Sunday, 3 July 2016

New Plan

I had a plan.  It was a good plan.  It was a smart plan.  It was a good, smart plan.  I was going to become a real person, I was going to fully enter society, I was going to become self-sufficient, I was considering leaving #athletelife behind.  But then I was offered something I couldn't turn down, if I did I would always look back and wonder "what it?"  So now I sit in a new room in a new house in a new country where the dream I though was dead has been resuscitated.  It was difficult to wrap my head around at first, this new opportunity that I wasn't sure I'd earned, and yet I felt I couldn't refuse.  And so once again I commit myself to the sport I've poured so much of myself into but this time, just for a second, it seems to be giving me something back in return.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Into the Woods

I went on a hike the other day and originally I was not going to bring a camera and just going to use my phone but at the last minute I threw my little Sony in my bag and I'm glad that I did.  It was foggy which made the woods look foggy and beautiful, it actually looked like the forbidden forest.  My poor water damaged phone also got cold and died half way through, I would have had nothing to instagram! 

The best part of the hike was definitely when we had more tree cover so it was foggier just because it made such a cool affect through the trees.

There was also a lot of running water and I loved that sound as we walked through the woods, it was so relaxing and nice to get out of the city and slog of looking for jobs (that has been my life these days).

Monday, 11 April 2016

2016 Reading Challenge - March

March was a pretty productive month reading-wise, it took me a lot longer than it should have to finish Any Known Blood but as soon as I got through that I sped through the other two; the only reason there aren't even more books for this month is because I started the third Outlander book and it's over 1,000 pages.

Any Known Blood - Lawrence Hill 
I love Lawrence Hill.  If you've read any of my other book-related posts that should be clear.  The Book of Negroes is still his best work and I really don't know if he'll ever beat it but I still enjoyed Any Known Blood.  This book follows Langston Cane V after he loses his job and embarks on a journey to discover more about his family's past and his legacy.  The book jumps around through time telling stories of the different generations of Canes as Langston discovers them but the time jumps are easy to follow and well laid out so that it's not confusing.

Like many of Hill's other work this novel sheds light on black history in Canada and specifically Oakville's involvement in the underground railroad.  The book was very pleasant to read but I wouldn't say that it's a story that really draws you in and is impossible to put down.  Instead this book is a calming, almost relaxing, story to read when you need to escape for a few hours or unwind at the end of the day.

The Year I Met You - Cecelia Ahern
Jasmine is a successful, busy young business woman but then she loses her job and is not able to work for any competing companies for a full year and is suddenly left with nothing to fill her days.  Jasmine hates her next door neighbour Matt because of his provocative radio show but is strangely fascinated and can't help but watch him as he comes home drunk every night and passes out on the patio furniture on his front lawn.  When Matt is also put on leave from his job they start to interact more and the book follows their unlikely friendship as they both try to rebuild their lives.

This book is written as if Jasmine is telling the story of what happened to Matt (hence the title: The Year I Met You) and while I did enjoy it, it was slow to get started but I think it did wrap up nicely and it had a nice message.

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes
I. Loved. This. Book.  Immediately after I finished it I wanted to run out and buy the sequel or simply just read it again from the beginning.  This book is about Lou Clark who loses her job at a cafe and then gets a job caring for wheelchair bound Will Traynor.  Will believes that his life since his accident is not worth living and Lou tries to show him that his life can be worth it.  I don't want to give too much of the plot away but this book was so good.  SO GOOD.  I found myself smiling at the book while I read it, I cried but overall this was a simply beautiful, exceptionally written story that I would read again and again.  (I'm also very excited to see if the movie holds up to how good the book is).

Sunday, 27 March 2016

What It's Really Like to be an Athlete

I'm only 24 but I've been involved in sport, specifically speed skating, for almost 20 years now.  In high school it was something that I did after school and on weekends, I wasn't able to do school sports in the winter because there was no time, in the summer it was something that I would train for in the mornings or evenings with days and time off to have a social life and a job.  

