Umm what

One of the fun things about going through old sketchbooks, lists and notes is that moment where I look at something and am like umm what that doesn’t mean anything or make any sense while also knowing that at one point I thought this thing was super important and worth scrawling down.


One of my pre-semester starting projects is to go through and scan all the sketchbooks I want to bring home during the winter holidays. it’s a tedious process that is taking altogether too long — then again most of these maintenance tasks a lot of time and that’s okay. It’s cool to open up a sketchbook from a year and a half ago and be like oh that’s what I was into, that’s what I was doing.

Surf's up

When I was in the second grade I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time. It was during a family trip to Disney Land. I was instantly entranced and waded in fully dressed in non-swim clothes. My parents had to drag me away. Disney Land and Universal Studios couldn’t compete with this magic. At one point one of them told me that they’d never seen me happier than in that moment.

It was like something had been missing from my life and in that moment I had found it. The waves, the water, home.

During the summer between sixth and seventh grade Blue Crush was released. It was a fantastic movie and it left me strongly convinced that surfing was in fact my calling. Never mind that I lived somewhere land locked or that it was probably too late for me. I was born to be a surfer and was very certain of this fact.

I requested that my parents move to Hawaii so I could fulfill my destiny as a surfer. They said no.

I suggested California instead. They said no.

Suspecting that citizenship was an issue I finally offered up Tofino. It’s in Canada and I could be a surfer there.

But no. They had jobs and lives in Calgary and couldn’t uproot everything for my latest intense obsession. I was very unhappy with this. It was your regular teenager-parent dispute except that to me it seemed so obvious that this thing had to happen because it was clearly my destiny and my parents didn’t understand and hoped I would stop talking about it.

My mother purchased me some Billabong and Quicksilver clothes in the hope that that would somehow compensate — in hindsight I appreciate that I was permitted to buy boys surf clothes, something that never met resistance or questions of your know Roxy is for girls wear that.

I did not fulfill my destiny as a surfer and I have yet to visit Tofino. Life is filled with hardships.

I do however live by the ocean. I go to the beach. I get to make fairly frequent tide and sea level rise diagrams.

And today I went for a stand up paddle boarding lesson. It is probably the closest I have come since viewing Blue Crush to that longing I felt. It’s almost like surfing. It was easy and I enjoyed being on the water. Unlike my kayaking adventures I think this is something I can do and want to do.

I am reaching back in time to that disappointed and frustrated 12-year-old me and telling her that this moment does in fact happen. She will glide along the water of the Pacific amongst beautiful hills. It will be fantastic. Just be patient.

I also want to tell her that those watercolours are really great and she should do a bunch of them.

That the imagery and design of those surf clothes will stay with her.

That she’ll find the water she seeks. That the pull is too strong to be denied.

Then there’s another me I want to reach back in time to. Me last year. The scared, sad, broken Rhi who could not have done something like stand up paddle boarding. The Rhi who couldn’t use her right arm. The me lying in the dark after my concussion thinking about how long it would be before she could do things again. The me that would wake up with the kind of pain in my back and neck and shoulders that made me dread the day, that made me not want to get up, not want to move, not want to exist.

I want to tell her that it’ll be okay. That it’ll get better. That she will get moments like this.

That her body is both damaged and resilient. That her sore, tense muscles also remember all those hours of training and the movement and activity of her past.

As my physiotherapist told me so often keep moving. Keep moving. Stand up straight.

Growing up my body was worthwhile as a thing that was powerful and athletic. I was never pretty so I never had value in that way, I never figured out how to be an attractive girl but I was good at a sport. My body had worth as that, I related to it as that. My body was what it did. it was muscular and had finely honed reflexes.

Relating to my body instead as something that hurts and that can’t do everything I want it to or that it used to has been challenging. I have let go of some things, accepted that I in fact have limits, accepted the fragility of my body, accepted that certain injuries leave a mark that no amount of physio exercises can erase.

