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.
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!
It’s the evening of November 27th, 2014. I am reading a library book, editing a blog entry, messing around with lyrics for a new song, playing soca in my head, wondering why my back hurts on one side, and contemplating going to the kitchen to get a snack . . . all pretty much at the same time.
I was doing a lot of things at this time on last November 27th, too. I was at the Lester B Pearson International Airport and I was wondering what I had forgotten to pack, helping carry bags and musical instruments, joking around to keep myself from feeling nervous, celebrating the fact that the wind and snow outside had lost their power over me, taking pictures, saying goodbye to my parents, and forbidding myself to cry. I was about to leave home for my first overseas gig, to spend six months singing in Dubai.
It’s times like this that I realize, all over again, what a difference a year makes.
Here are some current-me updates, in case me-from-a-year-ago is interested. Since last November 27th, I have:
– completed the Dubai gig (153 shows done, and 52 songs written during downtime, but who’s counting?)
– met some great new and hopefully lifelong friends
– gained and lost weight
– gained and lost and gained hair length
– gained and lost a glorious Arabian tan
– developed and recovered (?) from crushes on numerous men from the UK
– tried fly boarding
– landed my first role in a feature film, gaining insight about myself and other people as I learned what it feels like to be the subject of criticism in the big wide world of social media
– been blessed by the arrivals of 5 (!) new baby cousins and joined several of my friends in welcoming their new babies too
– married off one of my dearest friends; this time a year ago she and her husband weren’t even engaged yet
– made lots of progress in the creation and development of a new TV series
– paid off a significant amount of my personal debt
– successfully relaunched my online beauty/health/wellness business, and found some new outlets for my skills as a writer/blogger and editor while continuing to create and go to auditions
That list looks pretty good to me! Heading into this American Thanksgiving weekend, I’m reminded again of how much I have to give thanks for in just the last year alone. Now, let’s see what other tricks 2014 has up its sleeve . . . =)
When it comes to the public transportation system of any big city or small town, it is way too easy to find fault with everything from the routes and the fares to the vehicles and the staff. As a downtown Torontonian and a hardcore commuter, I’ve complained about the TTC countless times. So today I decided to switch it up and give you ten things I honestly adore about our very own Toronto Transit Commission.
This is my favourite thing about taking public transit instead of driving: driving requires my full attention. Having some other person responsible for getting the vehicle from A to B, with the computer lady’s voice reminding me of what stop we’re coming up to, frees me up to do . . . anything I want? I’ve learned lines on the bus, applied makeup on the subway, changed my shoes while riding a streetcar. There is almost nothing I haven’t done in transit (get your minds out of the gutter), and usually it’s multiple things at one time. Like, eating a snack and responding to a text message while listening to music.
And let me not forget the amount of times I have used a TTC commute for . . .
Not every city can say that their transit system is safe enough for you to doze off, but I’ve done it at least 50 times in my life.
I rarely sleep to the point of missing my stop, it’s usually a light enough sleep that I wake up when I’m at or near my destination, and the couple of times I’ve knocked out for good, some kind stranger has woken me up at Finch Station. Thanks, fellow TTCers =)
3. EMPLOYEE EYE CANDY
Within the past 5 years, there has been an influx of hot drivers on streetcars and buses (it’s really hard to say whether the same applies to subway operators). Especially on downtown routes, and especially during daylight hours. Strategic hiring? Who knows. It works for me.
And if any of you reading this knows the Usher lookalike who was driving the 501 King streetcar at one point, please reach out and let me know if he’s single.
… downtown at least.
In the outskirts, I have a feeling it might be more annoying than reassuring to text your stop number to 898-882 and find out that the next bus won’t be along for another 20 minutes. In the heart of the city, though, I have come to rely on that text-for-next-arrival function so much it’s hard to believe I scoffed at the idea originally. All we need now is for the return text message to also include a photo of the driver who’s pulling up to your stop next. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
5. RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS
Call me a softie, but it makes me feel really good to see a child start interacting with a stranger across the aisle, or a teen give up their seat for an elderly person without being asked.
There are far more opportunities to witness these acts, and to participate in them, when you’re in a public place, like taking public transit, than when you’re alone in a car.
6. UNEXPECTED REUNIONS
Yeah, another thing about being alone in a car is that when you do have a surprise meet up with someone you know, it’s usually hella dangerous to have an actual conversation with them! Once, driving in York Region, I looked over to my left and recognized a former neighbour I hadn’t seen in years. It was super-awkward to try to “catch up” through the window.
