Parallel Lives

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Since May 2014, I live and study in the mid-sized city (for Canada, that is) of London, Ontario. Most months, I head back to my hometown of Montreal, Quebec. Right now, I am in an extended stay in Montreal that started with vacations and is ending with a month-long internship.

In less than a week, I will head back to London to finish my master. Even if both cities are in the same country, they couldn’t be more different. I’m happy that I’m leaving my hometown, but at the same time, I know I’ll miss it. It’s always like that. I’m often caught between leaving and staying, fight or flight.

I felt ill at ease in London at first. I tend to feel uncomfortable when I’m trapped in a sea of conformity. Worse than that: I feel alienated. But one thing is for sure: a good solution to feeling trapped and limited in one’s own circumstances is being able to lead parallel lives.

I like to experience different realities through activities like acting and reading. But I also really love experiencing the world firsthand. I’ve always leaned towards a bohemian lifestyle. It probably happened intuitively. I moved weekly between my mother and my father’s place until I was 18 years old and spent all my summers in the countryside growing up.

For my generation, it’s easier than ever to leave one’s hometown to pursue other ventures. I’ve lived in five cities and my best friend Raph has travelled to all five continents. We made it happen. It seems as if we can almost trick ourselves into thinking that we can seamlessly pass through time and space without a scratch.

Being able to lead parallel lives means that I can indulge sometimes. But of course, I can’t have everything at once. When I’m in Montreal, I love being able to hang out my many fabulous friends. It’s home for me, and I love that art and culture is part of everyday life. I love walking everywhere and the fun lifestyle. I love running into people I know all the time. I also find it annoying.

When I’m in Montreal for too long, I feel trapped in time, like I’m going back to where I was years ago. I feel like I’m collecting dust, as if nothing has ever changed. I am staying at my dad’s place, rummaging through the fridge and watching cable TV. I walk the same streets I’ve walked thousands of time. I have memories all over the place: oh, this is where I did a show, this is where I used to work, this is where I had a date with this guy. It seems as if I almost travel back in time, except I can’t.

When I’m in London, I love attending university on a scenic campus and living near the river. I love spending time in my two-floor apartment. There is a sense of space and tranquility that I can’t find at home. I love being able to focus on the task at hand, whether it’s a court story or a yoga class. At the same time, after a couple of weeks in London, I get bored. I miss the diversity in people, style, activities. I want some movement, big-city energy and never-ending events. That being said, I can be as happy in the middle of the woods as I am in an art opening.

The more places I live in or visit, the wider my understanding of life is. That goes hand-in-hand with speaking different languages. I need to speak French and English on a daily basis because it means that I never get bored with words. Once, when I was in an hospital in Germany, a male nurse spoke to me in English (my German is too limited to have a proper conversation). He knew that I was from Canada and so he assumed that English was my mother tongue. I could barely respond to him as I had a swollen mouth but I vehemently protested ‘‘no! French is my first language!’’

”That’s good,” he said. ”You speak two languages, you have more ideas.”

What the nurse told me made sense. I always have new ideas. Speaking different languages opens the mind and breeds creativity, just like travelling places does.

The moment in-between places is always an introspective time for me. I feel like I’m in suspension, like trapped in mid-air. I get to stare out the window and think. I listen to the quiet rhythm of cars passing. I appreciate the light, the trees, the sights. I tend to go through a lot of emotions about what’s going on in my life as transit allows me to reflect. My body gets strained from sitting for so long, even though I practice yoga at pit stops.

Even I’m not specifically fond of public transit and garage bathrooms, the feeling of being in transit to go somewhere else has always been exciting to me. It makes me feel alive. Like a shark, I need to keep moving to live. Coincidentally, I have the word ”SHARKS” tattooed on my right bicep.

Leading parallel lives can be schizophrenic sometimes, but it’s especially thrilling. It keeps me on my toes. I don’t take people or places for granted but rather I become more appreciative. I’m conscious that things change quickly. That’s the beauty and the challenge involved in leading parallel lives.

Photo: Raphaëlle Brault

http://raphaellebrault.tumblr.com/

Lili Monette is a multidisciplinary entertainer and writer, and the Associate Editor of Blonde. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre & Development from Concordia University and is currently a student in the Master of Arts in Journalism program at the University of Western Ontario.

