Excerpts from a presentation I gave in the Summer of 2015. 

 

When I need to write or speak on something I usually head straight to the dictionary first to see what exactly a word means. So influence I found is defined as “The capacity to have an effect on the CHARACTER, DEVELOPMENT, or BEHAVIOUR of someone or something.” The character, development, or behaviour. Those are big things in our lives that affect who we are. I think of influence as those things or those people that cause us to live our lives in a certain way. All of us whether we recognize it or not are influenced by something, in fact most of us are influenced by multiple things. I asked a few people what influences them and here are a few of their answers: friends, family, the media, Facebook, music, alcohol, religion, culture.
In my life I know I am often influenced by my family, my friends, all of the different trends in the world and what’s popular in the media. But what is the big deal when it comes to influence why does it matter so much? Well it’s actually a subject that’s been studied in depth for years and years. Psychologists have long studied the science of influence and the affect it has on us. It has been shown through these studies that our environment and the ‘influencers’ in our life have a higher and larger impact on us than probably anyone ever imagined.

Growing up I think I was influenced a lot by the decisions my friends were making. I had the kind of personality that wanted to be the center of attention and to always be the one to do it bigger and better. And so my friends could easily influence me with chants of “oh you won’t do it.” That was like an automatic sign for me that I was going to do that thing.

This didn’t change as I grew up a little. When I was about 12 years old I was at one of my friends house playing video games. I am super competitive and so when my friend said “Hey how about we up the stakes” I obviously said YES PLEASE. The plan was that she was going to spin me around in a chair really fast for a bit so that when I stopped I had to play the video game dizzy and see how well I could do. I was game for this since I was the great Em Zups who could be the best at anything. Things were going well until I span right off into a glass table and smacked my head. 8 stitches above my eye and a lot of regret later here I am today.

 

Now I am still super competitive, but I have grown up a little bit and different things influence me now. In a single day there are probably about a hundred little and big things that influence my character, development, and behaviour. When I wake up the weather influences the kind of outfit I’m going to wear, what’s popular in the trends influences the kind of clothes I will pick out, my friends influence what activities I will do that day and the kind of conversations I have, and the people around me influence the meals I will be eating. There are things that we probably don’t even think about that influence us. Artists, song lyrics and music video’s influence our behaviours, magazines and celebrity photo’s influence the way we see ourselves and our standard for beauty, movies and television shows influence our development and our opinions.

There was a psychology study done on the influence that violent images in movies had on viewers and I’m sure the results will surprise you. I’ll bet most of you right now are thinking that you’re above being influenced by movies or video games, and that you would never fall into that category of being influenced. However the study found that the girls and boys who played violent video games changed over the course of a year and they became more aggressive than the boys and girls who did not play violent video games.

If a simple video game can influence our development and behaviour than imagine what the larger stuff in our lives is doing.

I wonder if any of you have ever thought about what influences you in your life and how that affects you? Do you ever act one way with certain friends and a different way in front of other friends? Do you ever make decisions based on what is cool or what is popular? Maybe its sports, or television, or your friends or family that influences your character, development or behaviour.

For me- my older siblings have a large influence on me, as do my parents and my friends. Growing up it was always friends and family that influenced me the most. My parents place a large emphasis on excellence and as a result that influenced my behavior. I have always wanted to be the best at what I do and I always competed in things at a high level. If my older siblings excelled at something than I was always influenced to try whatever it was they were doing and then try and do it better. The way my friends acted changed and influenced how I acted. And what they thought was cool influenced what I thought was cool. However I slowly began to realize as I grew up through my teens that I actually had more of an influence on myself than anyone else did.

My biggest struggle has always been my inner critic. That’s like the little voice inside your head that critiques you or gives opinions about your life. Have any of you ever heard a voice like that in your head? Everyone’s voice sounds different, and some of you may not even hear one but my inner critic is loud and mean and constantly telling me things about myself that influence how I live my life. That voice will whisper that I’m not pretty enough when I look in the mirror, or that I’m too fat when I’m down at the docks. That voice tells me I’m not smart enough or that I’m not athletic enough, or that I’m too loud or bossy when I lead people. This voice keeps me from doing things and sometimes causes me to do things I regret. It’s the voices that tells me I should follow the cool crowd or wear certain things, or holds me back from taking chances. This is a voice that is constantly influencing my character, development and my behaviour.
Sometimes our influences are so sneaky and so engrained in our lives that we stop noticing how much they are actually influencing us. It has been like that for me in the past. Those voices in my head became so natural to me that for years they became a normal part of my everyday life and they became the singular truth that I heard. This doesn’t mean there weren’t good influences in my life at this time it just means that for years I have chosen for that inner critic of mine to be the loudest influencer. 

