One hundred and eighty-five PART TWO

I made it through Out of My Comfort Zone month!

I still can’t believe I made it through this month and half way through my year.  There have been many ups and downs and I’m so proud of myself and thankful to everyone who has helped me.  This month has seen me do everything from be naked to wear a diaper.  I’ve seen an increase in my readers – with my post about me dressing as a hussy in Yorkville getting 969 views in one day (not quite the 1000 in a day that is my goal, but close)!  I’ve hated and I’ve loved this month, and although I’m glad it’s over, I’m so happy I tried everything that I did (yes, even the disturbing experience of  the porn cinema).

Recap of the month

I have done so many things this month that challenged and scared me, but ultimately taught me a lot.  Here are the ways I put myself out of my comfort zone: lunch with a stranger; karaoke; lying; nude photo shoot; Chinatown mystery foods; meeting the parents; birthing videos; writing a stand-up comedy routine; nudist at home; “dress like a total hussy” while shopping and having lunch in Yorkville; bar hopping – solo; eating pig’s feet, beef tripe and tongue; fake nails; porn cinema; STI tests; Holiday Luncheon Meat; dress like a “total bum” while shopping and having lunch in Yorkville; goth bar; eating eel; sleeping in a creepy cabin alone in the woods; swimming alone in the lake; saying hello to my everyone on the street in Parkdale; clothing optional beach; brazilian wax; wearing a diaper; trip to the swingers club Wicked; radical honesty; Fan Expo – comic, horror, anime, sci fi, and gaming convention; blind; “attend an event in a language you don’t know”; panhandling.

What did I learn?

This was one of the hardest months for me, but also challenged me the most (and was very entertaining to read I have heard).  I found it incredibly difficult to beg for money, everything to do with stand-up comedy (I spent a lot of the month stressed about trying to be funny enough for stand-up and relying on the amazing Peter Cianfarani to help me through it), entering the world of the adult porn cinema, and pretty much anything that made me the centre of attention (karaoke, nudity, and dressing like a hussy in Yorkville).

However, it did get easier as the month progressed.  I became more confident in myself and therefore it became harder to put myself out of my comfort zone.  As the end of the month neared, I was more willing to jump in and try pretty much anything out.  I knew that things are usually worse in my imagination than they are in real life (with the exception of the porn cinema – way worse than my wildest imagination), and that I would survive the task and be a more informed person for doing it.

I also became more observant, noticing more of other people’s reactions now than I used to, and taking the time to pay attention to them.  Surprisingly to me, people are generally friendly and helpful (not always, but more than I would have guessed).  I always though Torontonians tended to keep to themselves, but I had the help of so many strangers to make this month work – even when they didn’t know they were helping me.

Where do I go from here with Out of My Comfort Zone?

There were quite a few suggestions of things that I didn’t get around to and want to try.  Eleanor Roosevelt said: “Do one thing every day that scares you”.  Pushing myself to do these things that are difficult for me have opened my mind and I want to continue to try things out of my comfort zone.  Maybe not every day, but as much as I can.  Here are some of my favourite suggestions of things I should do (thanks everyone for your input):

  • So many things to do with heights that I didn’t get a chance to do – bungee jump, sky dive, introductory flight lesson (flying a plane), CN Tower walk.  Unfortunately all of these cost more money than I can afford right now, but I will one day try them.  Perhaps when I sell my book…
  • A friend of mine volunteers to transcribe feminist porn for the hearing-impaired.  I am fascinated by what you actually transcribe.  Moans?  Grunts?  Just talking?
  • Shoot a gun or a bow and arrow (at a target, not at another living being).
  • Be silent for a day (although I still not sure this is possible for me).
  • Audition for the opera – OK, this one might not actually happen, but I love the suggestion.
  • Slam poetry.
  • Confront a grudge (I have one major grudge in my life and I am thinking of confronting it so I can let it go).
  • Tell someone you truly love them (the romantic in me loves this suggestion).
  • Piercings and tattoos
  • Enter into a “learning” discussion with someone who has an opposing view than yourself on a topic. Try to learn something from their point of view, rather than from a perspective of a debate.
  • Drop into and attend a class at the university in a subject you don’t know much about….just sneak in and sit in a chair…see what happens! (I really want to do this)
  • All day you do all those things that are considered rude and everyone does them, just alone or the privacy of their own home.  Like Fart, Burp, pick your nose, pick a wedgie, spit, whatever.  And not apologize for it.  (I don’t actually want to do this, but this comes from my friend Sarah who lives in Shanghai and in China it is completely normal to do all these things in public).
  • Reg Hart Cineforum – a man has a cinema in his basement and invites the public in.  Intriguing, but sort of weird.

