Life in Between: The Story of my Gap Year

Hello fellow bloggers,

Below is an excerpt from my memoir, “Life in Between”

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A boom. A bust. The universal wave that life’s pattern seems to follow. Its cycling crests so delightfully high that we nearly forget the desperate, disparaging troughs….like the sine function wave in calculus class that I just couldn’t grasp in time…

I came so close to calling this memoir “From A-Z: The Fall of a Straight A Student to Zee Rock Bottom,” or some cheesy junk like that. I planned to tell the story of how I ended up having to redo twelfth grade courses after maintaining honour roll status since the sixth grade. This was the story about that girl, me, who didn’t even make it into college after cramming textbooks and applying for elite universities her entire senior year. Writing this, I hoped to capture the agony of losing my conditional acceptance after my poor calculus mark reduced my GPA. I wished to express the embarrassment I endured on awards night when I told my old teachers and peers that I wasn’t even in post-secondary…after bragging about many scholarships all year. This story was basically going to be excuse after excuse about my pathetic circumstances…but I deleted that dramatic sob story half way through. You’ll come to understand, fellow readers, as I had to learn, that academic excellence (or lack thereof) no longer defines who I am…who I’ve become. I’ve realized that losing my conditional offer of acceptance and being forced to take a gap year hasn’t been my lowest moment but rather the greatest defining moment of my identity yet.  

In fact, I’m realizing through the changes that I’ve encountered this year that the overly studious life I led during high-school was my rock bottom moment.  This gap year, away from many academic pressures, has taught me how to just live…now that I’ve got a little time to breathe, learn, grow. Although taking this time between high school and post-secondary used to be my nightmare, the lessons I’ve learned about the real world have drastically changed me…for the better. These lessons have woken me up from the illusion in which I spent my high school years and they have prepared me for my future in ways unimaginable. So maybe I haven’t been living at rock bottom since my calculus failure. Maybe I’ve been somewhere in between the crests and troughs of life’s wave learning the imperative tools I’ll need to rise to my peak. And maybe, the truths I’ve encountered on my journey could improve the youth who come hereafter. So without further ado, here’s what I’ve learned living life in between.

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Not everyone that’s kind is your friend…not everyone that annoys you is your enemy

It’s hard to tell who your real friends are when you’re exclusively isolated with them daily. Consequently, you tolerate a few frenemies who eventually camouflage into your group of actual friends. Once you graduate however, the real world exposes the true colors of these chameleons. How? Now that no one’s being forced to talk to each other through the confines of school, only people who truly care about each other will remain in touch. Case in point, of all those people at graduation who said they’d miss me and they wanted to hang over summer…only 2 or 3 people actually meant that. Or at least that’s how many people genuinely contacted me…other than when they needed something…and that’s okay! I’ve accepted that sometimes, even people who you bonded well with before were just meant to be kind faces at the time. Sometimes the people who played a backseat in your life will become the main characters in your story. But one thing is certain: true friends are those whose loyalty eternally withstands the chains and whips of time.

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Public transport: You have to be at the bus stop by the assigned time…but the bus doesn’t

I’ll be honest: I was utterly oblivious when it came time for me to start busing to my upgrading school in September. The first day, I waited a whopping 5 minutes past the estimated time of bus arrival…a very long wait in my then-impatient mind. I finally headed home, deciding something must have been wrong for the bus to not have arrived yet. Thirty seconds into my walk back did I hear the bus racing past my stop the second I had left! I learned, from that and the stories of fellow commuters that I came to know after finally catching the bus, that you must be prepared to wait an extra–yikes–20 minutes. My advice for those here in Edmonton is choosing the bus that gets you to your destination early…especially during the winter when there’ll be delays because of ice.

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Last but not least, growing up means taking leadership of your own life

The most prominent lesson I’ve learned in this year is that you can’t sit around waiting for others to validate you or tell you how to live your life; you have to take the lead no matter how scared you are. I’d spent my life allowing my grades to define me and waiting for my dream university to validate my worth. Once their acceptance was gone, I was forced to stop hiding behind my “straight A student” mask, face who I truly was and make decisions about who I would become. Gone was the comfort zone I’d always planned for: the one where I was in university and any degree I chose would be respected and admired by the public. With my life-long post-secondary plans demolished, I had to start making decisions that revolved less around what the public would think of me and more around what I actually wanted for my future. It was time for me to come into my own and I found that during such a confusing time my core values of resilience, respect, optimism and generosity remained unphased. That is, even in the face of an adversity powerful enough to destroy the academic reputation I’d spent years building. Ultimately, I learned that when all else fails in the outside world, all we really have is ourselves…so we might as well believe in that. 

