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Muna – Then and Now

This is it! We’ve come to the end of our HERstory blog posts. First of all, I want to thank all the ladies who helped me with this project. Thanks for your time and your honesty – it’s been great getting to know all of you that much better. I certainly have some amazing friends. 

Our last post comes from my friend Muna, yet another Chapters buddy. Her post is the one that resonated the most with me. As you will see below, Muna considers herself to be a Third Culture Kid. I only just discovered what this means, and I found that that’s how I identify as well. My dad is british, my mum is French canadian. I grew up in a Québec (which comes with it’s own cultural challenges, related to my being half English) and I’ve also lived in a lot of other countries, making it difficult for me to identify with any one nationality. Sure, I call myself Canadian, that’s easy. But it’s not quite true, and that’s not where my whole heart is.

Anyway! On to Muna’s story! After she sent it to me, she followed up with this message:

“I was thinking a lot about how much of my identity is Canadian, and for the past couple of months my feelings lean towards that I don’t really feel Canadian. I didn’t say this out loud to myself and I think the blog helped me come to terms with it. No matter how hard I tried in the past, I never felt like this is home. I have a Canadian passport and that’s probably the only thing that can define me as Canadian. I don’t know if you still want to use my post since it’s about Canadians. What do you think? I really don’t mind if you want to find someone else. I just feel a bit contradictory having a post about being Canadian when I haven’t felt it for 17 years. Let me know”

Of course I accepted her blog post – the original story was supposed to represent Canadian women, or at least the women that make Canada. And hers is such an interesting story, how could I not publish it! Make sure to read right down to the end – #6 is super.


1.    If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?

Muna Egeh: Then and Now

2.    Where are you from? How has where you’re from shaped your life?

I come from many places. I am Somali by blood and culture, but I was born in Abu Dhabi, UAE. I came to Ottawa, Canada, at the age of 12 and I’ve been here ever since! This summer will mark my 17th year.

The places my parents and I come from shaped my life in many ways. I do feel different than most Canadians, and I have often struggled with identity. Although my parents identify themselves to be Somali, my mother was born in Yemen and my father was born in Somalia; both were raised in Yemen. So I have what now I believe to be “Third Culture Kid Identity” which I have recently learned about from a short documentary on Vimeo. http://vimeo.com/41264088
If your average Somali (assuming they were born and raised in Somalia) came to my home, they would be surprised to learn that we speak Arabic and English in our house. We don’t even know many of the cultural practices; i.e. dance and poetry, which are staples of being Somali. But when your average Canadian comes over to my house, they will instantly feel that we aren’t a typical Canadian family. To be honest, I struggle with the Canadian identity much more. I’m not sure I’ve ever understood what it is to feel unequivocally Canadian.
A big part of my life was spent in the UAE, and I do have warm feelings towards the place I once called home, but I always knew it wasn’t going to be permanent. Emiratis believe that their land is an ancestral land, so any foreigners or first generations know that their time in the UAE is most likely limited.

3.    Where do you live? How has where you live shaped your life?

I am based in Ottawa, but I’m also a resident of Toronto. I come here often because it facilitates my future in filmmaking. I lived in Ottawa for many years, but unfortunately, I haven’t found it to be the place for me. The makeup of the city is very government-oriented and even the career positions offered are mostly government-related. So I decided to make my way to Toronto to help me with what I love the most, films!

4.    What is your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement must be leaving the accounting profession behind and finding work in places that I find incredibly satisfying. I majored in Accounting in university and found working with tax and auditing in an office all by myself with minimal human interaction to be very draining. I didn’t like calling people to let them know they owe the government more money or that they are being audited. It put me in a really bad place for the duration of my accounting career. I decided to move on to do something I’ve never done but always thought about, and that was traveling! I decided the best way to do this is to take International Management as my second major, and travel through my exchange semester. I ended up doing the exchange in Reims, France, and through that exchange I was able to travel to eight countries, one of which was Egypt!
Leaving accounting behind helped me to truly find what I enjoy doing the most. I loved reading, so I worked at a bookstore, which was the best work experience I’ve ever had. I had time to think of what my future will hold, and I had the courage to finally pursue filmmaking as my new career! I’m happy to share that I have completed my first short film and I hope to share it with you in a few months!

