Friday, 29 October 2010

An Open Letter To My Neighbor

Dear Neighbor,

It's two in the morning.  Why on earth are you listening to such awful music at such a horrendously loud volume?  It sounds like Native American chanting mixed with bad folk music or something.  At first, I thought you were just having sex with the guy down the hall again.  That's annoying too, but I was prepared to ignore it.  I was prepared to just tune it out and eat my traditional piece of two a.m. existential cheesecake while surfing through the "missed connections" on Craigslist.  But then I noticed that it had a melody.  Or at least, it's trying to have a melody.  Really, that music is wretched.  I don't understand why you would play it at all, let alone at a high volume in the darkest hours of the night/morning. 

Maybe it's just karma getting me back for all the noise I've made in this room over the past couple of weeks.  Perhaps the universe is finally condemning me for all those late night jam sessions, one-person dance parties, and keytar shredding sessions.  But I don't really see why any of that would deserve karmic punishment.  I mean, I generally keep my noise at a semi-reasonable volume.  And my noise usually sounds like actual music, not like an owl being shoved into a miniature trash compactor.

Seriously, why does that music need to be on right now?  What are you doing in that room?  Are you having a seance or something?  Are you conjuring up the spirits of all the old people that died in your room?  I know it's cool that we live in a building that was formerly a retirement home, but please, stop whatever you're doing. 

You're not having sex with the guy down the hall again, are you?  I thought I heard his voice but maybe it was just my imagination.  I hope that's not the music you listen to when you have sex.  Actually, I don't care.  I just want you to turn that damn music down.  Or off.  Yes, turning it off would be nice. 

I bet you're really high right now.  That would make sense.  I know you smoke pot out of your window a lot.  You told me once.  You probably forgot.  I would know even if you didn't tell me.  There's a freaking mushroom cloud of marijuana smoke emanating from your doorway half of the time.  It's worse than the creepy stoner stairwell (at least they've figured out how to cover it up with Fabreeze a little).

I like you, Neighbor.  I think you're a nice person.  You have interesting taste in fashion and fun stories about Burning Man.  Once you even invited me to go to a sketchy bar in the middle of the night.  I went because I had nothing better to do and I will admit that I had a good time.  But this music?  It needs to go.

I swear, it's only gotten louder since I began writing you this letter.  It's been on for an entire hour now.  Give it a rest already. 

Maybe it's not even coming from your room, Neighbor.  Maybe it's coming from somewhere else.  Maybe I should go out in the hallway and investigate.  I really don't want to do that.  I am all snuggled into my nest of blankets.  I am wearing my pajamas - the ones with the grizzly bears on the pants.  I do not wish to catch anyone in the midst of a seance/tribal celebration/mating ritual.  I guess I'll just siphon some decent music into my ears via headphones and fall asleep. 

I know I signed up for this sort of thing when I agreed to live in a commune, Neighbor, but please, JUST KILL THAT DAMN NEW AGEY MOANING MUSICAL SHIT! 

Peace and Love,

Lauren (The Yank)

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

An Open Letter to the London Underground

Dear Tube Train,

I'm worried that this is going to come across overly harsh. Honestly, I don't mean it to. I do appreciate all of the hard work you do. I completely understand that you are getting on a bit (what are you now, like 100?) and that you didn't sign up for the volume of work that's been thrust upon you. And my God would I miss you if you weren't around.

But we need to talk.

Don't panic; I'm not breaking up with you. I know, I know - I may have flirted with the odd bus journey, and once in a blue moon strayed from your loving embrace in favour of a black cab. But you're my first love; it's you that I turn to first, forsaking all others, when I need to get around town. It's just - you and me - I'm not sure it's working. I'm not sure either of us is happy.

Let's talk about your punctuality. Do you have any idea how irritating it is to be left standing, waiting, watching the minutes tick by as I wait for you to arrive? How soul-destroying it is to know that an entire city is rushing around above me, enjoying life, while I stand still and wait for you? And when you do finally grace me with your presence, you do so without a word of apology, just a list of the same old tired excuses.

