I grew up in an isolated town in a valley surrounded by high mountains on Vancouver Island. Everything revolved around forestry as well as the pulp and paper mills, the putrid, all-pervasive stench of which hung over the town, day in and day out like a heavy shroud. Due to the heavy rainfall, it at least appeared as a beautiful green place, with huge trees and flowers and gardens. That which we call culture was sorely lacking and entertainment usually involved boating, camping or fishing along with woodsmen competitions of various sorts. There was also a LOT of excessive drinking followed by numerous bar brawls, again a type of competition to see who was the stronger.
I've always been drawn toward art. Some consider it a hobby, I like to think of it as a life necessity, as an opportunity to create and open my flow of inspiration. I often daydream about all the beautiful sceneries that I could paint right here in my hometown, Montreal. I imagine Mount-Royal come wintertime, the Old Port at sunset, or a narrow street in the Plateau filled with Montreal's iconic spiral staircases. I've spent the last few years travelling South America and Europe, seeking inspiration for my next series of paintings. I found that each and every one of these locations stood out for their own reasons--the people, the architecture, the culture and finally, the food. A passion for art can lead to a great appreciation for food preparation and presentation.
I started from scratch three times in Canada, the way it goes in fairy tales. Tales are important to mention here, because I've always loved storytelling, and it was the idea of becoming a writer that first pushed me to leave the comforts of my home and my country.
When I arrived in Vancouver to go to Writing School, I thought I had it all figured out: I was going to write about important, universal things, in English, the universal language. I knew nothing about Canada. During that first year, from my basement room and venturing only to campus and the IGA, Canada was a blandness of wet weather, sameness of landscape and architecture, ultra-leftist views and annoying speech intonation. My first reaction to living abroad was a total refusal to integrate. I try to remember how I must have been then, lonely and scornful, judging everyone from my corner in workshops. But what Vancouver gave me, aside from a different perspective of the world, was the freedom of becoming unmoored. Once you pick up and leave, you see how easy it would be to just do it all over again.
First and foremost, I must preface the fact that I revel in keeping to myself. Seldom do I enjoy discussing intimate thoughts with others and self-disclosure has always been painfully awkward for me. In order to understand my state of mind, it should be noted that I'm, ironically, in a constant struggle to hide nothing. That being said, I bare you my soul in the form of contemplative rambling.
My ultimate goal in life is to perceive myself realistically, i.e. to actually be who I think I am. As simple as it may seem, it is thus far proving to be the hardest task I've ever undertaken, considering the unpredictable nature of my ego. My greatest hindrance to attaining higher self-awareness has been the tendency to delude myself into believing things about myself that are completely untrue, both good and bad. Therefore, I believe the only way to come to terms with every facet of my existence as a human being is honesty. The experience that drove this point home was when I told my Catholic father on my eighteenth birthday that after three dreadful years of regular church attendance, I no longer wanted to go. Telling him I didn't believe in his God was devastating for him and strained our relationship for a while. Eventually, he understood because it was the straight truth, and we were well again, which taught me that sometimes good medicine tastes bad, even if its benefits aren't immediate. Honesty has been an essential quality for which I strive ever since. However, apostasy isn't the only way in which I've damaged relationships.
I've been known to daydream--a lot. Some consider it empty dreaming, I like to think of it as goal making. As a twenty-year-old full-fledged Montrealer, I've always imagined moving out of the city, even out of the country. Over the years I have discovered that coffee shops are the perfect spot to daydream about your future, about living elsewhere, about being the next great writer, about the things you should have said or would like to say. Even when not in coffee shops, I have found that they are the setting for most of my daydreams. In fact, a short story I wrote partly took place in a coffee shop! I began drinking coffee at six months old; an age some people would think is too young, but for Italians it was nothing out of the ordinary. However, against contrary belief, I've grown to an average height, and my brain seems to be fine.