I’ve watched my cousin Kari expertly chop a man through the driver’s side window while navigating some offramp in New York City, but I really don’t recommend this. No matter how fine he or she is, I am not okay with being hospitalized in a car accident just so one of my people can pick up a new out-of-towner.
Sometimes you end up talking to someone you don’t already know. Like the guy who sat next to me on the Scarborough RT and ended up becoming a business partner, or the young lady who was headed east on Queen St with me, where we were both on our way to crash a theatre audition. (And it was the first time crashing, for both of us — hooray for moral support! Will you end up being lifelong friends? Probably not. Then again, you’ll never know unless you smile and say hello.If you can tear your eyes away from the screen in front of you . . .
Maybe you and your new acquaintance will even get basic background info and exchange numbers. Shoutouts to Mauricio (511 streetcar.)
8. RIDING THE WAVE IN THE BENDY PART OF THE SUBWAY OR STREETCAR
9. THE METROPASS
I’m not in love with how much it costs now . . . I long for the days as a student when it was only like $88 . . . but most months, the convenience and flexibility is worth it for me.
10. AWESOME DRIVERS
Not all the drivers are awesome; some aren’t even nice on a basic level, but lots of them are really dope! Friendly, helpful, funny. Some are able to keep a whole crammed vehicle full of sweaty, late passengers laughing or at least smiling, and that’s a difficult task indeed.
Hats off to you folks, you know who you are.
So as long as I live in an area where the transit works, I’ll continue to work my Metropass. I honestly feel like the good outweighs the bad when it comes to the TTC
Now if only they could find that rude leprechaun guy, record someone dealing with his case and make that go viral. =)
June already! I’m almost back on Canadian soil (editing and posting this from inside an airport terminal actually), after spending half a year abroad. For this edition of Top Ten Tuesday, here are ten awesome memories and/or accomplishments from this stay in Dubai . . .
1. So much writing.
Beginning on Christmas Day 2013, I promised I would write every day. Even a single sentence, or a few words; some days this meant an entire song or three, and some days it meant several scenes of a TV episode. Sometime in April or May I got a little more strict with myself, so now I have to write a snippet or piece of a song, or a song idea, every day. Even on days when I’ve completed a song. Even on days when I’m totally focused on a script and don’t want to think about writing a song.
So, the final tally? 52 new songs and 3 new episodes of the series I’m working on. Plus, I’ve got about 11 pages of ideas to dip into the next time I think “now what can I write a song about?” Not bad at all.
2. So much sun.
What do you when it’s 50 degrees warmer where you are than it is back at home? You go to the beach.
3. So much singing.
Being onstage six nights a week and singing so many genres (pop, reggae, rock, country, soul, Motown, blues, calypso, jazz) is awesome training. Doing so without lyrics in front of you is great for your memorization skills. Doing so in heels has left my feet considerably uglier than they were six months ago . . . ah well, you can’t win em all.
Shoutouts to my incredible bandmates Jo (keys) and Julian (guitar), for allowing me to experience the awesomeness that is playing with live musicians — and alllllll the hilarity that goes along with it!
4. Friends from every corner of the globe.
Maybe not every single corner . . . but I now have people to welcome me in Italy, South Africa, Indonesia, Sweden, all over the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Russia, the Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, and of course here in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. And as eager as I am to get back home and hug all my people in Canada and the United States, it feels good to know that friendship transcends borders.
5. Fly boarding.
Hands-down the coolest single activity I’ve done since leaving home.
6. Loving on nature.
At home I can jog along Lake Ontario, and I’m frequently amused by the friendly (well, probably just hungry) squirrels in my neighbourhood, and there are some nice views of the sunset from my building before it’s hidden by condos. In Dubai, I’ve been bathing in the Gulf of Arabia, taking pictures of flowers and sandscapes and water views, and loving the sight (though not always the sound) of tons of birds — including obnoxious crows and shrill peacocks.
There are some really cool manmade wonders out there, obviously, but it’s also been really nice to just look at a seashell or a cliff and enjoy that.
I’ll do my best to explain this clearly and without offending anyone.
