This blog post grew out of necessity. A friend of mine from high school, having read an excellent piece called What I Told My White Friend When He Asked For My Black Opinion On White Privilege, asked me to share some of my own brushes with racism. Her suggestion, like the Facebook post by “J” which apparently inspired Lori Lakin Hutcherson to write the Black Opinion On White Privilege piece, was a sincere request for help to see the world as I do for a moment, knowing that the same scene can appear vastly different to two people if only one has rose-tinted lenses.
I figured I’d type out a point-form list of a few remembrances and be done with it. Lakin Hutcherson’s article, after all, had done a great job (seriously, go read it if you haven’t already). I started gathering anecdotes and jotting them down; I realized how many of them I wanted to expose, then cut a few out; I’m finally ready to share them. But first, some background info.
I was born in Canada to black, Caribbean-born, Canadian-raised parents. I live in downtown Toronto, one of the world’s most multicultural cities, but I grew up just north of it. My parents and I lived in a housing co-op with a variety of cultural and ethnic families; that co-op was nestled into an upper-middle class neighbourhood, and you may correctly assume that white faces were the majority there. Funny how class and race are so intertwined — whoops, I’m getting off topic. My first high school had about 1,500 students; if memory serves, 16 of us were black in the 2000-2001 school year, and 15 the following year. Eva, who met me at that school, is the friend who asked me to share some of my experiences as an obvious minority there. I’m glad she did, and I hope and trust that she will not interpret my explanations of otherness and white privilege as accusatory or divisive.
I’ll be taking numerous cues from Lakin Hutcherson: aiming for brevity, keeping it chronological, acknowledging that “Most of what I share below is mild compared to what others in my family and community have endured.” (Disclaimer: I don’t always add the word “white” before “privilege” and please don’t ask me why unless we have both time for a really long talk.
One last thing: writing this has made me realize that I’ve forgotten, perhaps intentionally, numerous slights and incidences which could be part of the list. It appears that racism is discussed less in Canada than in the United States. I can see why my neighbours who are unaware of their privilege are surprised and defensive when their “But don’t all lives matter?” query is met with something more hostile than they expected. If any of you are hoping for me to heartily reinforce my country’s reputation for interracial harmony . . . meh. If you’re hoping to gain insight from my point of view and you’re aware that it might clash with yours, here we go.
1. I switched schools frequently, initially because my family kept moving, and then because I was enrolled in the Gifted program for my fourth, fifth and sixth grades and my first two years of high school, and the Arts program for my seventh and eighth grades. Throughout my time in both of those programs, in three different schools, I was the only black female in my class, usually the only black student in the class period. Have you ever been the only one of a certain group or community in your classroom? Was it uncomfortable in any way? It actually began to feel normal for me. If you have never felt a sense of otherness like this, or you have and it felt strange because it isn’t what you’re used to, you may be starting to hone in on your privilege.
2. One day in the fifth or sixth grade, my classmates and I were being taught about how there were only a few different original “races,” one of them “Negroid.” When an illustration of a face with dark brown skin and a broad nose and lips appeared on the projection screen, one of my white, Jewish classmates sitting in front of me turned around and stared searchingly at my face. I can now see that she could have just been gauging whether my features resembled the ones being shown (I mean, they did if she was comparing my face to hers). At the time, though, I felt acutely embarrassed to be scrutinized that way. Have you (n)ever felt objectified as a result of being the only member present of a certain group or community? Have you (n)ever stayed quiet about it because speaking up would only have made the embarrassment worse? That’s another example of white privilege.
3. There was an interesting thread on Twitter lately, asking people how old they were the first time they had a black teacher. Probably because my lack of representation in school settings felt “normal” for me, I was actually surprised to realize that I don’t remember having any black teachers until my second or third year of university. A black teacher at my second high school was a tremendous personal influence on me, but I wasn’t in any of her classes. If you have never had to stop and think about the first or last time you saw yourself represented in the leadership around you, be it in school or worship or politics or media or recreation, that is an example of white privilege. As far as I can see, this is actually the central tenet of white privilege: assuming that “white” is the norm, or the default, so it is safe or logical to ignore non-white stories, experiences, opinions, and concerns.
Important note: for this piece, at least, the preceding paragraph is the closest I will come to addressing the need for proper representation in the world of arts and entertainment, where I have chosen to base my career, because that topic opens a Pandora’s box which will likely take me longer than the duration of my life to cover adequately. Know that I’m not oblivious to this much-needed conversation; let’s discuss it later; please continue reading.
