blogging

But… you’re so talented! Why blog?

Vanilla, I know this blog is important to you… but… but you’re SO smart, and talented. You’ve so much potential, both as an accountant and with your words. Why blog? You are aware, aren’t you that this could have an impact on your career, whether deserved or not?

There is a lot to unpack in those few statements.

I know this blog is important to you.

Major understatement. This blog is an essential part of my trusty toolbox that I use to fight my shadow every day. Therapy + exercise + blogging. My tripod. I can survive off of 2 out of 3. But less than 3 = misery.

You’ve so much potential, both as an accountant and with your words. Why blog? (Subtext: blogging is a waste of my talent. If I were writing poetry, novels, popular editorials or at a minimum free-lancing and earning some sort of revenue, that would make my writing an acceptable hobby for an accountant. Because credibility is apparently only dependent on the form (poetry/novels), the reach of the audience, or it’s income generating success.)

I blog because it proves I have a voice. My shadow seeks to convince me that I am nothing, that I am worse than nothing, I am a noisy distraction and annoyance. Every day, I fight that part of my brain that seeks to convince me that the world would be a better place if I were silent. I blog because it is an exercise in vulnerability, and without vulnerability I have no hope of ever vanquishing my shadow.

I blog because in this day and age of social media, with so many of my friends successfully adulting, I felt like a misfit. I share my story, so that others who feel isolated in their struggles to successfully adult may feel less alone. A virtual community is better than no community. I blog because of moments like this and this. For the dozens of times where an acquaintance or a stranger has written to me to say that reading my words made them feel less alone in their struggles, gave them insight, made them laugh on a day when the world was nothing but grey.

One day, maybe, I will write a novel, or I won’t. One day, maybe, I will be a wildly successful columnist for the Huffington Post. But that day will only happen if I continue to believe I have a voice. So I blog.

(Incidentally, I do freelance – I’ve drafted promotional material for three different international dance festivals. Does that make me more credible, somehow?)

You are aware, aren’t you that this could have an impact on your career, whether deserved or not?

Yes, I am aware. Obvi. People form judgements, their judgments inform their opinions, their opinions inform their decisions, and their decisions inform my life and my opportunities. I might be a fucking brilliant accountant, but knowing I suffer from depression, ADD and anxiety, and have piss-poor taste in men? Suddenly I am tarnished goods.

But here’s the thing. I don’t care.

I am that girl, the fucking brilliant accountant with mental health issues, and crazy baggage. That is who my company hired. I will NEVER bring up either the mental health issues or my baggage in a work context, because I firmly believe that to be irrelevant: everyone is dealing with shit of their own. I was hired to deliver, and I am evaluated on my capacity to deliver, baggage notwithstanding. I expect that of myself and of every other employee in the organization. That I chose to share some of my struggles on this blog is irrelevant. If any coworker choses to read my blog, and as such learns of my struggles – that’s on them. They chose to seek out additional information about me, and I cannot be burdened by their difficulty in assimilating it. I am too busy delivering the value added to the organization that I was hired to deliver. I’ve written this before: I carefully consider every single post, before publishing it. I consider the whether the impacts on myself, or those featured in the stories, are fair. Any post that is published, I am willing to defend and 100% own up to. I anticipate that anyone could read it, from the CEO of my company to the Arch-Bishop of Canada (who does, incidentally, occasionally read my blog), to influential promoters in the dance community, to politicians (true story, one of my followers is a former member of our House of Commons).

Traditionally, in the workforce, people limit what they show their coworkers and employers. They play the game of presenting their best selves, carefully packaging their image and brand. The fact that I do not play that game ruffles feathers and is sometimes perceived as vulgarity or an indication that I am too stupid to play the game. Wrong. I worked 5 years for a Big 4 accounting firm. I can play that game as well as anybody. I just hate it. By playing it, I’m tacitly implying that part of myself should remain hidden – feeding perfectly into my shadow’s game plan to convince me that who I am is not worthy of being. So I chose not to play that game. I chose authenticity and to believe that I will professionally get my just desserts based on my performance and my unquestionable intelligence. Besides, the people that do play that perceptions game? They inevitably end up revealing their true selves eventually, despite their best efforts not to.

