Australia travelogue – day 4, for reals – travelling mostly

Today consisted basically of packing up and getting ready to go to Pebbly Beach. C’s cousin Jo came by and brought us snacks: kangaroo-shaped crackers for c (they’re a lot like goldfish crackers), and mini rice cakes and an ENTIRE CHOCOLATE CAKE for me. Well, we shared the chocolate cake. We talked about what nursing training used to be like, and I realised how much I don’t know about the histories of the adults in my life. Spoiler alert: a lot.

We stopped outside what I can only assume was a 1:1 scale model of a regular sized Merino (a type of sheep), and arrived in Canberra in the early evening.

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GF chocolate cake, packed up to go on the trip with us. Not shown: the quarter of the cake we ate for breakfast.

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The sheep here are much bigger than the ones in Canada.
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Australia Travelogue – Day 4

We’re hard at work packing to go see some relatives in Canberra , then heading off for a week at a cabin on the beach (which apparently is full to kangaroos!). My access to internet will be questionable, so there is a good chance that you won’t be hearing from me for a while. Look out for a bunch of catch-up posts when I get back!

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Australia Travelogue Day 3 – Beach!

Writing these at the end of the day means you get me at my most sleepiest. Enjoy the magic.

My dad was going to the university in Sydney to have a meeting with this guy (an important space guy, actually. Pretty awesome. He was a big deal on the Mars rovers.) so we drove him into Sydney and then C and c and I went to DA BEACH. C brought boogie boards, and c and I brought SO MUCH ENTHUSIASM (and a camera, on my part – hence the pictures!) and it was awesome. C has the only pictues of me boogie boarding, so I can’t show you that, but it was super fun and RIDICULOUSLY tiring. Also, there were these amazing clifs and I went on a walk by myself along the cliff tops and it was also super great. Dunno how much explanation this set of pictures really needs. Drop me a comment if you have questions about any of them! Actually comment anyway, I like knowing that people are reading / interested. To the people I know IRL who are reading this: I love you lots! I miss you! To anyone else, sup. Thanks for checking out my blog.

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Passion fruit with breakfast! SO DELICIOUS. Seriously. Had my first passion fruit yesterday, and it was awesome, but today I remembered to take a picture.

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This is the guy. The space guy. I shook his hand, which means I’m either 2 or 3 degrees from Curiosity, depending on if he ever actually touched it while doing mission planning. (Z, I’ll see if I can get you an introduction. Obviously. <3)

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I saw this great bird. I think it’s an ibis? Or something? Anyway it’s great.

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Australia travelogue – Days 1 and 2

I’m in Australia! I thought about making a separate blog for this, but then I was like: Hey. Hey hey hey. You literally already have a blog. FUN FACTS! I am still super jet-lagged. My writing will reflect this. Prepare your brain.

Day -0.5:

Somehow got confused and went to the airport for 8 am instead of 8 pm. Woke up at 3 am to do it, too. Went home, slept, went back. The seat next to me in the airplane was unoccupied, which made the 22 hour trip EXTRAORDINARILY BEARABLE. Like, unimaginably bearable. I can’t even understand how bearable it was. AMAZING.

Day 1:

Arrived in Sydney. Wandered around the harbour a bit, including a short stroll through the outskirts of the botanical gardens, and a visit to a gallery that sold absolutely incredible contemporary aboriginal art. It was seriously gorgeous. Then we went home to a house in the country, and went on a nice walk. I saw some termite mounds (c and I left some sticks for the termites), and some cool trees, and these horrifyingly sprawling ant hills of what I like to call “devil ants” because it’s actually less horrific than their real name (meat ants). Eeuuughgh. Did some drawing with c, which was great. Ate dinner around 6, and managed not to fall off the table and go to sleep on the floor through SHEER FORCE OF WILL.


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Obligatory “Welcome to Australia” tourist pic

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So … artsy …

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What are they lining up for?

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First time in the Pacific (well, since the time I went to Hawaii when I was a tiny child)

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Dad and C were really excited about this bird. Apparently it’s usually really shy. Why even do birds suddenly appear every time I am near? What’s that about?

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This tree was extinct, but then it turned out not to be. Long story.

