Saturday, November 25, 2006
One of the (few) good things about getting older is that you inch closer to understanding who you are. The ultimate "who am I?" question plagues even the most diluted of minds. I had a mini breakthrough recently in cracking this question. It wasn't anything major - the clouds in the sky didn't part to make way for rays of sunlight to shine on me alone, nor were there trumpets of any kind. Though it would have been nice.

My revolutionary scope into the world found that only the very fortunate in this life will be able to succeed in following their dreams. Most are bogged down with the responsibilities and realities of life that they are obliged to divert from what they want, to what is most feasible. Some people give up before trying and some begin their attempt, but because of some X factor, have to jump ship. I fall into the former category.

Always being the good, obedient daughter that I still am, I gave up pining to be a journalist when I was 12 when my parents said that it wasn't suitable for a girl in my position to have to travel so much for her work, and wouldn't I be better off becoming a doctor? It offered more stability along with prestige. I rebelled for a little bit, not quite understanding why I was being pushed away from what I wanted. But eventually, I gave in and started telling myself I'd be a doctor until it became what I wanted.

Don't misunderstand me - I love my parents something fierce. They've always supported getting a higher education and having my own career. I know some South Asian families that had been searching for a prospective husband for their daughters since they were in the middle of their high school years. My parents have also always let me be stubborn and argue and talk back more than I think was appropriate, now that I look back. It's like they were proud to see me have my own opinions and let me go on saying what I wanted.

But, at the same time, their own social values and beliefs taught them that as a Muslim South-Asian girl, I had limits. I don't blame them for this. I'm the luckiest girl to have such wonderful people to call my own parents. These ideals were imbedded in their minds as children because that's the society they grew up in in India. No one thought the other way because there was no other way. Being brought up in Canada while having the values of an Indian-Muslim home brought a lot of confusion and frustration. Why was my brother was allowed to stay out late and not me? Why could he do whatever he wanted with his life, marry late and it would be ok, while I was given a predetermined list of vocations along with a expiration date to my singlehood?

It's like accepting Santa Claus as a part of the birth of Jesus - you don't question it or fight it. Just take the candy canes he hands out, pass by the tiny elves adorned in green and red, and weave your way through the crowded shopping malls.

Medical school didn't work out because it unfortunately took me until the 2nd year of university to understand my loathing for chemistry, cell biology, physics and calculus (to the point that I had a dream I was writing an endless calculus exam alone in an exam hall and couldn't leave until I got every anwer correct) - all which you need to make it into med school.

*flashback* Dec 2002: Well now that I've dropped my Life Sciences classes, what do I do? Who will I be? Try the journalist thing again - nope, I know what the response will be to that. Photojournalist? No they'll think I want to photograph weddings. Psychiatrist? I've always wanted to do that too. Nope, they don't want me dealing with "crazy" people...think I'll become crazy too. Psycologist? I wanted to do that badly too. I'm a great listener and advice-giver and I like helping people. No...more crazy people. Well...there's law. I've always held a big interest in it, I'm good at analyzing, making arguments, and um...fibbing. Sounds good - respectable, no travel, time to have a family. Ok - here we go.

And the rest is history. Again, don't misconstrue what I'm saying to think I'm dropping out of law school. I'm really enjoying classes and love the material and I'm proving to adapt well to everything. But I still wonder if I'd be better at something I've wanted more. Maybe I'd end up just finding work as a writer for the small local city newspaper, reporting on the Christmas parade that happened down Main Street over the weekend. Or, I'd be next in line to replace Diane Sawyer, though I'd be terrified of the camera, so I'd settle for being Editor of a major paper like the Toronto Star, or New York Times (I could really get used to bossing around people as a part of my job description...).

How many engineers, doctors and who-knows-what are out there doing something they were pressured into doing? I wonder what people really want out of their own lives, but the sad truth is people aren't as honest as they should be in life. There's nothing wrong in admitting you failed, or changed your mind. Though once you're past the point of no return, you can't bear the thought of the probing questions if you decide to drop out:

Person 1: "Umm yeah, I left med school because it just wasn't for me".
Person 2 (thinking): "Yeah sure buddy, you so got kicked out didn't you?! Who leaves med school by choice?"

But I guess we never know anything do we? We shake the dice, pray to God we get our lucky number and make our move from there on. There's no way to go back and change mistakes and decisions. We have to plow ahead and work through it all and see where we end up.

I also wanted to be a pilot, but even I wouldn't want to be in a plane that I was operating...
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Canon Digital Rebel XTi/EOS 400D
(Click image to find out more...)

