Settling in doesn’t have to mean settling

After years of living in a bacheloresque apartment for fear of committing to this city, I finally realized that nesting and giving up were not the same thing…

So here’s the thing… I love Vancouver. Vancouver is my home. But at the same time, I have never been able to help thinking that I actually want to live somewhere else. I have lived in other cities, and I have loved it, and my dream has always been to move away to somewhere that I imagine to be more cosmopolitan, more fast-paced, more interesting than Vancouver. I have always sort of felt that I don’t fit here. And so, while living in this city, I have always felt a strange limbo, where my physicality was here, but my heart was looming out on the edges somewhere else.

So how did this manifest? Well, it manifested in me living in an apartment that I felt really lukewarm about for many years. It also manifested in me never really investing any time/money into said apartment because I was worried that this meant that I had given up on my dream of moving away. Somewhere, somehow, my brain had decided that committing to paint and a couch meant that I was committing to a 10 year lease.

On the career side of my life, while scouring job boards in other cities, I was also working a full-time job here, but on a million teeny tiny contracts as a ‘casual’ worker so that if need be I could still leave at any moment.

Basically, I set up my life so that if at any point I needed to drop everything for my dream job in New York, I could easily do so  with less than a month’s notice and not have any messy contracts to get out of, and also not really have that much stuff that I needed to get rid of to leave the city. To be fair… I DID have an interview for a dreamy job in New York at one point… and in that case, I would have actually had to leave at a moment’s notice… but that was only one interview. One interview. In four years.

So here I was talking about how much I hate my apartment, and talking about the uneasiness of my job, and doing this FOR YEARS because I was afraid of committing to one thing, only here I was just committing by default to things that were not serving my well-being in any way shape or form*

Then I went through a weird breakup. It was my first breakup in YEARS (though it was pretty minor), and it completely catapulted me into the mode of “ok, missy. Time to get your life together.”

I took the plunge, and one month later, I was giving notice at my shitty apartment of 4 years. Let me tell you, giving notice for a cheap giant one bedroom that allows cats (also sketchy, on a loud street in a bleh neighbourhood) is no feat to take lightly. It was terrifying. What if I just did not find any place to live? What if I only found somewhere SHITTIER for MORE MONEY? What if I had to move out to the suburbs? WHAT IF?!?!

After many a sleepless, panic-stricken night, and anxious days filled with calls and emails to every apartment posting within a 20 km radius of where I ACTUALLY wanted to live… I DID find an apartment. It was not my DREAM apartment, and it was also more expensive than I would have liked, but it was about a million steps better than the one I had before, and the moment that I brought the last box out moving truck, I knew that it was home. And you know what? After having lived there for about two weeks, it LOOKED like home. Two weeks! And it was more of a home than my old apartment of 4 years had ever been. Why? Because I decided to commit.

Two weeks later, I accepted a new job. A permanent one. Which, again.. is not my magical dream job love of my life, but it is better than the job that I had before and it’s a place that I can really sink my teeth into without having to worry about relentless contract renewal and piecing together projects just to justify my existence.

So what have I learned here? Well, committing to something doesn’t mean that you can never ever have another thing that you want ever again. Do I still want to live in New York one day? Yes. I sure do. But can my experience living in Vancouver be a whole heck of a lot better while I’m working towards making that happen? Yes. It sure can. So here I am now, in a home that I love, though I know it’s not forever. And not committing to this city forever, but at least committing to it for the time that I’m here.


*disclaimer while my job WAS a variety of tiny contracts, it was also incredibly interesting and satisfying in many ways. I actually learned a whole heck of a lot. It just was not a place where any kind of real LONG-TERM growth was going to happen for me career-wise. Plus… contracts. Yeesh.

Creative Licence


Coming in October… this girl’s attempt to get over her dumb insecurity about making art without being an ‘artist’.

I have noticed a sad thing in the past year, and that sad thing is this… in 2012, almost all of the photos that I have taken so far, reside on my iphone. That’s right. My iphone. It’s not even a GOOD iphone (I have a 3Gs), so the camera leaves something to be desired. It actually leaves a whole hell of a lot to be desired. I’ve been looking through old photos lately, and also having conversations with various friends about creativity and what not, and decided that it’s time. Time for what?


If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s pretty simple. Take one photo of yourself every day for an entire year. Sounds easy. In reality, not so much. It’s easy to forget, but also, if you want it to be even remotely interesting, or to be somewhat of a creative endeavor, it’s actually quite a bit of work.

