constantly nervous about income hasn’t created the soft and cushy environment I so crave. I also went through a really low period just before I left my full time position, and wanted to prevent that from happening again.

I found a therapist who is a 3 minute walk from home, and made an appointment (after confirming it would be covered by extended healthcare, because who just has that kind of money floating around? Not me, thus the need).  I was a little nervous going into the appointment, but only because it was something new. I don’t know if nervous is the right word: what’s a good word for less than nervous, but also mildly excited? Anticipatory!

Anyway, it was nice to go; it was good to talk with someone who listened and analyzed and gave good advice in a non-judgmental and unbiased setting. It was also pretty cool that it could all be about me – how often do you get to talk for an hour just about yourself?

She pointed out that an “ideal” job is not realistic for anyone: you’re never going to find a job where you love every single aspect of it and it fulfills every single one of your interests and skills. So she suggested making 3 lists – things that I must have in a job, things that I would like to have in a job, and things I would hate in a job. Stuff like location, co-workers, hours, flexibility, team environment, etc. If a job doesn’t involve one aspect of my interests/skills, I could always have a part-time job or volunteer role on the side.

So I’m making my list. It’s pretty challenging. There are a lot of things to think about when selecting a career, and a lot of things I hadn’t thought of before. It’s a lot of work to think about work! But at least it’s making me consider things I never had, like the fact that getting a career in a field that doesn’t check all the boxes, isn’t really settling.

When I quit my full time position I gave myself a deadline. I would do this part-time patchwork for one year (since modified to 13 months because I basically took October off), and then find a career path. That means I have six months left to sort out my life. Start the clock.

 

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Week 13: Auditions

If you recall the post from week 12 (which was written a few days ago even though the challenge took place last month), I recently did some cold reads for the New Ideas Festival (NIF). During the cold reads I sent an email requesting to audition, because why not? Just because I have extremely limited theatre/acting experience doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be amazing in a play. Right?

Either way, I went for an audition. In usual Katharine fashion, I was given ample time to prepare, but I waited until the day-of to actually prepare. Natalie (yes, the same Natalie) sent me some monologues to memorize, as well as a rundown of what to expect in the audition. I was also given a side to learn – an excerpt from a scene of a play, as I now know.

So with only a few hours left to go before the audition, I started memorizing the monologue. It was only a few minutes worth of speaking, but it took me a while to learn it. Usually I learn stuff that I’ve written, so I’m more familiar with the dialogue and it sounds more like me. This was a little different though and proved a little stressful. In the end, I was fairly happy with the way I had memorized the monologue: although it wasn’t perfect it was pretty darn good.

Thanks to the TTC, I arrived a minute late to the audition, which probably didn’t look great, but I also can’t fix. Because of the stress of being late and having to deal with the TTC, as well as some nerves for my first audition, I was pretty shaky by the time I got onto the stage. There were about two dozen people in the room, mostly directors and writers, as I did my monologue and side.

As soon as I left the room, I immediately felt a huge sense of relief and relaxation. I was in there for all of six minutes, but it was a very stressful six minutes. While I’m usually pretty comfortable in front of an audience (even on my own), it was still uncomfortable going in there because I didn’t feel completely comfortable with the material I was performing.

I did end up getting a few callbacks though, which was kind of a weird validation, but still nice. Guess what my week 14 challenge will be?!?

 

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Goodbye 2015!

It’s been quite a year for me. I’ve tried lots of new things, learned a bunch about myself, and had some fun along the way. Here are some of the highlights of my 2015:

  • Moved in with my boyfriend. This was a biggie because neither of us have killed each other in the almost 11 months we’ve been living together (because yes, I’m writing this blog post mid-January). Good thing too because I gave my bed away so I’m pretty committed now.
  • Started an herb garden. And kept it mostly alive. They don’t look great and occasionally they go through a prolonged drought, but they’ve been alive since the summer, which is really good for me. (Let’s just turn a blind eye to the orchid I killed.)
  • Got a full time job. And then left said full time job. Sometimes I’ll be doing something and I’ll just stop and think, “I’m so glad I quit my job!” If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have the opportunities and the time that I do to enjoy myself and do things that make me happy and fulfill me.
  • Got into and out of a funk. I got really unhappy toward the end of my full time job and I didn’t realize how unhappy I was until I left that job. All of a sudden it was like a weight had been lifted off of me. I felt more confident, happier, and lighter. A few people commented that they noticed a difference in me. But more importantly, I noticed a difference in me.
  • Started a series of part-time jobs. These part-time are mostly in fields that interest me, and at the very least provide adequate income and don’t take up too much of my time – this allows me to continue doing things that I love, even if they don’t pay.
  • Travelled to Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Montreal, but not on a bike. Vacationing is fun! And it had been quite some time since I had taken a vacation that wasn’t also an epic journey across a country. So that was fun.
  • Started my challenges challenge. Even though this sort of fell off the tracks at the end of the year (I was busy!), it’s back on track now. The challenges challenge has opened me up to new things, and forced me to try things I’d always wanted to try because I have a deadline! Deadlines rock.
  • Found a better balance between saving and spending. I’ve always been a good saver. My credit score is ballin’ (bet that’s the first time anyone’s ever used ballin’ to describe their credit score). This year though, I started spending a bit more money on things I would enjoy – like the occasional nice dinner or new clothes so I don’t look like a homeless person.  I still have a budget and savings and RSPs and all of those fun things, but I also have the memories of the experiences I spent the money on.
  • Bought a stove. OK, half of a stove. And we’re still paying it off. But this is a big showing of commitment for me. A few years ago I had a lot of trouble signing a two year phone contract because I didn’t know where I’d be in two years. At least now, wherever I go, I’ll be bringing half a stove.
  • And of course I had a birthday and matured as a human being and met a bunch of cool people yada yada yada.

