Lion Heart

Around this time last year, I started to become more out-going, more extroverted. I’ve chalked it up to working with kids and having to yell and be enthusiastic all the time, but when I re-examine 2015, I just happened to have become exhausted with being silent. I grew weary of waiting for my turn to speak. I knew that I had so much to share with others, and I wanted to be around others more. I grew to love the constant stimulation of different voices, opinions, ideas, and stories. And I came to expect and crave that interaction.

I took the Myers-Briggs personality test several months ago, and got INFP, same as usual. But deep down, I wasn’t 100% okay with that. I felt a strong need to continue asserting myself, to connect with others more.

When I re-took the test a couple of months after that, I got ENFP. Huh. I thought I was quiet, introverted, private. Wasn’t I shy growing up? Didn’t I redirect the spotlight whenever it hovered close to me? I was confused and refused to accept that result (even though I am fully aware and appreciative of how a test cannot define me, that I am more than four letters).

But then, I realized that I shouldn’t let my past define me. Just because I was a certain way before doesn’t mean that who I am was set in stone in that period of time. The people around me accepted this fact so easily that it made me realize that I was clinging onto something that may have been true then but is not now.

Around the same time, I also became more of a Gryffindor. Growing up, I knew that I wouldn’t completely identify with that House, even though I desperately wanted to be bold and brave. I suppose the extraversion and the Gryffindor-like tendency to stand up for what I believe in came into play last year. What’s cool is that my friends have been telling me that it makes sense for me to have Gryffindor as a secondary House, because I do stand up for what I believe in, and I have a strong moral compass that I like to think always points north.

Thinking about these two developments has made me wonder if I’m finally developing that idealistic lion heart that I’ve seen in my favourite characters, especially women. Hermione, Anne, Leslie… they’re so fearless in what they want and what they believe in. They keep pushing forward despite all the obstacles and failures, and I admire that so much. I hope I’m reaching that point. I hope that people compare me to these characters, with the newest addition from Hamilton: An American Musical.

Elizabeth Schuyler-Hamilton, or Eliza as she’s called in the musical, is such a lion heart. I strive to be more like her. She’s fierce in her convictions, she doesn’t take bullshit, and she always asserts herself in every situation that life puts her in. And yet, she remains soft. In the way she sings and speaks, in the way she interacts with her husband, sisters, and everyone else around her. And her line, “look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now” is aligned with my personal philosophy of gratitude and awe.

I love being able to surround myself with inspirational, strong, fierce women, both fictional and real. I love exploring these parts of my identity, especially since I admire these traits in others. Perhaps I could use some falling in love with these parts of myself.

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Half-Assed Kindness

I’m not one to half-ass kindness. I either love fiercely, or let it drop. I don’t like to keep my feelings hidden, although that’s what I do on the daily. It’s hard when you’re scared or hesitant to let people know how you truly feel.

But when I do, it’s mostly in my actions: I share food. I ask people how they’re doing, and listen. I try to be fully present for them, to be a listening ear or a sounding board. A shoulder to cry on when necessary. And I think the world of them. Yes, we all have our flaws and we’re imperfect – but I love my people anyway.

I think that the one thing that sums up how I show my love for people is time. I give my time, I share my time, I divide my time between those I care about. Simple enough, right?

But lately, it’s been difficult to care. I like to be authentic as possible, so it’s hard when people I know are not being authentic. They’re being kind on the surface, but I know that they’re not genuine in their actions or words. It’s disheartening to know that they’re half-assing their kindness. It’s not real, what they’re doing. And it’s a shame, especially for somebody like me who loves whole-heartedly and whole-assedly (yes that’s a word).

It’s a shame because I mostly am afraid of showing people how I truly feel, and so not being kind at all scares me – what will they think? I already know that they don’t really think the world of me, and I should be okay with that. But deep down, I know I’m not. I’m so used to pleasing everybody and having them like me, so whenever things like this happen, it’s off-putting to say the least. And so I half-ass my kindness. I selectively care when I have the energy to do so. I lie and pretend. It’s exhausting.

So where does this leave me? Do I choose to spread as much kindness as possible, knowing that in some cases it won’t benefit anybody? Or do I let these cases and these people go, with as much compassion and patience as possible? I already know the answer, but it’ll be hard to put it into action. Even though giving something your all is exhilarating. Maybe it won’t be so bad.

Let’s whole-ass this thing.

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! ❤

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. 😉

Thank You

I wanted to write a separate post for this, because I think it’s important to stop and take a few moments to realize what and especially who has helped me in the process of making this blog a success.

My career coach, my friends from school, and people I’ve worked with have all shown their support, whether it was encouraging me to write more often, to create a Facebook page for my blog, or to just say that they like my stuff. And my fellow WordPress bloggers have been nothing short of awesome when it comes to showing their support. You folks know the struggle, the inspiration, the motivation, and the reason why we do what we do.

All of these people have all shown me such kindness whenever I wanted to share my writing with them. Those “likes” feel like fist bumps of solidarity to me, and I love each and every one of them. Thank you for helping to bring out the writer in me!

And thank you for bringing out the Gryffindor in me (I believe we all carry traits of the four Houses) – I’m learning more and more about bravery each day, and about not caring what other people think about my writing. It’s still a process, but I’m glad that I’ve started. And I definitely won’t go back.

I’ve also had a great talk with Felicia from Thoughtful Minds United, and she mentioned that it is absolutely worth it to take the time to go to each person you follow or each person who follows you, and leave a comment on their blog expressing your appreciation for their support and/or their written wisdom. I want to do more of this, for all of my followers and the people I know personally who read my blog posts. I had never thought that I would have this kind of impact on others, and I am truly humbled in realizing this.

