I tossed out my desk-sized life insurance advertisement calendar and put up my National Geographics Cute Baby Animals calender. Nothing like a calender upgrade to start off the year. (And with my purchase of a National Geographics Cute Baby Animals calendar, I also sponsored my coworker’s son’s school and gave money to National Geographics, which is the company that taught me most of my childhood geography lessons.)
I’m not really one for overly specific New Year’s Resolutions, I mean, if I feel like changing, I’ll just change. No need to get all structurey about it. But I do enjoy reflecting on my tiny place in this world, and any excuse for brain workout is fine by me.
2012 (extended from 2011) – The Year of Litteracy
At the end of 2010, it occurred to me how much my life improved after I started blogging. Through writing and finding my voice, I somehow uncovered, inside the shy, awkward girl that I was, a confident, proud young woman willing to take on the world.
I’m a horrible speaker, horrible. People always say to me: “Comon, you sound just fine to me.” While, yes, it’s reassuring to be told that I hide my lacking well, talking still takes a ton of effort. (I also have a lot of trouble hearing words too, so I think it has to do with how my brain processes sounds.) When I talk, I need to be relaxed (not easy when you’re uber shy like me) and I need an extremely patient audience as I weigh each of my words and work out sentences. As a result, I rarely participated in discussions, gave off “stupid girl” vibe and, well, sort of gave up.
At first, I wasn’t much of a writer either. Oh, I went through the IB program so I have decent training, I have a good sense of humour so I can be entertaining and I have a big imagination so I can be original. But writing took as much effort as talking, so I didn’t really do it for fun and would put off school papers as long as possible.
Once I got the hang of blogging, though, my world changed. I found I could take my time to find words, and if I played around enough with those words, sometimes the end result would be pretty. I started getting emails about writing tips (Me? Provide writing tips? Don’t they realize it takes me hours to write 100 words?), I made a ton of friends and I forged so many sentence pathways in my brain that writing school papers stopping feeling like a torture session.
The effect that had on me was stunning. I had a voice now. I could write about embarrassing things with pride (I write a video game blog for crying out loud), I could win discussions by being the stronger writer and I got all cocky and refused to be afraid of anything the internet would throw at me.
The power of writing translated over to my real life too. I’ll always be uber shy, but now I’m proud of being shy and don’t want to change. When situations get tense, I have the calm belief that I can “take it to paper” and sort it all out through writing. Things that used to upset me or cause me to panic don’t anymore, because practicing my writing gave me confidence for, well, everything.
All that feel good stuff made me want to help others find the same liberation I did through writing. It upsets me how many people in my own country cannot read or write. Even in my community, I’m frequently handed a pen and paper by someone who wants me to write something down for them.
Getting involved in litteracy ended up being a lot tougher than I expected. I did help out with Blog Azeroth for some time (though that was perhaps even before 2011), I answer to the best of my ability every email I get about writing (if I didn’t answer your email, I never received it my spam filter can be aggressive) and I do my best to encourage others who are just picking up the pen or the keyboard for the first time. Whenever I visit friends and find a small child on my lap (which seems to be happening more and more these days), I pick up a book and read it with them. Within my community, though, I couldn’t find any volunteering opportunities, especially not with my time constraints.
By chance, I got involved with the Canadian branch of Plan International. They have a good reputation and their values match mine perfectly so I went all in. I now sponsor a little girl in the Philippines. She’s two years old and absolutely adorable. I cried when I got her picture in the mail. Just too too cute. Since sponsorship money goes to a lot of different things, I hope that a good chunk in it goes to the village school. I will be in the neighbourhood sometime in the next year, and Plan lets us visit our sponsor-ees, so I do want to visit her and bring books and crayons and paper for their school.
While I’ll probably never know who those two women are, I hope the gift money goes to good use. Women in developing countries are often the pillars of their communities, but generally aren’t given the time to get the education they need before devoting themselves to their families and villages. As a fellow woman, and a fellow human being, I wish there was more I could do for these women and for the communities they live in.
Onward 2013 – Of community and minimalism?
One concept that has preoccupied me lately is that of community. I moved to small town Alberta expecting to work off my contract, make lots of money and move to Vancouver. Instead I discovered the meaning of community.
Little city girl me was shocked to discovered that I was fascinated with this small town life. Though, after thinking about it, it may be less surprising. I got very attached to my first online community (a Final Fantasy message board), I bond closely with my WoW guilds, I took to the group of WoW bloggers like I was born into it. In offline worlds, dorm life during my exchange in California was one of my most fulfilling experiences ever and, when I started traveling, communal hostel life came naturally to me.
Maybe not so surprising, then, that I fell head over heels for my little town in Alberta. It even has me questioning whether I really want my dream Vancouver condo after all.
Late in 2013, I plan on working for a bit on a farm in Australia, then backpack some of the Pacific and South East Asia (and if I have time, more of Asia). I want to visit communities, all kinds of communities. From communities of travellers on an Australian farm to wealthy first world Australian communities, to more down to earth communities like my sponsored child’s community in the Philippines. I want to see communities, feel communities and reflect on what is it about us humans that makes us do so well in communities.
As for minimalism, it may seem completely unrelated. It is a little bit related, considering I want to get rid of as many belongings as I can before leaving for overseas. Even if I wasn’t traveling, though, I find that minimalism ties in more and more with my values.
When my brother was visiting last week, he showed me this video. It taught me nothing new, but it summed up (with pretty pictures!) what I’ve been desperately trying to explain to my parents, to my friends and to random people on the street.
Essentially, I hate owning things. I would far rather spend my money on a nice haircut, a good meal, or a fun trip. This troubles my mother who tells me “but you’ll have nothing to show for it!” Which is exactly the point. I spent my money on a great (and either mental health enhancing or educational) experience and I’m not stuck with some silly piece of crap taking up room in my apartment that I feel bad getting rid of because I spent so much money on it. I hate clutter, don’t understand the appeal of designer products, have no desire to have a fancy car and want a small dwelling. I’m so so tired of having stuff.
I have a long way to go though. I own a lot of things I don’t need but that I have trouble getting rid of. I still occasionally buy new clothes without donating or throwing out old clothes. I have enough electronics to support a small village. And I can barely see my table under everything on it. It’s hard to get of things, especially things with sentimental value, but between now and putting all my stuff into storage, I will make a conscience effort to minimize the amount of stuff in my apartment.
And those are my goals for the upcoming year.