When the Mirror Doesn’t Match: A Travel Back Into Time

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I like to think that the snow followed me here to Vancouver. While people walk with their sneakers and umbrellas in the air, not knowing how to deal with such weather, my eyes glisten wider than before. It feels like an opening. This sense of familiarity that traveled here solely for my own comfort.

I’m looking at life differently. I’m looking at it in a way where all my dreams can come to life. My own little heaven, a fantasy that lived in the depths of my mind for so long now feels like it can become plausible in reality, too.

For so long I felt accustomed to bitterness. “This is the way it is and therefore, this is the way it will always be,” I remember was once my mantra. My life challenged that thought, but not without resistance. My stubbornness tried so hard to get in the way. Like it preferred misery only because it meant I would be right.

That was years ago, but those memories don’t go away so easily. It would be simplistic for me to say they haunt me, but that would also mean that I am still under their control. The truth is, I’m not. Sometimes I worry I might become under it, but I think that for the most part, these memories hold me accountable. They remind me of a life that once was, that I now get the pleasure of comparing with, a life that now is.

I always felt like I got tested far more than the ordinary person. That sometimes life unfolded in a way that most would presume only to be acceptable on their screens. But once the show was over, they could close their laptops or televisions and get on with the rest of their day. I didn’t always have that luxury. But it’s egotistical of me to assume that I’m the only one facing this dilemma.

I’ve played the role of both the victim and the hero, back and forth. Both had their benefits, but both were also very fixated on holding me inside a box I didn’t always fit in to. That’s the problem with roles. They keep you stuck, trapped. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized this was the case. That the reason why my life seemed to be running in a constant loop was because I was caging myself into roles that encompassed parts of me but never told the whole story.

I found that I knew all too much about the people around me, but next to nothing about myself. There are points in all of our lives that are meant to grow us, or at least they give us the opportunity to. It’s up to you whether you want to take it or remain as you are.

It took me a while to even see that opportunity for what it was. To be honest, when it presented itself, it wasn’t exactly the way I’d imagined. It looked warped, crooked and imperfect. Nothing like I’d fantasized about. It didn’t appear like an opportunity, but rather it felt like an evacuation.

Sometimes, more often than not, I guess we need that push. We need the evacuation out of our current lives to get us to look at what else is even out there.

The good news is, I’m still looking and I don’t intend to stop.

Love and Duty: When They Intertwine and When One Shadows the Other

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A lot of my love comes from this sense of duty I have towards my people. It’s a very traditional and practical mode that I’ve both realized and come to terms with about myself. But then there’s the romantic in me that questions, “Do I love this person or do I feel obligated towards them?”

I didn’t realize this was a struggle of mine until fairly recently. How it makes sense the way I’ve been throughout my life. How dedicated and loyal I can be to people who I later understood were not good for me. And then as I became more and more self-aware, I learned how to create boundaries because as much as I felt this obligation towards them, I didn’t know if I loved them. And if I did, I didn’t know if they really loved me back.

It’s strange that I often find myself confusing both of these things, mostly because growing up, they came hand in hand for me. If I loved someone, I would care for them, I would sit into the night with their head on my shoulder and let them cry. I would wake up in dire hours of the night if they called to rant to me. I would bring medicine and soup if they were ill. I would support them through everything and give them all the love I had to offer. I pretty much tried to be everyone’s Lorelai Gilmore.

Here’s the problem with that: First, being that person for all of my friends and family is a big stretch of myself. Being young, I didn’t have much of an identity at that point. I never thought to look inside. And being a woman (because let’s be real, us women do this ALL the time), my identity then became a list of all the people I loved, and therefore, had an obligation towards. There was no self to uncover. I didn’t have time for that. I had duties to fulfill, people to heal.

You might guess why some of these relationships I had went south, really quickly. Well here’s the thing, when you do this for others, when you stretch your time for them and you do these small detailed things that often go unnoticed, the problem becomes that these gestures then become expected from you. When you are this person, you are then expected to always be this person and always make time to be this person for each and every person in your life. Sounds a tad exhausting, right? Especially because this is pre-self/spiritual discovery and taking out any toxic people from my life.

And another fun fact about me: I don’t like being told what to do. This part of me diluted a bit after my teenage years, but there still remains a part of me that rebels. I like doing these things for my people and though it was frustrating that over time, they became more and more unnoticed, I still felt this notion of duty that kept me going. It was the only when the expectations became more pronounced that led to this visceral reaction of mine.

What I didn’t like was when arguments were formed because I got busier with work or university. “Why aren’t you there for me anymore?” texts, followed by 10+ missed calls. It was getting ridiculous. But whose fault was this really? I mean, did I plant this on myself? Did giving all my time away to take care of everyone make them lose control when I wasn’t available as much as before? Or was I missing something about them that I was only perpetuating by babying them?

All these texts and calls from people who kept wanting things from me, but not one that ever really asked if I was doing okay. If I liked this new town I was living in. If I was enjoying university or what clubs I joined.

I don’t think these people are to blame. I mean, it’s always 50/50. In my past relationships, I avoided all talk about myself. I didn’t think I was interesting enough and then later, I was too much of a mess that I didn’t want to understand it. I didn’t even want to look at myself in the mirror.

But what happened when I became less available was that it gave me time to do just that, to look closely at myself. To realize that I was so broken and under a deep state of depression. That I was constantly anxious. That I was hurting everyone around me. That there was no way for me to be of help to others if I was so damaged myself.

And to those people in my life who needed me to give them more time, more love, more affection, more of myself, I hadn’t been helping them at all. I was merely a band-aid fix. I was helping them distract themselves from the root of the problem. I was trying to take everyone’s pain for myself so that I could deal with it and so that they didn’t have to. But by doing that, I was taking away what would indefinitely make them stronger and I was hiding from my own pain at the same time.

I don’t think my sense of duty is a bad thing. Actually, acts of service is just my love language. But for so long I had it all mixed up. I didn’t choose friends the right way. I felt obligated to everyone in my life even if they were toxic for me. I was hiding from my own pain and covering it up with everyone else’s. It was my own self-destruction as well as their’s. For a person who loves to problem solve and resolve things, it’s frustrating to know that I was just going in circles for so long.

As much as I want to be the superhero in everyone else’s lives, I understand now that I have to be the superhero of my own first. Everything you flourish into the world starts from within and I guess it took me a long time to learn that I can’t help anyone without helping myself. I can only love anyone as much as I love myself. And I can only heal others as much as I have healed me.

losing wisdom, losing years and getting older

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I don’t know where to begin other than by saying things were going well, too well in fact, until everything fell apart completely. That’s how these things usually go, right? That’s at least what I assume, and so when they were going well, I was walking on eggshells. I was waiting for the madness that follows. But little did I know that it wasn’t necessarily life that was creating this destruction, it was my own footsteps. The ones that treaded so carefully that they never really accepted what was being given to them. They didn’t dare skip, flutter, or prance around, afraid that they’d trip and fall if they got too comfortable with joy.

I was falling for someone again, someone who triggered an old self of mine that I thought I had left behind. But then I began to wonder, are all of our past selves still buried deep inside somewhere, waiting for the right moment to show themselves? I’ve refrained from love for a long time now and I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I took that time for myself. To become who I am now. To learn who exactly I am. What exactly it is that I want from this lifetime. Who I want by my side. How to heal. How to accept love from family, friends, strangers.

So much work, so much progress, so much healing, and then it all fell away in a few weeks where suddenly I felt I was back at square one. Like I woke up one day and forgot who I was again. I keep beating myself up over it, wanting to fall back into old habits. I broke it off with the guy I was falling for. I started questioning whether I was even a writer because I hadn’t written in a month. He was starting to consume my thoughts, my heart, my time, and I didn’t want that. I missed my solitude. I missed my sanity.

I began living in a whirlpool of emotions. Every day was a rollercoaster ride. I was 17 again. Then I was 16. Then 15. Time was warped and everything was backwards. It was like I was losing years instead of getting older. I realized pretty quickly that any romantic partner I would have, no matter how kind and lovely they are, is going to trigger me. I wished so badly that I was back in the seat across from my counselor, but instead, I’m across the country from her. I feel like someone erased me and I’m angry for not catching them in the act. Seeking familiarity in unknown territory is not the easiest thing.

I’m 22 today and I feel lost, but not the same kind of lost I felt at 17, because this person that I am now has resources that the old me didn’t. I have tools. That wisdom I’ve gained over the years, all that self-work, all that progress isn’t gone. It just has to be reworked once I figure out who exactly I am again. I’m not sure how to go about relationships, mostly because that’s the only area of my life I haven’t really worked on. They say that when it’s right, things are different. But what if things are right and you become different? And not the good kind.

I don’t believe people when they say they care about me and I think that’s the root of it all. That maybe I can work on this with friendships before moving back into the love realm again. A lot of the times, I find that I break my own heart because I’m afraid someone else will break it if I don’t beat them to it. These footsteps that tread so carefully do so for a reason, but that reason doesn’t exist in every situation. It’s hard to remember that sometimes.

It’s been a wild life so far in Vancouver, but I feel ready to start writing here again. To start sharing all these experiences with you guys. Because none of us are alone in the way that we are or feel. And this journey of mine that I thought I’d be doing alone doesn’t feel so lonely anymore. I made friends pretty easily, I’m doing well at work, I’m finding my feet. I’m not so sure how to go about love yet, but who does at this age? I don’t think I’m ready, and maybe it took breaking my own heart to remind myself of that, but I will be someday.

Progress doesn’t evaporate, it just evolves and takes different forms to adapt as you continue to become. And I’ll leave off with something I remind myself every night.

The sun will rise and we will try again.

stagnant peace: the fear of comfort

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The state I’m in is no longer one of anxiety, but more so just complete and utter exhaustion. Maybe it’s because I woke up at 2:00 am and couldn’t go back to bed. Maybe it’s because I then had to leave for work at 5:45 am. Or maybe it’s because I’m tired of my hope and the effort I make in having a positive outlook.

The problem with me is finding peace in the present moment. I feel this completion with my job and I’ve felt it for quite some time. It’s not just that it isn’t satisfying, it’s more that it has become draining for me because I feel the ending before it has arrived. There isn’t anything wrong with it. The people are so kind and loving. I’m good at what I do. It’s a healthy environment. But I just have this aching feeling that makes me want to do something more – something that adds value to my life and others’. I just haven’t been able to find any other work in the meanwhile – or let me correct myself, I haven’t heard back from any other place I’ve applied to.