 

For so long I built my life on material things that I let influence me; my friends, my grades, sports, and the voices in my head. Those things are like sand, they are not sturdy and when things get tough they are not strong enough to hold me. Friendships and relationships can end, tragedy can strike, trends often change, and your athletic and artistic abilities will go up and down and may not last. Putting your trust and getting your influence from these things is like building your house on sand. It won’t end well. I believe in God. His truths are constant. He has loved each of you since before you were born and His love never waivers. None of your actions can increase or decrease his love for you. It isn’t earned – it’s freely given. That’s the rock to build your life upon.

I wake up every morning and choose to remember that truth. I choose for that to be my influence. I choose to surround my self with people who remind me of these truths and bring out the best in me. It isn’t always easy and some days I fail, but then the next day I try and I choose again. Whatever it is that we surround ourselves with and build our lives on influences us. It has an effect on our CHARACTER, DEVELOPMENT, and BEHAVIOUR. That’s pretty crazy. The things that we surround ourselves with literally change how we live our lives and who we are as people. So build your life on truth. Allow your influences to be something positive and powerful. And choose to hear the truth.

 

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A baby, indoor camping, and Wayne’s World. Six days of freedom from classes provided me with just enough time to explore a few different adventures.
I recently became an aunt, #blessed,and so I ventured to the East End of Toronto, AKA familyville, to visit with my niece, Elliott, and to fill my camera roll up with pictures of baby hands. I spent hours ogling over this tiny human, both shocked and impressed that my bother made it and in awe that babies exist at all. baby hands
Ellie and I quickly became best friends, she taught me how to vogue, and I taught her how to sleep in any position.

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We chatted about boys and what we thought about our girl Hil being bullied. Ellie was more political than I expected, but what can you expect from a two week old?
Later in the week I was looking for some love so I finally got to go on #datenight. We ended up at the magical Shops at Don Mills, which is magical for me because of the plethora of restaurants.

Later on, we ditched the overpriced movie theatre, for some indoor camping. Let me tell you, the real adventure comes with trying to remember how to assemble a tent. Spoiler Alert: I loved the idea, but slept in a bed.
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The end of the week was marked my former favourite holiday. In University I was deeply attached to Halloween.

I loved the hype, the planning of the costumes, and coming together with all of my friends at a gigantic costume party. I guess this is very classic #basiccollegegirl of me, but I loved it and am proud of those years.

Now that I am out into the real world, Halloween is harder. I have to make my own plans, drive a car, and spend more money. Halloween just aint what it used to be.

Nevertheless I got suckered into participating and on Saturday gave ode to one of the best classics of all time: Wayne’s World.

I got to wear all of my normal clothes, and shout “PARTY ON!” at passerbys- so all-in-all the night didn’t suck.

I didn’t do a lot of reading, but I have now have a few more stories to add to my future autobiography.

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During my undergraduate degree I took many courses that focused on both international development and the politics and history of developing countries. As a politics major I was able to look at the institutions and policies which have led to conflicts, and as a history minor I was able to focus on WHY and WHAT led to countries being the way they are.

In my second year I did a project that focused on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I was travelling to East Africa that Spring to its neighbouring countries but all I knew about the DRC was that I was to “stay away,” because it was a country in trouble. The project I did focused on how the country got to where it is today and the realities of a mining country. I also learned a lot about Canada’s involvement in the mining industry through this project.

Did you know Canada is home to some of the largest mining giants IN THE WORLD?! I for sure didn’t. So over the next few years I made a point to focus most of my studies and projects on issues related to mining.

I am going to be posting some of these works over the next few weeks. The first is an overview of The Exploitation of Resources by Transnational Corporations within the Mining Sector

Development has historically led to some societies being more advanced and equal than others. This has created and perpetuated the first world versus the third world problems and has led to unequal economic relations. Due to financial globalization the world is now a global market. Goods, services, and resources flow freely across the globe making “buying local” a fast fading trend. The introduction of a global market has also led to many problems of exploitation. One of the problems that are plaguing the world today is the exploitation of resources by transnational corporations within the mining sector. This is a global issue but it is also very much a Canadian issue as Canada is home to some of the largest mining giants in the world. “Today, 75% of the extractive industry multinationals are hosted in Canada or registered on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX). According to the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, in 2006 more than 50% of the world’s mining companies were listed on the TSX and more than 80% of the global mining industry’s investment financing was raised there” (Abadle ).

