Catching Up!

Dear Ceanray,

What do you want to do next year?

Being a senior student in high school, I’m asked this question on a regular basis. It seems that everyone I meet, from my dentist to my friend’s parents, is curious about my future. I don’t mind answering the question, because I know what I want to do next year. I know what university I want to attend, what program I want to take, and what I want to do after I graduate. I also know, though, that many teenagers have no clue what they want to do after high school – so for them, this question can be tricky.

American poet Mary Oliver poses the question in a different way, one I actually prefer: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” If someone asked me this, the first words out of my mouth wouldn’t be the school I’m going to attend, or the subjects I’m going to study. I’d eventually explain my career aspirations, but I would start by talking about my hopes and dreams. I’d say that I want to meet new people and see new places; that I want to write and publish books, not necessarily as a career but for fun; and that I want to address inequalities in the world and make a positive difference in the lives of others.

I’m extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to further my education. However, education – at least in a formal sense – is only one aspect of my wild and precious life. It’s the aspect that many people choose to focus on, and ask me about: and it’s the one that I see many of my peers at school stressing out about. The imminent unknown of the future is scary, certainly, and being constantly questioned about it doesn’t help. But you can feel slightly less stressed by deferring to the second aforementioned question. What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Life truly is wild and precious – and we only get one chance at it. Use your one life to get educated, and to find something you love and make it your career if you’re able to, but don’t forget to make a life outside of school. Think about the things you want to accomplish over the course of your life, education-related and otherwise, and dedicate yourself to making those things happen.

What do I want to do next year?

I want to go to university to pursue a career in journalism: that’s the answer people expect me to give. But my more detailed answer? I want to go to university and pursue a career in journalism so that I can make the most of my one wild and precious life, while achieving the goals I stated earlier in my letter. When you think of the question in a broader sense, it seems a bit less daunting and a whole lot more exciting.

Here’s to our futures!

Sherina

 

Dear Sherina,

I can’t wait to see how your wild and exciting future turns out, which brings me to what I’d like to discuss with you: The fact is that in today’s day and age, everyone has access to instant information. Is this a blessing or a curse? We’ll see. In the meantime, it means is that information that might not have otherwise been widely known, is. This also means that misinformation can spread like wildfire – and often, it does.

A few days ago, an image which depicts dozens of dead bodies began to circulate among several of my social media ‘friends’.. The caption for the photo was something along the lines of “86 killed in Nigeria and Western media isn’t reporting it. Share to show that you care.” As it turns out, the photo was not current nor was it taken in Nigeria. It was taken in the aftermath of a gas tanker explosion in the Congo in 2010. It was, evidently, a tragedy and may those shown in the photograph rest in peace.

However, the danger here is that anyone can take an image and manipulate it to fit their desired narrative. When this is shared a million times, you have a legion of people angry that 86 Nigerians were killed and no one took notice. These people, who would be justified in their anger if this were in fact true, trusted the individual who posted the image. Most did not bother to authenticate the image for themselves – and herein lies the modern dilemma of instant news.

Now, more than ever, we need reliable sources of information. In a world that is evolving at every turn, we must know where we stand in the midst of it all. The news media cannot have their own ideological agenda that they feel obligated to advance at every possible opportunity. Although I am Canadian, I’ve been following the American presidential nominee race on both sides. I am routinely put off my media outlets with evident political bias, whether it be rooted in the political left or the political right.

Journalists have an obligation to be unbiased and critical for the sole purpose of informing the public, thereby enabling the public to make informed decisions for themselves.

As for your question – I would like to work in government because I strongly believe in its power to be a positive force in people’s lives. I sincerely hope that I will one day earn the opportunity to do this.

Ceanray

 

 

Never Suppress a Generous Thought

Dear Ceanray,

The other day at school I paid for my lunch with two five dollar bills. The total of my food was $9.10, so this wasn’t unusual. What was unusual was what happened after the women at the cash register asked me if I had a dime. I was sure I did – I always have an abundance of change in my wallet – so I told her I would check and see.

