Tag Archives: Journey

Why I was ashamed to be a Canadian

I think the best way to begin this is by telling you about my family history.
My father arrived to this beautiful country all by himself as a teenager. After finishing high school in Manitoba, he came to study at the University of Saskatchewan where he met my mother, received his two degrees and proceeded to work there for another two decades.

Over my entire lifetime, I have had to learn about ignorance because it wasn’t something that even existed to cross my mind as a child. My household was a literal example of cross-cultural acceptance.  I simply thought it was normal that people had different backgrounds and cultures. I learnt about Norwegian customs: we celebrated Christmas eve with Yule Bread, the Nativity scene, and lefse. I learnt about Chinese New Year: All of the superstitions, what the big meal meant, and how to get that red envelope from my elders 😉 Two of my great aunts spent several decades overseas, one in India and the other in Ethiopia, so we heard all kinds of stories about life across the globe and how differently people lived, yet how similarly we all love.

Most importantly, I learnt about how crucial it is to embrace people and make them feel like they are home. My mom has taught English as an Additional Language to immigrants, and my dad worked as a researcher out of the University for years. Through their jobs, we met several different people from all over the globe.  Over the years, on holidays and for different family events, we welcomed foreign students, new immigrants and some people who just couldn’t get all the way home for special holidays. I remember my dad once telling me that it was important to him to do so because so many people welcomed him and made him feel at home when he came to Canada. It never really was a question, if we knew someone would be alone for a holiday, they were to be invited to the Chan household.

Tonight I sat in shock as he recounted the following story to me. He has an assigned parking spot at the location where he has been working. When he came to park in that spot, he was surprised to find someone sitting in the spot. After pointing to indicate that it was his spot, the driver refused to move for him. After a bit of a standoff, he had to go back to work, so he got out of his car and asked the lady to move out of his parking spot. Her response still confuses me. “You’re trouble. You immigrants are the problem.” She then threatened to call the police and told him he was in trouble.

Ok, let me just stop there. I’m very confused by this statement. So, his immigration to Canada over 4 decades ago somehow relates to YOU parking in HIS spot HOW? This person repeated this phrase and sentences similar to it over and over again, somehow insulted by his simple request to park in the spot that he was entitled to.

In light of recent events around the world, the issue of immigration/refugees has garnered quite a lot of spotlight. Ignorant, rude, racist statements have been exchanged over social media and fear has somehow overtaken this once open-hearted nation. My father, who always seems to find a way to make new friends laugh, yet possesses a quiet, strong way of taking in the world around him has never been one to “cause trouble” because he believes it wouldn’t change anything. Perhaps he is right. I’m sure there are people who will always harbour this kind of fear, anger, hatred and ignorance in their hearts. But I have to believe that the more we talk about how wrong these kinds of occurrences are, the less it will happen.  My heart is broken, and it took me a while to figure out why.

My heart is broken, because I realized that it had nothing to do with my father being an immigrant, and everything to do with the fact that he wasn’t white. And some white person somehow believed that she was more entitled to a parking spot for that simple fact. Here’s a thought: Unless you can trace your ancestry back and are 100% native to this land, all of us have been immigrants, or come from people who immigrated at some point.  And, not only have we broken the hearts of those who cared for and loved this land before we set foot on it, but have flourished simply from being here, instead of somewhere else.  How does that entitle any of us to anything more than another? This kind of hatred and ignorance is something that I had believed in my heart of hearts wasn’t part of Canada. I don’t know that I could say that I’ve ever felt ashamed of being a Canadian until tonight. Because tonight, I am ashamed of sharing citizenship with someone who could be so wrong.

But then, I think of others who have immigrated to this country. And it makes me proud to share citizenship with someone who could be so right. And this is what being a Canadian is truly about. My father has taught me a lot of things about being a Canadian: do not create conflict- but stand up for yourself and what is right, respect your government, seek peace,  care for your neighbours and your neighbours’ neighbours, always do what is right-even when no one is watching, work hard, do your best, be proud of who you are, show grace and forgiveness even if it is unsolicited and probably undeserved.  I suppose I have a lot to learn from my father, who it seems, has grasped the true nature of being Canadian better than some who were born on this soil.

