dreams

Office views

Today, from our offices in Paris:

Meanwhile, in Montreal:

Not the same thing.

I love Paris. So much. I feel alive, here. I feel connected to my history and my culture. Because for all I am of Russian and Belorussian descent, France shaped my family’s life.

My paternal grandmother’s family fled the Russian revolution, lived in Nice for years. She was in Paris when WWII broke out. My paternal grandfather made his way from Finland to France, and met my grandmother in Paris soon after the war. My father and his two elder brothers were born in Paris, before the family relocated to Canada. I’ve walked by their former appartements. I’ve been to the church where my father and uncles were baptized.

My mother was born in Montreal, soon after her parents moved to Canada, met and were married. My mother grew up in the province of Quebec, during the rise of the separatist movement, and the often tense, occasionally violent interactions between the anglophone and francophone populations. She witnessed the first independence referendum that failed. I grew up in Montreal, learning French, attempting to embrace the francophone culture. I lived through the 2nd independence referendum. To understand the current day demographics and political landscape is to understand the history of this province and continent. To understand that history is to know of the French colonization of Canada. French history – to this day – impacts my every day life.

To walk about in Paris, in the streets steeped with history, my history… incredible. My identity is only complete when I am in France.

#IwillmoveherebeforeIturn35

#promisetomyself

 

Recap of previous posts involving Paris:

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The show must go on

Moulin Rouge. Baz Luhrmann’s fantastical take on the novel La Dame aux Camélias & the opera La Traviata (my favorite opera). Nicole Kidman’s character is a blazée, beautiful cancan dancer who falls in love with a penniless but respectable writer (Ewan McGregor). Practical considerations (money) trap her in her lifestyle, subject to the patronage of a vain, occasionally violent, jealous, rich Duke. The decision to renounce her true love leads to heartache, and misery. She finally breaks free from the Duke only to die in Ewan’s arms from tuberculosis, contracted from a previous client.

Moulin Rouge is a movie about “truth, beauty, freedom and love“. It is also about the struggle to achieve each of those virtues, in the face of Life’s propensity to repeatedly sucker punch all of us. Those who dared to dream in this movie were rewarded by heartbreak or death. Watching it at 15 years old, I was swept away by the romantic pathos of it all. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that it is a very melancholy movie, albeit delightfully packaged with style, humor and dramatic flair. One particular scene that is not frequently cited (unlike Jim Broadbent singing Like a Virgin, or the brilliant/disturbing Roxanne scene) has always haunted me. It is the moment when Nicole Kidman gives up her fragile belief in her right to happiness.

Zigler: You’re dying, Satine. You’re dying. (…)

Satine: I was a fool to believe, a fool to believe. It all ends today. Yes, it all ends today.

Zigler: (…) You are a great actress Satine, make him believe you don’t love him. Use your talent to save him. Hurt him to save him. There is no other way. The show must go on, Satine. We’re creatures of the underworld. We can’t afford to love.

Satine & Zigler: Today’s a day when dreaming ends.

Zigler: Another hero. Another mindless crime, behind the curtain in the pantomime. On and on, does anybody know what we are living for? Whatever happened? We leave it all to chance. Another heartache, another failed romance. On and on, does anybody know what we are living for? The show must go on, the show must go on. Outside the dawn is breaking on the stage that holds our final destiny. The show must go on, the show must go on!

Satine: Inside my heart is breaking, my make-up may be flaking but my smile still stays on.

Zigler: The show must go on. The show must go on.

Satine: I’ll top the bill. I’ll earn the kill. I have to find the will to carry on with the show.

Zigler : The show must go on.

 

Watching it, 16 years ago, I felt an odd recognition – this scene captures how I see life.

“Inside my heart is breaking, my make-up may be flaking but my smile still stays on.” 

I didn’t know at 17 years old that my shadow would turn out to be my constant companion. But I did know how to appear normal, even though I felt anything but normal on the inside, like my heart was about to split open from the sadness it carried. As I’ve gotten older, this has become even more true: I’ve become an excellent actress so as to avoid vulnerability: nobody asks questions when it looks like you got your shit together.

“We’re creatures of the underworld. We can’t afford to love.”

A coworker asked me recently, after a few too many beers, “Vanilla, this is going to sound awful, I can’t find the words to phrase this properly, but you are a beautiful, sexy, smart, accomplished professional, with an amazing life ahead of you… why do you go for such losers in your dating life? Why don’t you find somebody with the same life situation as you?” My coworker was referring to Athletico, Beaut and Hickster. I pointed out that each one, although not as educated as me, nor pursuing a traditional corporate lifestyle, had risen to the top of his respective field, and was respected for his athletic track record; any athlete that can successfully monetize their skills has street smarts, dedication, perseverance, talent and work ethic. So however terrible their grammatical skills, they can not be fairly labeled losers when it comes to their careers. But my coworker didn’t mean that. He meant that they are living trainwrecks and haven’t mastered the concept of honesty.