My hands were full with my food, so it was difficult for me to maneuver what I was holding in order to open my wallet. When I finally did reach it, there was no need – the girl in line behind me had given the cashier a dime. I was completely taken aback by her act of kindness. I found a dime in my wallet, and tried to repay her with it, but she insisted that I keep it.

Even now as I type this, I can’t get over how kind that simple act was. It didn’t take much effort on her part, but her humility in refusing my dime (worth only ten cents, but still) struck me as incredibly generous. In an age where bad news seems to be everywhere, it is amazing to experience positivity.

One of my favourite quotes is, “Never suppress a generous thought.” I love this quote because of the simple reminder it gives, and also because it highlights the unfortunate fact that sometimes we do suppress our generous thoughts.

If the girl in line behind me in my school cafeteria had suppressed the generous thought she had, the consequences wouldn’t have been dire. I would have found my dime, paid with it, and been on my merry way. However, the fact that the stakes weren’t high and she still acted on her generous thought says a lot about her character.

Our world can be very cruel, but every so often we are touched by kindness and our faith is restored. Because of that one girl’s simple action, I am inspired to act on my own generous thoughts and be that person for someone else. If we don’t suppress our kind thoughts, we can create a ripple of positivity.
Sherina

 

Dear Sherina,

I love that quote,  “Never suppress a generous thought”. This is important for us to remember, especially given the events of this past week. When I heard about the terrorist attacks in Paris, my first reaction was anger. The people who lost their lives were innocent, all they wanted to do was to enjoy a concert or get a bite to eat. They were not soldiers, nor high-ranking government officials. What did they do to deserve this?

After hearing about Paris, I then saw the news about a suicide bomber in Lebanon and yesterday, the hostage situation in Mali. With everything that’s going on in the world, it’s important not to lose hope, and to acknowledge the brighter side of humanity.

In everyday life, simple acts of kindness are underrated and, more often than not, cost nothing. Don’t underestimate the power of asking someone how their day was, or how work went. If someone looks sad or unhappy, asking if they’re feeling okay can make a difference – even if they don’t want to share what’s causing their sadness –  it’s reassuring to know someone cares.

I’m a firm believer in leaving the world a better place than it was when you got here, whether that means volunteering at your local animal shelter, food bank or senior’s home. It could also mean getting involved in the issues you’re passionate about. Even the smallest impact on another person’s life can make a profound impact.

Ceanray

Double Liebster Award!

The fabletters is excited to announce that we have been nominated for not just one, but TWO Liebster Awards! Thank you so much, Karen and Carol! We are making this an open nomination, so if you are reading this then congratulations; you’ve just been nominated for the Liebster Award!

The rules are simple: thank the person who nominated you, answer their questions, make some questions of your own, and nominate more people to answer your questions. Our questions are at the bottom, so if you’d like to accept our open nomination head on there to find them!

Without further ado, here are Sherina (S) and Ceanray (C)’s answers:

Questions from Carol:

What is your favorite word, and why?

S: My favourite word is meraki, which means “to do something with your soul, creativity, or love; when you leave a piece of yourself in your word”. To me this word is the essence of why I love expressing myself through writing!

C: My favourite word is papillon, which means “butterfly” in French. French is my second language and I remember finding the word papillon absolutely intriguing when it was the word of the day in kindergarten.

Favorite music, and why?

S: Taylor Swift! Throughout the years she has made music for all emotions; happy, sad, hopeful, hopeless. Whatever my mood, I can always match it to a T-Swift song.

C: It depends on what I feel like listening to. I would have to say that Adele and Ed Sheeran wind up on my playlists more often than not. I love any song with a meaningful story behind it.

What is the one thing you could not live without?

S: My family and friends.

C: My family and friends as Sherina said, but I also couldn’t live without books.

Why did you name your blog like that?

S: We decided to name this blog the fabletters because the premise is that we write letters… and we like to think they’re fab! 😉

C: I’d like to add that this was not our first idea for a blog name! We also considered the ‘honest letters’ – however the name was taken and we decided it was a bit presumptuous.

What do you think is your secret superpower?

S: Expressing myself with words.

