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  • So, it’s cool to have hobbies again?

    By: Negin Khodayari As much as I tried to fight it, I too, much like the rest of the world, have found myself sucked into the vortex that is TikTok. Opening the app mindlessly, looking for anything to make me feel something, or perhaps — to make me feel nothing. During these mindless scrolls, my For You page constantly reminds me that I have never had an original thought of my own. That the world is a collection of lonely hearts looking to find companionship in any way they can get it. That we attach ourselves to groups and people and play along with their hobbies, because how precious is it to share an experience with another human? How precious is it to open an app and encounter thousands of people who are doing what you are doing? Thousands of people who get it. All that to say, TikTok has basically turned into a big club where you can share your hobbies and discuss them among strangers. I haven’t seen people, many of whom are in their early 20s, this invested in picking up new habits in years. The excitement to start reading again, the curiosity to learn how to sew, the willingness to share journal entries and make to-do-lists each night, unapologetically trying to better oneself — it’s all so refreshing. The joys of reading The last time I remember this many people collectively excited to read was during the Fault in Our Stars era in 2014, which was a true phenomenon for Gen Z. Now, everyone is talking about The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. The historical fiction novel tells the story of an imaginary Old Hollywood star, Evelyn Hugo, who at age 79, gives a final interview to an unknown journalist. Readers are taken on a whirlwind journey of vivid memories and unforgettable experiences the star had during her career. I first heard of this book last summer, but it seems like since then, everyone and their neighbours have read it. I haven’t yet, but it’s on the list. One book TikTok did coerce me into reading is We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. This wasn't my favourite book, and I’m not quite sure if I even enjoyed it. Although I was captivated by the narration — it almost felt like my own natural train of thought — the story itself felt a little dull, or perhaps, monotone. I found myself wanting the story to go deeper; wanting the characters to go deeper. But, I’m glad the app convinced me to take a look at it because I hadn’t read a book for myself in a long time. More popular books on TikTok: They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid Knitting, cooking, and crafting, oh my! There are countless other hobbies that I’ve seen become popular on TikTok, due to the wide range of the app’s users. But from looking at my For You page, hobbies like knitting and sewing to journaling, makeup, cooking, candle making, resin crafting and jewelry making have all found a home on the app. Given the nature of the past two years, many people’s lifestyles have changed. Most students are still taking classes online or working from home. Regular activities and daily distractions took a turn and, in general, people have had more time at home. Though we’ve quickly managed to fill our schedules with virtual work and other responsibilities, people have still found ways to pick up new hobbies — the inspiration for which often came, and continues to come, from TikTok. As such, this raises the question of whether TikTok has actually been beneficial to our generation. Though I don’t think it does too much damage if we spend a few minutes a day on the app, I wouldn’t go as far as to say it's good for us. Yes, TikTok has created a global community that most of us haven't experienced at this scale before, and sure, the platform has inspired some revivals of our childhood hobbies. Yet, I can’t help but wonder how much time we’re spending on the app when we could be out actually developing these hobbies. Though TikTok and it’s recent “Hey, let’s pick up a new hobby” trend has undoubtedly contributed to our generation’s sense of fulfillment, especially when most of our other achievements have been virtual lately, there is nothing that can compare to living a life outside of the digital realm. As hard as it is, putting down your phone could feed you more fulfillment than scrolling through TikTok watching other people perfect new hobbies. Get inspired, yes — learn from what you consume online and let it show you who you’d like to be — but I hope that this doesn't hinder our sense of reality and our motivation to try new things because we want to, not because we’re following a trend. But who am I to know? Either way, I’m glad we’re all picking up books and revisiting hobbies, whatever the inspiration for doing so may be.