These Canadian mining companies are set up all over South America and all across Africa, and have helped to support civil wars, have created significant environmental degradation, and committed horrifying human rights abuses. ‘These companies enter into contracts with local militias that allow them to be exempt from royalties and taxes, in return for them turning a blind eye to the human rights abuses of the nation’ (Missakabo ). This is a problem that effects two different sets of people; first the local communities where Canadian mines are being set up, and secondly Canadian taxpayers whose money is helping to fund these projects. In a globalized era the demands of the Western World shape the realities of those living thousands of miles away and the mining industry is an example of this.
Canadian mining operates both domestically and abroad and they both come with their own sets of abuses and misfortunes. Canadian mining internationally has blown up in the past few decades as Canada has continued to increase its place in the extractive industry. The global market allows for Canadian mines to set up across the developing world, export minerals to intermediary countries and then ship the finished products all across the globe. The extractive industry is a prime example of how globalized the world is. It is also an industry that is connected to many other globalized ones as the minerals that are extracted from these mines are not only used in jewelry but more frequently in the technological sector. One of the countries that have been extremely devastated by the Canadian extractive industry is the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The DRC is home to a natural wealth of resources, which have been at the heart of this countries conflict for decades. In the DRC four very important minerals are found: Tantalum, Tungsten, Tin (the 3T’s) and Gold (War Child International ). These minerals are of such high importance and value because they are key in making the electronics that the West demands; cell phones, laptops, cameras and PlayStations. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) estimates that 3.9 million people have died from war-related causes since the conflict in Congo began in 1998, making it the world’s most lethal conflict since World War II. The level of poverty is extremely high in The DRC as all of the money from the mineral wealth of the country goes to the warlords who run the militias, the government officials they pay to turn a blind eye, and the Canadian companies who own the mines. That is the reality of the extractive industry in just one of the many countries that Canada among other developed countries who run mining companies is involved in.
Mining has always been a source of wealth but in the past few decades, with the rise of globalization there has been a change in who profits from it. The rich companies from the North such as Barrick Gold and Kinross make millions while the miners in the villages in the South make hardly anything. Global markets have made it possible for minerals from Africa to be sold to Asia and then across Europe and North America, and this system is continuing to benefit the North while it holds back the South. This kind of development has led to an extreme marginalization of voices; people’s lives are being impacted by decisions made around them.

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There are many people in this world (read: idiots) that feel there isn’t a  need for “feminism” to still exist. I. Am. Not. One. Of. Them. 

For this reason I have LOVED the attention some of my favourite stars have been bringing to this issue. You see Hollywood is as old boys club as it gets…and people (read: badass women) are starting to call bullshit on this.

Meryl Streep, Emma Watson, and Jennifer Lawrence have all been in the news lately, but not for the reasons you may think.

Reporters are going to have stop asking them about their looks and instead focus more on their brains because these ladies have something important to say.

The three women have all separately called out Hollywood on the sexism and gender inequality that still exists within the industry.

Streep has taken issue with popular movie critic  Rotten Tomatoes  and their lack of equality in terms of female vs. male critics. The site has 760 men reviewers but only 168 female reviewers. Streep has said she is not just  disheartened  by this fact but infuriated.

Like Streep,  Watson  refuses to stand for sexism. She has said she has seen a massive inequality in  numbers  when she looks at the leadership in Hollywood. Watson reflects on her experiences in Hollywood working with 17 male directors, yet only two female directors, 13 male producers, and yet only one female producer.

These numbers do not reflect the talented women that exist in the world; rather they reflect a society still struggling with sexism.

Standing beside these women in this fight for female equality is Lawrence who is calling out Hollywood for paying female actresses less than their male counterparts.

When the  Sony hack  happened earlier in the year, it was revealed to JLaw that she made  significantly  less than her male co-stars did, and now she is firing back.

Lawrence recognizes that the reason she has never asked for  more money  is because she wanted to be liked…but the hack made her realize that males probably never worry about coming across as nice, or worry about being liked while negotiating. So she has said she is done with worrying about playing the adorable, “likeable,” girl.

Your move, Hollywood.


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At this point in one way or another we have all heard about the migrant/refugee crisis that is stretching from the Middle East across Europe, and into North America. Here’s a quick, broken down summary of whats been going on. The Islamic State or ISIS have been terrorizing middle eastern countries for awhile. This past year things have gotten worse. Syria was hit especially hard as was Turkey. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes, family, and belongings to escape the violence and terror that ISIS brings. With it’s proximity to Northern Africa and the Middle East, Europe has been flooded by a stream of refugee’s and migrants. This has lead to an international debate about what should and needs to be done. How many refugee’s should a country let in? Should the process be immediate? What can we do to help these people? All of these questions have been floating around and governments from around the world have started meeting with one another to begin to answer them.

