A Love Letter to Dance

*This is a older project that is being re-posted on this blog. It was originally published by Quetzal and can be found here.


I don’t think I’ll ever miss you.

I don’t think I’ll ever truly let you go either.

That’s the way it’s always been for us. I could never fully commit- or ever fully quit. You teased me with the idea of freedom, but you never meant it.

You made me feel alive. Like I was moving through air. Your song coursed through my veins and begged me to stay. Whispering my name.

But you were killing me.

While my body loved to move; loved the feeling of floating, my mind was screaming- crying- begging me to stop.

Every day I stood in front of you while you judged me. While you held me up against other girls- younger, older, prettier, more graceful, flexible, able to nail that 5th turn every time- and told me that I was never good enough.

At one point that drove me farther. Eager to test the limits of your love. Eager to be the best you could have.

And then I just stopped.

Because I no longer wanted you to love me. I wanted to hate you, and I did. I do.

Your kiss was teasing, taunting, enticing. It was the kiss of death, but one I always craved.

After all, you’ve always been a good kisser.

Without you, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I wouldn’t be strong, I wouldn’t be free.

But I also wouldn’t be so quick to tears.

So quick to know that you hated me. Everyone in your world was harsh, and capable of bringing any girl to tears with a single look.

Because judging is the center of your love.

Judging and competition are what make your love stronger.

And if someone makes it into that center, and doesn’t want to scream and jump off the edge, then they win. They win because they won your love.

And that was all any of us ever wanted.


Things No One Told Me About Grad School

When I started University 5 years ago, I made a post similar to this one about what University taught me. It was on my old blog so I will not be sharing it, but I felt it was about time I did one for Grad School. I’ve had a few people ask me about my experiences as they plan out their own academic futures. I’ve never been anything less than honest, so here we go. Everyone’s experiences are going to be different, so take this with a grain of salt.

  1.  It’s lonely. 
    Obviously this will change depending on where you go and if you know people ahead of time, but I did not and it really hit me how lonely Grad school could be. During my Undergrad I had large classes and the other students were usually my age. Even if I never saw classmates outside of class, I could talk to them during class (or before and after). I was also able to meet other students through clubs and activities. In Grad school that changes. Class sizes are much smaller, and from my own experience, no one is my age. No one wants to hang out when they have families to go home to, or full time jobs to get ready for. It took me a while to actually meet people and make friends, and even still it can be a very lonely and isolating experience.
  2. It’s way more independent than you expect and you’re probably not ready for it. 
    I’m an incredibly independent person and have been for as long as I can remember, but I still wasn’t prepared for this experience. I honestly think it goes hand-in-hand with my last point. Grad school is lonely and somewhat isolating. You’re doing your own research, and there aren’t guidelines or structure in the same way that there are during your Undergrad. I often feel like I’ve been left on my own to try and figure something out, and no one has answers for me because they just aren’t there.
  3. If you need help, you’re really going to have to ask/search for it.
    I’m known for cornering my professors when they’re getting their morning coffee, or emailing them late at night. It’s because there are some things that just don’t have easily available answers. When is this form due? When is the Board of Ethics getting together to review submissions? What does one expect in the official thesis proposal? Has anyone been in contact with this professor who we keep referencing as being on my supervisory committee, but haven’t actually heard from? These are all questions I’ve had in the last few months, and questions that have only been answered by my stubbornness to not let go. I couldn’t find these answers through google searches or on the University’s website. In your Undergrad, everything is laid out for you – and if it’s not there’s a list of people you can email. Here it’s every student for themselves – get creative.
  4. You will spend more time asking people for money to do something than actually doing the thing that you need money for.
    Have I started my research? No. Have I spent hours upon hours filling out applications for different sources of funding and scholarships so I can fund my research? Absolutely. Have I written the paper for the conference I’m going to in June? Nope. So what have I done with my time? Applied for funding to get to this conference because it will be a great experience. You can’t do anything without funding, and you can’t get funding until you spend all your free time applying for it. And even then it’s not a guarantee.
  5. There are no breaks in Grad School.
    This is one that I am still trying to wrap my head around, and honestly I’m not taking it so well. We recently had our Reading Week – a mid-semester break that many people use as a way to go somewhere warm. I – unlike many grad students – actually had most of this week off. I wasn’t expecting a completely free week, but I thought I would have some downtime to read a book I’ve been meaning to read since October. I’m not sure what happened but it somehow became my busiest week of the semester. I still could not tell you what I did that week, but it was hell. Every day I would wake up to a million things to do, and each day I would only make it through a few things. No matter what I did I couldn’t catch up. I don’t have terrible time management (I’m not perfect either, but I’m first to admit that), but I honestly have no idea how I got (what felt like) so little done. At the end of the week, a friend told me that in Grad school you’re never truly caught up – there’s always a long list of things that should be getting done.

