Monday, January 25, 2010

On Falling in Love

Why do we fall in love?

Boy or girl, we are naturally programmed to seek out that fairytale ending, our "happily ever after". More often than not, it ends in disaster and pain, but we keep trying, hoping we'll find "the one" some day.

When you meet someone you think you would like to date, do you get excited? Don't deny it... Being with that person makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. You can't help but wonder how you would be together, if the search is finally over, if this is it, the moment you fall in love for the last time, "the one". Unless, of course, it's a purely physical attraction and those are your intentions from the start. But disregarding that option, if you're looking for a relationship, you might wonder about the future.

For some, these initial long-term thoughts are a test. Do I see myself with this person? Could we still have fun hanging out after the initial spark is gone? Will we be holding hands as we grow old?

It might sound sappy, but it's true. We all do it. It's an internal response system that is meant to help you reject the insufficient options so you don't waste your time. It's not just psychological, in fact, it's more likely biological. After all, male or female, the clock is ticking. There's a sense of urgency to finally finding the security of life-long company, whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, independent or co-dependent, whether you've already built a life for yourself or are just laying down the foundations for your future.

We long for the company of a warm body on a cold winter night, for snuggles by the fireplace and a hand to hold as you walk through the park, someone to share ice cream with on a hot summer's day, someone to comfort you when you're mad or sad and tell you that it's going to be alright. We cannot help but look for it, though we know that it's only when we stop searching that we truly open ourselves up to love, and to being loved.

Why this compulsion that so often leads us in the wrong direction? There is nothing positive about settling for a relationship that is stagnant and prevents you from growing. It's a waste of time and yet we do it anyway. Why do people so often stay in abusive relationships? We convince ourselves that it's not so bad, that our partner doesn't really have that many faults, that he/she doesn't really mean to hurt us, and that maybe, just maybe, we could be a little more patient, give a little bit more, and then, it just might work.

Human beings are lazy, yes, but we don't like to give up. Nobody likes to feel like a failure. We have a hard time admitting that it's just not working. That's why break-ups are so hard, for both sides. No matter how much or how little you've invested in the relationship, by breaking up, you're admitting that you were wrong, it was a waste of time and, more importantly, that your search isn't over. The dreams go out the window when you hear the words: "I'm sorry, you're not the one." And every time, you grieve, as if it was. In your mind, you had already committed your heart and soul. You had already fallen in love. And now, you've lost it all: what you had, what you could have had, what you thought you had. Time to start from scratch, rev up your engine, folks, because the harsh dispiriting search is back on.

It's why we have rebounds. And relapses.

We just cannot fathom being alone, not having someone to share special moments with, not having someone to grow old with, not having someone to die with.

We are afraid of being alone, no matter how much we enjoy it. We'd like to have our alone time during the day but come home to a warm, occupied bed. We want to have it all.

And that's why relationships fail. Because we're trying too hard to convince ourselves that it's the right match. Because we don't want to keep searching, because that's too hard, on the heart, on the mind, on the body... Because we'd rather have the knowledge that things aren't perfect but at least we've got someone to call. Because we'd rather have something than nothing at all.

We fall in love, right or wrong, whether we want to or not, because we need to. Because the very definition of being human is to seek out comfort and acceptance and love. Because it's a biological longing to procreate and to leave something of yourself behind when you go. Even though it means more tears than smiles, more heartaches and crying, more desperation and more pain, we keep trying to fall in love, keep hoping this is "the one", keep searching for our fairytale ending, our "happily ever after".

Why do we fall in love? Because we don't have a choice.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A note on text donations for #Haiti

Giving by text message is an easy way to help. Monetary aid is more practical than food or clothing donations at this point, though in the long-term, those will probably be appreciated as well. In the aftermath of the Haiti Earthquake, the American Red Cross quickly set up a mobile giving number and effectively spread the word through social media, especially Twitter. The Canadian Salvation Army later followed suit.

There are a lot of mixed reports on how and where you can donate to the Haiti Earthquake fund. Here is a short list of a few legitimate options for mobile giving with this specific cause in mind. All donations will appear on your next cellphone bill.

If you're in the USA, text "HAITI" to 20222 to donate $10 to the Red Cross.


