Monday, November 11, 2019
When I moved back to PEI a few years ago, I never had any intentions of staying. It was my ‘in-between places place’ and essentially where I would stay while putting more focus on my writing.
Fast forward and I’m still here but lately, it’s been much more difficult. Of my top three reasons why I don’t want to stay, the concern of local racism is steadily pushing its way to the top of my list.
Not to say everyone on PEI is a racist. However, I feel that certain areas of the island and much more racist than others. Unfortunately, I live in one of those specific places. And you know what? It makes me sick.
From those who hate the Muslims, complain about the Filipinos, the Mexicans or basically anyone who isn’t white and Christian, I’m repulsed. In fact, I’m embarrassed for them because their limited attitude really speaks to their lack of education and exposure to other cultures. Living in 2019, the age of the Internet and access to information, this ignorance is infuriating.
I recently had a relative comment on how there was a fire in a building where some Filipinos lived. Not only did she assume it was their fault (because apparently, they are not as worldly and sophisticated as her…) she also said that if they had died in the fire, it ‘wouldn’t have been a loss’. I couldn’t believe how hateful and vicious she was toward people she didn’t even know. The cruel, hateful remark just validated what I already thought of her. I’m embarrassed to be related to someone who would say such a thing.
Not to mention the other woman who informed me that she couldn’t find an apartment because ‘all the foreigners are taking them’. This, by the way, falls under the same category as ‘the immigrants are taking all our jobs’. Interesting, this reminds me of a Chinese lady I used to talk to when I lived in Vancouver who once commented that people from her former country come to Canada and take the jobs most Canadians won’t do. I’ll never forget her saying, “How many people want to do a pedicure and have smell someone’s dirty feet?” Exactly.
Regarding the housing issue, this is something that is bigger than immigrants. We’ve always had immigrants. We didn’t always have a housing crisis. Airbnb, anyone?
These are, of course, just a couple examples of what I hear on a regular basis in western PEI. Comments like the ones I mentioned here make me embarrassed to be from this area. However, I’m not as embarrassed as the ignorant people saying them should be.
Saturday, November 24, 2018
In the beginning, it was only supposed to be temporary. I was going to move back to my hometown in western, rural Prince Edward Island for a short period of time. After being laid off from my job in Vancouver, BC, it was meant to be nothing more than a transitional period. I definitely had no interest in 'living rural' for long but at the same time, wasn't really sure what was next.
I ended up staying longer than expected, either because of work or circumstances that popped up along the way. I've spent the last few years with one foot in the door while the other firmly planted on the other side, always prepared to make a dash for it whenever the right opportunity came along. Any day now.
I've always been very upfront about why I don't want to stay here and often, it's met with a combination of defensiveness and uncertainty when I attempt to explain my side of things. Of course, this is most often from people who've lived here for their entire lives and therefore don't realize how incredibly socially isolating it is to live in western PEI.
But let's step back for a moment. In fairness, this isn't something I'm only just dealing with now. Growing up here, I often felt the same way. Reminding you this was before the Internet and I didn't have a license or a car, so I was stuck. Literally, stuck. Not to mention the fact that I didn't fit into the cliques. I wasn't dressing as the other kids did, (not just because I thought Vuarnet shirts and Edwin jeans were lame but because even then, I wasn't a sheep who followed the herd) I wasn't cool enough for the popular kids and I was too weird for pretty much everyone else. That's fine. I didn't intend to stick around for long.
Fast forward a few years and you assume that as an adult, things would be different. I had lived in different places, published some books, worked in various jobs, had many experiences and was pretty confident compared to my high school days. However, I came back to discover that little had changed. Cliques still existed, people now treated me like one of 'those' people 'from away' (which means you aren't born and brought up here; essentially you've been tainted by those 'away' places) and I realized that I had walked back in time...by about 20 years. I attempted to make friends but found many people friendly, yet standoffish. So they would talk to me at the grocery store but they weren't interested in hanging out. At first, I thought it was me and attempted to be friendlier in case people thought I was a city snob but I later clued in that it wasn't my personality necessarily turning people off.