When I moved to Calgary, speed skating became my full time job.  As an amateur athlete in a fringe sport there was no way I could afford that level of training by myself, the training fees alone are over $4,000 not including boots, blades, protective equipment, and flights and accommodations for competitions.  In order to get the smallest improvement I've been training twice a day, every day, 6 days a week.  Some people are able to do skating and school at the same time but if my marks were good my skating would suffer.  I've lost jobs because I would have to be gone for weeks at a time to attend training camps, and competitions that I would have to fund myself.  I haven't been home to see my family or friends for more than two weeks at a time for almost 5 years, I miss out on some social things because I know that if I don't get the right amount of sleep I can't perform as well at practice or in competitions not to mention that on paper I look like I've just been slacking off because I have no degree or diploma, no stable job, and don't even have a ton of speed skating results.  

Don't get me wrong, I love skating and there's nothing quite like to feeling after the execution of a perfect race, or even just one perfect pass or block but I've come to realize that you can pour everything you have into something and try your hardest and still not achieve what you've been working towards.  Elite sport is exhausting not only physically but also mentally and emotionally; it can be absolutely draining in every sense of the word.  Sport can be greatly rewarding but I can also attribute the few times in life that I've been completely shattered, heartbroken, and beaten down to sport.  There are so many people in different sports in the same position as me who never get any recognition, who try their very hardest but just don't make it, and there are even more people who will never understand the sacrifices and hard work that go into being a high level athlete.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

2015-2016 Season in Review

When I think back on this past season it's kind of hard to quantify since it was so different than previous years and I didn't compete in the same competitions that I normally do so I have very little to compare it to.

Andy Young SunPulse 
The first kind of 'bigger' competition I skated this season was the Inter-Continental at the Oval in Calgary.  Calgary invited a bunch of international skaters to compete and a select number of the Oval Program skaters got to compete against them.  For me this competition went spectacularly terrible.  It was a complete train wreck.  Because of where we were in the training period I felt exhausted and I was so tired that I felt physically unable to do my normal passes and strategies because I simply didn't have the energy in my legs.  I became very frustrated and very upset because I felt that I was skating so bad and I was embarrassed that people would think that was how I skated and I didn't feel like myself.  I think I only had one race that I could feel even a little bit good about that I managed to pull off through sheer will and anger but that was kind of taken away from me when I heard that someone I trusted and had depended on in the past for support and advice in skating had said something pretty hurtful during and after that race.  After that competition I was so hurt and upset and in such a bad place that I just wanted to be done.  I just didn't want to feel the way I was feeling anymore and I think that if I hadn't already booked plane tickets for later in the season I might have just packed up and gone home.

Instead of skating the Canadian circuit this season I went and trained with Great Britain's national team for three weeks, something I was able to do since I have British citizenship through my dad.  While I was there we travelled to Sweden to compete in a Star Class competition.  By that point I was feeling a lot better about my skating although it took me a long time to feel confident racing again but it was nice to compete against a field that was almost all people I didn't know and who didn't know me.  It felt like there was no pressure and no expectations of me so I was more free to try things and not be so stressed out.  In some races I feel like I could've finished higher or done better but I came out of the competition with a third place trophy and I didn't cry once so I'm putting that one in the win column.

It's the end of this season that feels the most weird for me because I really didn't have a big end of year competition like I have had in the past.  I skated Winterfest, the final competition at the oval where I had some decent results and some good races and then I was done.  I think I had some good experiences this season and some good races but it is a little difficult to tell since I don't have any results to compare to previous seasons.  This season I really wanted to get a new 500 time and unfortunately that didn't happen but I'm happy with the skating I did nonetheless because I feel that although I didn't get any faster times I got a lot better and more confident in my racing.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

2016 Reading Challenge - February

This month was not as productive as the last for reading since I didn't have a concussion so I was slightly more busy.  As of the 28th I've only completed two books and unless I spend the next 24 hours straight reading I expect the month will end that way.  The books I completed are Robert Galbraith's (aka JK Rowling) debut detective novel The Cuckoo's Calling and Grace Helbig's tongue-in-cheek style guide Grace & Style: The Art of Pretending You Have It.  The book of the month for me this month was The Cuckoo's Calling, and I now only have 25 books to go to complete the challenge.