If I could sum my gap year into one piece of advice, it would be this. At some point, each individual must inevitably make life-defining choices alone: without the approval of a lover, friend, institution, parent or any other support system. In that moment, if we are comfortable, assured even with our flaws, comfortable even outside of our comfort zone, then there’s nothing that we can not do. I’m eternally grateful to the characters throughout the story of my life who have played a role in inducing this year of life-altering lessons at such an early age. More grateful am I to the reader that grows from this story thus helping me to accomplish my goal of paying these priceless lessons forward.

~~~~~~~Copyright © 2019-2020, all rights reserved~~~~~~~

The Snow Must Go On

My window yields

the slow, snowy miracle

plain white flakes glide down

graceful, effortlessly prominent, poised

and purposeless

in their silent left-right gliding descent

to the ground without a sound

 

Unlike in my head, no silence left

as I look to hectic heaps of homework

and thoughts about the labourious deadlines

that leave my spirit dead, indeed

by robbing all time dedicated to my well-being

feeding these hours to the

unquenchable monster of work obligations.

What purpose lies in these labourious deadlines

Lines of essay due tomorrow…and tomorrow…and tomorrow…

and tomorrow’s purpose is to me unbeknown still

But the show must go on

 

The snow must go on

teasing my fast-working fury with its slow steady pace

The flakes must fall

leaving me in awe at their perfect purposeless fate

Making me wish my greatest feat was merely

a graceful, gliding left-right rhythm

floating between the clouds

instead of between deadlines

The Good Kill: Spark in the Silence – Novel Review

download.jpgToday there’s an undertone of social injustices plaguing our world with a threatening yet taboo sense of doom that seems unspeakable by most. Discussions on suicide, PTSD and human trafficking have either seemed hushed or handled controversially…that is, until Kurt Brindley came along. His novel, The Good Kill is an emblem of progress for all those who dare rise up against the enslaving silence in our society in hopes of sparking change. Brindley harnesses these frightening topics by the reigns and skillfully tames them into a narrative where readers can discuss, comprehend and conquer these social demons. Equally riveting as it is revealing, The Good Kill exposes the love and logic behind hateful underground crimes that we witness today; it is a story about innocent youth, broken military vigilantes and even senile pastors learning how to fight for the family, friendships, “God and Country” that they believe in.

tgk-2.jpgTo list the pros of this book would take pages: well-developed humour and characters, the enriched yet simple vocabulary and varying points of view were amongst my favourite parts. As cruel as the bodyguards’ P.O.Vs were, Happy’s incessant blabber juxtaposed against his silent counterpart, Mcknight, made for hilarious comic relief amidst the novel’s heavy nature. Another high point was the incredible imagery: you could tell from the fine-tuned metaphors and vividly painted scenes that Kurt is a natural born poet and has many poetry  novels to prove it. I aspire to one day write as impressively as Brindley however I also aspire to do it in fewer words.

The overkill in The Good Kill might be its one downfall as several sentences take up so many lines that they might as well be paragraphs…hard-to-follow ones for that matter. Various typos were appearing because too much energy was being devoted to unnecessary “fluff” scenes rather  than editing the core content. But readers realize there’s a method to the madness once they reach the final stretch of the novel; perhaps the reason the author spent so long elaborating is because other authors pale in light of his strategic foreshadowing and symbolism skills.

It turns out that many of the seemingly unrelated moments from the start were setting up a series of plot twists no one could have ever seen coming. That shouldn’t surprise anybody considering that, from chapter two onwards, we see Brindley use advanced writing techniques to simultaneously advance the two subplots; he’s clearly in the habit of skillfully planting one scene with easter eggs in preparation for future events. There is also plausible foreshadowing in the dream chapters filled with unbeatable obstacles. They allude to Killian’s future fights not only against gangsters but also against inner demons that no one can save him from except for himself. So after all this strategizing and foreshadowing, readers should expect that, in the end, Brindley will expertly weave every character into an enthralling tale of justice, romance and action.

The Good Kill offers it all: plot twists, cathartic relief and 80 chapters of strategic narrative around sensitive issues that our society needs to do a better job discussing. I have no reservations that you should read it…but I do have one about this quote from the novel’s corresponding bookmark. It says: “A good novel tells us the truth about its hero but a bad novel tells us the story of its author.” Frankly, I disagree. The Good Kill is a great book telling the story of heroic Killian AND of a heroic author brave enough to spark change in the social silence surrounding traumas currently facing mankind. For that, I say kudos to Kurt Brindley and may the best successes come to his ensuing Killian Lebon novels.

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Books to Read Before Summer’s Over…How to Promote Yours Before Then

Hey fellow bloggers!

So today I’ve got great news and bad news; let’s get the former out of the way, shall we?

Bad news: the dog days are rushing to a close and for many that means less lounging time to catch up with the latest summer shows & reads *cough* and to binge watch Netflix all day *cough, cough*. I’m joking…but how are authors and other content creators going to promote now that everyone’s back to the grind instead of searching for good books to laze around on the beach with? 