5.    What is your greatest regret? Or what is your greatest fear?

I used to regret going into the field of accounting, but as cliché as it might sound, I no longer believe in mistakes. Everyone takes a different route to get to their ultimate destination. I am thankful to God that I have the chance to realize what I love and work towards it everyday.
The only thing I fear is not being honest with others or myself. I try my best to take actions that I believe in 100 percent, otherwise it gets me down.

6.    What would you tell a young girl who is struggling with something like her identity, bullying, not fitting in, etc.?

I was bullied in middle school for many reasons and not speaking English was one of them. I was new to the country and where I came from (I went to an all girl school) bullying was pretty much unheard of! We were all friends and others stand by you if anyone tried to get you down. So when I came here, it was a bitter reality. I didn’t know how to cope and I didn’t tell my family because I thought it was extremely shameful. Not to get into details, but it gotten to the point that I didn’t even want to take the school bus and I had many lates/abscenes written to my name. Thankfully, I had made new friends in high school and I was able to ward off the unwarranted attention. But sometimes I look back to that time and I seriously think it’s a societal problem. I can only describe it as being emotionally assassinated, and I don’t think that it’s being taken seriously.
I wish I could give kids a handbook on how to survive bullying, but you really can’t survive it without others’ help. Why are kids not standing up for others that are being bullied? There is no compassion in schools and that is what is missing. I follow the Muslim teaching of “Love for your brother what you love for yourself,” and I think this is missing in our society. Generosity and kindness even in emotional aspects are missing, and we need to bring this to be the foundation of who we are as human beings.
My only advice to everyone who faces bullying is to stand your ground. It is hard and it might feel like a mountain, but please, be strong. It was never your fault, and don’t feel like you brought this on yourself. Bullies aren’t stronger than you; it is you who they fear so they choose your kindness and beautiful demeanor to destroy what they do not value. You exist outside of a small classroom; so don’t feel like it is the end of your journey. The journey has just begun.
When it comes to struggling with identity, it is only normal and you won’t shake that feeling for years. You can only hope it gets easier. Do not focus so much on your identity as much as focusing on being a kind, generous, compassionate, loving and curious individual. These things make life a beautiful place to live in no matter how strongly you believe in your identity. Experiences show you who you are. So start having as many courage filled experiences as you can, and make sure you do them for you and others around because your actions may be a beautiful impression on someone else!

7.    What’s next?

What I hope to be next for me is gaining many fun-filled and rewarding experiences through filmmaking. I am interested in people, and I love connecting with others as much as I can. So if I can bring the beauty of others to the screen, then I have lived a full life.

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Marie’s Lives

Marie is Cat‘s mum. That’s right – I’ve reached the age where I’m friends with my friends’ parents, and I love it. Whenever Cat and I are both in Gatineau, I love going to her mum’s house to catch up. These days, Marie and I mostly talk about knitting. In fact, you can go to her blog and see what she’s been working on.

1.    If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?

Why would anyone write my biography? I think the title would have to be something like Marie’s Lives.

2.    Where are you from? How has where you’re from shaped your life?

I was born in a small asbestos mining town in Quebec, called Thetford Mines. It is halfway between Quebec City and Sherbrooke, and very close to the Maine border. Thetford was small, and still is, with a population around 26,000. I started going to boarding school in Sherbrooke at age 7, in grade 3, until I finished High School. So I grew up in 2 places…and if we count the family cottages (uncles on both sides of the family, we didn’t have one) on lake Aylmer, half way between the 2 towns, I grew up in 3 places.

The defining influence of growing up in the Eastern Townships, is bi-culturalism. The Anglophone part of the Townships population were descendants of Loyalists during the American Civil war. Villages and towns still have English names:  Disraeli, Thetford, Stratford, Kinnear’s Mills are a few examples.

So growing up there was being called a Frog by the anglos, and a «assimilée» by the Francos. Ican discuss the bullying and hatred part of that reality later.

My parents were both half and half. Dad had a pure French-Canadian mother, and an anglo father of British descent. Mom’s father was of French descent, from Normandy, and her Mother was from and Irish family. That’s why I’ve always described myself as 2-quarters/2quarters.

Since the Anglophones were a minority, most of them were bilingual. That was not the case for the Francophones. The situation was pretty much the opposite of the situation in the rest of the province at the time. Now, many Anglo Montrealers are fluently bilingual.