I’m used to a lot of rejection, especially from the job market. The way my life typically works is that I’ll keep getting no’s from everywhere, but when I finally get a ‘yes’ back, it’ll be life changing. So I don’t necessarily feel the need to make decisions because mostly I’m led where I need to go and I do the work in-between to help myself get there. I know that what comes back to me is what is meant for me (as long as it feels right, too, of course). But I always get these feelings of completion or of new beginnings early, and then I become anxious in anticipation for what is to come – even though I know it is coming later.

Lately, it’s been a lot of me sending out resumes to everything that makes my heart race. Anything that I am curious of and want to learn. It’s a lot of not hearing back and when I do, it’s a kind “no”. And then it’s a lot of beating myself up over it.

What I want so badly is to be able to find peace in this moment I’m in, in the job I’m in, and trust that when the right thing comes – as it always does – it will make space for me, and me alone. But what my mind struggles to understand is how to find peace and comfort without feeling stuck where you are. I’m terrified that as soon as I get that peace, I’ll get too comfortable and I’ll become stagnant (even though that’s almost never the case with anyone). But nevertheless, it remains a very prominent fear of mine. This fear that peace will mean no further movement or growth.

So, I wonder, how do I learn to find peace in something temporary when I don’t know when it’ll come to an end?

You see, there’s this lack of preparation I feel in regards to the sort of peace I want to attain. I like doing things in advance. I like mental preparation as much as I like physical prep work. I like knowing so I can be ready. And the peace I am seeking doesn’t work like that. It just needs trust, and that’s something I hate saying that I struggle with. It feels like such an old part of me. It feels so common.

someone will love you; someone isn’t me

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I’ve been regaining my sanity, the inkling of calmness I was afraid I left behind. I credit that all to starting up my daily yoga and meditation practice again.

There’s something you guys don’t know. Something that I don’t really talk about. That when I moved away, I left a boy behind. No one knows that, not even him. We haven’t spoken in years now, but he’s stayed in my mind through this time, the way that unfinished business typically does. We talk every now and again, but not often enough for it to make sense that I still think of him the way I do.

He was someone I never gave a chance to. Someone I didn’t believe when he told me that he cared about me. Someone I always look back on and wonder, what if I had let him in?

I believe in everything happening for a reason, and that certain things won’t happen and never will only because you are supposed to be somewhere else. I don’t think I’d have made my way to Vancouver had I given him a chance. I don’t think I would be this person either because the girl he initially met is no longer here.

It’s an odd feeling. This reminiscing of what could have been that runs parallel to the gratitude of it not working out. Because if it had, you wouldn’t be where you are today. How our stepping stones and greatest lessons are sometimes people you never paid attention to. How sometimes you can be grateful for your adolescent ignorance and also wish you knew better at the same time. But we know what we know and we understand as we learn. It’s as simple and frustrating as that.

We’re always so eager to know more than we do; and when we know more, we wish we knew it when it mattered. As if there is no way to make use of this information now, even though deep down we know it’ll be a useful tool for the future. We want it now and when we have it, we wish we had it then. It’s an annoyance to me sometimes, being human. But that’s what we are. That’s what we’ll always be.

To the boy that never happened. To the boy I now think of and wish I had known better, I hope being human gets easier for you as I hope it does for all of us. And know that someone will love you the way I wish I had.

the difference between blocking emotions and putting them on pause

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Yesterday morning it finally hit me. It was like an iceberg of loneliness that’s been hovering like a cloud above my head for some time now. I wanted so badly to break down but I knew that I had to leave for work soon, and now wasn’t the right time.

We can do that, you know? And sometimes, especially in our day and age, we have to. We can put a pause on our emotions momentarily, but we also have to create time to let them manifest in the way that they wanted to. I think the second half is the harder part. Finding time to let yourself feel what you should have felt earlier. Creating room for sadness, nostalgia, loneliness, anger, or even fear. It makes sense why we wouldn’t want to. I mean, those aren’t exactly the most inviting territories to dive ourselves into, but they are necessary.

In a perfect world, I would break down when I wanted to. I would feel my anger as it came. I would let emotions go through me when they want to. But that’s not the world I live in. The world I live in requires me to go to work every day. It comes with certain situations where those emotions aren’t appropriate to express. But you don’t necessarily need to express an emotion to feel it.

Sometimes we have to compartmentalize momentarily. I think, for the most part, a lot of us have that down really well. We know how to block ourselves from feeling. But what we aren’t always so good at is allowing those feelings to come through again. We just keep blocking and blocking and sooner or later find our minds scattered, our tension built up, and on the verge of completely losing it.

So though I don’t exactly cater to the idea of blocking our emotions, even though I became quite the expert at it, growing up; I do believe that sometimes we have to put them on pause. What that means is that they need to be felt again, properly. Sometimes I even find my life so overbearing that I have to schedule it in.

Example:

Yoga: 8:00am-9:00am

Shower/breakfast: 9:15am-10:00am

Reflection time/Feeling your feelings: 10:15am-11:00am

Meditate: 11:00am-11:30am

Buy groceries/vacuum/laundry OR read/write/blog : 11:30am – 1:30pm

Work: 2pm-11pm

Obviously, not every day of mine looks like that one, but sometimes we need to break it down in that way so we make it the priority that it should be. Reflecting should be a part of your self-care. It should be its own practice because we need it for the sake of our own sanity. Sometimes we won’t have a full hour to do that. Sometimes it’ll be 5 or 10 spare minutes. Other days, we might have more time than that. Some days, we won’t have any time at all. But we have to make room for it somewhere. We have to treat it like the necessity that it is.

Although yesterday, I didn’t have time to let myself feel my loneliness, I had time this morning and so I allowed myself to get back into that place so that I could let it pass. It wasn’t pretty. I didn’t like it. But it felt good afterward, like I had released it. You can’t let go of an emotion you don’t let yourself feel – something I’ve learned the hard way over the years of building up everything inside me only to explode it everywhere and on everyone around me. We can’t control how we feel, but we can control how we experience that feeling and whether we experience it at all.

 

emotional compass: navigating the feelings I should have felt

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incipient: beginning to exist or appear; in an initial stage

You know when you read a book you can’t put down? A book that just takes you away from life itself, far off into another world, another land, another person’s life. That’s what Dark Matter by Blake Crouch did for me. It was exactly what I needed even though it’s a strange thing to dissect.

Why would someone who has uprooted their life to live far away from their home need a book to transport them away from this life, too? Wouldn’t their reality be enough? Wouldn’t this new objective world that they live in be its own source of satisfaction?

I’ve been wondering the same thing. Why I needed that. Why I still do.

Maybe because in a weird way, even books I have never read are familiar to me. Books have always honed this aura of comfort. They have their way of bringing me home, no matter where that be. Just the act of holding one in my hands, flipping through the pages, reading through the night, knowing I have to wake up early but so badly wanting to know what happens next. So maybe it’s not that a book I’ve never read is familiar to me, but the feeling of reading it is what I always need to feel comfortable anywhere that I am in my life.

I guess it’s slowly creeping up on me, the fact that I don’t know anyone here. The fully fledged feeling itself hasn’t sunk in, but I can sense it’s arrival approaching my way. There are small figments of knowing I should feel lonely, but I don’t yet. I guess because the reality of my situation hasn’t clicked.

Yesterday morning was emotional and I didn’t quite know why. I tried to hold myself back from crying at work and managed to do so by convincing myself that tears didn’t make sense in this moment. I guess with the chaos, the busyness, the fast-paced energy of the uproot – all of it happened so quickly that I haven’t processed it the right way. So I find myself in moments alone, slowly allowing the feelings I was supposed to feel to seep through. They need a path to sink in so that they can go through me. I have a hard time with these feelings, mostly because they come to me at odd times. Times that it wouldn’t make sense to be feeling them. My logical self wants so badly to push past them, coining them irrational. But every other part of me knows I should let them in.

So I found that reading is the best thing for me right now. It’s the perfect in-between source where I will allow myself to feel whatever it is that I need to feel. When something sad is happening to a character, I’ll burst out into tears. Maybe not fully because of that, but also for myself. I let books come to me. If I feel myself gravitating towards it, I know it must have something I need and it always does. Dark Matter did that for me and the next book I read will, too.

Sometimes we need books that way. That’s why we all interpret them differently. It’s because we read them from the state of being that we are currently in, and that’s also why they tend to resonate with us. It’s because we want them to, and they listen.

Right now, as I try to navigate my emotions while trying to not burden them too much with my illogical rationality, I’ll be here reading.

diluted air: great things happen more than once

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There’s this sea of calm in the air everywhere I go and I have to admit that every change comes with an adjustment, even if it’s a good change. I’m used to busy people rushing through the streets. I’m used to speed-walking, getting pushed to the side as I try to glide my way to work. I’m used to small towns and busy lives. I’m used to waiting for time to pass. Lingering for more moments like the ones I get to experience every day now. It’s an odd thing for me, this life.

It hasn’t set in yet that this life is mine. I walk around like it’s a game and I’m a novice player, making her first attempt. I laugh when I walk by thrift stores, scouring over the home goods that can now have a place in my own apartment. “It’s funny,” I think, because I can’t get myself to believe that any of this is real. That this isn’t just a figment of my imagination or an unconscious dream-like state that I’m in. That this is my reality.

They say this is what happens when you are in the midst of big moments of your life. Maybe this is how you get through them. Maybe this is how you’re not driven to complete insanity. Because you just can’t make sense of it yet. That this is it. This has happened. This is what your life looks like now. You’re married to this person. Or, you’ve had a baby. Or like in my case, you’ve moved across the country by yourself and don’t know anyone or anything here.

I wonder sometimes if this is a glimpse back into what childhood felt like. You’re constantly stimulated by everything around you because everything is new. You’re in awe of this new world, of the simple things. The things that no one else really pays attention to because either they’ve seen it too many times or perhaps they’ve never really looked.

I try to hold myself back from hugging every tree, brushing every hint of green that surrounds me (for the sake of not looking like a crazy person). I don’t know exactly how I fit in here just yet, but somehow none of that matters. Maybe it’s because I finally get to live here being this version of myself. Maybe it’s that I get to decide what kind of life I want or how I want to live it. But I guess everything just feels limitless. Like boundaries seize to exist anymore.

I feel like I’ve left a small world that was so comforting and familiar and entered into something far bigger than myself. Something that seems so out of reach, even though I’ve already arrived. I remember a time when I circled around a thought that nearly paralyzed me but also kept my hope alive. It was: There has got to be more to life than this.

