on politics

Someone once gave me the advice that ‘if you eventually want to get into politics, you should get affiliated with a party immediately and start getting involved with their activities.’

I have come to realize that this is wrong. This advice perpetuates exclusionary policy and partisan dogma.

Politics is not about political parties. Politics is about the people of the country and their hopes, concerns, and priorities. It requires you to genuinely love the people. You should not get into the business of politicking if you have not first gotten into the business of listening to people, engaging in your community, and knowing why you deserve to serve.

Political parties are a necessary component of political architecture, but should never be conflated with or ever replace enduring, committed, meaningful involvement.

conjugate: to irk

I recall, with a mix of glee and pettiness, all the people who ever told me no or that I could not.

Mostly confused males who conflate ambition, talent, grit, confidence, skill, and experience with being unkind, standoffish, rude, cold, competitive, substanceless, and other maligned attributes that make them feel unhappy inside.

I recall the ones who baulk incredulously at terms of reference, an official acknowledgement of competence, and do their best to rally and undermine the very female thing that irks them.

Or the ones whose carefully arranged ways of interacting with the world are so threatened by even the light breeze stirred up by the passing of a woman on her way to spend the day thinking of more important things.

And also the ones who have a knack for using the polar opposites, the bad rubs, the good facades, and other phrases to help them reach in their not-so-professional existence.

As a young woman with a habit of kicking ass you listen/observe/read about all this, half bemused, chewing your gum, with one hip popped, arms crossed, eyebrow raised, as you wiggle your coral painted toes thinking ‘damn this dude looks silly as hell.’

Fuck you. Watch me.

tormented

I am tormented.

Tormented by inequality, insecurity, injustice. I am tormented by the corruption of others. I am tormented by my own inaction. My inability to devise solutions, spin organizations out of my own hair, pull policy out of my mind to fix things.

Through Kampala today only steps away from casinos where people listlessly gamble away their money, one hundred metres from a luxury hotel owned by my own employer- I was walking and there was a girl.

She lay twisted on her side, hair shaved, eyes closed, dress disheveled, flip flops under her. She had the chubby cheeks of a toddler, legs scabbed, lips squished together like a napping child as her face was against the concrete. And I looked at her as I walked by. And I truly do not know if she was alive or dead but she was there alone. And as the three men ahead of me, I looked at her- and I walked by.

And I kept walking.

I glanced back, and then I kept walking.

And I am tormented.

 

 

do more

The theme of this week seemed to be rejection, disappointment and failure. And it really sucked.

Throughout my life I’ve had a habit of applying for everything and thinking big- and it’s something I really like about my personality and how I think. I have consistently ‘tried out’ for every opportunity since the age of seven. This willingness to put myself out into the realm of other peoples’ judgement has paid off; like the time in grade three when I was cast as a dancer in the senior student musical or when I was the Carnival queen in grade six. It’s paid of as an adult too, getting my job in Ottawa and being a participant in three funded Global Seminars around the world.

But the reality of asking people to judge your personality, achievements, and abilities is that more often than not, it’s accompanied by a lot of pain.

In my world there is nothing worse than rejection- being told that you’re not the right person. That something about you just doesn’t fit, that someone else is better than you, that you’re not good enough. I despise that feeling, but it’s common.

The thing that makes this feeling worse, is when it follows assurance, positivity, comfort, and confidence. Even worse, when it precedes shame and embarrassment.

It’s the type of feeling that makes me want to hide in my bed and avoid the inevitable inquiry and conversation about injustice and bitter disappointment. At least you tried. Thanks for your interest. I hate talking about it. I hate consolations.

What it makes me realize, is that I’m too comfortable where I am, and I’m ready to leave and challenge myself elsewhere. When rejection becomes personal and entitlement overpowers uncertainty it’s time to leave. Comfort breeds complacency, and comfort is the antithesis of progress. You don’t grow when you’re comfortable- you get lazy. I’m ready to spend the next year preparing to leave the comfort, and see where ambition takes me.