3.    Where do you live? How has where you live shaped your life?

I live in the Outaouais. After CEGEP in Thetford, I wanted to go to a University as far as possible from home. So I came to the University of Ottawa, in September 1970, and got a degree in translation. I stayed on, got a job as a FSL teacher in the federal government. I worked as a federal public servant, in various departments, for 32 (!) years. The Outaouais is my home, now. It is where my children were born and raised.

It also is a bilingual region, my Smith ancestors, those who emigrated here from England, are buried in the Buckingham cemetery. So my roots are here as much as in the Townships.

Working for the federal government, meeting people from all over Canada, traveling across this vast country is a great opportunity. As I child, when I was too young to know what it meant, I said repeatedly: «I am a citizen of the world». The nationalist/separatist debate drove me nuts, and that is part of why I chose Ottawa!

I don’t think I would be as open-minded as I am had I stayed closer to home.

4.    What is your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement? My family, the privilege of having and raising 2 wonderful children who have become awesome adults. Everything else pales in comparison.

On a truly personal level, pulling myself out of a burnout with hard spiritual and physical work is an accomplishment. It is also a gift because it brought me to Reiki and to who I’ve become.

5.    What is your greatest regret? Or what is your greatest fear?

Greatest regret? I have no regrets. There are some things that I’d probably do differently if I’d known then what I know now, of course. Regrets are negative energy that pull you back. What many people carry as regrets, I try to learn from and move forward.

Biggest fear? Ok, fears I have a lot of. My father was afraid of everything, and was over-protective of me, his only child. He would not let me do anything on my own and what I ended up learning from that as a child, was that I was incompetent, unable to do anything on my own. I’ve grown out of a lot of that, and some fears have become «discomfort».

What I dread most is the invisibility of  old age.

6.    What would you tell a young girl who is struggling with something like her identity, bullying, not fitting in, etc.?

To a young girl/woman struggling with who she is, who she’ll become, I say: You already are a person, important and unique. Be who you are, truly, and you will become an amazing woman. Respect who others are also, and do not judge. Try to understand and learn from everyone that crosses your path. DO NOT tolerate injustice done to you or to others. Speak up for others, ask for help for yourself. (I wish I’d had some guidance like that growing up, trying to fit in, to belong in a polarized Anglo/Franco, High class/low class world).

During the formative teen years, and early 20s, for many, fitting in is a big issue. Many young girls (and boys) haven’t found who they are yet, their style, their likes and dislikes, and become chameleons to fit in a group. The Street gang phenomenon is an extreme example of this. I don’t know what I’d say to a young girl talking to me about her situation. It depends on who she is. I’d probably share some of my experience with her and show her how our teenage experiences shape us, but they do not define us.

I wish all children were brought up by loving and respectful parents who encourage them to discover who they are and guide them to become self-confident, happy and competent persons.

7.    What’s next?

Who knows what’s next?          I’d have never guessed I’d be who I am now. What’s next is today. I am so grateful for this wonderful life, to be financially stable and comfortable without having to work every day. I hope to travel more, to stay close to my family, to stay healthy. ¸

I am open to life and to what the Universe will send my way. I will continue to grow is what’s next!

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Kendra – One Woman’s Quest for Everyday Adventures

We’ve almost reached the end of our HERstory blog posts! Today’s post is written by Kendra. Kendra was my supervisor when I worked with Katimavik, and it’s really difficult to describe her, but I’m going to try. Everyone who meets her loves her instantly. She’s got an amazing amount of positive energy. She always tries to see the best in every situation. I’m sure that things make her angry, but I’ve never seen that side of her. Whenever I face a challenging situation, or I’m mad, or upset, my first instinct is to think “What would Kendra do? How would she react?” And I try to channel Kendra’s positivity into my reactions.

1.    If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?

One Woman’s Quest for Everyday Adventures

2.    Where are you from? How has where you’re from shaped your life?

I am from Hampton, New Brunswick- the home of John Peters Humphrey, one of the principal drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  I grew up with teachers who valued this human rights heritage.  These teachers introduced us, their students, to concepts of oppression, diversity, and marginalisation.  They taught us to be both passionate and compassionate and they encouraged us to engage in our communities.  Today, I facilitate youth leadership programs that encourage community participation and learning through service.