I think I found the more.

every end comes with a new beginning

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This morning I’ve been brushed with the burden of nostalgia. I guess it has finally hit me that I’ll be leaving. That next Friday is my last day of work. That I’m flying to Vancouver on the 15th and settling in before I start work on the 19th or 20th.

It’s a thing to be grateful for, nostalgia. It means you’ve felt a lot of love, received a lot of good. It’s a something that reminds you that this time will be one you’ll never forget. A strange thing to hold on to a memory before it has completely left you and become one.

Any new beginning that we have comes with an end. Just like every end comes with a beginning. You experience one before the other, but they always work side by side. It feels like the start of a new life, one that maybe won’t come with as much difficulty and pain as the previous. One where a foundation has already been built, and now its time to build on top of that.

It’s different. It’s terrifying and exciting. And it’s new. Any sort of change is disturbing, but I’ve never been one who is capable of sitting still in comfort for too long. What I never realized is that even when you’re moving forward in the direction you’ve always wanted, it is still absolutely terrifying.

But what I’ve learned is that there are different forms of fear. Some are useful for the sake of our own safety and health, and others aren’t necessary depending on the extent to which we let them control us. Sometimes you just have to take a step back to understand what representative fear has taken form for. Sometimes it’s adventure. Sometimes it’s love. Sometimes it’s danger. But nonetheless, it is always change.

Fear likes to stand still and scream at everything. That’s its job and we should be grateful for its service because it is what has saved us countless times in our lives. But fear likes boredom. It would rather you sit at home and do nothing, never venture into new territories, never explore new things, never become. Always thank your fear for its service, but always acknowledge what it is holding you back from first to see if it is really necessary.

It’s not a bad thing to be cautious, but it becomes a burden when that caution is what drives you. For me, I’ve been in a state of poverty. Where having a stable roof over my head and groceries on the table was not a given. Nothing felt reliable and I had to be cautious of everything to be able to survive. Sometimes I find myself still living from that state, even though I’m not in it anymore. I still hear its voice hesitant to proceed at anything because I am always very aware that it can all be taken away at any moment.

That sort of thing will keep a person humble, but you do have to watch it to make sure it doesn’t make you stop living. It’s a crazy thing to look back on your life, who you were, and how you lived. It’s a crazy thing in comparison to where you are now. But it is different to reminisce and be grateful than it is to live from your past.

This is an odd time for me. It’s a concluding and a clean state. Like a new life handed to me right in the middle of the year. There’s a lot of unsettling feelings that come to me all at once, but I expect that it’s “normal”. To want to resist and leap forward at the same time. To want to stay and leave. To start new and to keep what is.

It’s both scary and relieving to know that you’re always one decision away from a totally different life. The root of all my decisions comes from this understanding that ten years from now, I want to be able to say that I chose my life, that I didn’t settle for it. It’s funny sometimes, odd even, when you realize that that is exactly how you’re living.

when you don’t get what you want

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I’ve been waiting for a job offer that it turns out wasn’t meant for me. There is still a job that awaits for my arrival, but the position I hoped for, it turns out is taken. I was disappointed and pretty upset about it when I first heard yesterday morning. I forgot that I was blessed enough to have a job for me across the country in the first place. It saves so much time, energy and stress to be in the position I am in than in one where I moved across the country with absolutely nothing and had to start from scratch.

The woman who will soon be my boss is also ready to work out an action plan right away so that I can get a higher position within a few weeks time. I’ll still be making more than I do now, and I’ll be in a completely new place, one where the moment I stepped into, I felt like I was home.

There are so many good things that I could have focused on, but I found myself looking at the one negative aspect. What a human thing to do. I mean, it’s a survival instinct to focus on the negative, the faults, because our ancestors needed to for the sake of their own lives. But we don’t really need it anymore. Our negatives, especially in this day and age aren’t always life-threatening. What was once a great tool for survival is now a stress-inducing threat to ourselves. What used to save us is now what kills us. Oh, the irony.

I get really personal on here, mostly because I want you guys to know all the ways I’m human. That you’re not alone in the way you think or feel, perceive, or react. That we’re all in this together. I never wanted to inspire others by being perfect. I want to inspire them by how I deal with all my imperfections…which I have a lot of.

When I fall into what I like to call my “worry-clustered dark hole”, I try to catch myself and I’m getting a lot better – faster – at doing that. I take a step back and breathe a couple of deep breaths to bring myself back to what is true.

Here is what is true:

  1. I am healthy and alive
  2. I am privileged to be able to move across the country on my own
  3. I am blessed to have a job that awaits my arrival and an apartment I can make into a home
  4. I am lucky to have such amazing people who support me, cry with me, love me, and know me. I’m lucky to have created the family I’ve always wanted
  5. I’m grateful to have a passion that just requires a pen and paper. Something that’s always held me together and stayed by my side throughout my life.

Sometimes writing it out reminds you of what you already know, but don’t necessarily focus on. There is so much I could add to the list, but I’ll leave it at that for now. Sometimes we have to acknowledge the good and make do with that which didn’t meet our expectations.

Some things aren’t meant for us. Some things aren’t meant for the timeline we create; they have their own timeline to manifest in. Something my mom always says and has reminded me since I was a little girl was that there is a time for everything and what I believe is that we have to trust in that. And in the meanwhile, we should do the work that we can. There are so many times I lose my focus only to remember that I can gain it right back if I want to.

It’s like meditating. The point isn’t to be hard on yourself when your mind wanders. We are human and our mind does wander. The point is to get better at catching yourself when it does. To train your mind to be still. For longer. And longer. And longer.

Our lives are like that. Losing focus isn’t a downward fall. Gaining it back is what the point was all along. Being upset, angry or depressed isn’t a failing. It’s the effort in picking yourself up, little by little, each and every day is what builds character. And when we don’t get what we want, sometimes that’s another test for our patience and our trust in the manifestation of our lives.

This time, I didn’t get what I wanted…in one area of my life. But should that depict how I see my future? Or worse, how I see myself?

Short answer: No.

At this point that I’m at, I’m kind of excited for whatever is to come. Because, from my experience, when certain things don’t work out, greater things do.

The Calm Before the Storm: When Worry Feels Like Productivity

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These past few days have been a bit hazy for me. I’m still recovering from a bit of jet lag – the kind where your problem isn’t necessarily that you’re tired all the time, but quite the opposite. Instead, I’ve been living in an awakened state, one where I wish I were tired.

Most of the time, I’m wishing that life had a pause button. I’m always fighting to catch some air, hoping to take a break; a moment to refresh myself. But lately, the days have stretched out so long that I’m continuously battling a clock that just won’t tick.

I got approved for my first real adult apartment in downtown Vancouver a day before my trip came to an end and now I’m waiting on the final offer for my job status that will come in by the end of this week. The apartment turned out to be below the budget I had in mind, comes with an extraordinarily kind Resident Manager; it’s a good space, a 10-minute walk to where I’ll work, and completely mine to live in.

So what exactly is my problem then?

Well, I guess part of me is waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m finding myself in anticipation for a failure of some kind. Maybe I won’t get the position I want. Maybe I’ll be miserable there. Maybe I’ll find myself in a deep state of depression again. Maybe if I do get that higher position at work, I won’t be able to handle it. Maybe if I am, I’ll lose focus of my true passion that has always been writing. Maybe this, maybe that. But nothing for certain.

I’ve discussed it before, but Brene Brown refers to this little human quirk as foreboding joy. I’ve become pretty aware of how quickly my thought process diverts into a dress rehearsal for future tragedy, so I’m practicing my gratitude much more rigorously now – mainly because I fell through on it a bit when I fled towards my future home.

It’s funny how quickly you can see a change: whether it be a rise or fall when you abruptly put a pause on a practice. It took me 10 days of not writing down my daily gratitude list to notice how big of a difference it has made in my outlook on life.

I have an inkling of what is to come, which is an offer for a job (which is definite), even if it’s not the position I necessarily want, and becoming overly excited and then upset all over again because it’ll finally hit me that I’ll be leaving this place and everything and everyone that it came with. I realized that I’m constantly living in what is to come instead of what is already here, and what won’t be for much longer. I don’t want to spend the remainder of my stay in this town to be in anticipation. I want to embrace what I have and what I’ll soon miss.

My foundation was here, the family I created is here, the beginning of my life and my sanity is here. My people are here. It’s a lot to leave behind and instead, I’m focusing again on what I don’t know and what I don’t have yet. I don’t want to regret how I spend this time of uncertainty. This small window I have before I move could be spent anxiously waiting for something that I know is already coming my way but worrying about it anyways, OR I could live in this loving and supportive environment for a little longer. I could fully be here, in the now.

I could use my energy in loving my remaining moments with these people, or I could waste it by worrying about a future that can’t be known right now.

It’s a hard thing to realize and catch yourself in moments that you know you could later regret. They seem so detrimental because you know that you’ll soon wish you could have spent this time better, happier. So that’s what I’m trying to do: catch myself. When my mind wanders off into self-doubt and anxiety, I have to remind myself that this time isn’t going to last for much longer. I’ll reminisce on them later so what I want is to create more moments to look back on and be grateful for.

It’s like that saying where worry is a lot like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do, but gets you nowhere. What I’m now learning to do is stop giving it my attention, because then it won’t have so much power over me. Instead, I’m trying more and more to focus on embracing this slowness that I’m in the midst of because I know that whenever things feel extremely slow for me, it’s right before they start moving very very quickly. It’s this preparation my body knows but my mind doesn’t want to acknowledge.

Lately what I’ve been nodding my head towards is C.S. Lewis’s quote, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different?”

He’s right. It is funny but it’s also heartbreaking and it is something to be completely grateful for. Moments pass, life goes on, and as cheesy as it is, we have to learn how to be fully present so that we can make the most of it. What we have isn’t ours to hold onto. Things leave, people move on, you grow. So let’s start living in this time we have and creating moments we can look back on and smile.

On Top of Mountains: Where Everything Makes Sense

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It’s my last day in Vancouver until I move here next month and I can’t help but feel a longing to come back here already though I haven’t even left. My whole life, I spent moving to a different place every few years. My family has never been one to fully settle down anywhere. Boxes were never fully unpacked because we knew we were going to get up and leave soon and I could never fully feel at home anywhere.