This is my life's mantra, but I always wondered where the saying came from. Being someone who loves to read and write I think that knowing the author and the origin of this phrase will help you to truly understand how these words are shaping my life.
Ms. Elisabeth-Anne "Bessie" Anderson Stanley (1879-1952) wrote in "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations," 17th Edition:
"He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much (...)" 
Two years ago, I was sitting on a bench one bone-chilling January morning, smoking a cigarette. It was my first day at university; already overwhelmed from the great number of people on the campus, I absorbed the overall environment and let my newfound reality sink in. Like a bell, the voice of a young man shouting my name pulled me out of my preoccupation.
Much to my surprise, the advancing figure grew familiar. Indeed, it was not our first encounter. I met the young man, who I have nicknamed Apollo, through my older cousin when I was only fourteen years old, but Apollo and I did not keep contact until this serendipitous moment. We immediately proceeded to catching up until our conversation was cut short; I had to attend my first class. Before I ran off--because I was, of course, already late to my first class--we exchanged numbers and agreed to meet every Monday and Wednesday before my class for coffee and cigarettes.
My name is Gemma Cocomello, I am 30 years old and not ashamed of it! I was born and raised in Montreal and have lived my whole life in the Ville Saint-Laurent area. I currently live in a condominium with my mother and hope to be out on my own in the next couple of years. Looking back at my life I've come to realize how much has changed, sometimes for the good and others not so much. I've learned that everything in life happens for a reason and what may seem unfair and impossible at that time, has a way of working itself out. Marilyn Monroe once said that things fall apart so better things can come together. Perhaps I'm getting too ahead of myself, how about we start from the beginning.
When I was six, my parents threw a party and all the adults got incredibly drunk. There was a band playing and I watched them all night. I watched them playing through all the Baby Boomer classics, getting wilder and drunker between songs. Later in the night, I asked them to play Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix and spirits, the surrealism of it appealed to me.
At ten years old, I got drunk for the first time. I had found a dusty bottle of Peach Schnapps under my parents' liquor cabinet, it seemed like a great opportunity. I stuffed the bottle into my bag, and went to a friend's house. It was four in the afternoon, and we sat in the park, drinking Schnapps from the bottle. I didn't like the dizziness--I hated roller coasters--but it was fun to do something that I wasn't supposed to. And we didn't get caught.
By twelve, my friends and I took turns stealing alcohol from our parents' liquor cabinets. We poured a little bit from each bottle into one big glass, so they wouldn't notice any missing. We watched which bottles they drank frequently and chose those. My friends were delinquents, and I guess that I was too. In a small school with no more than fifty kids, we bonded over rebelling and not much more. But in the background of this new hobby, we obsessed over any CD that we could find with a parental advisory.
Two years later, in high school, many of those friends stopped going to school, and became thieves and stoners--I didn't. My intuition left me feeling uneasy and alone and friendless, and like many lonely people before me, I found comfort in music. If I liked a song, I wanted to know everything about it. I would memorise every word. It wasn't enough. I soon began guitar lessons, and spent countless hours, alone in my bedroom, learning songs that were beyond my ability. Eventually, I met people with a similar fascination. Every day, around four in the afternoon, we stuffed into someone's basement to perform the same songs over and over. We never got bored, and no one's parents ever complained. Over a short period of time, we went from playing in basements to playing venues--where the audience was comprised mostly of other bands--- a community was born, a community that I want to share with you on Montrealites.
Since the day I was born, I have literally bathed in foreign languages. Since I was born two years after the Soviet Union collapsed, my family, eyewitnessing the unemployment and financial turmoil of the epoch, instilled in me the inevitable necessity of learning several foreign languages and moving abroad later on. The curious thing is that, in spite of being a little child, I never resisted that. I loved the idea of exploring the entirely new world of languages other than my own. I started learning English at the age of three - my mother would always teach me Russian letters (it is my mothertongue), along with the English alphabet. My grandmother is to be given credit for teaching me the basics of the French language; we spent hours walking in nearby parks as she was stuffing me with a bunch of new French words on a regular basis.