So, thank you.

Storytelling Live

I’ve been to a couple of storytelling events where people go up to a microphone and share a very vulnerable part of themselves to the public. I’ve heard a variety of stories from the origins of social innovators to anecdotes from newly landed Canadians. Each one was fantastic because the audience was able to appreciate how sharing such an intimate part of yourself can create a strong connection between people who are otherwise strangers.

At both events, though, I’ve wondered what it would be like to share my own story. I always go back to the statement, “Tell me your life story,” for whenever I’d imagine meeting someone. I would always ask myself how the hell I would do just that. I wouldn’t start at the very beginning and give a timeline of events from birth until this very moment. No. That’s boring. What would be the point to that kind of story?

As a writer, I’d have to spin it in such a way that my story is told in a specific context. There would definitely be a unifying theme throughout, to keep it not only entertaining but also meaningful. And it would be more powerful that way. Also, I think that having a theme is a mark of good writing. And I want to be known as a good writer. I think that this is why I keep imagining what it would be like to go up to a group of strangers and share my story.

So, what would this theme be? I think that talking about how stories affect the way we live could be powerful. For me, I would include how fiction has impacted my reality and how I’ve tended to blur the lines between the two. I’d say how easy it is to live in fantasy and ignore reality; how living in fantasy can distract you from improving your reality. And until you bring yourself back to the present moment, you won’t be able to create a story that’s worth telling and that’s more significant and exciting that the ones that you read, watch, or hear. That story is yours.

At least, that’s the idea that I have in mind.

100%

In a post from last month I gave my opinion that relationships are either 1 + 1 = 2 or half +half = whole. For a while after that, I honestly believed that the healthy relationships follow the first formula. You have two complete, independent people who come together in an equal partnership. You share successes and failures with each other. You team up for life’s adventures. You’re happy together, but happy on your own. And it all works out.

Recently, though, I’m not sure when I’ll ever get to that point in my life. I felt incomplete, and that I’m missing something. And now, instead of reverting back to the fact that it’s because I’m not in a relationship, I’m looking at the big picture. I’m asking myself whether I feel complete with my work, my other relationships, my passions and interests, and with myself as a being. The scary thing is that the answer is no, I don’t.

It’s weird, though. Before, I saw this as a matter of my eventual growth and maturity into a whole and complete person. I was just becoming, instead of being. And lately, it was getting more difficult to find ways to propel that growth and put myself back into the perspective of being on an evolving journey. Because life is a journey, and we’re all going to continue with our own development. I suppose the difficulty comes with growth.

This lovely article from Tiny Buddha called, “How to Shine Your Light, Even When You Don’t Feel Whole,” has helped me get myself out of the funk of feeling incomplete. It made me realize that it’s okay if I’m nowhere near 100%. I don’t have to feel obligated to reach that level, or a state of completeness. I can focus on what makes me happy and good, and work on sharing that with others.

We all have highs and lows, ebbs and flows. The trick is to find your inner joy, your inner light, during the times you don’t feel whole, and to gain perspective and become grounded during the times that you do. It’s a tough balancing act, and it’s all part of the journey.

I hope that my thoughts have somehow helped you with yours.

Embrace Your Fear

I’ve been thinking about the role of fear lately. With my coach, we went over the Emotional Freedom Technique and used it to unblock my fears around money. We’ve then talked about how fear can keep us from continuing on our path but also strengthen our resolve to stay on it. Lately, though, I’ve realized that fear had come back in an unexpected way.

When I started my new job, I immediately felt a tidal wave of stress coming towards me. I kind of waited for it to come crashing down (which it did), since I didn’t know what else to do. As the days slipped by, the wave would come back and hit me again and again. I still didn’t know what to do to keep it from hurting me, so I reverted back to my old ways. My old ways are from my school days, whenever I didn’t want to work on a paper or do a reading. I would procrastinate and stew in my stress – which is probably the worst thing I could have done – until I sucked it up and suffered through the work. This time, though, would be different.

I talked to my coach, and we got to the root of the stress. It was fear. It was fear that I was not prepared for the work, that I was not suited for the job, that I would fail and get fired, that I would never get better… And this would affect everything else going on. It was a kind of paralyzing, viral fear that would halt my daily activities and make me do nothing but, again, stew in my stress. It was horrible, to be honest. But since then, I’ve learned a few things.

I learned that stress and worrying are rooted in fear. Fear is such a powerful and primal emotion that it branches off into other feelings and affects the way we think and live.

Self doubt is rooted in fear. Not feeling confident or courageous stems from the fear that we are not good enough and that we do not deserve anything more.

The biggest thing that I learned, though, is that fear does not go away. It is like a wave; they come crashing down onto the coast, but it’s not always frightening. Sometimes it’s gentle and soothing. I started to read “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times,” by Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun. After reading only one page, I felt a sense of peace and I had never felt so calm. Her words are like a gentle wave, soothing and nurturing. She wrote about fear and how it can reveal everything if you let it. You have to approach fear with intimacy, an intention of wanting to get to know fear and yourself. If you keep running away from fear or trying to distract yourself from other things, you’re not going to be able to make peace with fear. It will continue to be a monster or an enemy.

But I think you can treat fear like something that can be faced with an outstretched hand, instead of a fist or a shield. Maybe you can even become friends with fear. I’m not quite there yet, but I do know that you need to be able to come face to face with your fear. Only then will you realize that the tidal wave can be ridden. And it starts with a shift in perspective, a bit of courage, and an open heart.

So, leave some space in your heart for fear, and see what happens.