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Paulette: A work in progress

Here is the first post in the series of HERstory, from the Blogging Carnival on kickaction.ca

You can read more of Paulette’s story on her blog. Paulette was my 9th grade English teacher, and I’m super happy that we’ve since developed a great friendship.


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


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

I was born in Newfoundland, Canada. At the age of 19, I left all I knew and moved to Québec to learn French and start MY life. I didn’t know it at the time, but I left home to get away from the unhappiness I was feeling in my family unit. I needed a BIG change, and I unconsciously found a way to get it. So I became independent at an early age.

Being from Newfoundland has shaped my life in many ways. It’s an island, so ‘different’ from the rest of Canada in that respect. We are a proud people, and very attached to our ‘unique’ traditions. I have carried those aspects with me to this day. I have always felt a little ‘different’ (maybe because I have lived in a French-speaking province with its own ‘special’ language and culture for over half of my life) but I am extremely proud of where I’m from. This has helped me stay strong during tough times.

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

I now live in Montréal, Québec; a fabulous, multi-cultural city where I can live in both English and French. Living in a place so different from where I grew up has made me more open, has introduced me to many opportunities and things I would never have known otherwise. As an Anglophone not born in Québec, I have challenges that most people around me don’t. I see things differently than most, as my background is not the same. Sometimes that makes things easier, sometimes more difficult. Living here makes me see the links between how Newfoundlanders are (proud, unique) as the ‘québecois’ are similar in that way. This, in turn, makes me understand others on a different level than most. But the bottom line is this: no matter where we were born, where we grew up or what language(s) we speak, we are all human beings and are therefore the same. Without disrespecting our specific cultures or backgrounds, I firmly believe ‘people are people’ and more alike than we sometimes (or would like to) think.

4. What is your greatest achievement?

Now that’s a good question….huummm. My greatest achievement to date is remaining positive and curious about life despite the hardships I have encountered. Sure, everyone has his or her hardships, but mine have affected me on a deep emotional level. I am not bitter or blasé, I am happy to be alive. I am grateful for every day I get. This is an achievement because I choose to ‘live’, not just exist as a living thing. I try to make each day count.

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

My greatest regret is forgetting to put myself first. I am a natural ‘people pleaser’, who wants to do the right thing and when others are involved, I give more than my all to make things work. In doing this, I lost myself and this wasn’t good for anybody. I had to hit a hard wall to get my wakeup call. I lost people I loved, yet I ended up hurting myself the most.

My biggest fear is not being loved. Maybe a cliché, but this feeling continually hovers over me. Sure my friends ‘love’ me, but due to my past relationship failures and my age, I do fear never finding my ‘soulmate/life partner’. It seems unfathomable to me to spend most of one’s life alone, not sharing it with someone special. I do remain hopeful but am fearful it will never happen.

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

I would tell a girl struggling with her identity or feeling like she doesn’t fit in a simple phrase: Believe in yourself. That is the starting point. Each person is ‘different’ and should remember that each one of us is special and valuable. This has been a life-long struggle for me so I get it. Believing in yourself, believing you are worth it is the best advice I can give. It’s not always easy, but if you can get up in the morning, say these words and believe them, all will be okay. Don’t let others put you down or make you feel worthless, because they are wrong. We all have a special uniqueness about us that needs to be respected.

7. What’s next?

Staying on my path to happiness, remaining grateful for all I have, and remembering to focus on the positives. Live my best life and don’t sweat the small stuff. Make each day count and try to be the best person I can be every day. And if some days I fail, to accept it, move on and keep trying. A work in progress…

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I wanted to tell a story

This week, I was invited to be a guest blogger for a blogging carnival run by a canadian organization called kickaction.ca. Kickaction is an online community of young women acting for social change across Canada.

There were three themes to choose from, and I decided to go with HERstory. Check out their website to read everyone else’s contributions over the next three weeks. Below is my original text, and in the coming days, I will be posting more of these directly on here.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I wanted to tell a story, HER story to be exact. I spent some time thinking about who would make a good storyteller, which woman would want to share her life with us. It wasn’t long before I realized we all have a story, so I decided to make this a Canadian HERstory. During my cross-country meanderings, I asked women from British Columbia to Newfoundland to answer a series of questions.

