Because I Care

I wrote last year in The Opposite of Apathy about how I care a lot about a lot of things. That’s just who I am. It’s been a lifelong struggle of figuring out how to balance letting this passion lead me and letting it be. Notice how I didn’t say “letting it go,” or “leaving it behind.” I know myself well enough that there is no off switch for my feelings or passion, that I cannot simply just let it go, as much as I want to. And I have wanted to let my feelings go and disappear so often that it’s become a part of the cycle: I care a lot, I become disappointed or get rejected, I feel hurt, I want out of this body and out this personality, I step back, I heal, I become myself again. It’s been difficult to navigate at times, but what usually brings me back to a sense of peace with myself is the realization that this is who I am and that I should accept it for what it is.

I’ve gone through this cycle so many times over the past few months, and during the healing process, I’ve come to realize the beautiful things about this part of me. The enduring empathy, the fiery passion, and the full-blown rainbow of feelings.

I have realized that not everybody cares as much as me. Yes, it hurts. Yes, I feel misunderstood and sometimes lonely as a result. But – and this is actually something that my best friends have told me – not everybody is capable of caring this much. This is actually quite rare to witness in another human being. What I have may just be a superpower. And it’s something that is completely mine.

I’m pretty sure I’m classified as a Highly Sensitive Person, one who just feels the world and is acutely and terribly aware of other people’s energy and emotions – including their pain. Which is why I sometimes want to fix other people’s problems and inspire them to reach new heights. I know that they’re capable of doing it, and I hate to see people settle for lives that are less than the ones they are capable of living. It actually hurts to see that happening. I see it all the time with my family, friends, colleagues, and people I meet every day. I don’t understand why they’re not going for their dreams, why they’re not even trying, and (God forbid) why they don’t even dream in the first place.

The fact that I feel all of this means that my line of work is something that I take seriously (in hopefully the right away. Life’s too short to be taken too seriously, after all). I want to do well, to do good, to make a positive difference. And I can frame it so that I am actually doing this every day, and I probably am. But I know that I am capable of doing more. I know that I am meant for more. And this, my friends, is the source of my stress and pain. I feel stuck in my life, and I’m constantly in the aforementioned cycle of caring and hurting and healing – and this is making me feel like I’m the one who’s settling for her current situation. But I know that I’m not! I’m constantly striving for a better me, because I know that she’s in reach.

Perhaps, then, the stress and pain is coming from this constant struggle in becoming this person. Existential, metaphysical growing pains, if you will. I have actually felt impatience with my situation, which is not good. I need to learn to be as caring and empathetic and sensitive to myself as I am with others. Perhaps this whole “caring too much” thing should be more directed at myself.

So, because I care about my well-being and want to become the best version of myself as possible, I’ll do my best to show as much compassion and empathy to myself as I do to others.

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My Self-Help Phase is Not Over

I have to laugh at past Camille and her blog post. She really did believe that she was done with looking for inspiration and help in other places, that she was fine with her life and would be okay living out her adventures. Not that she was wrong back then, no. She really was able to find happiness and inspiration within, which is an incredible achievement in itself. But this was seven months ago.

I’m back in that self-help state now. Relationship-related grief, career-related confusion, and life in general have combined to test me in ways I never would have thought possible. In a way, I guess it makes sense for these things to happen. I turned 25 this year, quarter-life crises are a thing, and most of all, I’m learning and yearning to grow and evolve as a person. There’s a saying that the lesson repeats itself until it is learned, and boy do I need to learn them.

Here are some lessons that need repeating:

You are enough. You are a complete person on your own. You don’t need to seek others’ approval or to prove anything to anyone. The ones who matter will love and support you no matter what. And they are the ones worth seeking out.

Hold onto the people who inspire you to be yourself, to be a greater version of yourself, to reach new heights and forgotten corners of your being that you neglected or forgotten had existed.

Let go of the people who do the opposite of lifting you up, inspiring you, and loving you. Do not even let them take space in your head; they do not deserve to be there. Clear that shit out, yo.

On that note, treat your head and heart as space for the things and people who actually matter to you. Even if it hurts. And it will. It will hurt when they don’t feel the same way, or don’t care to the extent that you do. You care a LOT, a frightening amount, actually. Not everybody shares that superpower, so please be as patient and kind as you can with others. Importantly, be kind to yourself (more on that below).