Out on the water I got to relate to my body again as something that is strong, that was moving and active. It is when I am relating to my body in this way that it feels the best and that I feel the best about it. After all that worry and wondering if I would ever feel good again, how long it would be before I was back to doing things, I am trying to enjoy these days when I wake up and I feel normal, when I feel okay, to enjoy the feeling of doing something that I was scared I might never be able to do again.

I want to tell her that she’ll be alright and that she can take the time she needs to get there.

Digital minimalism attempt

After listening to a Cal Newport interview I’m thinking about digital in my life and what I can get rid of. Having worked in social media I view it as a tool more so than most people do.

Obviously we are presenting ourselves in a particular way. When were we not?

I use these platforms to tell particular stories in particular ways. Whether conscious or not it’s all a choice.

I do worry about how distracted and anxious I am. I wonder if these spaces are truly serving me.

I’d like for my Twitter relationships to exist more in life and less on my screens. I want to see people more. I want my relationships to be more real.

I use these platforms to connect, to share, to learn, to feel less alone. Yet, they eat up so much of my time.

Doing what I do I think I’d lose far too much if I ditched twitter and Instagram but I also don’t want to give them more than a few pieces of my valuable and very limited time.

These days Twitter just seems sad. Once it was fun. Now I can just assume that everything will continue to be awful and that at best we’ll do very little about it and that probably it’ll actively get worse.

The world is burning, we aren’t doing much about it and I can’t take it.

I’m gonna look at pictures of hedgehogs wearing hats. I’m gonna blog more.

I don’t really know.

I make this stuff and I don’t know what to do with it. I should put it somewhere but where? What’s a good place for these things?

Maybe I’m just not doing content minimalism. I don’t need to share every photo. Eventually I have to make choices.

Anyways I turned off notifications on my phone for a bunch of apps. He talks about how bad for us all the bings are. Maybe they’re why my attention is always so divided?

I’ll try anything. If breaking has any perks it’s the willingness to be open to things. The notifications aren’t making my life better so who needs them

Lollygaggle + meander

I’ve been thinking about rest a lot lately, as one does in this day and age.

One of the things I wonder about, though I do this less than I did first semester, is whether or not there is a place for me in design, at SALA, in landscape.

If I can’t give and give, if my body can’t take the strain and demands of a brutal educational pedagogy and design culture then what am I doing here? Do I belong in this field? Will people make space for me? Will I be able to make space for myself?

How do I deal with the demands of a program that often expects enormous sacrifices of physical and mental well-being in order to complete work on time and to the expected standard.

I have been looking at yoga classes, dance class, adult swim classes at UBC. They seem fun. They’re the type of thing I’d love to do, but I probably don’t have time for them.

My life for the next two years is SALA, is keeping up with the demands of my program.

First semester when we were overwhelmed and struggling with the work load we were told to manage our time as though a lack of organization was the issue at hand rather than the fact that it took me a long time to do basic things quite badly. I was a beginner, slow, clumsy, clueless. Instead of being told that it was hard and it took time to get faster I was told to manage my time.

This cut into time for sleep, self-care. Happiness.

It’s a problem in grad school in general but it seems like the culture of design is particularly brutal.

Which brings me to rest.

I learn better when I’m not scrambling to just finish my work but when I have time to make mistakes and meander, when I get to see my friends and take breaks.

My goal for school is to figure out what work has to be done and do it as quickly and seamlessly as possible. There will never be enough time so I minimize what else is in my life.

I was listening to On Being with Krista Tippet and she interviewed Ross Gay who thinks a lot about delight. He reads out:

Even though I subtly dosed in the late afternoon sun pouring under the awning the two bucks spent protects me, at least temporarily, from the designation of loiterer. Though the dosing, if done long enough or ostentatiously enough or with enough delight, might transgress me over.

The Webster’s definition of loiter reads thus, “To stand or wait around idly without apparent purpose and to travel indolently with frequent pauses.”

Among the synonyms for this behavior are linger, loaf, laze, lounge, lollygaggle, dawdle, amble, saunter, meander, puddle, dillydally and mosey.

Any one of these words in the wrong frame of mind might be considered critique or noun epithet Lollygagger or Loafer.