Now accepting cash, credit or cheque for the "Get AKA a better camera" fund.
Just a one time donation of $10 from 100 people is all it takes. See me for details.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Not literally of course, more rather, forget the saying "life is like a box of chocolates" (sorry, Forrest).

I've finally figured it out. "It" being life. I know philosophers have spent centuries trying to understand life and it's mysteries, but it only took me the amount of time as it takes to order a large double-double at Tim Horton's to understand it all. Though the chocolate analogy works to describe the randomness of life, I've found another analogy that nails it in the head: basketball

Pretty much everything (or at least all the scenarios in my own life) can be broken into quarters that work like a bsketball
game. For realzies. Check this:

1st Quarter
You start the game off, get a feel for the court and the other team you're playing against.
You learn and adapt skills you need to cover the opponent team's players. You have a bit of pressure to do well, but being just the first quarter, anything could happen so it's way too early to say how the game will end.

Compare this to when you a kid and teenager. You're starting to learn small life lessons, what type of friends you are apt to make. Your parents teachings get drilled in your head. You either take to them (fish : water) or rebel (oil : water) or maybe just mix to form a different consistency (Kool-Aid : water).

2nd Quarter
Now you've settled into your game. Maybe had a few change-ups from what the starting lineup was, but you're still in the game, maybe having pulled yourself together and gaining on the other team by using your knack for maneuvering around the opponents. You may accidentally knock a couple players down, causing the referee to call a foul and give the other team the shots from the free-throw line. You realize that being so invested in the game now means you have to make smart decisions and plan for the next half of your game.

Compare this to your late teens to early thirties. You've made mistakes, learned that life can bully you around, things won't always work the way you want them to. You won't have all the same friends from your high school years, but will find new people that fit better with your temperment. You're in the real world. You learn from experiences and come to decide what type of person you are and want to be in your future. This helps you decide morals, lifestyle and career.

First half is over. Time to go to the locker room, rework your game plan and go over new plays.
You fret over the mistakes made in the first half but know that the next half is what counts for everything.

Quarter-life crisis: where are you? Where are you going? Is it worth going there? No more room for mistakes because now you're in the real world, and your mistakes only hurt you. But there's time to make up for your slip-ups as long as
you stay focused.

3rd Quarter
Back in the game. Fresh start. New players. The fans are more focused and keyed up to see you win. New strategy in place, you go at the game with more drive. Make the plays and score the points that will make it to the game recap on ESPN. Maybe even the week's best plays overview. Scoring with well-timed plays count for everything becuase you're trying to get ahead of the other team.

You're in your 30s now. New people enter your life. Family and friends root for your success in your personal and work life. You're enthused to do well in both to make a good life for yourself. Possibly marriage, kids, a house, a mortgage, promotions: you get acknowledged for your contributions to all of these. You try to save up for your future, and create some sort of stability and security.

4th Quarter.
You're either close behind or ahead of the other team. Either way, you have to keep up and maintain your lead. The coach's strategies may shift to more tense ones where you're calling more fouls and making sure your starting line-up players are
back in the game for the crucial moments. You need to maintain your hold on the opponent because in this game, anything can happen at any time. There's no way to know who will come out as the better clutch player and save the day. Because of the intensity you make amazing drives to the basket and long-range shots. The buzzer goes off and everything is decided. You either won or lost. No over-time allowed.

In your 40s through your senior years.
Investments in all aspects of your life will show if they have profited: your (potential) children grow up, go out into the world and show you what they've learned from you, financial ventures will either be profitable or not, you finalize retirement plans. There's no real way to turn anything around - you keep striving ahead. Then the inevitable death happens. And who knows what happens after this point.

Post-Game Comments
I don't know if this is morbid for anyone, to see life laid out so bluntly. But for most people it's true, obviously a little more detailed though. To many this is a satisfying life and to some others there needs to be more excitement and a lot more on the line (think playoff time) for their life to be fulfilling. I don't know which of these I am. I think I'm stuck in between to be honest - I want the stability and normalcy of a planned out life, but at the same time I'm yearning for there to be a little more substance. At this point I can't say anthing (being only in the 2nd quarter). What I do know is that I am a clutch player. I will screw up now (and I do), but God willing, if I live long enough to make it through the "4th quarter", I perform well enough under pressure to know that I'll come out winning in the end.

And yes, I don't like Kobe Bryant. It's borderline eternal-hate. And it's not a recent hate that developed when he did his 81-point-record thing. Though it grew at that point when I saw him sink shot after shot against the Raptors. But I've hated him since he came into the NBA as a rookie way back when. Don't ask why - it just is.
Friday, November 10, 2006
I went back and forth about posting this.