C: A menacing look that earned me the nickname “Condescendray” in elementary school.

Morning person: yes or no?

S: nope!

C: It depends. I love mornings on days I don’t have to wake up early for school!

Favorite memory of childhood

S: All of it? I had an amazing childhood. Memories that stick out right now are family boat trips and staying at the cottage.

C: That’s a tough question. I’d have to say spending my summers at the lake and getting gold honours at my first dance competition.

What is one thing you really hate to do?

S: I honestly can’t think of anything! I guess I hate brushing knots out of my hair?

C: Vacuuming. If someday I become gloriously rich I shall hire a personal vaccumer. I enjoy cleaning, so their sole job would be to operate that ghastly beast.

Tea or coffee?

S: Neither! I don’t like hot drinks, except occasionally hot chocolate.

C: Tea all the way!

Best advice you have ever receive?

S: “Enjoy what you can, endure what you must” (Thanks, Grandma!)

C: “Everything happens for a reason, if even you don’t understand why at the time.”

Questions from Karen:

What inspires you to be the best you that you can be?

S: Knowing that it is the only way to achieve my dreams.

C: Knowing that I don’t want to regret not pushing myself when I’m older and look back on this period in my life.

Choose one life changing moment. What would it be and why?

S: Switching high schools two years ago was life changing for me, because I left my comfort zone and ended up getting involved in a lot of things that brought me happiness.

C: Quitting dance. It was hard, but at the end of the day I realized that it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Do you prefer paperback, hardcover, tablets, or e-readers? Tell me why! 😀

S: I’m not super picky so long as it’s a good book, but if I had the choice I think I’d pick paperback. Sometimes hardcover books are difficult to hold; I always end up playing Candy Crush when I read on my tablet; and I find reading on e-readers isn’t the same experience as reading an actual book.

C: I would have to go with hardcover, only because I’m not very good at taking care of my books and hardcovers are a little more durable than paperback. For the comfort factor, I’d have to go with paperback because they’re easier to hold in one hand.

If you could go back in time, what is one moment you would tell the “younger” you to avoid?

S: There’s nothing I would want to avoid in my life; without my mistakes I wouldn’t be who I am today! One thing, though, that I may tell my younger self to avoid is being scared to get off the chairlift while skiing… because once I didn’t get off it and went right around.

C: I would tell my younger self to stop caring so much about what other people think. It saddens me to think of what I missed out on because I didn’t want to make myself look bad.

What is your all time favorite song?

S: We Are Unbreakable by Hedley

C: Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go by Wham!

You only get one meal to eat on a Friday. Would you eat healthy or go all in?

S: If it was just for one Friday, I’d go all in; if it was for every Friday I’d make it healthy.

C: I’d have to say healthy, I’m not known for my self control when it comes to junk food.

Who do you look up to and how did they make an impact?

S: I look up to my younger sister because she inspires me to be myself!

C: I look up to my parents because they’ve worked so hard to provide me with everything I need and support my ambitions.

What has blogging done for you?

S: It has given me a platform to share my writing, and beyond that it has introduced me to new people, perspectives, and opportunities. Blogging has also made me more aware and critical of what is happening in the world around me because everything is potential blog material!

C: Blogging has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged me to see things from different angles. Writing with such a talented writer is such a pleasure because we get to bounce ideas off of each other and explore different thought processes.

Do you have any favorite activities besides blogging? Please share! 🙂

S: Writing in general, reading, dancing, playing the piano, baking, and scrapbooking!

C: Reading, writing, running, cooking and playing rugby!

Describe your best childhood moment. Do you miss it?

S: The childhood moments I described in a different answer were family boat trips and trips to the cottage. I don’t miss them only because I know I still make amazing memories now and I made the most of those moments in my childhood!

C: It’s tricky to pick just one moment. My childhood shaped who I am today but no, I don’t miss it.

Our questions:

  1. What languages do you speak?
  2. Name the worst movie you’ve ever seen.
  3. Do you prefer a small or large group of friends?
  4. If you could fix just one of the world’s problems, which one would it be and why?
  5. Why did you start your blog?
  6. What post are you most proud of?
  7. What is your favourite kind of weather?
  8. If you could say something that was heard by the whole world, what would you say?
  9. In your opinion, can money buy happiness?