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Cool bridge across from the Sydney Opera house. It’s probably famous or something, but I forget what it’s called.

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Dad getting c ready to go outside. Note the industrial-sized sunscreen container.

Day 2:

Woke up at 4 am and stayed awake. Jet lag, man. What is it even? Got up for realsies around 9, I think, and C brought me breakfast because a) I was a zombie and b) she’s great. C drove me to a nearby small-town mall and we picked up some paint / brushes / canvas panels for me, and also some shorts, and also some shorts for c. The mall was a bit much in my befuddled state and we spent some time sitting outside as a break before going back into the fray for more shorts. Also, uncanny valley because the mall was basically identical to every mall I’ve ever been to but the brands and the stores were mostly different. Anyway, I’ve decided never to shop again, because shopping is the worst, and who needs stuff anyway? Whatever, man. Whatever. Went on a drive to see some Kangaroos, and also a cool river, and also a great forest. Seeing a forest with all different trees made me feel like I was actually in another country, rather than just alternate-universe Canada. It started raining like nobody’s business, and then we drove home and then the rain stopped and I got to drive a stick-shift car and now I’m writing this blog and then I will be asleep. I am at least 50% already asleep.


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This kangaroo looks really different than the ones I’ve seen in the pictures…

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Aha! Much better!

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Look at this huge rock! It was huge!

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Learning to drive a standard.


A poem

What they don’t tell you about phoenixes,
what everyone neglects to mention,
is that dying hurts.

The phoenix feels it:
being consumed by fire,
that moment when every hope burns away and every nerve screams,
searing pain
as everything it is or was or could have been

flares out

and crumbles

The knowledge of rebirth can never salve.
There is no comfort in the moment when everything is falling apart.
Only a long and aching weariness: even after life is ended you have to rise up out of bed somehow and keep on living in the dust and ashes everything that you believed you are.


The phoenix wakes.
Not triumphantly
but dreaming of fire
and holding nothing but
the knowledge that
everything is over

but still it rises.
Seared deeper than the bone, bruised and bloodied and infinitely aware as one by one every speck of dust that used to be itself
is lifted by the wind and blown away,

it rises.
Having lost everything, terrified and hopeless as the self it was is torn apart – who can it be if not itself? –

it rises.
So tired and sore and heart-weary that it can no longer tell the difference between the physical scars on its body and the tearing pain of heartbreak

it rises.
What they don’t tell you about phoenixes,
what everyone neglects to mention,
is that the only thing that hurts more than dying

is living after dying.

And still it rises.

8) Social skills (how to interact with humans!) pt 1

Story time!

When I was a wee bab I had a lot of social problems. I was painfully shy. I was weird: I was obsessed science and math and reading and had strange, big ideas that were far beyond my cooler, less nerdy classmates. The really tough one, though, was my complete obliviousness to all social cues. I remember talking at length to someone about a topic that I loved (probably math) and looking over at her again and again at her as I talked, thinking “if only there were a way to tell whether or not a person is interested in what I’m saying”.

People were a black box. I eventually learned to recognise tone well enough to tell when (for instance) someone was making fun of me, but I would often be unsure of what the insult actually was, because I lacked the social context. (A classmate once approached me at my coat hook and yelled “You’re gay!” at me. For many days after that incident, I would occasionally pause what I was doing to try to puzzle out how being happy and cheerful was supposed to be insulting. I got a lot of my vocabulary from old books.)

Thus began The Project. It started in earnest in grade 8, when I switched to an arts school and was finally surrounded by people for whom I felt interest and kinship. I had picked up some stuff by then, basics of tone and maybe just a little body language. For the first time, my ongoing frustration of not really knowing how to read people and situations was paired with an environment where it seemed like it might be safe to talk, and maybe even to say the wrong thing.

For years, I spent a significant proportion of time and energy on The Project: learning, practicing, and processing how to interact in every available social situation. When I consumed media, I’d memorise descriptions of body language in characters who in some way matched my mental image of how I wanted to be seen. I took every drama class I could. (I love theater, but even if I hadn’t: these classes were training me not for acting but for real life. I remember leafing through a pile of monologues to pick one for class, and feeling very strategic when I chose a speech by Nellie McClung. It was perfect: in practicing the speech, my drama teacher explained to me, step by step, how to project confidence and speak so people will stop and listen.)

