Tag Archives: Ottawa

10 lessons I’ve learned from writing my thesis

4 Dec

I love reflecting and dreaming. It’s shocking, right? I get into deeper reflection mode in December as I soak up the past year and think about my dreams for the future. It has been another year of wonderful opportunities, tough challenges, amazing people and living out my passions.

While reflecting on this past year, I realized I don’t take enough time to soak up my accomplishments. I probably spend more time appreciating the little things in life, but I think it’s also important to value reaching certain goals.

One of those moments was FINALLY finishing my thesis. 

Last month, I walked across the NAC stage, shook Michaelle Jean’s hand and got my master’s degree. It’s pretty surreal writing this post, considering the fact I didn’t think I would actually finish. If you ask my friends, the thesis updates were rarely positive!

(Robert Tenn-Yuk)

I finally did it! (Robert Tenn-Yuk)

But it’s done and I’m writing this post. Woo!

The past three years have been quite the journey. There were many tears and low points, but I’m glad I pushed through. Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned from writing my thesis.

  1. What if you lose your passion? Sorry to break it to you, but this will happen. You won’t always feel passionate and will probably want to quit many times. This was a huge struggle for me, especially as someone who advocates for people to follow their passions. Sometimes, you need to suck it up and do it.
  2. Tough love goes a long way. Have blunt people in your life who will tell it like it is. When I told one of my closest friends I wasn’t passionate about my thesis and wanted to quit, she gave me some tough love. She told me I had come this far, couldn’t give up and had to finish what I started – even if I wasn’t passionate about my work. This conversation was a turning point in which I committed to finishing what I started.
  3. Trust your gut. My thesis changed drastically from my original vision. I didn’t trust myself on how I wanted to do it, which made writing a challenge (i.e. critical discourse analysis isn’t the most exciting methodology). If trusting your gut means putting more work on the front end, do it.
  4. Find the cheerleaders. You’re going to stare at your computer for many, many days. You won’t write anything. You’ll waste a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. You’ll probably cry. When you’re in those spots, surround yourself with people who will encourage, support and ask you how you’re doing. When you don’t believe it, others can keep the faith.
  5. Reward yourself. Set mini goals instead of focusing on the end product. The finish line will overwhelm you. I often rewarded myself with going to the gym or hanging out with friends. It’s okay to take a break. And it’s okay to cry.
  6. Have work friends. My supervisor set up group meetings every week, which were really helpful to keep me on task and stay motivated. It was nice to be around people who were going through the same process, and could encourage and give feedback.
  7. Add a new discourse. It’s exciting to think I’ve added a new discourse to academia and documented Capital Slam’s history. Many people talked about the lack of female poets in the scene, and I got to deeply investigate the community and put that story in the public sphere. There’s also limited research on slam poetry (especially in Canada), so it’s neat to add a new discourse.
  8. A piece of paper matters. I had numerous arguments with friends about this piece of paper. I constantly questioned if it really mattered. They said yes. I know that doing a master’s degree in women’s studies has opened up several doors for me. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t want my lack of a piece of paper to prevent me from certain opportunities.
  9. Where’s your focus? My thesis was never my focus, so that’s why it took me an extra year to complete. If I had acknowledged that sooner and was okay with taking a bit longer, then I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself. Since I didn’t focus on my thesis, I could pursue some other great opportunities.
  10. A good thesis is a finished thesis. This was great advice from my friend. My thesis wasn’t perfect and there were many ways I could’ve taken it, but I finished it. Someone else can take up where I left off and hopefully it’ll help someone who’s doing research on slam poetry.
The fam.

Grateful to share this moment with my family.

And remember, don’t be so hard on yourself. Writing a thesis (or any essay or project) can be really challenging. When you need some encouragement, watch this scene from The Waterboy. I’m living proof that you can do it!

When you have chance, please check out my thesis on Capital Slam’s poetry scene: Where My Girls At? A Critical Discourse Analysis of Gender, Race, Sexuality, Voice and Activism in Ottawa’s Capital Slam Poetry Scene.

Here’s a quick abstract:

Ottawa’s Capital Slam poetry scene has transformed over the past decade, marking a shift in the identities, discourses and performance styles of local poets. This thesis investigates these changes and trends within the time periods of 2008-2010 and 2012-2014.

This thesis demonstrates the shift from male poets of colour in 2008-2010 to female voices in 2012-2014 at Capital Slam, through an examination of Ottawa’s history and a multimodal critical discourse analysis of online performances. In particular, the creation of local alternative poetry shows over the past five years has increased the representation of female poets and transformed the racial dynamics of the scene.

