The New Quarter Life Crisis

I never really considered myself one of those people who was scared of change. I never dreaded a new school year or starting a new job beyond the usual jitters about the first day of work. I was more excited than terrified to move to Edinburgh. I had some mild anxiety about backpacking around Europe by myself for the first time, but I pushed through with copious amounts of coffee and Google maps. I never wanted being ‘scared’ to be the reason I don’t give something a try.

I like to try new things. Food. Places. Hanging around new people. All part and parcel of that whole “living and growing” stuff I read so many flowery quotes on beautiful scenic photographs on the internet of. I think I’ve gotten to know myself pretty well over the last twenty-three years, but I don’t pretend to know what the universe has in store for me, and how that might affect me. And I used to like not knowing. All the different possibilities seemed exciting, but now they feel overwhelming and kind of suffocating.

I’ve always had a plan. I was that little kid who knew from the age of five that they were going to go to university. No one else in my family had (excluding my aunt), but I knew that I wanted to. I loved learning. In fact, the first job I ever wanted was to be a teacher before realizing that I was not the sort of angel who could handle years of dealing with hormonal teenagers. Then I wanted to be a political analyst, next a forensic psychologist. I never panicked switching my degree several times throughout university. Eventually I decided I wanted to travel, and that I would just finish up my history degree and come back and apply for law school when I was ready.

Travelling was everything I needed. It was learning in a completely different environment, but no less important. I met some of my best friends. I met another girl who wanted to be a writer like me. Despite being completely out of my comfort zone, I’ve never felt more comfortable. Fifty dollars could get me to Paris and back. I could hop into the car with a friend and see the magnificent sights of Glen Coe or the Old Man of Storr. I could walk four blocks from my flat and climb Arthur’s Seat to look across the skyline of Edinburgh from the Pentland Hills, over the Old Town to the castle, and out to the Firth of Forth. Even if I had a moment of doubt, a fleeting “what am I doing with my life” serving full-time to pay the bills, those experiences always made it worth it.

Then I came home. I missed all of my family and friends, and seeing their faces was definitely worth the airfare, which was significantly more than fifty dollars. Several proper Canadian breakfast were consumed, half a dozen slurpees, driving on the appropriate side of the road again, and seeing the sun on a more than semi-regular basis. I had plenty of time to focus on writing, but found it increasingly hard. Not because I was busy, but because everyone around me was. I had all the time in the world, and I filled it scrolling through tags on tumblr. If I stepped away from my laptop (meaning rolling out of bed) I was consumed with the idea that I was doing nothing with my life. I’d debate studying for the LSAT to kill time, and then decide I owed it to myself to give myself a proper chance as an artist. I kept repeating, ‘I’m still young. I still have time.’ But time just keeps ticking, and I feel like I’ve grinded to a halt.

I tried to get a job relating to my degree, which turned out to be pretty impossible. Now I’m serving… again. One of what I’m sure are hundreds of thousands of university educated people making minimum wage in the service industry. My bachelor degree sits at the bottom of one of the many boxes I’ve yet to unpack. I book more trips to have something to look forward to. Montreal. Australia. I love travelling, but being a wandering nomad conflicts with that deep-rooted pressure to get a job, have a career – to grow up.

I think what I’m going through is a “quarter-life crisis.” And before you roll your eyes and groan, I can make a pretty compelling case for it (see that inner lawyer at work already).

Most of us are familiar with the idea of a ‘mid-life crisis.’ The buying a fancy new sports car, getting a sudden divorce, or getting a boob job – all punch lines to a bad joke in a terrible movie. While a ‘mid-life crisis’ never became a formal diagnostic category, it has been studied as a transitional period in adults usually marked by a significant event (a death of a parent, a child moving out, etc.) and suggests a new ‘decade’ for that individual. Many psychologists hesitate to use the term ‘crisis,’ because it can actually be a good thing. It’s a time to reflect on your life, and make changes. Sure, it can lead to depression, but it’s often more of a transitional period. The ball has been rolling for so long that the opportunity to stop, breathe, and think can have as many positive impacts as it does negative.