Opportunities are everywhere, and so are opportunity-seekers and opportunity-creators. But it seems to me that there is a greater sense of possibility in Dubai than at home; and it has nothing to do with money and everything to do with attitude. Both Toronto and Dubai are big, bustling cities with international populations and people at different socioeconomic levels . . . but they differ when it comes to the ratio of whiners to risk-takers. At home, I find a lot of people who feel that they’re stuck in a rut. In Dubai, I find a lot of people who are hustling, who are keeping it moving, who are creating some type of change instead of just complaining.
This is probably because roughly 80% of the people there are expats (not local to the area, they were born somewhere else), so they’ve already taken the step of leaving home, their physical comfort zone. Granted, many of the people I met were on vacation, but when I did meet someone who’a planning to stay for awhile I tended to notice a quiet confidence and certainty that they’ll be able to do what they came here to do. And if not then they can go somewhere else and try again. It’s all good.
8. Truly cherishing interaction with people from back home.
It will be such a treat to sit down and have a meal with family and friends again. Even if I don’t like the food, I have to sit on the floor, and no one says a single word for the duration of the meal.
I knew homesickness would be an issue for me; I’m glad that I came through without getting too emotional (for the most part), and I now fully understand what a musician friend of mine meant when he told me staying away for a month wasn’t enough; he wanted to be gone for long enough that he missed being home.
I’ll have to make sure I do this in Toronto/Ontario/Canada too! One of the best things about travelling is getting to know a new place. I don’t mean just the people and customs and laws, I mean the physical place. When you’re new to the UAE, you ask a lot of questions like “Why isn’t there any parking?” and “Can I take the Metro?” and some more unique ones too, like “Why isn’t there a street address?”
I’m very grateful to anyone who has ever printed and distributed a clearly marked map, and for numerous online forums where expats and travellers share tips. I’m also newly in love with Groupon (and similar sites like Kobonaty) for offering great deals in the area, making it that much easier to get out there and try a desert safari, or flyboarding, or a double-massage deal.
10. Discovering and developing new talents.
I’ve dusted off my photographer, videographer, and video editor hats, in addition to writing new episodes as mentioned above. I decided to share some of my insights in a 30-day art installation project via Instagram and Facebook/Twitter . . . (stay tuned to my YouTube channel for a video recap of that, plus a video recap of the whole Dubai trip) . . . and being genuinely touched and surprised by a bandmate’s comment that I’m “so visual,” I’ve been creating collages (as seen all over this blog) that are way better than those Instathings, and I even came up with my phoenix/mermaid photoshoot out of thin air.
Plus, I commissioned two newly designed dresses and had them made at a local tailor’s (and blogged all about it), and I’m really loving finding new ways to express myself visually!
So what’s next for me? A Top Ten Tuesday blog featuring the 10 best things about being back home?
Nah, too predictable.
See you next time
130 days in Dubai … has everyone back home forgotten about me yet? Haha!
With two more months til hometime, here are a few updates for the curious …
Our shows continue to go well, especially on Friday nights when we get to perform outside on the beach. Here’s a clip from two Fridays ago – hopefully I’ll be able to share more with you soon!
I now have an Instagram account, and I post new pics and/or videos every day, so you can peek in on the highs and lows of my #Dubailife =) Just follow @chattrisse
Coming up next, I have my sights set on the Caribbean! There is an incredible opportunity to spend July and August on the beautiful island of Tobago, and now that my video and bio are in, I need your help to get me there. I’d be so grateful if you could take the time to “Like” the 60 Days in Paradise Facebook page and leave a comment about why Chattrisse Dolabaille should be the first-ever Island Connoisseur, and/or do the same thing on Twitter by mentioning @60daysparadise and @chattrisse and using the hashtag #60days … the Top Ten finalists will be announced on April 21st, and if I’m one of them I’ll need all the votes I can get to land the gig!
Some of the experiences I’ve enjoyed here so far are camel riding, fly boarding (now that was a thrill), some shopping, lots of tanning, and even more peacock-watching. Last week I posted ten more things that are on my to-do list … so far I’ve completed #9, booked #4 and #6, picked a tentative date for #2 and #5, and I hope to get #7 done this month as well … stay tuned!
And last but not least, I set a personal goal to write 50 new songs during this Dubai sojourn of mine; as of yesterday, I’m up to 37, planning to blow that goal out of the water. Will I end up with 55? 60? Time will tell …
All in all, I’m excited to go home, but I’m glad it isn’t time to go just yet. Til next time!