See, in rural PEI, people know everything. They know where you live. They know your car. They know where you work. They know who you date (and fuck on the side....and if they don't, they assume it's anyone of the opposite sex you speak to cause I've also noticed men and women aren't friends here). They know your friends and your friends are either the people you've known for 100 years or a relative, but usually a spouse. This seems to be an unspoken rule and after being here for a while, I just stopped asking people to do anything with me because I already knew they wouldn't. The boundaries are already established.
It's very socially isolating. People often put down the 'big city' where 'no one knows their neighbor' (I'm not sure why that's a bad thing) but yet, I've lived in the big city and had an easier time making friends than I ever did here. I've made friends at the bus stop, at my work, with strangers who worked at a nearby store, you name it. However rural PEI, forget it. Here, I have mostly only acquaintances.
I also have little in common with people here, so that doesn't help. My idea of a fun afternoon isn't jumping on an ATV and driving through mud, drinking and driving (if you don't believe, check out all the beer cans on the side of the road) and going to any church function isn't exactly yanking my chain either. However, many things here are centered on the church.
I also hate country music. Like, with a bloody passion, I hate it. I also hate anything redneck. No confederate (racist) flags for me, thank you and you wouldn't catch me wearing Cabela clothing and actually calling it fashionable. I'm not even going to talk about the dating aspect of things because there is no dating aspect of things. Most men are attached right out of high school and have kids five minutes later. While I was out dancing on tables on Saturday nights, many of my classmates were apparently having babies.
Who knew this was a thing?
Racism is big here. Like, really big. I once had a relative tell me that all the people from 'those foreign countries' should all 'go back where they came from'. I pointed out that her people were once from somewhere else, in attempts to point out her ignorance but that particular point was missed. Another person saw a Muslim family and suggested they were going to 'blow us up', which demonstrated her ignorance. Of course, there are Trump fans here too. One moron told me he wished Trump could rule Canada too. I almost barfed on him.
Jobs are scarce here. I had one local interview where I gave terrific references from long-term employers only to be asked if I had any references 'from here'. I guess the others didn't qualify since they were 'from away'. Many people are known to get jobs because of political patronage. People pretend it's not a thing but it is. I've seen it. Not that politicians are interested in having many jobs here. Most are seasonal or government-sponsored (the employment equivalent of 'throwing crumbs at us') therefore giving just enough work to apply for EI (a federal program) which keeps people feeling they need to stay in the politician's good graces in order to keep on...you know, eating, especially come election time.
Then there are the pesticides. Lots and lots of pesticides. The only reason why the Irvings don't own PEI is that there's probably some pesky law in the way that doesn't allow them to take over the entire island and turn it into one (super pesticide filled) potato field. This, in itself, is a topic. It makes me nervous to stay here much longer because I'm not interested in joining the cancer club that constantly has new (forced) members. As in, I hear the word 'cancer' every day because someone new seems to have it every day. People pretend that's normal. It's not normal.
Don't get me wrong. There are a lot of friendly, kind people here who aren't racist, who are educated, open-minded and open-hearted but there are also a lot of unspoken rules that I don't tend to follow. And for that reason, it's pretty isolating. This is my reality.
Sunday, October 7, 2018
I close friend of mine was raped at 18. She wasn’t raped at a college party or after a drunken escapade nor did it happen because she was dressed ‘slutty’ or because she hung around the wrong people. It happened because she was always told to trust the police; and so, when an on-duty officer stopped his car to offer her a drive home, she felt safe accepting. As it turns out, this was her first mistake.
After driving her into a secluded area (this was rural NB after all) he raped her. Considering the officer was in the position of power, clearly that put her at an immediate disadvantage. She followed proper procedure, reporting the crime but it was swept under the rug. The cop was shoved off to another community with no charges and as a result, my friend was sent a clear message; you don’t matter.
