I lost myself in the process of finding myself

I lost myself in the process of finding myself. 

Let me explain…

While reminiscing through teenaged photos of myself, I began to feel empty. I get it, people change. I always knew I was going to. I frequently look back at the past. I like soaking in all the fond memories I have. But, something was different this time around. I did not feel happy looking at old pictures of myself. I realized, I missed the old me. Who I am today is not who I’m supposed to be. Who I was in the past was the real me.

For clarification, when I reference the past I’m talking about 14-17 year old me. I never acknowledged high-school as being my peak. And I definitely hope it wasn’t. But, there was something so true about younger me. I took hundreds (probably thousands) of SELFIES of myself. Smiling, sticking out my tongue, and blowing kisses. Now, I can’t bear to open up my front camera without feeling some disgust for the person I see. There is always something to fix. My nose, my skin, my hair, my eyes… Yet, teen Nicole did not morph a thing.

 

Maybe it is the culture we are in right now. There are so many apps to morph your face and body into something you are not. Even though I know this Facetune/Photoshop/Instagram culture has something to do with it, my feelings of resent lie deeper. Everyone who knows me would probably say that I was always the popular, outgoing type. They are wrong. Looking back at these pictures, I realize I was SO FUCKING WEIRD! And I love it; I miss it; I want to be it! I did not give a shit about what people thought about me. And now I do. 

 

That is my problem. Somewhere between the end of high-school and the start of university, I lost myself. I was that fun, artistic, stoner-chic, poet chick. I loved the person I was. I dressed how I wanted to, drew weird pictures, wore blotchy, no-brand makeup, but was completely content with who I was. Then, I changed.

I changed myself to be like everyone else. By the looks of my photo timeline, this transition happened gradually. Every photo included in this blog post was posted on my Instagram account ages ago. I used to take a strange photo and upload it immediately. I would upload photos at 3am, sometimes would upload 4 a day. Then I learned that your social media image and presence is apparently really important. Now, I never post.

I’m wondering if this acknowledgement of my lost self will lead me to becoming my true self again. Maybe this whole time that I was “trying to find myself” only meant that I would eventually return to the person I once was.

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Orange Is The New Black: Educating or Fantasizing the Criminal Justice System

Disclaimer: This post contains spoilers from Season 4 of Orange is The New Black 

Season 5 of Netflix’s hit series Orange is The New Black (OITNB) will be released this Friday, June 9th. YAY! If you aren’t obsessed with series yet, this upcoming season will definitely hook you in.

I decided to re-watch the whole series to prepare for the new season. Unlike some other shows I watch, OITNB does not centre solely around a comical and/or purely entertainment theme. The series has tackled important social issues, like mental illness, LGBTQ+ rights, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the American Prison system. Not to mention, it has shed light into a variety of crimes, the intent and cause behind the crimes, racial issues, class divides, and sexual orientation and preference.

Even though OITNB does an incredible job combining both drama and social justice into the series, it is still only a TV show. That means that any conflicts within the show might be exaggerated or even made up. Just to attract a larger viewer rating. But, this doesn’t necessarily mean the topics discussed should be taken lightly either. OITNB may be a fictional show, but the social issues that they focus on are very real.

Here are some things we might see in Season 5:

1. RIP Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley)

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Am I the only one still mourning the loss of Poussey????? Not only was she sweet, sensitive, funny, passionate, supportive, cute, the list can go on… BUT, she cared. She cared about her friends, family, strangers, goals, and social issues. AND, her death hit so close to some of the racial inequalities our world is still experiencing. She WAS the symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement on the show. Her final words, “I can’t breathe,” mimicked the exact words of Eric Garner, before he was murdered by police. Garner was racially profiled, suspected of selling single cigarettes (Is this even a crime wtf?), and put into a chokehold until he died by American officers. It was almost unbearable to watch this exact re-occurance take place on OITNB with Poussey.

Based on how Season 4 ended, I think the inmates will finally revolt against the correctional officers!! How this story line will play out, I have no idea.

2. Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Dogget and Charlie Coates

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Pennsatucky is a character I grew to love throughout the seasons. So, it broke my heart to see her sexually assaulted this season by Charlie Coates (The officer seen above). The whole situation was so disheartening and complicated. First, both parties claimed to have liked each other. Coates admitted that he loved Dogget right before he committed the crime. What makes everything worse is that he holds a position of power. The only reason Dogget did not report Coates was because she knew no one would believe her, since she is a prisoner. This misuse of power is absolutely devastating to watch. Dogget might be a prisoner, but she is still a human and should have been treated as such.