Oh goshhhhhh that was a lot to fit into one 30-second video! Thanks for checking out my bio here, and getting to know me a little bit better.
At the moment I’m stationed in Dubai, singing at a resort and meeting people from all over the world and LOVING that I found a way to escape winter!
I’d say I’ve been able to travel quite a bit in my lifetime … not as much as I’d like to (haha), but certainly more than the average person … and when folks back home ask for pics/video or some other way to experience the journey vicariously through me, I take the request seriously. This is even more true since one of my little cousins has health issues which prevent her from flying. The ability to get on a plane is a blessing I don’t take for granted, and I bring my camera everywhere I travel — even if it’s just to London, Ontario!
Both of my parents were born in the Caribbean and grew up in Toronto; Mom is Jamaican and Dad is Trinidadian. This has given me a unique perspective on some of the differences between countries and cultures. As you might expect from a Caribbean-Canadian, I love roti and jerk chicken and poutine and hot weather and (most) reggae and (almost all) soca and Caribana (it’s so hard to remember to say “Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival” every time, lol). In fact, being the Island Connoisseur would mean I am not playing mas in Toronto for the first time since 2004 … but I’m sure I can get over it …
Keeping it all in the family is another reason I’d love to be in Tobago this summer: my dad’s big family reunion, which I originally thought I wouldn’t be able to attend, is in Tobago this July — how perfect would that be?!
Not that it’s all fun and games. You want your Island Connoisseur to be someone who takes a great deal of care with what they’re doing and how they represent themselves; kind of like being an international diplomat, but one who can wear flip-flops to work. You can view my online resume here for onscreen testimonials from professionals I’ve worked with over the years, and of course I encourage you to check out the rest of my blog, my YouTube channel, my Facebook fan page, my Twitter account, and my Instagram account too.
On that note, I’ll quickly mention that no copyrights have been infringed or compromised in the making of my official submission video; the music you hear in the background is one of my own songs, and I created the mixed-flag graphic using Keynote. Of course, the pictures and videos and voiceovers are my own property. To respect the privacy of people tagged in my photos, if you’d like to see more pictures from previous trips that are not on my public Facebook fan page, please contact me directly.
Sun and sand and sky and sea … Tobago’s calling, please send me!
Thanks so much, and may the best Island Connoisseur win!
On October 17, I posted the following on my Facebook fan page:
Wow. Wrote a screenplay last month and suddenly I find myself (with amazing teammates, thank goodness) producing and starring in a short film from it! We’re shooting next month.
Lesson: incredible things happen when you learn what to say “yes” and “no” to
Background info: with the support of my good friends Kerron Schullere, Sagine Semajuste, Jazz Testolini, and others, I wrote a screenplay in September and cast a bunch of my homies in it (including those three), with the intention of shooting the project next year when I come back from Dubai. Then some awesome things happened and even more amazing people appeared and a whole huge shower of encouragement and motivation and optimism fell out of the sky, and before I knew it we were on track to submit for a first-time filmmakers’ mentorship program this week, receive our yea/nay verdict next week, finish shooting by November 21st, and possibly/probably have our premiere in April 2014 at the ReelWorld Film Festival.
Answers to tough questions were found, pathways were dug around and under and through obstacles, and this film was so close to becoming a reality that I was astonished. My reason for that Facebook post was the realization that saying “yes” to one possibility had bred even more possibilities, and aside from saying “no” to fear and doubt I was also saying “no” to other good things that I could be doing with the time and energy and resources already being invested into the film. After all, if I spend an hour itemizing the props needed for the shoot, that’s an hour that was not spent doing some other activity. That isn’t a noble sacrifice or a painful tradeoff; it’s the logical result of there only being 24 hours in a day.
Well, it’s a good thing I got used to this aspect of saying “no,” because just yesterday my main partner in crime Kerron and I decided to postpone the project. It isn’t dead, and really it isn’t even taking a nap — trust me, there’s still a whoooole lot of prep work to do! We decided, however, to say “no” to the upcoming deadline and how cool it would feel to say that it took only ten weeks to write, cast, rehearse, prep and shoot the whole thing. And in so doing, we’re saying “yes” to an even awesomer final product. (Yes, “awesomer” is a thing now. Trust me. You can start saying it too.)
So stay tuned! And feel free to share your own stories of saying no to something you wanted, and whether or not you ended up with something even better!!