When I moved to my university town, I thought I’d love it there. I thought these past four years would give me some sense of what it’s like to feel at home and create a family, and it has. This is where I got my shit together. This is where I started working, where I figured out that it was writing that I wanted to pursue and any other work would be a way to sustain a comfortable lifestyle. This is where I decided that I didn’t want to go to grad school in psychology and take on a 9-5 job. This is where I decided what I didn’t want my life to look like, and that was a big thing.

I chose to change my degree to 3 years and start working full time at a job that’s now letting me move to Vancouver with it. A job that gave me a family, structure, financial stability, and a comforting zone that just let me be exactly who I was, even when I didn’t know who that person would be.

This small town gave me friendships that I thought would last a lifetime but those people were only supposed to be a part of my journey for a certain period of time. I lost a lot, but I gained even more in terms of authenticity.

Sometimes we feel we outgrew a place, a position, a person, a life. And when I reached that point, I felt lost all over again. I felt like I was back at square one when really, I just got better at knowing myself and what I needed.

Yesterday, I got a call back on my first real adult apartment in downtown Vancouver that I got approved to live in by the kindest manager/landlord of the building who helped me know the city, the laws and what to pay attention to. I got the same feeling from her that I did when I signed my previous lease at university with my roommates from a landlord that I established a wonderful relationship with.

I went to my second work meeting at another store where I got that same feeling from the Store Brand Leader who worked there. These past two days have felt like things are beginning to fall into place, FINALLY. I realized that since the day I fell apart, wanted to quit everything and go back to the way things were, I’ve gotten nothing but good news and success after success. How funny life is that it’s always after you reach your breaking point that you begin to rise higher than ever before.

My life here will begin sooner than I can fathom. I mean, by the end of August, I’ll have moved in to my first apartment on my own. I’ll have a better position at my company waiting for me. I’ll live a 10 minute walk away from it. I’ll be in a city of wonder, beauty, nature, outdoor adventures, and a wave of calmness that swifts through the air.

Yesterday, I climbed Grouse Mountain and got the call for my apartment as I was exploring the top of it. First of all, climbing a mountain is no joke. It’s always been on my bucket list and for someone who lives a very active lifestyle, I still wanted to die about 3 times in-between. I went really fast in the beginning and quickly learned that that isn’t the way to reach the top. You just have to keep a steady pace and not outdo yourself. The group of people around me became my cheerleaders and I was theirs. We were our own little family, supporting each other. When we reached the top, the 9-year-old boy hiking beside me jumped up in the air and high-fived me. I was speechless and on a new level of high. I wanted to experience that sensation all over again.

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The views for beautiful at the top, but the climb was my favourite part. I met so many amazing people and was surrounded by beauty everywhere I looked. I took moments to stop and just look behind me at how far I’d come. How beautiful the world looked from where I was standing. I wanted to stay in those moments forever, but I absorbed what I could and then continued to climb.

I made it up a lot faster than I thought I would: 1 hour and 23 minutes. I can’t wait to come back and live here so that I can do it again because I learned a lot from that climb. I learned a lot about myself. How quickly I want to speed through it to get to the top, how quickly I’ve always wanted to rush through my life to get to where I want, and then understanding very quickly that that isn’t how you’re supposed to do it. You’re supposed to meet people along the way. You’re supposed to keep your pace steady so that you don’t burn out. You’re supposed to have cheerleaders and be the cheerleader for others. You’re supposed to take moments to stop, breathe, and look back at how far you’ve come. You’re supposed to look at the world around you and take in the wonder, the beauty, the life that exists everywhere. You’re supposed to let yourself feel like you’re a part of it all.

It was a beautiful climb, but it doesn’t end here. You’re never finished and I don’t know if I want to be anymore. There’s always more beauty, more heartache, more tragedy and more wonder. I’m grateful for it all and I can’t wait to see what’s to come next.

Mental Health and Adventure: Am I Scared or Unhappy?

There was a turning point I reached yesterday, one where I was faced with this understanding that some of my ghosts still exist and that it is my decision what I am to do with them. Whether I will breathe life back into these thoughts, this outlook on life, carrying it all forward, or whether I should simply walk away.

I’m afraid that they will always be a part of me because part of me also knows that these things, these thoughts, this way of being, doesn’t just go away. Mental health doesn’t work like that, so I’ve learned.

Yesterday I came out of what felt like a disastrous interview and completely fell apart. It was like I was back at square one. That these two job opportunities were the only thing that I could count on. Everything else: the apartment hunting, the prospect of leaving things behind, the expenses of moving, all of it was chaos. But this job transfer, it was stable. It was the thing that held me together. When everything else got too scary, I told myself that it would work out because this one thing was all the structure I needed to fuel the rest of myself off of.

It’s not that the meeting went poorly, it’s just that I didn’t get a good feeling off of it. It’s not like I don’t have another meeting with another store today, because I do. It’s just that I held on to this one thing so tightly that when it didn’t go exactly the way that I wanted, I fell apart. I felt 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19 years old all over again. Back when I was emotionally unstable, in a state of depression, distortion, and a mindset of nothing will ever go right. Life will always look this way and I will always feel like this: weak, depressed, confused, alone, and lost.

As stressful as it is to be on this “vacation”/business trip to Vancouver with my parents for 10 days, I’m glad my mom was here with me. I’m glad that when I fell apart, I could crawl into her arms the way a toddler does when they scrape their knee. I just wanted it all to be over. I wanted to go back to the life I had in my small town where everything was simple and I finally got to a place of financial and emotional stability. I wondered why I am the type of person who always craves adventure and a curious life when I could have the simple, routine one that’s available to me when I get back.

I wanted to spend the rest of the day moping, upset, and eating chocolate even though I had lost my appetite. I wanted to opt-out of this moving fiasco that felt more like an apocalypse than an adventure. But I had made plans to go to Lynn Canyon Park and hike next to tall trees, walk down the suspension bridge, and sit on the rocks next to the water. I didn’t want to ruin my parents’ trip just because I felt like a complete and utter failure. I didn’t want my mess to travel into and consume everyone else’s life. So I went.

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And suddenly nothing else seemed to matter anymore. Not the treacherous apartment search, not the expenses, not the jobs, or my scattered and afraid mind. Suddenly the world was still around me and I remembered why it was that I felt like I was being led to this place. It was the nature, the wonder, the beauty, and this sense of grounded adventure everywhere I turn. It was the wave of calmness that I felt in the air the moment I stepped off the plane. It was the mountains and hills, the way the trees stood so tall you wondered if they had an endpoint. It was the way the water swayed and made you believe that your body was designed to flow this way, too.

Sometimes we get so caught up in all the details, so focused on the things that are made to take us away from what really matters. What really brought you to where you are and what is really leading you towards the next chapter. That’s when we become afraid, anxious, triggered back to our old patterns of thought. It’s the singular focus, this narrowmindedness of filtering your life through negative events. That’s when we are led off track from the truth. Sometimes we become so lost in ourselves that we don’t see the greatness that’s directly in front of us. We miss the beauty because we don’t believe it’s there.

I’m glad I remembered. I’m glad I remembered to see what was in front of me this whole time. Sometimes all we need is to be still to get back, even though it’s the last thing we want to do. But I think we need to be stubborn about our stillness the way we’re stubborn about everything else. I think we need to force ourselves to be still so that we can feel like we are a part of this flow again. So that we can remember that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to. That worry is not a solution to our problems; that it never was. And that we need to trust that what is to come was always waiting for us.

Who Can I Be Here

Have you ever lived a day that’s felt like three? It doesn’t necessarily have to be in a bad way, but some days are just longer than others. We just live through them differently, slower for some reason.

Traveling will usually give you a few extra hours. Like for instance my yesterday was 27 hours…or longer, instead of 24. Isn’t that weird? To just be handed three extra hours in your day? I’m not going to lie, I’ve been kind of on edge. Something that apartment hunting, lack of sleep, and spending a full ten days with your parents can do to a person.

So yesterday was long. Probably because the night before saw no sleep. My mom and I spent it doing loads of laundry and packing because that’s the kind of stuff you should be doing 4-5 hours before your flight. Right????

I don’t know what it is about spending time with my parents that turns me back into an angsty teenager, but I feel bad for it. My mom and I went on a nice 2-hour-long hike yesterday because that’s a thing you can do pretty much anywhere, here in Vancouver. It’s beautiful, everything is green gold. The trees are taller, the mountains are hoverboards, and there is this ease to things that I have never met before. I came here and I felt this wave of calm wash over me, like the anxiety of Toronto, was put on the back burner and it was time to try a new way of life.

It’s about 5:00 am here and this is just about the only downtime I’ve gotten. The world is quiet, it’s a bit chilly but not too much, and the sun’s going to wake up soon. I like writing now. I like that this place asks something different of me. I like that it’s frustrating to compromise. And I like that in about two months or less, I’ll be living in the midst of all the beauty Vancouver has to offer.

Letting it Go: When Compromising Becomes a Loss of Identity

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It’s two days until my trip to Vancouver and recently, there’s this wave of calmness that has washed over me. I don’t know where it came from and I’m not complaining at all. Calm is much preferred over anxiety if you ask me. But there’s some sort of inkling that things will fall into place in my favor and I just began to trust that the closer it gets to the day I leave. That I will get the higher position I want in the company I work for, and I will find an apartment that’s around my budget. That things will be okay. Things will be better than okay. Something in me knows that now and I’m trusting that that part of me knows more than my anxious scattered mind.

A woman I have a lot of respect for that works as part of the head department for the company and now my current store, came to me with all of the support and advice she could offer. She told me something people have been telling me for years and yet sometimes, certain things don’t seem to click right away…and then one day, they do. She told me to stop doubting myself, that I have a lot to offer and to show people that. That’s something I need to start bringing to the table, instead of my worries and fears.

So today, I wanted to talk about compromising and what it means in terms of your own sense of self and what it means within relationships. (I swear this will all tie together, just bear with me.)

I used to think that love came in fragments. That it was a waving motion that swept in and out of your life. That you had to match the current to stabilize it; to make it last longer. What I’ve understood lately is that love is already constant on its own. I’ve realized that any heart that beats is a heart that loves (whether we choose to admit it and be open about it, or not.)

But I’ve only recently understood that, which means that for most of my life, I tried to match any tide that wanted to wash over me. But I always found my own tide to be bigger. It would take over and consume the other, and more often than not, it would consume me with it.

One of my greatest fears has always been that I’ll be the one who cares too much, loves too much and feels too much. That no one else in my life had proven that they had the same extent of sensitivity that I did. I was always more intense with everything I did, meaning that I learned most of my boundaries by crossing them seventeen times.