Currently channelling the negative energy that rejection promulgates into the productive platforms of looking farther to do more, aspire to more, prove more. There is no better motivation than when people tell you that you’re not good enough, and digging in to show them they’re wrong.

Get used to the bitter disappointments in life, they will inform some of your greatest achievements and successes.

12715412_10153407913473201_777021083936434968_n10985430_10152999092543201_5199290548336833624_o

11108677_10152912939723201_6859762224926758350_n

11244914_10152865468838201_6161536158473461140_o

11738025_10153024018198201_846359174243940230_n

rejecting luck

I have a bone to pick with the concept of luck.

For the past year of my life I have experienced a common mistaken link that people associate with success in many forms. Luck. Society likes to believe that luck is an integral component in achieving success in all its forms. Somehow that even with a deficit in other areas, there’s a mechanism of luck that results in attaining goals and success that can be relied upon. When someone achieves something great, it’s because they’re lucky.

I remember posting a picture of Petra, a place I’ve wanted to go for so long, obsessing about organizing the complicated logistics of getting there, and having people comment about being a lucky girl. When I told people about my acceptance to JACAC or funding to go to Ethiopia, Israel, Europe, again they stress how lucky I am.

Luck has got nothing to do with it.

I am thankful that anonymous donors are so generous. I have dedicated hours to finding opportunities and perfecting applications. I am constantly focused on and driven by self-improvement. I think months ahead to strategically plan my studies and experiential learning. But is luck even an attributable factor to the things I’ve done?

What it comes down to is hard work, intelligence, perseverance, and ambition. Luck need not be considered.

FullSizeRender (16).jpg

 

what is JACAC

The Japan Canada Academic Consortium is a government funded program between Japanese and Canadian students to participate in an academic and cultural exchange. It’s an annual initiative that alternates between the two countries, and it just so happens that this year it’s in Nagoya and Tokyo. Every year the program carries a theme, with our’s being ‘energy and societies.’

We are stationed out of Nagoya University living in the international student dormitories, and the great part about the Consortium is that it’s a mix of group work, field trips and lectures. The students come from all over Japan and Canada with different specializations from participating universities who have sent their delegates to participate. We have every type of major here, from IR to engineering, international exchange studies to environmental biology. Because of this diversity the perspectives and knowledge of the group has been incredibly valuable. These are some of the brightest and most ambitious students in Japan and Canada.

Apart from the exceptional quality of participants, the content of the program is also impressive. Because of the extensive government and industry support we were able to fly to Japan, visit and learn from residents living in the mountains under neo-traditional satoyama lifestyles, have a lecture by 2014 Nobel Prize winner Hiroshi Amano on his discovery of blue LED technology and the implications of it, and on the last day will be presenting our energy policy recommendations at the Canadian embassy in Tokyo, in the presence of Princess Takamado and the Canadian ambassador. The entire time my mind has been working, thinking about how what I’ve learned can apply to my particular niche area of interest in relation to the topic- sustainable and accessible energy development projects for vulnerable populations in conflict, disaster and fragile regions.

I can’t emphasize enough the impact that this program has had on me after only a few days in Japan. The ability to be immersed in a group of enthusiastic students from both countries, with the freedom to go out and explore the culture, interact and ask questions is huge. What do people think of the royal family here, are there protests, what do people think about the consequences of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, how do you say ‘awesome’ in Japanese, were we what you expected? Between sushi and lectures and group work there’s an obvious connection and friendship that’s been formed in a very short time, which is valuable both cross-culturally but also for the Canadian students who have come from huge distances to be here.

This experience, while it’s not over yet, is just another of the incredible international experiences I’ll have taken part in during my undergraduate degree. It’s difficult to explain how significantly programs like this change my perspectives and facilitate valuable connections across societies, but I wish more opportunities like this were more accessible for other students to challenge assumptions, experience culture, and grow as exceptional global learners and leaders.

If we as a country want to strive to achieve constructive international engagement it’s imperative that governments and educational institutions invest in their students, in order to realize commonalities and rapport that extends far beyond graduation day.