Season 4 ended with a passionate kiss between the two (Ugh). Coates told Dogget that he wanted to quit his job, so that he can be romantically involved with her. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what exactly happens with this relationship.

3. Suzanne Warren “Crazy Eyes” and Maureen Kukudio

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Suzanne represents a slew of mentally ill inmates on OITNB. She is an extremely important character because through her, we can see the lack of aid, acceptance, and tolerance given to people with disabilities and illnesses in correctional facilities. How Crazy Eyes and other mentally ill characters are treated by officers is beyond disappointing. When these characters are seen as a liability, they are granted “compassionate releases,” thrown in the psych ward for “their own protection,” or forced upon their friends to take care of them. Poussey was trying to defend Suzanne when she was murdered. If the system had more compassion, knowledge, and programs for mentally ill inmates, like Suzanne, murders like that of Poussey’s could be prevented.

Suzanne and Kukudio are another prison couple that ended on complicated terms in Season 4. Suzanne, after being forced by officers, bet up Maureen to the point where she had to be taken to the medical ward. After trying to suffocate herself, so that she could feel what it’s like “not to breathe,” Suzanne ended up in medical right next to her ex-girlfriend. Will they rekindle their love in the medical ward? Will it be an awkward recovery for the both of them? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Only a few more days until season 5 of Orange Is The New Black is Released on Netflix!

 

 

How “The Bell Jar” Helped Me Acknowledge My Mental Illness

While decluttering my laptop the other day, I stumbled upon this passage I wrote. I have no idea when or why I wrote it. Whenever I’m in a deep state of anxiety or depression, I have absolutely no recollection of that moment. I must’ve written this passage when I was in one of those states. I read The Bell Jar 3 years ago, at a time when my anxiety was at its worst. This book changed my life – as you can see from the passage below.

Mental illness is a touchy subject. No one wants to acknowledge having any type of illness because of the implications and stigmas that come with it. Many people, including myself, are often in denial when symptoms of certain mental illnesses arise. I do not want to be classified as “sick” and neither does anyone else. Since socially constructed ideas of sickness often depict individuals requiring treatment, mental illnesses are perceived as such. Yet, the only treatment most people suffering from a mental illness needs is the acknowledgement that they are suffering and that it is okay and perfectly normal. After much research and openness of my anxiety, I have realized I am not alone. I feel comfort knowing that many individuals, including some of my best friends, experience and understand the same difficulties I face. I do not wish mental illness on anyone, but the bond that I feel with others who have mental health conditions is indescribable.

Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar,” spoke to me like no other book I have read. I receiving the same university degree as her and have the same career goals as she did. I hope that I can impact and help those suffering, like she was able to help me. Her suicide touched me as if it were my own. The realization of the valuably of human life made me understand the importance of fighting through, no matter how hard the battles may become. One life does not just impact that life. When Sylvia Plath took her life, she did not know that almost 50 years later, someone would be impacted by it. I was impacted because I understand her pain. We all understand each others’ pain. When one battle with mental illness is lost, we are all affected. We must get through it together and support each other regardless of the illness that is being fought. We live in an age where mental illness is so widely acknowledged that almost everyone knows someone who is affected. Mental illness impacts us all. Yet, there is still a stigma associated with it. I have acknowledged my fear of illness so that others can as well.

Together, we can end the stigma. Together, we can help each other get through.

A Thank You Letter to Western University

Upon finishing three full years at Western University, I decided to write a letter to the school itself. Three years ago, this was my dream school. I was an excited, ambitious, and courageous 18-year old, ready to start my new life at a university I was already in love with. I experienced such difficulties and regrets throughout my three years attending Western. But, none of these ever had to do with the school itself. I often thought how great it would be if I could drag the school, and my wonderful program back to my hometown, Toronto, with me. I can’t believe my journey at Western has already ended. And how it ended way too soon. Maybe I’ll go back and write a thesis, maybe I’ll go back and take a few easy and interesting classes I never got to enrol in while I was a student there. But for now, Here is a thank you letter to the University of Western Ontario.