So what exactly do I mean by believing that I had to match someone else’s tide? In less airy-fairy terms, I wanted to match someone else’s energy. Since I was drawn to people who seemed to not care about me very much, I decided that I would also be distant, withdrawn, and cold. Obviously on the inside, there was a lot more going on, but I got very good at my poker face. I got very good at making people believe that I didn’t feel anything at all. I wonder if at the time, they were pretending, too.

As the years went on, I wasn’t just drawn towards the cold, the distant, and the withdrawn. I was drawn towards people who were actually quite the opposite. Very affectionate, open and loving. People who were like the real me. It wasn’t something I was all that used to and I came to the conclusion one day, that I had forgotten how to not pretend. It felt like I had already done all this work to create this persona. I was tough, cold, unreliable, and often, in control. The case was no longer matching other tides, reciprocating what I received, but somewhere along the line, this was just who I became to my external world.

There are certain points in my life that I felt I had compromised too much of myself. That I gave in to what other people wanted from me and became the person that people wanted me to be. If I’m being completely honest, I felt pretty powerful at that time. It felt like for once, I wasn’t seen as weak, sensitive, and overly emotional, which was considered a terrible thing for a woman to be. I mean, how awful is it to be such a girl? No, I wanted to embody more of a masculine persona. It felt a lot more CEO and a lot less 90’s Soap Opera. (Don’t worry, the feminist in me is cringing right now at my old frame of thought)

I think compromise looks different for everyone which is why it can be so confusing. What I’ve understood as compromising is losing myself by being consumed of what another wants of me. I got so tired of being walked on and “compromising” that I became something entirely different. But what I never understood was that compromise didn’t mean admitting defeat or completely losing my own identity. It didn’t mean having to lose respect for myself that took me years to gain or just attain. Switching out to the person who is cold, distant, and withdrawn doesn’t mean you are strong. It’s usually just a mask for fear. And knowing me, I had…and still have, a lot of it.

I don’t know what meeting halfway looks like just yet. It’s something I’m still figuring out within friendships and romantic relationships. I’m starting to think that maybe it means something different for each relationship you have, for each person who is in your life. I realized that what I thought was compromise was just letting my loyalty become a sort of slavery. And when I embodied a more “masculine” sort of identity, I just wanted to reverse roles.

I think to understand what compromise really means within us and our relationships, we have to first align ourselves. What I mean by that is to understand who you are and who you are not. There’s this feeling of balance and calm that you get when you feel like the person you are with those close to you, matches the person you are on the inside. This alignment, this authenticity, and this understanding of your value and respect are the tools you need for anything that comes your way. And so when we find ourselves in another relationship, we won’t feel inclined to lose ourselves in it, nor will we not show up for it at all. We’ll just get to be and let the other be. Maybe that’s what compromise really is, simple and complicated.

Recreating What We Know: A Word on Partners, Lovers, and Friends

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I’ve written a lot about friendships in terms of how relationships evolve, dissolve, flourish, and end, but I haven’t spoken too much about romantic relationships here, so I thought I might give that a go today. I’ll talk a bit about the ones I’ve had, but to do that, I have to first explain the one my parents had as I was growing up, because if I have learned anything from my degree in psychology and my own personal experience, it’s that we have a tendency to recreate the relationships that have always existed in our lives.

I think you can have many different relationships with the same person. I think that for a relationship to last, you kind of have to. Because, as you change and grow and as your partner changes and grows, it doesn’t make sense for the relationship to remain the same. The relationship I grew up seeing wasn’t exactly the healthiest. It was two people who didn’t like each other very much, two people who had fallen out of love, but stayed together for the sake of the family. Our home was divided in such a way that we lived as roommates. My mom, my sister and I were our own family; my dad and his mom who had come to live with us, had their own. Sometimes we would have interactions, usually, they’d end in arguments where one of us always left the house…or got kicked out.

The next day, we would all pretend it didn’t happen. We would go on, without any further discussion. We were all trained well on avoiding any form of confrontation because, in our experience, it just led to more anger, pain, and resentment. Growing up, my dad made it pretty clear that he wanted no part in my life, other than the occasional power over my decisions. I accepted it, but only because I was a kid and really had no other choice. I remember moments I’d beg my mom to leave him, but she never did. Sometimes she would for a short period, but she’d always come back and forgive him or ask for forgiveness because she was reminded that it was typically her fault. I watched their on-and-off-again marriage, understanding that this was what love must look like. I decided that there had to be another way and I’d figure it out.

And then I got into my own relationships…with a GREAT amount of reluctance. The first (real) one being an on-and-off-again toxic partnership: shocker. We fought every day and I felt lucky I found someone who was able to ignore it the next day like it had never happened. He didn’t like confrontation as much as me. I’d walk away from him over and over, but then I’d always come back. He did the same. I usually ate up the blame, and he reminded me that he loved me and also that no other man would be able to do such a thing.

There’s this sense of worth and value that I was missing. One that I didn’t understand I needed to have in the first place. I thought that I was lucky if someone loved me, because they’d likely be the only one who ever could. I was lost, reckless, sensitive and withdrawn. And I came with a lot of baggage. I wonder now, if my mom had felt the same.

But then something changed the script because something always does. When our relationship ended (for good), I came to understand that relationships could end. That when someone walks away, they don’t necessarily have to come back. It’s such an obvious thing, but it never screwed into my head properly. The second thing I learned is that there was a point I got tired of fighting, so I decided I would be the “chill” girlfriend. The one who shrugged off anything that would typically lead us into heavy arguments…and it worked, for a while. I learned that you had to remain quiet as a woman in order for your relationship to last. It was a compromise, I told myself.

But what you learn doesn’t necessarily have to be true. I compromised most of myself to hold any relationship afterward. Friendships, partners, anyone. The reward was that I got to have very long-lasting relationships with people; the con was that they were inauthentic and would always end…typically when I was tired of pretending. I was a volcano waiting to erupt but no one would see it coming. Healthy, right?

I thought I was changing the script that I had learned growing up. That I found a loophole, a way out. A way to stop the arguments, the walking out and coming back. But holding my truth may not have affected the other person so much during our friendship or relationship, but it ate me up inside slowly. That really, even though I had found a way out of one negative factor I watched growing up, I kept another. I avoided confrontation at all costs.

When my relationship ended, I woke up realizing that I knew nothing about myself. That I didn’t even know what I liked, what I disliked, who I was. That when I stopped arguing with him, I also stopped listening to myself.

It’s been a long time since that moment and I’ve definitely come a long way. But I get it now, how easy it is to fall into the patterns we watched growing up. How when we take on those patterns, we attract people who will fall into them, just like we did.

It’s a learned habit to recreate what we have always known because it’s familiar, even if it’s not pleasant. We know the script well, even if we don’t like it. And I think there’s something about familiarity that we’re always going to be drawn to. Lucy Quin once said, “We revisit old feelings for the same reason we re-read books – comfort in words familiar even though we know the endings.” Familiarity feels like home and even if home is chaos, it’s still home.

And maybe to break the patterns, we have to fantasize about a new home and repair parts of ourselves to fit into it. Because the thing is, we repeat what we don’t repair, but when patterns are broken, new worlds emerge and a new home can be built.

Shadows and Reflections: We See It How We Perceive It

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“The world exists as you perceive it. It is not what you see, but how you see it. It is not what you hear, but how you hear it. It is not what you feel, but how you feel it.”

– Rumi

There are some things I don’t bother to question. One of which is why so many of us are driven to madness by the pursuit of things that in our rational society, appear to be otherwise meaningless. What I question more is why we have decided that a life of creativity is more out of reach than one of 9 to 5’s. For me, that concept doesn’t make much sense. We were born with a curious nature, a drive to play and create and make things for the sake of joy. It’s embedded in us.

I don’t know if I create stories so much as I discover them. I think the worlds I write about are ones that have always been there, I just haven’t known about them before now. I think the characters that sprout in my mind are people that just want to be heard. Sometimes I think they’re aliens from another planet, living in a world with far different rules than the ones we’ve created. I must be an alien to them too, then.

I came down with a pretty bad headache last night, probably because I took this inner joy thing too far. I’ve felt this surge of creativity. Suddenly my first draft wants to be typed out and edited. Simultaneously, the ideas for my second book are becoming more and more clear. I switched back from one to the other, the middle divider being a book that I’m reading. Somehow the worlds can be distinguished, separated in my head, even though I’m beginning to work on them at the same time.

I’m blogging, I’m writing, I’m editing, I’m researching, and I’m filled with life. So what’s been crossing my mind is, why now? Why when my life is coming back around in this town, my creativity surging, is it that I am moving across the country in less than two months? It feels like I have finally found that spark again and got my routine back on track. So why do I have to move now? Why do I have to leave when things have finally fallen into place? Why do I have to bring chaos to my life when I finally feel settled? Or in reverse, why do I finally feel settled before the chaos?

My counselor had a different way of seeing this…and thank god for that, because I would have driven myself mad yet again. Her insight was that this coming together externally begun when I made the decision to leave. My job transfer, the relationships with my family changing, my work relationships changing, and this anticipation for adventure that I’ve been craving for so long, finally coming together. But internally, I was going through a period of grieving many things that ended. The first draft of my book, close friendships falling apart, people moving away, and leaving me behind to stay here.

Her understanding of this internal shift that to me, has felt like a literal rebirth, wasn’t that it should give me a reason to stay. That it doesn’t mean I’ve made the wrong decision. But instead, to look at this internal shifting of me falling back into place as another reason to go. That this was a strong piece I needed for when I was there, in a brand new environment, with no one I know around me, building a new life. That this coming together internally was a part of everything falling into place. That this was a process that began the moment I trusted my instinct the day I was led to make the move and this piece seems to be one of the final ones of everything falling together because of that moment that I listened to that small voice inside of me.

The lesson here is that everyone should go to counseling because let’s be real, who else has that sort of wisdom? I’m kidding, that’s not the lesson…entirely.

But I find there is a piece of me that looks for the negative. I think there’s a part of all of us that does that. The piece that tries to find a reason to be hard on ourselves. A reason to call ourselves a failure. In psychology, the confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that it confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. I don’t know about you, but that’s something I do all the time, especially when it comes to this deeply rooted belief that I am not good enough and incapable of accomplishing great things.