"Only in the darkness can you see the stars." -- Martin Luther King Jr.
I always look for the silver lining. It's not something that comes naturally to me, so I have to work at it. It isn't necessarily easy, but I somehow manage it every time. I do the same when dealing with people, trying to see things from their perspective and finding the good in them. My philosophy in life is that there is always an upside; it helps me keep negative influences out of my life and encourages me when I'm having a rough time.
I have always struggled to determine a career path. During my final year in cegep, I decided to enroll in a humanities courses entitled "Sociology of the Family"; through this course, I came to realize that I have a keen interest in the way society works. Having found a direction now brought me joy and a sense of fulfilment. By the end of cegep, I had taken plenty of sociology courses and my love for the field had only grown stronger. Sociology is one of those disciplines that reshapes and molds itself based on each person's individual experience and perspective, making it unique and dear to me.
I remember as a small child, my grandfather telling me that that the three greatest things life could offer you were family, food and friendship. Being as young as I was, I only ever connected with the last part. Sure, we had pancakes for breakfast and steak for dinner, and our family got together for holidays and large events, but I was always more interested in what my friends were up to. I never truly appreciated what he was saying until I'd begun experiencing what life had to offer.
If there are two rules I have learned to live by, they are: don't be afraid of anything; and don't underestimate yourself. I tend to have a natural aptitude for most things, and so for me these two rules are not too hard to abide. But sometimes, you find yourself so far out of your own element that it becomes hard not to doubt yourself. For me, that time was the period of a few weeks that I began working as a cook at a Japanese restaurant.
Most of the students at St-Johns were francophone, and by grade six, we were expected to be fluent English speakers. I went to class, made some lifelong friends, held secret drawing contests, and all the while another language was softly seeping into my brain. I walked the halls of that small public school for a total of twelve years, and most of the learning I did occurred without me even realizing it.
In between geography and long division, our third grade teacher would pull out a picture book and read to us. Whenever an unknown word was spoken, every nine year-old child's language instinct did its magic and filed it somewhere for easy retrieval, along with its category and usage. Whole sets of rules for syntax and subject-verb agreement mapped themselves in my head, adjusting and expanding with each sentence I heard. This bundle of unconscious knowledge grew into a substantial pool of information, a magic spring that always held more than when I last tapped into it.
I can remember nothing of being ten years old.
When I was nine, I had a seizure. I only know of the event thanks to recollections of others. What I do know is that after exiting a cold lake and moving into a warm tub made me dizzy, I sought out my mother. I then collapsed, seized, and woke up in my parent's bed. A day had passed; for me, it felt like only a confusing few minutes. When I woke up next my mom was trying to get my attention as they rushed me to the mainland.
To begin with, I would like to say that I am not a confrontational person, nor am I hard to get along with. This may seem counter-intuitive towards what my topic of choice is, considering it involves Montreal's complete separation from Quebec. Throughout my life the whole political aspirations of Quebec have affected, which is why I am advocating for Montreal and the Greater-Montreal areas to the border of Ontario to separate from Quebec, becoming the 11th province in Canada. Why this strikes home to me so much is because of how the Quebec separation attempts have affect me and my family, as well as many other people I know. But for the sake of the autobiography, I'll just stick to me.
When I was five-years old, I had my first taste of what sovereignty was and how it affects the population. My family and I were living on the South Shore, my father and mother both working in downtown Montreal. The neighbourhood we lived in was primarily Francophone (a word invented in Quebec to identify the French-speaking population; other created words include Anglophone (English) and Allophone (neither)) but we all got by with our basic French. One of my sisters spoke more French than English, something she had a hard time with later on. In 1993, there was a huge debate about separation and sovereignty, as the PQ government pushed the idea heavily. With all this fear, companies and the population were afraid of what would happen. This is where it affected me, as the company my father worked for was afraid of separation, and being a predominately English company he was transferred to their head office in Toronto. As you could imagine, at the time I knew nothing of why we were moving, only that my life was going through a change that I did not want to go through.
