This is a story about being frustrated and empowered

I took this photo at Nairn Falls in Pemberton, BC. I feel it is an accurate depiction of what it feels like to be frustrated.
I took this photo at Nairn Falls in Pemberton, BC. I feel it is an accurate depiction of what it means to be frustrated.

For over two years, I commuted from my parents’ house north of Toronto to work in the city and back again. It took an hour-and-a-half to get to work, and sometimes even longer to get home. I was frustrated.

I had no time to do ANYTHING after work, because when I got home in the early evening, I would eat dinner and it would somehow then be time for bed. It felt like my job was my life, because other than my workout in the morning, all I did was my job. And I am happy to work all the time (as I sometimes do now), but I wasn’t happy turning into a vegetable and only looking forward to one thing – 5:00pm. I wanted more than that. I felt I deserved more than that.

I was Belle in Beauty and the Beast begging for something more than this provincial life – except I was not looking for a beast to turn into a prince and love me. Please note the difference in story-lines. Thank you.

I had gone to school, volunteered, interned for free and was willing to put in as much time as I needed, at my job and working on other creative tasks after the bell, to get ahead. But I didn’t have the time to do all that. I also didn’t have time to take an actual break, by hanging out with friends, because the only time for me was when I was asleep – an activity we don’t even remember once we wake up.

Realizing there are many people who still have a life like this one, I learned that as someone who was just starting their career, I didn’t want to burn out, lose motivation and eventually hate my job as a result of not making time to feel inspired.

I don’t know of any other paragraph that could be more 20-something than that, but it’s the truth. I wanted to feel excited and happy in my role, while looking forward to creative side projects, furthering my knowledge and having a smile on my face after work, as opposed to a scowl.

I explained all of this to a family member, and their response to my very frustrated tale of annoyance, begging for help in a time of millennial despair was, “You have no reason to be frustrated.”

It was normal, apparently, to never see the sun, dream of watching a television series but never getting to, hoping to read a book but never picking it up and wanting to write, learn and grow – doing more than just a day job – but giving up on that because there was absolutely no time to squeeze it all in.

Obviously, I didn’t believe this. So, I moved. I was fed up. My mental health was taking a shot. I was not happy at home, and only decently pleased when I had the chance to leave the walls of my house on a Saturday and go to yoga.

I secretly started seeing a real estate agent (SCANDAL), who showed me gorgeous condos throughout Toronto. It’s taboo in my traditional Italian family to do anything (move out of your parents’ home) before a man decides he wants to marry you (eugh). So, I didn’t tell anyone for a long time that I was looking. Then I had a mental breakdown because I needed support in this crazy journey of becoming a homeowner. So, I told my family whilst having a freak out and they supported me, and then I moved into my condo was happy, the end!

Yeah, right.

I did indeed find a little place in Toronto’s west-end. It’s half-an-hour away from work, tucked away enough so it’s not in the middle of all that hum, close to the lake, a block from a beautiful park and peaceful. A year at this new place, I am happy.

Of course, there has been backlash and my condo had to undergo a major repair after a leak last year (I cried for a long time). Older women in my family are oh so sad for me, because I live alone and don’t have a ring on my finger. How tragic. And some even refuse to come visit because they’re just too upset that I have yet to wear a wedding dress and still somehow think I have the knowledge and strength to make my own decisions!

I was also recently promoted at my job, taking on a few side projects, writing all the time, enjoying excursions with friends when I want, and totally not scowling anymore once I leave the office. Unless it’s minus 40 or plus 40. Then, my scowl is a result of how uncomfortable I am.

YES, this makes the old folk who’ve been in Canada for over 50 yers shrivel up a little inside, for women don’t have the brains to be in control (bye), but here I am, living my happy little life and eating entire bags of brown rice chips on Friday evenings as I clean my bathroom and stream sporting events on poorly run websites, making my computer freeze for three quarters of the game. However, this is me. And this is where I wanted to be all along. I also got a cat, so my life is a million times better now.

THIS ISN’T ME THROWING SHADE AT MY FAMILY, it’s me realizing that I don’t have to be my family to be happy and that I’m allowed to be frustrated and annoyed when I am not happy, not feeling like myself.

I went to check out an exhibit at Toronto’s Artscape Youngplace by The Society Of Females In Art (SOFIA), a women’s photography collective that aims to promote and support the work of its members, hosts their inaugural exhibition, with theme, bad behaviour.

SOFIA’s inaugural exhibit is part of the Socitabank CONTACT Photography Festival, a spring and summer-long festival in Toronto celebrating photography, art and stories within the city, shedding light on new methods of artistic expression and celebrating the photography community.

SOFIA’s Bad Behaviour features never-before seen work by its eight original founding members, Raina KirnMay TruongAngela LewisRegina GarciaBrooke WedlockMichelle YeeKerry Shaw and Anya Chibis.

Each artist’s portion of the show told a different story about women overcoming hardship and fear, finding freedom and wholesomeness. The stories include living with mental illness, striving for acceptance, living through comparison to find uniqueness, taking risks, re-evaluating what it means to be a woman and even defining the term “bad behaviour” through dozens of photographs.

I went to this exhibit alone, after writing about SOFIA for A Quarter Young, and left feeling alive, comforted. I was reassured that women everywhere feel frustrated, just like me, and through creative expression, life lessons and risk-taking, they too find happiness.

Sadly, I missed out on Beyoncé’s Formation World Tour, so I thought I would have to wait FOREVER to feel empowered again. Then, I came face to face with “Bad Behaviour.”

The exhibit runs until June 5. It inspired me to write this piece, so I think you too must go.

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