4. I doubt I will ever forget this one. I was a teenager riding the #5 Clark bus home from school, as were a bunch of other students, one of whom I will call Dave. Dave is white and Jewish. And let’s call the other male character in this story Mike. Mike was a fellow visible minority at Thornhill Secondary School, and we got along so well that we started referring to one another as cousins. (Sidebar: if the idea of a play cousin sounds funny to you because you’ve never felt the urge to fabricate a familial relationship in order to combat the isolation to which you’ve grown accustomed, you aren’t used to being in the minority. Another hint that it might be time for a privilege check.) Anyway, Dave looked out the window and saw Mike, then snickered and boasted that he was “blacker than” Mike because Mike “doesn’t even do drugs.” He literally said “I’m blacker than he is,” and laughed. Given my temperament, I’m surprised that I didn’t cuss Dave out, but the point here is that if you’ve never had a person who shares none of your cultural background “joke” that they are a better representative of that background than you — while assuming that the proof of belonging to your background is limited to an illegal activity — AND feeling comfortable enough to say this out loud in front you — you might be privileged. Let’s all hope Dave grew up (I’m still in touch with Mike, he’s doing just fine) and move on.
5. In fact, let’s move on to my second high school. For some reason, the Gifted program didn’t extend past the tenth grade. I didn’t feel like staying at TSS, so I arranged to switch to Vaughan Secondary School, which was actually my home school. The classes I took were geared to “stream” students toward university (as opposed to college or trades), and being the only black female in the classroom was still my norm — but now, in a school of closer to 2,000 students with far greater diversity than TSS (including more than 50, maybe more than 100, black students), I felt less like an anomaly in the hallways. There were even situations in which I found myself to be part of the majority, like our gospel choir. We were pretty much all black and/or mixed, and we were pretty surprised to find out one day that a Caucasian student who was briefly part of our ranks had taken issue with the way someone else in the choir described her. She had been referred to as “the white girl” and she didn’t like that. Pause. Here’s how I feel about labels and descriptors. When they’re used to stereotype or over-generalize, to dehumanize, to insult, of course that is a problem. However, if someone refers to you as “the white girl,” with no ill will at all, not because they’re saying something negative about you but because they’re asking someone a question about you and they don’t know your name yet and “white” is a more accurate descriptor than, say, “funny” or “new,” you probably don’t have any reason to feel offended. Uncomfortable, maybe, and apparently she was. But, as another choir member pointed out when we had this discussion (the white girl wasn’t present), “It’s not like somebody called her a cracker.” Not until university did I gain more insight into this issue of so many white people not liking to be called white (short answer: because to define something or someone suggests that they are “other” than whom or what is predominant or “normal”), but if you feel that someone calling you a colour is offensive while it makes total sense for other people to be called colours, you’re pretty steeped in white privilege.
6. Let’s skip ahead to university. I took Radio and TV Arts at Ryerson, where I learned so much more than I’d expected to.
(a) While in full chase after several scholarships, I learned that even one of your “friends” might make a snide remark about your applying for awards which are specifically for visible minority students (in case anyone reading this is wondering about my academic credentials, I graduated third from the top of my class while working multiple part-time jobs, and in eight semesters of full-time studies I received exactly two grades that were lower than an A—).
(b) When a few students of colour proposed forming a group or committee called Students of Colour in Radio and Television to address what can only be described as habitual whitewashing in the media, I learned that the status quo is one of the most challenging obstacles to progressive change — that the folks in charge might not consciously want to keep others out of power, but they really don’t want to have to do or think differently than they’ve done or thought so far, and they probably won’t unless they’re forced to.
(c) During one very interesting English class, I learned that privileged people spend little if any time even wondering about the concept of paying reparations to the descendants of disenfranchised people. Specifically, I got very frustrated during a conversation about whether the legacy of chattel slavery lives on in present-day North America (yes, the question was whether it does, not how it does), and my lasting memory is of trying to explain that whether a white North American has racist beliefs or not, they continue to benefit from the effects of slavery the same way a black North American continues to be hindered by those effects, eventually blurting out “The White House was built by slaves. Are they going to stop using the White House?” and realizing in the sudden brief silence that I’d momentarily penetrated a force field of ignorance surrounding many of my classmates. If your cultural and historical perspective is treated with respect when it is discussed in an academic setting, and attempts to include your perspective are given due consideration; if, on top of this, your classmates don’t question whether your work ethic and intellectual merit are responsible for you attending classes with them (even as you smoke most of them on exams and assignments), then your privilege is well above average. Congratulations.
Is this blog long enough yet? I’d actually hoped that my painful experiences regarding race would have peaked in high school, petered out in my twenties, and would then maybe-but-hopefully-not re-emerge when I became a parent. Imagine my surprise at the following two revelations, both of which occurred in 2016.