Like 'Signal Failure'; if your signals are as prone to failure as your frequent tardiness would suggest, may I advise that you buy some new ones? Or how about, 'A Defective Train Up Ahead'. That's a classic, that is, one of your favourites. Then there's 'Flooded Stations', 'Crowd Control', 'Passenger Alarms'. I've heard it all, and you know what? If you don't want to see me, if you don't want to pick me up, well don't bloody bother. Just don't shower me with these transparent and quite frankly insulting excuses.

Did I say insulting? Well yes, yes I did. The excuses with which you attempt to pacify me are insulting in how obvious it is that they are false. Don't think I didn't notice that, after being stuck in a tunnel for 10 minutes due to overcrowding on the platform at Farringdon, we arrived at said station to find nobody there! Not a soul! And while I'm at it, you should know that I've noticed that your signals tend to fail whenever it rains. Coincidence? Ha! I think not! Look, none of us likes getting wet. None of us likes tripping through puddles and slipping across station concourses, but we do it because we have to. And what's more; we're not made of metal. You should be laughing in the face of the Great British Winter, not hiding from it!

I don't know, Tube. Where did it all go wrong? You're not the same as you once were. I can hear your unhappiness. I can hear it in the creaking and groaning of your carriages, the exhausted wheezing as doors drag themselves apart. I can see it in the dark and dusty tunnels and the weak and flickering lights. I just wish it hadn't got this far.

I won't abandon you. Not yet. I just needed to get this off my chest and let you know how I feel. And now that's done, I'll leave you alone as you probably need to think. Please don't doubt my affection for you; I hold you in such high regard, in such warm regard (as warm as the Northern Line on a summer's day, in fact). I'll see you in the morning.

Yours in anticipation of a happier future,


In honour of Halloween, here I am dressed as a frog. A drunk one.

Monday, 25 October 2010

An Open Letter to My Résumé

This week The TASG is writing open letters to things that annoy us (or at least I am). For my post I am tackling a particular subject that frustrates many 20-somethings - searching and applying for jobs!

Dear Résumé,

I’m Allison, remember me? The girl with all the education who works at a coffee shop? You’re supposed to be helping me! Now, while you look pretty (thanks to me), you aren’t functioning the way you should. I’m so frustrated with you I could tear you to pieces and just start fresh.

Okay, so I lack experience, but I make up for it in transferable skills, no? Why aren’t you pushing my skills? My ability to work well with deadlines? I’ve proofread you time and time again, re-ordered you, changed your font...nothing. It leads to nothing.

When will you succeed for me? I can’t get more experience until someone finally believes in you. Do you believe in me, Resume? I’m beginning to think you’re sabotaging me on purpose. Giving me spelling errors in transit, after I’ve pressed send.

I work hard each day serving people with “real” jobs coffee, and they look at me like I’m just another apron providing them with caffeine. I work a job that I could have gotten with a resume filled with spelling and punctuation errors, but I chose you because I want to aim high - I want to do better.

So Resume, you and I have to chat. We have to work something out soon, because I’m not getting any younger and time is a’wastin’!

Don’t even get me started on your friend Cover Letter.


The Coffee Girl Canuck

Happy Halloween! File this under embarrassing photo #4!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Blogging: People IRL Just Don't Get It

I made a new friend IRL last week (IRL stands for "In Real Life," in case you didn't get the memo).  We met at an event that was going on in the basement of my commune and instantly bonded over music.  We've been hanging out a lot.  We stay up too late writing songs, listening to obscure progressive rock bands, and having profound discussions about the meaning of life.  I've known him for about a week and a half, but it feels like I've known him longer.  So a couple of days ago, I foolishly decided to share a secret with him.

"So I have this blog..." I say.

He gives me a suspicious look.

"Actually, I have two blogs..." I say.  "I have one blog where I just ramble about my life and another blog where I give advice in the form of a song to people I've never met." 

There's an awkward silence. 

"That's cool," he says, adjusting his big black hipster glasses.  "But I don't really give a shit."

He sees the disappointment on my face and attempts to sound like less of an asshole. 

"I mean, I've got you right here.  You're right in front of me.  You're like a whole collection of blogs.  I don't need to read about the version of yourself you put out there on the Internet for the world to see.  I don't give a shit about that, girl."