3.    Where do you live? How has where you live shaped your life?

I live in Charlottetown, PEI.  This is a province full of individuals who, like my grandfather who lived here all his life, appreciate every little thing.  They see blessings in everyday occurrences.  This is the kind of person I want to be. This is the kind of life I want to live.

4.    What is your greatest achievement?

This summer I hiked for one month in Vermont.  This was not the ideal hike for a person that didn’t do any training and who was not physically ready.  I was completely unprepared.  But I did it.  And I kept doing it.  My body hated me for a while, but it came around in the end. This was my greatest achievement to date. To make a commitment that I knew would really hurt. And it did. And it was the best thing I could have done for myself at the time.

5.    What is your greatest regret? Or what is your greatest fear?

My greatest fear is that I will not learn to lean on others. I worry that I will become too independent.  I worry that I will not ask for help. I worry that I will think that I do not need help.  I worry that this will prevent me from having real, rich, reciprocal relationships with others.

6.    What would you tell a young girl who is struggling with something like her identity, bullying, not fitting in, etc.?

Many people do not know who they are or what their passion could possibly be. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to find answers to these questions, just keep moving forward. Find something that appeals to you and do it.  Do it unashamedly.  In participating in something that interests you, you will build the person you want to be and you will attract the kind of people you want as part of your community.

7.    What’s next?

What’s next, you ask? Well, these days, I am focusing on short term planning only.  I think that we need to do that sometimes.  We need to think in terms of five days and maybe five weeks, but not five months or five years.  We need to take a break from long-term plans.

So, for me, the next five days will bring a trip to my local butcher, a snowshoeing adventure with a friend, and a hot chocolate at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday.  Doing these little everyday things and appreciating them for what they are and what they bring to my life makes me feel rich.  Very rich indeed.

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Linda – She tried her best

Linda is Katie‘s mom. Katie was one of my kids in Katimavik, and we got along really well. She lives here in Vancouver, so when I moved here, we started hanging out. And, to make a long story short, I was adopted by their family. Linda is my mom away from home, and I don’t tell her enough how much I appreciate her letting me be a part of their family.


 1. If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?

She Tried Her Best

2. Where are you from? How has where you’re from shaped your life?

I was born in Burnaby BC, moved to Markham, ON when I was 11 and back to Tsawwassen, BC when I was 14. I don’t really count my time in Ontario as it was so short but the moves were very hard for me. I think that’s why I’ve always been happier to stay put as opposed to travelling far and wide. I have also never had the urge to pick up and move my family elsewhere. (And because I was born in BC I won’t go to hell because I’m too wet to burn 🙂 )

3. Where do you live? How has where you live shaped your life?

I live in Ladner, BC. It’s a small, safe, quiet, farming and fishing, bedroom community that we refer to as a village even though it’s just 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver. The people are friendly and that has helped me to get past my shyness. I feel rooted here and have no desire to live anywhere else.

4. What is your greatest achievement?

This is going to sound sappy but my greatest achievement is my 4 wonderful, amazing, successful in life children.  I’m also pretty proud of the fact that I’ve been married to my husband for over 31 years.

5. What is your greatest regret? Or what is your greatest fear?

My greatest regret is that sometimes I procrastinate. For example I procrastinated for so long to take the teachers assistance program that now it feels too late in my life. My greatest fear is an easy one to answer. My greatest fear is that something bad would happen to any of my family.

6. What would you tell a young girl who is struggling with something like her identity, bullying, not fitting in, etc.?

I would tell her that she is beautiful and perfect. To try to be brave and not let other people make her feel bad about herself. That things will get better, they did for me. I would also tell her to make the best choices she can based on what she knows and feels and try not to regret those choices in the future.

7. What’s next?

Grandchildren 🙂 And helping my children become independent, happy adults.

Here is a picture that Linda sent me this picture for the project. “My sister took it to document me being brave and driving on the ferry and around Pender Island and Victoria. Something that other people do everyday without thinking about it, I know. It was a really big accomplishment for me so I think it kind of fits with the theme you’re going for.”

Linda on Pender summer 2012

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Christie – A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Christie is another one of my bookseller friends, and another insta-friend. She is easily the kindest person I know, and she writes some beautiful, honest things on her blog. Like this. And this. She also co-founded a non-profit organization. I tell you, it doesn’t get cooler that this.