In Canada, text "HAITI" to 45678 to make a $5 donation to the Canadian Salvation Army. Edit: According to this article, the government of Canada is matching all donations to the Salvation Army's Haiti fund.

You can also donate $5 to Plan Canada by texting "HAITI" to 30333. The government of Canada has confirmed it is matching Plan Canada donations.

Rogers/Fido customers can also text "Help" or "Aide" to 1291 to donate $5 for Haiti.

The government of Canada has announced that it would be matching all donations made to registered charities between January 12 to February 12, 2010. In fact, Canada is creating their own separate fund for Haiti and contributing a matching amount of money to said fund. If you have any additional questions or concerns, check out the CIDA FAQ here.

REMEMBER: Always make sure to donate to registered charities. Unfortunately, there are already lots of Haiti fund scams out there.

Be vigilant. And give whatever you can. Everything helps.

Friday, January 08, 2010

On sharing

As you may know, I'm a huge fan of Wil Wheaton. It's not just his work as an actor or his talent as a writer.

It's because he is honest about who he is, as an individual, a father, a husband, an artist, and a geek. He doesn't hide his true character the way that most of us do, and that takes a whole lot of courage and self-esteem. Sure, he keeps some things private, but that's vital to anyone's sanity and totally understandable.

In his latest blog post, Wil talks about what motivates him as a writer. He says,

All artists are compelled to do what we do, whether it's music or storytelling or painting or whatever. (...) I struggle sometimes to find a balance between just "being" somewhere and mentally recording what it's like to be there, but I don't really have a choice in the matter...

This is exactly how I feel about my craft, whether it's blogging, reporting, or working behind the scenes in TV. In fact, I was so much in agreement with his perspective that I was compelled to add my own in his comments. I said,

Yes. As a writer/journo/TV broadcaster/blogger/tweeter/sharer, I definitely think we're compelled. There's just no other way to explain it. We don't just do it because we like it or want to... we HAVE to.

When I don't write SOMETHING/ANYTHING for a while, I feel all bottled up and stressed and I just have to let it out in some form. Sometimes, I can avoid the actual creative process by doing something related, like singing or playing the guitar. But most of the time, that's just a temporary fix. Like craving chocolate but having hot chocolate instead.

As for the balance... It's really tough to just "be". At least for me. I find it hard to leave the observational, detail-oriented, analytical part of me behind and just enjoy experiences. I always have the need to record and to share, and it's only after much struggling that I can push that need aside.

I've found that going into a situation deciding NOT to report but just to enjoy sometimes helps achieve that "it's okay not to tell the whole world about this" feeling. But not always. Although it does become easier with practice!

Thanks for sharing! :)

And now you know.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Things You Miss The Most

This week, for the first time in a long time, I sat down and tried to write a real article. It was hard!!

I was helped by the fact that my piece would feel more like a column rather than a hard news story , but even then, I was reminded of how much work it takes to write a concise, easy-to-read article that is not a blog post.

I will admit that when I first started writing, I was a little bit afraid of the 600-800 words order... but I ended up going over!

The thing is... I usually just write. Even when I was doing more hard news reporting, I familiarized myself with the story, figured out what I wanted to say while I was still in transition from location to desk, and just sat down and wrote. Sometimes, I would have to pause half way and re-assess my intentions for the piece. I would take this time to make a few edits and trim a few superfluous words.

Then, I would probably tweak my lead a bit and keep writing until I got stuck on the ending, which is always the hardest part for me to write.

Sometimes, it just works. You just know. And it writes itself. But other times - like this weekend - it didn't. I knew I should wrap it up with a reference to my lead because it was just that kind of piece, but I still didn't feel confident that I had a killer last sentence.

Then I'd do one last read-through for copy-editing purposes, or hold off until the next day in the case of a really long paper/essay/piece with a looser deadline, and that's about it.

Dust off your hands, we're done!

I blame my prose insecurities on all the job applications I've been writing. The composition style is different, to be sure, and there are certain rules that you more or less have to follow. Writing an article isn't like writing a blog either... Here, I really can just spew out a mumbo-jumbo of thoughts. Form and flow don't really matter... the words just fall into place naturally.

Perhaps the lack of facts made the piece harder to write and a press conference story would have been easy-peasy. In fact, I think I could probably jump back into press conference story writing in a jiffy - and will be for the Vancouver Olympics! - because it's something you just don't forget.

