Updates

Depression and steering into the skid

I've had depression for all of my adult life. It's something that I've learned come to accept as a fact of life.

It's something that won't normally effect my day to day life, but that doesn't mean it's always manageable. 

It is a weight that sits on my shoulders every day and it weighs me down.

Recently it has gotten worse and while I'm starting to get the help I need, I think holding this tight to my chest isn't making things better. 

So here's the thing I've come to admit -- I need your help. 

***

Much of what has happened in the last year and half I would attribute to a resurgence in my depression. After my grandma died on Christmas in 2015, everything has shifted and I've rarely felt like myself.

I've become more impulsive and my mood has changed. 

 I went to a doctor and started going to therapy. Then my grandpa died and I went into another tailspin.

The thing about my depression and mental illness is that it changes rapidly. One moment I can be in a great mood and then the next I'll be super low and there will be no good reason. I'll doubt everything I do or have a panic attack about how I will mess something up. 

Those aren't anyone's fault, there isn't anyone to blame but my mental illness. 

Depression has also forced me to hold on to the illusion of happiness. When you're so low that anything that happens can make you feel better you get addicted to the good things in life, even if they aren't that helpful. 

That makes obsessed with chasing the moments where I feel happy and desperate to continue the things that make my mood better. 

When those things inevitably happen my state of mind tends to get worse

***

I've skipped parties, coffee, dates or events at the last minute -- even if I really wanted to go. The truth is that there wasn't ever a good excuse and I rarely bothered to give one. Depression saps me of all my energy.  On most days it makes me just want to stay in bed or hide the things I view as problems.

Eventually I did it enough times that the invites stopped coming. 

I've pushed away the people that care about me the most because I'm embarrassed about the thing depression has made me into. At the same time I've tried to hold on to the people that make me feel happy even when they no longer want me to. I've even scared away the ones I think might have actually helped me.

***

If you read this and know me by all means feel free to reach out. I'm not doing this on my own but I could sure use some help right now. 

With dignity, humour and love: The importance of the little things

Sometimes it's the little things that matter the most. 

Before my mom died, nearly 16 years ago, my brother and I were given a heart shaped pendant with a thumbprint embedded on it. It is one of the few physical items from my mom that I've been able to keep after moving across the country.

The thumbprint has long since been rubbed away, faded by the near constant friction of wearing it and holding it whenever I needed a reminder of what pushes me. Even though it rarely resembles the thing I was given 16 years ago I still carry it with me. Its size doesn't reveal how important it is me.

Today will be a day just like any other. But it also marks a change.

In my last blog post I wrote about the importance of getting my master's degree:  

It was my mother’s dream that I get a Master Degree. She wanted my brother and I to get an education, she believed it was one of the best ways to make a livelihood.

I’m not sure that I ever truly wanted to get a Master Degree.

I don’t think it was originally part of my plan. But here I am, only ten days away from walking across the stage for the third time in three years – and I’ll be receiving the degree in something I love.

When I go across that stage it won’t be for me. It’ll be for her.

After six years of post graduate studies I'm finally finished the final thing I know my mom would've loved to see my complete. I've collected three degrees in six years.I know the certificates are important but they still mean less than the tiny, worn down pendant I'll be wearing around my neck.

 "With dignity, humour and love," was my mothers unofficial motto.  It's on her grave. Today I'll use it as my official motto. 

The little things, a pendant or a phrase can mean more than six years of your life or three degrees. Don't forget to cherish them. 

The Silver Dragon

Victor Fee Quon  1927 - 2016

Victor Fee Quon
1927 - 2016

Yesterday we buried my grandfather, Victor Quon, a man who served as the connection to my Chinese heritage. He touched the life of everyone around him - serving as pillar of the Chinese community in Lethbridge, Alberta.

My grandfather provided more than I can ever hope to understand; I inherited my middle and last names from him; because of him I was born in Canada; he gave the opportunity for my father to attend University where he eventually met my mother. He arrived in this country in 1955 hoping to create a better future for generations to come. When I looked at the family who had gathered for his funeral, I have no doubt that his dream came true. You will be missed. I wrote this poem for his passing. 


The Silver Dragon

You lay now,
Interred and eternal

With weathered skin
Greying hair,
Arms outstretched and thin

A coloured dawn,
Bright and new
Brought you to these shores

Your Herculean effort,   
Boundless in size
Gave me everything I have

But now
You lay,
Interred and eternal
At peace once more



 

Hey look at me! I have another degree!

My parents and I after the University of King's College Encaenia or graduation. 

My parents and I after the University of King's College Encaenia or graduation. 

A year ago today I announced that I would be moving to Halifax and attending a journalism program at the University of King’s College. A year later and I am now the holder of a brand new Bachelor of Journalism degree. It’s a journey I couldn’t have done without the help of my parents which you can see in the photo above. They  have supported and helped me through school. They’ve even helped me move into my new apartment in Halifax.