The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith
This novel has been my favourite book I've read so far this year.  The novel introduces down-on-his-luck detective Cormoran Strike a former military investigator who lost part of his leg in Afghanistan and now works as a private investigator.  We're introduced to Cormoran through Robin, a young, recently engaged woman who has been hired through a temp agency to work as a receptionist for the private investigator.  Although Robin was originally only meant to stay for a week she quickly becomes a kind of partner for Strike throughout the course of the case.  On the same day that Robin starts working for Strike he is hired by John Bristow to investigate the death of his sister, and famous model, Lula Landry.  The original investigators have ruled her death a suicide but her brother is convinced she was murdered.

I was (like everyone else) intrigued to read this book when I found out that it was written by JK Rowling.  I read a few reviews on GoodReads where people said that they didn't like her writing style when she was writing for adults but for me it's one of the things that I enjoyed most about the novel.  Rowling creates these characters that feel very real through her descriptions of them and through their flaws and although the book was long it was very easy and I loved reading it to the point where I was carrying it with me wherever I went in case I had a spare second to read.  I really enjoyed this book and I've added the next two Robert Galbraith books to my reading list.

Grace & Style: The Art of Pretending You Have It - Grace Helbig
In many ways I feel like Grace Helbig just gets me.  I don't know if it's her preference for giraffes (my favourite animal),  her honesty about her underlying anxiety, or her love for sweatpants (my favourite type of pants).  This is the first 'YouTube' book that I've bought since it was more than just an autobiography and I was interested to see what someone who seemed to have a similar view and relationship with fashion and beauty that I do (although she is a lot funnier and better at expressing herself).

The book includes some personal stories and favourites, some random and silly sections, and a recurring story about a pair of sweatpants going off to college called "The Sweatpants Diaries."  The personal stories and favourites were probably my favourite part of the book because I felt I could relate to them and I am a nosy person and I love to know what other people have in their makeup bags etc.  As someone who wrote a short story called "The Land of Lost Socks" in elementary school I was able to appreciate the personification of clothing in "The Sweatpants Diaries" and in general I just thought it was fun.  Some of the more silly parts were very reminiscent of one of her videos but I'm not sure if they translated as well on paper.  I think that if you like Grace Helbig and you enjoy her videos and sense of humour you will have fun reading this book, I know I did.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Valentine's Day as a Single Pringle

I'm someone who has always been single on Valentine's Day.  The closest I have ever gotten to having a Valentine's Day date was when me and my best friend went to see the movie Valentine's Day and realized walking out of it what day it was.  I don't know if it's because I've almost always been competing and/or out of town but being single or 'alone' on the 14th has never really bothered me, I've never really bought into the whole idea that I was in a way obliged to feel sad that I didn't have a boyfriend on Valentine's Day because what's the point?  I have plenty of other people that I love anyways.

I'm going to be spending my day with my roommates and maybe some friends and maybe even part of that by myself and that's ok!  It's just a day after all right?  And if it's a day that gives me an excuse to watch rom-coms or to eat chocolate I don't see anything wrong with that.

Although it's not for me, I know that for some people Valentine's Day can be sad or upsetting but if it's supposed to be a day of love why can't it be one of self love?  Here's a little bit of what my day looks like; happy Sunday and happy Valentine's day!

The Creative Fight - Chris Orwig
The Body Shop Colour Crush lipstick 
Essie Nail Color in Fiji

Or if you're really determined to be sad about 'the one that got away' there's a playlist for that here

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Thoughts On Loneliness

I've always been comfortable hanging out with myself.  I don't mind spending time alone, in fact, there are some days that I look forward to the nights when all my roommates are out and I get the house to myself.  Something I didn't fully understand until more recently is the very real difference between being alone and being lonely.

I always had a lot of friends growing up.  I made friends easily and I have a bit of a need to be liked so I got along with most people but I also always had a core group of really close friends.  In high school I could probably call any one of my close friends and within ten minutes we'd be at the movies or at one of our houses.  These are people that I felt I could go to with almost anything and they wouldn't judge me although most of the time all I needed was to sit on a couch in a basement and watch movies to make me feel better.  I still feel like I could always go to my high school friends for support but it's different now mostly because we all live in different places and have other responsibilities.