I learned the physical markers of comfort and confidence and forced myself to sit and stand in open poses, despite extreme discomfort. I signed up for improv and debating to force myself to speak in front of people using my own words, and practiced until it didn’t seem scary any more. When I went to parties, I mingled. (If you are or have been extremely introverted or painfully shy, you know the special hell this entailed for me. If not, trust me when I say that this above all demonstrates my complete dedication.)

The Project was an unmitigated success. I learned a lot. I changed a lot. I worked HARD, with a single-minded dedication that could and did achieve the impossible. People who meet me now see me as friendly and confident and great with people. I have become better at social-ing than I could have imagined. I did good.



the secrets to my success (aka, totally intuitive conversational and social strategies that I had to work out cognitively)

7) Small positive reinforcements are ridiculously motivating

So I’ve been away for approximately a million years. I am not going to apologize because that’s not useful to me, you, or the continued existence of this blog. The amount of awesome I am for starting back up way outweighs any negatives from me forgetting about this stuff for a while. I would not always have felt this way, and I think this change is a really good thing.

I used to (and still do) have a lot of worries and insecurities. I have, at some points in my life, been reduced to a small ball of worries and insecurities and stayed in bed for days at a time spending all my energy trying not to cry. Those were particularly bad times, and I am very doing millions better lately, which is wonderful.

It’s been a long, incredibly difficult journey from there to here. Medicine and therapy have both been vital to my progress. [Side note: if you are struggling with depression, go talk to a professional. I know it’s scary and horrible (and a lot of doctors and therapists are pathologizing and horrible) but finding the right medication / strategies is so, so important. More on this in another post.]  My therapist in particular is amazing, and if I had to pick one thing I learned from her as the most generally relevant, it would definitely be positive reinforcements.

So the basic idea is, a lot of what people do on a day to day basis is based on immediate positive or negative reinforcements. It doesn’t have to be an actual reward – we’re talking things on the level of playing an inspiring sound, giving yourself a high five (or even a mental high five), or physically pulling your face muscles into a smile. Whatever makes you feel a tiny bit good, a tiny sense of accomplishment.

Ideally, have a different tiny reward for different tasks you’re trying to reinforce. Coming out of depression, there have been a lot of little life-upkeep things that I fell out of the habit of doing, and this technique has gotten me back on track for basically everything I’ve tried it for. I smile after I wash my hands. Brushing my teeth gets a “you did it!” and a mental high five. When I get out of bed and get dressed for the day, I get to choose one of my awesome colourful belts, and then I look in the mirror and go “yeah, I look awesome.” I’m thinking of starting saying “ding!” (in that tone that means you’ve levelled up) for every dish I wash.

At least equally important is not negatively reinforcing myself. The thing about being depressed is that for me, part of that took the form of thinking that absolutely everything was terrible:

“Oh look, I cleaned my room a bit. Too bad it’s still DISGUSTINGLY DIRTY and no one will ever like me because my room is a mess and my life is a mess and if I were a real person I would have cleaned everything MONTHS ago. Who am I even trying to kid even if my room were clean everyone would still see through it and nothing is worth doing anyway. Ever.”

I wish I could say I’m exaggerating for effect, and maybe I am a little, but if you read that thought pattern as true you won’t be far off the mark. This kind of thinking was effective in making me feel worse instead of better every time I managed a small accomplishment, and that was very, very effective in making me feel like there was no point to doing anything. Why clean up when the cleaning is more painful than staring at the mess? Of course, not doing anything came with its own set of “you’re terrible” negative thoughts.

The point of the positive reinforcements is to start to break that cycle. Taking pride in little things allowed me to start to see myself as competent, which allowed me to try bigger things. Learning to shut down negative thinking was a very long process, but I’d say it’s one of the most important things I did to get to a place where I can do many of the things I want to do and feel good about it.

Instead of looking at my long absence and thinking “why can’t I ever keep to projects I start?”, I’m going to look at this post and think “hey, this is one of my bests posts yet! I’m glad I took a break, and I’m glad I managed to come back to this. Maybe I can pick up another project that I’ve been neglecting, too.”