If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?
I confess: I have always hated coming up with titles. I’m much better with subheadings. I wish Dave Eggers hadn’t already claimed “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”…

Where are you from? How has where you’re from shaped your life?
I am a from a small town in northeastern Saskatchewan, where I lived for my entire childhood. The biggest move I made pre-university was from one bedroom to another. Being from such a small town (aka: less then 1,500 people) certainly impacted my understanding of community. Fortunately and unfortunately, there were no secrets. I remember giving the toast to the community at my high school graduation, wherein I quoted the theme song from Cheers: you want to go where everybody knows your name. Having lived that reality for my first eighteen years, I really felt like I belonged–largely because I had such a long, shared history with a small group of people.

Where do you live? How has where you live shaped your life?

I live in Ottawa, Ontario, also known as the nation’s capital, or that somewhat-vague place that is always talked about on CBC. Living here for the past 2+ years has certainly made me more interested in and passionate about politics (something I never dreamed I’d care about for more than the sake of democracy). More specifically, I live in the heart of downtown–a short walk to the Parliament buildings–which has allowed me to work towards simpler living. My husband and I live in a 1 bedroom apartment, and recently donated our car to a charitable organization because we just didn’t need it.

What is your greatest achievement?

Being a recovering workaholic. After always taking more than a full course load during my undergrad, and then subsequently working multiple (read: at times, seven) jobs to pay off loans/generally survive, work was my everything. After moving from lower mainland BC all the way to Ottawa, I realized that my personal well-being and my relationships were infinitely more valuable than how many things I could accomplish on how little sleep.

What is your greatest regret? Or what is your greatest fear?

Although I try my hardest to live without regret, I definitely give myself a mental kick in the pants every once and a while for not spending more quality time with my father. I imagine almost every person who loses a parent feels that way.

What would you tell a young girl who is struggling with something like her identity, bullying, not fitting in, etc.?

With the risk of sounding cliche/like your mother, it really does get better. Part of being young is figuring out who you are, and that sometimes (often) is a painful process. But goodness. The late twenties? They are AWESOME.

What’s next?

Putting on my big girl panties and finishing my applications for grad school while I work on fundraising for a non-profit organization I co-founded.


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Cecil – Dust in the wind to cool mom on the go

HERstory #8 is written by Cecil. Cecil and I have known each other for almost ten years (gasp! time flies!). We’ve been roommates and co-workers, and luckily we have managed to stay friends through all of that! I like to take credit for introducing her to her husband, with whom she has two beautiful daughters. Cecil is a mother, a wife, an artist, and an all around amazing person. Unfortunately, her blogging life was short lived, but you can still see some of her stuff here.

1. If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?
From «Dust in the wind» to cool mom on the go !

2. Where are you from? How has where you’re from shaped your life?
I was born in France, Northern France, which is basically Belgium ! Raised in a catholic italian/polish family (mostly italian). Shaped in the harsh world that France is, compared to Canada. Although it did give me the luxury of having fine cheeses and wines at the tip of my fingers for cheap. I discovered fine dining, just to ditch it for less formal food, less meat, and simpler tastes. I grew up in a city where unemployment, immigration and alcoholism are sky rocketting, and it gave me only one goal in life, get out of it… And I did !

3. Where do you live? How has where you live shaped your life?
I now live in Gatineau, QC. Harsh winters, hot summers, mild springs and falls. All I need, seasons to bring chaos and routine in our family life. Seasons brings a feeling of nicely rounded up years, it’s not always the same low rainy grey sky… It gives you the opportunity to buy more clothes, to experiment with 20 degree differences (within a few hours!), and makes you understand that nothing is ever totally sure or predictable. People here are happier, you can leave your purse on the table without being scared of being mugged, you can be a woman without being scared of how you dress, you can be more free and less judged. It’s pretty great ! I am way more chill now that I live here !

4.What is your greatest achievement?
My kids, nothing else to say !

5. What is your greatest regret? Or what is your greatest fear?
My greatest regret might be not to have come here earlier. My greatest fear is actually right now to know I am going back to France to visit, it scares the hell out of me !

