Wait for It

On Tuesday, my dog got sick, and I got scared. It was digestive issues: she had diarrhea and was vomitting a bit. She was never sick like this before in her 5 years of life, so I got scared. I didn’t know what was happening and couldn’t really help her other than sitting by her side while she tried to get some sleep.

She’s okay now. But the next day, while she napped by my room after taking the medicine the vet had prescribed, I got hit with the lovely realization that her health and well-being was always her number one concern. It was so easy for her to just sleep off the pain and sickness. What a nice life, my family likes to say about pets.

But the thing is, my family jumping to take care of her was really nice to see, and again reaffirmed the signs I’ve been seeing about slowing down and prioritizing self-care. I get so caught up with work, volunteering, projects, ideas, outings, conversations, and life in general – and I get pretty damn excited about it – that I forget to slow down and collect myself and be still in the chaos and passion. I’m working so hard and am so focused on an ideal or end goal that I forget that life is always full of surprises and won’t always give us what we want and when we want.

Perhaps it’s a 21st century, first world millennial problem, but instant gratification and our fast-paced lifestyle has made us expect for everything and everyone to be ready at the slightest tremble of our fingertips. Which is ridiculous and rude, if you think about it. We are all moving at our own pace, and we shouldn’t compare our speed or direction to another person’s. Our journeys are our own, and we often forget how precious and significant they are.

I am quite guilty of taking my personal journey for granted. I see my peers and family and friends moving at different paces and taking on their own struggles, but I usually focus on the ones who are relentless in their race to riches, whatever these riches are. Looking at these people, I yearn to be as energetic, as focused, as smart, as non-stop. And that’s where the stress starts. Another lesson that needs repeating is to stop comparing myself to others, to continue to believe in myself – because that is where the answers lie and where I get my strength and validation. I also need to trust myself and the process, and wait for it, whatever “it” is.

Before, whenever I heard the words “wait for it,” I would get reminded of Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother. Now, I get reminded of the song from Hamilton. A much better pop culture reference, in my opinion. It’s a song that will likely resonate with other 20-somethings as we go about our own journeys. Aaron Burr is the foil to Alexander Hamilton, and compares himself to Hamilton in the song, but I think that there can be a healthy balance. We’re not completely alone in life, after all. We just have to figure out how community affects our sense of individuality and well-being. And we must remember that we are inimitable and are able to control how we go about our journeys.

Let’s go.

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.

My Self-Help Phase is Over

At this time last year, I was exploring many professional and personal interests: volunteering, working, networking, writing, etc. The professional and the personal got mixed up quite a bit, but I was happy that it did. It meant that I would find all of these fulfilling in some way. But, looking back, this was just part of the self-exploration and self-help phase I had put myself in for the better part of a year and a half.

I had read books about how to find your passion and to design a life that suits your authentic self. I watched videos and documentaries about personal truth and attracting what you most want in life. I took on a career/personal coach who kept me accountable for working on my goals. And it all made perfect sense to be that kind of person for the year and a half: explore, question, be kind to myself, be true to myself.

But now? Well, I’m still exploring and questions. I’m still being kind and true to myself. But I’ve shed the protective layer that allowed for all of these self-help and self-improvement resources to protect and guide me. They were my support system, kind of like tools that help people move about their daily lives. I don’t need these now. I’m strong and confident enough to stand on my own two feet and to move at the pace that I want, without fear of stumbling or falling over. Because I know that I’m able to pick myself up.

Not that I won’t deny these supports whenever I need them. It’s just that because I’ve grown so much over the past couple of years, I don’t need to schedule my day to include career growth. I have a full-time job that allows for that in such a way that I’m gaining new skills and putting myself out there. I also don’t need to constantly learn about how my mindset is holding me back. I feel at peace with my mind and know that our relationship is now a positive one.

So goodbye to self-help blogs, books, movies, and coaching programs – of course I’m grateful for them, as they’ve helped me transform into who I am today – but now’s the time to focus on new and exciting things.

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! ❤

Why I Stopped Being Sorry for Speaking

I was never much of a talker, growing up. I was told that I was – and in turn, believed that I was – shy, quiet, reserved, serious, you name it. I preferred to listen and then speak, instead of the other way around. It’s too bad that society – school, work, etc. – prefers the other way around. Being loud, speaking right away, giving an answer when called upon… it’s what I’ve been conditioned to think of as the right way to communicate with others. I thought that speaking loudly, boldly, and even out of turn was what it meant to be confident or popular or smart. Not listening intently, paying attention to others, and mulling over one’s answer.

I had tried to become that ideal confident, popular, smart person. Speaking out of turn in a matter-of-fact, “hey look at me” tone of voice happened every now and then, but it always felt fake. Putting up my hand to give an answer to the class didn’t feel natural to me. But I still believed that I wasn’t mature or brave enough to do those things. It was like I was building up to being that kind of person, because that kind of person was the ideal.

But here’s the thing: I didn’t realize that I was fine the way that I was. That it’s okay to be quiet, to think before speaking, to speak only when you deem necessary. That it’s okay and normal to be introverted. That’s the word that I didn’t hear throughout my childhood. People tend to associate “introverted” with timidity, when it has to do with where we get our energy and how it gets used up. Introverted means that you get your energy from within (a nice, lovely thought), and that being in very social situations (parties, concerts, big crowds) uses up a lot of your energy and so you have to get away from those situations in order to recharge. That’s me.

And while I’m becoming more and more comfortable with being an introvert, lately I’ve been becoming bolder in the way I speak to others. Whether it’s at work or with friends and family, whenever I think I have something important to say, I say it. Before, I would have not said anything. And whenever I did, I would feel bad and apologize for speaking out of turn or speaking so boldly – that might be another reason why I didn’t say anything. So, there’s two parts to why I didn’t speak up as much.