I've found that a lot of people IRL have that reaction to my blogging habit (though most don't articulate it quite like that).  I used to post the URL to my blog on facebook and then feel slightly unloved when only two of my 300something friends took the time to read it (my mother and my bandmate, naturally).  Then one day I realized that I didn't really want all of my facebook friends reading my blog.  I took the link down.  I joined 20sb.  I immersed myself in the blogosphere and found people from all parts of the world that could understand and appreciate my blog in a way that my friends IRL could not. 

Originally created to document a rock and roll tour that never left the ground, my blog has become a cozy little place to share stories and thoughts with people all over the world.  Sometimes I get paranoid about people I know IRL reading it and finding a way to get offended.  I also worry that my ex-boyfriend is reading it (I have no desire to keep him up on what's going on in my life).  But then I remember that he didn't even really read it during the year we were together.  And I realize that I have nothing to worry about. 

The moral of the story:  Only people that blog will really care about your blog.  The rest of the world doesn't give a shit.  But I'm totally okay with having it be like that.  It turns the blogosphere into a sacred hiding place of sorts. 

Anyway, I raise my cup of coffee to you, my darling blogosphere.  Here's to a great escape from all things IRL.

And with that, I shall sign off.  This is The Yank wishing you a totally supercalafragi-bad-ass Friday.  Keep on rockin in the free world. 

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

While the difference between real-life Tom and the Tom-that-blogs is not as marked as Dr Jekyll and his evil alter-ego, they are by no means the same person. I mean I am one person but, like everybody else, I'm made up of a multitude of different identities*. To my parents, I'm a son. When I'm with them, I behave in a way that's completely different to the way I behave with my friends. Without meaning to, I assume a different manner depending on who I'm with. The same applies to my online persona.

Firstly, like Allison, my blog is a secret from all but two of the people I know in real life. Initially, I kept it under wraps because I wasn't sure if I'd keep it up. As if I were pregnant, I left it precisely three months before telling anyone. I have to say, I don't think this secrecy is good for me. I feel like a spy, doing all I can cover my tracks and avoid discovery of the virtual skeleton in my virtual cupboard. The other day the girl that sits next to me at work created a Twitter account. I went into meltdown. "If she finds my twitter, she'll look at my followers. She'll see that I follow 20sb. She'll find...oh my God, I can't even say it. I CAN'T EVEN THINK IT." After the panic dispersed and I regained my sanity, I asked myself why the possibility that she could stumble across something I'd written bothered me so much. And I couldn't really think of an answer.

Looking back at my (embarrassing) first post, I described three reasons for starting a blog;
  1. To help me remember the interesting things that I do.
  2. To remind me that my life is interesting, no matter how bored I may feel [This seems incredibly similar to point 1, and why it's a separate reason is unclear even to me. Hey ho, you live and learn.]
  3. Something about London, which, again, is complete nonsense and doesn't make sense.
Fortunately, my blog took on a life of its own. It evolved. It acquired a purpose I hadn't considered; it now enables me to communicate the thoughts I have that I'd never drop into conversation with friends or family. Either because I'd be embarrassed to, or worried I'd cause offense or because it would be out of character, I suppose.

In real life, I don't come across as a thoughtful person. I doubt you'd think I'd have anything interesting or unusual to say if you met me on the street, or drinking in the kitchen at a house party. I'd say the first impression I give off actually veers dangerously towards vacuous and shallow. And I don't mind that really, mainly because I now have somewhere that reminds me that there is more to me than what people usually see.

But the best bit, as Allison has already mentioned, is the people who read what you write and write what you read. I love the fact that after a day of mind-numbing dullness in the office I can come home and read about tempests in the Philippines or rude Canadian coffee-drinkers, blossoming romance and embarrassing drunken antics from all of the world. I can be transported to other countries, read about other highs and other lows, and that's a great thing. It never fails to make the world seem a more colourful and exciting place than the grey, monotonous one I'm sometimes convinced I live in.

In conclusion, I would say that my blog persona is most similar to the patient and long-suffering Dr Jekyll; a respectable, thoughtful and quiet individual engaged in constant a battle with my far more raucous and far less interesting real-life self. Unfortunately, it's normally the stupid drunk one that wins. That's all from London. Now for a few words from our American correspondent...

This is 'Work-Tom'. Please note bags under eyes, pale skin from too much time indoors, and look of despair.

