I was sitting in my third year Contemporary Canadian Literature course, trying to avoid eye contact with anyone. I was ready to work hard. I had goals for the year that I wanted to meet, and after Lori moved to BC a few weeks earlier, I wasn’t in the mindset to meet new people.
Cut to a tall blonde with perfectly applied red lipstick sitting down next to me right as our professor explained that we had to introduce ourselves to people around us. I was intimidated by this blonde, and was not looking forward to trying to convince her to talk to me.
“Hi! I’m Brenna!”
She was cheerful and kind from the start, and with each passing day since I’ve met her she has proved continuously that she is not someone you should judge based on appearances. She is intelligent, caring, a great listener, sarcastic, hilarious, and all around an amazing friend.
We met when we were both at low points in our lives. I didn’t tell anyone about the internal war that was going on in my head, but Brenna just always got it. And when she didn’t make it to class a couple of times in a row, I grabbed assignments for her, took notes, and made sure she was caught up on what was happening. We ended up taking half of our third year courses together. I went from not knowing who she was (though apparently we had already had 4 classes together!) to seeing her everyday.
We leaned on each other; and I don’t think either of us really realized until the summer. Brenna went back home for the first half of summer before heading to work in her hometown for the second half. We snapchatted and talked over facebook all the time; huge deals for both of us considering we’re both terrible at keeping in touch with people.
This fall we started hanging out outside of school too. I would see Brenna everyday at school, get lunch or coffee with her after class, then see movies with her on the weekend. We had a sweet little professor who thought we were dating; she shared my stories about a horrendous professor as if she were in that class too; people would recommend shows and movies for me to watch only for me to say “oh yeah, Brenna told me about that” every damn time.
She quickly became one of my best friends. She has talked me through many anxiety attacks. She has been the only one to respond to an after-midnight text (that I sent to 3 people) about how my life is falling apart. She is so passionate about helping and educating people. She cares about your rights and your life before she has even met you. She’s taking 6 courses this term, volunteering at the Women’s Center, managing our University’s synchro team, looking at post-grad opportunities, and still being an amazing friend to everyone she holds near and dear to her heart.
I may not see her everyday anymore – and the separation anxiety is real, guys – but she’s always there when I need her. To put it simply, she’s incredible. She spends so much time rooting for everyone else, that I want all of us to root for her too. Meet Brenna.
Red Hot: So the first question is how do you define a “hot mess” and would you consider yourself to be one?
Brenna: A hot mess? Ugh, yeah, totally, definitely one. First off, hot, duh. Secondly, I guess a hot mess is someone who appears to have a lot of confidence and looks like they know what they’re doing. But then is just pretty much like everyone else and is a mess! Stressed, and has their own issues – my way of thinking about people’s issues is that everyone has a backpack, it’s full of crap, but a hot mess is someone that can take it on and off easily.
RH: What’s your hot mess moment?
B: What kind of moments are you thinking of?
RH: I don’t know. No one’s given me a good one yet. Well, Lori gave me a good one, but then wouldn’t let me share it.
B: Hmm… (says some things I can’t share). Slipping on the ice multiple times, and having guys drive by and be like “do you want a ride?” No, I don’t want a ride! Just because I fell on the ground and I’m a woman definitely means I want to get in your car.
RH: Going the opposite way –
B: Going the opposite way we were going!
RH: Yeah, that was both of us. That was a combined Hot Mess Moment.
B: Yeah, that was great. Twice in a row. Like both times fell right in front of a car.
RH: Literally no one else around the rest of our walk. It was just when we fell. Well, you fell.
B: When I fell, and knocked Emerald over. It was icy.
RH: It had just snowed. And we weren’t wearing proper winter footwear.
B: That’s a good one.
RH: Okay, next question – I kinda know what I want you to talk about, but I want to see if you get there yourself.
RH: Okay so, what’s something you’re really passionate about?
B: Like an issue? Women?
RH: There we go!
B: Women. I’m super passionate about women and women’s rights. I’ve always been a feminist, but especially this year, it’s just come as more of a realization that this is something I care so deeply about. It upsets me and I want to make changes; I want to strive towards making changes and differences in women’s lives. I’ve always cared a lot about women. I work in two female-focused organizations with synchronized swimming and Girl Guides. They’re where I’ve spent most of my life; but it’s just now coming to fruition that this is something that I can take further in my life, and I can make changes here and impact.
RH: Was there a specific event that made you realize that [fighting for women’s rights] was more than just a pastime?
B: It kinda came around just through having daily experiences as a woman, on campus, in real life, going out, being about in Waterloo. I grew up in a really small town and I’ve always felt really confident in myself: I’m pretty tall, I have a bitch face. I’m pretty intimidating and I’ve always considered myself to be that way, so I was never concerned for my personal safety or anything, but sometimes things happen. Those ideas of yourself get altered, and you realize there’s a lot more problems in the world than I thought there were. With all the people I’ve met through University, who all have these different stories and it’s a community of people who are oppressed, and it sucks. It’s just not fair at all. Kind of just that, slowly coming to the realization that this was something that I could do something about. I’m not going to change the world – I know that – but I could alter some, one person’s life for the better.
RH: Yeah, it’s nice to be able to make even that one small change. I know something else you’re really passionate about is the environment as well. I also know that the last couple of months have not been great for women or the environment. What keeps you motivated? What keeps you going when the media is basically telling you to “shove it”?
B: Yeah, that’s really tough because sometimes you wake up and some politician has done something super shitty. It was really hard for me about a year ago this time, I was really struggling with issues around the environment because I felt like I couldn’t do anything. It was like the world was crumbling around me and I could do nothing but stand there, which is very disheartening. So I did a lot of research on becoming a vegetarian; almost exactly a year ago I became a vegetarian. That really did help me get through it because I knew I was making a difference, even if it was in a small way. A lot of environmental change can come from yourself, but it also has to come from policies and stuff like that. Just being aware of what are the main things that cause environmental damage (like water bottles and plastic). I got a sustainably made backpack for Christmas and I was overjoyed. I have a lot of clothes; I never throw away my clothes, I donate them. It’s just doing things like that. You just have to read up on changes you can make, and read up on the big issues; stand against those policies that threaten the issues you care about.
RH: I think – as many terrible things are happening, it’s also good to remind yourself, occasionally, of all the work that has already been done, and the improvements we’ve made thus far.
B: That’s true.
RH: The last kind of big thing is do you have any tips/advice/words of inspiration for other people who identify as being a hot mess, or someone who has so many ways of how they want to change the world, but don’t always feel like they can achieve that?
B: That’s always tough because it’s always easy to feel overwhelmed by like everything. It’s important to remember that you may seem like a hot mess, but everyone else is too. My mantra with life is “this too shall pass.” So whatever’s going on, will pass. When it comes to big issues, the thing is, it’s not one person that makes change; it’s collectives that make change and there are collectives of people who believe in these things. Being part of them creates more people in that collective and therefore can create more change. As one singular person, yes you can’t achieve everything, but as an individual within a collective, you can create change.
RH: Is there anything else you want to add?
B: No, I think you had good questions.
RH: You had good answers – wait, here, I can stop recording.
*Picture taken by the lovely Theresa ❤