Recently a dude in my professional network tried to cause shit with my blog, by sending a careful selection of posts to some individuals that would react unfavorably to them. He did so behind the scenes, thinking I wouldn’t find out. So. What does this tell me? It tells me that this guy, who knows I have a doozy of a story about him, is terrified that I will one day blog about it. And rather than chose to trust in my good judgment – writing about it would violate my principle that my right to self expression must not come at the price someone’s right to privacy – he attempted to force my hand, and create enough headache for me that I would reconsider blogging at all. How cute. He played the game, and he lost, since he revealed all of himself to me through his actions, whereas I have revealed nothing that wasn’t already public information.

You are aware, aren’t you that this could have an impact on your career?

Absolutely. A positive one. Just watch me.

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Toddlers are so cute. Especially virtual ones.

My blog is 3 years old!!!!!!!

This blog means so much to me. It changed my life, proving to me that I have a voice. It is my baby, my virtual darling.

To celebrate, I spent way too much time re-reading my posts (#modest), reminiscing about the good times and bad. Behold, my favorite 10 posts: a motley crew of smiles and feels from the past 3 years.

  1. That time I had a real boxing fight
  2. Microsoft Paint is required for this story
  3. It’s like a Kinder surprise, but without the Kinder
  4. Mr. T has nothing on this guy
  5. My street cred: that time my bedroom radiator decided to take me down
  6. Clair de lune
  7. That time Vanilla tried to be sexy
  8. The Dynamo trip: bow ties and feelings
  9. All I’ve done is eat, chat and watch ppl smoke shisha
  10. My facial expressions are not correlated to my happiness levels

Thank you to everyone who takes time out of their busy days to read my words.

Thank you for sharing.

Thank you for caring.

Thank you.

And thank your mama too.

 

Balancing privacy with self-expression

I’ve posting a bit less frequently lately. Not because I don’t have stories, I do. Incredible, stranger-than-fiction stories, from every facet of my life: work, dating, dance. One day, imma write my autobiography, and it will be published as fiction. No, I haven’t been posting because I’ve been struggling with finding the right balance between my stories’ characters right to privacy with my right to self-expression.

My blog is not anonymous. Vanilla is my pen-name, but that’s the only purpose it serves. I post my blog on my Fbk wall, friends, coworkers and family read it. Once I publish a story, I accept that it is part of the interweb, and is no longer my own. People will read it, react to it, use it. Therefore it is my responsibility to take reasonable care that none my content cause excessive harm to my characters. In general, I follow these principles:

  • Anything told to me in confidence? Off-limits – I will never sacrifice my justly-deserved reputation of being the loudest, most discreet, trustworthy friend and coworker in my network for the sake of my blog. Anything said in a public setting, in the presence of others? Fair game. If a story can spread verbally, through other sources than me, I am not violating the subject’s privacy by telling that story on my blog.
  • Any story that is about me? Go for it. However, I notice if there are topics that I am uncomfortable writing about, and use that as a benchmark when deciding to write about others – chances are if I wouldn’t want a story told about me, they won’t either.
  • Any story that features somebody else? Go for it as long as I am comfortable with them reading it: they don’t have to agree with my portrayal of them, but they must recognize it as factually true. I am never mean.
  • Any story that features somebody else negatively? Tread carefully. I must be comfortable with them confronting me about it. I never write when mad, and always try write from a place of kindness and empathy. I limit negative portrayals to the bare minimal context and facts necessary for my readers to understand my subsequent emotions. Afterall this blog’s purpose is to voice my life, for my own mental well-being, and because my readers enjoy relating (or not) to my (mal)adaptive thought-patterns. Will this harm their reputation? Most of the time, this question only is relevant for stories featuring “public figures” like some of the boxers I’ve known, Coach or Teacher. Most of the time, the answer is no, bc I avoid ppl who are jackasses. But in the rare times the answer is yes, that is a red flag: do I care if I hurt their reputation – is that an acceptable cost to my right to self expression? And, if yes, am I sure I cannot get sued for it? To date, I’ve only needed to carefully consider that last question once.
  • Any story that features coworkers? Off-limits. There is precedence of employers firing bloggers for blogging about work or coworkers. Yes, I have mentioned work, and have 1-2 posts that carefully mentioned coworkers, but in flattering terms, with no company-specific details, and my boss was aware of the content. However, all of my work stories are about me, really. I don’t blog about my coworkers because it violates the principle that anything I wouldn’t voice at the office because it would be deemed office gossip should not be mentioned on my blog. And as I refuse to engage in any office gossip because I think that is corrosive to a healthy work environment, and I have a responsibility as a manager to promote vibrant team work, that basically means that none of my work stories are ever shared, verbally or on my blog. Pity, because there is an endless wealth of material there. But some things take precedence over my need to have a voice. Work, and my obligations there, is one of those things.

