In Search of an Empty Room

Toronto, 2017

Hanging on the north wall of my former Toronto bedroom used to be two strings of cut-out magazine letters, spelling out a multicoloured not realizing any place. This low-budget attempt at home decor was based off an Anaรฏs Nin quote that I’ve been thinking about for the past year. We go through life without definitely realizing any place. They all remain unreal for us. Nin, a woman of many homes and countries, understood that place is an abstraction. A city alone does not hold any meaning, yet despite staring at this truth every morning and night, I am still unable to grasp this concept.

Ouro Preto, 2017

I’ve changed my address a lot in the past four years. Every time I move my pile of boxes seems to shrink, and the number of times I sit on the floor with my knees pulled into my chest staring at them increases. This phenomenon seems to correlate with my tendency to write melodramatic blog posts, but no need to psychoanalyze that. I over-pack every time I move, which I realized when closing a box labelled “vaguely important papers”. This box contains papers of no importance whatsoever, like a receipt for cheese bread, graduate school information, instructions on how to pay back my student loans, and old metro passes. Nevertheless, they’ve all made the cut to move with me, settling into their own spaces among the dusty nostalgia that lingers in each box.

Although I’ve accumulated more than enough over the past few years, several things have gotten lost between my many moves. Some have boarded the wrong flights and others were accidentally placed amid boxes of neglected hair products. The worst of this has been seven months’ worth of letters and postcards from my time in Paris, and the best of this has been a few misplaced love interests.

Toronto, 2016

I place heavy importance on mementos like personalized letters and postcards, which is why my closet is full of bags containing every handwritten piece of paper since I was 9. I know that when I’m a dead famous writer these could all be published in The Paris Review, but until then I battle this urge to pack the letters from the past few years into the outer pockets of my suitcases. I never know when I might need to be reminded of what it felt like to love and be loved at a particular address. Place is informed by emotion, which begrudgingly remains partially informed by the people I surround myself with. I know it is dangerous to define one’s life in terms of others, which why I pack these letters away alongside the various journals I’ve filled up in the past years.

I wish I could say my journals were seeping with poetry, but the hundreds of pages I’ve filled over the last few years are littered with memories. The journal is a space of itself, a place where memory shifts to material. There is no speculation that accompanies channeling your most private thoughts into a tangible object. Yet, not all memories are created equally. There are some places I do not wish to revisit, and there are some places I have no choice but to remember. There are some cities I’ll pack into boxes or channel into creased city maps, always accessible to me through the pages of my journals. It is comforting to have a place to contain these memories where they remain unbothered by the decay of time, but then I am faced with the act of transportation. I will be changing my address three separate times this summer, yet I cannot justify filling up suitcase room with five years’ worth of thoughts.

Hรถfn, 2016

When I’m unpacking after a move, I’ll sometimes find things that aren’t actually mine. Lonely socks that were left in the dryer before me, handfuls of words only my friends use, secondhand guilt, a string of plastic roses saved from the garbage, white neoliberal myths about diversity. I’ve always hoarded everything that fell into my possession, refusing to throw anything out because everything has sentimental value to someone who has trouble with separating memory from the material.

Ayn Rand might be a piece of capitalist garbage, but she was not wrong when she wrote that you can’t wait for a place to give you meaning. You have to give meaning to a place. If Ayn ever stopped hating poor people, maybe she would sympathize with me when I say that my problem is that I try to pack these places into boxes that I can cart from one location to another. I’ve never been in one place long enough to be content with taking just memories with me, but I find it difficult to say that I’ll ever be ready for that. A memory is just a roll of film you play over and over again until it has been altered beyond recognition. Fingerprints smudge the faces and soon you can’t remember what came first, forgetting to make plans to see your out-of-town friends or failing to write down their new addresses. Conversations fade into greyscale and time manipulates the lens as things you regret you said are replaced by things you wanted to say. It does not take long for all memories to mold into the shapes of rooms and streets you knew without a map.

Belo Horizonte, 2017

These places linger in our minds triggered by nothing that can ever be truly replicated. Place held on a naked mattress stained with something I don’t remember spilling. Place smelling like the sandalwood incense I burned all third year. Place locked in a spoonful of my Goong Goong’s foo jook soup.

After I had loaded up my mom’s car on my last move out of Toronto, I took a look around my empty room. Despite the open window there was a placid silence, a sort of stillness in the curtains that was uncommon for a house of twelve students. I had first walked into the house many months prior with the humidity of a Toronto summer sticking to my body, and I was leaving it wrapped in layers on a cool overcast day. With my candles already packed away, my bedroom didn’t smell like anything. It didn’t feel like anything either, certainly not like I had lived there for a year. It was just another room.

not realizing any place ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ xx

In Memory and Celebration of my Broken Phone

I’ve come to the realization recently that I am only a productive blogger when I want to make fun of the pitfalls of my otherwise sunny-side-up life. I’ve deemed mild inconveniences like having to speak French in France or sobbing with John Lennon glasses on or being harassed a record twelve times in two hours (post coming soon to an under-utilized blog near you) as highly satisfying enough to share with the digital public. While these have been personal experiences, today I would like to speak about an issue that has captured the attention of the general public since the mid 2000s: broken phones.

Now on my fourth broken phone, I can say with conviction that there are virtually zero disturbances when you don’t have a phone to provide you instantaneous gratification and distraction. With my phone out of service, I am forced to do actual things with my time instead of worrying about the race and gender dynamics of travel photography on Instagram. I’ve already written an in-depth analysis on how technological memory is just as fallible as human memory, thus enhancing the ontological arguments that Ms. Bowers taught me in grade 12 philosophy. I’m more social already, as exemplified in the party I attended Friday night, armed with a flip book of sticky notes so I wouldn’t miss out on asking for people’s numbers and giving out my email address.

the aforementioned sticky notes. let it be known i had to angle my laptop and use photobooth to take this photo

One of the greatest pros when rendered phoneless is a distortion of my sense of time. This may seem disorienting, but in fact has endless benefits. Firstly, I get to sleep in every day because I don’t have an alarm to wake me up! Time is a colonial construct, so I am actually subverting imperialism by refusing to help my situation and purchase an alarm clock which would mean supporting both colonialism and capitalism. Furthermore, there’s this fun game I like to play in public where I find the most attractive boy in my vicinity and ask him what time it is. If you want to play, all you have to do is ensure you don’t wear a watch!

However, if you do decide to play this fun game, ensure that you choose a boy who will not take advantage of your phonelessness. I can’t deny how unnerved I feel when I’m walking home alone at night and notice a man staring at me from across the street. Something makes me grip my keys tighter in my pocket and briefly wonder if such thoughts are the products of gender-based violence within a society that renders women inferior, or simply my overactive writerly imagination.

The only way to go forth from this grounding experience is to share these humbling lessons by recommending to all of my dearest friends and family to go throw your phones in a lake or something. Or maybe do what I did: try to back up your phone because you fear losing all your important things, and in the process have the software crash on you, thus permanently deleting all your data and any possibility of restoration. If you’ve read this post and still insist on living with a phone, I just want you to know that you’re really missing out on the chance for a wholesome life.

Also, um, does anyone have a spare phone I can borrow for a few days?

as soon as i finished writing this post i got this email.
i asked the company to communicate with me via email only ๐Ÿ™‚