This is the same message many women have received in various situations over the years. Whether it be the recent case with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in the US or many other women who’ve reported assaulted only to be abused by not only the perpetrator but also the system;, it’s not a new story. Unfortunately, even though it’s 2018, it still appears that nothing has changed from when my friend was raped 20 years ago. We’re still dealing with the same structure of power and belief system now as we were in the 90s.
Although this isn’t always the case, as a woman, I often feel that if needed, the police won’t be on my side. In fact, if I am victimized, I really have no faith that calling the cops will be productive. They'll show up, ask a few questions and chances are, that’s where everything will end. I’ve heard too many stories from other women that have reassured me of this belief; from women who were in abusive situations to women who were stalked, threatened and one of which, eventually killed, with little or no help from the police. I recently heard one story where the female officer accused the woman involved in a domestic situation of being of fault.
Not to say that women are always innocent victims but it makes me feel that my odds of being taken seriously are slim.
My friend that was raped never was the same after that day. She suffered from self-esteem issues, made irrational and sometimes self-destructive decisions and not surprisingly, had a great deal of distrust for authority. Years later, she was assaulted again by an acquaintance who asked for a drive home. She briefly - very briefly - considered going to the police but finally decided against it. In her mind, it was the people who were supposed to protect her in the first place that lost her trust. The sad part is that when I tell this story to most women, they aren’t surprised.
Thursday, July 5, 2018
Earlier this year, I was planning to move to another province. Although I have since put off this decision so I could focus on my writing adjusting to a new life in a new city, it was pretty stressful. Weighing the pros and cons of every decision is especially difficult if you’re an over-thinker who tends to fixate on one point after another until it’s just one big jumbled mess in your brain.
That aside, I discovered, very quickly, that my somewhat gypsy lifestyle is thought to be weird. Not having a long-term, settled addressed makes people suspicious. Switching jobs, not having a lot of possession (especially a car) seems to disturb people. In fact, many look at me sadly as if I worked my whole life for…what? Nothing? I don’t have a house, a car or family to ‘show’ for my life. I mean, sure, I wrote a few books in a short period but it’s not the kind of tangible stuff that most would consider normal.
It wasn’t always this way. In fact, up until 2010, I actually had a car, possessions like furniture and a job that I had worked at for many years; think double digits. However, when I decided to move to Vancouver, many of these things that I needed became a huge weight tying me down. I wasn’t about to bring everything with me so I had to purge, sell and for the most part, practically give away many of the possessions that I had worked so hard to get in the first place. I was left thinking that it was incredibly ridiculous. Why do we work so hard for this stuff that really just anchors us and makes it difficult to have freedom?
When I left BC a few years later and returned to the east coast, I was content to leave my furnished apartment aside, only having to purge a few items since I kept my possessions limited over the years, allowing me to never get tied down in the same way again.
So back to earlier this year. I’m attempting to move to a furnished apartment however, it’s quickly proven a difficult process because as it turns out, there aren’t many furnished apartments. Many that are out there are quite frankly, fucking dumps with ‘furniture’ resembling the crap you pull off the sidewalk when moving to your first apartment in college. Other places were nice but expensive. It was difficult to find anything in between and for some reason, trying to simplify my life actually became very difficult. Many furnished apartments weren’t all included and if they were, sometimes landlords weren’t getting back to me with images etc. It was frustrating.
I actually had one particularly difficult experience with a landlord while looking in Halifax who apparently thought that part of the interview process involved asking me why I moved so much. Well, why the fuck not? Why do I have to my lifestyle choice? Why does anyone? Clearly, I was a weirdo because this particular guy grew suspicious and said he would only maybe rent to me if I was willing to drive the 3-4 hours to meet him in person and even then he couldn’t guarantee anything. Essentially he was a judgemental dick however, he wasn’t alone.
