No More Suffering

I’ve known for a long time that I was highly sensitive. When I was a child, I would cry whenever I saw anybody else crying. I would even cry when others were fighting in front of me. I could barely handle their pain and anguish. A few years ago, I came across the terms Empath and Intuitive, and knew that these words encompassed how I’ve always experienced life.

Of course, like anybody else, I denied this scary truth about myself for a while. It was scary because I felt alone in this truth. I didn’t know anybody else who was like this. And even when others would share bits and pieces about their sensitivity, I still didn’t feel like I belonged. I didn’t want to be on this journey by myself.

The past few months have revealed quite a lot to me. I unearthed truths I had buried years ago, and had forgotten about. Not just about being a Highly Sensitive person, an Empath, or an Intuitive. This journey of discovery led me back to my spirituality, and what it means to have a relationship with the Divine. Along the way, I’ve had to let go of old habits and ways of thinking that did not serve me.

Just last night, I was driving home, feeling the exhaustion of the past few days and thinking about what sleep deprivation does to people. As I was recalling an earlier conversation with my friends about how little sleep they get, it dawned on me: whenever people I love are suffering, I want to take on that suffering, too. When my loved ones are stressed, I take that on and become stressed myself.

And right after that realization came another: I don’t have to live this way. Just because other people are suffering, doesn’t mean I should, too. It’s safe for me to feel at peace. I’m allowed to have an easy life. It’s okay for me to take care of myself despite being around people who don’t do the same for themselves.

I had to laugh. It just felt so obvious in that moment! Of course I suffer and stress so much – I absorb the emotions and energy of other people, and don’t even realize it.

In that moment, I felt free. Free to live my life on my own terms, and control how I experience the world. There’s so much to do and feel and know – and with these revelations guiding me along the way, I know for sure that I will be okay.

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Hard Truths About Self-Improvement: A Snapshot

The past several months have been incredibly transformative. Everything about me: all of my insecurities, vulnerabilities, and old ways of thinking have been exposed, examined, and explored with gentle curiosity. Thank God for the gentle part, because this postgrad program has been intense in every other way. The long hours, the demanding workload, the constant critiques, and continuous collaboration with the same people everyday has been nothing short of exhausting.

Sure, it’s definitely one of the best choices I’ve ever made, and I’ve grown so much from this experience. But I can’t help but wonder how I’ll be able to handle this dramatic shift in my perception of myself.

Specifically, the bouts of depression I’ve faced (back in December and on and off every month since) have been the worst I’ve ever experienced. And because of this discovery, I’ve been very mindful of how I treat myself and how I spend my time. I go to therapy now. I have a daily routine that involves writing, meditation, and reading. I go to yoga more often. I’ve cleaned out a shitload of stuff from my home, and cleaned out my social media accounts. I spend less time on social media, actually. I spend more time alone, contemplating my life and the next steps. I’ve become more spiritual.

And while all of this is great, it’s also been incredibly isolating. My current set of friends don’t quite get it. I’ve actually dropped a few friendships these past several months because I’ve realized that I spend so much energy trying to force things to happen instead of letting things be. Let go, and let come. That’s what the speaker at Creative Mornings Toronto had said back in March. I’ve been trying to practice that.

I didn’t expect for all of this to happen. And while I can’t quite see what the end result is, if there even is an end to this, I know that it’s happening for a good reason.

It’s about time that I take my life back – really, truly, for real this time – and live it on my own terms.

Uncontained

I went to see a psychic about a week ago. I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing; it felt like this was a precious secret and moment I had to keep to myself.

As soon as she opened the door to greet meet me, I felt a wave of love and energy. I won’t get into everything we talked about – and we talked about a lot – but I will share one of the first things she told me:

“You cannot be put into a box. Even if the box is big, it still can’t contain you. You are too big and too unique to be put into a box.”

That was a recurring theme throughout our session: being uncontained. It was something I’ve known all along, from the way I feel out of place and restless no matter where I was and who I was with, to constantly asking myself and the Universe how I could be more. A different kind of ambition from attaining accolades or adding letters to my name, dollars to my bank account.

Brene Brown wrote in her latest book, Braving the Wilderness, that true belonging is paradoxical. Quoting Maya Angelou, Brene shares how she has finally come to understand what it means to belong and to be free, and to be in the wilderness:

“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”

I did not realize I’ve been in that wilderness pretty much all my life until I read this book. Re-learning about my unique gifts and purpose in life over the past few months has been such a signficant thing to experience. Learning what it means to let go, to be abundant, to live lightly, and most importantly, to love yourself… these are lessons I’ve struggled to remember, and I sincerely hope that this time I finally understand.

These past few months, while supporting a rich inner world, have also seen some of the most isolating and lonely periods of my life. I’ve felt so separated from others, simultaneously wanting to shut out but also let in people. It was confusing, and to be honest it still is. But I guess this is what it means to be in the wilderness, to live uncontained. High price, great reward.

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.

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.

25

I read my birthday blog post from last year, and boy did I sound confused and unhappy. I was doing my best to make sense of what I was feeling, which is fine, but now I know what has changed for the better in the 365 days since that post.

This was the first birthday I’d been looking forward to in a long, long time. Maybe it’s the number, maybe it’s the relation to Adele’s latest album, maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been saying to myself that I’m 25 in the weeks leading up to this day. It’s funny how people joke about this particular age and say that the quarter life crisis is looming, if not already happening. I’d say that I went through my “crisis” at 23 and 24. I did develop earlier than normal people, though. And I tend to re-evaluate everything in my life more regularly than most people I know.

But this birthday was filled with gratitude and love, which is a huge difference compared to last year. I didn’t feel entitled to be lazy or be doted on by family and friends. I just knew that I would be greeted and loved, and I did. I have been practicing kindness and gratitude for months and both came naturally today. It’s so strange how much one can change in a year. Strange, but beautiful.

I have achieved another year, and this year was full of other achievements in my personal and professional life. It felt like small infinities that were a part of and made up a larger infinity, and it was awesome.

Thank you to everyone who has loved me, supported me, shown kindness to me, and has made this world a more beautiful and not so scary place. ❤

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. 🙂