For the first time in my blogging life, I got it wrong. This week I posted what I thought was a really interesting story, about the mind-boggling experience resulting from helping a friend – it necessarily involved some of my friend’s backstory, to explain why I was involved in such a crazy adventure. However the point of the story was my adventure, and the roller-coaster of emotions that resulted from my saga. As it had a happy ending, did not involve sharing any information that couldn’t already be gathered by any one who had stalked the shit out of my friend’s social media profile, I felt I was abiding by my above principles, balancing my friend’s right to privacy and my right to self-expression.

Apparently not.

My friend was flabbergasted to see his life described publicly. I pointed out the lack of new information – that all the “new” stuff was not about him, but the incidents that I had undergone in my chapter of this adventure. It didn’t matter. For all my logical counter-arguments to his dislike of my post, he kept repeating: “Its my life. You cannot talk about my life.” Of course, I’ve taken the post down, because no matter how much I disagree with his assessment of my post, ultimately, I do not want my blog to strain any of my friendships. But it grates. I flip-flop between thinking “He needs to suck it up, I’m within my rights” and “Just because I am within my rights, does NOT mean I AM right.”

I hate being wrong.

Dancefloor drama, part II

Practices are going full steam with the Dance Squad. Like any high pressure environment, emotions run high, and meltdowns happen. Meltdowns are kinda my thing, I’m somewhat of an expert in that subject matter. Therefore, I am prone to empathize when witnessing others mid-meltdown. Meltdowns are so very human, usually caused by an uncontrollable rush of emotion – they have the ring of authenticity and a sniff of vulnerability. #myuncomfortablecomfortzone

The choreo is not easy, with tricks, and lifts and all kinds of fun moments that involve me shifting some/most/all of my weight onto my dance partner. Technique, both for the leader and the follower, is critical. Unfortunately, achieving the right technique requires a lot of trial and error, which results in bruises, strained backs, and occasionally the follower being dropped on the floor. To the extent either the leader or the follower doesn’t catch on to a move quickly… le owie. But it is a fairly temporary level of discomfort, one that with humor, patience and concentration, can be worked through and then bingo! Improved dancing!

Sunday’s practice was hard. I struggled with a running kick in the air, supported by my partner, and my partner struggled with a sweep and dip. We mostly managed to not snipe at each other, but were both fairly relieved to not see each other for the 48 hours between Sunday’s practice and Tuesday’s practice. At Tuesday’s practice, Teacher introduced a 3rd trick and some unusual footwork. I could see my partner’s frustration rise, as he struggled with both the mechanics of the trick and the footwork count. I recognized the signs, awfully similar to the bitchfests I’d indulge in during sparring sessions at my boxing gym – the blinding emotion that overrides any communication between brain and body, making the easiest 1-2 step impossible. The only way to get out of that state is to indulge in a brief tantrum, evacuate the pent-up feelings, reset and restart. My partner’s meltdown was imminent. I was ready. I was expecting something along the lines of:

  • “GUYS! SLOW DOWN. I can’t keep up and this is really frustrating, always messing this up. I get that we are on a tight timeline, but FFS, if y’all keep blazing ahead while I am flopping about cluelessly, that doesn’t help us as a team. WAIT FOR ME. 5 minutes to help me out won’t kill y’all. “
  • “I HATE BEING A LEAD, THIS IS COMPLICATED AS FUCK, let me be a follower for once. I’ll even wear makeup and sequins if necessary, I just want someone else to deal with this shit for once. Vanilla’s strong, let HER work on her masculine portrayal.”
  • “How on earth did y’all expect me to get sufficiently in shape, overnight, to handle these lifts? You asked me to be part of the team 2 weeks ago, why are you asking me to perform at an athletic level that I don’t currently have? No? Am I being unreasonable? I AM NEVER UNREASONABLE.”