Good news: ATTENTION all authors, film directors, musical artists and artistic entrepreneurs hustling to market their work: there’s a new way to get your books broadcasted and your shows seen by hundreds.  Raving Wave Reviews is the new business website that I’ve launched for creators to purchase my promotional reviews for their novels, films, musical albums, comedy shows…you name it!

It’s an ideal situation because I love analyzing and reviewing literature meanwhile creators get their work seen and publicized by the 500 members here on The Writing Wave; everyone wins! Plus, creators can customize their package to have the reviews of their work posted on other promotional websites too! But I thought the perfect way to show exactly what I’m selling was to do a review today. So without further ado, here are 4 books you should (and shouldn’t) read before summer freedom runs out.

  1. You’ll Never Walk Alone by Chris Hall (should read)

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Up until now, Lucy has tamely lived her  normal, “good girl” lifestyle with her funny, caring flatmates and friends: Cynthia, Gina, Gary, Bobby, Mark and Tony. However all that changes when she meets this mysteriously enchanting man, Pierre, dancing out one night at the nightclub. She certainly can’t resist him when he gifts her a jaw-dropping ruby necklace but everyone begins to wonder if she should resist Pierre after his ties to strange, underground gangs emerge. A series of unexpected attacks leave Lucy missing, leave her friends worried about their innocent friend and expose ancient, enchanted artifacts for what they are. In the middle of the chaos, Lucy has to escape with Pierre and decide what kind of girl she will be: the innocent, simple girl from her past or a rebel that fights for love and what she believes in.

Hall‘s novel had me caught with mixed emotions for the longest time; most parts were completely enthralling but others seemed rather unrealistic. The characters constantly returning to the flat might have been a good way for them all to embark in plot-progressing conversation. However this writing technique was ineffective for me as the reader grows bored after seeing the same mundane apartment setting for 5 or 6 different chapters. It’s not until a few chapters in that the REAL fighting action scenes start and when they finally do they border on being unrealistic because of their quick pace. However, the author won me over with her action packed scenes and skillful interweaving of  sub-plots designed to develop character arcs. She employed excellent foreshadowing techniques and side-stories from the very beginning (which I thought were just for comic relief) resurfaced chapters later to alter the course of the gang’s path. Also Fingers’ mischievous moments were just too funny for anyone to not love this book. So this book is on the “Definitely Should Read” list because it takes patience to get to the action…but it’s gratifying once you finally do. I’ll put the link to her book here but I would encourage you guys to check out her blog because she often hosts freebie promotions for her books!

2. Becoming a Master Student by Dave Ellis (don’t read)

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So these books are actually on the “don’t read” list because it’s too good…wait what? Let me explain: I’ve noticed that the eye-opening advice in this book is best applied to actual courses you’re taking. When I tried to read it’s study tips this summer, I had no actual course to reference off of and I won’t until September. So it’s expert advice get’s wasted because they’ll challenge you to consider how you feel about a specific project or professor and no one has any of that currently. If one re-visits experiences with old projects/professors, they spend all their time hypothesizing about what might have happened instead of actually testing these tips. Alternatively, some tips work over the summer because they  just ask you to reflect about your life priorities and what’s most important to you in your education, finances and relationships. Those exercises have already benefited me greatly…but the rest of them are unnecessary to read before the summer’s over.

 

3. Renegades by Marissa Meyer (don’t read)9781760555313.jpg

Is this well written? Yes. Are the characters progressive, clever and full of personality? Yes. But is it interesting? Only if you’re willing to wait chapters and CHAPTERS at a time for the main scene to change. I notice the author tries to change up the pace by exploring from the POV of  different characters. It’s a fair approach considering she get’s to show their inner feelings, dark histories and even use many foreshadowing techniques. Problem is if it takes 10 chapters for me to still be getting to those foreshadowed parts…I don’t wanna wait around for the rest of it. Although I have heard that the 2nd & upcoming 3rd book have a better pace,  my final verdict says: it’s pointless to start this book before the summer’s over. However, this series is a good choice if you get a break, you’re patient and you like budding friendships amongst heroes.

 

5. Go F*ck, I Mean, Find Yourself by Glenn Lutz (Should read)

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Do not be fooled by the crass title or the blunt writing style: this book is a highly intellectual literary piece. Everyone could benefit from this gem as it challenges every reader to acknowledge any internalized biases, self-preservation mechanisms and faulty mindsets. How it achieves such great measures with just a few words on each page is beyond me…and irrelevant because it’s  superior in it’s simplicity. This book comforts and inspires because the cold, heart truths are coming from a survivor of depression, drug addiction, divorce and suicide attempts; it reminds us that if he could get to this heightened state of confidence then so can we. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be giving these inspiring life mottos a read-over once a month from here on out.

Everlasting Endurance and the ECF : A Story about Never Losing Hope

Hey fellow bloggers,

Lately, I’ve felt so inspired to resume writing short stories but I’ve also somehow felt plagued by  writer’s block for the longest time; what important message could I possibly morph into a plot-line meaningful enough to effect change for any of you? I found my answer when the Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) reached out to me recently.

