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.

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.

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. 🙂

Family Ties

I hardly ever write about my family here. Actually, I can’t remember the last time I paused to reflect and be thankful for these people in my life. It must have been last year, and even then it was probably when my grandpa had died. I thought of him recently, and it still astounds me that I still miss him and cry. I had thought that I was past this. And now that I see those words, I feel bad about being “past this,” whatever “this” is.

It’ll probably take more time for me to let the impact that my grandpa had left on me truly sink in. And honestly, I know that I need to take more time to think about why he’s had such an impact on me. Maybe it’s because he was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. Maybe it’s because I thought that I would see him again and wasn’t give the opportunity. Maybe it’s these things and more, just like he and everybody else in this world is more than the sum of their parts.

It’s just days away from the anniversary of his death. I still haven’t decided what I’ll do on that day, other than listening to James Taylor’s Fire and Rain. (I haven’t listened to that song since the day my grandpa had died. I haven’t been able to bring myself to listen to it since.) I know I’ll be working, but other than that, I want to honour him in some way. Do I find a quiet spot in a forest or park and reflect on the times we’ve shared together? Or do I want to go through photos and videos? Or do I want to just spend time with my family?

The third one I’ve found helps the most. It’s kind of a distraction in that we won’t talk about him 100% of the time, but it’s also therapeutic because I’m surrounded by people who are going through the exact same thing as me. And quite recently, we’ve heard that more family members have passed away. Each time I hear the news, I always reflect on how fragile life is and that we should be focusing on sharing as much of ourselves with each other as possible. Each time I hear the news, I end up sharing in the grief that my other family members are feeling, whether I’m communicating with them or not. (I’ve realized recently that I take on the emotions of other people, whether I feel the same way or not. I think that’s why I can get emotionally exhausted from being around a lot of people.)

And so it just amazes me how I can feel so connected with my family in this way. I can’t express myself in words (or am too scared to do so for some reason) in front of them, but I am grateful for everything they do for me.

Finding “The One”

I read this ThoughtCatalog article last week, and it really made me think about what it means to find “the one.” I haven’t read anything from ThoughtCatalog in a couple of years, partly since I lost interest in the posts and partly because Buzzfeed came around. Nevertheless, I still find really thoughtful content on TC and thought I’d share it.

The author is right: you can be “the one” for yourself. One thing that took me a while to truly get is that you should and need to become as complete and interesting a person as you can. And in order to do that, the notion that another person will complete you should be thrown out the window.

It’s really difficult to do this. We’re conditioned to feel that we need one special person to make our lives worthwhile: a soul mate, a better half – or just the other half. Women especially feel this pressure to find that person. And I bet that this doesn’t always happen. Not to be pessimistic – I know that there are countless stories of magical partnerships – but I just want to point out that we shouldn’t be letting ourselves feel this kind of pressure to find fulfillment in another person. It’s not fair to us, and especially not fair to that other person.

So, I say we spread this feeling of fulfillment to the other parts of our lives: family, friends, work, career, spirituality, religion, travel, hobbies, passions… there are so many things that can make us feel complete and happy. And we can work on these things instead of waiting to find that person. As Uncle Iroh said, “life happens wherever you are, whether you make it or not.”

Shit My Ego Says

I found the website “Shit Your Ego Says” a while ago, and I immediately loved it. Here was a funny, frank, and genuinely helpful place for people to get over their shit-talking egos. I thought it was great.

I’ve only visited it twice.

Why? Probably my ego saying that it wasn’t necessary. That I was fine the way I was and didn’t need to find a way to be better. But my ego was wrong. It usually is, no offence.

James McCrae, creator of Shit Your Ego Says, argues that your ego isn’t just a Freudian concept or the term for acting and being high and mighty. Your ego is the voice that says that you shouldn’t be doing this. Your ego is all of your fears conveniently compacted and stored in the back and front of your mind, weighing you down. You don’t realize it at the time, but your ego is a part of you, but not you. Your ego acts like society or a parent, but is not your enemy. Not really.

I’ve thought about the times that my ego has shit-talked in order to get me to stay the same (read: remain stagnant and complacent) and not do anything. My ego told me to search for jobs the traditional way when I knew that it wasn’t working. My ego told me that I needed another person to complete me. My ego told me to not do anything out of the ordinary: don’t sign up for coaching, don’t share your writing, don’t build your network, don’t, don’t, don’t.