Your conceived weaknesses are not just your strengths; they are your superpowers. Your capacity to care, empathize, and feel can often be too much for you and others to handle, but this is who you are. This is actually a gift to the world, which can be a scary, violent, awful, evil place. Believe it or not – actually, believe it, please believe it – you bring a special kind of light to the world, a light that is your own. Don’t let others try to dim or block or turn it off. They’re probably confused or scared, and may just need it the most.

Self care is something you’ve been hearing a lot of this past year. Please make this a habit. And not just the little, superficial things like painting your nails or having another Old Fashioned. Self care includes big, spontaneous things like that trip to Chicago you had booked in less than 10 minutes with no thought whatsoever. Self care includes little, important things like making sure you drink enough water and talk to your family. Self care includes the big, important things like saying no to extra work or re-evaluating your career choices. Self care can be tough. It can be overlooked. But please don’t take it for granted. If you treat yourself now the way you will definitely treat the love of your life, you will be so grateful that you took the time to use your superpowers on yourself.

You’re not done growing. The moment you believe that you don’t need to learn anything or that you’ve seen it all, is the moment you revert back to being naive and selfish. Look around, and see how life doesn’t work that way. You will always be surprised. You will always embark on new adventures. You will always be curious and in awe of how life works, and actually works in your favour. Be grateful for this.

 

Well, I’ll definitely be writing more often here. Of course I’d be back. Reader, if you’re going through anything like I am, we’re in this together. Allons-y!

That’s Life

A lot of shit has happened between my last blog post and now. A lot. Some good, some awful, some terrifying, some exhilarating. Personally, politically, locally, globally… a lot has happened. History has been made. And it’s been a ride.

I think that the overall theme of this year has been extreme living: the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Friends, family, world leaders, citizens, all of us, have strongly felt something. Whether we have experienced love, heartbreak, loss, confusion, exhaustion, defeat, rejection… it’s all a part of life. And I’ve learned that we are all resilient and passionate enough to keep going back to the things that bring us joy and fulfillment, knowing all too well that we could be torn down again. And again. And again.

And yet, we keep going. We push to think higher, feel deeper. We strive to be the greatest. We act like heroes, even just for one day. Because one day can make a difference. We know this. And damn it, we are optimists and we want the best that life can give us. And we work hard to make sure that we get what we deserve.

I’ve said this before: I’ve had to fight for my happiness. For the past few months, and especially the last 30-odd days, I have put more into this fight than I thought was possible. The saying goes that when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. What if life hands you a pile of shit? Do you ignore it, hoping it will go away? Do you toss it somewhere else, hoping that somebody else will deal with it? Or do you sift through it, hoping to find the rich fertilizer that will bring life to whatever metaphorical garden you are growing? (Because when life hands you shit, you deal with it, because it’s yours to handle. Sorry.)

Indecent expressions aside, I have to say that these past few months have been interesting and wild and revealing. If I’ve realized anything, it’s that no matter what is thrown at me, I can rise above it and be a better me. Because life is worth it.

We’re halfway through 2016. Let’s make the other half worthwhile.

Soften Your Heart

I remember a conversation with one of my favourite high school teachers while volunteering with her elementary school archaeology program. She had been a reference for a summer internship with a non-profit that provides education about the history of WWII in east/southeast Asia. We were talking about how I would learn a lot about the atrocities during the war, and about the people it continues to affect to this day. “Harden your heart,” she had told me.

I didn’t realize at the time how much those three words would impact me throughout the course of my internship, and would continue to serve as a reminder of how I should live. During those summer months, I learned about genocide, sexual violence, human experimentation, racism, political ugliness, and gained an overall disturbing and disheartening picture of what human evil looks like. It was awful.

But it was also inspiring and humbling in ways I had not imagined. After learning about the evil, I would learn about the good: the efforts by international organizations and governments to bring about justice, peace, and reconciliation; the innate tendency that humans possess to be kind and to do the right thing; the willingness of people previously ignorant of these atrocities to work towards spreading awareness, tolerance, and hope. It was a phenomenal start to my journey as an activist.

Throughout this internship, I heard “harden your heart,” over and over again in my head. And I did try to harden my heart. But ultimately, it was impossible. How could I distance myself from what had happened and what is currently happening in the world? I understood that there was some truth and value to separating yourself from these kinds of things for your own mental health, but I was and still am unable to fully do that.

And I’m unable to do this in everyday life. Whenever I try to put up that tough/witty/authoritative front, it always fails me. And it’s a lesson that I have to learn over and over until it will finally stick. Being kind, being soft, being graceful in a world that pushes you to do the opposite is not only brave but necessary. At least for me. I know myself well enough by now that softness and kindness are a big part of my personality and bring more good than harm – as scary and vulnerable as it is.

