Monday, January 4, 2016

Award Show Season Thoughts

Seeing as I have plenty of time on my hands this year, one thing I really wanted to do is start watching more movies. I hate the feeling of watching the Oscars every year and not recognizing any of the titles - I guess it's like some weird kind of FOMO, like I'm not "in the know" about all these stellar movies that I should be seeing. As I've watched some movies from the list of predicted Oscar contenders, I can't help but think I'm not actually missing out at all. Let me explain.

So far, I've seen Spotlight, Steve Jobs, and The Big Short, all of which are meant to be taking home the Oscar in top categories. I've read reviews on each of them, and none of the critiques point out their major flaws: these movies cast no actors of color whatsoever AND they each fail the Bechdel test miserably. The lack of POC and women in these films seriously prohibit me from connecting with them on any kind of meaningful level, so how can I ever agree that they should win best picture of the year? Sure, they each have other merits, but how can I be expected to get over this glaring oversight? Or maybe not a glaring oversight, but rather deliberate exclusion.

The cast of "Spotlight"

You can surely argue that the three movies I mentioned above are based on true stories, for which no POC or women play active roles in the real-life version of the narrative. Even so, film writers, producers, and directors take creative liberties all the time - would it seriously hinder the story if a main character was written as black or Latino or Asian & not white? Female, not male? I don't think so. In fact, I think it would enhance not only the storyline, but rather the perception of minorities in public consciousness in general. It would open the story up to a broader range of audiences.

A still from "The Big Short"

I feel like, in this respect, the film industry is really lagging behind television. With critically-renown TV shows like How to Get Away With Murder, Scandal, Orange is the New Black, more women from diverse walks of life are getting the screen-time they deserve. And they frickin' own it. The actresses playing these roles compelling, talented, and awesomely qualified. Why is it so hard for the film industry to follow suit?

As Viola Davis said in her Emmy acceptance speech last year, "You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there" - same applies to Oscars. She means that if complex roles for women aren't written into the script, they won't be nominated. Conversely I would argue that if TV shows/films with great, intriguing female characters aren't awarded, they won't be written. It's pretty symbiotic. And of course with this thought comes the obvious follow-up argument that women and POC need to play active roles in all aspects of the industry, not just in terms of acting. I mean in writing, producing, directing, and even holding spots on the Academy board.

That said, I know I have lots of work to do in terms of what's left to watch. I definitely want to watch Carol, Creed, Joy, Mad Max, and a couple more, so hopefully those will make me change my mind a little.

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year's Resolutions 2016

Happy new year everyone! Personally, I'm a big fan of a good list of new year resolutions. Having general, reasonably attainable goals for the new year has proven to be really positive in my life. In the past I've accomplished a fair few resolutions myself - like experimenting with hair color, losing weight, and getting better grades. So here are my goals for 2016!

Cheers to 2016!
First and foremost, "lose weight" has to make an appearance on this list. Let's just say 2015 was not my year in terms of health. In 2014 I actually went to the gym on a consistent basis for the entire year, but somehow that stopped in 2015... I think I'm going to try exercising at home, since I'm graduated from university now and will have lots of time off. With YouTube nowadays it shouldn't be hard to find lots of good cardio workouts. I even bought a yoga mat that remains unused (oops lol), so I could probably squeeze some yoga time in there.

Next, I would like to achieve my business goals. As you may or may not know, in 2015 I started my own business selling planner stickers on Etsy. I have a separate list of business goals that I would like to achieve, which includes things like keeping track of my expenses more diligently, and achieve 1000 sales. Wish me luck!

I would also like to get back on that 52 week savings plan! If you don't know about the 52 week savings plan, essentially you deposit money into a savings account every week of the year, and every week you add $1 more to the amount. So for the first week of January you deposit $1, the second week $2, then $3, etc. You won't ever have to deposit more than $52 per week (totally doable) and by the end of the year you will have saved over $1000! Last year I only made it to $450, but I'm going to try again this year.

Seeing as I will have more time on my hands this year, I do want to make the effort to blog more. I know I'm like a broken record and I say this nearly every post, but this time I mean it! For some reason I guess I wasn't inspired to blog last year, but I'm already feeling more up to it this year. I think the key will be low-maintenance blogging - i.e. not worrying about word counts or quality images, and keeping expectations on the lower side.

Another thing I want to make an effort to do this year is to leave the house at least every second day. I know this may seem ridiculous to some, but since I'll be working from home this year, I so easily see myself forgetting to leave the house for days on-end. Even if it's just grabbing coffee at Starbucks in the morning instead of making my coffee at home, I really feel the need to stick to this one.