All in all, it was an amazing year. Thanks to everyone who made it so special.

 

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Week 9: Financial Planning

Well, they can’t all be lipstick and tattoos. Occasionally, I force myself to do something responsible and adult-y. So this week, I went to the bank, and actually sat down and had someone explain to me (for the 3rd time) what an RSP is.

Years ago, an article was published saying that someone who starts an RSP in their early 20’s is better off than someone who starts an RSP in their 30’s, regardless of how much the person in their 30’s actually puts into the account. So obviously both of my parents sent me this article every day for 2 weeks. I finally just set up an RSP to make them stop. (The same thing happened when an article came out recommending to wash the outside of cantaloupes before cutting into them, because salmonella had been found on the outside of some melons.)

So I set up an RSP, started automatic monthly deposits, and didn’t look at it again for 4 years.

Smart, right? Turns out, could have been smarter about that.

But this isn’t a post about whether I invested in GIC’s or mutual funds (ha, as if I know what either of those are), it’s a post about growing up and actually paying attention to what the big bank is doing with my money (or lack thereof).

I got to the bank and met my advisor, Brad. Apparently Brad thought it would be a good idea to participate in Movember. He’s a financial advisor. With a patchy moustache. It did not inspire confidence.

Although Brad was definitely better than the people I’ve had before. I don’t know if it’s because I’m young or don’t have a lot of money, but banks seem to set me up with their freshest advisors. The last guy I had had so much gel in his hair that I initially thought he was wearing a helmet. He did tell me about a pretty cool party he’d gone to though, which was awesome. I’m super interested in where the guy who is handling my money goes to get drunk.

When you are setting up an RSP with TD bank, they make you fill out a questionnaire. My two favourite questions were as follows (paraphrased):

  • How long do you intend on living once you’ve retired? (The options were pretty grim, with the max being 10+ years.)
  • Do you plan on needing to withdraw a large sum of money in the next few years for a house, wedding, or child? (Because I love planning out the next few years of my personal life in a bank.)

But I’m glad that I went. I now have a pretty decent idea of how much money I have (clue: not much), how much interest it’s getting, and how much cat food I’ll be able to afford when I retire and die almost immediately after.

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How I feel about financial planning.

Finding My Voice… Again

I first started finding my voice in university. I went far away from my home in Oakville, Ontario, to the beautiful little Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Quebec. It was tough being away from my family and high school friends, but it was also one of the best decisions of my life.

During my first year at university, Bishop’s full-time students numbered about 1800, which was only a little larger than my high school. The small size, in addition to the rampant partying at the school, allowed me to make some life long friends, and a huge amount of acquaintances. I would walk 15 minutes to campus in second year, and be able to say hi or wave to about half of the people I saw.

It was here that I realized that my voice was valuable. In class, at parties, and in extra-curricular activities, I started speaking up and voicing my opinions. I had done this a little in high school, but I didn’t think anyone was listening to me. Now, at university, I was not just saying words, but making my statements heard.

Between my third and fourth year at school, I decided to take some time off and do some travelling. I travelled for 10 months throughout Europe and Australia, and most of my travel was done solo. I had to speak to complete strangers at a new hostel every few days, in addition to meeting locals (many of whom did not speak English) on a daily basis. I gained a sense of independence and self-confidence that had eluded me before: if I could navigate my way around a foreign city, I could do anything.

After completing my university degree, I found a couple of jobs and moved to Toronto. I was working as an executive assistant at a retail design firm, and also giving tours on the big red sightseeing buses. As the youngest person in the retail design firm (by several years), I focused on being clear and well-spoken, and through a lot of trial and error (as well as some very supportive bosses), I learned to state my thoughts confidently.

A few months into these employments, I also started doing improv comedy. Once I got over my stage fright (six months and countless silent performances later), I felt pretty confident going up on stage and being ridiculous in front of a crowd. I was finding my voice, and learning to use it.

I left those jobs to cycle my way across Canada, and when I returned I started working at a fitness facility, which included a pool and gym. I was working as a lifeguard in the pool, and a sort-of consultant in the gym – basically, I was enforcing rules, while also getting to know members.

