- by Alyson Shane
(me, a few days after changing my life)
which is a weird thing to say, when you think about it. There aren't a ton of opportunities for us to point back at and say "that was a thing I did that fundamentally changed my life forever," but I'm lucky enough to have accumulated a few by this point.
One of those times was seven years ago when I got my breast reduction.
Which means my breast reduction is old enough to be in the 1st grade.
You know what's also weird? Going for elective surgery, which was also free because I live in Canada and my huge boobs were causing me a lot of mental and physical strain
(I still have back problems and am very careful about my posture)
is super, duper weird.
Because we always think of going for surgery as this big, scary thing. Usually if we're going for surgery there's something wrong with us. We have cancer. We had a heart attack. We fell off our bike and our Fibula is sticking out of our leg.
Gross, awful, not-pleasant times.
But going for elective surgery is FUN. You get to have something done to yr body that's going to enhance your life experience, and you get to get loopy on some crazy drugs in a safe, controlled environment. It's actually a pretty sweet deal assuming everything goes according to plan, which in my case it did and I'm forever thankful for it.
After it was over and I was finally able to walk to and from the bathroom and pee by myself (which the metric they use to determine if you're okay to go home, I guess) I went home, and the guy I was seeing at the time (bless his heart) got me a bunch of Double Cheeseburgers from McDonalds and I lay on the couch in our living room in a Fentanyl-induced haze slowly mowing down DCB after DCB.
It was so gross and glorious at the same time.
And then just like that my life changed.
Over the years I'd become accustomed to just being a pair of tits because that's how most people treated me. Strangers would comment on the size of my chest. Other women would ask probing questions like
"omg, what cup size do you wear?"
(38HH most of the time, but nothing really fit properly)
"you must get SO much attention from guys!"
(Yes, I did. A lot. It sucked. Being objectified is even worse when it's about a part of your body that you don't like.)
"don't those things make your back hurt?"
(Yes, they did. I still have back and neck problems, and am very careful about my posture because I used to slouch my shoulders pretty badly because of the weight.)
Calling them "those things" always felt appropriate though, since I guess that's actually how I felt about them. Like they were these things attached to the rest of me that I didn't identify with, or want. They didn't make me feel the way women are told our breasts are supposed to make us feel: empowered, beautiful, and feminine.
And to be honest for a long time I still didn't think that way.
I don't think I've really become comfortable with myself and my body until the last few years or so, so it's not like I can point at my breast reduction and say
omg my breast reduction completely changed my life!
because that wouldn't be entirely true. But I can say:
I'm glad I did it because it gave me a sense of control over my body, and that it encouraged me to make more choices that made me feel empowered in the years to come.
It was one step of many
but dang if it wasn't a big step.
R.I.P. old boobs. You won't be missed.
- by Alyson Shane
On Saturday we went to Mega Flora, the annual fundraiser for Art City
which if you aren't from Winnipeg is a really very cool nonprofit that makes a very positive and important impact on our community in a big way
(it's also the coolest-looking building for miles so check it out)
it was in The Exchange District in this old warehouse decorated to the nines with flowers and leaves and grass and so much crepe paper. There were food trucks outside and craft beer and cocktails inside. There was a photo booth. There were amazing bands and Begonia wore a giant flower on her head. There was a huge craft table to keep all the drunk people busy. Everyone dressed up in their most flowery outfits and it was just fucking magical
and like a lot of events happening in my city lately I was blown away at how much my city
which is still a weird feeling tbh.
Because longtime readers of this blog will remember that back in my late teens and early 20's I was pretty insufferable about wanting to move the hell out of Winnipeg
to Toronto, preferably
and would recite the same tired old refrain that I'd been hearing from basically every adult around me my entire life:
"Winnipeg is a dump and the best thing you can do is move away and never come back."
Seriously. People say that about the place they live
and where they continue to live, which is just that more confusing because why would you live somewhere you hate
especially if you're a Gen X or a Boomer and you say stuff like that. Seriously. Why do you still live here, then? Go away already and let us "lazy" Millennials re-open Portage and Main, revamp our public transit, and install some goddamn protected bike lanes on Portage Avenue
and keep starting small businesses and volunteering for nonprofits and throwing omg so much time and money into a fundraiser for a nonprofit that most of us have probably never used just because we see the value that nonprofits like Art City bring to our communities.
Because clearly we're not stopping anytime soon.
... omg guys I think I just figured out what's making Winnipeg a hip place to be:
Most of our coolest local shops and startups are owned by: Millennials.
The majority of the innovation in our tech sector is being built by: Millennials.
Most of the hottest events and fundraisers are hosted by: Millennials.
The coolest local festivals are being started by: Millennials.
You get my point. Winnipeg is becoming sosososo great, and it's largely because of the Millennials who live here.