* I would pretend that this is a theory I was the first to expound, but I know you'd see right through it. I've read about it somewhere, I just can't remember where. If you're desperate to find the answer, I'd ask Rachel; the fountain of all philosophical knowledge.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Caught In a Landslide, No Escape from Reality.

This week The TASG tackles the expansive topic of “Real Life VS. Blog Life.” I actually got this idea from a friend - a friend in “Real Life” who reads my blog. She’s one of the chosen few I’ve allowed to cross over into this world. She wanted to know more about how one might keep up with a real life while also carrying on an online identity.

While I don’t blog anonymously, I do, however, keep my blogging life to myself and only let a select few in my real life know about it. I guess I do this because I am sorta, kinda embarrassed about it. I feel like I’m SO into my blog that some people in my real life might be freaked out by my dedication. It still feels like a nerdy hobby to me, and only other bloggers understand.

What’s funny is that for nearly a year I blogged with just a few real friends reading it. I was actually afraid to join 20-Something Bloggers, the social networking site, because I was afraid of what strangers would think if they read it. I was afraid of mean internet HATERZ! But guess what? Without that site I wouldn’t have “met” Lauren and Tom and this site would not exist. I’m so fickle, I know.

Basically I love my little Quarter-Life Crisis posse and I wish I could visit each and every one of you.

That said, I have never online dated or anything, so I don’t have much experience in meeting online friends in real life. I do have one story for you that I was thinking about while I was in the shower the other day (a great thinking place, by the way).

I still have my MySpace account. I haven't updated
it in years - hence my youthful face - unhardened
by life. I was "complacent" when I last updated.
Back before Facebook I used MySpace - as so many of us did. The thing about MySpace was that anyone would and could add you - not just your friends and acquaintances. I was in Second Year at York University in North York (Toronto) and lived on campus. A guy named Chad added me to MySpace and he lived in Toronto, closer to Downtown, but he went to a Technical Institute type college near York and also had a radio show on the York Glendon (our other campus) station. He would catch the free Glendon shuttle bus at York’s main campus. After adding him to MSN Messenger he asked if I wanted to meet up with him before his shuttle bus arrived one evening. I reluctantly agreed.

I had plans for later that night to watch The O.C. with my friends, so I knew it would just be a short visit. I got a tea and waited for him in the Student Centre. We met up and he got some Taco Bell or something to eat. We talked a bit, and it turned out he was from Napanee, Ontario, originally, and he laughed about how his virtually unknown town got famous because Avril LaVigne was from there. The whole conversation was awkward though - because I didn’t want him to think it was a date. I told him that I never did things like this, you know, meet people from the internet in real life. He seemed surprised, ‘cause I guess he’d met a lot of people this way.

He had to catch his shuttle, and he said he’d play some Guster for me on his show (which I didn’t get to listen to, because I was watching The O.C.). I ran back to my residence and didn’t mention the meeting to my friends. I felt awkward and embarrassed that I’d just met someone from MySpace. After that we only casually chatted and eventually each deleted each other from our virtual lives.

Anyways, that is my one example of letting my “Real Life” collide with my “Virtual Life.” But now that I’m older, I think I’d be cool with meeting a lot of you guys for real. I feel like blogging has really opened up my life to so many wonderful people who, in many ways, are just like me, even if they live across the sea or across the border.

I’m still not ready to let all my “Real” friends know about my intense blogging hobby - but maybe eventually I’ll get there. Sometimes people ask me if I’m still writing and I usually say, “yeah, not really.” It’s so stupid because I should just say, “yes, actually I have a blog, I’ll send you the link.” But no, I don’t, I just tell them I don’t write anymore and they seem disappointed.

Anyways, I could go on and on, but I think I’ll leave it because I’m sure Tom and Lauren each have interesting takes on this topic as well. I’d love to know how each of you handle your blogging hobby etc.

But I will end this with a question to readers:

How do you separate and/or combine your “Real Life” and “Blog Life”?

See ya Wednesday Major Tom!

Don't judge me! This is a photo from 4th Year University.
I'm kissing Seth Cohen while wearing a face mask.
I'm trying to up last week's embarrassing photo.
Yes, I had an O.C. poster in my room.
Again, Don't judge me!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

From The Floorboards To The Flys, Here I Was Fated To Reside...