And I think that’s why it’s so difficult to consistently soften. It’s just so damn scary. What if we crumble? What if our worldview and outlook on life are destroyed and cannot be mended? What if I change? What if I don’t? What if I don’t like what softening does to me?

Perhaps this is The Big Risk that people like myself have to take. Perhaps softening our hearts is the only way to live an authentic and fulfilling life. And perhaps that’s the way we’re meant to live.

2015 Again

It seems as though every social media website that you are a part of does a recap or annual report at the end of every December. WordPress just sent me my report, which was lovely and well put together. Facebook, on the other hand, just placed the photos that I’d posted that had the most likes. And most of those photos weren’t even of me or my loved ones, which was hilarious.

So, I’m going to do my own recap. It’s a bit of a “behind the scenes” post, since I didn’t really document these things here. Anyway, as promised, I’ve listed the highlights from this year – and there are a lot:

  • I shared this blog with my friends
  • I wrote blog posts every month this year
  • I got the push to do the above from Anita Wing Lee, my coach who had helped me so much with my career and mindset towards money, success, happiness, and fulfillment
  • I made more big purchases (such as the above) which have been worth it
  • Learned how to do EFT/tapping, meditate, and do an intuition reading
  • I had 3 jobs, all of which I at least really liked and helped me to grow
    • Between the first job this year and the unfulfilling job from 2014, the gap was around 4 months of unemployment and uncertainty
    • Between the first and second job this year was a nonexistent unemployment gap
    • Between the second and third (current) job this year was a 2 week unemployment gap – such a difference!
  • Did a lot of networking – calling, e-mailing, going to events
  • Volunteered for a great organization for 6 months and met wonderful people
  • Cooked dinner and did the laundry for my family for the first time
  • Watched Potted Potter, The Sound of Cracking Bones, Once, and Kinky Boots
  • Watched Good Will Hunting, The Fault in Our Stars, Ides of March, Big Hero 6, The Help, Midnight in Paris, Amélie, Into the Woods, The Artist, Romantics Anonymous, Django Unchained, the Star Wars series, Wet Hot American Summer, Jan Austen Book Club, Naruto: The Last, Age of Ultron for the first time
  • Watched Pitch Perfect 2, Inside Out, Mockingjay Part 2, and The Force Awakens in the theatre
  • Finished Parks and Recreation – 7 seasons of my favourite show. What an amazing workplace comedy that poked fun at politics but also emphasized the importance of being kind and working hard with people you love to do good
  • Watched Agent Carter, another great TV show which I will be following
  • Read some more books for the first time – not as much as last year, but still felt proud of myself
  • Ran my first running race – a 5k
  • Painted my nails and put on makeup more often, and overall made self-care more of a priority. This did wonders for my mental health and well-being
  • Discovered James Bay, an incredible musician
  • Continued with yoga, started running outside more often, and went to the chiropractor a few times
  • Went to High Park, Glen Rouge, and Algonquin Park for the first time – beautiful places where I discovered my love of hiking
  • Got home super late from a house party for the first time
  • Went to a cousin’s wedding and cried. (First time crying at a wedding!)
  • Actually dated!
  • Got signed Avatar: The Last Airbender comics
  • Happy and hopeful for my country’s leadership

So while Facebook didn’t really do a good job with capturing this year’s best moments, that’s okay. They can only do so much with the few photos I had posted. What matters is that 2015 was good to me, and I was in a good place in my life.

Here’s to an incredible 2016! ❤

2015

As this year is drawing to a close, I can’t help but become more reflective than usual on what 2015 has meant to me. I know that this has been the best year of my life (so far), because while I’ve experienced so many lows, the amount and quality of highs has been phenomenal.

I had 3 new jobs that challenged me and made me a better person. Two of these jobs involved working with kids and the second one involved working with youth leadership, which I loved. I didn’t expect to work with kids again, but I now realize that I needed to do this in order to really become confident in speaking in front of and giving directions to others.

My current job is permanent (or at least, not part-time or contract) and I love it. I get to work with elements of activism and social service, and it’s with young (kind of) people. Also, while this is definitely a downside, there are a lot of petty politics to deal with. But I feel like I’ve been preparing myself my whole life to reach this job and deal with the shit – because I definitely would not have been brave enough to speak up for myself and be okay with others not liking what I have to say.