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I believe one of the most powerful tools in ANY situation is education and knowledge. Knowledge is power. Education brings awareness and helps dispel ignorance and prejudice. For these reasons I am a massive fan of Brandon and his initiative ‘Humans of New York’  or HONY for short. Brandon spends most of his time in New York, but often travels, and highlights stories of people he meets through photographs. Most recently he has been showcasing the stories of refugee’s trying to make their way across the world. I say refugee and not migrant because these people are fleeing their countries out of fear and danger. This is not a choice. I’ve been blown away by the stories he’s captured and the humanity he’s shown within this chaotic world.
If you haven’t checked out HONY before PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE check out this series:
http://www.humansofnewyork.com/

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I’ve been back on Canadian soil for over a month now and it still hasn’t quite hit me that I lived and travelled in Europe for five months. As I sit here sick in bed I have had some time to reflect on it all. It was an experience that grew me and gave me so much joy and at times sadness. I wouldn’t take any of it back for the world.

On my skin Budapest is inked. Rome is wrapped around my finger. England sits fastened on my ear. And Prague lies around my neck. My travels and their stories have found a permanent home, attached to me, always there to remind me. When I see my hip I will remember my 21st birthday spent within the ruin bars of buda. When my ring flashes in the sun I will think of sitting in the sun in the ruins of Ancient Rome laughing about how good life is. When I go to adjust my earring I will remember spending a week West of London, exploring cities with two forever friends. And when I fiddle with my necklace I will reminisce of my days spent walking through history in Prague and my nights where I ran wild.

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Well the past few weeks have been filled with a flurry of emotions and activities. After Italy I jetted off to Greece (I laugh hearing myself say that). I had reached the point after Italy where I was needing some serious R&R and alone time. I know that may sound self involved and petty needing a break while I’m living abroad in Europe, but life doesn’t automatically become all sparkly just because you’re living in another continent. With all of this said, Greece was a dream. We started off in Thessoloniki where it rained both days which allowed for it to be a very mellow two days which was needed.

Arriving in santorini I was honestly just so happy to see a pool that I could lie beside for the next four days. And that’s exactly what I did. It’s one hell of a windy place and so it wasn’t like my beach days in Florida where I’m sweating it out and headed for the pool. But I’m glad to have been there when it was a little bit cooler because that meant less tourists. Don’t get me wrong it was still super hot and I still got a killer tan (which was originally a killer burn). We explored the islands of Fira, and Oia which were decorated in seas of blue and white perched carefully on top of mountains within the Mediterranean.

We took a boat tour one day where we climbed up Santorinis last active volcano. It wasn’t the most fun climb in my jean shorts and lace runners but that’s the price you pay for living out of a backpack. And man was the view stunning. Another thing we knew we had to do was ride donkeys in Oia, which I was hesitant about because I feel so bad for the poor donkeys. And let me tell you the experience was not so pleasant. The Greek men yelled at you in Greek and rushed you on the donkeys and then rushed you up the (very steep and very narrow) hill. And then just as promptly as you were rushed on you were rushed off. Clearly they didn’t realize that we are a bunch of university girls who wanted pictures of all of their experiences. I did manage to be sneaky and snap one or two which I’m thankful for.

All in all Greek people were the most kind and welcoming that I had met in my travels this far. I still stand by my motto that if you’re nice to people they will almost always be nice back. We received free shots almost everywhere (PSA: never drink rakki, which is basically Greek moonshine and 70%.) We found a bar which let us dance ON their bar and we met other Canadians who brought a breath of fresh air and new conversations. Before we knew it our vacation was over and it was time to go back to France. What’s crazy about this particular trip home was knowing that my family was about to fly out to meet me. Even crazier this all meant that I only had a week till I flew back to Canada.
I came back from my two weeks in the south with a tan, lots of new jewelry, more postcards, a wealth of historical knowledge, and some really special memories. My dad still tells me stories of when he was 18 and then later 21 backpacking throughout Greece. I have always heard about its wonders and I’m hopeful in thirty years I will still be lamenting of when I was 21 and exploring Southern Europe.

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I’m going to flat out admit right now that I’m addicted to carbs. Pizza is my favorite food, and I would never say no to a plate of pasta. My parents used to call me the “carb queen” when I was younger, thankfully that nickname never stuck. With all of this being said you can imagine how excited I was to jet off to Italy to indulge in all of my favorite foods for a week. It was a quick turn around for me- I came back from Ireland on the Friday night and left Sunday morning for Venice. Thankfully I’ve gotten pretty good at shoving my life into a tiny backpack.
We arrived in Venice around dusk (the best time of day) and after picking our jaws up off the floor and taking 1000000 pictures of the grand canal we set off to find our hotel. Now we were silly travelers and left our bookings too late and so we ended up having to get a hotel off of Priceline for Venice. Unfortunately this was a room for two meaning we were going to try and be sneaky and sneak one of us in each night. Well that genius plan only lasted a night before we got caught, but fortunately the owner let us continue staying there if we just paid for the third person. It was worth a try.
Venice is the actual definition of a labyrinth and so you can easily spend your days walking through the city taking in the sights. I would never allocate more than two days in visiting the city. Venice is also tourist central and so it is for sure a little crowded and a little less authentic than maybe a smaller more unknown city would be. But still so beautiful and so quaint, I loved how there were no cars on the island. The first day we were there it rained which was a little bit of a bummer since the only thing to do in Venice is walk around but we made do. And to make up for it the second day was absolutely stunning. We spent two hours lounging in the sun on the steps of the canal people watching. No complaints from me. On the Wednesday we caught an early (6:30) train to Rome where we were welcomed by more sun and even more heat. Hello dress weather. Right off the bat we recognized that our hostel was probably not going to be our favorite. The guys that work there came off as super creepy, but after a few days we got used to it and were able to laugh with (at) them. They also loved partying which meant music blaring till 12:30 every night, the first night this was a little daunting but we soon realized that if you can’t beat ’em ya join ’em.
Rome is massive and it’s basically one big museum. Which means lots and lots of walking. I feel like in the past five months I have walked more than I have in my entire life. It will be weird being back in Canada and driving everywhere. We spent an afternoon visiting the Vatican and St. Peter’s which was very cool. I saw the infamous Sistine Chapel and was able to sneak a few pics of it. We also spent a day walking through Paletine Hill, the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. Rome is super fascinating to me because its filled with different archeological sites within the hustle and bustle of a city. Seeing remains from 5BC was a little crazy and its almost hard to understand just how old these artifacts are.
It was a super hot three days and so we often took breaks and lounged in the sun in a park. This led to us all getting sun burns. Summer is here and I am a happy camper.
We filled in the rest of the time doing what we all do best; wandering. Everywhere you turned in Rome there was something beautiful to see so it wasn’t hard finding things to fill our time.
I’ll end off with a few fun/interesting things from the past week in Italy.
1.) I learned in Venice that my Italian accent is FAR better than my French accent. I will attribute this to my dad always throwing around Italian phrases to me at various points and growing up with two Italian best friends.
2.) We were walking through a market in Rome and I stopped to look at rings ( my hands are almost full!) and while I was chatting with the lady she noticed that I had a Laborordite stone on one of my rings. I was shocked this Italian lady knew that what the stone was, but then realized she didn’t know where labordor was. So when I told her that not only was it from Canada which is where I’m also from but that my dad actually got it in Labrodor she was SUPER impressed. She was giddy when I let her try it on and kept explaining how beautiful and pure the stone was. So props to you Daddio on the ring.
3.) On Sunday Rome is cannonizing Pope John Paul II and the city is FILLED with different tour groups and pilgrimages of people from across the world here to be apart of it. When we drove past the Vatican on our last day there were news stations setting up and getting ready all over the block. I’m glad we were here before the weekend and missed the craziness of it all but it was cool to see the beginnings of it. We met a couple from South Carolina who came to see it and they were so excited to meet us. The lady has three daughters and asked to take a picture with us so she could send it to them. Those are the moments that make me fall in love with the world.
4.) As amazing as traveling is it definitely wares on you. I’ve been gone for a week now but before that I was in Northern Ireland for a week so I’ve been on the go for a bit. All of the train rides and flights and switching hostels, and being in tight quarters with people starts to rub you the wrong way after a bit. I’ve been in kind of a slump the past few days because of this so I’m hoping for some good alone time exploring in Greece to get over it. So looking forward to my family visiting in two weeks as well.

I’m now sitting here in Thessaloniki, Greece in our hotel (luxe life) so ready for bed after a long day of travels. We have NO idea what to expect from this city but from what I’ve read it’s pretty cool. PLUS I’m in Macedonia which is pretty flippen cool after growing up surrounded by Macedonians.

Lots of love to all of y’all.

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