6. What would you tell a young girl who is struggling with something like her identity, bullying, not fitting in, etc.?

I know it probably seems unbearable right now, and that it will take for ever, but it will pass. Growing older is the best thing that happens to mankind. And if some assholes stay assholes, well, you will be strong enough to tell them to fuck off ! Patience is the key. And I know that right now you probaly do not believe me, and you might think this is so unfair and horrible and everything, but time heals and will make you stronger… Be patient, you are unique…

7. What’s next?
Next is take time to see my munchkins grow up, let them know how much I love them, let them know it’s ok to be sad, angry, mad every now and then, that I will always be there for them. Next is me growing more and more patient, because as I said before, that is the key to happiness. Take your own time with the ones you love, including yourself.
And on a less soul searching way, get that crazy good job I finally know I want to have. Now that I have the perfect family, I’d like to have my dream job and may be one day my dream house !


Emilie – She was a crazy one… But boy did she care

Herstory #7… Emilie! Emilie and I met last year at training for Katimavik, and we became instant friends. We haven’t seen each other since training, but I think that our friendship is going strong, and I know that when we eventually manage to meet up again, it’ll be awesome. Read on for some amazing insight… I promise she’ll get you thinking!

Emilie is posting for the HERstory blogging carnival on kickaction.ca on March 4th – be sure to check her out!

1. If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?

I don’t see why someone would do that… I mean, I’m not saying I’m dull, but I’m no hero! Sure, sometimes I’d like to be one. Sometimes I’d like to have my 15 minutes of fame. Of glory. I’d like people to remember me. But I guess what I really want is to live a life that is worth while. So anyway… Here are some ideas:

She was a crazy one… But boy did she care

The fire within

Of mistakes, love, hard work, and finding yourself

2. Where are you from? How has where you’re from shaped your life?

I was born in Sherbrooke, Québec. Raised in Saint-Lambert, a cosy town on the South shore of Montréal. In the last 10 years, I’ve lived in Sherbrooke, Québec city, Ottawa, New York, Montréal, Amqui and Chandler. How could this have NOT shaped my life?! You are the sum of your experiences. And experiences depend a lot on where you live. And who you live with, of course…

I consider myself very lucky to have been born and raised in Québec. No, I won’t say Canada… I’m sorry! I’m not from Canada, I’m from Québec. And yes, French is my first language. Why I answer these questions in English? I don’t know! I’m completely bilingual. And proud to be. But if I had to teach one language to my children, and one only, it would be French. Because it is the language of my ancestors. Of my culture. Of my nation. I won’t say country, though! Ha! Ha! You see, being born in Québec has shaped the way I look at my country, its history, its conflicts, its culture. I am proud to be part of this beautiful minority of French-speakers in North America. I am proud to spell my name Emilie, with an IE, not a Y!

Yet I wouldn’t be complete if I spoke only French. Part of me is English. Always has been. I was raised across the bridge from Montréal, where lots of people spoke/speak English. It was part of my childhood and my adolescence. I have friends with whom I speak solely English… even if French is our first language! I like to say I have 2 personalities… And that they speak different languages! No wonder they don’t always get along! Ha! Ha!

So all that to say, that yes, where I’ve lived has shaped who I am. And I believe it’s the same for everyone. I mean, I wore a lot of makeup and I could walk for miles with tiny skirts and high heels when I lived in NYC! Don’t ask me to do the same in Chandler, Gaspésie! I’d much rather take out my Sorel boots and torn jeans! The beauty with moving so often is that you get the chance to live in so many different places. And, in a way, to be someone a little different every time. Then again, sometimes it’s confusing. You feel a little lost. And no matter where you go, your issues will follow you. That, I can guarantee! So moving from one place to another should not be to flee or to run away from yourself. It should be an occasion to discover the many facets of yourself!

3. Where do you live? How has where you live shaped your life?

Well… I think I answered that in question 2…

4. What is your greatest achievement?

I’m 28! Give me a break! I’m only starting to figure out life… And you’re asking me what my greatest achievement is? I don’t like this question! Living in itself is an achievement. Putting one foot in front of the other. Not giving up. Fighting. Being out there. Trying to figure out what to do with one’s life. I guess that’s what I’ve achieved so far! I wish I could say I’ve climbed the Kilimanjaro. Or that I’ve saved a little boy from a fire. Or that I’ve raised 10,000$ for cancer. That I’ve given my kidney to my sick sister. That I’ve raised triplets. But I haven’t done any of this. I think I’ve done a lot of good/nice things. But it’s hard to pinpoint one and say “yep, that’s it, that’s my greatest achievement”.