I have friends in Calgary but almost all of them I've made through skating so there are days where after spending all day training with them you don't necessarily want to keep hanging out with them since training for any sport is a very high pressure and emotional environment.  Most of the time I feel fine; I have friends here, I have family but all those people have other friends or boyfriends that they go to with the important things.

I didn't feel like I was justified to feel lonely because I do have friends, my parents are very supportive, and I live with my cousin and my little sister so I literally have built in friends that are there all the time.  What makes it hard for me is that I don't have someone I can go to in person that is there just for me that isn't already involved in almost everything I do, and anyone that I would have gone to in the past I would have to try to reach on the phone or online somehow.  I am very content until I have to start making big life decisions or something happens that I wish I had someone outside of my skating bubble to talk to and I feel silly to reach out and talk about such serious things with people who are so far away when really all I need is to sit on a couch in a basement and watch movies.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

2016 Reading Challenge - January

I set myself a challenge to read 30 books in 2016 because while I love books and reading I find that lately with the internet and Netflix I spend less and less time actually sitting down with a book.  The first book I read I actually started in 2015 since I got it for Christmas but I finished it in 2016 so I'm going to count it.  I finished three books in January; I enjoyed all of them (and have written reviews on each of them below) but the book of the month for me was The Illegal by Lawrence Hill.

The Illegal - Lawrence Hill 
The Illegal follows marathon runner Keita Ali from the fictional country of Zantoroland from his childhood to his 20s when he is forced to flee his country to the more affluent (also fictional) Freedon State.  Keita's father is a renowned journalist who discovers something about the Zantoroland and Freedom State governments and is killed for what he knows.  Keita, who has only ever dreamed of being a marathon runner and running in the olympics, is then forced to run for his life.

Through his complex and diverse characters Hill creates a story that is hard to put down and sheds important light on what it means to be "an illegal" and on the refugee crisis in our world today.  Hill's previous novel The Book of Negroes is one of the best books I've ever read; I wouldn't say that his new novel is as good, the ending almost wraps up too neatly, but it's a great story that I really enjoyed reading.

Dark Places - Gillian Flynn
I've only recently gotten into reading more mystery/thriller novels (I only read my first Wallander in December), I first read Gone Girl (by the same author) when I was on vacation last year so I was excited to read Dark Places when I got it as a gift for Christmas.  The novel follows Libby Day who was 7 when her sisters and mother were murdered and at age 7 testified that her brother Ben was the killer.  25 years later Libby has run out of money and is approached by a group of amateur investigators who offer to pay her to approach people from her past and help them investigate the murder of her family.  The novel flashes from the present to what her mother Patty and Ben were doing on the day leading up to the murders.

The clues in this novel unfold at such a rate that I just wanted to keep reading it to find out what happened next.  I think this would be a great book to bring on vacation or read at the beach, it's not too long it's not super complicated but it's still interesting and engaging and I personally enjoyed it more that Gone Girl.  I'm also a big fan of reading the book before the movie because the book is almost always better.

Why Not Me? - Mindy Kaling
I love Mindy Kaling.  The Mindy Project is one of my favourite shows, I quote Kelly Kapoor from The Office on a daily basis; I don't care if it's not appropriate if you ask me if I have any questions I will say "I have a lot of questions. Number one, how dare you?" every. single. time.  It's possible that my adoration for Mindy Kaling biases my review of her book just a little bit but I found Why Not Me? to be fascinating and funny.  I found her section on work from writing on The Office to getting her own TV show very interesting and it was very inspiring to see just how much work she puts in and how much of a labour of love The Mindy Project is.  

I think my favourite part of the book was the one titled "All The Opinions You Will Ever Need."  This sections covers being an unlikely leading lady, her Harvard Law speech, what she worries about at 4am, and then the final essay "Why Not Me?"   "4am Worries" makes me feel better about my anxieties knowing that even fabulous, brilliant writer Mindy Kaling panics about silly things at night and I think a lot of young women would find her final essay where she offers advice about confidence helpful.  Basically if you love Mindy Kaling you will love this, or if you're a young woman eager to read about a successful, hard working, woman you will find this incredibly inspiring.