Other things that potential landlords found weird included wanting everything included in the rent; heat lights, along with furniture. Why? Well, here’s an interesting fact. It’s nice to know exactly what your expenses are each month with no crazy surprises in January. Why is that strange? Landlords also thought that it was strange I didn’t have work lined up in the potential cities I was looking to move. Have you ever tried to get a job in a city that you don’t already live in? They pretty much toss your résumé aside because it just seems like a fucking hassle. There are too many concerns that you might not actually move or find a place in time to start the job. I had money in the bank but that seemed kind of irrelevant. The fact that I have a long resume of jobs, skills, and experience moving somewhere new and finding work right away also seemed irrelevant.
The point is that we are encouraged to simplify our lives but try it; people will think you are a freak too. Get rid of all your possessions other than the things you really need and the world shakes their head. A minimalist? What the fuck is that? Why do you want to pretend you’re poor? They don’t understand how you stuff. happy in life without a lot of Also, as I expressed, the world doesn’t exactly support this kind of lifestyle. Try finding a furnished apartment. Try trying to explain why you don’t have or want a car. Try to giving away stuff you feel you down. People will treat you as if you have a psychological disorder. I promise.
It’s not fair. Why must I how I choose to live? Why am I required to toe the line and do what everyone else does? Why must I explain my decision to live differently?
It almost seems as if society has ideas about how we all must live and feels the need to put tremendous pressure and shame on those who don’t fit into their beliefs.
There's a very unconventional guy that I see around and when I do, we chat. He has two homes. One doesn’t have electricity. He’s eccentric, an artist who very much marches to the beat of his own drum. He talks about how these two environments spark his creativity for various reasons. I find that fascinating. I know that some people think he’s strange and when I stand in the middle of a coffee shop talking to him, I can sense people looking at us strangely but it’s because I like him. He doesn’t feel the need like everyone else. He is living on his own terms. He doesn’t care what others think. To me, that takes courage.
I actually feel like when I do set out to move again and start looking for a new apartment, I might have to lie. Apparently being someone who just likes to move a lot is suspicious and weird so I will have to say something socially acceptable. Maybe I’m the side girlfriend of a rich politician who is paying my way and wants me closer by or maybe I’m an abused wife starting over. Oddly enough, these reasons seem like they would pass clearance faster than the truth. Sad, isn’t it?
Saturday, June 16, 2018
Originally posted on Fighting Words - Stanley Bridge, PEI
She went to her doctor about a concerning lump and he wrote it off as nothing; probably busy, maybe he didn’t care but regardless, the doctor brushed off her concerns as being irrelevant. He didn’t bother to take the necessary test to assure her that the lump was harmless but instead, assured the woman she was fine.
It was cancer. Unfortunately, she didn’t know this fact until a year later when it was too late.
However, this isn’t a story to rip apart the healthcare system or the doctor who made this error in judgment but it’s actually a story about how we treat each other. For example, had the doctor looked into the eyes of a scared woman in the office on the original visit, maybe things could’ve potentially turned out much, much differently. He didn’t.
Unfortunately, it isn’t just an overworked doctor who makes this kind of mistake; granted, in this specific case it was a matter of life and death but in general, many of us, every day, overlook people. We forget that these people may not always be here to overlook. That’s just an unfortunate reality that we all must face.
Months before this woman’s illness was revealed, we exchanged Christmas cards. She had a habit of bringing one to many of her coworkers each year although that particular year, she revealed to me that she had cut down on her Christmas card list. She confided that after seeing some of her cards tossed in the trash previously, she decided it that her gesture wasn’t appreciated by some.
Although I was pretty young and naive at the time, I still recognized what an incredibly rude and hurtful action this was and immediately agreed that those people, were simply not worthy of her kindness. After all, it takes time to fill out that many cards but I guess they thought she had all the time left in the world.
This is a story that I would recall after her death when a stream of coworkers met and entered the funeral home together, some fiercely proud of themselves to show their unity while others, actually there for the right reasons and I wondered to myself which of those people thoughtlessly tossed her Christmas cards away the previous years.