It’s something I try to work on and catch, but it’s something I have definitely not perfected. And when this happens, sometimes we really need another perspective (a kinder one). Sometimes we can come up with one ourselves, but other times, we need to go to someone we trust for it. Because if we don’t, we might spend our days, our lives even, confirming whatever lie it is that we tell ourselves. We go looking for moments that verify it, people that validate it, and when we go into our day looking for something like that, we tend to create even more of it.

So as a reminder to reinforce a more positive outlook, remember that when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Secret Lives and False Beliefs: The Stories We Keep Hearing

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My creative process relentlessly sets a place on the table for music, and ever since I can remember, it always has. Since I was a child, I didn’t play with toys that had no musical element to them. Growing up, books and music were my escape from reality. I create stories to music. I create scenes to lyrics. I owe a lot to the artists and musicians who have allowed me those fantasies and worlds apart from my own.

If you were to talk to my mom about my childhood, she would kindly state that I was always half present, if that. Most of the time, I was far away, somewhere distant. Somewhere no one could quite understand and somewhere I had no words to explain. We laugh about it now, how she thought that there was something off about me. That it was strange that I would have to ask people to repeat themselves dozens of times before I made myself pay attention to what they were trying to say. And other times, I would pay such close attention but not say a word in response. I would just observe and then drift away, completing their sentence, making up the remainder of their story.

My world had friends and lovers, magic and dragons. My worlds were romantic and tragic, evil and envious. But I could only be 100 percent in them if I were listening to the music that set the tone they had. I actively sought out lyrics that matched my characters and their moods. I gave them faces and bodies that were present in my real world, from people I actually knew. And then, I got to make them into whatever I wanted. I got to play in a way I felt restricted otherwise. No one had to know about these places I went to. It was my dark secret and I felt both clever and misunderstood when I was taken for an aloof, ignorant, or naïve kid.

My family moved around a lot and being a quiet and socially awkward introvert didn’t exactly make me the most popular kid either. For most of my childhood, I lacked friendships and when I got them, it didn’t take them long to realize that there was no way to relate to me. It was only in high school that I learned how to socialize properly, mostly because I felt I had to. I mean, when you have an extroverted older sister who is always flying through men and envied by women, there are certain thoughts you have. Thoughts that typically pertain to all the faults you might have. I wondered why I couldn’t be more like her. Why I enjoyed being on my own so much. Why I didn’t want to be with real people as much as I wanted to be with my characters. There had to be something off about me. I mean, everyone else thought it so it was about time that I did, too.

When I first started to form “real” friendships, I still had my secrets. I felt very Hannah Montana, living a double life. One where I was truly happy and with my music, my characters and my other world. The other where I got through the day. I was 14 and then 15, my secret world becoming something much bigger. Now it was not just in my head, but it was blogging, finding a whole community of people online, learning the ins and outs of CSS, HTML, and web design. It was getting a web internship with a marketing firm in Los Angeles where I got to be a web designer and created layouts for different brands. I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I mean, I was 15! But somehow I did and I told no one about it. I would get phone calls from my boss in LA and we would have meetings about what the next company was looking for.

The only person that knew was my mom…sort of. She knew I was doing something, but she didn’t ask too many questions. I still got my secret world. The one with my characters and music, then the one where I got to really be me, say whatever I wanted through my blog, and then my internship. It was exhilarating. I didn’t feel so alone anymore, not when I was away from school and my friends and the real people in my life.

There was a girl, Yolanda, who taught me all about web design and Photoline (which was the cheaper version of Photoshop back in the day). She started a website that became an online magazine and asked if I could be an advice columnist on it. We became close and I guess she’d been reading my blog and somehow thought that 15 year old me had something she could advise other people. I’ve never been one to back down on anything that gets me excited, so I gave her a “hell yes”. Running my blog on the side, I had a separate email for that advice column and was flooded with emails every day. Somehow, I always knew what to say. It was so easy for me to help other people manage their lives even though it was next to impossible for me to manage my own. Yolanda eventually moved on to other things and left the domain completely when it expired the next year so I was just left with my blog.

The reason I’m telling you all of this is because I remember this time so clearly. Every moment that I felt out of place and where it was that I finally felt I belonged. I remember it because I believed people when they said there was something wrong with me. I remember it because I’m far from it now, even though I still feel like that socially awkward and ‘out of place’ kid a lot of the time. And I remember it because I know a lot more now than I did at those ages. I know that it’s my differences that have got me to where I am. It’s my love for living in other worlds that let me finish the first draft of a novel. It’s the socially awkward parts that let me become a great listener and observer. Doing that makes me understand people better, write dialogue better, create stories better and also have stronger authentic friendships (in real life). All of which I thought was wrong with me are now things I am so grateful for.

There’s always messages floating around that are there to tell you your differences should be embraced, but none of it makes sense until it actually clicks. Until one day you wake up and you realize you’ve lived a very strange and curious life. That it’s a life you want to continue living. Even though for most of my life, the things that have set me apart felt like a burden, they don’t anymore. Because what I’ve come to learn is that you cannot have any sort of influence on the world by being just like it.

Broken Crayons: On The Things I Took for Granted

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I’m thinking that maybe I needed that breaking point two nights ago. That maybe it was a turning point for me. That’s what caused the shifting last night. It was like someone finally found the light switch and the room became bright again. I felt alive again.

I came home from work last night and the air was different. I was back to being me. I realized that it meant that this period of grief, mourning, rest, and patience was over. I guess that time had been hiding this ignition I’ve always had even though I thought it had disappeared. It was 9:30pm when I got home from work and instead of getting ready for bed, I found myself dancing around my room, excited, grateful, and back in love with my life.

I don’t know what changed because externally, nothing has. But deep down, I feel I needed this realization that my frame of thought was circular, certain relationships that had dragged on for far too long needed to be let go of, and even though I wanted so bad to believe some people in my life were going to change, I understood that they wouldn’t. And if they do, they will do so on their own terms and because of their own drives, not mine. But just because some people won’t change, it doesn’t mean I can’t. It doesn’t mean that I can’t change something inside of me that clings on to this illusion of their potential. This part of me that sees people for who they could be rather than who they are.

It was that breakdown of clarity, the thunder and lightning storm that matched my frequency, and this understanding that I have no right to try and change someone. I have no right to hold them to something that they don’t want to be. I have to let people go through their journey the way that they need to, even though part of me aches to have some control or throw my opinion in there. But with that, there was this clarity that those relationships are still toxic to me and that I can’t change it, even though I’ve wanted to and tried to for so long. However, I do have a right to let them go. I have a right to release this hold on them and simultaneously, set myself free. And that’s exactly how I felt last night and this morning. Like I’m free. Like I’m alive again.

Like I’m finished with the grief of certain endings, the loss of relationships, and the rest that follows a rigorous and chaotic period of movement. It took me a while to get here, but it was worth it. All of it. All of the pain, all of the tears, all of the internal and external struggle, the impatience and feeling of dread. All of that which got me here was worth it because sometimes we need those periods to remind us of how grateful we should be when we are out.

Life has its ups and downs and it took me a while to embrace the season of my life that I just went through, but it was when I let go that I found myself back here. I feel lighter and radiant and alive and I don’t want to forget what it took to get here because I don’t ever want to take this place for granted again.

I feel as though this season I am entering of my life is sudden breakthrough after breakthrough, maybe as a reward or a reminder that the previous season didn’t break me. And even though it felt like it did at times, it wasn’t enough and I see that now. I think that we all feel a little broken sometimes, or maybe even most of the time. I know that I do. But the last time I checked, broken crayons still color.

Death and Departure: A Note on the Things We Can’t Control

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“I had my own notion of grief. I thought it was a sad time that followed the death of someone you love. And you had to push through it to get to the other side. But I’m learning there is no other side. There is no pushing through. But rather, there is absorption. Adjustment. Acceptance. And grief is not something you complete, but rather, you endure. Grief is not a task to finish and move on, but an element of yourself. An alteration of your being. A new way of seeing. A new definition of self.”

– Gwen Flowers

I think there are some things we’ll never have the answer to. Or maybe a lot, actually. It’s been a difficult thing for me to discuss at all, but my aunt has been really sick lately and her time is running out. She was the woman who helped raise me, and she’s my mother’s best friend.

I imagine we can all pick out someone in our lives or someone who has crossed our paths that was completely selfless. Someone who just gave and gave even when they had nothing left for themselves. Someone whose entire life revolved around others and being of service to them. And now, in a time when they really need us, we feel helpless. Like we owe them too much. That what we are able to do for them can never be enough in comparison to what they have done for us. It’s something I’m struggling with right now. How to help my mom through this time. What words to offer her. What support I can give. And then how to manage my own grief.

We all live our lives as if they are limitless. Like we have all the time in the world, until something like this happens. Until you watch someone’s life deteriorate and remember that any one of us can go at any time. That we should be grateful for the time we have now.

Being someone who loves having control, I’m at a loss here. My aunt lives in Pakistan and there isn’t much I can do from where I am, nor can I afford to take time off and buy a flight to go see her, especially with my moving expenses adding up. Sometimes I find myself thinking that this is the worst possible time for something like this to be happening, but then I wonder what the right time would even look like? As if there is a right time for death or any difficulty for that matter.

Above everything, I feel a bit defeated. But I also know that it is in the most difficult of times that people come together on the most intimate level. That relationships get stronger and that if all we can do is embody and deepen our love for one another, then that is more than enough. Death is unexplainable and something I’ll never know how to make sense of or cope with. This is probably the shortest post I’ve written because for the first time in a long time, I don’t have many words. I just have a lot of confusion.

I’ve been reading “Option B” by Sheryl Sandberg and it has been a saving grace. I don’t know much in this moment, but I do know that it is these times that remind us how often we take every little thing for granted, especially when it comes to people. How we don’t say “I love you” enough. We don’t speak out what we feel. We live our lives afraid of the permanence that can come from our words and actions. But nothing is permanent and there is no harm that can come from reminding the people in our lives that they are important to us just like there is no harm in asking for help when you need it.

My mom and I have the same issue in common. We both like giving help and offering support but not asking for it ourselves. As you can probably imagine, that’s made it a little difficult for the both of us to communicate during this time because we’re both reluctant to expose our helplessness. But we’re working on it and slowly and surely, we are getting better. Though our instinct was to endure the grief alone, somewhere along the line we realized we’d be missing out on a greater connection. And we were struck with a deeper understanding that we are not weaker for our openness and vulnerability, but stronger. Most of all, we’re no longer alone.

