Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Challenging the Unknown — but allow me to introduce myself first

I feel like I should introduce myself.

Hi, guys and gals. My name is Christina, but I go by the names of Kris, Vanilla, Steens, Christintian, Seena, Vanipants, and La Vegetaliana, amongst others. I have a habit of disappearing both virtually and literally (unless you appear at my house, where you'd typically find me inelegantly perched over a book and gripping a highlighter like the hilt of a kitchen knife) during the academic semester, surfacing ever so quietly and thirsty for contact with the non-academic masses.

So, uh... hey, everybody. How have you been?

Just two weeks ago, I arrived in Montreal from Toronto after submitting my penultimate assignment for my Master's. Having given up on submitting something of which I was indubitably proud, I settled on, well, simply getting rid of  my final assignment, submitting it to my professor in Italy mere minutes after midnight a few days after my return to Montreal. Marks'll be posted in eight days...

I'm free—totally, completely, wholly, deliciously free. It's a strange feeling, fellow students, is it not? What do we do with ourselves? It's funny, because that question has echoed in my ears several times over the past few weeks. "So, what do you do with your day?" Well, I'm still doing work for a professor of mine; then, I enrolled in an online, 120-hour TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course with i-to-i; I've been working out, meditating, and spending precious time with loved ones. I attended three concerts in four days, something I've never attempted before but that was made possible thanks to my handsome and generous companion. I've been to Aux Vivres twice, Café Juicy Lotus for the first time (and, oh! How I've been missing out!), and have been getting my fill of Indian food from Pushap. Oh, and I've been reading—reading! Oh, what a blessed novelty. And not only have I been spending time flipping pages of books that I choose to read, but the words on these pages are—gasp!—written in English. English! Oh, Mother Tongue, I have not forsaken you! (Quick recap if you didn't know in what I was specializing in my Master's: I've been studying Italian, at three institutions, since 2003. Also, if you're wondering what I'm reading, wonder no more! The Great Typo Hunt has stolen my heart and made me laugh out loud on several occasions.)

I've been free, like I said, yet these past two weeks could rival some bad weeks during my MA in terms of how stress- and anxiety-riddled they were. As some of you may know, I applied to do my PhD in Italian Studies, a feat to which I was whole-heartedly opposed barely half a year ago, but which has taken on the guise of a masochistic adventure that has made itself comfy in the abodes of my heart and mind. The only downside: instead of commencing in September 2013, I'd have to start in January 2013, moving back to Toronto only three short weeks after coming back to Montreal for Christmas.

Coming back? Yes, yes, of course. Four months away from blogging will do that—you know, have stuff happen in them as time goes by. I have more news: I leave for Italy on May 25, working with the fab, brilliant, wonderful, and talented artists at the Art Monastery Project once again. I am psyched to be working with them, though we've collaborated on some odds and ends over this past year via e-mail and Skype. Nevertheless, this departure comes with its own brand of anxiety... but I've already shipped myself some almond butter, maple syrup, and Genmaicha to mitigate any such feelings at least while I'm there. (I really did.)

Like I was saying with regards to starting my PhD early, I wasn't completely seduced by the idea of leaving my loved ones so soon after returning. I spent many days debating internally, meditating to stave off the anxiety and to bring clarity, bouncing ideas, concerns, and doubts off of friends as well as family and even professors, and, in the case of yesterday, not obtaining more than a few successions of winks in my period of slumber and, in daylight hours, taking those precious winks and watching helplessly as tears manifested, seemingly endlessly. This is easily, well, the most difficult decision that I've had to make. A PhD is five frakking years long, for cryin' out loud! I have one more week to make the decision, but, having received an extremely reassuring e-mail from a prof of mine late last night, I can say that, although the decision to skip over to Toronto—my fair Muse, heartbreaker, and heart-stealer—would be made with a heavy heart and by no means without second thoughts, it may now be rendered slightly less complicated and will be characterized by more certainty than confusion.

In the wise words of a very dear friend of mine, though, "anyone who is 100% certain of anything is insane." In other words, doubt is normal and should be welcomed: it means we're cognizant of other options, possibilities, opportunities; it means we're not walking blindly into one idea or activity but taking our surroundings into account. What good is a walk through a verdant wood if we have only our destination in mind, never taking a moment to be distracted and entranced or even beguiled by a prancing deer or the rays of sunlight peeking through the branches overhead? What I've known and believed all along but seemingly forgot because of my obsession with being certain about what comes next? has been echoed in the voices of my loved ones around me: nothing in life is certain, so why not just jump in with both feet? What is meant to be will be, and, clichéed as it is, everything will fall into place. I've taken this approach in both my professional and my personal lives, and, sure, it can end in heartache, but the benefits and advantages by far outweigh the potential negative consequences. Why not take non–life-threatening risks? Sure, you won't see me bungee-jumping any time soon, and that downhill bike ride in Florence two years ago that saw me leaning farther over my handlebars than I would have liked is not an adventure I ever want to replicate, but you can't die from scraping your metaphorical knees when you jump into the lake of opportunity only to discover that you are greeted by shallow waters after you misjudged the depth of the aqueous expanse.