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It is Saturday and I am posting what was supposed to go up on Friday. I fail at timeliness.

Tom and Allison had some great things to say about the way music can evoke certain memories and emotions. I love that music has the power to cheer me up or remind me of a specific time that is completely unrelated to the lyrics themselves. Sometimes, music is really the only thing that makes sense to me. This is probably why I became a musician.

I put off writing this post for a long time because I really don't want to come off as being obnoxious or pretentious. I've played piano since I was 8 and had my first paying gig when I was about 16 (Smokey Bear's birthday party!), but that really doesn't give me any authority on music.

When I was in high school, I told my piano teacher that I wanted to be a professional musician. I thought he would be excited. Instead, he just frowned and told me that if there's anything else I could be happy doing I should do that instead. He told me that if I chose to be a musician, I would be choosing a hard life. "Only pursue music if it's really the only thing that can make you happy," he said.

I remember being discouraged by that conversation. But here I am, seven years later, living in a commune and crying whenever I hear "I Was Meant For The Stage." Few songs capture the way I feel the way that song does.

Call me cliche, but that song is my national anthem.

I think I've fantasized about being a rock star for as long as I can remember. It's not that I really want to be famous or share some profound message with the world or make everyone love me or live a life of intense irresponsibilty. It's just that music is something I want to create and share. I need to make music to keep myself somewhat sane.

And when I'm playing music - whether it's alone in my room or onstage in front of a crowd - there's nothing that feels more natural.

To reward you for making it through this post (and to make up for the fact that I posted it on Saturday instead of Friday), I will leave you with my drunken cover of a song by The Proclaimers.

That is all.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

I'm Only Happy When It Rains

As Allison has already mentioned, Radiohead's Creep played a significant part in bridging the geographical distance between the three of us, so our relationship with music seemed like a good topic to write about. I shall definitely be using her categories of therapeutic music in future. I must stress though, that I know very little about music compared to Allison [Queen of I-Tunes Playlists For All Occasions] and Lauren [the all-singing, all-dancing Musical Advice Columnist], so bear with me, because I'm going to go off on quite a tangent. Hold tight please, and keep your arms inside the vehicle.

"What sort of music are you into?" is, in fact, a question that I dread. I remember once answering with a description of what I then thought was an impressively eclectic taste in music, to which my friend replied, "Oh, you've got no passion then." No passion for a particular genre, I think she meant. And she'd be right, my music library isn't the most extensive, it follows no real rhyme nor reason and its guilty-pleasures-to-respectable-tunage ratio is rather worrying - but it's important to me nonetheless.

Allison and Lauren have exquisite musical tastes that often shine through on their blogs. Meanwhile I, watching enviously from the shadows, tend to keep what's on my iPod under wraps. It's not that I'm ashamed, I just don't feel like an authority on the subject - other people are far more qualified to speak about music because they know about music. I don't know about any particular genre in any detail, but have scratched the surface of many.

Instead, I've amassed a collection of random tracks that evoke certain memories or feelings because of when and where I heard them, and the people I heard them with. There are songs that can lift me out of a bad mood, others that can drown me in misery. Some take me back to a place or time I'd love to revisit, and others to a somewhere I'd rather forget. Given my unorganished and passionless method of building a music library, I tend to attach more importance to the memories or feelings a song evokes, rather than to the artist or genre, which leaves me with no real knowledge of anything.

For example, every now and then I'll hear a song that gives me a flashback to a blurry house party (1), or reminds me of that uncomfortable, stomach churning feeling I'd get while getting ready to go out before I was of legal drinking age (2). Others take me back to the time in my life when I was able to clear an Italian karaoke bar in three songs or less (3), and to the day my parents first dropped me off at university (4). I remember what I listened to after I found out my mum had been diagnosed with MS (5), and what was played at my uncle's funeral (6). Other songs remind me of working late at a job I hated (7), following Fulham FC to the Europa Cup Final (8) and sunbathing by the pool in Greece (9). And of course there are the songs you share with other people, like those that recall the excitement and euphoria of the first months of a relationship that's still going strong (10).

