New Year, New Me

Yarra River sunset
Yarra River, Melbourne, Australia

I won’t listen to the noise of

Gyms

Juiceries

Lingerie stores

That tell me about the changes

I must make

To live my best life

 

I won’t take advice

Written in gold font

Hashtagged wanderlust

Posted on Instagram by people who call themselves

Influencers

 

I won’t meditate

Just because it’s

Trendy

And a hundred magazines

Tell me to

palm tree, Waikiki, Oahu
Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii

I will explore

The world abroad

And in my own backyard

For my own joy and not

Just for the social media posts

 

But sometimes for the social media posts too

 

I will incorporate the elements

That fit my vision of

My best life

Whether they are

Hikes and green juice

Dance parties and pilsner

 

I will love myself on the days when

I run fast and work hard

And when

I skip the gym for mojitos and tacos

 

I will love myself even when

I drink too much

And don’t return texts

And cry for hours and hours

 

I will meditate

Because it makes me feel

More human

More whole

 

Or I won’t meditate

Because last time I did

I called the meditation leader

A turd nugget

(It was through an app

I don’t feel bad)

 

I will love the people around me

And support them as they

Grow, develop and change

Even if these changes are spurred

By the arbitrary delineation of

The calendar year

Or accompanied by

#lifeofyourdreams

 

I will make the changes

I want for myself

Anytime I damn well please

And when I do

 

I won’t regurgitate

Clichéd words of wisdom

And turn myself into

A duck-billed platitude

beach, sunset, Vancouver
English Bay Beach, Vancouver British Columbia

Song of the Day: Malibu by Hole

I Tried iOS 10 So You Wouldn’t Have To

iOS 10 Homescreen
Or, so you wouldn’t have to try it yet

I’m usually slow to embrace technology updates. When Apple rolled out the extensive changes of iOS 7 in fall of 2013, I waited as long as I could before I updated my iPhone. I’m quite comfortable with the way my phone looks and operates; I’m reluctant to sacrifice this comfort for the sake of improved functionality. Thus I acted entirely out of character when I downloaded iOS 10 as soon as it was made available. It was only after I was faced with a new operating system that I remembered I didn’t much want a new operating system. Now that I have it, I figured I might as well embrace it and share my findings so no one else finds herself adrift in a sea of superfluous functions.

Press Home to Unlock

Unlike on past iOS versions, the iPhone wakes up when it senses movement. You can still wake your phone by pressing the home button but you can also wake it just by picking it up.

Apple has done away with the ‘slide to unlock’ function. In its place is ‘press home to unlock,’ wherein the user presses home to unlock the phone and inputs a passcode. You can get around this feature if you activate Touch ID for iPhone Unlock, then choose the Rest Finger to Open option. (General > Accessibility > Home Button > Rest Finger to Open) Then entering your phone is as easy as picking it up and pressing home.

While I should be in support of Touch ID for the speed with which it enables me to unlock my phone, I prefer to use the passcode to slow down the process. That way I’m less likely to check Instagram for a twenty-fifth time or read a click bait article on Snapchat.

The widget panel, as seen from the locked home screen
The widget panel, as seen from the locked home screen
Widgets

Sliding the home screen to the right now reveals a panel of widgets. The widget panel is accessible when the phone is locked and unlocked, from a slide down menu and a slide over page. Given that I’m still trying to slide to unlock, I have brought up the right swipe widget page enough times that I presently loathe it.

The widget panel offers at a glance information from apps of your choice. This way, you don’t have to open four different apps to check your calendar, your to do list, the weather and the sports scores. I anticipate that I’ll appreciate the convenience of information aggregation when NBA is back in season and when I have multiple meetings or appointments in a day. For now, all I’m seeing on my widget page is news on the Vancouver housing crisis and Tony Parker’s off season training.

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Messages

Message banners are wider with curved edges. For no logical reason, I find this disconcerting.

iOS 10 Messages
New functions in Messages

A topic of greater consequence than my dislike of grey rectangles is the changes made to Messages. The new updates include:

  • a blank pad, on which you can hand write messages
  • a series of text images that look like handwritten messages
  • a Digital Touch pad, from which you can send sketches, taps or the weird fireball you see above
  • a series of visual effects you can send along with your texts
  • a searchable GIF and video database, which includes the Donald Trump GIF also seen above

The ability to send sketches and short, handwritten messages is kind of cool. It adds a personal element to messaging, especially because the delivered message reenacts the writing process. I  think ordinary text messages are sufficiently personal, but perhaps animated messages in my own shitty handwriting will take my friendships to the next level. The pre-written messages are for those with illegible writing or those who prefer to send tasteful store bought cards. Personally, I like to subject my friends to illegible writing and low grade artwork.