Instead, my partner said:

I’m sorry, I just can’t do this anymore. I refuse to risk injury to my back, shifting around all that weight.

Bro, did you just blame this on ME and my WEIGHT? Wrong answer.

He was true to his word, and refused to finish the last 15 mins of practice. As I watched the squad finish their rehearsal, stewing in my rage and hurt, I felt angelic for not pointing out that my weight wouldn’t be an issue if he had the slightest strength in his core and posterior chain and the posture of someone his age instead of that of a geriatric myopic librarian.

Vanilla the diplomat. I surprise myself sometimes.

A good night’s sleep did a lot to restore my mood. However, I planned my outfit extra carefully in anticipation of yesterday’s dance class: one that made my waist look wee, legs for days. Mini skirt, black nylons and heels. I hate dancing in heels: all the men in dance class are 5’8-5’10, meaning that I am several inches taller than them in heels. BUT, optical warfare takes precedence over optimal dance experience, and I wanted to make sure that when everyone saw me, the fat cow that puts my partner’s health at risk, they would say to themselves, “Damn! I’d totally put out my back for the chance to dance with that hottie.”

That is exactly what happened. Everyone complimented me on my sexy appearance, including my dance partner.

How to manage artistic meltdowns 101: shut up, look fantastic, and blog about it once it is over.

For a recap of my own memorable international dancing meltdown, click here.

Killing two birds with one blog

Last week I got a message from an acquaintance. We’ve met a handful of times over the past 3 years, no more, because our social networks overlap extensively, but other than being Fbk friends with all the resulting “likes” and superficial familiarity with each other’s virtual life, we are not close.

Vanilla, I need a therapist and it sounds like you have a good one. Would you share his info with me please? It would give me a place to start, and I really need to start. I am not ok.

I forget, sometimes: I forget that people read my blog. Ironically, I do not talk about mental health struggles, or therapy, in my non-virtual life, other than with 2-3 extremely close friends, and even then, in limited dosages, so as to not burden/bore them. Everyone has shit they need to work through, I don’t presume that my problems are more significant or worthy of attention than my friends’. My blog is my space where I share my lessons, stories and struggles, and all my friends are free to read as much or as little of it as they please because that is how the interweb works. And while I periodically get messages/comments that my blog resonates with my readers, this was different. Asking for help is excruciating. Thank you. Thank you for trusting me with your vulnerability.

Friday: 2nd appointment with my therapist. I hadn’t finished taking off my jacket, he thanked me for the referral, nothing makes him happier than positive word-of-mouth from his patients. We got to work, a good productive session as always. As I was leaving, he thanked me again: I explained that really, it is because of my blog – my acquaintance is a long-time reader, almost from Day 1. His gratitude changed to wonderment: But that means that it is public. You’re willing to acknowledge my work on a public platform. That doesn’t happen in our line of work.

Yes, I am. Obvi. Sir, you’ve changed my life, you don’t think I would refer you to any and everybody?

It is jarring and lovely when I get reminded that these words, floating about in the infinite blogosphere, matter.


The power of simple conversations:

#oktosay

When my own blog causes me to have a meltdown 

I’m proud of my blog. I think everybody should read it all the time. Like a mother who secretly believes her child is cuter than any other mini-human, I not-so-secretly believe my blog is the bee’s knees. I tell everyone about my blog. You can be sure I’ve sent 100% of my Fbk friends an invite to like my blog’s page… and I notice who has accepted or not. Apparently, some of my friends have better taste than others – but I won’t name names. It’s a free world, and all that.

I’ve been friends with Hermiono (he is an OCD nerd with a stand-up character) for 8 months. I’ve mentioned my blog to him on a weekly basis. I sent him the invite to my blog’s Fbk page in 2016; he sees anything I share on my personal Fbk wall, which includes some of my blog posts, obvi. He called me up this weekend, “Vanilla! You have a blog!” Yes I do, aren’t you perceptive! “I had no idea!” I’m questioning your listening skills, bro. “It’s GOOD! You are a GOOD writer!” Yes, I know. Glad you’ve finally caught on. “I think you are totally crazy for putting yourself and your entire life out there, but hey! I love it. It’s entertaining! You’re a mess.” Fact. Now, get back to reading – you’ve some catching up to do.