  • I’m but a fossil

    By Julia Sacco I’ve always yearned to be thin and soft-spoken, flowers blooming with each utterance from my gentle mouth. To be delicate and sweet, to be offered a sweater on a cold day. To be the kind of girl who glides into clothing without having to check the size. Not the loud, broad girl, taking up too much space in a room with my thundering laugh and mountainous shoulders. Sweating in the summertime, huffing and puffing in the heat, lacking any elegance. I am but a fossil of beauty, what was once there now encompassed in harsh rock and dirt. Oh, how I miss my radiance.

  • love, likings, & other words

    By: Dorsa Rahbar I first heard the word crush when I was six. Inside my primary school’s washroom, a couple of girls from class were discussing the phenomenon while giggling and laughing. I remember feeling confused, so I asked them what they meant by the word. Laughing, they asked me how I could possibly not know what a crush was. The girls went on to explain that a crush is what happens when you like, like someone. I developed my own crush when I was seven. His name was Brandon, he was blond, blue-eyed, and he was fast. Brandon was always running because he was on the school's track team, and I sometimes found myself having a hard time finding him at lunch. This was heavily problematic for my seven-year-old self, as Brandon was a year older, and the only time I would get to see him was at lunch. I didn't dare tell anyone about my crush because I wanted to hold on to this warm, fuzzy feeling. At seven years old, I could never imagine liking anyone, any more than I liked Brandon. The thing was, Brandon didn’t even know I existed. But just knowing that I would get to see him at lunch, running around and chasing his friends, brought me a familiar sense of comfort that no one else could provide. When I think about my first crush or even the concept of love, I think of Brandon. Because while nothing ever happened between us, not even a conversation in my case, Brandon was my first real crush. Brandon made me realize that I did care for boys, I did want to experience Cinderella’s happily ever after, and I certainly wanted him to like, like me. I moved shortly after, and Brandon’s fascination would be replaced by an array of other crushes throughout my adolescence. Of course, I never loved him, but he will always hold a special place in my heart. In my teenage years, I craved another sort of love: friendships. I didn’t have a best friend or a group of close friends until my late adolescence. For years, I was obsessed with finding best friends, people who I could love and care for. Each year I would be on the scout for friends, though, just like school, we would only last two semesters. But when I did find them at the end of high school and early in university, I knew that I had found myself people I loved, platonically we were soulmates. The thing about love is that it’s either so much more or so much less than how we individually define it. Up until a few years ago, my idea of love was mostly romantic. Of course, I loved my parents and family, but I believed that it was a different kind of love. I always thought love was the type we see in the movies; the main character meets the love interest, they get together, some action and/or climax is resolved, and they end up together, forever. But the more I age, the more I experience different kinds of love. Love to me, and love to you, are two separate ideas. For you, it could be love for anime, music, gaming, science— the list goes on. This philosophy is something I’ve come to realize at twenty-one. Because love is more than just sappy romcoms and happily ever afters. It’s about what you enjoy, care for, and hold dearly to your heart. It makes your eyes go big and your heart grow soft. When I think about the people I love, characters, books, films, games, they are so different from one another. However, one thing they have in common is the way I care and feel deeply for them. Because all of us deserve to be loved and not judged by who and what we love.

  • Song for the Ancestors

    By: Tiera Sandiford I have seen how a mother knows endless love For the child she has held only once The way she is spellbound by someone so new yet primally familiar I admire the beauty of this love And have found it for the people who made their homes in the heavens long ago They are the ones who have given me their broad nose and soulful eyes As a most precious parting gift Those who fought for scraps of liberty While whole nations pinned their arms behind their backs So I could know the freedom to dream a thousand dreams And write my name in the constellations Like a mother My love for my ancestors is infinite It is the power I need to heal my sisters and brothers Of the traumas that follow us from the womb like birthmarks A promise of the most unbreakable sort To write the stories my grandmothers kept hidden Beneath pillowcases and in gardens and tightly woven hair I will sing them from the mountaintops with each rising sun And let the winds carry the sweet songs of my ancestors Forevermore

