I’ve always been a creature of habit. Anyone who knows me could tell you this: I have my few favourite haunts, but other than going to campus, I rarely stray far from Queen Street. I realised this when some family friends visited from England, and I realised that I hadn’t been to Kensington since showing it to the last British visitor I’d had. In an effort to take more advantage of the wonderful city I call home, I’m going to start blogging once a month about doing something that is out of the ordinary for me. Sometimes, it may be as simple as trying a new study spot. Other times — who knows? The Six is my oyster.
Lately I find myself ruminating on the idea of nourishment: how important it is. The word stands quietly beside me, reminding me of its presence, that it is needed. Nourishment of the body. Nourishment of the heart. Nourishment of creativity. Is it any wonder that I am at my most uninspired when I’ve kept to the same routine for too long? If we continue to eat the same intellectual junk food, it’s no wonder that the Muse gets bored and sits scrolling through her Instagram feed. Think about when you travel to a new land, when you use your second language: your brain works harder, and you begin to see things differently. By breaking out of our routines, we awaken the parts of ourselves that have been on autopilot.
People often describe writing as a lonely practice, one that lends itself well to introverts and loners. That may be true, but finding communities of practice has made an exponential difference to the way I approach my creative wellbeing. It is a part of my life that began with the eAmbassadors and has gone on to include other communities within Toronto and the world beyond.
My dear friend Janu and I met at a retail job. The first thing she ever did was appear at my side, compliment me on my outfit, and envelop me in her calm, powerful presence. As a fellow York U student studying Communications, and as a creative, we soon discovered that we had a lot in common — and I knew that watching her work with Lotusxgang, Aathma, and HER Collective would teach me a lot about the career I’m trying to build on a foundation of passion.
On September 9th, HER Collective hosted a panel called #conversationswithHER: a space in which women and women of colour who walk the line between creative and corporate spaces could come together to share their experiences, expertise, and stories. I don’t tend to attend a lot of events like these, but I RSVP’ed the moment I saw an announcement on Twitter. Having followed the incredible women behind HER Collective for quite some time, I knew that I needed to be in that room.
It did not disappoint.
When Asha and I arrived, we weren’t entirely prepared to be so overwhelmed by the amount of beauty in the room. The light. The warmth and generosity of each introduction. Every person we met was doing interesting work, following their passions — but to hear the panelists speak with such candour about the struggles and failures that predicated their success offered me a new perspective on what it means to succeed. To listen to stories about navigating and overcoming prejudice in the workplace, the art of the professional clapback (e.g. “as per my last email…”), unlearning self-doubt, and the necessity of mentorship gave me food for thought on the ways in which I need to prepare for my career as it continues to grow.
The second panel was dubbed “And Everything Else”, and discussed themes of identity and race, self-love as WOC, defining and redefining success, and how to manage emotional labour in relations. My friends, when I tell you that the room wept and held each other like sisters, it is not an exaggeration. There was an intense feeling of shared experience at that moment that I’ll never forget.
To hear the likes of Talya Lee Macedo and Vivek Shraya speak from a place of raw, authentic honesty about how they got to where they are placed me outside of my own perspectives in both challenging and uplifting ways.
To see so many people I’d admired on the internet be so determined to bring other women up with them reminded of the importance of actually doing things instead of waiting until I have more hypothetical time, or until inspiration hits like a very unlikely lightning bolt, or until I’ve “made it” — whatever that means.
The impact of this event has remained resonant and grounding in the back of my mind. The week following, I completed the first draft of my manuscript, and I sent it out into the world for the very first time. I started planning a training initiative for Team Awesome‘s monthly inservices. I had been well fed. With my creative belly full, I feel empowered to work to also feed others.