So this is how I rely on music, through good times and bad. While I'll never be able to hold my own in conversations about up and coming artists, the best guitarists and most influential albums of the 20th century, I know that if I'm ever stuck in rut, I can be reminded in seconds that I am actually capable of having fun, or that things could really be a whole lot worse. It's true that to anyone but me my collection of music lacks clear definition. But contained within my little red iPod is an entire spectrum of emotion and a hundred memories both good and bad that have played a part in making me the person I am today. In short, it's the soundtrack to my life. Over to you, New Wave Teddy Bear.

1. Basement Jaxx - Good Luck

2. Artful Dodger - Movin' Too Fast (I was young, don't judge!)

3. The Mamas and The Papas - California Dreaming

4. Morcheeba - Slow Down

5. Eric Claption - Wonderful Tonight

6. Simon & Garfunkle - The Boxer

7. Biffy Clyro - Mountains

8. John Denver - Country Roads

9. Fleet Foxes - Mykonos

10. Metallica - Nothing Else Matters

Monday, 11 October 2010

I Want You To Notice When I'm Not Around

“What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?”
- Rob, High Fidelity

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canucks! I trust you’re all ODing on tryptophan and pumpkin pie.

Now here's my post:

It’s funny that while Lauren, Tom and I were planning this project we kept joking about the song “Creep” by Radiohead and the overall depressing quality of the band’s music. Tom suggested we do a music topic this week and I think it’s fitting for this particular blog, as we all seem to attach emotion to music. We use it to feel something, or to distract ourselves from feeling something. We use music to cheer ourselves up, to drown our sorrows, to remind us of something or someone.

For my Monday post I’ve decided to share with you MY five categories of therapeutic music:

1. The Happy Dance - These are your top 40 hits that serve no function other than to cheer you up. These songs can, and really should, be super cheesy. I can’t help but smile when I hear “The Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats or “The Sign” by Ace of Base, or “Shiny Happy People” by

2. The Angry Gurrrrl!!! - That scumbag loser needs to die, right? Throw on some Joan Jett, Ani DiFranco, Martha Wainwright, or even some classic Hole (I hate Courtney, but can’t help but love some old school Hole songs).

3. The Love Sick - He/she doesn’t like you back and that really sucks. Or he doesn’t even know your name or notice you at all. You think that stuff is high school, right? But it still happens and you know it! These are the days I put on Pinkerton by Weezer. “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M. is an obvious choice (for me, anyways). Bob Dylan also does the trick.

4. The Dark and Moody - Feeling...dare I say it...emo? This is when you bust out the big guns. Pretty much anything by Radiohead, “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, anything by Damien Rice works as well.

5. The Zone Out - This is the background noise that you hope will distract your mind from whatever is stressing you. I recommend some Broken Social Scene songs or Jack Johnson or
something chilled out.

“‘I bring myself into the song. I am an artist. People listening to songs are like people reading novels: for a few minutes, for a few hours, someone else gets to come in and hijack that part of your brain that’s always thinking. A good book or song kidnaps your interior voice and does all the driving. With the artist in charge, you’re free for a little while to leave your body and be someone else.'”
- Player One: What is to Become of Us by Douglas Coupland

Come back Wednesday to see what Tom has to say about music (he is from the land that
brought us The Beatles).

“You say Goodbye, I say Hello...”

In keeping with our trend of embarrassing photos.
Here's me pretending to be on Captain Planet.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Attack of The Yank

Hello, my name is Lauren and I don’t know what I’m doing with my life.
(All together now:  Hiiiii, Lauren.)

Yesterday I saw a bumper sticker that said, “I always wanted to be somebody.  I should have been more specific.”  I feel like that’s the story of my life right now.

What is the story of my life, you ask? 

Wonder no more, I shall tell you!

I was born at a very young age, though I did not feel the need to talk or grow hair until I was approximately four years old.  People not only thought I was retarded, but they thought I was a boy (regardless of how much pink I was wearing).  “What’s wrong with him?” people would ask my parents.  “Shouldn’t you do something about this?”  But my parents stood by the fact that Einstein didn’t talk until he was four and they let me be silent and bald for as long as I wanted to.  To the left is a horrifying picture from my childhood (shortly after I decided to start growing hair).  I was enrolled in a dance class and we had a routine called "New Wave Teddy Bear" (hence the putrid brown leotard and the abysmal sparkly ears).  Don't judge - it was a long time ago.

But enough about ancient history.  Let's fast forward to my present state of misery.