And while my nonexistent child hasn’t moved out, nor am I between the age of 37-59 – I think a quarter-life crisis rather accurately describes my life at the moment. I don’t have the money for a sports car, but the motivating factor resulting from a disillusionment with life – where you saw yourself versus where you are – is pretty similar. Of course, I’m young. I have plenty of time to sort myself out, or so everyone keeps telling me, but increasingly those societal expectations slap me in the face despite their encouragements. Career. Marriage. Mortgage. I’ve never been one to follow the flock, but the squawking is pretty loud regardless.

So without the sports car, I sink into the couch. Wrapped up in blankets, eating my second bag of Doritos, and marathoning yet another television series, long having giving up trying to convince myself that this is “research” for my own writing. I force myself to shower when I have to work, and complain about asshole customers to my co-workers as we casually sip dark lager from our coffee mugs so no one is the wiser. I watch my friends study for masters degrees or get jobs that require them to work nine to five as I spend an increasingly alarming amount of time talking to my dogs. When people ask what I’m doing with my life, I explain that I just moved home from Scotland and I’m working to get back on my feet. Though ‘just’ doesn’t quite fit anymore as it slowly approaches six months since I moved back into my mom’s house. I don’t feel like I’m “just” doing anything anymore. I feel like I haven’t done a thing.

But the most important thing for me to remember is that whether it’s a mid-life, quarter-life, three-quarter life, or one-sixteenth life crisis (if I turn into a robot or am somehow made immortal), is that it is just a transitional period. It’s a chance to stop and make lasting changes, no matter what age you are. To do what you want and not just what you feel like you are supposed to be doing. There is always time.

I mean, my bank account might not agree with that philosophy but I try not to look at my bank statements that often anyway. Perfectly acceptable adult behavior, right?

Shit.

Hopeless Wanderer: A Traveler’s Dilemna

Ireland
Who doesn’t love a Mumford and Sons song? Well, I’m sure some people do – it’s a crazy sort of world. But I’m sure most people are familiar with the tune, or the celebrity filled music video, and for those of you who aren’t, just close your eyes and imagine with me…

Though, you probably shouldn’t actually close your eyes since that would make it impossible for you to keep reading, and I want you to keep reading. Or perhaps you are a freaky/magnificent X-Men-like creature who can see with your eyes closed. Which, come to think of it, is a pretty awesome super power. Has someone already called dibs on that or do I smell a short story?

Right, okay. Back to the point, which sadly is not trying to understand my creative process. Or maybe it is. To be honest, I’m not really sure. Just let me set the scene…

I’m sitting on the couch, melded comfortably into the form of my butt-indentation, covered in a sea of blankets in an attempt to stay warm in a ‘heat in the UK is now crazy expensive’ kind of world. I have my iTunes on shuffle, both too lazy to create a new playlist, and too non-committal to listen to a single album straight through. This results in the occasional ‘oh god, I still have that song on here’ or a ‘who on earth is this?’ but every now and then iTunes is the perfect DJ. And in this case, the shuffle hits a chord (get it) with me that I wasn’t expecting knee deep in bowl of pasta. Music sometimes, you know?

For those of too distracted by Jason Bateman to listen to the lyrics (completely understandable), for me it’s essentially about an individual who can’t stand still for anyone:

“And hold me close, hold me fast
Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer”

Usually the song immediately reminds me of being on the train through Germany and Austria – since my playlist for that trip consistently almost solely of the alternative folk group in preparation for seeing them in Berlin. It puts me back on the train, gazing out at the alps, attempting to communicate in my non-existent German, working on my writing submission for a competition… Simply, it makes me happy.

Some 5am alps enroute to Vienna

Some 5am alps enroute to Vienna

But today the song felt different. It was less about a trip down nostalgia lane, and more a query about my future. Mainly, my travels are almost over. I’m set to go home in less than three months. After having been away for nearly a year and a half, knowing I’m going to be home soon has brought up a tidal of emotions both expected and unexpected.