  • song of worship

    By: Julia McGolrick let me worship you he whispers ever so gently get on your knees, then i reply, the flames igniting in my pupils he drops to the floor his skin graces the ground and it sounds like a plea, like submission his gaze holding mine the entire time a doe-eyed supplicant he kisses prayers across my feet, continuing the holy utterances up my legs and finally, he sings the most sacred song into the tomb that rests between my thighs as i arch backwards and turn my neck skyward i gasp, uttering an invocation to god and silently ask myself if this heaven or the most sublime depths of hell

  • Nobody told me

    By: Aru Kaul Nobody told me that this is how it would be That I’d live each minute comparing you to me. You’re stronger, they say. You make a mistake, they look away. “Boys will be boys” is an excuse they consider good. Yet why does no one understand that it denies girls of their girlhood? Nobody told me that this is how it’s done That I’m supposed to be number two, while you're number one. Men are rational, they say. Men are more intelligent, they say. Portraying men as emotionless robots can sway. Up until they argue, “What was she wearing anyway?” Nobody told me that this is how it works That you are the shovel, and I am the dirt. You mock me because you believe I am trash you can throw. But what you don’t realize is that seeds need dirt, not shovels, to grow.

  • Lost In Translation

    By Amara Tasnim There’s a dead language between my lips, tucked behind my teeth. I chew on the vowels, the syntaxes, the alliteration Before I volley it across from me —It falls at my feet. Staring back at me are eyes hardened by endless toil, A grave face of lines etched from working two jobs And a back like Atlas, burdened by bills. We speak on different radio frequencies, Lost in translation, the dial always a notch off. She in a mother tongue my mouth feels foreign to form, And I, an anachronism of split cultures; a displacement of land. The marvels of my archaic words, my preserved discretions Are lost in the wind, lying limp on the concrete. There’s a dead language between my lips, I dug it out from underground, Like a forgotten artifact, I dust it off and adorned it. And the people around me looked at me funny; Tilted their heads and furrowed their brows And no Rosetta Stone could decode my meaning. Is this how Sappho feels? Her lyrics so delicately crafted But erased by time and weathered by history, The articulations of her heavy heart’s yearning, Of her discreet desires, decayed by the will of eternity. And all that is left is a fragment of two, A glimpse into the dead language she spoke. And we will never know the gravity of what she truly wrote.