Why you would send a fireball instead of a text message, I cannot understand. I think it will only take a few updates before sending digital kisses becomes as passé as sending an e-card. Just because we have the technology to send e-cards doesn’t mean we need to send them. My mother described the digital heartbreak as “quite dramatic.” I see it as the perfect image to send your ex-lover to remind him or her that you are, in fact, too weird to date.  If sending Digital Touches becomes the next communication breakthrough, I’ll declare us a doomed civilization.

iOS 10 Messages Confetti
Be thankful that you haven’t been on the receiving end of my bombardment of effects texts

With the ‘Send with effect’ function, you can send text bubbles with a slam effect (slam),  in a larger format (loud), in a smaller format (gentle) or in tap-to-reveal invisible ink. More exciting than the bubble effects are the screen effects. You can send messages with the addition of full screen balloons, confetti, lasers, fireworks or a shooting star. The catch seems to be that the effects are only visible to those who have also upgraded to iOS 10.

The searchable GIF function in Messages is very similar to Facebook Messenger’s searchable GIF function. Anyone who has messaged me recently on Facebook should know that I love them but hate Messenger. I must be among the minority as someone who dislikes Facebook Messenger because Apple has added a few other comparable features. A message that consist solely of emojis is sent in a larger form without a surrounding text bubble, in the same way that it is sent on Facebook Messenger.  This new format places far more emphasis than I intend on my emoji of choice. 💃🏼 Apple has added increased functions to Messages so they can take on as many of their direct and indirect competitors as possible. Apple has also added increased functions to appeal to a subset of a generation who use BuzzFeed as their browser homepage and communicate largely in memes.

iOS 10 Emoji
New male and female emojis
Emoji

The previous emoji update allowed users to choose skin tones on all of the emoji people. On iOS 10 Apple has added male and female variations for emoji, all of which are available in five skin tones plus gold. The sassy lady in pink now wears purple to reduce the gender-colour stereotype. She is displayed alongside a man in blue with the two figures in twin poses. You can now choose male or female police officers, construction workers, runners and weightlifters. All of these updates they made in response to accusations of sexism on the part of the original designers. Previously, the male emojis were depicted as athletes and professionals, while the female emojis were focused on appearance — the woman getting her hair cut — or traditionally female roles within a patriarchal society — the bride or the queen. All of the emoji additions were made in the name of political correctness, to reduce stereotypes and to make emojis more inclusive. Other new additions include the Pride flag and a water gun in place of the hand gun. Removing the hand gun is a case of political correctness gone awry: we won’t solve gun problems by pretending — even symbolically — that guns don’t exist. On a personal level, I’m unconcerned by the removal of the hand gun because the knife is my emoji weapon of choice. 🔪

You can now write a message and click on the emoji keyboard for automatic replacement options. The replacement process goes as follows:

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I crafted this text for maximum absurdity

The emoji-available words are automatically highlighted. Press the word to make your emoji selection.

iOS 10 Emoji

This is the result of tapping to replace words with emojis. It may not make for the most articulate message but it does add some visual interest.

Conclusion

Apple, with its business model of planned obsolescence, will eventually make it so you have to download iOS 10 or allow your iPhone or iPad to become a relic. Eventually I will have to embrace iOS 10 as an unavoidable step in the technological march of progress. On the upside, I don’t have to adapt to the new iPhone 7. I have a 6s now and given the frequency with which I flip my technology, I won’t be due for an update until at least the iPhone 9. By then, the average smart phone might be capable of processing more than 2016’s most advanced computers. Alternatively, social and environmental decline might necessitate a return to Morse code. I’m no Apple pundit. I’m just speculating.

Song of the Day: 2 Phones by Kevin Gates

Facing Your FOMO

Honda Celebration of Light
Honda Celebration of Light, Hadden Park, Vancouver

FOMO – or fear of missing out – is like a little bug that nips at your shoulders and ankles and keeps you from settling into a moment.

You are content with a night in or a weekend at home until FOMO creeps in to ask why you are all alone. The thing about FOMO is that she never barges in. She comes quietly on the nights when you start to feel a little lonely. She takes you by the hand and offers you a bit of nostalgia. She reminds you of the parties, the places and the friends you used to see. ‘Weren’t those good days?’ she says. ‘Don’t you wish you were doing that now?’ She asks you why you stopped seeing that nice guy from six months back. Never mind that he talked over you and wore suffocating body spray. FOMO has a short memory for those kinds of details.