Now I’ve never been one much for travel. I didn’t get my passport until I was nineteen. At which point, I got on my first plane with my sister, and got stranded in Denver on route to London. Nothing says baptism of fire like a three hundred person queue and a shady airport motel. However, the point is that I spent a large portion of my twenty-two years (nearly twenty-three – insert cringe) in the same place, and I certainly wasn’t miserable. I knew I wanted to travel, but I always figured I was more of a two-week holiday destination sort of girl. I certainly never thought that when I moved away from home for the first time that it would be to the other side of the world.

In short, this experience has been absolutely nothing like I imagined and everything I could have possibly hoped it would be. I’ve learned so much about myself, and other people. Other cultures. Places. Feelings. How to cook pizza in your hostel without an oven. How to accidentally smuggle yourself into Germany. How many times you can wear the same pair of socks without making everyone around you boke. How to understand a Glaswegian.

I’ve done and seen so much, and I know I haven’t even scratched the surface. Honestly, I don’t know how I’m meant to stop.

Now don’t get me wrong, I feel ridiculously homesick on the occasion. It’s also not a great idea to watch the new Skype ad when experiencing said feelings either, unless you’re keen on saving make-up remover by using your natural ducts. Words cannot explain what it will feel like to hug my family, pet my animals, go for coffee with friends I’ve had since grade school, and meet my cousin’s baby girl. I’m not exactly excited to go from the positive side of the thermometer to -40 degree weather either. Nor am I thrilled at the prospect of leaving behind Edinburgh castle, the Indian takeaway downstairs, my new mates or my view of Arthur’s seat.

I knew it was never going to be easy to leave, but I can’t help but feeling like I have a serious case of cold feet, figuratively and literally.

And it has me wondering, am I now a hopeless wanderer?

Never content too long in a single place. Always looking for something different. New. Exciting. Wanting to experience ever nook and cranny this planet has to offer to try and have a fraction of an understanding as to what the human experience looks like in all its forms? Is that the real curse of a traveler? To be pushed so far out of your box that you’re not even sure what that box might look like now. That the word ‘comfortable’ bores you rather than brings you peace of mind – excusing, of course, blanket covered sofas.

Wandering the streets in Innsbruck.

Wandering the streets in Innsbruck

Or is that really what I’m really scared of? What is going to happen when my inner-wanderer is forced to go home? What if I’m scared to lose that insatiable appetite for adventure in exchange for the familiar, particularly reasonably priced sushi and twenty-four hour breakfast joints. If I’m known as the ‘crazy Canadian traveler’ here, who am I when I get home? No car, no job, no longer a viable answer as to what I’m doing with my life. Just a wannabe writer home from Europe, moving back in with her mom.

I’m terrified of feeling stuck. Complacent. Lost.

It’s going to be an emotional twenty-three hours of travel across the Atlantic, especially since ten of those hours will be spent feeding my emotions during several painfully long layovers. I’m prepared to laugh, and cry. Probably a lot of the latter, and an unsettling amount of the maniacal sleep-deprived version of the former.

I do know who I’ll be when I get off the plane – a crazy, jet-lagged human shell stuffing her face with Boston cream donuts. What I’m not prepared for is the person I’m going to be this time next year, because, honestly, I haven’t a clue who she will be.

Maybe I’ll take a leaf from Mumford and “learn to love the skies I’m under.” Maybe those skies will be in Toronto. Or Australia. Or maybe I’ll find I have a deep love for the ‘land of the living skies’ that I’ve forgotten. There is also the distinct possibility that I’ve fallen in love with travelling itself. Something my wallet might take a few issues with.

As J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “Not all those who wander are lost.” And if Tolkien says so, then everything will be fine. Right?

And yes, I’ve have just ended this identity crisis with some Lord of the Rings. Now what does that say about me?

Movies that make me want to write

I’m going to stop you before you get a chance to say it, okay?

But- but-

Shhhhh…

Yes, I know that ‘in theory’ sitting around watching movies in a leopard-print onesie while consuming copious amounts of scones might be slightly counterproductive to the writing process. I can see how one might potentially make the argument that surely typing on your laptop versus propping it up on your stomach – even as it burns like the fires of Mordor because you’re on your fourth consecutive episode of Veronica Mars – could be beneficial.