On Stress

blogpic

Dear Ceanray,

I’m sure you have heard conversations at school where people compare the amount of sleep they get each night. I always find these conversations frighteningly enlightening. I am frightened, of course, by the sheer lack of sleep some of my peers get. “I get two hours on a good night,” I once heard someone say. This is scary.

I am enlightened by the reasons why my peers get such little sleep. It is sometimes because of Netflix or cell phones; but often, it is because of their gigantic workload. Many students have part-time jobs, and participate in sports or other out-of school activities (sometimes at a competitive level). And that’s not to mention homework, and school co-curriculars.

No wonder teens are getting such little sleep; our waking hours are filled to the brim. The fact that all of the activities we are involved in cause us to be stressed doesn’t help, either. Stress manifests itself in physical symptoms – exhaustion, headaches, illnesses – and also mental and emotional symptoms.

Stress only grows as our to-do lists grow; and yet, we can’t abandon the to-do list because that would cause us to be more stressed. Sometimes, though, it is necessary for us to take a break and relax. Relaxing can come in many different forms; reading, spending time with family or friends, or taking a well-deserved nap. It can also be spending time pursuing a passion that doesn’t make it onto your to-do list like writing or painting.

Another way to deal with stress is by prioritizing. Although it’s tempting to try to finish your entire to-do list in one night, it’s probably not very likely to happen; nor is it the best use of your time. Aim to do the most important things first (eg. the things due tomorrow) and then work on one or two longer projects (eg. a project due next week). Use the time you saved not tackling everything on your to-do list to relax. This will clear your mind, and make you feel less stressed!

One way that I like to “de-stress” myself is by rediscovering my motivation and passion for what I am doing. When I become stressed, I forget why I’m doing the things I am doing; when I remember the reason and the fog clears, I am reminded of what is important and what I should devote most of my time to.

How do you deal with stress?

Sherina

Dear Sherina,

Well said! The thing is, high school students in particular are more stressed out now than they have ever been and anxiety disorders in teens are worryingly common.

Only a few years ago, my biggest worry was if I’d have enough time to squeeze in an episode of Hannah Montana before dance class. Now, I’m having to make decisions about the courses I take next year and what will affect my ability to apply for different universities in various faculties. This is one of my primary sources of stress. Which brings me to –

The Future.

What an exciting and terrifying idea! It’s fun to imagine myself 10, 20 years from now and wonder what my life will be like. The thing is, I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. I am constantly reminded by adults to just “enjoy being young” when I voice my concerns for my future – this is proving to be quite difficult. The voice in the back of my mind telling me to succeed now or pay the price later doesn’t help the situation.

I can also sympathize with a number of the other causes of stress you mentioned. Some nights I don’t get home from various extracurriculars and sports until after 10:30 pm, which leaves me studying and doing homework long past my bedtime. Waking up the next day feeling like a zombie certainly doesn’t help matters.

To manage stress, I find exercise as my primary source of relief. Going for a run or heading to the gym is a quick and healthy way to clear my head, along with traditional methods (bubble baths!)

All in all, summer is within reach and that’s what will keep me going through these last few hectic months!

Ceanray

On the Importance of Reading

Dear Sherina,

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about something that I find very worrisome, that is the sheer reality that so many children aren’t reading. You see the thing is, long before I was a writer, I was a reader. Bedtimes stories were one of my favourite parts of the day.  My childhood was largely spent with my nose buried in a book – not much has changed since then. In fact, I remember being scolded by teachers frequently in elementary school for reading a book under my desk and not paying attention to what they were teaching!

Since I was born, the evolution of technology has been mind-blowing. In 15 years, I’ve gone from having huge white computer monitors with identically large processors to having iPads in the classroom. I feel fortunate that most of my childhood happened before technology took over.