It’s taken me months to figure out why I gravitate to these guys, and why I feel so alive in the boxing and dancing world. I belong. These guys all have good streaks, so much of their characters is worthy of admiration and respect. But they also have this dark side to them, and they are caught up in the struggle of their two sides. Often their dark side wins, causing them to act in ways that is harmful to themselves and those around them. I get that. Every day is an internal struggle -against my ADD, my shadow and the lazy, mean, irresponsible and cowardly Vanilla that constantly undermines the hard work of good, kind and sweet Vanilla. So many of my friends and coworkers appear to have mastered the whole adulting concept, lives cleanly scrubbed and responsible; while I kinda wish I could adult like them, I also know that I’d hate it. I love/hate the struggle, but it is my struggle. It proves to me I am alive. These men that struggle and periodically fail at realizing their best selves makes me feel less different. I relate. I too am a creature of the underworld.

“On and on, does anybody know what we are living for? Whatever happened? We leave it all to chance.”

I haven’t found my purpose. I drift through life, too exhausted by the fight against my shadow to dream, or pursue proactively my happiness.

“The show must go on.”


Disclaimer: I know my posts sometimes alarm my readers, especially friends and family. My funk is still firmly in place, but it is not spiraling out of control: I’ll take treading water over being swept willy-nilly by the current of depression. I’m doing my best to fight it, but it’s hard. I promise I am trying.

Recap of the current funk:

Anxiety + geography fail = self-analysis

The anxiety this week, oh my! It was bad on Monday, improved on Tuesday, and then got progressively worse.

Yesterday, I was addicted to my phone, compulsively checking social media nonstop. Every 30 minutes, if not more frequently #ADDindahouse. Thanks to my recent travels and dance festivals, I’ve a boatload of new Fbk friends, artists and dancers from across the world. My Fbk feed is flooded with promotions for upcoming festivals in exotic locations, pictures of peoples’ travels to all of the places on my bucket list, or posts from their everyday lives – inherently more entertaining when located in Amsterdam/Cape Town/London. My Fbk feed is a vibrant, exciting, diverse, fantasy land, and I’m stuck in grey Montreal with 2-degree weather, reviewing the definitions of internal controls and prepping for month-end. My intense FOMO led me to designate one of the Dubai hotties as my new confidante and unleash unending verbal diarrhea at him. Highlight of that convo: mistaking Agadir for the name of an upcoming dance festival in Ireland. The dude is Moroccan. #geographyismyforte. He eventually stopped answering me. Ooopsies.

Accurate representation of my behaviour when chatting with that dude.

Today, I tried to figure out why am I so overwhelmingly anxious. As I’ve learned, it is important to nip these episodes in the bud, before they spiral outta control. I have the tools. A quick run-through:

  • Medication: my prescription ran out and I haven’t taken time off from month-end to go fill it. Solution: Tuesday morning, GO. My #dreamteam will survive without me for 4 hours.
  • Exercise: haven’t exercised once this week, as Teacher is recovering from his festival and Coach is on vacation. Clear violation of my therapist’s orders. Solution: exercise tonight, ballet on Sunday, resume normal schedule next week.
  • Diet: disaster. I ate bread for breakfast, timbits for lunch, chocolate as a snack and the only veggies I’ve consumed this week have been 2 cucumbers and some cauliflower with spinach dip. Solution: groceries tomorrow.
  • Friends: I wanna isolate myself. Solution: do NOT bail on my dates with my girlfriends today & tomorrow.
  • Writing: no writer’s block, just very busy. Solution: find the time.
  • Sleep: I flip-flop between insomnia and exhaustion. Solution: be kind to myself and listen to my body.

I felt better. Simple, easy solutions. But there remained a pit in my stomach.

Why?

Seeing BlondEyes and BossMan made me realize: I no longer feel that their ability to pursue their dreams and goals is something that does not apply to me. I (finally!) have the same thirst for life as them. My two Big Dreams (moving to Paris and one day living from my writing) are clamoring for my attention – having seen my two friends take necessary risks to build their vision of a thrilling satisfying life, my Dreams whisper, “we can do this too!”

While in Dubai, I mentioned my Paris dream to BossMan – of course, he asked me what I was waiting for? The right position, obvi. Timing too, it’s important to not jeopardize my professional career with hasty decisions. One day, when the right opportunity comes my way, I’ll be able to weld my Dream with my Career. BossMan scoffed at me: if I really wanted to move to Paris, I could apply to any job I’d like, and after 2-3 months of job hunting, I’d be a wannabe Parisienne. BossMan insisted I lookup freelance writer opportunities, in front of him, while he watched. He asked me: why not commit 5 hours a week to this dream? Calmly, between shisha puffs, he dismissed my I dunnoooooos and my maybe-one-days. Bluntly, he told me: You’re afraid, Vanilla. Are you really gonna let your fears stop you from living the life you KNOW you want?

Seriously, the Dynamite family, with their wisdom & advice that echoes in my head for weeks. EXHAUSTING.