So why do this again? Well, for one, I did it a few years ago, and I always find it incredibly satisfying to go back to that year and be able to look at each photo and to know not only what I looked like that day, but also what I was thinking and feeling. It’s by far the most well documented year of my life, and it’s so interesting to me to see the progression over that year.

The other reason? I’m going through a bit of a creative slump at the moment… but the creative slump isn’t the only problem in and of itself. I also have a creative chip on my shoulder. And it’s a chip that I’m itching to get rid of. What is this chip, you might ask? It’s the chip that, whenever I work on anything creative, whispers into my thoughts, ‘who do you think you’re kidding, and what do you think you’re doing? you’re not an artist, and what you make is not art, so just stop embarrassing yourself’.

I have so many deeply creative friends, and I guess that part of me just thinks that I’m ‘behind’, or that because I have not been in a billion group shows that I might as well not even try. It might be a bit bigger than a chip… let’s say the chip on my shoulder has turned into more of a shoulder that is entirely missing. No shoulder. The chip has taken my shoulder and run for the hills, where they will stay nested up until I somehow beckon them back to me.

So here we go. Time to jumpstart myself back into being creative and wonderful with photography, and time to work away just a little at that chip.

October 1st, I will be embarking on round 3 (I had one failed attempt many many years ago) of 365 photos. Wish me luck!!

(also, if you’re curious about my progress as the year goes by, feel free to check out my flickr page)

The trouble with funding

Ok, so this is not going to be a terribly academic post, and will be more of a kind of disillusioned rant than anything else, but as someone who has made a living writing/editing/developing grants for over five years, I’ve got to say it – the granting system is broken. Not just a little broken; horribly so. Horribly and terribly and utterly broken. 

While working the the academic research world, one of the big problems that research groups would come across is that while there is funding available for actually performing the research, and paying your trainees, and your salary, and sometimes infrastructure, there is no money available for overhead. None. A research lab is essentially a small business, and while the Principal Investigator of said lab may be brilliant at the topic of research, here’s what they are often NOT brilliant at… human resources management, finance administration, ordering office supplies. And when it really comes down to it, is it really an effective use of our tax dollars to have this person who is meant to be doing research take care of all of these administrative tasks? Let me answer that question for you. NO. NO IT IS MOST CERTAINLY NOT. But is it possible for them to get funding to have someone else do those tasks?? Well, dear reader, it appears that that is not possible either. Nor is it possible for them to get funding for things like basic office supplies that are used for anything other than actually performing research. Here’s an example – you are a researcher and you need to file some papers with your university’s HR department to hire a new staff member. Technically, the paper that you used to print off these forms cannot be paid for with any of your research grants. But surely the university must pay these costs, no? Well… no. TECHNICALLY they are supposed to take care of them… but unless you want to sneak over to the HR office itself and steal reams of paper every time you want to print something, this is just not going to happen. 


Recently, I shifted my job environment a bit, and am now working in the non-profit sector for the first time. It’s not that I thought that granting would be without its problems in this sector… or that magically, it would be easy to actually find funding for all of the things that you need to actually run your organization. But the problem with non-profit grants does not appear to be that there is one specific thing that I cannot find funding for… it’s that there is ONLY ONE THING that granting agencies want to fund at all. Pardon? You might be thinking… Could you repeat that please.

That’s right, folks. When it comes to grants for non-profits, it would appear 95% of funders ONLY WANT TO FUND NEW PROJECTS. Brand new ones. And only for the first one or two years. So while there is money to start new initiatives, there is very rarely money to keep these initiatives going. So basically, if you run your non-profit solely with the eye to getting grant funds, you would create a new program every year or so, and then once it was up and running, you would cut the program entirely and leave all of the folks who had come to rely on it with nothing until you started up a new, possibly similar program for the next funding cycle. BUT without an innovative, new, EXCITING angle on this program, you might not get funded at all. What the heck gives?

I get that it’s nice to have new shiny things to show off to your friends, but isn’t there also some amount of pride that can be attached to saying that you helped some really amazing program that helped oodles of people to stay running for 5, 10, or even 20 long years?? What even lasts for 20 years anymore?? Where’s the magic in longevity??

As this post is already getting a little on the long side, and doesn’t even include any photos (?!?!), I’m going to leave my musings on possible solutions for a future post… for now I just really needed to get some of this ranting feeling off my chest. Also, there are endlessly more things that I could rant about related to the ridiculousness of funding, but I will leave that for a future rant as well. END RANT.

On that note, does anyone reading this work with grants? Have you noticed similar patterns in your field? Thoughts on ways to fix the broken funding system.

Thanks for reading!