Have ever had some deep hidden talent or desire and wanted to tell people about it but were afraid of what they would say or think about you and your ability to do it? I envy those who have no idea what I'm talking about - either because they don't have such a hidden desire or have actually gone out and fulfilled it. Being in this limbo state is what drives you crazy.

I'm known (to those who know me well enough) for not going through with things. Not the greatest thing to be known for. I'll start off excited and enthusiastic with an idea or project, but just as quickly lose interest. Maybe I need to be on amphetamines (the partially-legal kind). I don't know what it is, but I tend to back down on a lot of things I want to say or do. Luckily this blog came along (2 year anniversary this week...who'd have thought) and somehow I've stuck with it...for now.

So there's this thing I want to do. Tried doing it. Then stopped. Then started. And now stopped again. Only a couple people have known about it and they have been as lovely and supporting as I could hope for. But despite their encouragement I haven't followed through with it.

What worsens my folly of not completing things is my keenness to procrastinate. Deadly combination. Why do it today if I can do it tomorrow. Heck, it's the reason why I've got my Contracts book open but have somehow wandered away from it now.

Excuses. These are all just excuses someone will tell me. And even though I'll agree with them, I'll still keep using them. And pretty convincingly, I may add.

So what's my hidden aspiration?

I want to write a novel.

There. Said it - it's out for the world to see. And now I'm cringing as I write this fully knowing that I will
not post this even though I am fervently typing away.

Or maybe I will. Or maybe I'll post it for a day, realize I'm being stupid and then delete it.

What I did do was sign up for NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month. And as a participant I'm given a month to finish a novel and submit it to the site to add to their word count.

Despite my procrastinating attitude, I work well under pressure, and a this seemed like a good kick-in-the-pants way to get started. Though to be fair, I've only found out about it today, and so I'm late getting started.

I've had many ideas for a novel since being interested in writing long ago. I have one major idea that I keep going back to and hope that if I ever do take the plunge, that will be the first one I do. I won't reveal the storyline - I haven't told anyone that - just that it's based on a true story in my life and one that's very dear to me. For the NaNoWriMo I've opted for a lighter and more fun story though, but with so much happening with school, who knows if I'll meet my "deadline".

Even though I'm nervous to tell people about this desire to write, I thought putting it out there would put more pressure on me to actually complete something of substance. I think the three people I've actually told this to before will be very happy.

Moreover, I'm doing it for myself. But any and all words of encouragement or criticism would be appreciated (though keep the criticism on medium heat - I'm fragile). I'll thank you back when the book-based movie comes out.

Wish me luck.
Ok, this happened again...only it's the second hit you see rather than the first...I'll move up eventually

Wednesday, November 08, 2006
  • I think Eminem was in the car behind me when I was driving home from Toronto today. Though it's not as fancy a car as I think he'd drive, I'm convinced it was him - the tattoos gave him away.
  • When I was a kid I loved the "moving" lights around marquee signs. You know the ones that make it seem like the light is moving around and around, but it's only the well-timed flashing of each bulb (I won't tell you how long it took me to figure that one out).
  • I also loved hot air balloons. Still do. How cool would it be to go up in one?!
  • The duck is finally gone.
    Update: 10/11/2006 01:27am: It's back.
  • I find it odd that I have more shows that I'm watching now than before. Who knew TV would have gotten so good the last couple years. You know you're too into a show when you're yelling at the TV. I strained my voice while watching Prison Break the other day.
  • The more you get used to speeding on the highway, the slower it seems.
  • Yesterday, a lady in the cosmetics department said she thought I was 16. I could have jumped over the counter and hugged her. I couldn't tell who was happier - me or my mom.
  • Seinfeld is a timeless show. I'm rediscovering it now thanks to TBS while eating my dinner.
  • NEVER underappreciate the value of a large double-double Tim Horton's coffee. You'll miss it when it's gone.
  • I can't watch horror movies. The last one I attempted to was was Saw I - I could only sit through the first 20 minutes before I shut off the TV, removed the DVD from the DVD player, put it back in the case and put it in my bag to be returned the next day. It was 4:00pm on a weekday when everyone was home.
  • Britney Spears filed for divorce from her husband. I wonder how much that lawyer will make...
  • I'd choose Diet Pepsi before Coke Zero, and Coke Zero before Diet Coke. I'd never choose Coca-Cola Blak
  • Harry Potter is not overrated (!)
  • Of all the great thing in life, 50% all chocolate post-Halloween has to be one of them
Thursday, November 02, 2006

(preamble: colour, color...what's the difference? I'm getting flack for changing my Canadian spellings to the American version. Listen, I'm a perfectionist - I can't handle the squiggly red underlining in MS Word when it recognizes my Canadian spellings as "incorrect" - it bugs me to no end so I've given in. Plus, when in Rome...)