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Saying Bye For Now

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I wanted to send a Facebook message to my best friend Patti who was moving earlier that day to Ontario, but was unable to as it seemed she had just taken her profile down. I was surprised for a second, but then it made so much sense. I had done the same on my own move out of the province, so I calmly took in my impressions of the meaning of her ‘erasement’ of social networks. Going off the radar for the people who knew her might just be a necessary compromise to enable something even greater to take place in her : change.

When reconnecting with people after I came back and reappeared on the net, a friend asked : «And how was that [living in Toronto for a while]?» It took me 24 hours to sum it up in a few words, only to realise that my time lapse was my in construction break. Yes, just like it could be seen on a website. I and every little cell I’m composed of were like : ‘‘we’ll come out of the closet soon, but for now, let us make your mouths water with expectations, as you are so impatient to take a bite of us. But don’t look while we’re changing from an old skin to a new one, we don’t know what you might glimpse at as we’re not hidden by the protective layer of our integument filtering what comes in and goes out in sight…’’

The certainty of people waiting at the door to see how I’d turn out was merely a fantasy, not something I accounted for a reality. How easy it is to think you have disappeared from every one’s memory, even the ones for who you’ll always keep a spot in your heart? ‘‘Will they even remember my name?’’, I’d ask myself. People do forget some stuff. They forget that they wanted to call me for a while, they forget that they had planned to visit me. But that’s what goes on anyways, far from them or not, as soon as I’m not part of their habit anymore. Don’t take it personally, that’s the modern way! To run out of time…

As I was in this period of discovering the hidden truths within myself, I remained very close and connected with my friend Ivy, who was walking in a parallel line to mine, making more or less similar changes happening in her life. We felt the need to keep connecting, not counting the minutes of our phone conversations when the craving to speak with someone who shared a common language arose. This enabled us to distantly witness how these changes were respectively happening in our lives.  She was doing so while still running into the same faces that had been familiar for long and while also making new connections according to her ever-evolving frame of mind.

I, on the other hand, was in a position of erasing everything and anything that I no longer wished to be in my surroundings and that, in every layer. I could make changes in my diet and the people that I met simply knew me with my new reality. No one could go like ‘‘but we’ve eaten this many times! It won’t kill you!’’
That’s right. It will not kill me (right this second). But that’s not what it’s about. It’s about what I want, now. 

Being somewhere where the old you is not known allows you to, instead of saying ‘‘no, I don’t want to do this anymore… don’t wish to wear those anymore… don’t want to go to these places anymore…’’, to simply have positive and informative statements.  Being like ‘‘Hey! That’s what turns me on! I just learned this new thing… Want to go to this place I heard of?’’ without having to justify your new point of view.

In both of our cases, a lot of alone time was necessary so that slowly, we could build our personal culture.

So when I noticed Patti’s page no longer existed, I wondered what kind of mindset she was in. Was it a peaceful relief, leaving a social chapter behind to focus on a new way of interacting, of relating? I questionned a lot what Patti had been going through for a while and her choices. Still, I was kind of thankful for not knowing the details motivating these decisions that she kept in her heart: this way I could not judge her. Only she knew what was best for her, it was none of my business. And wasn’t she in the best of all paths anyways?

Finding only you to support yourself makes you look deep into your eyes. Slowly you learn how to hold the stare.

When I see the ones I love after a moment of separation, it becomes obvious to them that they are not facing the same old friend entirely. For sure, they are ever-changing too, but getting out of a comfort zone accelerates transformations. They may or may not acknowledge it, but they will stare in an iris with new stains and lines narrating the stories of unknown faces and places. The body they will hug will be transformed by new thoughts and concerns. The hair texture may change too. What about the voice? Is it softer, deeper?

I know we are in constant change as cells divide without the need to consciously command them to, but being exposed to a new environment encodes many new things in our evolving DNA and lets us hear the voice of our free will to develop our capabilities further and in the process, to diversify.

If I see that person who was away from me for a while, I welcome into her new life chapters. Her experiences will also benefit me if I listen closely. I will intergrate some of her knowledge.

But if I am unsure and feel on edge with this person I once thought I knew and don’t recognize anymore, well too bad! Change and chaos are what life is. So flow with it!

*Names have been changed.

Nessa, back in Montreal, was shocked when someone made her realize that all she ever speaks with, writes with, shares ideas or shoots interrogations at the world with are the same 26 letters arranged, or not, in assembles. Alas, that realization didn’t help her scatterbrained intellect to find center.

Photo: Juliette Leblanc. You can see more of her work here: http://julietteleblanc.tumblr.com/