This meant that a lot of people didn’t like what I had to say. A lot of people were either defensive and rude to me, or angry and aggressive. Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of great people there, but on bad days they were often overshadowed by a horrible member’s behaviour. I had a guy yell at me for several minutes because I asked him to put his bag in a locker. I got called more names than I care to recount.

Even when I had pleasant conversations with members, I was still guarding my tongue. I stopped stating my opinions because no one wanted to hear them; people were happier talking at me than to me.

There were also a lot of sexist undertones to the conversations I started having. When I was carrying a 45 lbs. weight up a flight of stairs, someone told me it was good practice for motherhood. While I was cleaning a machine, a guy told me I would make a great housewife. I had to explain to a member why it wasn’t ok for him to say to his male buddies that he loved Lululemon while I was walking away from him.

I also started watching the way I spoke to members: I found that asking politely and succinctly worked better when enforcing rules, because it meant I wasn’t embarrassing anyone. Apparently men don’t like having behaviour corrected by a female, especially in a gym setting.

I started realizing that new people I was meeting (outside of the gym and pool environments) weren’t getting to know the real me, because I was getting lost under layers of fear, self-doubt, and apathy. My stage fright came back, and I stopped pushing myself to try new things. I was at a complete stand still and started getting frustrated with myself for my lack of drive and passion. I was losing the things I loved about myself.

And then I quit my job.

I quit because this wasn’t the career path I wanted to be on, and also because I had identified the source of my stalemate. My job was making me doubt myself and my abilities, and stopped me from being myself, finding a vocation I was passionate about, and pursuing hobbies that I loved.

I’m two and a half weeks out of work, and I haven’t been this happy in a long time. I’ve been doing my challenges, writing, reading, doing good improv again, podcasting (more to come), cycling, leading tours, making friends with strangers, reaching out to old friends, and applying to amazing jobs. I feel more confident; I’m starting to recognize again that my opinions are valid, and that by not speaking up and out I am denying people the privilege of getting to know me and hear my voice. Because I’m worth knowing.

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Week 4: Head Shots

I know it seems like a long time since I posted a weekly challenge – it’s just because I did my tattoo last Monday, and then head shots the next Friday. So while it seems like I cheated, I didn’t!

Last year, my friend’s boyfriend, Sam, wanted to learn to swim. So we came up with an exchange: I taught him how to not drown in 3 feet of water, and he would do head shots for me (he’s an amazing photographer). We met a couple of times and he made a lot of progress in the water, but I never took him up on the head shots. I don’t know why, it just wasn’t a priority.

When I mentioned my challenges challenge on Facebook, Sam and Liz (his girlfriend) suggested I actually get the head shots done. So we arranged a time.

Admittedly, I was a little nervous for this. OK, a lot nervous. I don’t like being the visual centre of attention; while I don’t mind being on stage or speaking in front of a large audience, the idea of walking down a catwalk with all eyes on me makes me nervous. And don’t think that I don’t realize how ridiculous this sounds. No one has ever asked me to be in a fashion show (obviously), and these head shots would be me in a room with a friend whom I feel comfortable with. But I still felt a lot of pressure.

People would be looking at these photos. Really looking at my face, and all my features, and my ability to pose for a picture, and my ability to look pretty. Yep, there it is. Would I look pretty enough in these pictures? I wasn’t so worried about what other people would think, but about what I would think of myself.

I think we all probably feel this way at some time. “I don’t like the way I look. I don’t like the way I dress. I don’t like myself.” Pictures have a way of forcing us to look at ourselves in what can be a harsh light, and we don’t always like what we see.

Whoa. OK, I realize how deep that just got, so I promise the rest of the blog post will be a lot lighter.

Because it was a great experience! I showed up to Sam’s apartment/studio on Friday afternoon, and mentioned my nervousness to him. I was also feeling a little under the weather, at the very beginning stages of a cold, so I wasn’t feeling particularly beautiful. He said not to worry, and so I didn’t.

He sat me down and asked me what I would be using these head shots for. Ummm… to have? That’s probably not a great answer. In retrospect this may have been another influencer for why I waited so long to get the head shots. I don’t know what I want to use them for. Do I want to act? Do I want them for a business profile? Or do I want to have them just to have a nice photo of myself? Deep thoughts, my friends.

Sam helped me pick out the right shirt to wear (I had spent the morning frantically selecting and ironing a few shirts), and we began.

Sam had me sit on a stool in front of a white back drop, and started chatting with me. We talked about my unemployment, my challenges challenge, his new employment, and other things. He was snapping photos the whole time. Occasionally he would ask me to move a little this way, or tilt my head a little that way, but otherwise I was left to my own devices. We laughed quite a bit and it was a very relaxed atmosphere.

An hour and several poses later, we were done. That was it. Completely pain free.

I am now very excited to see the end results.

A "sneak peak" of my head shots! Photo credit: Saajid Sam Motala

A “sneak peak” of my head shots!
Photo credit: Saajid Sam Motala