I finally, finally reached that point where I became comfortable and confident enough to be myself. I am no longer nervous to go to interviews or to speak in front of crowds. I am no longer afraid of letting myself be vulnerable in front of people. I am loving my body and my physical appearance more.

Of course, I know myself well enough to recognize that these feelings of power and gratitude will go away. There will come a time when my courage will break and I will want to disappear into the ground so that I can avoid my feelings and the unknown. But that time, too, will pass. These things come and go in cycles. And hopefully those cycles will feature more positive and less negative. I’m still trying to re-frame my perspective and re-train my way of thinking.

And this is all okay. I know that I’ll continue to experience lows and highs, but 2015 has taught me to view the lows with optimism and the highs with gratitude. Just being present in those moments has been so helpful in getting me to calm my mind and spirit. So I think that the overall theme throughout this year was being able to experience the present for what it is. I honestly believe that this is the best way for me to live, since it seems to be working in my favour so far.

I’ll write another post with more fun and specific highlights of this year later, but I really wanted to take a moment to reflect on what 2015 has been to me. 🙂

Imposter Syndrome, Part Three

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
– Marianne Williamson

I made a post on Thoughtful Minds United about not feeling good enough. This is something that everybody comes across at least once a year. For me, it’s about once a month. (Whenever I don’t have a job, it happens once a week or more often.) Before, I had thought that this was abnormal, that I was still deeply insecure about myself and my (in)abilities. Now, after reflecting on this imposter syndrome and how common it is in people, I don’t think that feeling inadequate once a month is wrong. That’s the thing about feelings: they’re never wrong.

Sure, they often suck. Feelings are pretty damn awful and can get in the way of you living your life. But feelings are a part of life and you need all of them to live a full life (as you find out in Inside Out – great movie!). The unpleasant feelings are especially good at letting you know what’s actually going on inside your head, or in your subconscious, or in your heart or soul. Are you feeling insecure? Maybe you’re really afraid of taking a risk in your career. Are you feeling lonely? Maybe you’re sad that you haven’t made a meaningful connection in a while. Maybe you’re afraid of getting hurt if you try to make such a connection.

I find that fear is often an underlying emotion, at least with me. It takes some digging, but whenever I get pangs of loneliness or inadequacy, I discover that they’re both fueled by fear. I’m afraid of being alone and not being understood or loved. I’m afraid of not living up to the expectations that others have for me or to the dreams I have for myself. And fear is a powerful thing.

I’ve even felt afraid of what will happen once I make more changes to become that person I want to be – even if it means becoming a better person. Yes, I am afraid of being great. I am afraid that I’ll be so successful that I won’t be myself again and I’ll lose my family and friends.

So what happens when fear takes over?

You meet it with curiosity and patience. You don’t hide from it, push it away, or bring another emotion to distract yourself from it. Because it’ll still be there to haunt you until you fully and authentically acknowledge it. And when you do, you can learn from it. You can push on, walk run crawl go forward – as long as you keep going. You can take breaks when needed. But giving up on finding that fulfillment and holding on to it? Not an option.

Easier said than done, obviously, but I’m working on it. Are you?

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

The Power of Vulnerability

I finally watched Brené Brown’s TED talk called The Power of Vulnerability, and I can’t remember the last time I had eagerly taken notes, lecture-style, and wanted to absorb the information I was gaining from her speech. I absolutely needed it and loved it and agreed with it.

Here are the notes I had taken, and each one is an important bit of insight about vulnerability:

Shame = fear of disconnection = “I’m not ______ enough.”

The less we talk about shame, the more we have of it.

Shame is universal… and if you can’t feel it, you are not humanly capable of empathy.

In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen.

Underlying shame is excruciating vulnerability.

Brené Brown wanted to beat vulnerability into the ground. She wanted to defeat it. She was the type of person to want to overcome seemingly negative and unnecessary things in order to prove that she was better and above those things. I found this part so interesting, since I have to admit that I’m kind of the same. This is something that I know we’re all working on. Pema Chodron said to meet these negative emotions with softness, because they’re absolutely necessary parts of our lives and inner working. (This also reminded me of the movie Inside Out, when the audience comes to the beautiful realization that sadness can lead to empathy.)

People who possess a sense of worthiness – as in they have a sense of love, belonging – believe they are worthy of love, belonging. They have courage (what Brown specifies as having heart), compassion, and connection (what she specifies as authenticity). They fully embrace vulnerability (and realize that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful) which they found necessary.