Initially I was angry, and wanted to post an image of that person, but I knew it would only create more anger and backlash for that person. I guess you could say that I then became ashamed of my own anger and hateful attitude.  Plus, I just don’t believe this kind of hurtful behaviour really deserves specific attention. Despite my own initial anger, I know this is not the Canadian way.

In conclusion, I’m not ashamed of our country at all and I’m sorry if the title threw you off. I’m ashamed that we still have people like this here. Because I do believe that we are a nation that stands for multiculturalism and tolerance and peace. None of these attributes were represented in this woman’s actions, but I believe that my dad did stand for these things in his response. Initially what I wrote began as an angry outlet, which I didn’t necessarily intend to share, given the amount of anger already floating around on the Internet. It soon became my attempt to write a different sort of post- one that doesn’t just stand by and let this kind of behavior simply happen without note, but brings to light a more positive outlook instead of feeding the monster I call the angry Internet troll. Peace, love, grace and patriotism do prevail- I LOVE being Canadian. It’s true: pride ourselves on being kind, polite, and welcoming, and we do love beer, maple syrup and hockey (along with apologizing too much, eh?).

But let’s not fool ourselves, we still have much work to do. Above all my patriotism lies with the human race and all of the people fighting to let love win. Far too often, people stand on two sides of an issue and fire different kinds of hatred at each other. I’m hoping this encourages people to stand for justice while keeping in mind that love and kindness go a long way.

My dearest Canadians and fellow citizens of this beautiful planet, let us open up our hearts again. Fight hate and fear with love, grace and forgiveness.

xoxo

love ehjae

 

Chan

 

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An Open letter to the Brokenhearted

I’m sorry. Those are words that you need to hear, but you may not have heard them yet. So, I am sorry that you are hurting.

You are hurt and confused.  You thought this relationship was the end of the games, the confusion and the hurt. You’ve thought, “Given the pain I’ve been through, there can’t be more.” Yet here you are again, alone with the pieces of your fragmented heart, wondering how it could happen again. After all of the time that you spent rebuilding and learning to trust again, how are you sitting in your room, crying over someone?

It will be your first inclination to close off that wonderful heart of yours. You are thinking, “That’s it. I’m not doing this again.  I don’t ever want to hurt like this ever again.” Please don’t hide that light from the world.  Not everyone will speak lies.  Not everyone will betray you.  Not everyone will hurt you in your weakest moments.  But everyone DOES see that glittering light that shines from your soul, and they are drawn to your love and joy. Don’t let him/her steal that from you on top of everything else.

You are asking yourself, “How will I ever trust anyone again? How will I ever trust myself again?” You will.  Not today, and probably not tomorrow; but you will. How do I know? Because that’s what makes you you.  Your resilient heart, your enduring optimism, and the light that you see in every other person. You have your own beautifully unique way of reaching others. Only you can love people the way that you do. Don’t let anyone put out your light.

Don’t run away from those wonderful friends and family in your life; those people who see your worth and never capitalize on your love.  They will endure with you, encourage you, and speak truth to you. (Even when you don’t want to hear the truth).  They will listen with love and care for you in the ways that you need.

Do listen to your feelings.  Do feel. Do process with your closest people. Do trust again, it will be worth it. The right person will never let you feel like this. The right person will never let you question your worth. The right person will see you, all of your darkness and scarring, and they will still choose you.  The right person will make you feel like you are the only person in the world that they could possibly love. The right person will be the one who makes you feel alive again.

For now, let that person be you.  Love You with all that you have.  You are worth loving.  Your heart is worth protecting.  Your mind is worth knowing.  Your soul is worth celebrating.