Collecting Beautiful Moments: A Yin and Yang Life

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There’s this strange thing I’ve been feeling lately. This lingering sense of missing people who have left my life but not wanting them back in it. So I guess I’ve just been wondering whether you can continue to love people without wanting to rehash or re-build a relationship with them.

I have to admit that it’s an odd sensation and I catch myself at times feeling stupid for this back and forth frame of thought. This reminiscing of old memories alongside a knowing that those times have gone, and those friends or partners have left with them.

Yesterday I lived in my anxiety, trying to be fully present at my job whilst wanting to break down throughout the shift. I tried to look for something to be grateful for and I found many things, but this sensation was too overpowering. It felt like crumbling. Like I was finally facing what I have had to leave behind or what has left me behind these past few months. The world around me looked the same. My external life surrounding my work and my relationships is probably the most stable that it has ever been, and yet I kept tipping off the scale. There was something that pulled me out of balance.

I love growing up and becoming new and feeling these changes in the person that I’m becoming. But my mind keeps wanting to remind me what once was. What I had when I didn’t know as much about who I was and the kind of person that I wanted to be. Is it okay to still miss some of those things? Is it okay to feel a bit envious of the ignorance that embodied my adolescent years? Is it okay to still cherish memories of the past but know that I don’t want to re-live them?

Sometimes I fall under this illusion that my past was easier when in reality, every aspect of it was far more difficult. It’s a trick of the ego that wants to find an excuse for me to fall back into old habits.

I guess what I’m coming to realize is that this reminiscing isn’t an inkling that I should rehash old relationships or habits or ways of thinking. Maybe it’s just a reminder that even in the worst of times, there was good. That even though I was in a deep state of depression, a financial crisis; even though I was insecure and lost and alone, there were still many things to be grateful for.

I think sometimes we’re quick to assume that our pain and longing for what once was means that we need that thing, that person, that relationship, or that job back in our lives. But maybe it’s just a souvenir from a past life. A life that you’ve grown out of, a person that you’ve now come to better understand. An indication that even at the worst of times, there were moments of joy and happiness. That it doesn’t mean we need to re-create those things, but instead be grateful that they happened. Those are what kept us going. Those are what have helped bring us to where we are now.

And sometimes, those relationships simply came into our lives for that purpose alone. They came to serve us the love and joy that carried us through moments we wouldn’t have otherwise known how to deal with. And then, when they served their purpose, they had to leave.

I think one of the hardest things we have to do is grieve the loss of a person or people who are still alive. But I also think that our job in these waves of missing what once was is just to collect the beautiful moments and memories. Not all gifts are tangible. And not to get too cheesy here, but some gifts are just meant to be held in your heart.

Tainted Memories: Where Do Slip-Ups Fall in the Process of Self-Actualization?

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Looking back, a lot of my memories don’t make sense to me because they’ve been tainted by another’s perception and a lack of my own. Because for most of my life, I’ve understood my experiences based on how I was supposed to feel, rather than how I actually felt. I find myself lost in the conversations I’ll have with others regarding the night, the event, or the situation and will take over their experience of it. If they had fun, it meant the night was fun. If they thought it was boring, it must have been a snoozefest.

There was always this dissonance between what I actually felt and how I curated the experience when talking to others or even journaling on my own time. Those entries I wrote and the things I told myself accumulated over time and one day I woke up feeling like I didn’t remember my life. I felt the need to read through old journals so that I remembered. It was like a subtle form of my own brainwashing that has had a great impact on my sense of self.

I mean, if I’m someone who is wanting to accept and improve parts of myself, I’m not exactly validating my own human experience. And how can I go about my days learning more about who I am if I can’t even let myself feel the way that I need to? If I don’t let myself feel, how will I know what is good for me and what isn’t?

What’s interesting to me is how we all think we’re so good at lying to ourselves. How it has become a habit so entrenched in us that we don’t even know we’re doing it.

What brought this all over was what I’m now going to call an awakening, even though my initial instinct was to coin it a slip-up. It’s easier to beat yourself up over something than to learn from it. But I find that sometimes these “slip-ups” – these moments when we feel we have grown so much that having an experience, a night, a moment like this, is a backtracking. But instead, I think when we are in the midst of self-discovery and self-exploration, certain things trigger us. And those triggers only have a past resolution, so your instinct is to try that out again. But this time, it’s different because this time, that old way of fixing or masking your trigger doesn’t work. And if we take the time to reflect, we’ll notice that this isn’t a backtracking. It’s an awakening. It’s progress.

What I found myself in last night was no different than the nights I’ve had up until I turned 20. It began with just a farewell dinner and drinks with coworkers and somehow ended in a strip club. One drink turned into several shots. A simple night turned into a wild one. These were nights I used to thrive off of. Nights that brought me a lot of shame and self-hate in the morning, but nights that others remembered as fun, hilarious, and “nights to remember”.

If I look at the night with none of my feelings attached, it was fun. I shared a lot of laughs, danced like a grandma and cried when it was time to say goodbye to my manager who was moving to another city the next day. If I look at it the way everyone will remember it, it was wild and exciting and very weird at times. If I remember it the way the rest of them will talk about it, it really was a night to remember.

But that night also triggered a lot of my past self. The first thing is that I don’t really drink anymore, if at all. I’ll have a glass of wine every few months if I’m having a girls night or it’s a special event, but not like this. Because what happens is I get this pit inside of me. There’s this wave of emptiness I feel. Like I’m washing away everything inside of me. Like I can clean away my problems by losing myself. I used to do it very often until I realised how much it was hurting me. And then last night, I felt that pit again.

So this morning I decided I was going to let myself remember the night the way I had experienced it. I don’t think I realised how hard that is for me to do until I made my first attempt. How quickly I was to recalibrate it, to doubt each true sentence I wrote with another one stating that “I could be wrong,” “I don’t really know” or “But it was fun”.

It took me a while to figure out how to decipher the way I should understand my experience until I realised that I should understand it by just acknowledging how I felt throughout. That I should let myself remember that there was a moment I missed the close friend I lost a few months ago who shared a night like this with me a couple years back. That there were countless moments where I felt a forced smile on my face. That when I was walking back home at the end of the night, there were multiple times I wanted to just crawl down on all fours and burst into tears. That there was this pit of loneliness I felt overcome me. That I wanted so badly to escape it. That something in me knew that I wasn’t okay lately and that I tried to mask the way I’ve been feeling by using an old method. And realising that that old method no longer works anymore.

And this sudden clarity that maybe I was done with “wild”. I’ve had years of that and it’s a funny word because it feels rebellious and thrilling. But really, ‘wild’ was just another way of tainting my self-destructive behaviour. That maybe instead, I’m longing for adventure and exploration instead; seeking a more intimate setting with friends instead of a loud one. Wanting deep conversations over blurry memories.

Maybe I am more lost than ever before, but now I’m paying attention to the signs of clarity.

Manchester Tragedy: What Really Matters

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“Love is still the boss of us.”

Some mornings I wake up to a reality check, gratitude, or exhaustion but on this particular morning, I woke up in scrutiny. I’ve been feeling more critical towards my body lately and with the ups and downs of the weather lately, I’ve just been tired. My energy levels have been at an all time low and I just haven’t felt like the best version of myself, despite the fact that I’m continuing to do all the things to work on my mental and physical health.

And after my yoga and pilates routine, I took a shower, brewed some coffee, journaled and checked the news which is when I saw headlines and stories about the Manchester bombing. Every part of me is heartbroken, shaken, and disoriented. This realisation that I woke up criticising myself for trivial problems, meanwhile there are people in this world who are really suffering. There are missing children, broken bodies, family losses. There are girls who aren’t allowed to get an education. There are people who are merely surviving day to day. And here I am, complaining about this?

This isn’t going to be one of my lengthy blog posts, but instead, I wanted to write this as a reminder to myself and anyone else who feels this great dissonance in moments like these. I think the hardest thing is to feel helpless in the face of tragedy, but what we can do is send love and feel gratitude. Feel grateful that you were given a healthy, fully functioning body that lets you walk and breathe and read and write and move. Feel grateful that you get to have choices. Feel grateful for our health and our family and our friends. In moments like these, when we feel helpless and at a loss with ourselves; When we feel so disconnected with what we’ve been worrying about on a day to day basis, we can choose to feel grateful instead.

I’m sending all my love and prayers to those who are suffering in the world and those who have been affected by the tragedy in Manchester. I wish I was able to do more or say more or something. But you’re in my thoughts and in my heart.

The Dissonance of Addiction: What Do I Want My Life to Look Like?

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I’m an open book over here for the most part, and so I’d like to talk about this new thought that has been hindering inside of me. It happened side by side with all the other things that began to come together, like my plans to move in September. It was like a really big and unexpected nudge on the shoulder. There’s this thing I’ve struggled with for the past 6 years. It’s not something I talk a lot about simply because there’s a lot of shame built up within myself about it and there’s also quite a lot of shame brought towards me from a more societal point. I’ll take credit for 70%…okay?

There’s this thing I’ve struggled with for the past 6 years. It’s not something I talk a lot about simply because there’s a lot of shame built up within myself about it and there’s also quite a lot of shame brought towards me from a more societal point. I’ll take credit for 70%…okay?

I was 15 when I tried my first cigarette. Before I get into what came from that, let me start by talking about who I was, what was happening in my life, and what led me to that point. I didn’t know it at the time because 6 years ago, mental illness and mental health, in general, was not a conversation that was talked about. To be honest, 15 year old me understood mental illness as the crazies. Of course, I was sane so there was nothing wrong with me. I learned later on once I began going to see a counsellor regularly that I was and had been in the midst of a deep depression for most of my life.

Since mental health wasn’t talked about, I didn’t know that the deep emptiness I had always felt was something that everyone else didn’t feel. I thought this was just the way we all had to walk around the world. I was brought up to believe in a “suck-it-up” mindset and understood that showing emotions made you look weak. I knew this was the way I had to walk around the world, but being a highly sensitive person, a writer, a daydreamer, and having a boatload of emotions ALL THE TIME meant that I just had to try harder. I guess some people were just born weaker than others and I happened to be one of them. I really thought that growth, adulthood, and being a strong human meant that I had to get to the point where I wouldn’t have to try as hard to control what I was feeling. I thought being strong meant feeling very little. Clearly, I had a long way to go.

But this is what I knew at the time. I was also someone who didn’t fit in very well. But when I was 15, I finally discovered a group that took me in with open arms: they were the drug addicts, the smokers, the binge-drinkers. I looked at them with awe, being the weird bookish, socially awkward nerd. These people were brave to me. They were so honest and bold. They spoke their minds without any thought. They just looked so…….