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is that while I am still introverted, I’m not shy or scared to speak my mind. I’ve been dubbed sassy and blunt because of this, which I am definitely proud of. I have actually stopped apologizing for adding my opinion to conversations when other people are talking. I had thought that this was rude at first, but it turns out that people actually invite that kind of thing. Who knew?

It feels good to speak up. I feel important. I feel confident. I feel smart. And most importantly, I feel me.

Finally.

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. 🙂

No Time for this Shit

I’m realizing that I am having less and less patience and tolerance for things that I simply do not want to deal with. I think it’s a mark of becoming (more of) an adult, and hopefully not a sign that I’m becoming a more negative person.

Relationship and friendship drama, rude behaviour, jobs that I don’t want, being in situations where I can’t be myself… I don’t want anything to do with them. I don’t have time for that shit.

Ignorance, apathy, people who don’t bother to learn about important things or to care about important things… I don’t have time for that shit.

People forcing their way into circles, people who aren’t considerate of others, people I know I won’t get along with, people who don’t share my soul… I don’t have time for that shit.

And the weird and wonderful thing is that I feel better when I turn away from those things and those people. I feel happier and liberated, like I have so much time and energy to devote to the things and people I do love. And isn’t that what truly matters?

I mean, yes, I still take into account what others think and feel, and how I can help other people become better while improving myself – but when it comes down to it, I want to drop situations and people who don’t allow me to fully be myself and who prevent me from reaching ultimate happiness. There’s something to be said about the many times that we all have felt walked over, ignored, or not given the opportunity to do what makes us come alive. We have probably brought that upon ourselves, but I think we can bring about profound and lasting change that allows us to cut that shit out of our lives and move along our path to fulfillment.

So we shouldn’t feel guilty about not having time for shit like that. We should feel like we’ve just dropped a load and intend to leave it behind where it belongs. (And yes, you can construe that into bathroom humour. I won’t mind.)

Thoughts on Happiness

I’m sure you’ve heard countless times by now how happiness is not an end goal, that it’s a journey. That it’s a choice. That you can always have access to it. And while all of those things are true, I just want to add that happiness is something that you fight for. You fight with expectations, with other people, and most of all yourself, in order to make happiness a journey, a choice, and accessible. And it’s pretty damn hard to do that.

I’ve talked about before how last year was full of hardship and how that had propelled me to shift my perspective on life and make small choices with significant impact. I didn’t realize at the time what would happen after doing all of those little things. I also didn’t realize just how duality shapes us: It wasn’t until I had gone through a little Hell that I was able to appreciate the little bits of Heaven lying around.

These little changes have made me into a significantly different (and I would argue better) person. Who’da thunk it that I would become even more patient and introspective? Not me. I guess we can surprise ourselves every day if we wanted to.

So, I have a few little things I’ve started to do keep that happiness up:

1. Fist pumping or dancing right when I wake up – a little weird, yes, but it’s amazing how much a difference this can make, and right at the start of your day!

2. Meditating – this can even be just consciously inhaling and exhaling for a minute. It’s even better if you do this while lifting the corners of your lips.

3. Singing and dancing more – even when there’s no music on, or you’re doing work, or you’re standing in line. See how it affects your interaction with everyone else.

4. Doing random acts of kindness – hold the door open for someone who’s more than 10 steps away, say hello to a stranger, compliment your family and friends more often… there are so many little things that you can do to make another person’s day brighter.

5. Counting your blessings – you don’t have to keep a tally of these, but thinking of a certain number of things that you’re grateful for will remind you to look for the good in your life.

I’ve had to make a habit of doing these things, on top of everything else I’ve been learning, and it’s been working really well so far. So well that I haven’t felt a huge desire to write. I’ve noticed that I’ve been writing whenever I want to re-frame a negative experience or emotion into something more positive, and lately I haven’t had much negativity in my life. But it’s good to write when you’re in a good mood just to make writing an even better experience.

Mothering

I more often than not feel like a mother. While I don’t have any biological or adopted children (although I have a sponsored child care of an international charity), I work with children in a daycare setting and I like to bring people together in order for them to bond and to make sure they’re doing fine. I’ve been told that I’m the parent of my friend group, and I have to agree. It’s like I have an innate obligation to feel responsible for the well-being of others (which is why I like to write about things that will help others and why I’m in the non-profit sector). And while that sounds great in theory, I have to wonder what that means for the people in my life.

Am I striking a good enough balance between positively influencing others and being responsible for my own actions? Am I keeping my side of the street clean while showing others how they can do that for their side? It can be hard.

I remember feeling stressed about planning group outings with friends, and feeling stressed in general when it came to work that was for others. Is it a mom thing to say that I care too much? I wouldn’t know, and I don’t want to assume anything since I’m not a “real” mom. I do feel like my own mother would say the same thing, and I know that she has definitely experienced what I just described. But take that and multiple it several times over the past 20+ years.

This kind of balance is pretty critical when you care about being the best person you can be, influencing others to be the best they can be, and acting in such a way that people not only like you but adore you. I think that all three are possible, but not without making sacrifices. And sacrifice is something that all parents would know about. But it’s something that’s still somewhat foreign to me. I still feel a little too selfish, a little too self-involved, to feel that way. I know that parents can and should take time to practice self-care, but they have that high level of obligation and responsibility towards their families – and it makes me wonder how they do it. You can’t help but admire parents who want the best for their children and do whatever they can to make their children’s lives better than theirs. That’s exactly what mine did.

I do want to have my own child(ren) one day, but I know that day won’t come for a while. In the meantime, I can try my best to practice that balance between self-care and self-sacrifice.