Grad school isn’t for everyone. I really want to stress that – as pessimistic as it may sound. It’s hard, taxing, isolating, and lonely. You will face impostor syndrome on a daily basis regardless of where you came from. I’m literally counting down the days to graduation just so I can get a break someday.

It’s okay to not go to Grad school. Honestly, you’ll probably be happier.

It is incredibly hard. I’ve had to learn a lot and I’ve spent many days wondering if it’s worth it. But, I love academia and I love the research I’m doing. Truly the greatest thing I’ve learned is that you can do anything as long as you have the passion. If you have passion, it’s all worth it in the end.

-Red Hot

I’ll Worry Enough for the Both of Us

I don’t think it’s any surprise to anyone that I worry a lot.

I’m a class A worry-wart. My brain exists in a constant state of what-ifs and worst case scenarios. There are days when leaving my house is a legitimate struggle. I lay awake at night planning out the different ways I would die or survive a plane crash. I worry when I meet new people. I worry when I go somewhere there might not be cell reception. I worry about getting sick, and wondering at what point I would have to seek medical help. I worry about living on an island where I have no family, and how long would it take before my parents found out if I went missing or died?

My brain is an exhausting and scary place honestly.

Yet throughout all of this – the constant worrying and stress about life, moving, everyday experiences, and academia – no one has ever worried about me.

By this I just mean that whenever I share my anxieties with someone, their response is usually a nonchalant “Oh, I’m not worried about you!”

After hearing from many other grad students that they were in their 3rd, 4th, 5th and even 6th years of a two-year Master program, I expressed my fear of not completing my thesis within this time frame to my supervisors. They looked at each other for a moment, then laughed. “We’re not worried about you!” “You’re not an islander – you have places to be. You’ll finish on time.”

After moving across the country in August (and then again after coming back in January) I called my mom crying. I didn’t think I could do this. What is this you ask? Just all of life in general: being far from home, on my own, living with a stranger, being in school, looking for a job, not having a next visit date planned. My mom took a deep breath and said “Emerald. I’m really not worried about you. You’ll be fine.”

My therapist appointments are usually me self-diagnosing myself and telling my therapist of what issues I’ve encountered since the last session and where they are stemming from. In my most recent appointment, I directed the topic to my fears and anxieties about meeting new people. I’m always afraid of getting emotionally (or physically) hurt and so I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping people away, but I’ve realized I don’t want to live like that right now. We talked about techniques for meeting people and starting conversations with strangers – all ways to look at building connections and just taking things one step at a time. The conversation ended with a “I’m speaking to you so candidly about this because I’m not worried about you. I know you’ll be fine.”

To all of you, I say thank you. Thank you for your unwavering confidence in me. But also: why? What am I doing that makes everyone think I’ve got my shit together? Who decided that I don’t need to be worried about, but we collectively need to worry about Person X?

My mom says I need to work on my self-confidence. I think I’m a very confident person. I’m just used to doing all the worrying myself. If someone else would shoulder some of the worry, I’m pretty sure I would be unstoppable.

-Red Hot

Walk off the Edge

The wind whips behind me, but no one is around. It’s so empty down here – different from the bustling nature of the summer and early fall.

I move further away from the city, leaving the noise behind; I step closer to the water, closing in on its calming lull.

There’s a wooden dock shooting straight out towards the sea.

Should I be here?

I step on the dock, waiting for someone to shout at me to get off. No one comes. I walk right out to the edge.

I could slip into the water.

Just lower myself off the edge and slip in between the pieces of ice. If it was warmer, I’d dip my feet in. If it was colder, I’d test a step on the ice. But it is neither, and both at the same time. Large chunks of ice, coated in their red dusting, are broken up among the rocks. Everything here is red. There’s a small space of unfrozen sea, and then a sheet of smooth ice.The wind sends the rain skating across the smooth ice.

I want to jump in.

I won’t.


I’m not sure how long I’ve sat here: listening to the wind, thinking of how sharp the ice must be, sitting in peace.

The water – it’s always been enticing. But here, in it’s half frozen state, I can see the danger too.

I find myself being at once a thalassomaniac and overcome with a wave of thalassophobia.