Just jump in. What better way is there to learn, grow, and love?

I think that that pretty much covers the update I needed to make. I'd provide more details and fun stuff about my last four months in the cement landscape of Toronto, but I'll offer you photos instead—coming up over the next few days; I pinky swear! Suffice it to say that, having jumped into my Toronto adventure, I learned, I grew, and boy, did I ever love and be shown love: I received visits from friends and family from Montreal; was picked up in the midst of snowstorm in order to spend two precious hours sharing spicy dosas at Bombay Choupati and attempting to still our beating hearts; had my day brightened by Skype chats, e-mails, telephone calls, text messages, and snail mail and consequently felt less isolated in the sea of books that surrounded me; shared a wicked apartment with two of my closest friends. I got to be within biking distance of some of the most decadent vegan locales in Toronto (Hogtown Vegan and Poutini [featured in the photo above], I'm looking at you); make lots of new friends and reconnect with old ones; marvel at how close and accessible everything is when you live in The City (I did one day come home from the post office that is located a mere 20 seconds from my place [I may or may not have put sandals over my socks and thrown on a sweater over the shirt in which I'd slept the previous night] to positively freak out about how excited I was to not have to hop into a car to get stuff done); grocery shop at one a.m.; have original poetry recited to me in a vegetarian Jamaican eatery; walk home from a bar; fall off my bike and still attend the poetry slam to which I was headed; fall in love; get a Master's.

Yeah, I've had some good times, and I hope that you have, too. Please feel free to let me know what you've been up to! If you made it this far, thank you for reading, and thank you for your patience, your understanding, your visit, your love, and your encouragement. Vegan in Suburbia turned into Vegan in the Big City for a while, but as I settle into my old surroundings in this Montreal suburb that I both love and despise, it'll soon be time to become reacquainted with Nature when I become—drum roll, please—Vegan in the Mountains.

Hahahaha. I'm totally kidding about that title; it makes me sound like a mystic sage who wears nothing but a loincloth and subsists only on berries and listening to the alternating chorus of wind and twittering birds. That's so not me—how could I exist without books?!

Whatever my title or my choice of garments are, I hope to see you soon. I intend to write more frequently, although the rhythm and schedule of my future days at the Art Monastery will not be crystallized until I arrive and am entrenched in my new role's daily functions. Before I go, though, since we were speaking of sages and wise advice, please allow me to share some wisdom that I received this very morning:

"I once heard somebody refer to life as the little dash between your birth
year and death year... In other words, the two numbers at the front and
end of your life years are basically meaningless... that it's all about the
dash... so, what do you want your dash to be?"

In the spirit of uncertainty and embracing the unknown, here's a song that strikes the right note (and gets me every time): "Challengers," by the New Pornographers. We are the challengers of the unknown.

Jump in with both feet and love hard, darlings. Until next time,

Vegan in Suburbia


Josiane said...

Yay for jumping in with both feet! Everything will turn out for the best. Enjoy your time in Montréal! It's too bad we'll have missed seeing each other this time - and next time I'm coming, you'll be boarding your plane... In any case, I'm looking forward to reading about your next adventures!

KTBuns said...

I am so excited to see you blogging again! It seems you have had many adventures over the past few months... congratulations on your Master's!! You ought to feel very proud of your accomplishment.

I wish I could come with you back to Italy!

Acquafortis said...

Great post. Great words. Absence does you good.

Kris said...

Thank you, ladies, ever so much.

@Josiane, I am sorry again that we'll be missing each other, but it'll definitely make the next time we meet all the more special. I look forward to it. I wish you much luck and blessings when you are in Montreal! <3

@KTBuns, thank you for your kind words and for your congratulations. It's nice to be back and it's definitely a relief to be done my Master's. All I need are my grades now. Hehe. I wish you could come, too! I hope that you get to take a vacation, either mentally or geographically, over the summer. Hugs!

@Acquafortis, you made me blush. Thank you ever so much. Well, absence certain gives me a lot to ramble about! ;)