These words instead of being desirable or nice or pleasant are insults. If you do these things you are a problem.

All of these words to me imply having a nice day, they imply having the best day.

They also imply being unproductive, which leads to being even if only temporarily non-consumptive.

Delight ties in directly with rest.

You’re in a bit of non-productive delight, heads up.

Which points to another of the synonyms for loitering, which I almost wrote as delight, taking ones time.

For while the previous list of synonyms alude to time, taking one’s time makes it plain.

For the crime of loitering, the idea of it is about ownership of one’s own time, which must be sometimes wrestled from the assumed owners of it who are not you, to the rightful who is

In a world where we must always be on, where we must always be making ourselves useful, getting something done pausing and resting and doing nothing doesn’t get the space it needs.

I don’t need to manage my time better. I need breaks and rest. I need to meander and lollygag. I need a society that values those things more.

Taking a lesson

When I signed up for kayaking lessons I had this vision in my head of it being the greatest thing ever and me being super hard core and pro at it.

It turned out that I don’t know if kayaking is my jam. For one I don’t trust my right arm enough. For two with the nerve damage in my thumb (old fencing injury) I’m not sure I can actually put on a spray skirt.

My instinct when a kayak tips over is to do nothing. The feeling of sitting there in the water attached to something doing nothing is scary. Eventually I pop out but it doesn’t make me feel confident or safe. It makes me feel trapped.

Instead, I’ve been wanting to try stand up paddle boarding. I’ve signed up for a lesson and I’m gonna see how it goes. This time instead of making plans to be the most hardcore SUPer ever I am telling myself that I’m gonna take a lesson and try it, see if I like it.

That’s one of the great things about therapy. I can take these thought patterns that cause problems, notice them and walk them back. Be like hey chill out dude, it’s totally possible to take one lesson and try something instead of making grandiose and intense plans about how it’s going to be my thing.

It’s a new thing. I am trying it. Little things, small steps. Moderation.

The problem isn't single-detached homes. It's banning anything else

It might seem like I hate single-detached homes. I don’t.

Personally, I have no desire to live in one. I don’t want a dog or kids or a garden or a lawn. So all those things people would if they were rationally selecting a single-detached home for I don’t want.

The problem isn’t that some folks want and can afford single-detached homes — though there are heaps of problems with the way we build single-detached homes — but that I can’t live in a townhouse or condo or apartment in most communities in Canada. The problem is that single-detached homes are the only thing you are allowed to build.

Our communities are this endless monotonous sameness of control and inflexibility. There’s this box we’re all supposed to fit into and if we don’t we’re a problem or we have to go to specific places where that thing is in fact allowed.

If you own a single-detached home and like your single-detached home that’s lovely. I’m not going to take that away from you. I just want a home that suits my needs.

I also think our communities would be a lot better if they included diversity and choice.

How many people living in single-detached homes very consciously and intentionally choose that vs did it because it was the thing to do and they wanted to live in a certain area and there were no other options. Or the stock of other options was awful because it gets built so infrequently.

I don’t fit into the box of suburban home ownership and I don’t want to.

That box hurts all of us, even those with single-detached homes. Difference, diversity and choice are good for everyone. You don’t have to want something for it to be worth having as an option.

If you don't manage your files they manage you

I continue the file management life. I'm actually making progress so it feels hopeful and less like an abyss of bad choices accumulated over many years.

It's a weird way of reliving the past. Some of it's interesting. Some of it I'm like oh hey that group project was a really awful experience. I am making peace with the fact that large parts of school are actually pretty painful.

Once I'm done my documents I think about doing the thousands of photos. They were my life for a long time so I should go through and take care of them instead of feeling sad thinking about the chaos.

I also wonder about how sad going through them will make me. I miss my life as a wandering street and landscape photographer who could go for hours. Now I'm not totally sure I can use a manual camera -- I am taking a break and letting future Rhi figure that out.

It's weird going through these files and thinking about who I used to be. I miss being that person, I miss the places photography took me. I don't miss the pressure and I never worked out what to do with the files. But I do miss the exploring and the way I used to be in the world.