One of my earliest memories of being singled out for being different was in grade 2 ("2nd grade" for the Americans, as my cousins are always quick to point out) when a boy in my class persisted in taunting me by calling me "Paki". I was a naive kid (probably still am) and not having any older siblings, I had to figure a lot our for myself. I didn't learn the bad words before the others kids, I didn't get advice on what houses to go to for Halloween for the best candy, or even what university would be better for me. Being the eldest means you're the trial-and-error child. Parents make the mistakes with you and your younger siblings benefit from the lesson learned from the mistakes. My mom, for example, learned to bundle her children tighter so they don't fall (don't run out to get Social Services, it was an accident and was more of a fumble than a "fall").

What was I talking about? Yes - being singled out. So when this kid started calling me a Paki, I had no clue what it meant since I'd never heard the word before in my life. Even if someone were to explain it to me, I'd probably still be confused because my parents are from India. Him being a homegrown white kid and me being the new kid at the school and one of the only brown-tones ones (this was way back before the corruption of Brampton folks...waayyyyy back when) I didn't really catch on that he was taunting my race.

I knew I was different. The other kids ate a lot of casseroles and mac 'n' cheese, whereas I had roti and rice as my staples. But I didn't think my difference
meant anything. This kid (first name Shane, last name I can't remember but when I do, boy is he going to get the egging of a lifetime) obviously picked it up from somewhere that the word "Paki" was derogatory and was to be labelled on anyone who was of medium to darker brown skin.

I'd just moved from Toronto to Brampton, where in the former there were many people from different backgrounds, many who shared mine. I may have just figured that the kids in my new class would accept me as I was, like i had been in my other school. Looking back I think I'd be hated on not only by Shane, but also by my grade 3 teacher (first name not known - teachers didn't
have first names, just Miss, Mrs, Ms or Mr - last name Ferguson). She was always rude to my mom and seemed to pick on me compared to the other kids. The last more blatant episode being when I worked at a certain housewares store about 5 years ago and right after 9/11 when my manager found out I was Muslim she started being rude towards me and gave me fewer shifts (later, after I left, I found she was demoted in the company for other reasons. I know I shouldn't but - muahahaha).

Do you still feel like you are different? Still feel prejudice or racism wherever you go? I think we're so PC-crazy that we're not likely to make our true feeling known, but many people still carry prejudices underneath. Stereotypes being the lighter form of them (see: Chris Rock, Russell Peters, Dave Chappelle).

My brother recently said he doesn't think hate exists anymore. I think
he's the naive one (no offence meant, bro). Differences are tolerated more maybe, goes back to the PC-craze, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.

But thinking about it can make you paranoid. Everytime you interact with someone of a different race, nationality, religion or occupation you'll start to wonder if it's because of your colour. "Is the old lady by the dairy section eyeing me? Do I have something on my face? Is
it my face!? Come to think of it, I just caught that bearded man looking at me weird too. Or did I?"

A (white) friend of mine once said she doesn't ever think about a person's colour. No, she's not colourblind - it just that her race or another person's just doesn't ever enter her mind when she interacts with them. I envy her. It may just be different experiences I've had, but it's always on my mind when I meet someone. It's not that I'd treat someone differently based on their race, but it just, unconsciously, adjusts my behaviour. It probably goes with the "birds of a feather" saying but many times people, will makes friends with other people of the same race. This being mostly found with people of the South-asian persuasion. In high school, if you hung out with the other brown kids, you were ok (there were/are degrees within that group as well). If you hung out with the white kids, you were white-washed. You hung out with the black kids, you wanted to be thugified. You hung out with the Oriental kids, you were an engineer.

That's still stayed with me. Pretty much all of my close friends are all of the same background as me. I do have good friends of other races (is that a word?) but we never
all hang out together. And you see that trend with other groups as well throughout university and outside the workplace (co-worker friends don't count, you don't choose them, you're stuck together). Is that racist? Are we purposely excluding people of other races to seek out people of our own? Does that make me as bad as Shane, even though I'm not as vulgar or blatant about it?

Being in a small city hasn't helped. Back home the south-asian populations is...overwhelming. But here, I feel singled out again. A little vulnerable and under the microscope. I thought people were generally really nice here until a girl I met of a Somalian background told me many times it's just a front. People ask me where I'm from and when I reply "Canada" they always look puzzled.
"No, I mean where are you
from?" they ask again.
Maybe they mean city? "Toronto," I reply.
"But where were you
born" they will persist.