You will wake up one morning and the ache will be a memory; you will breathe deeply into your soul and celebrate the new adventures you are about to embark on. When that day comes, I hope I can join you on that journey.

 

love ehjae

3 Things That are NEVER Funny

I consider myself to be a person with a hefty humour, and I like a good sarcastic joke. But something that I have been reflecting on as of late is the misogynistic jokes that have found their way into my relationships with guys, and I let them slide because I didn’t want to be “That girl.” You know that girl, the one who is a little too intense about women’s issues, the girl who takes every opportunity to share her opinions about women’s rights.. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.  But if I don’t take the time to speak these truths, then I am doing a discredit to the fiery passion for human dignity and empowerment that is written on my soul.

Here are three recurring jokes that I can pinpoint throughout different times in my life that are NEVER acceptable, EVER.

1.Violence

I have actually had guys jokingly threaten me when not happy with something I am doing or saying. “I will punch you in the face,” “I will kick you,” “I want to choke you right now.” I am not kidding. At the time, I would just jokingly return in kind, saying that I would hit them back or kick them in the balls. Now that I reflect back, I am horrified that I ever spent time with these people. It is NEVER funny to joke in this way. A guy who is genuinely concerned about your safety and cherishes you wouldn’t find this funny or acceptable in any situation.

2. Numbers

Believe it or not, I actually had a guy give me a score on my “Wife-Abilities.” There were categories such as Cooking, Appearance and Mothering… The list goes on. I kid you not. I know what you are thinking, “Where in the world do you find these guys, Ehjae?” You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. I cannot express the damage that was done to my soul in this experience. While it is the most extreme case that I’ve experienced, sadly it is not the only one. I have heard guys describe women as numbers in different categories more times than I care to repeat. “Her face is a 4, but her cannons are a 10”
Women struggle with perfection and comparison on our own. We always feel like we fall short of the standard, and are gloriously reminded that this is the case with the barrage of media reminding us to stay fit, but not too fit; to be nice, but not too nice; to be successful, but not too successful; and to be the perfect mother/wife. If a guy ever, EVER removes your dignity by describing you OR ANYONE ELSE by a number, walk away. No, RUN away. It will never change, and you will forever feel like a prisoner trying to be freed from the prison of “Not Enough.”

3.“WOMAN”

Have you ever been called, “Woman” by someone? It’s always said in a mocking voice, “Woman, make me a sandwich; Woman, bring me a beer.”

 MY NAME IS EHJAE.

Calling me “Woman” tells me that this is all that you see. You see my breasts, and the opportunity for conquest between my legs. I can hear some of you protesting- that’s not the case. So what is the case? What is the pressing need for you to diminish our worth? The sake of a joke? I can tell you that no one is laughing. And further more, why would calling me “Woman” somehow grant you power, as if to say that a woman is weaker and must submit to your request?

The verdict is out, and the joke is on you, misogynistic men. Women are strong. We are courageous, and we are not going to be treated like this. “It was a joke.” is NOT a reasonable explanation to ever do any of the above. Having let people speak to me, and treat me in this way for much too long, I hope that it will take some of the beautiful women out there less than a quarter century to stop enabling these destructive language and patterns. It starts with us, ladies.  We must stop joking back, and start walking away.

Stop Waiting.

As a wedding photographer, I encounter a lot of well-intentioned happy people in love, and several unhappily single people. As a result, a common thread surfaces. My singleness.

There are so many blog posts are articles written by married people about how important it is to wait and cherish your single years. As a single person reading those, they can be inspiring– but the underlying message STILL seems to be that single people should be happy being single so that they can be happy being married. I just wanted to write a “quick” note to all of my single friends.

What about being content in your singleness for that sake alone? Not every one gets married, and we need to start removing the perspective that marriage is the ultimate goal in life.  Yes.We’re made for relationships; we thrive together. Why is there this obsession with a romantic relationship being the ultimate goal? When did marriage become THE fulfilling relationship to pursue? I have so many deep and fulfilling friendships in my life. I would say that if I was to enter into a relationship, that those friendships would be the reason any romantic relationship could thrive or survive.