  • Pick A Side

    By: Aru Kaul I was 14 when I first kissed a girl. I was dared to do it. It took me over two years after that to come to terms with my bisexuality. I continuously told myself that the dare I did at 14 was just that; a dare. I spoke it into existence. I was straight. I was as straight as an arrow - never mind that I was attracted to both boys AND girls. It didn’t mean anything. I just thought girls were pretty. I was straight. At 16, I was still trying to shove a straight agenda down my own throat. It was around this time when I learned about heteronormativity, and realized that was exactly what was happening to me. I guess I should have known something was up when I was deliberately picking boys in my classes to have crushes on. Even with the music I consumed, so many love songs were men singing about their admiration of women or their bodies; usually just their bodies. This led me to believe that my ultimate goal in life was to be loved by a man. I dressed for the male gaze. I suppressed my loud, talkative, confident personality because boys like shy girls. I pretended to be someone I was not. I eventually came to accept that I identified as a queer woman. A queer South-Asian woman, to be exact. Though I didn’t really know how to feel about that second part. Queer South-Asians experience an erasure of their culture and this is exactly how I felt coming into the community. How could I be queer, South-Asian and a woman when I had never seen those things belonging together? As a brown girl, I came to Canada when I was very young and Bollywood was a huge part of my childhood. I enjoyed dressing up, singing, dancing; I was a very dramatic kid. Bollywood movies and songs allowed me to express myself. By the time I was 7, I had already memorized every single line to what is still my favourite movie to this day! However, I never grew up seeing queer brown representation in the media that I consumed. Queer people or queerness are almost never central to the plot of a Bollywood film, Any representation they do get is almost always as the butt of a joke, although that has been changing. I didn’t know anyone else who was like me. So, I asked myself, was I just doing all this for attention? But, how could it be for attention if hardly anybody knew I was bi? I didn’t always understand references to queer pop culture either. Imposter syndrome would always take over me and make me feel like a fraud. Not straight enough to be accepted in society, but also not queer enough to feel like I belonged in the LGBTQ+ community. Often, both in and out of the community, I would have people ask me about my “straight-to-gay percentage.” I wasn’t sure if my percentage was 50/50. I wasn’t sure if I even had a percentage. When I found out I was bisexual, to me, it just meant that I loved everyone. Could it be that I was just a really good ally? The straight-to-gay percentage concept really got in my head. I decided that if I wasn’t going to be 50/50 or have a preference then I needed to pick a side once and for all. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was my internalized biphobia coming out because I just wanted to fit in. This is one of the most common myths that contribute to the erasure of bisexuality. The assumption that bisexual people are 50 per cent straight exacerbates the myth that we, “don’t have it as bad.” We absolutely do. We literally get stereotyped as greedy, promiscuous, unfaithful, incapable of monogamy - because we are bisexual. To me, my percentage was, and still is, just a number that I spat out on the spot for the purpose of answering the question. All I know is that I am 100 per cent bisexual. In 2019, I created an Instagram account, @youreveryday.tea, to be a voice for marginalized communities. This began as an outlet for my thoughts, but I continue to work towards turning it into a safe space for all marginalized people. I have become a lot more open about my sexuality and can say without hesitation that I am a woman of colour in the LGBTQ+ community. I used to think that picking a side would be the solution to my problems. Since then, I have learned not only to accept, but also to embrace who I am. I wish the same for everyone who sees themselves in this story - because queer people deserve a much better life than one spent sacrificing their true selves for the comfort of society. And just so it’s clear, I still haven’t picked a side!

  • What’s so great about sex?