I’ve consulted lawyers, to gain an understanding of what I can/cannot share, to ensure I am not at risk of any lawsuit or termination for breach of confidentiality/other reasons. I take great pains to honor my characters privacy. Beaut vetted every post while we dated because I worried our social circle would quickly figure out his identity. He insisted I write my truth – he also periodically shared my posts on his Fbk wall, at which point I deemed the burden of preserving his anonymity had been waived. The guys featured in my failed date stories? I strip of any possible identification. Overall, I work hard to balance the need to tell my truth with the respect and consideration owed to anyone featured in my stories.

I write every post with the awareness that co-workers, family & friends of various faiths/backgrounds/values will read it. My mythical future husband and in-laws might read it: the mental health struggles, the ugly insecurities, the hilarious lack of judgment. This informs who I am – exploring vulnerability and sharing these stories has changed my life. I’m told periodically that this blog makes people smile and has helped others on their own journeys of mental health and personal growth. So my future in-laws can suck it. Judgmental bastards.

My new European friends in Dubai reacted with condemnation. “A personal blog? What are you, a gossip?! Do you want a reputation as the Kizomba Bitch? Are you trying to be a Kim Kardashian? I didn’t peg you as somebody who was vulgar. You do know you don’t HAVE to overshare.” I was shocked. I wonder how many people perceive me & my blog as vulgarthe one adjective that fills me with horror. But I was equal parts irritated – none of them had read my blog: theirs was a knee-jerk reaction. See above comment about some friends having better taste than others. Hmph.


It’s hard being honest and funny when one is worried about others’ perception.

I think it’s time I stop worrying.


Once upon a time I wrote a blog post about a boy. It was sweet, a good mix of cerebral and emotional. I sent it to him, as a courtesy, letting him know that I was refraining from posting it on Fbk until he had read it.

Hours went by. Crickets.

More hours went by. Turns out he had family over. I don’t know what he was thinking, having family over when I was waiting on him to read my post, but wtv. Nobody is perfect.

MORE hours went by. I caved, and asked him whether silence implied consent. He hadn’t read it yet – family obligations and whatnot.

Hours turned into days. I drafted a step-by-step Manual For Guys That Are Featured In Heartfelt Blog Posts Written By Girls That Are Allergic To Vulnerability. Highlights include:

Drop everything you are doing and read the post immediately. Showing yourself as online, but NOT reading the messages is unacceptable and will cause part of the girl’s soul to die. Within a delay of 57 seconds, write back complimentary noises. Do NOT assume the girl is a stage 5 clinger. If you are an overachiever, read 20-30 of her posts, decide she is good people, and be cool.

Days turned into weeks. My brain decided it would be a great idea if I messaged him. Was I suave? No. Did I make the situation better? Definitely not. I accept my fate as the female version of this guy. Karma’s a bitch.


I think it’s time I stop worrying. There will be times where my intentions vs others perception of me/my blog will diverge widely; on a small scale, this is a risk that any artist/creative person must face. Humor gets lost in translation all the time. Do I stand by each of my posts? Yes. Is this blog true? Yes.

Well then. Less worrying, more trainwrecks.

#mynewlifemotto

#KizombaBitchindahouse

Working through the Beaut legacy

New year, new me.


Beaut‘s status: beautiful guy with ok rhythm in dance class who is good for a laugh. I’ve unfollowed him on Facebook, but he’ll tag me in things that he thinks I’ll enjoy, and I will check in to see pics of his adorable little girl. We occasionally text. His penis is never ever coming near my vagina again. I don’t initiate any activities or hangout times: having previously over-invested in this whatevertionship, salvaging this friendship ain’t my burden. I’ve a busy life to live.

My feelings: Some sadness. Some nostalgia and remnants of affection. He is as fucked up as they come, but he remains good people. He is a badly abused puppy that bites the hand that tries to pet it. Cute and heartbreaking, but I’m tired of having bite marks and wondering if imma wake up with rabies one day. I’ve stopped petting him.

