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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.



How lucky I’ve been

At first, it was selfish. I was upset and worried about losing my job. I let that feeling overshadow most other things, and stopped giving myself fully to the experience. I started spending a good part of my time job hunting, and thinking about what’s next.

But now, I’ve gotten over myself. I’m still job hunting, but I know that whatever needs to happen will happen. So, now it’s not just losing my that job that’s upset me, it’s that in choosing to cut the Katimavik program from the federal budget, our government has chosen to cut a truly remarkable program. Katimavik is a program that has proven itself over the last 35 years to be not only a tremendous learning experience for its participants, but also an incredible amount of help to communities across Canada.

I haven’t had – and won’t have – the chance to work for Katimavik for very long, but over the short amount of time I’ve spent living the program, I’ve been a witness to so many amazing things. I have seen my ‘children’ happily give so much of their time and energy to help local non-profit organizations – organizations that are suffering from the same budget cuts, as well as from losing their Katimavik kids. I’ve seen youth take control of their own lives and figure out what the next step is. I’ve watched them work so hard to figure out who they are : living with 11 other people is not an easy task, and they (and I!) end up spending a lot of time rethinking and re-evaluating our values and what is important to us, as well as really just figuring out how to interact with all sorts of people. I have watched proudly as young adults from across the country have made efforts to learn the other official language. I have seen them take huge steps and make great efforts to understand and help others. I have watched and coached as they became proud and accomplished house managers, learning how to run a house filled with 11 other people – all with different habits and priorities. I’ve had the privilege of watching them feel so proud for everything they are accomplishing, and helping them learn and recognize what their own strengths and talents are.

I have had the privilege, even for just a short while, to work in an environment where youth are really, truly respected and encouraged to become all that they can be. I am honored to have had a job where my job is to give back, to make our canadian communities better places, to help build a better world filled with amazing citizens.

I believe that it is our responsibility to do all we can to save this wonderful, crazy program, to give another 30,000 kids the chance of participating in this mad, life-changing adventure.

Write, call and visit your MPs. Make it known that our government is making a mistake – over the last 6 months, I can promise you that I have learned that Katimavik is the very fibre of what we want our Canada to be.

And now, with 6 weeks left of this amazing experience, I’m going to go and give it my all.