    Being comfortable with yourself and your partner is key to a sexual connection By Omar Taleb On New Year’s Day, Oliver woke up and decided that the only way he could get out of having sex with his girlfriend was to tell her that his co-worker had gotten into a car accident. Oliver, 26, can’t ejaculate from sex in the morning. He gets hard, but never horny enough to orgasm. He’d be surprised to learn that Alisa, his 19-year-old girlfriend, doesn’t get horny either. While Alisa also hates morning sex, she remembered something her friend told her when they were out for drinks. “Not having sex with your boyfriend on New Year’s Day sets a terrible precedent,” the friend had said. “It sets you guys up for failure.” Liking or disliking morning sex didn’t matter to her anymore. It was the precedent that was on Alisa’s mind as her boyfriend jumped out of bed, phone in hand, and ran to the bathroom. He came out a few minutes later, boner non-existent. “Jessica’s okay, it wasn’t too bad. From the way she put it in the text, I thought she was in the hospital.” Wrapped in the bedsheets and unsure of what to say, she realized his underwear was already back on. If not having sex on New Year’s sets the relationship up for failure, Alisa didn’t want to think about what comes after getting cock-blocked by a car crash. ** For something so universal, the concept of pleasure is not the easiest topic to bring up to partners. “It takes practice to get comfortable expressing your needs,” says Toronto-based relationship therapist Carlyle Jansen. Young people tend to be more comfortable telling their friends about what’s working in the bedroom and what isn’t. It can be a bonding tool composed of envious tales of sexual exploits and embarrassing sexual failures, but talking to a group of friends isn’t the same as talking to a romantic partner. “There’s a fear of rejection,” Jansen says. “We’re a little bit more vulnerable, and the acceptance and the judgement cuts a lot deeper.” According to a Mic article, sexual compatibility can be the deciding factor for a successful relationship among young couples. For Alisa, an age gap of seven years between her and Oliver has made it feel as though she needs to play catch-up. “I feel like I need to grow with him sexually,” she says. “It could be easier with someone else.” If the sex isn’t going so well, she fears, does it mean they need to break up? “When sex is bad, it actually accounts for quite a bit of the dissatisfaction in what could otherwise be a pretty good relationship,” says sex therapist Kat Kova. “But when sex is good, it only makes up about 15-20 per cent of the overall satisfaction in the relationship.” Kova says that people often think about sex as a performance. This can often lead to unrealistic expectations, pressure, anxiety and feeling disconnected from the experience; which naturally leads to problems with arousal and desire. Relationship writer and intimacy coach Kyle Benson points out that the pressures of having a perfect sex life can feed into sexual dissatisfaction. He says a lack of desire or general frustration is a signal for both partners to grow. “It’s not the time for sex pressure.” ** In a 2018 article from InsideHook on unsatisfying sex, therapist Jacqueline Mendez points out that the lack of communication between partners can slowly chip away at physical chemistry. When it feels as though sexual compatibility has been compromised, it can hang like a cloud, becoming an uncomfortable mixture of shame and confusion. Healthy communication between partners is key, and self-awareness is a way to get there. If satisfying sex means pleasure over performance, as Kova says, then having a deeper and more intimate understanding of personal desire is the first step to being intimate with a partner. For Alisa, personal desire means exploring what excites her, and only then can she share these desires with Oliver. Sexual exploration can involve watching porn, having sex with her partner or simply using her index and middle fingers. It can even mean keeping a sex journal. “When you read articles about how to have great sex, it doesn’t say much about [how to] tune into yourself and what feels good,” Jansen says. Kova says that being aware of a partner’s sensitivities is also a gesture that makes a big impact on the sexual dynamic. The reassurance that comes with supporting a partner’s wants and needs goes both ways. Unpacking insecurities around not being able to orgasm in the morning is Oliver’s next step in understanding his sexual desires on his terms and on his schedule. It’s a total misconception that men should always want or be ready for sex, explains psychotherapist and sex specialist Vanessa Marin in a 2017 Bustle article. “Most women feel their own arousal ebb and flow throughout an interaction,” Marin says, “but it’s important to recognize that that happens for our partners too.” ** Kova talks about sexual desire as something to develop before sharing with a partner. She described it as something otherworldly, “a life force within that drives you, that drives movement, action and a sense of aliveness.” What makes for great sex is what individuals in the relationship bring to the table. For couples, it’s whether they take risks or if they’re able to be vulnerable, Jansen says. Exploring and taking ownership of one’s sexual desire without embarrassment makes it easier to talk about feeling sexually dissatisfied. What comes after this varies by person and by relationship, but the first step is having the vocabulary and the confidence to be open about dissatisfaction. Kova maintains that giving permission to desire from the very beginning comes before any conversation on sexual compatibility and physical chemistry. “We’re very much wired to connect,” she says. Cock-blocks and car crashes aside, the best precedent for great sex is one built on connection.