Bonus #1: I was leaving a funeral with three colleagues of mine. As I think about it, this would have made a great setup for a corny joke or an improv sketch: we were one Muslim, one Jehovah’s Witness, one Jew, and me, a Christian. We all got to chatting about significant ceremonies for religions other than our own, and I mentioned that I’d attended lots of bar and bat mitzvah receptions but only gone to some of the synagogue ceremonies — you know, since some synagogues require only Orthodox Jews to be present, but the rules for the party are less strict. Now, my Jewish coworker is sweet but blunt. She barely let me finish my sentence before stating that anyone claiming to be Orthodox Jewish shouldn’t lie like that: there is no such rule. You can attend the bar/bat mitzvah service whether you’re Jewish or not, never mind “having” to be Orthodox; and she should know, because she also works part-time at a synagogue. A recent poll on my Facebook page garnered input from a wide number of friends, mostly Jewish, at various points on the spectrum between Orthodox and non-practicing, and one former classmate even asked her uncle who is, in her words: “a cantor (the guy who stands next to the rabbi and does the singing)” (hi Steph!). The overwhelming majority said you do not have to be Jewish to enter a synagogue, while three speculated that it might be a preference for some who are extremely devout, but not a rule. Remember Eva? She chimed in, introducing herself on the thread as a “super religious Jew” and asserting that “everyone is welcome in a synagogue!” . . . so I’m left to conclude that I wasn’t exactly lied to back then, but I wasn’t exactly told the truth either. It’s all water under an 18-year-old bridge by now, since I don’t even remember which of my classmates told me this. I know it happened more than once, and that I believed it. I know I’ll have my guard up if history repeats itself with my kids.
Bonus #2: the month of July was emotionally draining for many of the black people I know, and while that sounds like an exaggeratedly broad remark it is absolutely true. The back-to-back murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the circulation of gory images containing their bodies, the heartbreaking cries of their family members, the hypocrisy and tacit acceptance of such a large portion of the general public — none of this was new, please understand that. What was new, particularly for black Torontonians after the Black Lives Matter TO protest which interrupted Toronto’s Pride Parade, was the volume of the backlash. Also, the closeness of it. I, and many of my friends, suddenly saw that a number of acquaintances, coworkers, former classmates, hell, even (former?) “friends,” were dismissive of — or hostile toward — a movement which is insisting that my life matters as much as Jane Creba’s did, or that Mike’s matters as much as Dave’s. Knowing there are people in my life who value my input only if I remain calm enough so that they don’t start to feel uncomfortable, that’s old news. Re-learning it at the age of 30, though, meant losing a significant amount of hope that things will be different for my children. If you can wonder about descendants of yours who don’t even exist yet and your first thought is something other than fear they will be racially profiled, I envy your privilege because I’ve been scared to have sons since I was 14.
If you’ve read this far, you may be curious about my experiences away from home. Do Black Lives Matter elsewhere? So far, the only places I’ve lived besides Canada are the capital of the United States (so that’s a nice quick answer) and the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Racism in the Middle East is a whole different animal, but here’s something to ponder: I had difficulty getting a taxi at an upscale Dubai nightclub because I, in a parking lot full of women wearing party clothes, was assumed to be a prostitute. Just me. The only black woman in sight. With my shoulders covered. Fuck outta here. Oh, pardon me, here’s the polite Canadian translation: if the shade of your skin has ever shielded you from assumptions that would have otherwise been made about your behaviour, particularly if one of those assumptions might have literally landed you in jail, you are winning at the crooked game of white privilege.
I’ve edited this piece several times by now. Stories have been deleted and memories questioned, and I’ve begun to wonder about the feedback I might receive. It doesn’t feel complete yet, though, because I need to point out one thing about the anecdotes I’ve shared.
Beneath every one of these is a deep, troubling sense of self-doubt. When prejudice affects the way you are treated by fellow human beings, your sense of faith in the kinship of humanity is poked, tested, occasionally broken. Did they really just do that to me, even though they know I’m a person too, because of the kind of person I am? Doesn’t the fact that we’re both human supersede my colour/sex/orientation/religion/net worth? If not, am I to blame? Is something wrong with me? If you don’t understand the effects that continual rejection and otherism can have on even the strongest personality, you are either in complete denial of your privilege or you are so dense that nothing else I say will make a difference to you. My tendency, as someone who believes in self-determination and self-responsibility, is not to jump to the conclusion that every negative thing someone says or does to me is because I’m a person of colour, a woman, etc. As seemingly small incidents pile up, though, it is damn near impossible not to doubt yourself. And far too many people eventually perpetuate stereotypes, staying or living in the confining spaces they believe have been created for them. If you’ve never doubted your ability to choose your own nest instead of being shoved into a box, a cage, or even a hole, your privilege is such that I literally cannot imagine how the world looks to you.
This has taken me far longer than I expected it to, so I’m going to wrap it up. Many thanks to Eva for asking with warmth, respect and humour about my experiences attending the same school at the same time as her, and yet learning some very different lessons. In fact, thanks to all of my friends, from everywhere. Looking over my shoulder can be painful, and yet it’s a great way to remind myself of how many people are in my corner.
D C Dolabaille
Now that it’s May, I can look back at my most recent birthday, which was in early March.
Allow me to explain.