The last thing I want to accomplish in 2016 is to Instagram more! It may seem insignificant but I didn't post nearly enough photos in 2015. I love looking back on my Instagrams at the end of the year and I was thoroughly disappointed by my lack of posts this time around. That has to change!

All in all, I wish you a good 2016, and I hope you accomplish all the goals you set out to achieve :) Best of luck!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Being Friends With Someone Who is Anxious/Depressed

I'm procrastinating on homework at school at the moment and there's a girl sitting next to me talking to her boyfriend, and she's getting really heated. The girl is extremely angry that her "best friend" is quote: "lazy, flaky, doesn't work, and doesn't go to school". She says the friend claims she's "too depressed" and has "too many anxiety attacks", and she's upset that this friend does not follow through with plans. She doesn't understand why the friend says she's going to put effort into "fixing herself" but never does. She also doesn't understand why her texts and calls go unanswered.

Please note that I'm not a specialist nor a professional in this field, but I feel the need to comment because I have a few friends who are struggling through similar issues, so these are my personal thoughts on the matter.

The thing this girl cannot understand is that her friend struggles with mental health issues. She can't switch her anxiety/depression on and off. She can't get better in the same way neurotypical people can. For some, behavior displayed by people with depression and anxiety is incredibly hard to understand. It's natural to think, why can't this person just buckle up and get over it? Apply for jobs? Take some classes? If everyone else can do it, why can't they? But to those with depression/anxiety these regular tasks may seem like the absolute most challenging things in the world. It's not a sign of laziness, what they're experiencing is more like a mix of fear and helplessness.

Instead of responding to a depressed and anxious person with anger and confusion, the appropriate thing is to be supportive. Especially if this person is your best friend, it's important to acknowledge that, at this moment in time, they need you more than you need them. If it means sending a quick text to make sure they're doing okay or offering to pick them up when you have plans to hang out, then as a friend I think it's important for YOU to buckle up and do these things. The friendship may not seem reciprocal at the moment, but getting your friend out of their downtrodden routine will be super helpful to them, even though it may seem hopeless to you. I feel like it's important to be persistent and to ensure that your friend knows that you're there for them. In some cases, if you give up on the friendship, not only are you losing a friend, but THEY are losing a potential lifeline and perhaps one of the few sources of happiness in their life.

We're taught that relationships require balance and equal effort on behalf of both parties, but I really believe this is one case that this theory doesn't apply to. Unless your own mental health is at-risk by supporting your friend, then I think putting that extra effort into your friendship is worth it. Continue to encourage them to improve themselves, and even though it may seem fruitless at first, the moment you stop insisting is the moment they give up, too. I know you may be dealing with your own set of struggles and issues, but you're mentally strong enough to overcome them. Your friend isn't. Also, and here's the harsh truth in this case: it's not about you and your needs at the moment. It's about them.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Latest Netflix Love: Jane The Virgin

I've been interested in watching Jane The Virgin ever since Gina Rodriguez won an Emmy award in 2014 for Best Actress in a TV comedy. This was the first time a CW network television show had ever won Emmy, so I figured it must be a good one.

The premise of the show is hilarious. Jane (Gina Rodriguez) goes to the gynecologist for a pap smear and is instead artificially inseminated when the doctor gets two patients mixed up. Jane finds out she's pregnant, which is of course impossible given that she's a virgin. Poor Jane has to decide if she wants to give birth to the baby whose father turns out to be someone she had a short fling with five years prior.

The accidental pregnancy sets off a ton of weird plot twists and absurdities that give the show its quirky character. At first, I thought I would be quickly annoyed with how unrealistic the storyline was, but I learned to suspend by disbelief and get to know the characters better instead. Eventually I warmed up to the soap opera/telenovela structure of the show. The characters, as is the case with any great TV show, are incredibly interesting and multi-dimensional.

I actually have three favorite characters: Jane, Rogelio, and Rafael. Jane is a type A workoholic with a huge heart, and she genuinely wants the best for others. The other characters often underestimate her ability to handle difficult situations because she's so sweet and sometimes comes off as naive, but Jane always rises to the occasion and is stern when she has to be. As far as role models go, I imagine Jane is perfect for a younger teen audience.

Rogelio is a telenovela star with a huge ego. His hubris is exaggerated on the show to the highest degree which makes him such a fun character. When things get too serious we can always count on a funny Rogelio scene to lighten the mood. He grapples with balancing his fame and family life, and of course, always puts his family first, making him lovable despite his arrogance.