The whole purpose of this post is to show that we all have deep and varied histories, but we all have similar struggles and dreams. The original plan was to come up with a blog post that synthesized all of their stories into one, a Canadian HERstory of sorts. It turns out that ultimately, these stories are too rich, these experiences too varied, and these ladies too insightful, to be reduced to one tale. I’ve decided to merge the answers into one voice for the purpose of this blog post, and it broke my heart to have to shorten these answers – these women are genius. Make sure to check out my own blog in the coming days, as I will be posting each woman’s individual HERstory at WHERESALEX.WORDPRESS.COM

1. Where are you from, and how has it shaped your life?

Newfoundland. Ontario. Somalia. Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Northern France. Saskatchewan. Québec. New Brunswick. Prince Edward Island. British Columbia. Not really “from” anywhere.

How can where you’re from not shape your life?! You are the sum of your experiences. And experiences depend a lot on where you live.

At the age of 19, I left all I knew and moved to Québec to learn French and start MY life. I became independent at an early age. I have always felt a little ‘different’. This has helped me stay strong during tough times.

The places my parents and I come from shaped my life in many ways. To be honest, I struggle with the Canadian identity.

I grew up in an 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.

I was born in Northern France, in a city where unemployment, immigration and alcoholism are sky rocketing, and it gave me only one goal in life, get out of it… And I did!

I am from a province full of individuals who 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.

2.     What is your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement to date is remaining positive and curious about life despite the hardships I have encountered.

Graduating university. I really didn’t think I was gonna make it through.

Great is living your life to the best of your abilities and, in the process, not ever willfully doing something to hurt another person. Humans aren’t perfect and spending a life trying to achieve perfection is futile. Just do the best you can and be honest with others and yourself.

My children! (Interesting – every responder who has kids has named their kids as their greatest achievement)

Being able to get away from really toxic family history and making a better life for myself.

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!

The fact that I’ve been married to my husband for over 31 years.

This summer I hiked for one month in Vermont. I was completely unprepared.  But I did it.  And I kept doing it.

3.     What is your greatest regret?

My greatest regret is forgetting to put myself first.

That I started smoking cigarettes when I was 16 and have struggled with quitting, so far unsuccessful after many attempts, for most of my life.

I no longer believe in mistakes. Everyone takes a different route to get to their ultimate destination.

I’m learning now that one of the hardest things anyone can ever face is making the decision to try harder or walk away.

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.

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.

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

Believe in yourself. That is the starting point. This is the best advice I can give. It’s not always easy, but if you can get up in the morning, say these words and believe them, all will be okay. Don’t let others put you down or make you feel worthless because they are wrong.

Be what you want to be, and go where you want to go. If doing so means certain people will stop caring about you, good! You’ll find real friends along the way, trust me.

Be strong. I know that it’s not easy, but so many beautiful things are in your future. Find someone you trust, and talk to them. It’ll take time for you to find who you are, be patient and gentle with yourself. You have more to offer than you will ever know.

My mother said it to me, and I will say it to you now that I am 60: do not waste your precious, vital, young energy worrying about how you look! Adjusting your unique look, personality, interests to fit in with how others think you should be, just makes you an anonymous sheep in the flock. Stay true to yourself. The world needs those individuals who know who they are and appreciate their unique individuality.

I wish I could give kids a handbook on how to survive bullying, but you really can’t survive it without others’ help. 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. You exist outside of a small classroom; so don’t feel like it is the end of your journey. The journey has just begun.

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. 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.

You’re beautiful just the way you are. Surround yourself with nice people and positive people that see the real you.

Find an activity where it’s hard to lie to yourself, where you feel so much like yourself, you can’t pretend to be anyone else. If you need to know who you are, if you need to figure out where you are going, if you need to make a decision or come to terms with something, put yourself in your own “lie-less” situation and there is no other option than to let the truth come to the surface.

I know it probably seems unbearable right now, and that it will take forever, but it will pass. Growing older is the best thing that happens to mankind.

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.

You are beautiful and perfect. Try to be brave and don’t let other people make you feel bad about yourself. Things will get better, they did for me. Make the best choices you can, based on what you know and feel and try not to regret those choices in the future.

With the risk of sounding cliche/like your mother, it really does get better.

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. DO NOT tolerate injustice done to you or to others. Speak up for others.