My birthday is on the 3rd, which means my champagne birthday happened when I was 3 and barely knew what “birthday” meant. Womp. Other significant birthdays ranged from very good (Sweet 16) to verrrry stressful (Quarter-Century), and overall the birthday to beat was March 3rd, 2014 (spent living it up in Dubai, shopping and fly boarding and going up the tallest building in the world). For my reverse champagne birthday (someone else can think of a cool name for it) I decided to go all out, celebrating 3 decades of life in 3 different countries over a span of 3 months.
I already had my ticket for Trinidad Carnival, so I kicked off the celebrations there and you can read all about it in my last post. I came back home and danced the night away at a fete with a few of my girlfriends, then released the trailer for my new webseries-to-be and released a radio single. I celebrated my actual birthday by leaving work early to go to 2 auditions before taking myself shopping.
The birthday fell on a Thursday; that weekend I got to see the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre perform with the added bonus of watching it with my little cousin. This was our first show together! And she’s the same age I was when our Grandma took me to my first concert, which I think is awesome. There was a family dinner after that, and then I went to my curlfriend Nicole Stamp’s place to learn how to work natural hair magic like she does. I’ve been in love with my hair ever since. I got to show off my curls the next day at a delicious and hilarious brunch with a bunch of friends and cousins.
The next weekend I was reshooting sections of my Digital Dossier, and then I had new headshots taken by Denise Grant. It did rain that day, which ruined my plans for my hair, but MUA Christine Cho waved her magic wand and the pictures look pretty damn good in my opinion
I almost ran out of time to squeeze in my third country, but in April I went to New York City (where I hadn’t been since 2012, and where I definitely need to be more often). Just looking at Manhattan, or walking up and down the streets there, feels like celebrating to me. Even better that I got to spend time with friends I hadn’t seen in years. And I got some good buys in on the way home, tee-hee!
So I did it: celebrated in 3 countries, between the beginning of February and the end of April, and the good times keep rolling. Other things have added to my birthday celebrations over the 3-month time period: I left my day job, auditions have picked up, I’ve booked a play in Peterborough and one in Toronto for this summer, and I’m leaving for Haiti in a week!
Happy Birthday to me, and Dirty Thirty is looking exquisite so far . . .
First things first: I don’t publish new blog posts here as often as I should. And this one probably should have been finished and shared sooner, but I was of two minds about whether to blog about the whole trip or just certain parts of it . . . and if only certain parts, which ones to leave out . . . and what was a reasonable amount of pictures to share . . . until finally I decided. Here’s one big chunky post about my 20 days in paradise, and (as always) you can read all, skip some, and/or visit my Instagram page for a super-quick photo recap if you’re short on time.
As some of you know, my father is Trinidadian by birth. This was actually only my second trip to the twin islands of Trinidad & Tobago, and although I’m an avid Caribana girl, this was my first Trinidad Carnival. I’ve spent years hearing about how T&T does it much better than we do here in Toronto, and of course I was excited to see for myself what it was like, stuff myself with delicious food, bake myself in the sun, and spend lots of time with family members I don’t see very often. I worked out a plan to budget for this escapade starting around the time of my last birthday (early March). This trip wasn’t cheap! It would’ve been easier if the Canadian dollar weren’t so dismal, or if this year’s Carnival season wasn’t so short (note: for 2017 it’s at the end of February instead of the beginning), and many friends and relatives who were originally planning to come decided not to, but I went for it anyway.
I basically spent my first few days sleeping in, sunning myself and eating my aunt’s delicious food, and my first nights being taken out by one or another of my local friends. Sidebar: I wish upon every person in the world a host as gracious and generous as my aunt and uncle, who gave me a room of my own, copied a set of keys for me, were always ready with advice and answers to my questions, and basically let me do as I please as long as I came back to the house to eat once in awhile. <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
My first big outing was Tuesday on the Rocks. I adore Kes the Band so I was determined to get to this show, even though it was far away and I had no for-sure way to get there or back and I was going alone. After many frustrating interactions with would-be drivers and would-be companions, I can look back and say it was one of the best nights I had in Trinidad. KTB and their many musical guests put on a great show, I made a friend or two, and I was able to eat some legit Montreal poutine too!
Next up was a boat ride. Getting to the Harbour Master by myself from Arouca was a bit of a challenge (the second maxi taxi ride was challenging), but the Scorch DDI boat ride was worth it. Found an old friend, made some new ones, jammed to some sweet music while sailing “down de islands” on a big-ass boat, wearing a bikini in early February . . . it was a good time even though we left and returned to the dock late, which almost messed up my family’s plans for the night. My aunt and uncle and their friend (who was visiting from Jamaica to take in her first Carnival too) and I went to see traditional mas, where masqueraders portray certain historical characters, competing for their titles before a panel of judges, and often incorporating some form of social commentary into their performances.
It was important for me to get a taste of the culture behind Carnival, instead of just back-to-back-to-back parties. This may be stating the obvious, but I also went to the beach (ahhhh Maracas, one of my favourite places in the world) and spent hours lounging in the sun and reading.