During the period 2008-2010 and 2012-2014, poets used key historical elements of slam poetry such as storytelling and speaking through personal experiences to effectively demonstrate how marginalized individuals can speak counter-narratives to dominant culture. The use of storytelling allowed these poets to engage, connect and dialogue with the audience, as well as demonstrate their different identities, discourses and performance styles.

What are some lessons you’ve learned from writing a thesis, paper or finishing a project?


The night we took a 5-foot Santa around Ottawa

12 Dec

I love making people smile. I’ll do almost anything to get people to laugh, even at my own expense.

I also enjoy meeting new people and love random adventures. When you take a 5-foot Santa Claus around the city, you’ll get just that!

Stop #1: Parliament Hill.

We set Santa up on Parliament Hill and a number of people gravitated towards him. I mean, who wouldn’t be curious? Some people thought he was real, while others were confused to see a random Santa there. We met new people and had some hilarious conversations.

(Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Santa fits right in! (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

We made some new friends from China. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

We made some new friends. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

As we left Parliament, we met two women who lit up when they saw Santa. They were extremely friendly and hilarious, and as you can see they really enjoyed his presence! If they were the only people we met on our adventure, it would’ve been worth the trip to see their smiles.

These ladies were our favourite! (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Santa’s such a charmer. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Stop #2: ByWard Market.

We ended up meeting a talented blues musician and singer in the market. You’ve probably seen him near the Beavertails stand. The next time you see him, you should definitely stop and appreciate his talent.

A talented blues musician. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

He even played us a Christmas song. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Stop #3: Visiting random friends.

We surprised a few friends with Santa. On one our trips, we plugged Santa in to sing and dance. We knocked on our friend’s door and waited for his response. He looked frightened and quite confused when he saw Santa. I don’t think he was expecting Santa when we told him about our “special” visitor.

Just waiting for the elevator. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Waiting for the elevator. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Santa made a visit with some friends.

Santa getting ready to sing and dance for our friend. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Stop #4: Kettleman’s Bagel.

As many of you know, I’m pretty obsessed with Kettleman’s bagels. Whenever I have random adventures (especially at night), I often convince my friends that we should go to Kettleman’s. I hadn’t been in a while, so I definitely needed my Kettleman’s fix!

Santa's so popular. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Santa’s so popular. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

How could I not stop off at Kettleman's?

A perfect ending to our adventure!

It was a really fun night of random adventures, meeting new people, seeing faces light up and also some looks of confusion. I’m glad we could be part of bringing some joy with Santa around the city!

Life is like Tetris: sometimes, the pieces just don’t fit

24 Jul
Tetris! (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Tetris! (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

I was playing Tetris with some friends the other day when inspiration for a new post hit! Actually, my friend told me I should write a blog post about Tetris and it turned out to be a great idea.

At first, I laughed at her suggestion and made up cheesy lines about how Tetris relates to life. But the more I actually thought about it, the more lessons and ideas I discovered.

So I’m just going to get it out there – I love Tetris. I grew up playing Tetris with my brothers and cousins, and it was definitely one of my favourite video games growing up.

As I was playing against my friends and reliving my childhood, I had to be very strategic with where I put each piece. I don’t let competitive Jenna out often, but she makes appearances in sports and apparently Tetris.

Let’s just say, the games got pretty heated. Competitive Jenna aside, back to Tetris and how it relates to life.

Sometimes, you put the pieces in the right place and the game is simple and straightforward. Other times, the blocks just don’t seem to fit. One wrong move and everything can become convoluted and out of place.

And then there are times where you keep waiting for the perfect piece, i.e. the stick, to get a “Tetris” where you clear four lines and reduce your blocks. However, all you keep getting are triangles! You keep waiting and waiting, but the right piece never seems to come.

When the pieces aren’t lining up and your pile gets higher, you may get frustrated and end up making more of a mess with your blocks. If you wait too long, your pieces pile up until you lose and you have to start over.

So how is Tetris like life?

There are times when all the pieces seem to line up with work, school, passions relationships and many other areas of your life. Sometimes, you keep waiting for the perfect moment or opportunity, which may never actually come – at least not in the way you hope or imagine. Other times, you try to make certain pieces of your life fit that don’t actually work.

I can think of many experiences that relate to Tetris where various pieces of my life lined up and fit. However, there were also other times where I waited for certain opportunities that never played out the way I wanted.

When I tore my ACL more than 10 years ago, all I wanted was to get back to playing soccer and hockey competitively. That never happened and I eventually came to terms with that outcome.

I’ve also had experiences where I was trying to make certain parts of my life fit that didn’t actually work. It was frustrating, but you’re not always meant to fit with every job, person, passion and dream.

Maybe you’re not meant to be working in that career. Or perhaps that friendship is really draining you. Or maybe it’s time to let go of certain passions and people. Whatever your scenario may be, a little “game over” and reorientation may be just what you need.

How does your life relate to Tetris right now?