And let’s be honest. None of us want that kind of person at our funeral. I think almost everyone would agree that if you weren’t there for them in life, don’t bother showing up for the funeral either. And if you do, don’t cry and make a huge production cause you haven’t earned it.
The point is that we need to start treating each other better and we have to do so now. The news proves that we, as human beings are failing. We attack each other online, we judge, we hate and yet, rather than to change these behaviors, we choose instead to justify them. We don’t have to look much further than world leaders to see this every day. The rule of the jungle is if someone is a dick to you, you got the right to lash out.
I’m not suggesting that we should save the world. I’m not even suggesting that you talk to your ex or start saying nice things about repulsive world leaders, what I mean is to just be kind to one another. Smile. Open doors. Listen, really listen, when people talk and hear them. You may not have the solutions to the world’s problems but you have two ears, don’t you? Let’s try to take this fucked up mess of a world we live in and make it just a little easier for each other, shall we?
And if someone gives you a card, even if you don’t want it, smile, be gracious and just say, ‘Thank you’.
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
I’m currently looking for an apartment. For some reason, I assumed that I’d have my pick of the litter since I’m mature, responsible, quiet and have great references. When contacting most landlords, this was the information that I gave them when introducing myself; after all, I figured that the people on the other side of the computer are humans too and I’ve always believed that whether I’m contacting a landlord, a potential employers or someone in customer service, it made more sense to talk to them in a respectful, friendly and direct manner. Makes sense, right?
As it turns out I was wrong. In fact, my honesty almost appeared to turn them off. It didn’t matter if I told them I was mature, (ie. not partying every weekend and could potentially be vomiting in their front yard every Sunday morning) responsible, (I can pay the rent!) quiet (I won’t have music or the television blaring at midnight) or what I was looking for as a tenant (a central location where I could walk to most amenities) because what I was met with, was quite unexpected.
Many were abrupt, rude, ignoring most of my message and questions and tossing a ‘so when are you gonna come see the place?’ at me. Others simply disregarded my message or coldly responded that the place was ‘already taken’ even though it continues to be advertised online. My favourite was a lady that literally wasted an entire week with a series of hoops that I had to jump through; all of which I did, providing her with terrific references, proof that I could afford her place and yet, with each response, she seemed to stretch out the amount of time before replying until, yes, an entire week passed and I was still no further ahead.
But that’s fine; it’s not as if I have a life to figure out or anything.
The point is that this experience is becoming quite dehumanizing. However, this shouldn’t surprise me since this has become the theme in our society over the last few years. Try calling for customer support anywhere and you will probably get a robot-like voice on the other end of the phone and I don’t say that to put down the people working at call centres; I’m saying that because many businesses want their personnel to be like machines. I once, briefly, worked at a call centre where I had to read from a script and was chastised if I didn’t follow it. I remember asking a customer one day ‘What can I do for you today?’ rather than ‘How can I help you?’ and being raked over the coals. I didn’t sound professional enough and perhaps, I sounded like a real human being. This was apparently a problem.
And then there’s social media and comment section of…well, anything online. People rip each other apart. It could be the journalist writing the story, the topic of the story or another person’s comment on the story. It doesn’t matter. People feel justified to do so and yet, if they were standing in front of that other person, I almost guarantee they would scurry away like frightened mice.
I’ve actually had a couple of situations in my life where men I dated took the liberty of attacking me in emails. I found it interesting in both cases because when challenged to say the same words to my face, they declined. It’s not cause I’m a large, massive woman with mixed martial arts training or that I carry a weapon in my purse, it’s because most people can’t look each other in the eye and say what they are willing to say online.
We’ve become a society of people taught that human life doesn’t matter. Perhaps it is because violence and death are so regularly highlighted on the news that we forget that there are actual human beings behind that bombing in Syria or the murder in Toronto. Then again, maybe some can’t think about that because if we started to see each other as humans and not faceless people on the Internet, a ’morons’ on the other side of the phone or ‘just another dead body’ on the news, we might have to feel something that isn’t terribly convenient, which is compassion.