  • The human connection of virtual therapy

    Loss, isolation and fear are impacting mental health conditions during COVID-19 By Megan Camlasaran The stranger on my laptop asks why I chose to start therapy. I’m fidgeting in my seat, trying to find a definite answer, but I am also distracted, hoping no one in my family comes home and overhears my session. I try to steady my voice, all the while hoping the internet connection stays strong so I won’t have to repeat myself again. Before I know it, 30 minutes have passed and my therapist says she’s looking forward to seeing me next week. Acknowledging mental health and searching for support is a lot to handle alone, especially when facing the added difficulties of the pandemic, like isolation, a loss of motivation, and the infamous Zoom fatigue. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), 50 per cent of Candians reported worsening mental health since the pandemic began. Sitting down at my desk and staring at screens all day was not how I envisioned my second year of university. Instead of paying attention to dreadful three-hour zoom lectures, I daydream about chasing stories around the city for the journalism lab that I would’ve seen all my friends in, where we’d be laughing and stressing to meet our deadlines together. The loss of human connection and non-stop screen time is what gradually diminished the last shred of motivation I had left. I felt my personal well-being take a turn for the worse and I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. Stephanie Charitar, an analyst for inclusion and diversity at CPP Investments, decided to seek treatment for her depression and anxiety in 2019. She was referred to a cognitive behavioural therapy program called Bounce Back, a national self-led program which provides skills and techniques that help people in coping with low mood and worry, free of cost. Charitar would make sure no one else was home, settle into her room on her bed, pull out the workbooks the program mailed to her and dial in to her phone therapy session. With her therapist on speaker, she would take notes in her little book. She describes her anxiety levels as always being high, and her thoughts being “all over the place.” It always felt like she was having mini panic attacks. Once she started therapy and taking anti-anxiety medication, she felt a little more at peace. “It was weird but nice. My mind was quiet for once. It didn’t have those constant self-doubts, overthinking thoughts, my mind wasn’t racing 24/7 anymore and it was nice.” As psychiatric care becomes widely available online, services like Inkblot, Talkspace, and Betterhelp are getting more recognition and attention for their commitment to ensuring people have access to affordable and readily available therapy. After Charitar finished the Bounce Back program, she decided to try Inkblot, where there are options to call, text or video call with therapists. While she was uncomfortable at first, Charitar says that feeling eased gradually. “It was like stepping stones, getting to know them and them getting to know me helped.” As social beings who thrive off making connections with other humans, the fear is not being able to connect to a therapist the same way online. However, what matters most to people is that the human element remains the same, according to Dr. Bruce Fage, a psychiatrist at CAMH. As stated by CAMH, 30 per cent of Canadians did not seek help for their mental health pre-pandemic because of barriers like cost, language, and transportation. Virtual therapy provides solutions to many of these barriers and allows more Canadians access to the psychiatric care they need. Fage believes that the convenience of virtual therapy will encourage more to seek treatment and will become part of a normalized routine, even after patients have the option to return to in-person visits. Charitar doesn't see herself ever doing in-person therapy sessions, as she now prefers the flexibility and accessibility of online. She is able to schedule sessions in between work or after a long day — whatever works best for her. Much like patients, therapists are also trying to navigate their way through these changes. Fage did a phone session with a patient for the first time, and it went well. They were able to talk as freely as they would have in-person. “We want to keep people comfortable and we work really hard to do that.” In May 2020, the federal government promised $240 million toward mental health resources and better e-therapy options. CAMH noticed video therapy sessions growing from around 300 per month to more than 8000 by December 2020. Ziyad Patail, a digital producer at, has been doing in-person therapy since 2016, and has since had to attend virtual sessions. At first, Patail didn’t think the sessions would go well — as someone who believes in the human, in-person element of healing — but he is now appreciative of being able to access any care at all. Patail says therapy is a “sounding board” for his mind and emotions, “an accountability partner for life.” For me, therapy provides much needed perspective and clarity when my mind is overwhelmed. At times, I feel like I’m running a constant marathon, trying to catch up with the endless to-do lists that seem near impossible to achieve from the one corner of my home that has now also become my workspace. Struggling with mental health, especially in a pandemic, can be a very lonely thing. I feel human connection becoming a faded memory in my mind. I miss seeing a friend across the street and running up to them to embrace them in a long-overdue hug. I miss seeing the unintentional smiles on people’s faces when they see something that makes them happy, the smiles between strangers who walk past each other and the smiles that let you know you’re not alone. I discovered that virtual therapy can be a solid source of support for some. It is guiding people to take care of their own well-being, while also maintaining connections with others no matter the distance between. Patail describes how, in the midst of uncertainty, he finds solace in knowing that people are experiencing similar emotions. I didn’t realize how much losing that human element in life has impacted my own well-being until I was able to speak about it in virtual therapy. This serves as both a reminder of the many losses caused by COVID-19, but also as an anchor that keeps me connected and mentally sound.

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