Plus I did some other random things, like trying a couple of hot yoga classes and visiting and ashram and the Temple in the Sea, going into the city for one of the Kiddie Carnival parades, and getting up before 4am to go see the street theatre re-enactment of the 1881 Canboulay Riots. (No pictures, because even though we got there around 5:15am, all the seats with views were already gone!)
But don’t worry, I partied plenty! My favourite event was Bess Lime, which I was so glad to have my Toronto friends Kerron and Tiffany come to with me.
This was a Sunday cooler fete on the water where 3 boats were filled, sailed separately down the islands a bit, then dropped anchor and linked up so you could switch boats with the DJ’s music synched. The sun went down, the vibe was wicked, there was a fireworks display before we sailed back to the dock separately — and for only $300 TT (about $63 Canadian, and this party included food plus chasers and ice) the value was amazing.
I did get a few hours of sleep after finally getting home from Bess Lime, and then it was J’ouvert. Tiff and Kerron and I got picked up at something like 2am (budget extra time because of all the roadblocks) and met up with our Yellow Devilz crew at 4am, then partied through the darkened streets of the city dashing paint and water around until 8 or 9am.
My awesome aunt Giselle brought me to her place to shower and change, then dropped me off so I could meet up with my band and do Monday mas.
Full disclosure – I found Monday mas kind of boring and disorganized.
It felt kind of like a practice run for Tuesday, except most people weren’t in costume, which made it basically a huge mobile street party . . . which is cool, I guess, but I was pretty unimpressed by the time I got home that evening.
But of course the excitement came back when I got up before 4 on Tuesday morning to put on my glorious costume, get picked up at 5:30 (my driver is the bomb, you guys) so I could be on time to meet my band (actually early, since I had such an interesting time finding them the day before when I arrived late). Tuesday mas was everything I’d hoped for.
This would be a good time to compare a few notes. You can believe the hype: Trinidad Carnival is, in most ways, superior to Toronto’s Caribana. You pay WAY more in Trinidad (even taking into account that you have two parade days instead of one) but far more is included *if* you’re with one of the well-organized bands (not just a gorgeous costume and great DJs and unlimited alcohol, but nuff staff and nuff security and 3 meals over the 2 days and shaded rest areas in the Savannah at lunchtime). You can play with a monstrously large band in Trinidad, if that’s your thing (like, 15,000 masqueraders), whereas in Toronto I think we tap out at about 3,000 masqueraders in a large band. Both have celebrity guests, life-giving music, DJs who tend to talk too damn much over the microphone, a super-high ratio of women to men, locals, tourists, first-timers, veterans, well-meaning stormers, and the feeling that you’re living it up in this very moment so every other moment is inconsequential. (Come on, I know I’m not the only one who feels like that when I’m playing mas; that’s why we’re called “revellers!” A lie?!)
There are things I prefer about Caribana though. I prefer to run into tons of people I know in addition to meeting lots of new sexy friends. I like knowing exactly what the parade route is, and knowing exactly what the order of the bands is. I like not having any bands who are so unmanageably huge that they go off somewhere else so as not to interfere with the other bands. I like having only one stage, at the beginning of the parade route (Toronto, can we please go back to that???), and I like being asked by tourists and press people and amateur photographers for photos all day long . . . it seemed like there was a lot less of that for Carnival since they all had exponentially more people to photograph than they would’ve at Caribana. (I like living within walking distance from the parade too, but that’s not Trinidad’s fault!)
Anyway, my heart was full by the time night fell and a new friend helped me through the mobs of people along the Avenue to meet up with my driver and Kerron and Tiff. The two of them had invited me on a hike excursion the following morning but I’d opted out, since I figured my feet would hurt or I’d be tired. On Ash Wednesday I actually woke up fresh as a daisy, but too late to join them, so after aborted plans to go to the beach and a pool party I napped and then stuffed myself at a dinner party my aunt and uncle and their friend were hosting. While everyone else was flying back home and/or getting back into their work routine, I spent a lot of time with family, including a chartered boat ride to Nelson Island for a great lunch event put on by the African Women’s Association.
Even after almost 3 weeks, I wasn’t ready to come home. Even after a week back at home, I’m picturing myself in Trinidad and planning to bring a bunch of friends with me next time.
Under 2000 words? Not bad . . . because I could literally fill books with my memories from this trip. But I hope you got a taste of it here on my little blog, and if you want to join me for pretty much any Carnival anywhere in the world (I’m now itching not only to do Trinidad Carnival regularly but to check out Notting Hill Carnival, Brazil Carnival, Bermuda Carnival, Jamaica Carnival, Hollywood Carnival . . . ), drop me a line!
So I’m back to the blog – and before I write anything else, let me alert you that this here post will make more sense if you’ve seen that there one first.
July seems like a crazy long time ago! But if you know me, you know I had to check back in on the aforementioned goals before closing out the year.