FOMO loves the summertime. She loves music festivals you can’t afford and long weekend camping trips when you can’t get Friday off. You tell yourself you’re better off saving the money you might have spent on a festival weekend but FOMO just laughs. She has never been very good with numbers. FOMO makes you think that every summer has to be the best summer ever. If you’re not going to water parks and drinking rosé on sunlit patios, you’re not doing summer right, dammit. It’s something like fear of missing out that drives us to post perfectly cropped photos of Sunday brunch or toes in the sand. The photos are for posterity, to prove that you did not miss out.

FOMO is a malevolent optimist. Anytime you decline an invitation, she whispers that you might miss out on the best party ever. She is good company when you want to wallow in the misery of plans declined for work obligations. She can become mean-spirited when she senses you’re missing out because of your insecurities. You’re invited to a party but you won’t know many people attending. FOMO can push you out of your comfort zone and into a great night, or FOMO can cause you to berate yourself for not wanting to make an awkward entrance.

The decision to give into FOMO comes down to a battle between the fear of being perceived as less because you didn’t attend something significant and the fear of feeling uncomfortable when you do attend. There’s a difference between wanting to attend an event in and of itself and wanting to attend so you won’t miss out. With the latter mindset, you’re already anticipating a negative result. There’s a difference, too, between making an empowered or a necessary decision to decline an invitation and declining from a place of insecurity.

What FOMO doesn’t much account for is circumstance. Sometimes an event is worth taking a step outside your comfort zone. Even if you show up feeling awkward, you’re committed to enjoying whatever the night might bring. Once you pass the threshold and put your insecurities aside, it’s usually a good time. Other times, the party is too far away, the bar isn’t really your scene and you just aren’t up to a night of mingling with your acquaintance’s second cousin’s coworker.

When you decide not to go, don’t give in to the nips of FOMO that tell you to check Instagram to see all the fun you’ve missed. Or do check and be glad that your friends had fun and you had a relaxing night with your dog! If you see 117 or so snap stories from a friend’s night and start to feel like you’ve missed out, remember that the party can’t have been all that great if your friend spent the better part of the night on her phone.

Song of the Day: OBLIVIUS by The Strokes

You’re Not Alone

IMG_0073

I interrupt this regularly scheduled I’m on a Journey post to bring you something of more immediate relevance. Like people all over the world, I was so sad to hear about Robin Williams’ death. It is heartbreaking to think that someone who brought so much happiness and laughter to the world was unable to find happiness himself. It seems unfair that he couldn’t share in the joy he brought to the world. His death made me reflect upon mental health and mental illness. It can be the case that people who bring happiness to others are unable to find it for themselves. It makes me think that there should be something more we can do for people who are suffering from mental illness, beyond destigmatizing mental illness so it becomes easier to talk about and for people who are going through it alone to receive the support they need.

Admittedly, I’m not the best person to talk about this, as happiness has largely come easily to me and I am not well versed in matters of mental health. The thing I do have is a blog, so it is easy for me to start conversations in the hopes that people who are more knowledgable that I can weigh in so I – and perhaps, we – can learn more. Some of the most amazing people I know have suffered from mental illness and some of them have gone through it largely on their own. That’s one of the things that was hardest for me to take watching others go through it, that they felt alone even when they brought light into my life.

Sometimes the circumstances surrounding mental illness are such that reminding someone how much you love them isn’t enough. Even still, it’s the one thing we can always do. We can remind those around us how much we love them and how much they mean to us, and be there for them so they have someone to turn to if ever they feel alone. We can help them to get the support they need, and try to help them in whatever way they think we can. When it comes down to it, it’s not our battle and we don’t know the kind of fight someone has been through. We can’t just hug someone and make it all okay. We can’t free those who are suffering from the pain they are feeling, but we have to try. Maybe if someone sees the joy that they bring to your life, they can see their own light reflected back to them. May we always have courage to be there for those who matter to us the most.

And if you feel like you are suffering alone, know that someone loves you, even on the days when you don’t love yourself. You’re not alone. Your light is irreplaceable and adds so much brightness to the world.

Rest in peace Robin Williams. May you find the peace and happiness you could not find on Earth.