And I see where that argument is coming from, I do. One must be. One must do. Not just think. But here me out…

Surely half of writing is thinking, non? I spend hours thinking up new characters, new subplots, maybe a new idea altogether before jotting them down in a new desktop folder. Sure, perhaps that is why I have piles upon files of half written stories and screenplays, and an infinitely smaller collection under the title ‘completed.’ In my case, creativity doesn’t always produce productivity – clearly. However, I would like to make the argument that creativity is and of itself an accomplishment.

You heard me, daydreaming is a good thing. It’s okay to get lost in your own head. Or maybe a book that you didn’t write. Or a movie. Inspiration has a funny way of finding you no matter what you’re doing. Or not doing. No judgment.

So here is a list of movies that make me want to write. Right after I finish re-watching them for the third time. And maybe one more scone.

Dead Poets Society (1989)

I only recently watched this film, and it’s pretty quickly jumped the queue in my favorite films of all time category. Robin Williams is the magnetic John Keating, an English teacher who comes to an all boy’s school to not only teach poetry but also encourage his students to ‘seize the day.’ It’s a brilliant coming of age story featuring an incredible cast (young Ethan Hawke, anyone?). With characters shouting lines of Whitman and chanting their own rhymes in caves, the real question is how could you not want to write? Nuwanda forever.

Stuck in Love (2012)
Stuck in Love
This one is a bit of a cheat as well, focusing on three writers in one family dealing with the idea of love. It’s occasionally a bit too neat, and maybe a tad creepy but I didn’t say this was a list of my favorite films. And as far as wanting to go out, live life, and write my own international bestseller, this Josh Boone film will do the trick. Plus, I may be a little in love with Lily Collins and Logan Lerman in this one. I’m not sure I could choose.

The Godfather (1972)
Now this selection is entirely to do with envy. As my favorite film (I’m sure you never would have guessed…), watching The Godfather is a bit like aspiring to be the future prime minister of Canada. A lofty goal, but an inspiring one nonetheless. Witnessing a reluctant Michael slowly take over the ‘family business’ (ie. organized crime) from his father, Don Corleone, makes for a fantastic novel, screenplay and a cinematic masterpiece. Colour me green.

Easy A (2010)

There is a no mafia involved, but high school can get pretty rough as Olive (a breakout role for Emma Stone) soon finds out when she lets a few white lies turn into a ‘reputation.’ The script is charming and incredibly smart, two things I think people tend to ignore when dealing with romantic comedies (particularly those aimed at a younger demographic). Will Gluck’s script is one that makes me have faith in the genre. Plus, maybe write in it.

Whatever Works (2009)

With all the trademark neuroticism and fast-paced dialog, this Woody Allen film follows a life-long New Yorker, Boris (Larry David), who after failing to commit suicide, allows a young, religious Melodie (Evan Rachel Wood) to stay with him. The script itself was written in the 1970s, and is certainly a more comedic take on life as opposed to his other films like Match Point (2005). For me, Whatever Works really works because it’s so odd. Allen notoriously plays with the fourth wall in order to really engage the audience. Personally, I’m all in.

There we are, some of my go-to films I watch to get me in the creative zone (after I finish the scone). I was going to say ‘creative mood’ so it wouldn’t rhyme, but that would have been an entirely different post, wouldn’t it?

Hairspray Review: “I Can Hear the Bells”

Hairspray: The UK Tour – Edinburgh Playhouse (04/09/13)

Hairspray-Tour-9-02-13-Lowry-4131

Remember that time I wrote about how psyched I was to see Hairspray? Even if I had to wait months because I’m a major musical theater geek…

You might. Because, well, it was approximately two posts ago…

How the time flies when you ain’t bloggin’. Or doing much of anything.

Kinda.

In my defense, I’ve done some things. Like reorganized my wardrobe and taught myself how to play D major on the guitar. Oh, and I entered a two writing competitions, and have almost finished the first draft of my first feature length script.