Remember, 2 out of my 10 goals for 2015 had already been completed by July 2nd: returning to Haïti with Third World Awareness for their 2015 trip, and being a model in the Carnival Nationz band launch.
1 out of the remaining 8 goals was already a Nope, since I did not make it to Las Vegas in May.
Now, what about the remaining 7?
I said I would book and complete at least 6 singing gigs this year; I’d done a handful by July 2nd, but 1 of them was unpaid; by now I’ve done 6 paid engagements.
Out of the 4 acting gigs I decided to book and complete this year, 1 was completed by the midway point . . . and although I’ve had auditions and callbacks since then, I haven’t actually booked any others. (Yet.)
How about those lofty financial goals? Will I celebrate my birthday by having zero remaining debt and playing mas in Trinidad Carnival? HELL YEAH!!! I’m officially debt-free, having eliminated more than $21,000 worth of debt in just under 3 years; I’ve already bought my plane ticket and I’m playing mas too! Stay tuned to my Instagram account for nufffff pictures…
My trip to New York? My friends bailed on me and I didn’t go.
My road trip? I didn’t organize anything in time; but there’s always next year.
My reintroduction into the world of dating? Well yeah, actually, that did happen. Next question =)
Re-qualifying for the first promotion of my network marketing business? Nope, I didn’t hit that goal. Keep nudging me for 2016, okay?
The final tally? 5 out of 10 of my 2015 goals were completed in 2015.
I’m not sure if that’s good or bad . . . if I got a 50% grade on any course I took I’d be furious about it . . . but then again, the point of personal goal-setting is to go big or go home. Right?
Anyway, time to take a look at the year ahead and figure out what I’ll be getting up to next.
… unless I manage to complete another one in the next 5 days … hey, anything’s possible!
July 2nd marks the midway point of a 365-day year.
I always have multiple achievements in progress, both long-term and short-term, in multiple areas of my life. This year I selected 10 specific ones to reach by year’s end and 10 more to achieve within the next 10 years, and since we’re halfway done 2015 I figured it was time for a quick check-in…
2 of my Goals for 2015 have been successfully completed.
7 of my Goals for 2015 are Works In Process. Specifically . . .
3 Goals are In Process – Stage 3 (the work has started, but isn’t complete yet):
I said I was going to book and complete at least 6 singing gigs this year; I’ve done 5.
I said I was going to book and complete at least 4 acting gigs; I’ve done 1.
I said I’m going to celebrate my next birthday by being debt-free and playing mas in T&T Carnival 2016; in terms of saving up money and securing accommodations, I’m on track and on schedule.
3 Goals are In Process – Stage 2 (the planning is underway):
I said I was going to take at least 1 trip to New York . . . it looks like it’ll happen in August.
I said I was going to take at least 1 road trip (probably to New York, if I’m being honest) . . . so if New York in August happens and I don’t fly there, that’ll be two goals crossed off with one stroke of the pen.
I said I was going to start dating again *gasp!* I decided it was time to reboot my non-platonic social life, and since I don’t want to jinx anything, let’s just say it’s looking like it’ll be a fun summer =)
1 Goal is In Process – Stage 1 (I need to get on it):
I said I was going to promote to the first level of management with my network marketing business . . .I’ll be re-qualifying this month!
Finally, there is one goal I set for this year that I know I’ve missed: an event in Las Vegas in April which I wanted to attend and ultimately chose not to, in keeping with the achievement of my next-birthday-related goal listed above.
And as for my next-ten-years list? More than half are already works in progress.
First, the basics: TWA takes a group of volunteers to Haïti every May for a 12-day stay. It’s a pretty awesome story: John Callaghan (the one in orange, hiding his face), a high school teacher, started taking his students on trips to poor areas of Kingston, Jamaica to show them how differently some people live in different parts of the world. (My future children will absolutely receive similar privilege checks before they’re out of school.) When he retired from teaching he didn’t plan on continuing the trips; but by then some of his former students, who were college-aged or older, joined with Callaghan to form a registered charity and keep the tradition going. TWA has now travelled to Haïti 14 times. Check out their site to donate or learn more about them. Or, you know, keep reading.
I’m in the last year of my twenties, which means I think I’m a lot wiser than I really am. Recently … thanks mostly to Throwback Thursdays, the Crash Course educational series on YouTube, and the work of playwright Jose Rivera … I started wondering what my current, past and future selves might say to one another if they all met somehow, and I compiled this list of things I would love to go back in time and say to myself at the end of my teens. I wouldn’t answer any of her obvious questions (No, you really shouldn’t get back together with him; Yes, you’ll be able to pay your way through school, so relax) because, hey, there are some lessons she needs to learn the hard way. Also, to keep things interesting, I would purposely not divulge which parent will move overseas, when and where and why I get tattooed, or how much (or is it how little?) I weigh in spring 2015.
Here are 29 pieces of advice for the 2005 edition of myself, delivered with lots of love and a steupse or two.