Brown says that there are three things humans do that are dangerous:

We numb vulnerability (through obesity, addiction, etc.). …But you cannot selectively numb emotion – when you numb the bad things (shame, grief, etc.), you numb the good ones (joy, gratitude, etc.).

We make the uncertain certain. With religion, we have made this into a belief of being right/wrong; with politics, we have made blame a way to discharge pain and discomfort.

We pretend that what we do doesn’t have an effect on people.

She ends the talk by suggesting that we practice 4 things:

  1. Let ourselves be seen, deeply and vulnerably.
  2. Love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee.
  3. Practice gratitude and joy.
  4. “I am enough.”

Let me know if you have seen this talk and learned from it! 🙂

The Opposite of Apathy

Growing up, I cared a lot about pretty much everything. I cared about being a good daughter, sister, student, classmate, friend, and person. I cared about school and getting good grades and pleasing everyone. I wanted everyone to like me.

Now that I’m witnessing firsthand (yet again) how young people think that it’s cool to not care about anything, I’m becoming confused and frustrated. It’s like high school all over again, except I’m the adult and (this is a stretch) the teacher. Now that I’ve grown more confident and sure of myself, caring “too much” is something that I am proud of being. So it’s really interesting to see the gap between people who think it’s cool to be apathetic and people who think it’s cool to be empathetic. We do our best to meet halfway, and sometimes we both get there. Sometimes, we don’t. And I’m learning to be okay with that – which might be another aspect of becoming even more empathetic, or at least patient and understanding.

Working at this particular summer camp has been transformational in a way that I would not have expected. I seem to be surprising myself a lot this year. I’ve been discovering just how patient and understanding and empathetic I can be. And – get this – creative, out-going, open, and well-spoken. Younger Camille would not have believed that she would come to love speaking in front of other people, let alone leading other people and wanting more of that kind of role.

Another thing that surprised me as a result of working at this camp is how much I’ve come to care about the campers. I want them to do well in life. I want them to come to camp everyday, even (and perhaps especially) if they don’t want to. I want them to become genuinely good people who will make a positive impact on the world.

This was hard for me to accept. I had grown weary of the daily routine of programming and engaging the campers, and putting so much energy and emotion into the job. I had wanted to just do the work and never see those campers again. And, of course, I was mistaken.

I’ve pretty much stopped wondering why I care so much. I’ve accepted that the reason is simply because it’s who I am. I’m always going to care about others and care for others. I’m not going to stop being invested in their personal development. I’m going to continue being in that role of a parent, counsellor, mentor, boss, leader, you name it. And if people have a problem with that, then too bad. I’ll eventually make them like me and want to do well in life. 😉

Imposter Syndrome, Part Two

I had written about not feeling good enough back in July, and thought I’d revisit the topic. I’ve noticed in between these two posts that feeling like an imposter comes and goes. That feeling has never really left, to be honest. It’s like it’s taken a vacation knowing that it will come back with regained strength.

I’ve been ready for it, though. Just yesterday, I was about to browse through strangers’ LinkedIn profiles fully aware that I would push myself into a downward spiral of guilt and inadequacy – but as soon as I knew what was about to happen, I stopped myself. It was one of the strangest “about to” encounters I’ve ever had with my ego. Yes, I was proud of myself, and that I had come a long way in how I compare myself with others… But I knew deep down that I could be better, and fully rise above that downward spiral and avoid that cliff fall into what we know as the imposter syndrome.

Which brings me to this video of Natalie Portman delivering the commencement address to Harvard graduates. She talks about going through the various stages of life (school and work and the transitions in between) and how she had a nagging feeling about how she wasn’t good enough to be where she was.

We’ve all been there. I had felt the same way when I was in school and other students talked to the professor at the same intellectual level, while I struggled to complete the readings. I had felt the same way when I started any job and saw how much of a family my colleagues had, while I felt like an outsider about to push the boundaries. Whenever these situations arose, I did my best to be as likeable and hard-working as possible. Often, those two things conflicted, especially when it came to my relationships with co-workers and superiors. Achieving a balance only came naturally when I was able to be myself.

“The only thing you can be the best at is developing your own self.”

This one line from Natalie Portman’s speech really stood out for me. I’ve always thought that being brave enough to be yourself was one of the most spectacular things that a human being could achieve. And developing your own self takes a while – often a lifetime – to accomplish. But is it ever worth it!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3