I remember going to restaurants when I was younger and having colouring sheets and crayons thrust before me upon my arrival. As I learned to read, books became my other source of entertainment, in public and at home. Now, the children I see in restaurants are on iPads and iPods in order to assure compliant behaviour. Let me be clear – I am not making judgements on the parenting styles of others. It can’t imagine how difficult it must be to keep your child from making a scene in public.

The thing is, portable technology isn’t just used in special situations anymore. I can’t stress enough how crucial it is to encourage kids to go outside, discover nature, read and explore new universes.

There is research to support this as well – after all, having a parent or other caring person read aloud with their children helps children learn listening skills, vocabulary and language skills, as well as develop imagination and creativity.

Books and other creative mediums are so important for not only children, but adults as well! Take a break from your phone, and pick up a book instead.

Happy reading!

Ceanray

Dear Ceanray,

Like you, I was a reader long before I was a writer. I enjoyed reading from an early age, but there is one instance that sticks out in my mind as when my love for reading truly began. On my tenth birthday – if my math is correct – I received a set of hardcover Nancy Drew books from my Grandma. I had never read Nancy Drew before, but I was intrigued by the mysterious illustrations on the front covers.

I remember leaving the dinner table and curling up on the end of a couch, diving into the fourth book of the series (because who starts on the first book of the series?! Oh, right… most people). My obsession with the Nancy Drew series grew to the point where once I had nearly one hundred Nancy Drew books in my room.

As I grew older, I stopped reading as frequently as I used to. I still love reading; I just have trouble making time for it. Someone who definitely does not have trouble making time for reading, as I’m sure you know, is my sister. She is a ravenous reader, and always makes time for it.

I agree with you that it is troubling that young children are choosing technology over literature. I think this reflects society’s attitude towards reading: that, in general, it is not as important as technology. We both know this isn’t true.

Sure, you can’t text someone using a book; but you can communicate with fictional characters living incredibly unique (or incredibly ordinary) lives. Books don’t give us a glimpse of what our friends are doing on the weekend, or their latest Instagram selfie, but they do give us a glimpse inside ourselves as we relate to characters and find parallels between our lives and their stories.

I feel guilty as I stare at my computer screen, writing this, and my stack of books waiting to be read stare back at me. Thanks for the reminder to pick them up – I am going to make an effort to do that tonight.

Here’s to books!

Sherina

 

On Keeping a Positive Perspective

Dear Ceanray,

“We can’t see the world through someone else’s eyes,” explains Laura Oliver in her writing advice book The Story Within as she is describing an essay by Scott Russell Sanders in which he tries to show his son constellations in the sky and realizes he can only point to the stars, but his son can’t see the constellation from his fathers eyes.

"You can't make someone see the world through your eyes."

“You can’t make someone see the world through your eyes.”

I have experienced this so many times, as I’m sure you have too – trying to help a friend see the bright side, only to realize that as hard as you try your words can’t make someone else see the world from your eyes.

You and I are pretty optimistic people – we see on the bright side most of the time, and generally speaking we are fairly happy. So it’s incredibly frustrating to encounter people who pessimistic and upset and not be able to help them, because they can’t see things through your eyes. That doesn’t stop us from trying, though.

I like to think that this blog is a way of us exuding positivity into the world. Even though we often blog about topics that cause unhappiness – gender inequality, racism – we try to keep an optimistic perspective, one of hope that things will get better and that the world will be changed for the better.

We can’t make people see the world through our eyes – maybe we can make them see it through our words, instead. A few positive words can be enough to spark an entire movement of change; let’s keep sparking the movement!

Sherina


Dear Sherina,

I agree, although we often write about topics that can be disheartening; we are both optimistic. In order to spread positivity we must first find it within ourselves to be positive, unhappiness is crippling and destructive in all aspects of life.

I used to be a very unhappy person, and it took me awhile to realize that there is much more to be happy about than to be sad about. Take pleasure in finding the little things that brighten your day – before long, you’ll find yourself lighting up someone else’s day as well.

Although it can be disenchanting to be confronted with adversity that may affect what you want to achieve, consider this; can you imagine what our world would be like if the pioneers of the women’s suffrage movement had given up every time they were told that women would never be able to vote? Can you imagine what would’ve happened if Martin Luther King Jr. had decided that people of colour would never be equal to whites in America, so what’s the point in trying?