One more thing, I just wanted to let you know about some upcoming shows. I’ll be performing some spoken word poetry at ROCK N RHYME IX this Saturday, July 27 at 7pm at the Lunenburg Pub. I’ll also be on CKCU-FM’s WildWorks next Wednesday, July 31 at 11am with Lenny Wu.

Don’t miss the next Words to Live By on Tuesday, July 30 at 7pm to see the Ottawa Current (Ottawa Youth Poetry Slam team) at Pressed Cafe. They’re Ottawa’s first all-female slam poetry team and you’ll be blown away by these powerful young voices.

The Ottawa Current. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

The Ottawa Current. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Words to Live By poetry show has a blog!

20 Mar
Sense-Say performing at Words to Live By. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Sense-Say performing at Words to Live By. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Despite another snowstorm, we had some great performances at Words to Live By last night. Brad Morden and I will be writing recaps and posting photos of the shows.

Check out Brad’s recap of Words to Live By last night featuring former Capital Slam champion, Sense-Say: Words to Live By feat. Sense-Say.

I’m giving a TEDTalk in Ottawa!

5 Nov

I have some very exciting news to share with you. I was recently invited to give a TEDTalk at Ottawa’s first TEDxWomen event in December. Isn’t that awesome?!?

I love TEDTalks. I feel inspired, engaged and encouraged. I take notes and share the inspirational quotes and videos with my friends. The talks also remind me how much each one of us has to offer the world.

We all have ideas worth spreading.

If you’ve never seen a TEDTalk, speakers have a maximum of 18 minutes to share their ideas, thoughts and even life lessons. The purpose of these talks is to engage people in a variety of conversations, and hopefully move individuals towards change in their own lives and the communities around them.

“We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world.” (TED).


It has always been a dream of mine to give a TEDTalk, a desire I had only shared with a few people. I mean, who actually gets to give a TEDTalk? This opportunity pushes me to dream even bigger and not be afraid to step out of my comfort zone even more.

As I’ve shared my thoughts, ideas and lessons through spoken word poetry, music, lectures and my blog, I’ve received a lot of encouragement and positive feedback. I’ve seen the power of connection, and realized my voice and story were worth sharing.

I have ideas worth spreading.

Ottawa is having its first conference, TEDxSandyHillWomen, on December 2, 2012. Starting today, the event is open to the public for applications. There is a limit of 100 attendees for the event, so you can fill out the application here and hopefully you get in. If you can’t make it to the event, I’ll let you know when my talk is online.

If you have some time, please check out one of my favourite TEDTalks by Brené Brown on the power of vulnerability.

“And I know that vulnerability is kind of the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.” (Brené Brown)

Without music, life would be a mistake

11 Jun

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” (Friedrich Nietzsche)

I can’t imagine life without music. I play music. I write music. I listen to music. I dream about music. I breathe music. It’s a part of me.

It’s a funny thing because I didn’t always feel that way. Although I loved playing music, I didn’t enjoy the practicing it took to get there. I started piano lessons when I was six-years-old, and dreaded practicing and lessons for many years. I always threatened my parents I’d quit, but thankfully they pushed me in opportunities they never had the chance to pursue.

It wasn’t until I tore my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the main ligament in your knee, when I realized my true passions were music and writing. At the time, sports were my life and with that passion torn away from me (quite literally), I would have to find something new to focus on.

Without sports occupying my thoughts and time, I decided to take my music more seriously and soon after, sitting at the piano for hours would often fly by. The joy, passion and accomplishment I’d feel after playing a Chopin nocturne, Beethoven sonata or Bach prelude and fugue were indescribable. It’s amazing what beautiful music could come out of 88 keys and my little hands.

I managed to complete my grade 10 Royal Conservatory of Music piano exam just before going to university. Since I didn’t have a piano at school and needed to express myself through music, I taught myself the guitar and started writing songs in first-year university. It was a huge outlet to channel my emotions and experiences, and was a solace when I needed to escape life’s difficulties.

Two and a half years ago, I started writing and performing spoken word poetry and saw my music go to the sidelines. Whenever I did a show, however, I always tried to find ways to incorporate my music.

Last month, I performed at the 4in1 Acoustic Sessions at Dundonald Park, which was hosted by photographer and music lover, Ming Wu. It was awesome to share my musical side and this time, I incorporated my spoken word with my music. I feel pretty lucky to be able to express myself through both of these mediums. I definitely have my parents to thank for not letting me quit and for giving me the opportunity to play music.

4in1 Acoustic Sessions. (Brian Goldschmied)

Craig Conoley of Partus Films shot one of my songs, Will You. I am accompanied by my friend and a talented musician, Carlo a, who is in a new band called Sea Change.

Will you check out my song when you have a moment?

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