Networking

One of the biggest lessons I learnt in DC was that networking is important and really, the ‘real’ way to get around in this world. By the end of the program, I had distribute few (I was but an intern after all) but collected many business cards from people that I met at various events. Undoubtedly, the development of this particular skill enabled me to come out of my shell and really have no fear in getting to know people that I have never met before. I don’t insert myself into conversations at whim but rather, latch onto some sort of commonality between the to-be speaker and I/provide a (must be genuine) compliment. Men are a bit easier to speak to but that’s because I’m mainly around men during my free time (climbing and all…no, not that kind of climbing, rock climbing damn it). Women, well, usually there’s a familiarity sisterhood thing going for us but sometimes, oddly and unfortunately, we view our fellow woman as competition. But all that is a whole different discussion.

I certainly would not have met as many people as I did during my travels and even during my time here if I didn’t know how to ‘network’. Granted, I find myself much more comfortable speaking to people unofficially, say the person who’s in line with me at the grocery store or reading an interesting book at the coffee shop. No I’m (most likely) not hitting on you! Rather, I love hearing people’s stories. I think it’s a way we as people connect and learn from one another. Now…how does all this connect to this concept of ‘networking’?

As aforementioned, networking is one of those things that is pounded into our heads about how important it is. Yet I wonder, does that then create this mindset that we should get to know people with the understanding that we only really care about meeting these people so that we can use them to further our own professional objectives? With approximately a month left in my program in DC, I became very disenchanted with this idea. I saw it everywhere. I, myself, cannot be counted as innocent of this mindset. However, I truly resent it.

The good friends that I met throughout my education and into my career are first and foremost good friends. On some level, we all recognize the career status most of us have achieved and continue towards; that in the future, if our careers continue to build and grow, that we will be in certain positions of dare I say it? power. That through our shared experiences as students and young professionals and through our friendships, we have inadvertently created a professional network.  At the present time and in the future, we will be/continue to be in positions to help one another. But let me emphasize this, our friendship comes first; if they don’t, they should. These friendships were not built upon the idea that we could ‘use’ one another but really, built on the general principles that define the concept of friendship that apply to everyone, even the little ones (well, okay, we may not be building forts out of blankets together..but you know). It aggravates me when I see some of my friendships slip into the ‘let’s use one another’ side of things. I absolutely loathe it.

I just recently joined LinkedIn; honestly, I think it’s a great tool to remain connected with the people that I met during my time abroad and otherwise. Although I am still in touch with my friends on a personal level, it’s also great to see how they are doing professionally as many of us are on the same boat. However, we must not forget the human side of our friendships, regardless of where they may have sprung from. That first and foremost, our friends are exactly that, our friends. If we fall into the idea of using one another and leave our ‘friendship’ at that, we are only building grounds for the ‘dog-eat-dog’ approach to the development of our careers. My fantastic mentor, MO, truly demonstrated to me that building genuine relationships with people and treating them with respect and care is a very viable way to build one’s career; just because you care, doesn’t automatically mean you’re incompetent. This is perhaps a wee bit extreme, but I hope it was thought provoking.

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Drawing the Ire of Drivers

I was waiting for my coworker to come pick something up from me during the transportation conference we were attending when I overheard a conversation that drew my ire (yes, I know the title refers to the ire of drivers..but we’ll get to that). It was a bit ironic considering the fact that I was a) at a transportation conference (transportation includes all modes including that of biking) and b) I had just come from a seminar centered around active transportation with one of the presentations on the bike lanes in Ottawa. The woman in the conversation was complaining about cyclists and their disrespect for the rules of the road and drew upon the example of bikers going the other direction on a one way street near the university. Well, for one, the majority of one way streets around the university have bike lanes that go against the direction indicated for the one way (thus legally sanctioned). Funny thing was I had my bike helmet strapped to backpack and I knew that she and her conversation partner had seen it. Cyclists that do not obey the rules of the road, including those who bike on sidewalks when there are perfectly good smaller streets by that big street they’re biking beside, piss me off too; but often times, the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cyclists are lumped together. You don’t see people lumping drivers together now do you? Being on a bike doesn’t give us certain privileges per se, but it should give us certain considerations to keep everyone safe. After all, if a car and biker were to crash, obviously the biker would fare much more worse than the driver of the car. As I was biking to the conference centre this morning, I had just been cut off by a truck and nearly flipped off my bike when I had hit a couple deep potholes…so all that was fresh on my mind when I heard this woman. Furthermore, just last week I had read an article about how bike lanes aren’t the safest places for bikes which is completely true. You try riding on a pothole ridden, gravel/debris covered lane..it sucks! So drivers, please kindly remember that bikers aren’t out on their bikes to piss you off but for many other reasons and that we are much more vulnerable on the road than you are. Thanks 🙂