ECF is a local, charitable organization which has devoted itself to Edmonton’s passions, innovative projects and leadership for almost 40 years.

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Their multitude of grants and programs help improve our community, be that through their ECF Bursaries or Young Edmonton Grants which support innovative, local projects and students making great impacts. There’s also their Vital Signs movement designed to integrate more minority citizens into our national policy making process. Overall, I believe many motivated students and aspiring change-makers nation-wide would benefit from getting involved with ECF and it’s host organization: Community Foundations of Canada. So as you read the following story, which is based on true events and inspired by the ECF, do consider sharing this with any driven individual that could use support for their revolutionary vision.

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“What are you doing?” his snide voice seemed to slither up behind her as he walked past.

“Taking a picture of the counselor’s scholarship board…”she mumbled the words, dreading what she knew  would come next.

“Why?” he did little to sheathe the edge of condescension in his tone. “It’s not like you’ll ever win one anyways.”

At that moment, one of the board’s posters came unpinned and tumbled to the the hallway floor. Her confidence almost plummeted down just as low.

Right then, she was grateful to have been born under the zodiacal sign of Aries: notoriously stubborn and far too resilient to give in to belittling comments such as his. She bit her tongue and picked up the sign as he walked away unaware of his words’ impact. And maybe it was an otherwise meaningless comment that she was over-reacting to: why would she ever expect to win? After all, how many people at her school had actually won financial aid before? She didn’t even know. She’d always tried to tune out the others because they made it seem so easy…never seemed to care about bursaries. 

On parents night, she’d been shocked by the relatively small number of families who made it for the bursary info session.

“Millions of dollars in scholarships go unclaimed simply because no one applies,” raved the inspirational mentors at the seminar.

But apparently, around here, no one needed post-graduation help; they’d already planned for either a more affordable life in part-time jobs, a stressful life of postponed student debts or a lucky life of studies paid for by well-off relatives. There was only one other option —scholarships— for girls like her with big post-secondary dreams and small families who she knew could ‘t help her battle her financial demons. She knew after that info session and in that hallway with the scholarship board that she had to at least try. And try she did:

First school. Sometimes soccer. Get home. Eat. Four hours of homework. Two hours of scholarship applications. Enough hours of sleep…hopefully… Repeat.

Her schedule filled with this monotonous routine as she filled with hope of  completely  funding tuition to her dream school…she knew she simply needed to wait…

Until after half a year of radio silence in response to her applications.

Until her 10th rejection letter arrived followed by many more.

Until she might have accidentally submitted her essay to a scammer website?

Until she finally realized that maybe all this resistance meant the boy had been right all along. Why was she losing sleep over an obviously impossible feat? Truthfully, there’d been some positive signs along the way; she thought of the one or two callbacks she’d received but had simply become ineligible for as her school selection changed. So close she had been…was it just that she needed to try a little harder? However, too many flashbacks to his cruel smirk told her “no.” When he asked, in front of everyone, how many scholarships she’d received after applying since last October she just couldn’t look him in the eye as the answer of “zero” flittered around her head, teasing her, negating her months of hard work.

Enough of this child’s play; she would never publicly be made a fool of again. It was time for her to accept that despite her devotion to her school, community and future, she just wasn’t cut out to be free. The notion of giving up was what finally released her into a rocky sleep that night.

In her dream, she saw glorious hands emerging from the light…slowly but surely extending down to where she lay bare on the ground. As they helped her to stand up, she saw a winding staircase rising into the sky in front of her. Words imprinted themselves onto the stairs as she climbed up:  leadership—motivation— community—perseverance. At the base of the staircase she saw the wicked smile of her nay-sayers shrinking into oblivion. She saw past versions of herself, swirling in the old, unhealthy, monotonous routine she used to find comfort in. Somehow she knew that as she climbed she was ascending to higher, healthier, happier stages of her life. The last thing she remembered before waking was reaching the top and smiling as diamonds began to rain everywhere onto the world down below. She typically forgot what she had dreamt within minutes of waking but this time she remembered even hours later when she found the letter in her mailbox.

“The ECF bursary was created for students with a strong history of community leadership…Edmonton Community Foundation is pleased to provide you with an award…” She tried to read further but couldn’t see through happy tears blurring her vision as the letter reminded her of a truth which she had suppressed for too long.

In one astounding moment of clarity, all the snide remarks and sleepless nights riddled with self-doubt were swiped clean: she had never needed to prove anyone right or wrong. She didn’t need to lie awake wondering if she was cut out to achieve her dreams. No matter how many organizations rejected her…no matter how many people failed to see her potential…she was good enough…always had been.

All it took was the unwavering faith that her determination would deliver…because with time, it always does….