Song of the Day: Strong by London Grammar

Pass the Jelly Fish

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I always prided myself on being one of those people who would eat anything. Even as a child I wasn’t a picky eater. I have eaten ostrich, jelly fish, rattle snake and all manner of strange dishes in between. I even ate and quite enjoyed what can be described as a ficken sandwich (it had to have been fish or chicken). At various points in my life, my diet has consisted of plain white kaisers and apples, Mini Wheats and peanut butter, grilled cheese and Five Alive. In second year, I had eaten enough sandwiches to furiously declare, “I’m so SICK of sandwiches!” Given the strange diets I’ve had in the past, it should come as no surprise that my diet has changed in recent years, partially because I didn’t want to get scurvy and also because I had already tried every Mini Wheats flavour a few times over. The way that my diet has changed, however, has surprised even me.

In a day and age when gluten free items are available on nearly every menu and McDonald’s offers vegetarian wraps, it’s clear that our eating habits have changed as a society. Even with the range of diets out there today, I’m reluctant to name my own diet. About a year and a half ago, I decided to become a vegetarian. Over the next few months, I went through a trial period, but I kept breaking away from vegetarianism anytime I went for sushi. After realizing that Black Dragon rolls are superior to California rolls, I decided that pescetarianism would be a better fit for me. At that point, summer was about to start and BlogTO had just updated their list of the best burgers in Toronto, so I moved into what could be called ‘weekday pescetarianism’ or ‘I eat meat when it looks good on a menu.’ It was by this method that I sampled some of the best burgers in Toronto, along with some of the best ribs and a dangerously good chicken parmesan sandwich. Admittedly, I was bothered by my ability to be so lax on the rules I had given myself, so I decided I would move into a fully pescetarian diet in September.

And move into a pescetarian diet I did, even when it meant I was eating the carrots beside the chicken wings instead of the chicken wings themselves. Unlike the years when I was eating meals of Mini Wheats, my cooking got a lot better. With the exception of the time I ate lukewarm spaghetti squash, the meals I made were great. In addition to the well balanced meals I ate, in the first few months I also ate a lot of peanut butter. I ate peanut butter in smoothies, on toast and on spoons. I went through about a jar of peanut butter a week because I still hadn’t figured out how to get mainly plant based protein into my diet. Following my peanut butter phase was my cheese phase. I developed a brilliant chipotle tofu macaroni and cheese that I made of the days when I was taking a break from smoothies and salads. Eventually all I wanted to eat was grilled cheese and guacamole, so I thought it would be safest for me to take some time away from cheese. I’ve been drinking non-dairy milk for a few years now because it tastes better in smoothies, and I ate very little yogurt, perhaps owing to childhood trauma involving yogurt tubes. When I took time away from cheese I essentially took time off of all dairy. During that time, I had more energy, shinier hair and a better singing voice. Okay, maybe nothing dramatic happened, but I did feel energetic and healthy, though that could have been owing to all the coffee I was drinking and the placebo effect. More dramatic than the results of going off dairy were the results of going back on it. I had cheese in my eggs and yogurt for a few breakfasts and within a week I started to break out like I hadn’t in a year. Rather than wait to see if my body would readjust to dairy, I went off it completely.

Friends have asked if cutting out dairy is the start of a plan to become vegan, but I don’t think I can become vegan, mainly because I’m still eating fish. When I’m asked to describe my diet, I say I’m somewhere between a pescetarian and a vegan. Having a diet that’s best described as neither nor feels a little like inventing your own religion. I have the freedom that comes from making my own rules, but in the end I know I just made the whole thing up. As someone with a diet as yet undefined, I feel no inclination to preach nutritional or ethical dogma, as I am neither trained in nutrition nor ethics. I’m not going to start showing everyone eating BLTs pictures of piglets, both because I was that person munching on a BLT a year ago, and because preaching dietary ethics is like preaching religious damnation to those who don’t believe. If you want dietary advice, to be honest, I have no right to give it. (Though I do have some advice if you find yourself going through jars of peanut butter on a weekly basis.) You may wonder why I’m writing about this in the first place. I wrote this so you know where I’m coming from if and when I talk about food. I also write about it so you know that you can invent your own diet if that’s what works for you. In the end, it’s your body, your mind, your diet, and I think you should do what all of the above as you damn well please. I changed my diet and invented my own. I had no method in doing so, but this works for me and I feel happy and healthy. My singing voice hasn’t improved, but maybe that will come after a juice cleanse or two.

Song of the Day: Habits (Stay High) by Tove Lo