I mean, of course all the work isn't 100% Millennial-driven. I know lots of Gen X and Boomer-types who do a great job of helping our city become something amazing, and props to them.
But it's kinda crazy to live in a city that seems to be undergoing some sort of cultural renaissance and to be a part of the generation that's driving that positive change in a really meaningful way.
It's almost as if a generation of us grew up being told that the place we lived sucked, and by extension if we chose to stay there instead of moving away we also sucked, and instead we decided "fuck that" and decided to make the place we live not-suck instead.
Now if only some of us young social democrats would run for political office and fix our damn provincial health care.
Not me, of course. As much as I love politics I also don't have that kind of chutzpah
but maybe you could?
- by Alyson Shane
which makes getting positive feedback all that much more overwhelming because inside my head my inner monologue is going:
"These people just don't see you for the real you. If they knew the real you they'd know how much you actually suck as a human being."
Which is kinda true because I have lots of lumps and bumps and character flaws which keep me from controlling my temper 24/7
or from not getting annoyed when something is taking too long, or I'm bored
or from putting other people's needs above my own as often as I'd like.
But last week I ran into a lady from an organization I've been volunteering with and she had a lot of nice things to say about me and what I do and it felt good, and I just want to record it here for posterity because I, like most humans, do a great job of remembering something mean someone said to us in the 8th grade but forgetting the nice things someone said about us two days ago.
And believe me, I have a lot of that negative BS built up from years ago. I have lots to draw from when I want to feel shitty about myself or think dumb things about myself that I know aren't true.
So let's do a fun exercise together, shall we?
Think about a nice thing you did recently.
Maybe you held a door open for a mom with a giant stroller who was struggling with her kid, bag, purse, and life in general and who probably really appreciated that small kindness.
Maybe you called up a friend or sent them a message and asked them how they were doing because you saw that their Facebook posts haven't been super positive recently and you want to make sure they're doing okay.
Maybe you helped a coworker out with meeting a big deadline because they've been feeling overwhelmed with their workload and it's been stressing them out.
Maybe you reminded someone that you love them.
Whatever it is, give yourself a pat on the back for doing it. I'm serious.
It's s easy to get wrapped up in yr own shit and stop putting in the time and effort to pay it forward and do a little good where we can.
I know those feels. Life's busy.
But it's nice to be reminded of the small ways we can make a difference from time to time.
- by Alyson Shane
If death was looking me in the eye here are a few things I'd do:
blog every day and record what a total mindfuck impending death must be
call my Grandma and tell her I love her
book a trip to somewhere crazy like Machu Picchu or Morocco or the Galapagos Islands
take a million photos with the people I love
say goodbye to my clients and my business
cry a lot
watch ghost movies and plan my next moves as a poltergeist
(just kidding - I don't believe in reincarnation)
make sure Toulouse and BJ are in a loving home
listen to a lot of Leonard Cohen
give all my earthly possessions away
(except my MacBook Pro, signed copy of Hospital Music, and photos of my Grandma)
but I know that most of the stuff I have is pretty run-of-the-mill and not all that interesting
but lemme tell you if I had a trove of diamonds, rubies, rare coins, gold nuggets, and expensive stuff I would 100% hide that stuff in a chest and create a puzzling poem and treasure map to go with it
because if yr gonna die anyway you may as well use it as an opportunity to make some people happy, or excited
and heck, maybe some people will even take an adventure because of it
which is the best thing to do while you're still alive, imo.
- by Alyson Shane
Alyson Shane is an idea of a person that I got from my parents, originally. I was almost a Jennifer (thanks for nixing that one, Dad) but instead I got an unusual name with a "y" in it which has served me well because Alyson Shane works well together and people notice when your name is spelled differently.
It helps you stand out.
My last name, Shane, doesn't tie me to any historical significance. Beyond a few other people who share it we have no collective family history, no looking back on forefathers. No great-great-great grandsomethings. It was a name someone chose, or was chosen for us, when a generation once or twice removed came to Canada.
So that's out.
I can call myself a lot of things:
But none of those things actually apply to me. Those are things I do. Ways I spend my time and energy. How I make a living. The stuff I do in my free time. The ways I direct my energy.
Sometimes I look at my cat and I think What are you to you? Do you self-identify? What do you think about?
And while my cat's thought process is probably something like: food food food water sleep sleep pets pets pets jealousy jealousy jealousy pets pets pets sleep sleep sleep
it's probably happening in the weird nonverbal ways our bodies tell us to go to bed or that it's time to have a snack. My cat doesn't have a sense of self or an identity to speak of. He wants food and pets and doesn't think about his religion (or lack thereof) or which type of bread he prefers (sourdough) or the stuff he likes to do in his spare time (write, paint, garden, cycle.)
Homeboy just hangs out.
But us weird humans, we layer on all these meanings and ascribe all this significance to things that, at the end of the day, are just ideas and labels.