So there you have it: my anxiety stems from the war being waged between Risk-Averse Accountant Vanilla and Vanilla with Dreams. My Dreams won’t be silenced – they’ve paid their dues, patiently navigating all those years of depression. Seeing my Facebook feed full of people living their unconventional lives their way, pursuing their goals… makes it very hard for me to pretend that I am not, as BossMan suggested, letting my fears stop me from living the life I know I want.

I don’t know yet how to reconcile these two Vanillas. But at least I understand what is going on in my brain, and acknowledge that this is something worthy of my time and consideration. Ideally, I’ll continue achieving these moments of clarity and self-awareness, without first portraying myself as an annoying platinum blond Kim K wannabe to a guy I barely know.

“Whaddya mean, ‘Agadir’ is NOT Portuguese for ‘leprechaun’ ?!”

Dream big

I don’t know how to dream big. I barely know how to dream.

I blame depression: it robs one of the ability to dream. During my depressive episodes, my goals were limited to:

  • don’t cry in public;
  • Ok fine, I cried in public, but I won’t wipe my nose with my hand;
  • I’ll hold it together long enough to just go home, and hide and cry privately;
  • I’ve been crying in my bed and sleeping for 13 hours. I’ll take a shower;
  • Fine, I’ll take a shower tomorrow;
  • I showed up at work! I’ll eat chocolate as a reward. Who cares about my weight goals, body confidence and fitness goals – there is no point looking good, I can’t face being seen by anyone, I’ll die a cat-less cat-lady.

It is hard to dream about anything at all, when one’s overriding concern is to continue showing up at work, faking being normal, and doing a passable enough job so as to not get fired. Dreams were just reminders of how I was failing at every day life. If I didn’t have dreams, I’d have less things to feel shame about.

Until recently, I didn’t question that mental pattern. But lately, as I cautiously explore vulnerability, and vaguely remember what it is to feel alive, I am irked by my inability to dream big.

I’m surrounded by (non-accountants) individuals who have big dreams and are toiling away with various degrees of success towards their ambition.

  • Dynamo‘s older brother told me 4 years ago that he would move to Dubai, become a successful entrepreneur and marry a “girl more beautiful than a movie star”. Today, his company is booming and he is happily married to his gorgeous wife. I helped him with some of the earliest aspects of the company. 4 years have gone by and I am still living in Montréal, pursuing my career at a tranquil pace. The only news in my life is that I’ve lost some weight, temporarily beat depression and started a minor blog; in all other respects my life is the same as it was then.
  • My cousin’s husband announced one day that he was starting a company. 3 years later, he is getting nominated for all kinds of awards in his field.
  • Voilàaaa has become a succesful savate trainer in the space of 1 year, and is expanding his business into several side ventures.

I chose accounting as my career because I didn’t have any passions. Unlike some friends, I never knew I wanted to be a doctor or a teacher or a musician. I wanted nice shoes and to eat in fancy restaurants. I wanted a skill set that would always be valued in the marketplace regardless of changes in technology or health of the economy. Moreover, I wanted a career that would allow me to relocate, and have my qualifications recognized easily regardless of the jurisdiction I settled down in. Most importantly, I wanted a career with stability and salary levels that would allow me to live a comfortable lifestyle and support me and my unborn babies, the day my mythical husband decided to bail on us and upgrade for a bimbo younger woman. My CPA title meets these objectives. Yet, I have a bitter aftertaste every time I think of it. I chose this career from a place of profound negativity and cynicism. Thank goodness, by fluke, I have the brains to do this job well. But my career reminds me that for years, my biggest goal was just to guard against whatever crap the Universe threw my way.

At the gym, there are several pro-boxers, all of whom want to one day be world champions. Fight by fight, they are getting closer to their goal. One of the boxers had his chance at 2 world title belts. Yes, he lost his fights, but his dogged pursuit of a goal that big fills me with respect. It makes me uncomfortable to acknowledge that in his shoes, I would never have allowed myself to dream of being world champion – I would have viewed it as presumptious and cocky. I’d be content with just being a pro-boxer, capable of living off my boxing fights. I’d settle for mediocrity, while telling myself that modesty is a virtue.

My current dreams are tame. Mundane.

  • Own a home
  • Win a few boxing fights, preferably without any concussions
  • Get a promotion in the next 2 years
  • Find a man who loves me enough to stay true indefinitely
  • Travel to a new place 1x a year

Part of me is proud for even acknowledging that I want these things. I only did so recently, in the past 9 months, as the cloud of depression receeded. I’m 31, and my goals are the same as most 25 year-olds. Depression robbed me of 6 years of my life.

But that isn’t enough. I want to be like the boxers at my gym. Have a goal that is so big, it is almost statistically impossible. Ludicrous. Presumptious. Cocky. I want to work towards greatness, and possibly fail along the way, instead of just wallowing in mediocrity and the mundane.

Except… I do not know how to dream.