I also have to thank everyone in the journalism program. In the eight months we’ve spent together it has been a fantastic journey. I’ve made so many friends and I can’t wait to see where you all end up. I’m so proud of everyone who has already locked down a job and good luck to everybody who is still searching.

Instructors like Mark Pineo, Elaine McCluskey, Doug Kirkaldy, Shaina Luck and Stephen Puddicombe have been great instructors and even better mentors. Without them I couldn't have learned as much as I have. 

As I’m writing this I’m back home in Saskatchewan for the week. It’s been nice to see the friends I haven’t been around in a few months. Believe it or not it is nice to see the prairies again.

I’ll be back in Halifax next where I will begin the second half of my program. I’ll finally be a graduate student enrolled in the investigative stream of the Master’s of Journalism. It’ll be something that is focused on the type of work I want to do in the future so I'm very excited to get started. I start classes on June 6 and I’ll try to keep you updated on how it goes.

In the meantime, I’ve been attempting to freelance articles so please wish me luck. Until next time! 

On the National Post and having dreams come true

The towers at the corner of Front St. and Bay in Toronto, Canada. 

The towers at the corner of Front St. and Bay in Toronto, Canada. 

I know the National Post isn't a big paper out east but out in the prairies of Saskatchewan it is the king of the newspaper industry. It's the paper I grew up reading. When I decided that I wanted to be a journalist the National Post was the paper I dreamed I'd end up writing for. This Thursday one of my stories was featured on the front page of their website. I know everyone in the program has different career goals but I hope you guys remember that your dreams can come true.

If you follow me on social media or have me on Facebook you might have seen me make a few jokes before I left about being the "small town country boy in the big city." Well boys and girls I probably shouldn't have cracked that joke. Toronto is massive and I was not prepared for it at all. For the first few days my neck actually  hurt because I kept looking at all the tall buildings. It took some getting used to but I'm here now and I love it; the subway, the people, the honking of every car horn is beautiful in its own way.

I think the hardest part going forward is going to be shaping my pitches to a national paper. Something that sounds great to a regional paper or a local daily might not interest a national paper. That means I need to find some different stories. I'll be pitching some of those this weekend so hopefully you'll see them next week.

If you ever travel to Toronto I reccommend going to the cat cafe and making some new feline friends. It's pretty relaxing. I'll touch on that more in a future blog. 

Pivoting through the last few weeks

Thank you very much to the staff of Pivot Magazine. (L to R) Alexander Quon, Guillaume Lapointe-Gagner, Jeff Toth, Haley Maclean, Nicole Gnazdowsky. 

Thank you very much to the staff of Pivot Magazine. (L to R) Alexander Quon, Guillaume Lapointe-Gagner, Jeff Toth, Haley Maclean, Nicole Gnazdowsky. 

Note to self: Don’t decide to start a blog right when you go through some health issues. Apparently it makes keeping a regular writing schedule pretty damn hard.

Anyways I wrapped up the radio workshop about seven weeks ago. It was the final one taught by Doug Kirkaldy, who is an excellent instructor and great journalist. I learned how to write in broadcast style, record sound, and cut audio. Radio changed how I think of telling stories.  I consider myself a print journalist first but, when you try to create stories for radio you have to think about sound. Not just for the interviews that I recorded but also ambient noise and sound effects. If you want to check out some of the work I did click here.

I also spearheaded a magazine project, serving as the Editor and Chief of Pivot magazine for its first issue. I had an amazing team of fellow journalism students and friends who made it the magazine that I’m proud to share with you guys right here.

We’re a magazine that focuses on new media creative content. Things like boardgames, podcasts indie videogames, and illustrators. 

Haley Maclean served as the Art Director for the project and she put together the amazing cover of the magazine. You can find more of her work over at pawpaints.ca. Jeff Toth served as the copy editor of the magazine but he also designed a boardgame for the magazine. You can find more about him on his blog.  Nicole Gnazdowsky served as the managing editor and she kept us all grounded during the magazines creation. Guillaume Lapointe-Gagner served as the photo editor but he also put together the magazine's pitch video. Everyone wrote and designed the magazine. I’m so proud of all of them. 

Now I’m in Toronto. I moved here a couple days ago and I’ll be starting with The National Post as an intern on Monday. More to come!

 

 

 

Coming back into the fold and a big announcement

Taking photos in Eastern Passage. The end result can be seen on this websites homepage.   Photo credit to  Lisa Takagi

Taking photos in Eastern Passage. The end result can be seen on this websites homepage.  
Photo credit to Lisa Takagi

And I'm back. Again. 

Extended breaks are apparently becoming a thing on this blog. But with this being a passion project whats the point of writing if I'm not feeling passionate?

Housekeeping

So lets get some things out of the way first. 