My business could fold. My partner could leave me. I could lose both my hands in a freak laundry accident and never write or blog again.
Stripping away the labels I apply to myself or have had applied to me is scary because when you stop identifying with labels and actions you get left with... what?
Your weird, messy insides.
Your meat sack that carries around all these ideas that have been assigned to you, or that you've applied to yourself, or that you continue to carry around and identify with because it makes things a little less scary.
Which is why taking the time to create art and amplify yr creative output are so important.
Real creative output can bypass all the bullshit ideas and labels and just put yr shit out there, the real, inside-out fear and stress and struggle and joy stuff.
So like Jim Carrey says "you just play your part as best you can" and go about your day trying to shape the ideas you have about yourself and create stuff whenever possible without getting too wrapped in your self-judgment, idea-based BS.
For me that's writing a blog post about the ideas that make up who we are as people and how much it freaks me out
and not worrying about the end result feels like.
- by Alyson Shane
a high school kid asked me that when I was speaking to his class the other day.
It's been a while since I've been in a high school or even around a lot of teenagers at once, and I was impressed by how smart and thoughtful they all were because I remember most of us being stupid af back in high school.
I was in there to talk to a senior math class about how I use math in my work which was weird to me at first because if there's one thing I really hate, it's math.
But when the math you do is wrapped up in something else that you like to do it's not so bad.
I spend a lot of time calculating acronyms like ROI and CAC and CPC and CLV and it's not my favourite thing but it helps me make informed decisions and become better at what I do.
And it's probably good to hear about math in a real-world context vs. only using it in school like most of us did growing up.
So yr girl put some slides together and we talked about the wonderful world of marketing formulas, which wound up getting more laughs than I'd expected, but not for the reasons that I'd anticipated.
But overall it went well and when we'd wrapped the presentation we did a Q&A session. They asked me about my career, my degree, my plans for the future. One kid asked me how much I made which I sidestepped because it's none of his dang business.
But I did tell him that being a business owner has changed my earning potential, and that not relying on a single job snd paycheque wasn't as scary as I used to think it would be.
Which I hope some of them really heard, because I could have used hearing something like that at their age.
Mostly though we just talked about social media.
None of the kids use Facebook. Hardly anyone's on Twitter. Instagram is huge. Snapchat is dead
(and if high school kids are saying it, you know it must be true)
but everyone knows about LinkedIn all of a sudden even though it "used to be super lame" before.
They like the idea of using Vero but are worried that it's going to go the route of every social network and become monetized and ruined by changes to their algorithm, and then they'll have to move on to the next new app or social platform and go through it all over again.
Told you they're smart.
A few of them like writing but don't know how to be writers for a living, so I told them that in the age of the internet there are more ways to be a writer than being a journalist or trying to be the next Stephen King. We talked about copywriting and how my company works, what we do, how we help our clients.
I talked about how much I loved writing, and blogging, and rhetoric, and I feel super duper lucky that I stumbled my way into doing something for a living that allows me to do all of those things and then some.
And when that boy asked me what my favourite part about my job was it felt really nice to say
"doing stuff like this. Talking to you guys."
Because it's true.
- by Alyson Shane
If there's anything better in this world than being a well-loved house pet, I don't know what that is.
Yes as a human of course you get to eat amazing things. Mussels and oysters and lobster and sushi. Garlic toast and fresh sourdough and croissants. Spaghetti and meat balls. Fresh doughnuts.
And you get to drink coffee and beer and rum out of a coconut. You can make iced tea on a hot day or have a cup of Chai on a cold day. You can make hot toddies when you get sick.
As a human you get to ride your bike and marvel at the big trees in your neighbourhood. Or go fro a car ride and listen to Leonard Cohen on the radio. Or sit next to a big dam and watch the sun set and listen to the water roaring by.
You also get to read books and blogs and literature and if you're lucky you have a wifi connection thanks to the computer in your pocket that lets you look up any dang thing you want.
We have Wikipedia, for chrissakes!
But if I believed in reincarnation
(which I don't, but y'know)
I'd try to come back as a well-loved house pet.
Because food and alcohol and literature and adventure are great and all.
But on-demand belly rubs just can't be beat.
- by Alyson Shane
It's like if I have an abundance of it I get overwhelmed with the possibilities. Or I feel guilty for having free time at all since there's always business stuff I could be doing instead of stuff I enjoy, including:
- Playing video games
- Reading a book
- Writing for this blog
- Writing for myself
- Writing for the Starling blog
- Taking a bath
- Finishing Wormwood
- Taking a bath and finishing Wormwood
- Making snacks
you get my point. The possibilities are basically endless.
Usually when this happens I try to get out of the house and go for a walk somewhere, which doesn't always work during this time of year since I live somewhere where the air can freeze your skin in a matter of minutes.