I am a balancing act.
Last year, I reached a tipping point.
I had been working for 7 years as an executive assistant in various industries, but an uneasy feeling had been growing within me. The sound of the clock would drive me mad. A frequent repetitive pattern. Waking up in the morning and chugging my coffee, going to work and punching in, ordering papers and answering phone calls and organizing all sorts of things over and over and over... Rhythmic consistency, empty. Boring. I felt soulless. I hated my work routine, which sucked up all my energy.
I grew up in Montreal-North, a working class east-end suburb of Montreal. Time stands still in Montreal-North, and from the time that I was a young child, holidays were spent with my large extended family, and days were passed with friends who I've known all of my life. Montreal-North is like a mother's embrace. I had moved around the city many times in my teenage years only to come running back to her warm comfort with every failed relationship, every abandoned job, and every curve ball that life insisted on throwing at me. After a while I stopped trying to fight the pull, and allowed myself to sink back into Montreal North's constancy, her routines, and the collective identity that I shared with those who were closest to me.
I grew up on a farm in a valley buried in the hills. I rode horses before I could walk and drove tractors before I drove cars. It was the center of life. Farmers, friends and children flocked together to play, to work, or just to share the town gossip.
Work on the farm never ended. We did our sugaring in the old fashioned way, with a team of horses. They were a dream team and had giant hearts for the work that they loved. Those who came to help us travelled back in time through the pull of the sleigh, the jingle of the harnesses, and the steam which rose up from the horses' backs. I drove the horses, but I was so small that I was not able to see over the sap tub, but I could steer straight and that was sufficient. In the summer, the tractor that we hayed with was only one step above horse and prone to overheating. I drove the tractor, but had to hang off the side of the steering wheel and use all my weight and strength to turn. We worked in the searing heat and endured the sting of wasps and the prick of the hay. Sticky with sweat, rivulets would make clean tracks down our dirty bodies and the hay dust clung to our wet skin. Every other day meant some sort of mechanical breakdown of the tractor or haying machinery. The work was hard, but we persisted.
I am an avid gardener and I have been for at least five years now. It is the feel of dirt between my fingers, the hopefulness of having a plant sprout out of the ground, and the pride when that plant blooms which keeps me gardening year after year. Gardening brings with it a sense of determination and an appreciation of nature. I live on a small cattle farm which brings with it its own amount of awe; however, gardening introduced me to a new world filled with insects, birds, and pesky rodents. Insects that I had never seen before found their way in between my tiger lilies and my rosebushes. Caterpillars hung out on milkweed leaves, and humming birds would occasionally reveal their presence by a quick glint of green feathers as they themselves found something to eat.
Online education has come a long way in the last few years. Even though a lot of you might still feel that the conventional classroom setting is safer, the fact is online training provides immense flexibility that classroom setting does not. The convenience of attending an online, interactive class and studying at your own pace is unparalleled.
People who don't have time to attend a full-time college turn to online programs for career advancement. Working professionals looking for hikes and promotions, those wishing to switch careers, or stay-at-home moms who wish to pursue a course and begin working, all welcome the flexibility an online education can provide. There are hundreds of colleges that offer legit online programs, and here are some of the best and most popular online programs that guarantee a steady career with a respectable income.
If you are already employed in the IT field or are trying to start out with a new career in networking then getting certified in these fields is your primary step. Cisco certifications are such a boost to your resume and career and here are a few reasons why you should pursue it.
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Now that you know why you should get Cisco certified, you should prepare yourself for the exams you will face. Use all resources at your disposal to study for the tests. You can even find information online at sites like testsforge, which will help ready you to earn your certification. [paid advertisement]