I thought I’d share with you one of my absolute favourite quotes by Anna Quindlen; After all those years as a woman hearing ‘not thin enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not this enough, not that enough,’ almost overnight I woke up one morning and thought, ‘I’m enough’.

iamenough

You are enough, and we are all enough. Let’s continue to spread positivity!

Ceanray

Fabletters on Feminism: An Introduction

Dear Ceanray,

I feel like in these past few months, I have become increasingly aware of the inequalities that exist in our society. My newfound awareness of these issues began in English class, where we often have discussions and debates about inequalities, particularly gender inequality.

I have always known that such issues existed, but I never thought much of them. “Feminist” was a word with as little meaning to me as “tax receipt”. The notation that I myself was affected by what was happening was also virtually meaningless to me. But this all changed.

Little by little, my definition of feminism began to colour itself in. It was not at all accurate, though. I used to think that being a feminist was a bad thing – bad in what sense, I do not know.

Discussing issues of gender inequality in my English class made me realize that it was all wrong in my head. Feminism was not a bad thing. It was not hating all men, or denying that you were a women, or any of the other crazy images of it that I had in my head. It is standing up for women’s rights; rights which should be equal to those of men, but are not.

My initial views on feminism were quickly changed, by figures such as Emma Watson and Taylor Swift. My opinion was so easily swayed because I realized that gender inequality did affect me (but not as much as it affected other girls and women). Despite the surge in positive feminist influences, many people still retain a stubborn view on the subject, one which coincides with my original views: that feminism is a bad thing.

I can’t helped but wonder what shaped my initial views on feminism. If we could pinpoint what was spewing out these misguided reasonings for feminism, perhaps we could work to change it, and therefore give the correct impression of the word right from the get-go.

Most likely, it was thanks to media and advertising that I thought feminism was a bad thing. But I think it goes further than that: because there’s no advertisements that directly say the words “feminism is a bad thing”. I think it is more the way media portrays women; and the fact that because the feminist movement wants to change this, it is a bad thing.

Anyone who disagrees with the media is automatically labelled “bad”, and also “different”. The media shows us look we “should” be, and if we do not fit into it then we are different. Bad different. And because more and more, women are realizing that we do not have to fit into the moulds that media has created for us, more and more women are defying stereotypes. It’s hard to defy “bad different”, though. I know that as a young child, I wouldn’t want that phrase to define me. But then again, I wouldn’t want the media’s image of a women to define me, either.

What do you think?

Sherina

Dear Sherina,

Up until recently, I too had a very ill-informed idea of what feminism is and how it is relevant to my life. Like you, I pictured feminists as angry women who hated men, didn’t wear bras and chose not to shave — images that I simply couldn’t relate to.

It was around that time that I was leaving English class when I noticed a small poster in my classroom, with a woman holding up a sign that read “I need feminism because society tells women “don’t get raped”, instead of telling men “don’t rape”.

That statement piqued my interest as to what a broader definition of feminism might include. I read articles online describing “SlutWalks” being organised in cities across Canada. The movement was created after a Toronto police officer suggested to a group of female university students “not to dress like sluts” to avoid being raped. This angered me to the very core of my being. A woman should be able to walk around in a short skirt with her friends without fear of being raped. I would hope that the very suggestion that a woman’s clothing choices might affect her chances of being raped sounds as ridiculous to you as it does to me, Sherina. Tell that to the victims of child rapists, no child “asks” to be raped.

You may be wondering what relevance this has to me. Well, as I got older I began to develop a more “womanly” figure that can sometimes draw unwanted attention. For example, this September as I was walking to a high school football game a group of men rolled down their car window and yelled “NICE TITS” at me before speedily driving away. It was broad daylight, but I was alone and this scared me. My first instinct was to look down and see if I what I was wearing might have somehow provoked such a crude incident. I was wearing a baggy blue hoodie and leggings. The fact that I thought it was somehow my fault that these guys felt it was okay to yell that at me is why I need feminism.

What are your thoughts?

Ceanray