It's at this point that I catch on, but dependingon the manner in which it's asked I'll reply differently. If it's a politely inquisitive manner:
"I was born in Toronto, though my background is from India"
"Ahhh" at last a response that makes sense.

Give me an insolent and cheeky approach, and I'll give you one back (actual conversation):
>>"What do you mean
where? I was born in Toronto. In a hospital. Not a mud hut"
> "What about your parents then. What nationality are they" he said with an exasperated expression.
>>"Well they have Canadian citizenship" I said calmly.
> "They're not from Canada though right?" he gives me the half-smirk with one raised eyebrow.
>>"They're not? Maybe the government gave them the wrong passport?"
> "I mean RACE" he spits out.
> "Never mind."
>>"They came
to Canada from India, if that's what you were trying to get at" I finally say, also with one raised eyebrow.
> "Oh ok. That's what I was asking."
>>"What about your family?"
> "Oh we're all Canadian"
>>"Then how is your last name 'Varadalos'?

This post could go on forever and it seems I've been writing it for that long. And the more I write, the more I censor. So I'm going to abruptly cut myself off here before I start delving into a number of other issues that start to spark in my mind when this topic comes up. The topic itseld has no obvious conclusion - it never will. In the end we have to figure out for ourselves how we're going to look at the world. Sorry for the lengthiness of the post.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
It's 9am. A new work/school day has begun. You arrive at work/school, rosy-cheeked and fueled with caffiene ready to begin a new day of challenges and complete goals. You hang up your coat, set your bag down set down your travel coffee cup, hop into your imitation-leather chair and log into your computer or laptop.

The day wouldn't start of on the right foot if you didn't check your email. After all, the last time you check it was 10pm last night. It's been 11 HOURS. The number of communcations you could have missed makes you almost light-headed. And just so you can be ahead of the game, you log into MSN Messenger/Yahoo Messenger/AIM just in case someone else needs to get in touch with your right away, they shouldn't have to go through the hassle of an e-mail.

"AH! An alert from I would have completely forgot her birthday had I not had this. Saved! Oh and I got my weekly Kraft Cooking e-magazine. Great recipes to try! Oh and look a forward, well that's silly - I'll just delete that...after I skim through it. It's one of those surveys everyone fills out, I'll just check out what my friend wrote..."

10 minutes later, after filling in your own answers and forwarding it on to your 10 email-forward buddies, you decide to mosey on to your blog list.

Starting off with your favourite blog and going over in your mind how great it is, you go through your checklist of other websites that need daily checking-up-on: the "other" blogs, gossip sites, sports scores, headline news, comics.

By this time either it's 11am and your coworkers start filtering in and out of your office to say their greetings and catch-up on what sensational happenings they've missed out on in your life since leaving your side at 5pm the evening before. Once you've debated over whether Tom Cruise's child is an alien or not you realize some proof that you've done actual work-your-paid-to-do must be present for you to legitimately be able to go to lunch in an hour. So you strap down, change your MSN Messenger status to "Busy - DND!!!" and get to work. Boss passes by and nods in approval when he/she sees you hards at work. Notes your name down for that next promotion.


You realize there are other students around you typing away on their laptops and that tiny distant but persistent voice in your head you've heard since 9am is actually the professor lecturing. Glancing at the minimized Word document you realize that "Week 8 notes. An executory accord is an accord that hasn't --" may not carry you through to final exams. You furiously start tapping away on your keys, straining to look at the laptop on the desk ahead of you (if only that guy would lean to the left and get his big head out of the way) to copy down bits of notes that you can fill in later. Then, the professor calls on you. Luckily, you've copied down just enough to get the gist of what's been going on in class and give a flawless answer - thoughtful and concise - enough to impress the professor so that she puts a little star next to your name and knows to go easy on you because you obviously know your stuff.

It's 12pm. Your stressful day has finally found a moment of serenity. You grab your coat and money and head over to the office door next to yours to see if your co-worker is ready to go out for lunch as planned in the IM she sent you a half hour ago.


It's 12pm and you've made is successfully through another Contracts class and can wait to get home so you can catch a couple hours of sleep before Oprah. You think about what to make for dinner - that recipe in the Kraft email seemed easy enough. Sounds good. Another day suffered through and a break well earned.

And to add to the list of Must-be-checked-daily-websites: The 9
(not the TV show - it's a countdown of the most popular things on the web)