So there has been things, internet. I promise.

Nevertheless, I really do apologize for this love/hate relationship. I swear it’s not you, it’s me. Well, it’s you a little bit… But that’s besides the point. I want to make you feel my love, okay? Because I’m here now (for now).

And what a better way to get back into the swing of things then reviewing the swinging-est musical of them all?

I’m a bit rusty – roll with it…

For those of you not familiar with Hairspray, the musical is based on the John Waters film Hairspray (1988), not to be confused with Hairspray (2007) the movie version of the musical. With me so far?

Set in Baltimore in the 1960s, the story follows Tracy Turnblad, a teenage girl whose dream is to dance on the local television programme, ‘The Corny Collin’s Show.’ The only problem being that Tracy is a big girl – in size, momentous hair height, and moral absolutism. Once Tracy dances her way onto the show and into the hearts of teenage Baltimore, the new idol is quickly thrust into a word of love, heartbreak, and injustice. She lobbies to integrate the local show so that television can be truly “black and white,” all while trying to win the love of crooner, Link Larkin. “Welcome to the 60s!”

I should probably start with a disclaimer, I am a big Hairspray fan. I am a huge 1980s film buff. So I’ve seen the original Waters film several (thousand) times, and was potentially more amped for Ricki Lake’s cameo in the 2007 movie adaptation than I was for a twisting Zac Efron (well, almost). A singing and dancing re-make of a cult classic film? I’m here for it. So to say I was more than a little excited to see this production come to life before my eyes might be a bit of an understatement.

And Hairspray: The UK Tour did not disappoint.

Directed by Jack O’Brien and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, Hairspray is as big and bouncy as Tracy’s iconic hair. The sets and costumes are bright, colourful and add to the overall euphoric, and buoyant atmosphere. The entire production is high energy and enthralling.

The cast is certainly terrific. Tracy Turnblad is played by newcomer Freya Sutton, who handles the lead with the ease of a veteran. Beautiful and consistent vocals, while delivering a very likeable “chubby Communist girl.” Her romantic interest played by Luke Striffler, is equally as charming and a fantastic dancer, though perhaps a bit weaker in the vocals. A shout out must also be given to Adrian Hansel, who has taken over the role of Seaweed from Marcus Collins, for some pretty slick moves.

However, the scene stealers come in the form of Mark Benton and Paul Rider, Edna and Wilbur Turnblad respectively, whose duet of “(You’re) Timeless to Me” is both hilarious and heartwarming, especially since the actors themselves are having such a blast (Benton broke into a fit of giggles).

Sandra Marvin’s Motormouth Maybelle gave me the chills of the night, with an honourable mention going to The Dynamites’ Jocasta Almgill, Lori Barker, and Sophia Brown for their vocal knockout. However, the surprise of the evening goes out to Lucy Benjamin, Miss Baltimore Crabs herself, with such a grand, unexpected physical reaction during “You Can Stop the Beat” that I’m still not quite sure how or what happened.

Overall, the cast really delivers, although none of the younger leads play up the comedic potential to its full extent. The only real miss of the evening was the Scottish “lonely” gym teacher, and well, that might have to do more with the audience. I recently watched About Time and someone “awed” when Rachel McAdams character insists she doesn’t want to go to Scotland for her honeymoon. Poor, bonnie Scotland.

The scene changes are flawless, and the dancing made me tired just watching. My only real complaint was that it took ages for everyone to get seated, and for the show to get started. Clearly, we all need to brush up on our alphabet (or put the pint down).

Despite it’s complex subject matter, Hairspray is largely regarded as the feel-good musical. I certainly left Edinburgh Playhouse with a grin on my face, singing and dancing (poorly) all the way to the bus stop – apologies to my fellow pedestrians.

Well worth the wait (for me – you need only scroll down to continue the saga), and definitely a fun night out. Plus, a special bonus for those looking to squeeze in a little exercise (dancing-ovation in the sweaty Playhouse equals instant calorie remover).