(Ground control to Major Tom - you were so right about this being a difficult question to answer!)

I just graduated from college in May with degree in Cinema/Media Communications.  Going into college, the idea was to study film in hopes of becoming some notable movie director - the modern day Woody Allen.  But when college was all said and done, I wasn't even sure if I wanted to be a part of the film industry.  I have a passion for screenwriting and an interest in writing sitcoms/sketch comedy, but that's kind of a difficult thing to get plugged into right away.

I always return to wanting to be a rock star.  Most people think I'm kidding when I say that.  I'm not.  In everyday life, I'm pretty quiet and reserved, so it always throws people off when I tell them I'm the lead singer/keyboardist in a band.  It throws them off even more when they come to a show and see me shredding on a keytar while wearing one of my infamous "rock star uniforms."

And as you can tell from the picture - I also have an unhealthy interest in vintage fur coats.  Don't tell my environmentalist friends.  I live in Portland so pretty much all of my friends are hippies that don't need to know I have a coat made out of an entire alpaca.

Which leads me to what I'm doing right now - living with hippies.  That's right.  I spent the summer floundering around, living at my parents' house and trying to figure out what I'm even doing with my life.  I saw an ad in the paper for an artist's commune with cheap rent and applied on a whim.  I moved in last week.  The other night I witnessed some guy eating granola out of a teapot because he didn't have any bowls.  It's a marvelous place.   

The plan was to have some sort of job by the time I moved out of my parents' house.  That didn't exactly come together like I thought it should and I'm still searching for some sort of employment.  Rent here may be abnormally cheap, but a girl's still gotta eat!  I'd be lying if I said unemployment wasn't stressing me out a little.

Also, the feeling that I should just leave town entirely and have some grand adventure in another city/state/time zone/country/continent/planet is getting stronger by the minute.  But we'll see what happens.

So that's me - The Yank.  I hope this post hasn't been too horribly depressing or anything.  Next week I get to write about the love of my life (music) so I'm sure it will be more uplifting.

Anyway, this is Lauren signing off and wishing you a happy Friday.  Peace!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Can I phone a friend?

Thanks Allison; I had no idea that the questions 'who am I?' and 'what am I doing with my life?' would be so difficult to answer.

My name is Tom, I'm 25 and live on the outskirts of London. I am the Brit. I enjoy reading, walks on the beach and drinking too much. Ten months ago I started a blog as a place to record the thoughts I have that would make my friends and colleagues think I was a complete oddball if spoken aloud (at the moment, they think I'm only part oddball, which I can live with). Over the course of the following months I discovered a host of other blogs and the weird and wonderful writers behind them. I'm an incredibly nosey person, so having the opportunity to read what is in many cases an online diary was like catnip to me. But it became more than that; I read blogs from all over the world and soon found myself following the trials and tribulations of 20-somethings in New York, Manila and Kolkata, as well as the highs-and-lows of post-grads in Norway, Canada and South Africa. Some were funny, some thought-provoking, some shocking. All were interesting, different, unique.

And then came autumn, bringing with it a wailing and a gnashing of teeth. Bloggers everywhere succumbed to bad moods, intense nostalgia and identity crises, as if a huge raincloud was hovering menacingly over the Blogosphere, refusing to move away. It was then that the TSG was born, as Allison has already described, as a defence against 20-something angst, the lure of Radiohead and the feeling that everyone else is moving faster than you.

And that brings me to what I'm doing with my life. By day I work in International Sales for a children's book publisher. It's not quite as dull as it sounds, but after 2 years I'm beginning to wonder whether I'm actually going anywhere. Have I become complacent? Will I sit at this desk for the rest of my working life? Of course, I realise that I'm lucky to be employed - if the recession has done anything it's woken me up to the fact that I have been lucky. But I moan nonetheless. I moan because when I was growing up, I expected to have my own home and high-flying, high-paying career by the time I was 25. Maybe even a personal trainer so that I could fight the effects of the wonderful food and fine wine I'd gorge myself on at expensive restaurants every night of the week. I expected, in brief, far too much. Instead I'm still at home, feeling like an eternal teenager, struggling at the bottom of the career ladder and budgeting down to the last penny to make sure that I can actually, once in a blue moon, afford to go out with my friends. Even if the hangovers are getting worse.