FullSizeRender 8.jpg

 

getting here

I’ve been obsessing over this trip and mentally preparing really since I applied in September. On Thursday once my midterms were done I started packing my little blue suitcase- who has seen eleven countries, tons of flight segments and taken a bit of a beating in just over a year that I’ve had it. I was up packing for a few hours on Thursday into Friday early morning, but this is part of my strategy against such a big jump in time zones. I purposefully stayed up until 3am, which is 8pm Tokyo time, watching my favourite YouTube channel and I also got a call out of Kay while she was getting ready for her day over in Scotland.

This strategy always works for me and is something I swear is the only way to seamlessly change zones when you’re travelling across the world. When you’re dealing with a 17 hour change and only nine days in a country there’s no way you can afford to let your body get used to the change naturally. You have to force yourself to stay up until at least 8pm in the zone you’re travelling to, change your phone clock to the time in your destination and go off of that for the flight (which means no sleeping in some cases) and once you get there, sleep deprived and exhausted, you’ll already be on the right time! And that’s exactly what my days looked like between Thursday in Vancouver and Sunday in Nagoya.

Basically I went to bed at 3am in Vancouver, got up at 7am, finished packing, made my bed, locked my door and dragged all my stuff with me to the Collegia for our team meeting. Finished that, dragged myself to the airport, where I had my classic Milestones veggie burger in the terminal, and got on my flight to Narita! The flight was great because I was in Premium Economy on the Boeing 787- a plane I’ve been dying to fly since Air Canada took possession of their first one in 2013.

The flight was just about 10 hours, which gave me plenty of time to edit a paper, watch three movies, and stare out the giant windows of the 788. I had to connect in Narita to Chubu, so when we landed I hustled to immigration to get my newest passport stamp and bag and boarding pass. The next flight on an ANA 737 was uneventful. We were delayed an hour on the 45 minute flight which was annoying and uncomfortably hot, and I was really, really tired. My baggage took 5 minutes to come out, I met western half of the Canadian delegation for JACAC, and we drove to Nagoya University.

At this point I was really done with the day so I grabbed my key and made my bed and had a great sleep.

image3

image2

image1 (1)

first impressions of Japan

-Everything is immaculate. When I landed in Nagoya there was a man scrubbing a pillar which appeared to be to be spotless. The streets are maintained and there’s no garbage anywhere- including bins.

-Surgical masks are a staple. Tons of people on the plane had them, in the airport there were lots. You wear them when you’re sick, but also if you haven’t done your makeup for the day.

-The toilets are the most sophisticated in the world. This morning I had to sit and read all the instructions for at least 6 minutes. They play water sounds, have washer settings, five types of flushes, ‘odour absorbing’ capabilities, are self-cleaning. They’re also heated. This was a luxury I didn’t realize I needed until today.

-Appliances and lights are automatic and the showers are really great. They’re very concerned with cleanliness and there are signs everywhere reminding you to keep things clean and take off your shoes (like over the sink where it says lay down a newspaper if you cut your own hair and make sure there’s none left behind when you’re done).

-Similarly, their garbage and recycling program is insane. I thought Switzerland was intense, but they showed us a 5 minute video about how to properly throw things out. You have burnable garbage, plastics, PET bottles, glass, hazardous cans, but cardboard, small paper and magazines don’t get recycled- and if you have a plastic cup or plate and it’s broken then somehow this changes it from a plastic to burnable garbage.

-They drive on the other side of the road and the cars are tiny. So are the people.

-Everyone is super nice. The FAs, customs officers, airport staff say hello and welcome to Japan. Actually that’s just an assumption because it was all in Japanese.

image7.JPG

pursuing passion

I’ve learned a whole lot about myself during the last two months of my placement at Foreign Affairs. Things that I like and things that I don’t like. More than anything though, and this is because I’ve been working in a division that I don’t really belong in (right now), I’ve discovered how very important it is for me as a person to work in what I have a passion for.