It’s amazing how I did not get tired of hearing that. At the time, it was like reassurance and justification for procrastinating on things that would only propel me forward and allow me to grow. It was like my ego was taking care of me. In reality, it was coddling me. And I didn’t need that. I needed to be an adult. I needed to be a grown-up. Most of all, I needed to be me.

Whenever you let your ego do the talking and just go with whatever it says, you’re denying yourself the opportunity and freedom to be yourself. You’re not standing up for yourself. You’re letting one part of you act like the whole. (Like I said before, your ego is not your enemy. It can actually protect you at times from taking risks that would backfire, or caution you to think some more before making a big decision. It can teach you how to be self-confident and how to trust yourself.) And this whole person needs to listen to a more important part. This can be your higher self, your intuition, God, the universe, etc. But this part is more of a whisperer. It doesn’t like to yell or point or jab at you. It is more loving and calm. Which is why we tend to ignore it for so long.

My higher self doesn’t shit-talk. It soothes me, heals me, and lends a listening ear and a warm embrace. I always feel better after listening to it and doing what it says. I feel more like myself, because the ego’s been stripped away. All of the worries, fears, expectations, layers of, well, shit, are gone. It’s just me and my higher self.

While I do feel a little weird about talking about what some might call “airy fairy hippie spiritual nonsense,” I also feel vulnerable and earnest and completely myself. So it must be the right thing for me to do.

Dear Me

I realize that the #DearMe campaign was for International Women’s Day, but I still wanted to write a letter to myself because I want to see just how much I’ve grown and how happy my younger self would be to know that. So here goes:

Dear Me,

You will be happy to know that future you is happy, right now, in this moment. Future you tries your best to be present in the moment, to be happy with what you have while wishing for that happiness to intensify. You might not understand this right now, but you will.

You’re worrying about a lot of things right now: school, grades, the future, boys, fitting in, and allowing yourself to just be.

You’re gonna laugh, but school will become the last thing on your mind in the future. You’ll have other things that are actually worth your time: work, writing, spending time with family and friends, and educating yourself on things that matter.

You might hate to hear this, but you will receive a C during your first year of university. It will undoubtedly crush your spirit, but you’ll still be alive. In fact, that C will propel you to choose courses that you will actually like. You’ll even learn that grades should take a backseat, especially since you’re not going to grad school (spoiler alert).

You’re not going to work for the UN. In fact, you’ll lose interest in geopolitical problem-solving altogether – and realize that you were never that interested in the first place. You’ll be focused on other ventures, like non-profits who prioritize empowering youth, or writing a blog about why you don’t want to work for the UN.

And – get this – you’ll still be single, and you’ll be okay with that. Nuts, right? I know! You’ll learn to nurture your relationship with friends and family, and, most importantly, with yourself. You shouldn’t worry about finding a guy who likes you, because frankly, teenage boys are kind of idiots. You know this, deep down inside, but you won’t admit it. And you know you want to have a loving relationship with a man who appreciates the things about you that make you different from your peers.

You’ll find other people who will appreciate those things, too! Your nerdiness for pop culture and fiction, your compassion for others, your yearning to make a difference and bring peace to the world, your preference for words, your hesitation towards technology and reality TV – all of it. You are so loved right now (past and future).

You’ll become confident with your body. All of the hangups about fat, hair, scars, shapes, and size will diminish. Not quite disappear (I think that’s for your 40s), but that’s okay. You’ll feel beautiful, and others will notice.

And you’ll be doing things that are good for your health. You’re going to become one of those spiritual junkies who practices yoga, meditates, and loves Elizabeth Gilbert and Pema Chodron. And you won’t care what others have to say about that. Why would you? You’re awesome!

You probably feel that this seems so far away from right now. You’d be right about that. But I want to let you know what you shouldn’t worry too much about the future. Don’t plan too far ahead. Don’t let what you think others think of you mess you up.

Stay in the present moment, because you won’t be able to be a teenager for much longer. Your body will grow sideways. You won’t fit into your teenage clothes anymore (and thank God for that, really). Your youth will be a thing of the past. So stay smart, focus on the things and people who matter the most, and you’ll be just fine.

See you on the other side!

Love,

Future You