Lead. 5 W. Tell us why we should care. Tell us what we can do/how to follow up. Background info that the editors can cut for space.

That's right, the inverted pyramid is pinned to the corkboard in my mind. Thanks, J-school profs!

But it wasn't applicable in this case, was it?

So... How did I do? I'd really love your feedback, so without further ado, here it is, as published yesterday on The

The Things You Miss The Most
Going away and not keeping score

By Naila Jinnah

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where your BlackBerry or iPhone doesn’t work? What if you can’t get an Internet connection either? And to top it all off, the TV gets nothing but static!

While this may seem like an ideal scenario for many a sports widow, it’s not so cool for the sports fan.

I recently went to Cuba for a week (boo-hoo, I know!) and while it was relieving to spend some time away from the constant buzz of technology, I did occasionally wonder how the Montreal Canadiens were faring on their annual holiday road trip. And if Team Canada was kicking butt at the World Junior Championship in Saskatchewan. Oh, and hoping that no additional Canadian medal hopefuls had gotten injured in competitions leading up to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games.

It is indeed an exciting time for Canadian sports fans, but despite the high concentration of tourists from the True North Strong and Free, no one was talking hockey. There were lots of Habs shirts though, and I think I spotted a few Sens logos. And, in case you were wondering, no, I didn’t see a single Leafs’ fan.

With so many potential breaking sports stories during my time away, it was with great urgency that I turned on my BlackBerry as soon as the plane landed at Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport. After about a gazillion incoming message notifications – thankfully, I remembered to turn off my ringer – I immediately went searching for sports news. In times away from the computer, I have found great comfort in receiving my TSN Morning Newsletter on my phone. This was no exception.

One might assume that the first thing I would want to check was the outcome of the Habs games.

Well, you’re right.

However, after scrolling through the NHL scores, I realized that I was most interested in the other stories. The ones that usually make me go “Hmm” in the morning but only click on if the headline really captures my attention. The ones that, most of the time, I don’t necessarily care about reading through to the end and therefore stop paying attention to not long after the lead paragraph. These are the stories that intrigued me.

As it turns out, they were all human interest stories. The torchbearer getting knocked down by protesters in Guelph. Prime Minister Stephen Harper suspending the Canadian Parliament until after the Olympics. Not just the announcement of Team Canada’s men’s hockey roster for the Olympics, but also the reactions of those selected and those left aside. The NHL and the NHLPA actually working together for once to write to the International Ice Hockey Federation about Team Russia’s potential last minute roster changes for the Games. Tiger Woods being voted best athlete of the decade, despite the ongoing controversy in his personal life.

The truth is, most of these stories could make the front page of a newspaper or lead a newscast. There was nothing especially sporty about them, save for the fact that they involved athletic events or personalities. The stories were about politics, business, and law - stories with excitement, betrayal and hope.

They were stories about our lives.

At the beginning of this piece, you probably pictured me as a hockey-obsessed fan that can’t take the risk of disconnecting and unwinding. You probably thought that I was a Leaf-hater, that I don’t watch any news other than Sports 30 and that I can’t stand being without my BlackBerry.

While that last part is probably more accurate than I’d like it to be, the point is that we are all multifaceted people. Sometimes, we forget that there is more to sports than victories and medals, and indeed, that there is more to life than sports. Or rather, sports are just another facet of life.

When I understood that it wasn’t finding out the scores that matters the most but rather reading the stories about people, I realized how much you miss when you take off for a week. Obviously, you don’t get all the live excitement, but most importantly, you miss out on the subtleties of sport, and of life. You miss Tomas Plekanec losing a tooth. You miss the horror of the Olympic flame potentially going out when the torch hits the ground – and it’s all your fault!

What else do you miss? You miss all the things that I can’t tell you about because I wasn’t there when it happened. Did Cindy Klassen grimace and stretch her legs after failing to qualify for the 1,000m speed skating race? I’ll never know.

These are the things you miss the most when your smartphone can’t find a network, you can’t get online, and you can’t find static-free TV.

You miss the moments that help shape peoples’ lives.


Saturday, January 02, 2010

On 2009

First off, Happy New Year to all!