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Hairspray: The UK Tour runs at the Edinburgh Playhouse from September 3-14. For more information about the performances and ticketing information, click here.

Tough Love

First thing is first – watch this.

It hurts, doesn’t it? Mostly the cat. That damn cat.

But here’s the thing, I think I need that cat. I mean, I really miss my cat back home, and wish desperately that I could claim my flat is constantly dirty because I have an animal to look after (which might seem like a stretch, but my cat used to steal my jewelry and hide it in corners of the basement along with bits of his supper – disgusting. He also has a great fondness for getting his paws wet with toilet water and then running to the nearest window to ‘clean’ it). Moreover, cats have attitude. Major attitude. Grumpy cat anyone?

This is the face I need to see first thing in the morning as it paws at my own, annoyed that I’m not feeding it. Annoyed that I’ve hit snooze on my alarm five times already. Annoyed that I’ve already decide I’m not going to go to the doctor today… for the fourth day in a row. Annoyed that I’m going to spend my day off reading articles on Buzzfeed and watching The Voice online (but can I be blamed? Usher, why so beautiful?). Annoyed that I continually complain about working in a café full-time and continually do nothing to change my situation. Annoyed that I’m always tired. Exhausted.

While I miss the comfort of a furball, what I really need is the tough love.

And since my lease clearly states that I’m not allowed to have pets – I’m going to have to give it to myself.

So if we ignore the glaringly obvious masturbation joke, we can get to the root of the problem.

Change.

Change is one of those things we talk about a lot – good, bad, necessary. It’s not something we tend to do a whole lot of though. Not by choice.

People tend to be creatures of habit. For all we fancy epic stories about warriors on great quests and heroes saving the world – we’re a lot more like hobbits. And not the awesome Baggins-type either. More the sad, frumpy, extra hairy feet-kind that smoke too much and break chairs with our robust rear ends. The ones that wouldn’t make up stories about giant, impulsive humans – not because they couldn’t, but rather they couldn’t be bothered.

But I’m bothered.

We avoid change like a ninth grade gym class dodges flying red balls. People love stability, yet we also desperately crave chance. The sheer potential, the unpredictability, the hope.

Maybe this is the winning lotto ticket. Maybe tonight is my night. Maybe this time he’ll stay.

In my experience, chance is when a pigeon flies into the café you work at and lands on you shoulder like you summoned it with your newfound skills as the Queen of winged rats (cheers, Kim).

So why do we waste our time pretending?

For instance, take the single person mantra, “If you stop looking, love will come to you.” It makes perfect sense. Actively ignore any means to acquire what you want and hope it’ll magically appear. People, after all, are wizards at heart. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be working with my taxes, and despite what some smug couple might tell you – it’s generally not the case. At least, I haven’t had much luck Beyoncé walking down the street ‘for myself’ (can we take a moment to appreciate that Beyoncé autocorrects with an accent).

Is it change or is it the potential for rejection – love or otherwise – that we really fear?

We lock ourselves away in safe little bubbles – behind computer screens, at jobs we don’t like, studying subjects we’re not interested in but may result in future employability – because the idea of that bubble bursting is far more terrifying than spending one more week inside it. And that week quickly can turn into months, years, decades. One day, maybe, you can try to think of a safe way to exit the bubble without causing it too much damage. Because you never know, you might have to return to it one day. No sense in burning bridges.

But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Burning bridges? Not in the pyromaniac sense, of course. Though scorched earth policy – that shit works, just ask the Russians. I think it would just be a lot easier for people if the only path we could choose was forward – Russian winters be damned.

Because that choice, as blaringly obvious as it may seem from the outside, is somehow an impossibly difficult one. Tough calls are tough for a reason. We all curse out the referee watching out favorite teams, but when it comes to our own lives – we watch passively from the sideline. Refuse to get our heads in the game. And yes, I did just make a High School Musical reference. Worse, I didn’t even mean it ironically.

Obviously, the best places to get advice from are adolescent television musicals and Youtube videos with pictures of animals, right?

I thought as much.

Zefron, rabbit – I won’t let you down.

Writing internship applications, here I come.