I’ve gotten to a place in my life and in my heart where God has captivated me so entirely that THIS relationship is the one that I want. I don’t want to pursue a romantic relationship unless I can see how it would be a part of what is already happening in my life in regards to the journey that I’m on with Jesus and I would want that guy to feel the same way. As a result of that, I am SO happy with loving myself, and getting to know myself more and more each day. I love pursuing growth and understanding in myself.   It’s almost like I’m dating me!

Oh fellow single friends, my hope and prayer for you is that you could discover this in your life.  Be so content, confident in who you are and happy with yourself that nothing can sway you. There is nothing more satisfying than to pursue life fully, embracing what is NOW and enjoying life alone. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-relationships. I have an open heart and open hands to what the future holds, but my life is already so rich in love and joy as a single woman.  Other people are much more dismayed about my marital status than I am.When I use the phrase “If I ever get married” a gasp can be heard, and I’m assured, “Don’t worry,  you’ll get married someday.” I’m not worried. If I end up married, I end up married. If I end up single all my days, I end up not married.. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard, “How are YOU single?” If I wanted to be in a relationship for the sake of having a relationship, I could. That’s not the point of life though.

IF I ever marry, I will be able to say without a doubt that the guy I end up with was someone so incredible, so perfect for me, that his life was so aligned with the direction I was headed that I was willing to give up my singleness for him.  Because, YES, being single IS THAT AWESOME.  Sure, that sounds pretty crazy. Maybe even selfish.  Isn’t it more selfish to sit around waiting for some unknown, desperately putting everything on hold, and not doing something purposeful with our lives? Let’s start being more protective of our hearts and our lives. Don’t forget that you ARE worth loving, you are loved.  I’m so tired of this whole “True Love Waits” idea. You’re not waiting. A true, perfect, selfless love has already come for you.

 

 

Knowing Your Worth

ehjaephotography_self_portrait

As someone in the art industry, I’ve struggled with feeling adequate. There are incredibly talented people everywhere around me. The even more amazing thing is how inclusive and supportive the art community is! We are there for each other, and though people seem to believe that the photography industry is cutthroat, I’ve had a completely different experience.However, it can be so tiresome to feel uninspired and after hearing clients choosing someone else after you’ve poured your heart into showing them what you offer, the rejection can really hurt. Because we are artists, we express our hearts and souls into our work- having a client turn us down isn’t really about the money.  It can really feel like they are rejecting us, our hearts, our passions.. it sucks.

Writing this post has been and up and down battle for me, (should I write it or not?) but I recently shared something on one of our wonderful Facebook networking pages for photographers and found myself hilariously inspired by the words that I supposedly wrote.  I started thinking about what I wrote on that page.  It began with a post that had been shared expressing disappointment when a client choosing to go another direction, and wondering what to say in response. The number of replies and people who had also experienced this was overwhelming.

In response to the post, I wrote “I try to think of potential clients in the same way that I view potential boyfriends: if they don’t want me enough to pursue me and take me as I am, then I don’t want them.” Now in saying that, it’s hard to remember that even in the context of dating relationships. But I adamantly stand by this, and many ladies (and guy friends) in my life can attest to the fact that I do. If someone doesn’t want you, then you don’t want them.

The reason I share this is because since doing so, I’ve realized that I’m now on the other side of the dark valley of believing that no one would like my work, or that they wouldn’t be willing to hire me.  The funny thing about being in that valley was that it was because I didn’t truly believe in my own worth as an artist. So why would anyone else?

You have worth. Your art is unique and beautiful and it’s a tangible piece of your heart that the world gets to see. That’s more incredible than we allow ourselves to acknowledge sometimes. Just remember that when you get a disappointing email or phone call.

We have to take that journey of discovering our own art.   Once we do, we will begin to find our own worth and from there– others will catch on as well, and those people are the ones that we want around.

 

loveehjae