Finally, what would Jane the Virgin be without Rafael *insert heart eyes emoji here*? Spoiler alert (but not really, because we learn this in the pilot episode), he is the father of Jane's accidentally inseminated child. Rafael has a morally-questionable past, but a recent bout of cancer softened him and made him more compassionate. (Admittedly, the gratuitous cancer story element annoyed me at first but I managed to let it go). Even though he's imperfect, he's infinitely more interesting than Jane's alternative love interest, Michael. So I'm definitely #TeamRafael.

Rafael and Jane

All in all, if you're looking for something lighthearted but interesting to watch, I highly recommend Jane The Virgin. You can find season 1 on Netflix, and season 2 is currently airing :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What I Learned in University

It's the last week of my undergrad! Woooooohoooo! I know I haven't blogged in a while but I figured my future self would be pretty upset if I didn't blog about the completion of my university degree. I thought I would document some of the lessons I picked up along the way.

First, I want to thank my parents who were able to finance my degree. Thanks to my dad who paid for most of my tuition, and thanks to my mom for supporting me in ways she was by no means obliged to. She paid for the majority of my cell phone bill, my train pass, big portions of my vacations, in addition to, of course, providing my housing and food. All I had to pay for is Netflix, new clothes, and socializing. I know I'm privileged to be subsidized by my parents when many my age are struggling and in debt. The lesson here is to acknowledge and be grateful for the help I've received. Thanks, parentals.

Second, I learned to stop denying my intellectual ability. In CEGEP, my strategy for getting good grades was to anticipate what the prof might want and replicate it to the best of my ability. This rarely led to any grade better than a B. In university, I decided I was smart enough to take chances with my assignments. I decided to have faith in my intellect and it paid off. I've been pulling straight As since the second year of my undergrad when I decided change my approach to school. Writing about what you like and what you think is much more rewarding and fun than having to write about boring topics that you don't feel connected to. Profs (good ones at least) recognize when a student takes risks with their writing and they grade accordingly. It's nice.

Speaking of good profs, I learned that not all profs are good. Some are arrogant and condescending. Some are so worried about academic bureaucracy that they forget what their job is. I had one prof that was so hell-bent on not giving As that no matter how hard you worked, how often you consulted the TA and got professional feedback on your work, you were doomed to a B+ at best. It's demoralizing. Bless McGill students who have to go through this on a regular basis.

I learned to reeelaaaxx about the future. Ever since high school it's been clear that I should be focused on one thing only: $$$. At this point, many of my friends are discouraged, anxiety-ridden, and stressed beyond belief about what they're going to do when they graduate. This is no bueno. I decided that I need to chill out a bit so as to not have a head full of greys before I hit 25. We live in a time that glorifies hard work, which is not to say hard work is a bad thing, but it serves to make those who are not constantly working feel incredibly guilty. We're trying so hard to transcend the notion that millennials are lazy and useless, that we're overworked and tired beyond belief. I refuse.

Finally, I learned that I need to celebrate my accomplishments more. Over the course of three years I completed an internship, secured a position that paid more than minimum wage, QUIT said position because I realized it wasn't making me happy, took my time to complete my major without stressing the hell out, and completed a minor along with it. I made Dean's List. My GPA is nearly a 4.0. I'm more socially and politically aware than I've ever been. My friendships are stronger than they've ever been. My bank account isn't in the negatives. I'm a small business owner. Am I on the road to riches? Who knows, but right now I'm good. It's all good and I'm proud of myself.

Friday, September 11, 2015

My Lil Business: Etsy Shop

Hi everyone! Lately I've put blogging on the backburner to focus on something new: my Etsy shop! About three months ago I discovered the niche community of planners online. Essentially, there's a whole industry built around planning and planner decorations and stamps and stickers. There's a company called Erin Condren that sells custom planners, and an entire market has opened up for those who want to buy art supplies to beautify the inside of their planners.

I've always enjoyed stuff like scrapbooking so I was immediately interested, and now, months later, I have my own shop where I sell my own stickers!

It's been doing really well, so much so that I decided to quit my part-time job (I'm also a university student) to pursue it more regularly. I was told by someone earlier this year that I should take my passion for design work and put it towards a business. They suggested I do freelance design work. Thing is, I'm not confident I can design anything and everything. I'm self-taught in Adobe software. I'm artistic. But I'm not a professional. With my stickers, I can create things on my terms that meet my standards, so from that perspective it's kind of empowering!

I hope you don't mind that I'll be blogging more frequently about planner-related stuff. I want to pursue this for all its worth and blog along the way so when I'm older I can remember my first real entrepreneurial endeavor!