I also haven’t had the opportunity to do my stand-up comedy routine that I’ve been working really hard on (although I’ve hated it – breaking through my issues with my own funniness has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do this month).  I couldn’t get a space in an open mic night/comedy club, so am booking one for when I get back from my trip (probably some time in October).  I will be posting my attempt at being humorous onstage then.

A change in the months

There is a change in what I am doing the months ahead, due to the unpredictability of life and my adventurous side.  I am driving a friend across Canada, from Toronto to Vancouver, to help him move to BC – leaving September 9th and flying back three weeks later.  I am driving his truck, he is driving his motorcycle, we are communicating via headset (so cool).  I have always wanted to drive across our beautiful country and when this opportunity arose, I couldn’t pass it up. September was supposed to be Vegan month, but I’ve decided to move this to October because of health reasons (it will be too hard to eat properly and be vegan in the small towns) but also because I think First Kiss Interviews will be more fun to do on the road.  I will be  interviewing one person a day as I drive through Brandon, Moose Jaw, Medicine Hat, and all the other towns we’ll stop in.  I’ll get to meet some interesting people and you can read stories of people across Central/Western Canada.  So tomorrow begins my First Kiss Interviews.

October will now be Vegan for the Month and January (which used to be First Kiss Interviews) will now be Life at the Poverty Line (I think fitting as I’m sure there will be many people who spent too much money on Christmas wanting some tips on how to live life cheaply).  

One hundred and eighty-five PART ONE

Begging for money (and Making it through Out of My Comfort Zone Month!) – PART ONE 

I kept putting this one off.  This is beyond out of my comfort zone.  I was taught as a kid to work really hard, save money and only ask for help when you really need it.  I worked full-time while doing a full-time Honours Bachelor of Arts.  When I wanted to take my grad degree in Australia, I worked two jobs, seven days a week for a year so I could afford to go.  The thought of asking someone for money makes my skin crawl.  But so many people suggested I do this to put myself in the place of what it is to be homeless, that I knew I had to.

It was one of the most difficult things I tried to do this month and I felt horrible doing it.  I tried to approach people for money, but I just couldn’t.  I asked one lady for change for the phone.  But that’s as far as I could get.  I just couldn’t do it.  I felt so degraded and sad.  I tried sitting down with a bag in front of me, but I don’t look homeless.  Maybe if I had brought a sign…

I walked the streets for an hour in search of panhandlers to sit with.  There weren’t too many people begging in downtown Toronto on a Wednesday afternoon – a few street performers, some homeless people sleeping on park benches, and a couple of different men sitting with signs in front of them.  I gave everyone money and spoke to some of them.

I observed one man without a leg and a sign that read “please help an amputee”.  It was interesting how the people who were obviously rich gave no money and ignored the man, like he was a piece of dirt on the sidewalk.  The people who were middle to lower class and workers were the ones who gave money and stopped to smile at him.

He was from somewhere in Eastern Europe, but spoke very clear English and was obviously an educated man who had lost his leg.  I asked him if he could make a living sitting with his sign on Yonge Street.  He said he needs $500 more a month to pay for housing and food in order to have a permanent residence.  He can’t get disability or a job until he has an address and he can’t get an address until he has disability.  It’s a catch 22.  Therefore he begs to try to get enough money to find a permanent home so he can sort out his life.

It’s interesting how everyone has a story and how sometimes circumstances in life can turn in the wrong direction to make you end up somewhere you don’t want to be.  There are those homeless people begging who are on drugs and try to get change from you while you’re coming off the highway in your car.  I met one man who made the choice to live on the streets because he liked the lack of rules.  And there are those like the man who I speak to frequently at the end of my street who is mentally ill and wanders around begging for cigarettes.  But, there are those like the man above whose life has gone in a bad direction out of his control and he is trying to fix it.

I admit I get frustrated with those people who don’t work and ask me for change when they choose to be homeless.  But this experience made me realize that you really do have to hit rock bottom to get to the point where you need to beg people for money.  Getting out of that downward cycle is hard, and a little boost like money or food would make a world of difference in their lives.

PART TWO – “Making it through Out of My Comfort Zone” (and an intro to what I’m doing this month) will be posted later this evening.