Thank you Western for opening up my eyes. For showing me that identities can be questioned, changed, and shattered. My white-washed, heteronormative, patriarchal lens has been broken. I thank you. I thank you for showing me the people I knew existed, but never got to see. I thank you for making me even question me. For showing me that life doesn’t exist in binaries and that conforming is totally lame. For showing me love, and challenging me with hate. For giving me fake friends, and a few real ones. For making me cry. Oh, how you made me cry. I don’t think I ever shed a tear before university. My highest highs and my lowest lows were spent here. Because of you Western, I am the person I am today. Because of you Western, I will be able to face any challenge that comes my way.

AGO: Gender Trouble

Alcohol, art, gender equality, and good friends perfectly describes my night at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Every First Thursday of the month, the AGO basically hosts a party after dark, where an older crowd enjoys wonderfully mixed drinks, delicious finger foods, interactive activities, good vibes, and themed artwork. Last night was my first AGO First Thursday, but it definitely will not be my last.

The main exhibit celebrated the influence of Georgia O’Keeffe, who once declared “I am not a woman painter!” As someone who is receiving a Women’s Studies degree, I couldn’t agree more with this statement. Art, whether it be a painting, drawing, poem, song, dance, sculpture, picture, blog post, the list goes on, should not be determined by the gender of its creator. Instead, it should be considered for its merit, influence, and legacy.

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Gendering an art piece, just like gendering an individual, places conventional, gender roles and stereotypes on that thing. These attributed expectations of gender inevitably clasp onto the art work and ultimately guides our understanding of the piece. For example, when we know the given sex and gender of an artist we, even if it’s unintentional, try to understand the piece through that gendered perspective. The same applies to when we view art work through the limited lens of a certain class, [dis]ability, age, race, etc. As a general society we think that viewing an absurd art piece, like a sculpture of a women’s vagina, that was created by a radical feminist woman is “normal” because of her social status and identification. If the same piece was created by a heteronormative, cisgender man, we certainly would be confused and maybe even uncomfortable with the piece.

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I am completely guilty of researching artists and attempting to understand why they created a certain piece. And sometimes, it is necessary to do some research to fully grasp the intended meaning of the work. I often wonder whether their gender, race, class, etc. led to the creation of the piece, but never really appreciated the artwork for being art. What if the artist who made the piece didn’t actually want me to analysis their personal life? Personally, as someone who creates many forms of artwork, I absolute despise it when viewers, readers, and listeners try to analysis my life instead of my art piece.

My observation came directly after bumping into that gorgeous art creature in the above photo. My curious, tipsy self ran up to this individual and without asking any questions just said “You are so beautiful.” Maybe it was because I had a few drinks, but for the first time ever, I did not question the creator of this piece. There was obviously an individual wearing the outfit however, I did not want to know about them. I just stood there, paying attention to all the fine details of this work.

I think “Gender Trouble” successfully completed what it sought out to do. Viewers like me, did not look at the artwork as gendered pieces but instead, appreciated them for being fucking amazing pieces of art. Next time you examine any art piece, take in the actual work first. Understand the time, effort and mindset put into achieving such a beautiful piece. Next, determine your feelings toward the piece, does it make you feel happy, comfortable, awkward, confused, sad, etc. And then, only if you REALLY need to, try to understand the artist. But, when doing so, do not automatically attribute their social status and identity as being the mere reason for the creation of their piece.

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A poem I created from selected lines from a Georgia O’Keefe poem

My Thing

Every blogger kind of has a thing. You know, their niche, voice, hashtag, whatever you may call it. Mine is “Shit that Matters.”

Let me explain…

When I started my blog I didn’t have a focus. I always knew I liked to write. I have countless journal entries, notes on my computer and phone, and stickies all over my room. But a blog was different. It let me share all these thoughts with the world. Woah, for someone pretty closed off this was kind of intimidating. But a few months ago I made “ICON NIC.” Maybe I’ll change the name, maybe I won’t. Yet, I still didn’t have a focus. Like most women in their early 20s, I thought I had wanted something fun, carefree, and well basic. Something that would include culture, fashion, celebrities, beauty products, etc. And yes, I do care about some of those things but not much as I care about SHIT THAT MATTERS.

Everyone who knows me knows I like to bring up, think, and discuss very controversial topics in my everyday discussions. Some people enjoy how I randomly bring up such extreme and diverse ideas and some well, get uncomfortable. But that’s why I decided to make this section of my blog. Because “Shit that Matters” is me. I want people to know my blog for this particular section. Whatever weird thought, question, or discussion I might have, I will post it here.

Welcome everyone! I think this may be, the official launch of ICON NIC.