But if really you need one, I guess it would be my relationship with my husband. We’ve been together for almost 10 years now. I mean it’s amazing to think that we’re still together after all this time. It wasn’t always easy. He is one patient man! Don’t ask me how he does it… Perhaps he needs me just as much as I need him. Perhaps we’re both crazy and so we’re perfect for each other. All I know is that he is the most precious thing I have. And there’s not much I wouldn’t do for him. So I think that this relationship that we have is my greatest achievement.

5. What is your greatest regret? Or what is your greatest fear?

I try not to have regrets. I have some. But I don’t like to be specific. I guess I’m trying to forget my regrets. Or at least to make them less painful. I guess I wasn’t always who I wanted to be. I wasn’t always true to my values, to my friends, to my family, to my partner. I made a lot of mistakes. And sometimes I’ve had to make the same mistake 3-4 times before learning from it. But I try not to regret so much. I’m a human being. I can make mistakes.

So I guess my greatest fear would be not being good enough. Not being lovable. I’m working on it… But let’s just say it’s a fear I’ve been carrying for a long time.

6. What would you tell a young girl who is struggling with something like her identity, bullying, not fitting in, etc.?

Boy, do we all want to fit it. We all want to be normal. Skinny. Beautiful. Smart. Lovable. Perfect. Truth is, we’re all flawed. Because we’re all human. And I could lie and say that, as you grow older, you don’t care as much about not fitting in. We all want to belong. To a family, a group, a place. Yet, with time, you learn to choose where you want to fit in. What you are willing to compromise to fit in. You choose your friends more wisely. And you slowly learn to accept that you can’t please everyone. And that the first person you should please is yourself. Because at the end of the day, you, and you only, will have to live with what you’ve done/said.

Also, you can’t win every fight… So go for the ones you really care about. I’m still working on this one…

7. What’s next?

Good question… Any suggestions? A trip to Europe this fall. That’s for sure. Two months of backpacking with my man. Then, who knows, perhaps babies. I’m terrified of them. But I can’t seem to imagine my life with them.

To be honest, the future is just this big blur… I have a life insurance, but I don’t have savings… I don’t believe in retirement. Birthdays are scary. I’ll be 30 in less than 2 years. And, frankly, it scares the shit out of me. Because I’m afraid of wasting time. And there was a time where I had it all figured out. I was going to have a great career, babies, a house, a dog, and a car. Now, I’m not too sure… I have a partner. I guess we have to figure out where we want to go. But, I feel the destination doesn’t matter that much. It’s the road we take that matters.

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Tania – A Caring Woman

Today’s HERstory brings us to the halfway point of this project, with Tania’s story! I’ve known Tania for about 10 years now, and although we’re not always in contact, it’s great to see what this strong lady is doing with her life. Keep checking in all this week for more stories!

1. If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?

Tania – A Caring Woman

2. Where are you from? How has where you’re from shaped your life?
3. Where do you live? How has where you live shaped your life?

Aylmer, Québec – being from and living in a small city has made me more easygoing, I think. It just seems to me like living in a big city makes you rush more and be more stressed out all the time. I get to enjoy the nice things in life like trees and birds singing…(especially being so close to the country) Although I think it has made me a bit more “cautious” and maybe a little “scared” of big cities…where I find myself a bit lost and think that they are more dangerous…

4. What is your greatest achievement?

My kids!

5. What is your greatest fear?

That my children will not want to be like me and will not look up to me…

6. What would you tell a young girl who is struggling with something like her identity, bullying, not fitting in, etc.?

Obviously this might sound cliché but… Just ignore them! You’re beautiful just the way you are, and if you want to change anything because it will make YOU feel better and because YOU want to change yourself or the way you are and think, then that’s fine. But don’t do it for others… Do it for yourself! And to help bring your self esteem up (because they have clearly brought it down…) write positive affirmations about yourself! Everyday! If you don’t believe them now, you will eventually by teaching your subconscious that they are true! And most importantly, surround yourself with nice people and positive people that see the real you and not people who try to destroy you for the sake of bringing their self-esteem up (or so they think!)