1. Look for “flaws” in your character, not your appearance.
2. What you do when no one is watching matters even more than you already know.
3. The sooner you acknowledge the power of your words, the better things will be.
4. It is possible to create great art from a happy place.
5. You have the best dad ever too.
6. Practice being quicker to get over disappointments and slower to roll your eyes.
7. I love that you take so many pictures, but you don’t need to have double copies of all of them. (Also, since we’re on the subject: in one of the pictures up top, if not both, you are actually 18. You took so many that year there weren’t many to pick from the year after. But it’s all good, because your looks haven’t changed much since you were 2.)
8. Figure out how to control your emotions, and your imagination, or else they will control you.
9. When it comes to money, pay more attention to the direction than the amount.
10. Also, go out of your way to learn more about finances than what you’re being told.
11. Asking for help does get easier.
12. Saying goodbye gets easier too.
13. Letting go after saying goodbye will probably get easier. One day. I hope.
14. Soon you’ll come across this thing called Facebook, and I applaud your decision to hold out for awhile. But get on the Instagram bandwagon quickly.
15. Never stop dancing.
16. Singing will take you further than you think. Feel free to interpret that literally.
17. Don’t worry that you’re too old to get back into acting.
18. Don’t worry that you’re too old for anything.
19. Don’t worry. At all.
20. Take your own eighth-grade advice: Travel, travel, travel! (You remember why you said that, right? Good.)
21. Being single can be sexy. And “sexy” has a greater and better meaning than you realize right now.
22. Go clubbing a lot over the next little while; you’ll get tired of it pretty soon.
23. Experiences > possessions.
24. Classics > hits.
25. American men will always be a thing.
26. Take your time figuring out where you stand on religion and spirituality.It is nobody’s business but your own.
27. The only difference between a valley and a hill is your perspective.
28. I am extremely proud of you.
29. You are going to love what comes next.
So I was on my way home from an audition, and as per usual I was struggling to put it out of my mind. This is a wise thing to do after any tryout, audition, callback, interview, or go-see. Once you’ve done it, there’s no going back in time to change what you did or how you did it. Right?
Oh, except in your mind. And I am a master of torturing myself by dwelling on what’s already behind me, singing the shoulda-coulda-song even though I’m tired of hearing it. Maybe it’s because of my experience as an editor, which teaches that finding flaws is the vital first step to fixing them. Maybe it’s because I’m an emotional Pisces, so comfortable in my dreamworld (a place where I’ve already won enough Grammys and Oscars to put even my own vision boards to shame) that my worst fear is opening my eyes to a reality that doesn’t measure up. Maybe it’s because an actor or singer can always find another actor or singer to laugh and commiserate with over how badly and thoroughly “I just bombed that audition;” or maybe it’s easier to remember the things I did “wrong” than the things I did right.
It’s probably all of the above, but for now I’m focusing on that last point. And here’s a plot twist: I’m about to congratulate myself for things I’ve done imperfectly, because I got some unexpected rewards out of those so-called mistakes.
I remember auditioning for a short film called Home Away, and totally forgetting my lines at one point while the camera was rolling. Oops. I said the wrong words but still got the character’s intent across, booked the role and finally earned the third ACTRA credit I needed to become full union.
I competed in the Miss Teen Canada Scholarship pageant, with grand visions of bringing home the crown. Did I make the top ten? Nope. Did I cry? Yes (later, in the car). Funny how, even though there was no talent competition for this pageant, the director later asked me to sing something over the phone and invited me to perform at the Miss Teen/Mrs Michigan pageant that year. I happily accepted, and that was my first time performing outside of Canada.
It isn’t just about show biz, either. Last summer I picked up my phone, butterflies in my stomach on 100, called a guy I had met recently but really liked, and asked him out. I realize this isn’t a big deal for everybody, but for me it was huge! And he said no. And the Earth, I am glad to report, did not stop turning.
Listen, social media can make it look like other people are strolling down Easy Street while you’re struggling to just get out of bed. Be aware of the gap between perception and reality. Please be aware of the many discouraging moments we all have, and which most of us decline to document or share. I personally cringe every time I hear the word “lucky” applied to me (and it’s usually being said by someone whose knowledge of my life is limited to my Facebook wall), knowing that my “luck” is largely the result of effort and discipline. And pain. And time. And learning.
And dozens upon dozens of “unsuccessful” auditions.
Seriously, if you’re curious, here are a few: The Lion King; Degrassi; Les Misérables; Hemlock Grove; The Little Mermaid; Caroline, or Change; Dark Matter; Once on this Island; Copper; The Gift; Ruined; A Day Late and a Dollar Short; Little Shop of Horrors; The Next Step After-Show; 12 Monkeys; Beauty and the Beast; Universal Studios Japan; Honey Jam; Kinky Boots, Rogers TV; Carnival Cruise Lines; Disney Cruise Lines; Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines; the Raptors Dance Pak; plus a bunch of commercial auditions, song submissions, general auditions for theatres, etc.