Feelin’ Low

Every since I’ve come back to Canada, everyday seems like a battle, a rollar coaster of ups and downs and most of all, uncertainty. This uncertainty has bled into every part of my life: my relationship with my family in terms of dependence and whether or not I’ll be able to get a job; my relationship with the mf because I don’t know where I’ll end up and how long I’ll be there, never mind the already existing long distance factor; my relationship with God, because I feel like I’m in the middle of that lake right now without any shore in sight. God, I thought you told me to go this direction. Was this dramatic shift in my life too late? Ever since I failed to get the intern policy position, one my worst fears in life was realized: that I would become an educated but jobless and worthless bum. I feel the strength just leaving my body like I can’t even will myself to hold it up any longer. I just want to curl up and go to sleep. I feel terrible because I weigh my doubts and fears on those who love me most. I burden my family because I’m an adult yet can’t get a job. I left him behind in Belgium for what seems like nothing now. Sometimes I’m alright. Sometimes, like right now, I feel terrible. I don’t think I’ve cried this much in such a short period of time. I’ve always prided myself in being strong but like I said, that strength is seeping away. I know some among you would tell me this is the time to really rely on God and to lose self control. I know that some would tell me look past the current circumstances and continue striving towards the goal that God has set out for me. The past year and a half have been emotionally draining on me. As much as I remember the good times, the older emotions without memories come back to haunt me and in a joint effort, bog me down. I thought that a decent next step would come out of this. I’m not asking why; I just want out. How can you charge me with this..this purpose without equipping me with the means? How can you burden my heart, though it is a burden I gladly take, and yet render me unable to alleviate it? What is so fucking bad of really wanting to go out and do something to make things better for those worse off than me? What in the fucking hell is it? As I read instructions or advice on how to write my statement of interest for grad school, I’ve been told to keep away from the cliches of pursuing social justice or whatever…but what if this is really what I want to do? How can there be a demand for a unique personal story when there are so many similarities among those who compete for these programs? Do you want me to tell you how I climbed a cliff in Spain? Do you want me to tell you I had a revelation in Hong Kong? Oh no wait, I can’t. No religion allowed in this statements. Yet that last one is key as is my purpose. I feel like my voice is being muted. My opening line for my current statement of purpose to my top choice is ‘My name is Bonnie and I am privileged’. Most people who have looked at my statement have told me it comes off negatively or too strong, that it may appear to be pretentious. Yet, I am privileged. That’s one of the greatest things I’ve realized. Yes I know, I just spent the last few hundred words whining/bitching/complaining, being pissed at God and myself, being disappointed and frustrated. Yet I’m still blessed. So why can’t I put this? Why in the hell must I spin my life in a certain way? I really just want to be in Belgium curled up by him and know everything’s ok, but I can’t. We are separated by an ocean and half a continent and it’s my fault. It’s my fault for putting us in this situation of uncertainty and potential unhappiness. How can you love a fool, a useless person like me?

“Sex is Essential” – Social Conditioning?

Upon the end of my most recent “relationship” (for numerous reasons, the quotations are necessary), one of the reasons the manfriend cited as a reason to end things is my no sex clause. The fact that I am a rarity in my generation is never forgotten and for most times, except for the rare occasion, I relish in this distinctive characteristic. The reaction to this lifestyle choice is met with a myriad of responses, some commending me, some with surprise, and rarely, with aghast. My said ex-manfriend stated that he believed that sex is essential to a relationship and I can understand where this is coming from. Sex is the ultimate physical sharing between a man and woman and I suppose in this case, the utmost expression of affection via physical means. Such an opinion is held by many…yet I would argue that sex doesn’t need a relationship and this sort of thing is perhaps becoming rather popular. My friend made an interesting comment once when I was telling her about my budding relationship; I talked about how he would brush my hair back or kiss my forehead/cheek. Her response was along the lines of: “I’m so happy for you! You’ve found someone that is genuinely interested in you.” Whatttt? So the “cute” expressions of affection are of the genuine nature whereas further physicality is lesser? This doesn’t make sense!…or does it?

I’m not here to talk about the reasoning behind my lifestyle choice, although I am unashamed to say that it stems from my beliefs, but rather on the lifestyle choice of sex in relationships. I hope this doesn’t come off as judgemental, but I don’t think it will. My question is, when did sex become necessary for a non-platonic relationship to be successful? I would assert that it is through social conditioning that this is the case. In whatever entertainment now (except…maybe Disney, but you never know), the two parties involved in the romantic ‘relationship’ always have sex, always. Through societal influences, not having sex in your relationship is odd, perhaps…even wrong. A bit contradictory in an era that encourages people to seek individualism or their true selves and not fall into social conformity…

Promiscuity aka Marker of a Successful Personal Life?

I like to think I’m generally open minded to the different life choices people make and attempt to avoid the judgemental stereotype that is often associated with my religion. Yet sometimes it feels like that life values that should be generally upheld by Christians is judged instead. I think the greatest life style choice that is judged upon for my generation or age group is the choice to not have sex prior to marriage. Some of my Christian friends who mainly hang out with other Christian friends do not face this sort of pressure; however on the flip side, any sexual issues are somewhat taboo (at least amongst single Christians). Anyways, the idea of not having sex before marriage is a completely foreign idea. But what really bothers me are the connotations associated with such a choice; for example, oh is it because you couldn’t find someone who was willing to have sex with you? Then it becomes a matter of whether you are desirable to others. Ultimately, it comes down to the social measure of whether others find you attractive or attractive enough to fuck you. Great. Sexual accomplishments are touted; to abstain, a weird choice. How did our sexual performance/attraction become that measure of how successful a person’s personal life is?