So this is what I need the TASG for. To stop me being such a miserable sod and to remind me that though life can be a struggle, it can, and should, also be a laugh. That there's a blue sky behind the rain clouds and a lot to be grateful for. So Allison, Lauren and anyone who reads, comments or follows this blog, prepare yourselves for a tough job. In return, I'll try to limit my grumpiness and lend a transatlantic shoulder to cry on, some helpful advise or an ear to listen, whenever necessary. It will be like the kids in Captain Planet, you know - the ones with the rings. Together, we are more powerful. I hope someone knows what I'm talking about.

Lauren; this is Major Tom to Ground Control. Over to you. Over and out.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Bonjour & Welcome!

Welcome! You may have seen comments on various blogs referencing The Transatlantic Support Group or The TASG and wondered what we were up to. Well here we are. If you read our “About Us” section you’ll know that each week on this blog two awesome bloggers, lalalalauren and TbR, and myself will be posting weekly as a way to talk about our struggles with the real world. We agreed to a weekly schedule of Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I am doing Mondays, TbR Wednesdays, and Lauren will finish off the week with Fridays.

We also agreed that we should do weekly themes - each of us writing on the same topic. This week’s topic is “Who Am I and What Am I Doing With My Life?” as a way of introducing ourselves. The three of us have separate blogs that we will continue to use - so if you follow us on those, you should probably just follow us here too. You won't regret it.

Who am I?

I’ve never really written this stuff on my main blog, but I feel like The TASG was created for stories like these, so here we go.

I’m Allison and I live in Southern Ontario, Canada - between Toronto and Niagara Falls basically. I am, at the time of writing this, 26-years-old (yikes). I have an Honours Bachelor's Degree in Professional Writing from York University in Toronto. I graduated in 2007, here is a photo of me at my convocation:

After graduation I spent four months tricking Mastercard into believing that I was a paying them, when really I was just taking money out from my credit card and then paying the minimum payment with it. This is what I call creative banking! In other words, I was unemployed. After four months of soul-crushing resume sending, I managed to get myself an unpaid internship with a local community living magazine. I was the Editorial Intern and got my name published a few times. I guess I did a good job, because in December 2007 I was hired on part-time as the Editorial Assistant - a title created for me. I had a desk, an email address, and new responsibilities. Oh, but I’ve forgotten something...back in August when I took the internship I knew I needed a paying job too. A former co-worker of mine from my high school/summer/Christmas retail job, suggested I apply at the lakeside cafe she worked at. So, I was making a bit of money while working for free at the magazine.

When I got hired at the magazine I kept the job at the cafe because the magazine job was part-time only and I needed to make some extra money and my evenings and weekends were free.

As most of you know, in 2008 the economy was beginning to go through...a rough patch. It was hard for us, a small, free publication to survive. So on February 15, the day after Valentine’s Day, I was laid off after less than three months of employment. 2008 was a long time ago, nearly three years I realize. But you have to understand that the publishing industry totally changed due to the recession. Places were downsizing, books and magazines were going online, and no one was hiring. I’ve been through many “what am I doing with my life” phases over these past few years and to be honest, it feels like a blur.

Time is not on my side.

So what am I doing with my life? I’m still working at the cafe. I have done a bit of freelance editing and proofreading, but nothing that will get me out of this rut. I took an online course and didn’t find it that useful. I apply for the occasional job, but I don’t even know what I’m good at anymore.

Why can’t my job be this? Why can’t I just get paid to write about my life. Works for David Sedaris, why not me? I guess I’m not as funny and my family isn’t nearly as wacky as his.

So there you have it folks, the sad story of me.

Oh and if you care:

I am 5’3”, I have green eyes and brown hair. I have two cats and live in the suburbs. I have a brother who is nothing like me. He is good at science and plays sports. Not that I suck at sports. I played soccer for 12 or 13 years (that’s football to you Tom) and I run on a semi-regular basis. I also love arts and crafts - painting and making things. So, I do plenty of awesome things with my life, just none that will make me any money. I love to read, also.

When I was a little kid I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I feel like 7-year-old Allison is still holding on to that dream.

Crank up Radiohead’s “Just.”

Can’t wait to hear what you have to say on Wednesday TbR!

The Canuck!