I'll try to keep my posts as regular as possible from now on. That being said, keep your eyes out for the third edition of 'What I've Been Reading This Week' later this week. 

Another thing that I'm hoping to put up in the coming days is a recap of my time in the radio workshop at King's. Today will be the final day so I'll probably put the recap up Friday night.  

Big News

Big announcement! As part of my Bachelor of Journalism degree I'll be doing a month long internship with The National Post in Toronto. I begin in April and a lot of the details are still being sorted out but I can't wait to gain experience at one of the premiere newsrooms in the country. I'll be part of their digital section and my work can appear in papers across the country. More info to come.  

I'll leave you with a song I've been listening to quite a bit recently: Weight in Gold by Gallant. Check it out! 
 

Pushing through when it matters most

View of the arm in Halifax, NS. Taken with Nikon D3200

View of the arm in Halifax, NS. Taken with Nikon D3200

I’m back.

That doesn’t mean that I’ll be posting regularly or even sporadically. But for now I’m back and for now this is what I’ll write.

It is important, I think more than ever, to recognize the contribution my grandmother played in my life. It is more than just genetic. I have my black hair and my skin tone to thank her for but more than that we have a shared history I am only beginning to discover. I know I will never understand every piece of my family history but I’m thankful for what I was taught while she was here.   

The old phrase goes that we stand on the shoulders of giants. Simplistic as that may sound I know that if my grandmother hadn’t decided to come to Canada I wouldn’t be here. 

However, it is much more than that. She left family and friends behind to face adversity, hardship and suffering. All of this was done in order to give the best the life that she could to my father and her other children. While I will likely never understand that pain or the commitment necessary for it, I will appreciate it. 

I’ll take her lessons and everything she taught me and live with it. I’ll learn from it and become better for it. But more importantly I’ll push forward and make something for my own future. It’s what she would have wanted. 

I'll leave you with an excerpt of  Mary Elizabeth Frye's poem "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep". 
 

When you awaken in the morning's hush

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;

I am not there; I did not die

 

 

Some extended time off

Looking out on the water at Point Pleasant Park, NS.

Looking out on the water at Point Pleasant Park, NS.

Hey guys late post on this but I thought I'd let you know why I haven't been posting this past week. Over Christmas my grandmother passed from some health complications and I haven’t really felt up to putting myself out there on this blog. I’m hoping to get back on a roll in the next couple days.  Until then here is a couple things that I’ve been reading over the last week.

What I've been reading this week

El Chapo Speaks – Sean Penn – Rolling Stone
http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/el-chapo-speaks-20160109

Lets start off with the thing that everyone has been reading. Sean Penn’s weirdly written and oddly edited monstrosity that was the exploration of El Chapo. It’s a weird piece of work that if it wasn’t so timely probably should have been edited a more. I really did not need to know about Penn’s flatulence but don’t worry it’s in there.

The problem with Rolling Stone’s El Chapo interview isn’t Sean Penn. It’s his editors. – Kelly McBride – Poynter
http://www.poynter.org/2016/the-problem-with-rolling-stones-el-chapo-interview-isnt-sean-penn-its-his-editor/391285/

This is a follow up to the previous piece on El Chapo. It examines the ethics of allowing Sean Penn/ El Chapo almost complete control of the article.

The Dress Code for Power Lunching at the Four Seasons – John Ortved – The New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/01/04/style/07LAAR-FourSeasons.html?_r=2

The New York Times did a series of mini profiles of lunch goers at the four seasons. It’s worth a read if only to see the variety of cool outfits and thoughts from celebrities. Henry Kissinger also apparently has no time to deal with the New York Times, which I found hilarious.

Ambulance fees cause heavy damage to the sick and injured – Moira Donovan – The Coast
http://www.thecoast.ca/halifax/ambulance-fees-cause-heavy-damage-to-the-sick-and-injured/Content?oid=5139359

This is a good read about the state of health care in Nova Scotia and how much it costs for an ambulance. A little bit terrifying as a new resident of the province but definitely a good thing to take note of. 

Back to the land of cold and water

Hey guys I'm a little busy getting settled in but I thought I'd post a quick update on what has been happening in the last couple days.

It only took seven hours of sitting but I am finally back in Halifax. Post Christmas Nova Scotia is a lot snowier then it was when I left and while the cold is nothing quite like the -20's of Regina, it definitely has a different feel to it. Saskatchewan has always had the dry cold that even at -40 isn't that bad to walk around in for a short amount of time. Here, if it's even minus -15 I can feel the cold in my bones the second I step outside. The wet cold of Nova Scotia is definitely something I'll have to get used to. 

I'm just beginning the radio workshop and so far it's interesting but I'll try to detail that in a future blog post. I'm hoping to do some updates at least a couple times  week and while they may not always be updates on my daily life they should be entertaining. I'm thinking there will be a couple book reviews and maybe some updates on what news stories I've been interested in. 

Until next time! 

- Alex