My feelings part 2: Given Beaut’s history (he has a tendency of women snapping and going full-blown psycho. Not the cute “imma stalk you on instagram” pyscho, but the “you should probably call the cops on me” psycho) I’m a little nervous about Main Girl. Around the time of peniscation, she announced on Fbk her intention of attending a kuduro class. When I freaked out, “hell nah – kuduro is MY joy, I ain’t gonna smile and hold your hand, pretending to be one happy incentuous family. You are not welcome here”, she innocently wondered about my reaction since, as per my blog post, it was all over between me and Beaut. She convinced Beaut that by writing To be or not be a Queen B, I meant to do her physical harm – Beaut called me in a hysterical rage, and said some vicious things I’ll never forget. In any Fbk post he tags me in, she leaves a comment highlighting how special their relationship is. Recently, she has started a blog, in the same vein as mine. True, writing is not something I own; it has brought me joy and self-awareness, and I theoretically wish that upon everyone. However… Does she so need to piss on her territory that despite my absence from Beaut’s top girls on speed-dial, she must attempt to eradicate any memory of what made me unique by taking up my hobby, blogging? She has yet to realize that talent can’t be imitated. #pettyAF #idonotfollowherblog


Having turned away from Beaut & Main Girl’s toxic shit, I’m left with myself. Blank slate. New year, new me. I alone bear the responsibility of building the life of happiness I desire for myself. But the Beaut legacy lives on inside me: I’m different now.

I’m cynical.

I’ve met a few men since Beaut. During my December trip to Paris and Madrid, one guy in particular grabbed my attention. Sassy conversation, plenty of alcohol, sexy surroundings, lowered inhibitions. We had fun. Eurodude asked for my contact info, I gave it, and we parted on the most pleasant terms imaginable.

48 hours later, it dawned on me. Eurodude hadn’t added me on social media, despite me providing him with a link to a picture on my IG profile. He must be married. I spent an hour stalking him on social media. While not conclusive, I’m confident in my assessment. Beaut legacy part 1: my main reaction was one of irritation for not having suspected earlier. Beaut legacy part 2: Eurodude’s conscience ain’t my problem. I had fun, and wouldn’t mind seeing him again, should we ever wind up in the same continent again. #whereismymoralcompass

Eurodude has emailed me a handful of times since that trip. Pre-Beaut Vanilla smiles when she sees his name in her inbox: clearly the connection was legit, since he stands to gain nothing by emailing me – we live on different sides of the pond, let’s enjoy our fun correspondence. Beaut legacy kicks in and whispers that Eurodude is emailing me to boost his male ego and keep me interested, such that if he should ever come to Montreal, or I be in Europe, he wouldn’t have to work hard to get into my pants.

Remember flower dude? He started flirting with me again when he realized Beaut was out of the picture. Only for me to realize he’d forgotten to tell me about his new Main Girl.

There isn’t a guy who talks to me that I don’t now coolly assess what his angle must be.

I reject the concept of vulnerability

Recently, I was having supper with an older guy, who remarked there comes a moment in each of our conversations where he hits a wall, and I shut him out. I’m an open book up until the point where I’m not and no matter how hard or carefully he tries to regain my trust, I remain withdrawn. Sympathetically, he explained that with him, it was either vulnerability or nothing. So far, I’ve chosen nothing – with regret, because he is fascinating and fun. But he is one that can burn me, so hell nah, bro.

It occurs to me that in setting my sights on Paris within 2 years, I am providing myself with the perfect excuse to avoid a relationship with anyone: nobody will distract me from my Dream. It happens to be mighty convenient that in so doing, I’m avoiding vulnerability like a champ.


New year, new me.

I wish I liked the new me a bit more. Not sure how to work through this Beaut legacy, but I’ll find a way. 2017 is the year my joy will shine brightly: I will not allow anything to dim it.

Aujourd’hui, je me choisis. Je choisis de cultiver ouvertement mon bonheur au sein de gens qui partagent mon désir d’avancer. Je choisis de reconnaître la vie et les gens pour ce qu’ils sont: allègres, beaux, multicolores. Du moins, c’est ce que je choisis de voir. La veuve noire