Good. Now that that's done... I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. I was fortunate enough to escape the cold Montreal winter for 7 days in Cuba with my parents on the beautiful beach of Varadero. It was a great experience - my first of hopefully many Cuban escapades! - and yes, I've got a great tan.

And what a grand way to cap off 2009!

They say that what you do on New Year's Eve and Day is a prediction for your year. In that case, 2010 will see me feeling lonely in a crowd but ocean and beach-side, traveling, spending good times with family and missing my friends.

Looks like nothing's going to change.

For me, 2009 was a year of self-discovery.

I put an end to some toxic relationships and pulled myself away from some that might have become toxic. I realized that sometimes, it's okay to put "me" first.

I wrote many proposals and started a few projects and didn't get to finish most of them... but that's just business. I applied for a whole lot of jobs, revamped my CV and re-launched my personal brand as a freelance broadcast TV technician, translator, and online branding specialist. And I designed my very first set of business cards!

I learned not to care so much about the actual work but to cherish the moments, opportunities and people I get to work with instead. I also learned my lesson - more than once! - that politics can wreck perfectly functional business relationships and destroy potentially marvelous opportunities.

I picked up the guitar again, got my very own gorgeous (red!) instrument, and have almost mastered Bm, F, and Bb. I spent time in a choir, which helped me re-acquire some of the vocal range I had lost.

I started reading again and learned how to turn off the TV, the computer, and the BlackBerry... without panicking! I re-acquainted myself with the gift of nature and truly fostered my love for the elements, fresh air and trees, despite my allergies. I fell in love with the activities of my childhood: hiking, paddling, cross country-skiing and simply exploring the wonders of the outdoors.

I spent most of the year in a wonderful relationship that left me a better, richer person than at the start of it. I gained a precious friend, and through him, many more great friends and experiences that I will never forget. I remembered how to love, and more importantly, how to be (and feel!) loved.

I did some yoga, then stopped doing yoga when I got too busy. But I will never forget the relaxation and respiration techniques I learned, and in fact, I use them unconsciously when I get stressed out or have been sitting for too long.

I spent lots of time traveling in planes, trains and automobiles: Toronto, Ottawa, Kingston, Cleveland, Niagara Falls, Lake Placid, Kenya, Cuba...

I devoted myself to a cause I strongly believe in and earned a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see for myself how beneficial my volunteer work - and that of many others before me - truly is, at the ground level. My trip to Africa left me deeply inspired by the hope of a better world and thankful for all that I have and am.

In 2009, I built myself up, higher, faster and stronger than ever before. I picked myself up, time and time again, and struggled with personal and professional aspects of my life. I was unhappy at the surface but happy deep inside. I was angry at life and the world, but felt blessed at the same time. I was presented with a bunch of marvelous opportunities but worked hard to get those offers. I had high hopes for myself and others but was repeatedly turned down and broken down.

If there is anything I learned in 2009, it is to manage my expectations.

Looking ahead, 2010 promises to be full of surprises and blessings. I kicked off the year in Cuba, inspired by the moon, the sun, the sand and the ocean. I will be traveling again in less than a month, going to Vancouver for the Olympic Games. I will make new contacts, new friends, and continue to develop myself, professionally and personally.

I will allow myself to take more time off and spend more time away from the TV and other media. I will continue to read more, focusing this year on all the non-fiction I've been meaning to dig in to.

I will continue to work on being healthier, mentally and physically, and start by simply getting outside more. I will not limit myself with false pretenses and silly excuses but acknowledge my motivations and use them to encourage myself to stay active.

I will laugh more than I have ever laughed. I will live and I will grow. I will cry and be frustrated at times, but that's okay. I will let it all out - privately - then move on. I will enjoy my life, and if I don't, I will take matters into my own hands and make the improvements I seek. I will be the change I want to see in the world.

I will be honest with myself and with others. I will back down when I'm just being stubborn but I won't back down when I am right or defending my rights.

Most importantly, in 2010, I will be happy. I can feel it in my bones, even as I am managing my expectations: whatever happens in the next year, positives and negatives, ups and downs, the sine waves that regulate our lives will leave me with a higher average leading in to 2011. That's not to say that I won't have any deafening lows, but the peaks are sure to make up for that, no?

And so determined, I march in to 2010 with a big smile on my face, because it is sure to be another defining year.