When I lived in Hamilton I used to go for a lot of walks because you could go outside and only be moderately uncomfortable during the winter. This worked out well because the guy I was living with often worked weekends, which meant I had a lot of time to myself.
I lived at the bottom of The Escarpment (which is basically a cliff that keeps going after the drop) in what I presumed at the time to be a pretty dumpy area because a bunch of the neighbours in our U-shaped apartment building would get together and drink in the parking lot in the middle all day.
(Nothing says "good morning!" like country music blaring from a semi truck at 9AM on a Tuesday.)
There was a park nearby that nobody used, and a set of train tracks with a spooky-looking underpass that always gave me the heebie-jeebies.
I always remember it looking like the underpass Michael Caine is too scared to take at the start of Harry Brown:
But if I sucked it up and walked through the underpass and down a bunch of streets with mostly buildings and parking lots on them I'd eventually wind up on King St E which I loved because of the weird mish-mash of stores and shops.
Record stores and lounges and boutique clothing stores. Coffee shops and places that sell stripper shoes. Hair salons for every ethnic background. A specialty foods store (my favourite) that felt like a cool, secret little grotto where you had to duck underneath stuff hanging from the ceiling.
But I had to pass through this scary af underpass reminiscent of where the clown from IT came after young people in order to get there.
I'm trying to find it on Google Maps but I'm having a really hard time remembering where things are in this city.
I forgot my address a long time ago, and I haven't been back to Hamilton since I lived there. Once you've been to a few Ontario cities they all start to blend together:
red brick houses with large, stout porches
pools in everyone's backyards
(I always forget how flat Manitoba is until I'm in Ontario.)
Oh my god I found it.
It's basically as creepy as I remember except now it's pink and has positive affirmations spray-painted on it, which is great because GIRL POWER but also at the same time
I'm not sure there's much anyone can do to tszuj up a scary underpass, to be honest.
- by Alyson Shane
There's a pop-up Christmas Tree store down the street from my house.
It's next to the convenience store that I never go into, which is attached to a hair salon which is also offers sensory deprivation tank experiences
(a strange combo, if you ask me)
and 1958, which has one of the best breakfast bennies of all time.
I saw them putting it up the other day as I walked by on the way to a meeting
It's so hip and beautiful.
All greenery, gorgeous old wood, hay bails, and charming string lights.
One thing about us Millennials I've noticed is that some of us have, like, crazy-good style.
Maybe that's what happens when you spend all your time scrolling through highly-curated Instagram feeds. Maybe become hip by osmosis.
A few days ago I was sitting sitting next to the window at my favorite used bookstore and cafe and all these families from the neighborhood keep walking by as I'm sitting there with my London Fog.
Parents in big vintage jackets and lots of plaid. Fur-lined hoods. Cute kids in little knit scarves and hats. Dogs of all shapes and sizes. Everyone's bundled up, smiling and having a good time.
On second thought, maybe it's just that Canadians are hip af.
- by Alyson Shane
(image via Simone Noronha)
called The Neighbourhood Bookstore and Cafe.
Which is such a charming name I can't even.
I hang out here a lot since it's right in my 'hood, and all the walls are lined with books and I think better when I'm around books.
They sell good coffee, board games, used books, and little sandwiches and snacks and bananas. Their London Fogs are pretty stellar, too.
There's this little patio-style area next to it where they put out tables and chairs and fairy lights, and there's often live music there in the evenings, and sometimes inside, too.
Book clubs and student groups and writers circles meet here on a regular basis and it's about as perfect and quaint as one would hope a neighbourhood coffee shop to be.
And it's almost always packed, too.
Which makes me happy, because for a while it didn't look like the The Neighbourhood Bookstore and Cafe was going to stick around.
The city was trying to enforce a bylaw that requires restaurants to have grease traps installed, and since all they make here are sandwiches and deserts (not exactly "restaurant" food) the owner was fighting it in court on the basis that installing one was an unnecessary and unreasonable expense for his business.
I think they fought it a bunch of years, actually.
And shortly after I moved into Wolseley The Neighbourhood Bookstore and Cafe started having weird hours, and then closed for a period of several months.
It broke my damn heart because the reason I live in the part of town I do is because I love the small businesses and mixed-use space
(not to mention the big, old elm trees)
Small businesses are the heart of our economies and communities, and it always saddens me when I think we're going to be losing one - especially for such an unnecessary reason.
But then earlier this year it reopened! The news reported that then owner had come to some sort of deal with the city that allowed him to reopen.
The old, familiar whiteboard started popping up on the side of the building, saying:
"We are unequivocally, unabashedly, open!"
And though I try not to blow all my money on fancy coffees, London Fogs, and nice snacks
sometimes it's nice to come back here and listen to the chatter of a bunch of people having a good time,
listening to The Tragically Hip, writing this.