I want to immerse myself in the sea. I want to bask in all the peace and calm it offers. I want to capture this feeling of quiet that I feel at water’s edge and carry it in me. I want to feel the water on my skin; the waves a cool embrace.

I know the dangers too. The unknown that lurks below its surface. I could freeze in the water today; a numbing squeeze rather than a silky hug. Jagged pieces of ice that could impale me with one strong gust of wind.

I slowly stand up from my spot on the edge of the dock. One last look out at the water – one last moment of quiet before I turn towards the city and my anxieties come crashing back.

The biggest danger of all is the lure – the pull to the sea; its welcome. The whisper, “Join us. Just one more step.”



Missing you

Does not make me a failure.

It makes me human.


Missing you

Does not make me a failure.

It makes me a person with many homes.


Missing you

Does not make me a failure.

It makes me someone trying hard to have new experiences.


Missing you

Does not make me a failure.

It makes me aware of our geographical difference.


Missing you

Does not make me a failure.

It makes me blessed to have a family worth missing.


You’re not in my darkest thoughts, but you’re definitely in my dirtiest.

Sheets tangled around our legs,

Your whisper in my ear,

My tight grip in your hair,

The feel of your tongue on my —


You don’t consume me, just appear when I’m lonely.

When someone asks me about you,

When the holidays come and I want someone,

When the throwbacks remind me how close we were,

When the realization hits me that we could have been something if I had just —


I’m happy for you, until I’m not.

I was too quiet, then too casual, then too late,

She’s adorable and I’m really happy you two are together,

I think about you to torture my soul,

I wish I had taken the chance when —



You’re not there all the time,

But you’re there enough.

I think you’re my new favourite what if.

Addressing the anxious spiral all my facebook friends witnessed

I went home for a month over Christmas.

In that time I got too comfortable being home and not being in classes; too comfortable being close to the friends I’ve known and cared for for years; too comfortable with having a car and public transportation that can take me pretty much anywhere in the city, neighbouring cities, and the Southern part of the province. I got too comfortable with my parents taking care of me; too comfortable with all the animals that fill my house (and make it next to impossible for me to breathe).

I got too comfortable with the easy and comfortable. With what I have known my whole life.

When I first moved across the country it was because I wanted to challenge myself, take risks, and because I was raised on the motto “go big or go home.” I took a huge leap and it was hard, but (I think) it (eventually) got easier.

Then I went home, and came back and shit hit the fan.

I was not adjusting very well to being back. Today is actually the first day in a week that I haven’t sobbed while eating breakfast.

I was uncomfortable in my apartment, and constantly felt anxious. This is not great when you’re a home body and seek comfort from home. I was (and still am) incredibly homesick.

I had spent all of December bashing this very small city. I was coming down hard on things that could improve (seriously I just want to be able to actually go more than a few blocks on public transportation), and pointing out all the differences. I’m from a fairly big and developing city a few hours outside of Toronto. I travel to Toronto and cities in the States frequently. I am used to a gogogo and convenient lifestyle. The island that I live on now forces me to slow down. And when I slow down, my brain kicks into overdrive and I hate it. That’s not the point of this post though. I want to tell you about my favourite part of this place – something I only truly realized after leaving and coming back.

The main reason I love the city I’m living in now (and I really do love it about 85% of the time) is because of how safe I feel.

Back home, I hate walking anywhere. I hate walking in my city, in the Universities’ city, and I loathe walking around in Toronto. I refuse to walk by myself in any of these places. I hated walking to my night classes on campus. I hated walking with earbuds in because I didn’t trust my surroundings. I learned to constantly check my surroundings when young women were being pulled of the side of the street a few years ago. I learned to live with the anxiety of walking around these places. I learned to walk with my hands clutching my keys. I learned to get off the bus and call someone for a ride when this really creepy dude who would never leave me alone got on. I took kickboxing classes for a year partly because I wanted to be able to defend myself.

Here, I walk around with complete ease. I have to walk pretty much everywhere and I always go alone. I’m still cautious (can’t take the paranoid city girl out of me), but I’ve learned to smile at strangers or listen to music. I can walk to all my night classes without wanting to scream at the slightest noise. I walk downtown and don’t glare at people who pass me. I walk to the grocery store and cut through an alley to get to the next plaza over. I come back to my apartment and don’t dread the fact that I’m now living without a 100lb. guard dog or alarm system. I don’t worry nearly as much about dying every time I leave my house (a fear I’ve had for well over a decade). Honestly, it’s nice to have one less thing to be anxious about.

I feel unbelievably safe here, and for that I am so grateful to call this place home.

-Red Hot