I’ve been working in North American issues, and my heart is not in it. This could change, it could be because I’ve only worked in the division during a writ, but I am not excited. Yes it’s the division that has the most resources, and even a 1% change in our trade relations with the U.S. works out to be more than all our trade with China. The movers and shakers are here, and these issues are what gets attention from the media. So what?

In my work I need to have a tangible impact. I’m not a person driven by numbers or an increase in the amount of cows we can get across the border to be slaughtered and labelled under favourable conditions. I want to have an effect on people’s lives, and it just so happens that my interest lies in helping people in conflict situations. I want to be challenged to solve problems and find ways to make life better for people who face horrifying conditions. I want to defend human rights and international law. I need dynamic security issues to consider when making decisions, and I want to be under pressure to make the right call. Being on the ground and connecting with people and listening to them and collaboration is what I crave, not an office that’s too cold where I have to work in a cubicle in front of a computer, unable to escape the people talking about their kids and cats and how much they hate public transit.

All things considered, I don’t actually know where those motivations and interests would put me. I hate having to think about being slotted in somewhere in an organization, because I don’t want to be pigeon-holed in any aspect of my life and I don’t want to be trapped doing one thing. Dealing with the bureaucracy and rules about where and when I can and can’t go places pisses me off, and I’ve never been good at listening to procedures and people telling me I’m restricted to one thing. I reject that.

What I want the most is to have the passion and energy return to my life, because now that I feel it’s gone I don’t have motivation to pursue anything really. I come home at the end of the day, exhausted and lately feeling desperately lost and confused at my place in this world, unwilling to face the things I normally would love. I’m in the middle of the editing process for two of my academic articles on drones- this is a topic I love but the fire is gone. The research project on human trafficking in the Horn of Africa that I’m supposed to be undertaking for State has been sadly neglected. In early September I had a ton of drive to study for the LSAT and take on the challenge, but that feeling has left me. All these things are topics I love and am passionate about pursuing, but when you’re stuck in a passionless job, it robs you of the ability to excel and explore your discipline and interests.

This experience in Ottawa has drained me of the seemingly endless energy I had last year, and it’s made me really sad more than anything else. It worries me because I’m afraid I won’t be able to get it back. Does this mean that when I’m out of school and working a 9-5 job the same thing will happen? Now that I know government might not be the place for me, where am I going to end up? What if I can’t find the place that gives me the energy to take on the world like I want to? How am I going to make this sporadic and unorthodox way of living work in ways that I can still have meaningful relationships instead of just superficially interacting with people at work and spending the weekends alone?

There are a lot of questions that I have, but I can’t answer them now. Ultimately, no one has the answers for me and the scary part is that I just have to trust myself to find the way, and eventually I always do. My biggest fear is not being happy because twice I’ve experienced that and it’s terrifying.

My dream is to work on the big issues, continue my incredible education and experience the world through the eyes of the people who are around me at any given time. I want to see the world and learn from locals and actually experience life. I am never more happy than when I’m in the airport going somewhere for a new opportunity and challenge. I never want my life to be mundane or stagnant.

I know I have the resilience to get to where I need to be and continually improve myself so that I have the skills I need to arrive. I’m often tested by the disappointments that come out of dreaming too big, and having too much hope, but that’s a product of putting myself out there and always pushing the limits. One of these days my big dreams are going to pay off and the right organization is going to say yes and recognize that I have a lot to bring. I’m not willing to sacrifice those dreams. I can feel it in my bones that I was made for huge things, I just have to get to the place where people start to realize what I’m capable of and the wait is the hardest part.

I’ll get the passion back by finding out how to do what I love, I’ll keep working on myself in the meantime, and I’ll have the last laugh one day when I’m doing big things despite all the rejection and let-downs I experience now.

11201854_10152848799153201_1111603574361688417_n

Be exceptional rather than accomplished. My steps, which may lack concrete direction, never lack concrete reflection. The secret about failure is that failure is the secret to success. If the terrain and the map do not agree, follow the terrain.