When all is said and done, maybe I’ll always feel bad for awhile after an unsuccessful shot at something. But deep down inside I know that the regret of not taking a shot feels even worse and lasts even longer. So … here’s to … I guess, a lot more NOs, with hopefully a whole lot of YESes too.
Sometimes, quotes that go viral are bang on. Like this one:
So, full disclosure, spoiler alert, be warned! For this, my final Top Ten Tuesday (maybe ever . . . maybe just for the year 2014), I am choosing to focus only on my highlight reel. I encourage you to do the same as you reflect on that year that’s ending and the new one coming up. Here are 10 of my favourite memories from 2014 . . . they started out in chronological order but you’ll see why that didn’t last long. Enjoy!
1. DUBAI, AKA THE FIRST 5 MONTHS OF THE YEAR
This is not a copout, you guys. If I tried to count and categorize my favourite individual moments from my stay in Jebel Ali, I would never ever ever finish writing this. I mean, really, which was more memorable: fly boarding, or ascending the Burj Khalifa? Swimming in salt water, or strutting in heels? Organizing photoshoots, or creating videos? Shopping for new clothes or chopping new men?
2. FAM JAMS
And when I did come back? Family reunions galore! A roti picnic on my mom’s birthday, my cousin Derek’s wedding in Ottawa, a Thanksgiving feast in London, ON (with STUFFING!!! WHY was that so hard to find in Dubai???), reunions with cousins I rarely see even when I am home.
3. MEETING 5 NEW BABY COUSINS
Reunions are one thing; meeting and holding a new baby for the first time is, like, next-level awesome. And I was blessed with 5 (yep, 5) new baby cousins this year. In birth order: Carter, Amaya, Quinton, Iyla, Adalia.
4. GETTING BACK INTO AUDITIONING
And not just because I booked one or two roles! But the whole process, which used to feel really stressful to me, is getting more and more fun.
Shoutouts to the people booking the roles I didn’t =)
5. FRIEND-LY REUNIONS
Every coffee date or breakfast date or jerk chicken date with a friend I hadn’t seen in months and months was a heartbeat for me. I’m especially grateful for the CAMO Cruise, my reintroduction to Toronto’s fête society, where I cruised across Lake Ontario with good people and good music and good drinks (and okay food, lol) and thought to myself, “Man, do I love this city.” (Thanks, Nish!!!)
Likewise, the day after the Caribana parade, some friends and I went to a day party that gave me so much life I’ve run out of words for it. Amazing music (shoutouts to hometown hero DJ Starting from Scratch and DJ Dany Neville, from Dubai, who I finally met here in Toronto!), pretty venue, awesome people, new and old friends, randomly running into my cousin Kari . . . vibes. Loved it. (Thanks, Lincoln!)
And let me not forget the wedding of my homegirl Allison, who I’ve known since tenth grade, to the ultra-cool Derwyn . . . I’ll just leave this picture here because with words, I literally can’t.
6. CREATING MY OWN ROUTINE
Overseas, my routine was determined by my work hours and the times that the buffet was open. Here at home, it took me awhile to settle back in, and there are still some days that get crazy, but at least I have control over the first hour or so after I wake up and the last few minutes before I go to bed. Carving out time every day to read and write and express gratitude, and even to YouTube sermons, has made a huge difference. It might be the least exciting thing on this list, but it’s for sure going to be one of the most beneficial, long-term.
7. RELAUNCHING MY SIDE HUSTLE
Spending the first chunk of the year overseas, in some ways it was like an extended vacation. But to be honest, there were times when it felt a bit like exile. This was especially true when it came to my beauty/health/wellness business, and it was a relief to jump back in with my colleagues and my appointment lists, and some sweet new products, when I got back.
8. REALIZING THE POWER OF VISION BOARDS
You can read all about it here, but from here on out I will be even more mindful of how powerful these things are, as material declarations. I mean, really. Wow.
9. SHOOTING THE AALIYAH BIOPIC
What an experience! Everything about this for me, from the audition process to the backlash, was important and I’m grateful for every second. But what makes it onto this list, for me, is actually being on set for this project.
The environment and the goal and the people, especially the people, had me really really wishing that somehow I could have stayed on set longer. As in, I would have gone on set every day just to watch and be a part of it from behind the scenes (I did, actually, on one day). Thanks to everyone involved; much love!
Ah, my baby. For those of you who don’t know, I’m developing a new TV show called unSCENE and this year it grew from just a pilot episode to a pilot, the finale, plus several other episodes written, numerous meetings and pitch sessions, and now (shhh, this is insider info) possibly a casting change that will turn everything I’ve already written on its head.
Frustrating as it’s been sometimes to take care of this finicky, fussy, slow-growing project, I love it and I’m looking forward to sharing it with more of you.
And that . . . is a wrap. I have this policy where every year should be better than the year that just passed, so if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do in advance of 2015!