It’s difficult for a reason

Almost since the first day I stepped on campus, I have thought, “What am I doing here at Columbia? Why does this program feel like such a struggle? Do I even belong at this school?”

Earlier this week, I watched a video of a commencement speech by actor Charlie Day. (My favourite part starts at 16:42.) He’s pretty funny in it, and the students clearly enjoy listening to his jokes about college life. But it’s the ending that makes it clear why it’s been watched more than 2 million times online. The writer and actor best known for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia talks about how success in life isn’t really about doing what you love or makes you happy. It’s often about being somewhere that makes you better, that pushes you to be great, and places you with incredible people to help you get there along the way. It’s about failing, a lot. And it’s about choosing to take the right risks despite fears you may have about well, pretty much everything.

Our accounting midterm is tomorrow. We’re learning all this stuff about bad debt expenses, balance statements and cash flows. A lot of people think it’s dry, but the professor is great, answers all of our questions, and many of us can already see how it will make us better journalists. I can already see how it matters, because I can actually feel myself really learning stuff, and then I read my industry-leading professors write stories like this:

I still have a lot of personal doubts, but I know I’m here for a lot of great reasons. It’s definitely not going to get easier. But it’s already definitely worth it.

Parody accounts, Twitter abuse and the thousands of users who feel like crap


The “parody” account with my name and photos was taken down late last week. Even though it was only one account, I felt physically and emotionally affected by it for a few days. Someone hated me enough to go through things I had said online and then repeatedly try to hurt me through insults. They weren’t parodying how I often talk in all lowercase letters or mention how my Canadian identity means I’m often confused about American politics. They straight up called me crazy. It was all clearly targeted, abusive language. Continue reading “Parody accounts, Twitter abuse and the thousands of users who feel like crap”

Stunt journalism, pumpkin spice, and me

Image: Mike Mozart, Jeepers Media, FLICKR

Stunt journalism has always seemed fun to me in a way that acknowledged part of what you were doing was ridiculous and self-indulgent, but you were going to take the reader along for a fun ride anyway.

Sometimes the story is super great, like when Nicole Cliffe tried out Joe Manganiello’s diet and exercise routine for Elle, immediately prompting many readers to Google “cum gutters”. Or when John Jeremiah Sullivan went to Disney World for the New York Times Magazine. Or when Bruce Arthur detailed his multi-day quest to get to Rio for the first day of this year’s Olympics. (Which wasn’t so much a stunt as it was a detailed chronicle of how far travel arrangements can go off the rails.)

But too often, the stories are bad and the reader’s personal comments about their own feelings and thoughts are unnecessary.  Continue reading “Stunt journalism, pumpkin spice, and me”

It’s hard to blog (and why I’m trying anyway)


Image: Jonathan Rolande, Flickr

I started blogging 15 years ago. I started with TeenOpenDiary in high school (now dead), OpenDiary (also dead), Livejournal (2003-2010), Blogger (2003-2006), then WordPress since 2009. Thousands of words typed into the internet. Sporadic bursts of updates and enthusiasm, then fatigue at chasing views and feedback through comments. Lots of wondering if anything I said had any value, or would have been better served writing in a paper journal instead.

And then I found Twitter in December 2008. Continue reading “It’s hard to blog (and why I’m trying anyway)”

A Cool Girl™ on my own terms

One of the best literary rants ever published in modern literature is in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.

Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: “I like strong women.” If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because “I like strong women” is code for “I hate strong women.”)

Continue reading “A Cool Girl™ on my own terms”

The unavoidable cost of moving

No matter what, moving is expensive. There’s the cost of time: sorting through your belongings, figuring out what you want to put in storage, what you want to bring to the new place, what you’re going to sell at a garage sale or donate and give away. Continue reading “The unavoidable cost of moving”