7. What’s next?

What’s next? The sky’s the limit! My ultimate goal is to be the best mom that I can be by being there for my children when they need me to be and not be so miserable working an 8 to 5 job with no advancement that makes me irritable at night when I am home with them. They are my pride and joy and will always come first. I want success and will achieve it! My career goal is still to become a successful independent sales director with Mary Kay cosmetics. It will give me more time with my children and surround me with positive energy to live my life in a positive way and bring my kids up in a positive environment. My children will be proud of the mother that they have and want to strive to become great people like her! They will be proud to introduce me as their mother!

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Nancy – Not all who wander are lost

Here is post #5 from kickaction.ca‘s blogging carnival. I’m really loving re-reading all of these beautiful words.

1. If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?

Not all who wander are lost…

2. Where are you from? How has where you’re from shaped your life?
Hearst, Ontario – Northern Ontario
Isolated French community where people had to fight not only for survival but also for services. Transpires in everything that I do and am. I’m a fighter.

3. Where do you live? How has where you live shaped your life?
Ottawa, Ontario – Nation’s capital
Chose to live here for the easy access to both French and English culture. I love it. Left for 11 months and came back. Missed it too much.

4. What is your greatest achievement?
Being able to get away from really toxic family history and making a better life for myself…and finishing my thesis.

5. What is your greatest regret? Or what is your greatest fear?
Not having children. Dying alone.

6. What would you tell a young girl who is struggling with something like her identity, bullying, not fitting in, etc.?
Cliché but never give up, and believe it or not things get a whole lot better with age!

7. What’s next?
A whole lot…new job and major changes on the personal level…and a big trip next year with my lovely friends.

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Pascale – I have my plan A, now what’s my plan B?

Post number 4 from kickaction.ca’s HERstory blogging carnival! I met Pascale a few years ago, when we were both training for a CIDA internship. My internship in Mali was a bit hit and miss, but I think that her time in Bolivia was great!

1. If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?

I have my plan A, now what’s my plan B?

2. Where are you from? How has where you’re from shaped your life?
Saint-Alfred, en Beauce, Québec
3. Where do you live? How has where you live shaped your life?
Right now, I live in Québec city, but it’s temporary. I’m here for an internship. I’ve lived half my life in the countryside, which has made me quiet, introverted and close to nature. The other half of my life, I have spend moving every 8 moths or so. During my studies, I spent all my summers away from Quénec. My trips have made me more confident  and less ‘by the book’ than I would have been otherwise. South America, especially, taught me that stress does not make you happy. Also, the friendships that I developed with people that I have met throughout my travels have taught me to accept myself for who I am, and to be comfortable with myself.
4. What is your greatest achievement?
I’m proud of being financially independent from my parents, and to have been since university. It has given me a lot more freedom.
5. What is your greatest regret? Or what is your greatest fear?
I try not to have any regrets. When I make a decision, it is normally very thought out and I make sure to look at the good parts of it, without thinking about what I’m missing out on. However, I would have love to have been more of an extrovert. In high school, I was more reserved, and watched my friends do things without me. But that’s int the past, and I don’t want to look back with regret.
I’m scared of everything! I’m scared of being loney, of being useless, of putting myself out there, of becoming dependant on someone, of being rejected, etc. There is always a little something holding me back.

6. What would you tell a young girl who is struggling with something like her identity, bullying, not fitting in, etc.?
I would tell her to be strong. I know that it’s not easy, but she has to hold on. There are beautiful things in her future. She should find someone she trusts and talk to them. This person will be there for them and might be able to make things appear less scary. Don’t put pressure on youtself to be perfect – those who don’t accept her as she is do not deserve her time. She must be patient and gentle with herself. It takes time to find who you are, and she might need some time to explore that.

She does not deserve this bullying, and it is not her fault. I want her to remember that people who are different are usually the most interesting, those who have the best stories to tell and who are not scared to go off the beaten path. At the end of the day, these people have a strength that other don’t. She has more to offer than she’ll ever know. Her situation is not permanent, and she is not alone in this struggle.

7. What’s next?

I want to finish my masters, take a bike trip in the meantime, and find a job as I’m finishing school. Ideally, I would love to find a one or two year contract in another country. A husband and children are definitely something I want, but I’m not there yet. After all – what are the odds of meeting someone who will want to travel with me? Once my need to move around is under control, everything should fall it to place, or so my mum says! Hah!

I am enjoying the fact that I don’t have any real responsibilities or dependents, and I am using this time to explore all the opportunities that I have. Everything will happen in due time.