~~~~~~~Copyright © 2019-2020, all rights reserved~~~~~~~

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Thank you to the ECF for reminding me of this important truth when I’d forgotten it in a daze.

Finding Financial Freedom: Student Edition

Hello fellow bloggers and aspiring scholarship recipients,

Believe me when I say that, in my lifetime, I’ve applied for at least 40 scholarships and 3 things have remained true throughout:

Continue reading “Finding Financial Freedom: Student Edition”

Talking to Yourself…Online…You Should Try it!

Hey fellow bloggers.

So this time last year, I had an amazing English teacher who introduced this excellent idea during the final block of the year: writing letters to yourself. It’s a time capsule kind of idea where you don’t open it for a select amount of years…if you can wait that long…Continue reading “Talking to Yourself…Online…You Should Try it!”

Poll: Only One Language?… + a Novel Review

Do you ever think about the 7000+ languages in the world and wonder how one human race managed to divide into so many languages? How we can possibly manage to become increasingly globalized when these lingual barriers constantly limit and challenge us? These are the questions that came to mind when reading David Bellos’ novel “Is That A Fish In Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything”.

The author explores the diversity, meaning and beauty of translation throughout historical and contemporary contexts. In discussing historical means of translation, Ballos touches on universal topics of science and how the world adapted to where we are today. If you’re not swamped with exams right now or if you just need a non-fiction piece to keep you sharp over the summer (Lord knows I do) this is a good pick.

Moral of the story: It’s crazy how the exact same piece of information can be interpreted in SO many different ways and, for me, this book really highlights the importance of good communication skills in the workplace.

My Quarterly 2-Cents: Novel, Film and Music Reviews of April-May

I’m Hey fellow bloggers,

The past few months have brought a whole barrage of literature to my door…here’s my quick 2-cents on it all:

Continue reading “My Quarterly 2-Cents: Novel, Film and Music Reviews of April-May”

Music: Ophelia…Cleopatra…Gloria…Now Donna and…You!

Hey fellow bloggers,

So you know The Lumineers? It’s that feel-good, folks-y kind of indie band who’s artistic music fills everybody with nostalgic happiness? Well a few hours ago they came out with another single named ONCE AGAIN after some seemingly random woman’s name. First they released the song Ophelia, then Cleopatra, then Angela, last month it was Gloria…now Donna! Will they ever run out of women’s names for their songs? ANYWAYS, Today I wanna hear how you guys feel about their latest release. Does it bring you back and give you the nostalgia feels? Remind you of a friends story? Or are you just crazy about the music video? Here it is: