Happy Anniversary, @CF

This might be a bit of a strange blog to write today, but this morning twitter alerted me that it’s my 2 year anniversary on the platform as @crooked_forest and it got me thinking about a couple things as I walked to the subway this morning.

I’ll preface this all by saying that before I started the CF twitter account for my music projects, I had previously been a user. I was into the platform in my late teens and early 20’s, mostly to drunkenly tweet at my favourite bands as I was at or leaving their shows, but also to keep up with general daily news since virtually every piece of breaking news hits twitter first, particularly with politics.

But somewhere along the way as with just about everything, my interest in Twitter waned and while I kept my original account, I didn’t use it much for a couple years.

In or around 2019 my interest piped up again – there was just so much going on and Twitter really is the best place to stay advised of what’s happening because you’re able to jump to so many different news sources so quickly.

And as I worked to develop my new music and determine the best way to talk about what I wanted to talk about, it seemed a good fit.

But I knew it’d be a challenge.

When I started the CF twitter page, my initial feelings on it were to keep everything super clean, polished, dot those i’s and put in an acceptable amount of comma’s and ellipsis’s … stick to your point, don’t get into petty fights, and mind the swears.

Because I’d watched by then for a few years where time and time again new artists had their old tweets pulled from years before they ever plucked a guitar string and had an onslaught of fellow tweets berate them for what they deemed unacceptable behaviour.

“Did you see that back in 2003 Lil Diggy used the N word? He was quoting a rap lyric but he is WHITE AF that is NOT OKAY”.

And while some of those might be relevant or important to advise the public of (Sparkly McQueen used to be part of a KKK clan, here’s a photo of her in a white hood burning a doll that looks like a— you get the idea.), most of the time I’d find that they were nit picking, pulling things out of context or blatantly not understanding the obvious sarcastic tone that sat beneath the text.

People of all sorts, of all career-types, have lost their jobs (or worse) for this type of exchange that I’m speaking about.

And again, while I don’t necessarily condone these things, these types of tweets, and I myself have made some brash judgement at times of people based on a tweet or series of them, I’m also entirely mindful of the fact that sometimes I, too, get the context wrong. Sometimes I too, read too fast.

And I’m mindful of the fact that people can and do change.

And I’m a believer that most if not all of us can be redeemed for our actions, although some things are much harder to overcome than others.

All that said, it didn’t take too long for my personal opinion on how an artist should run their twitter page changed.

I’d catch myself at times typing away my thoughts about some new legislation and then retracting it because I know my opinions can be seen as polarizing, especially as a woman and when discussing women’s issues.

I’d catch myself typing and retracting opinions on race issues, worries that I as a white person did not know enough about the issues the black community faces on a daily basis to comment.

I’d catch myself not even commenting on a bands new release because, “fans of this band might also like my band but not if I say that this sounds like a heaping pile of trash even though it obviously does.”

As a result I’d catch myself falling further into the shell of myself, hiding my thoughts and feelings and trying to become a better communicator – because if I couldn’t figure that out, I’d never be able to properly express the ideas and themes I talk about in the songs I write.

While in that shell I mostly read a lot – read the news, read other peoples opinions, read the way other people express their own ideas. Watched the news, watched what was happening all over the world and the sensational way the media was addressing it. Watched the protests, watched the tears fall, watched the looks of hopelessness on my fellow humans who, like me, were clearly at a loss with what to do to better our lives.

The more I read, watched, listened and learned, the angrier I got at it all.

I was furious that the country I’d grown up in was clearly at such odds with the basic needs of myself and others in my community. I was furious that people in worse situations than me had been dealing with it all since their birth. I was annoyed that no amount of protesting seemed to matter to those with the power to create immediate change. I was annoyed by the media for making hurt people out to be monsters for striving for that change and by people in my own communities blaming victims rather than their oppressors for what was occurring.

I felt like between the pandemic and the rampant racism that was now flooding all of our feeds, I was quite literally witnessing the collapse of our society in a way I’d never expected.

I decided rather quickly that being silent, or being too polite, was no way to inspire change or to truly be part of the conversations that were happening around me.

Not only did it feel wrong to me as an individual, to feel like I should reduce or limit my opinions because they might not be agreed with, no matter how right I felt in having them, but I didn’t want to encourage that to others around me either.

There should always be a place in civil society to speak freely and these days… that place is the internet. Whether we like it or not.

And so I began to speak freely.

And I began to receive some interesting responses.

I pressed on, trying to keep more towards things I understood and was living through rather than issues that although important (gun crime in America might be a good example here) were a little outside of my Canadian scope.

While I was embracing my freedom of speech online, I was still careful not to catch the attention of my employer for at least a few months. After all, I had some choice words about my feelings on Canadian universities and I worked for one. But the more confident I became in my own opinions, to more I realized that it wasn’t serving anyone to stay silent about things I thought were important.

Plus, I was proud of the music I was now sharing and wanted to share it with my coworkers, many of whom I had worked with now for 7 years and considered friends.

That of course, may have been my first mistake. Blending my online-self (which was not unlike my in-person self), with my professional-work self.

See, when you work for a liberal Canadian university and law school, you learn a lot about what not to say. A lot of words are taboo, a lot of subjects are, too. But to me that laughs in the face of what higher education is supposed to be about – you should not be afraid to have civil discourse in this type of institution.

And then there’s the whole part about it where a lot of what universities preach isn’t what they actually live and breath in their day to day life.

You can preach diverse work culture all you want but if 95% of your staff are rich white lawyers, that’s not very diverse, it is?

You can preach about being inclusive to the LGBTQ+ community, but not if your staff are actively using LGBTQ+ slurs, can you?

You can preach respecting people cultures, but not if you’re forcing them to use a white-persons name when their from a black community and have a native name… can you?

These are things I’d spent a lot of time thinking about while working for the university and discussing with my coworkers, (largely our much more diverse part-time, university student-aged staff), but we’d never been able to make any headway when we brought our concerns to senior staff.

People say all the time that you have to follow procedure if you want to get things done properly, but what Id’ learned in 7 years is following procedure doesn’t work and isn’t smart if the procedure itself is already so behind the times – which ours was.

For a long time I’d believed in due process but it was clear in 2020 that the systems in place here in Canada, both on small scales like at the university and on the larger scale like with our provincial and federal levels of government, were at bare minimum lacking and becoming if not already wildly corrupt.

And so I said fuck due process. I felt like I needed to make some noise about some things and because I believed wholly for the right reasons, I was justified in my own word choices and decisions.

I starting publicly calling out the university for the hypocrisy, actively using their own social media handles to draw attention to what I’d already been doing for months. I’d mention things that came out in our newsletters that they’d frame as positively impacting the community (donating x sum (it was 650k) to a black rights organization for possible the first time ever in their history of the institution) when the sector of the university that I worked for alone pulls in 10 million dollars a year – and that’s like, for them to keep, you know? And do with what they please. And pay their overpriced lawyers. And not pay their staff, like me, who were barely able to survive on our Union-fixed salaries. Union-fixed salaries which, by the way, the university actively works against to keep our wages as low as humanly – sorry, legally – as low as legally possible.

And I thought a lot about all the things I’d learned about what it takes to become a lawyer in Canada. The hours you have to put in at various conferences and courses to meet the fixed number as set by the Ontario law society – Conferences and courses which I’d sat in, operated, learned the same material, and the amount of times I’d heard phrases like, “we have to make sure that nobody knows this instructor isn’t staying for the full 3 hours because if it gets out that they’re cutting the class time short, we could get in real shit by the law society”.

There’s a loop hole for everything in law, but most of the time it’s just about keeping mouths shut.

And my mouth was open.

I found it irritating after so many years of no progress within my own work-place, a law-based workplace, that there seemed to be simply nothing I could personally say or do to improve my own life and those around me. Because the fact of it was, most of the people I worked with were doing far better than myself and the part-time staff and my fellow A/V team, and so they had no real vested interest in creating change.

Even when in 2021 I’d actively say things to my management about living in an unsafe place (my Barrie home which had seen multiple potential break-ins, some by literal police, and had been threatened by those living above me), they’d willfully ignore each word as it came out of my mouth and instead turn the attention to whatever absolute non-issue they felt like condemning me for at the time – because they didn’t like what I was saying and they didn’t want to admit the truth and they no longer saw me as human.

If you’ve read this far and feel like I’m being vague it’s because I am – I am tired of retelling this story already, and you can read it at your leisure within the Barrieland series right here on my website.

Ultimately I did not get fired from my job at the university for speaking my mind as you can read about in this blog specifically, but I did get so fed up that I threw up my hands and I quit.

And I believe that to have been my second biggest mistake because quitting to me is no different than admitting defeat.

But a person can only take so much at any given time and I was beyond my breaking point.

If you can’t tell, I still think about that experience often. I’m still blown away that any of this occurred over the last two years.

The silver lining, if there is one, is that I found myself in shoes I’d never quite be in and it’s once again altered the way I view things and people in my life.

I’d never experienced the feeling of my blood literally boiling when I’d receive a tweet of someone taking a cheap shot at me and my thoughts.

I’d never experienced the unfathomable rage when they just wouldn’t quit verbally attacking.

I’d never experienced the anxiety that comes with publicly calling out your employer knowing full well they could and would condemn you for it.

I’d never experienced expressing some of the worst situations I’d ever gone through to people I was to trust only to have them blatantly ignore or minimize and trivialize those experiences.

I’d never felt so unsafe in my own home. So hyper-aware and skeptical of people who were coming up to speak to me in the street and why they might be doing it.

I’d never felt so failed by the people who were supposed to support me.

I’d never experienced such a complete lack of faith in everything I’d come to know.

I’m not suicidal but I get how it happens.

Crooked Forest – “Tradition” (35:22)

Genuinely, I’d never felt so defeated as in the aftermath of losing my job and the situations that followed it, and really the worst part of it all is I know that the things I experienced over the last two years still pale so deeply in comparison to what so many others deal with every single day.

I have the luxury of sitting here to type this today and feel grateful for the life I’d lived because I am still here to fight for the one I want and believe I deserve.

So, what’s changed?

A few things, I guess.

CF the band was built to be destroyed and right now it sits in a little pile of rubble in the form of “The Clearing”. CF the twitter feed has faced a re-brand, now the home for breaking news as it pertains to this website.

But all the original tweets remain. Some of them are pretty unsavourable without the context of this project and what it was designed to create awareness for.

I know a lot of people would say it’s best to dismantle the entire feed as to not tarnish my own reputation any further than it may have but I believe that would be a case of erasing a part of my own history and I’m not of the mind that any of us should be able to do so.

We make choices every day and we have to live with those choices, even the shitty ones.

But I do intend to watch my own word choices a little more carefully because that’s the other thing I realized over the last two years – word choices really matter to me. Their meanings may change over time and context may get lost but we are all wholly capable of making the conscious effort to be heard and understood clearly – I had a little fun with wordplay but, there’s a time and place for that and Twitter just… for all it’s capable of, it’s not that.

With the CF project I set out to tell stories that I thought deserved more attention, even if it meant doing so in a way that garnered negative reactions before positive ones (all publicity is good publicity? Or something?) and I still will continue to do that through this website and under Neither Could Dylan.

And in the interest of transparency, in case there’s been any confusion, I’ll continue to play the CF catalog, but as NCD now instead and a bit more consciously as to not repeat any of the same mistakes I feel I’ve made before.

I’ll end this blog by telling you just one brief story that also happened just this morning on my way to the subway.

As I walked across the parking lot to cut some time I noticed a man from quite some feet away who appeared to be on the floor right in front of the doors of the subway station at Vaughan Metropolitan Center.

Even from a distance it was apparent that this was an unusual place for any man or person to be; there are ample benches in the area and so it seemed to me he must’ve fallen.

The closer I got the more obvious that was and he seemed in a mild bit of pain or discomfort.

And then another man headed to the subway passed me, and as I stopped in front of the man on the floor, this other man looked down at him, hurried passed and continued through the doors into the subway. Hurried to the subway that was not yet running.

And I ignored the annoyance at witnessing that man do that to turn my attention to the one on the floor.

He appeared to be down on his luck, possibly homeless, wearing dirty clothes and with a spare pair that had fallen to the ground with his cigarettes and lighter.

I asked him if he was alright as I noticed he was bleeding a little from his knees.

I have to stress, this man was directly in the middle of the doors right ahead of where they open, because it was while he was explaining to me that he’d fallen and was having some trouble that another person simply looked down and walked on through the doors.

And I guess in their defense I was already there and assisting him so perhaps it would have been unnecessary to see if everything was alright but, I couldn’t help but feel like this woman would have walked right by him anyways just as the first man did.

It turns out he’d been in a bit of a scrap the night before and was still feeling a little under the weather. “I’m just getting old,” he said as I helped him to a nearby block to sit on and handed him his things he’d dropped.

I feigned a smile knowing I couldn’t do much more. “I hear ya,” I said. I asked him if there was anyone I could call for him and he said there wasn’t.

Then I said I hoped he had a good rest of his day and I too carried on my way through the doors into the subway.

And then I spent much of my trip into work thinking about that man who had just walked by without uttering a word (He was without a doubt sitting on the same train as me) and I found myself feeling once again at a loss at how simple of a gesture it was to just offer someone a hand to a bench and how few people can be bothered with taking that time.

And of course I’m not immune to this, I haven’t always stopped when perhaps I ought to have, but imagine how much better everyone’s day would be if we took those extra couple minutes to be more aware of our surroundings and more aware of those who may have fallen and simply need a hand to get back up.

And how much better our interactions would be on Twitter if we took that extra minute to understand the context of a tweet, to remember that not everyone’s native language is English, and that sometimes people may just choose the wrong words because they’re having a bad day.

Imagine we didn’t condemn someone for a poorly chosen .gif they posted when they were 17. Cost them their job. Doxxed them and told strangers where they lived, opening them up to further harassment.

There are so many parts of our society that are in dire need of improvement – some more complex than others, but before we can get there maybe we all need to be reminded that we’re all human, we all make mistakes and open, honest communication is the best course of action to correcting and improving all of our lives instead of.. whatever the hell else we’ve been doing.

Maybe today we can start with asking the people we know if they’re really alright.

Not everyone’s struggles are as obvious as the man on the floor in front of the subway doors. 

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