Perhaps life is easier when you’re disconnected. Maybe discrediting someone is the ideal way to not feel guilty or accountable. Anyone who’s ever had a ‘close friend’ ignore them during a bad time knows exactly how that feels and of course, they do it because it’s easier to not extend themselves.
The good news is that sometimes it simply takes a little boldness to get these people back down to earth. Sometimes the solution is to let people know that they are, in fact, dealing with an actual person in these circumstances.
Many years ago I had to speak to someone in IT about my hacked website. Back then, I had a terrible host that essentially put me in the position of talking to an uninterested employee at a call centre. He was giving me attitude, talking to me like I was a moron and generally making me feel more frustrated, even though I was sincerely attempting to understand all the tech talk. Finally, I grew angry and said, “You know what? You can speak to me as if I’m a real person. Not everyone has been trained in this area like you and I’m sorry that I’m not a tech expert but you don’t have to talk down to me.”
I’m not exaggerating to make a point, I really did say that to him. He immediately changed his tone and became helpful. I’m thinking that we all should be doing that exact same thing a little more often. Maybe its necessary to give those disconnected people an abrupt and direct reality check and bring them out of their apathetic, disconnected world and back down to earth.
Friday, May 19, 2017
Something very unexpected happened to me when I heard about Chris Cornell’s death. Not only did I feel grief, in the same way, many of his fans all over the world felt, I saw myself go back in time to the early 90s.
It was 1993 to be exact and I've just moved away from my home province of PEI. I had a sense of nostalgia as I envision myself in the bachelor apartment in downtown Moncton, NB (Canada). It was furnished, allowing me to move in with only my personal belongings and start fresh, ready to discover a whole new world.
I remember walking down the street and seeing all the girls my age in Dr. Martens and short skirts, outfits that I wasn’t courageous enough to wear, clothing that was very different from the conservative hometown where I grew up, where kids were wearing Chip and Pepper shirts and Edwin jeans; usually the 'cool' and accepted kids in school, to be exact. For those not familiar with the culture, you have to understand that ‘grunge’ wasn’t just a type of music, it was the culture of youth. And of course, like most places I’ve ever been in my life, I didn’t quite fit in. But unlike most time and places that I would live, I wanted to be a part of it.
A group of my friends lived just down the street from me in an older house, one that I guessed to have been around for decades. Once known as a party house by the former tenants, it left my friends with the job of reforming its image and using a lot of elbow grease in order to clean it up. But it wasn't aesthetic perfection that we craved in those days but the sense of freedom and independence.
I remember walking into that house and being met with music, laughter, and friendship. After spending my teenage years feeling like an outcast in my home province, I finally felt like I belonged somewhere. There was a sense of acceptance in the house that I had never experienced before; it didn't seem to matter who you were, few people weren't welcomed in the door. To this day, whenever I hear Alice in Chains Jar of Flies or the early Pearl Jam music, I think of that house and everything it introduced into my life.
But it was Soundgarden that I listened to when I was alone in my little apartment. I found solace in Chris Cornell’s voice. I connected very deeply with the band’s music; with the words, the tone of the songs, the emotions locked in every chord. While I loved Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and so many other bands, there was something about Soundgarden that I connected with on a much deeper level.
When I heard of Chris Cornell’s death, one of the first things I said on social media is that every time I hear his voice, I’m 20 again, standing in that first apartment, ready to take on the world. That’s the beauty of music. It magically takes us back and opens up a vault of emotions and memories as if time stands still. It’s a world where we never age, friendships never fade and those we love never die.
Mima is the author of seven books including Fire and A Spark before the Fire, both taking place during the late 80s and early 90s music scene.
Mima is the author of seven books including Fire and A Spark before the Fire, both taking place during the late 80s and early 90s music scene.