Free.

They received a lot of backlash and scrutiny from most of my high school, but they didn’t care. These were the people that I knew were the strongest. They were in the place that I so desperately wanted to be, and they wanted to be friends with me? YES YES YES. PLEASE. I mean that in a super chill and relaxed way.

So that was the crowd I started hanging around. Meanwhile, my family life was a wreckage (if I were to put it lightly). My grandmother (my dad’s mom) had just passed away and the dynamic within my family was very strange. It was like two families living within a home: my dad and his mom. And then my mom, my sister and I. At the time, it was known that my dad didn’t want to have a relationship with my sister and I, and that was just the way it was. We had all accepted that fact and so we said a few words to each other here and there because we lived in the same house, but it was like a distant roommate situation.

Anyways, when my grandmother died, part of my dad did too. I guess he realized that he made it so she was his only family here, and so he fell apart more and more each second until one day, he lost it. All of a sudden he was in the hallway of our home screaming, banging his head against the wall over and over and exclaiming that he was going to commit suicide right then and there.

My sister and my mom left the scene and went downstairs because I guess they were annoyed or just thought he was being dramatic, but I stayed and fled over to his side. And it’s that moment when he pushed me to hit the wall and told me to get the fuck away from him. It’s that moment that he reminded me what I had always known all along, but the words had never been said out loud. It was that moment when he said that he never considered me family, and that he never would. That his only family had now passed and he was alone. It was that moment that something in me died.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forget that moment, but I have been able to forgive it now after years of counselling and meditation and working on myself. But if I can point to one point of my life when everything went downhill, it would be that one.

Hanging out with the druggies, I still refrained from trying any of the substances myself. Well, other than alcohol, but that’s a story for another time. But it was about a week after this moment that my sister, who smoked cigarettes at the time, asked me to go on her nightly walk with her and I did. We sat on the curb of a parking lot and I asked her if I could try one and she let me. It was gross and I coughed a million times, but I think it numbed something in me and I liked that feeling. So I did it again. One a week turned into one a day, which turned into buying my own packs.

I couldn’t breathe properly during that time, but with cigarettes, as much as they hurt my lungs, they helped me with that. They helped me breathe mentally. And simultaneously, they helped me fit in more with the crowd I’d already been hanging around. It was a win-win.

Now let’s fast forward six years later to present day.

I’m not that same person anymore. I look forward to the sun rising and waking up, instead of longing for more time unconscious in my dream state. I exercise every morning: yoga and pilates. I pay attention to the ingredients in the groceries I buy. I pay attention to the food I put in my body. I meditate so that I can hear myself more. I have a full time job that supports me financially so that I can use my energy on my creative pursuits instead of how I’m going to pay rent next month or buy groceries. I’m consciously surrounding myself with people who love me and care about my well-being. People I can have deep and meaningful conversations with instead of meaningless small talk and gossip. My life looks completely different than what it used to, and so I recently woke up to the realization that smoking cigarettes just doesn’t fit anymore.

It doesn’t make sense with the goals I have for myself. It doesn’t make sense with my everyday routine. It doesn’t make sense with the type of person I am anymore. It just doesn’t fit. It was like I woke up feeling this great dissonance between what I want for myself and what I’m actually still doing.

Progress never ends and some part of me knew I would reach this day, the day I would quit and set myself free from this addiction. And right now, I’m here and I’m ready to try the way I’ve never really done before.

Just like anything, the psychological component of this is far superior to the chemical addiction, so that’s what I’m currently trying to break down. I’m trying to break down what part of me needed this. What I got out of it. What I tell myself to excuse this behaviour. And at the same time, I’m doing a lot of research (PS: Definitely recommend reading Allen Carr’s book) and trying not to be so hard on myself.

This mindset I created around smoking for the past six years has to be reversed before I can cut it completely out of my life, because when I’m done, I’m done. I’m not willing to be someone who longs for a cigarette 3 years down the line, because at that point, it’s not the chemical anymore, it’s your psyche. It’s because this isn’t something to cut using willpower (at least for me). It’s something to cut because I have to unlearn what I taught myself for the past 6 years. I have to re-learn the reality that this is not a sacrifice I’m making when I quit. It’s actually a value I’m adding in to my life.

There’s a lot of work to be down here, internally, but I’m ready to do it now. It was a big nudge. It was an awakening. And each day, the more I learn, the less I crave.

When a Cycle Ends and the What Nows Begin

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This morning and the morning before, I’ve been waking up with anxiety. I’ll shake in my bed for a few hours and I don’t necessarily know what is happening to my mind or body. All I know is that I’m afraid, but I don’t really understand what I’m afraid of.

In a lot of ways, within this past month, my life has changed dramatically. In other ways, it’s exactly the same. I finished the first draft of my novel on April 21. I was finally able to move out of a toxic environment. The weather has gotten much warmer. I no longer have relationships with many people I once considered my closest friends.

But a lot stayed the same. I’m living in the same town. I wake up at 5-6am every day. I do my pilates and yoga (mind and body) workouts. I let my coffee brew as I go to take a shower and when I come out, I meditate for as long as I’m able to that day. I make breakfast, pack my lunch and dinner, and then begin to get ready to go to work. I usually come back from work at around 9:30-10:30pm and then try to read for a bit before I pass out, and then the day begins again.

It feels as though my life is much different, but my days are all beginning to look identical. I like morning routines. I like waking up early to do all the things I want to do before I do the things I have to do (like go to work). But after finishing the first draft of my novel, writing is no longer on the list of things to do, and that was by far my favourite. Even in the groggiest, tragic, or boring and uninspired days, learning how to write this first draft is what has held me together. And now, it’s over.

I wanted to go back in and start typing out the handwritten draft, but it didn’t want to be typed just yet. I felt a dragging of words that needed time to just sit and rest, and so I let them. In the meanwhile, I’ve had some thoughts of the next book that sprouted a while earlier that I’m beginning to make sense of and research.

But there’s this sense of a cycle’s completion that has been giving me a lot of anxiety. A lot of, “what nows” and “Now that this is over, is this what my life is going to look like?” And of course, the “Am I always going to live in this town and have to work this job?” When am I finally going to save enough to travel? Why can’t I afford to have the type of adventure I crave? What if this draft never wants to be edited? What if I never write again?

The day I finished the first draft, my housemates moved out and I had to pack the rest of my own things. I went to a goodbye dinner the next day for all the people at my work who were 4th-year university students graduating and moving on. Waking up to empty rooms and going to work with new faces, all I felt was lost. All I couldn’t make sense of was why I was still here and everyone else got to move on.

I’m now subletting a room in an apartment for the summer with strangers who complain that I wake up too early or that I need to close my bedroom window at night because they can hear the wind rustling. I moved out of a toxic environment into a place that scrutinises the way I go about my days. All I feel is groggy, meaningless, and like whatever this next phase of my life is going to be, doesn’t want me either.

I’ve been talking to my counsellor about it who is also a very spiritual person and made sense of this in a way that I want to share over here because maybe it’ll do something for any of you who feel as though they have completed a cycle or season of their life. She talked about how there was a time in her life where she explored Paganism and how that helped her understand the cycles of each of our journey’s.

Samhain (in the Pagan Wheel of the Year) is the ancient Celtic festival marking the end of harvest season and the onset of winter. It’s this sort of in-between time, a time right after a cycle’s completion, celebrated October 31st to sunset on November 1. It’s supposed to be a day and point of time when “the veil separating the world of mortals and the world of spirits is at its thinnest, enabling the souls of the dead, witches, and faeries of all sorts to mingle with living people. Even though it’s a cycle’s end, it’s not a sad time but rather it’s considered one of the most sacred. It’s more of a liminal time when the veil between life and death grows thin. It’s considered the most powerful and spiritual time of the year.

If we look at the periods of our lives, the endings of cycles, in a celebratory way, I think they can make room for magical things. Instead, I’ve been struck with anxiety and fear, which is okay and pretty normal. But if we shift our western ways of thinking and see any time of completion with eyes of wonder instead of eyes of fear; if we let ourselves rest and mourn this time and celebrate it all at once; if we look at it as a sacred time instead of a scary and sad one, what would happen? I don’t know about you, but I’m curious to find out.

 

 

The Notion of Surrender: A Form of Defeat or Connection?

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The theme of my life has lately been understanding the notion of surrender so that I can stop resisting it. If I were to describe this process that I’m going through, I would relate it to a human ripping his or her skin apart for the first time, in its initial transformation into a werewolf. That’s the extent of pain I’ve been feeling and that’s the pain I’m trying to stop resisting, because when I do allow myself to rest in it, I come out exhausted, drained, and weak. The more yoga I do, the more I write my book, the more I read, the more I check in with myself; the more I do all of the things that are supposed to be good for me, the more I experience this outbreak of pain that is so internal but results in an external state of defeat.

It’s a difficult thing to describe because it’s a difficult thing for me to understand right now. But what I’ve done to help with the process is understand the act of surrender a little bit more. And with that, I’ve come to believe that in its most simplest of forms, surrender is both acceptance and forgiveness. But what I recently came to realize is that maybe it can be love, too. And if love and hate are written on the same spectrum of passion, is surrender just a form of defeat to all that is within you? And if you are what you love, does that mean that you are also all of that of which you hate?

We all perceive and experience love differently. The way we go about it, the way we feel it, what we need from it and what we want from it; it’s all different because we’re all different. So how is it that love is a uniting? Shouldn’t it just be ripping us apart more?

It didn’t really make sense to me until it clicked that love is a surrender. When we form any relationship, whether it be with a friend, a partner, a family member, or a coworker, we are surrendering. We each experience love differently, but when we form a healthy relationship of any sorts, we surrender by compromising our egos. Our needs and wants don’t always meet the needs and wants of another, but when we reach that compromise to form a union with another human being, we’re surrendering to our souls and compromising our egos. Because what love is, is a surrender to yourself for something greater and outside of you: it is a surrender for connection. Because even though our egos want different things, they are fueled in the same manner. Because even though we are all different, we are more the same.

But before we surrender to a love shared with another human being, I think we first have to surrender to ourselves.

There was a time when I thought I could only love myself once I no longer had any flaws. But being human means that you will always be flawed. I mean, how else would we grow? But if you can only love yourself once you’re the size you want to be or are in the field you want to be in or as financially stable as you want to be or have clear skin, etc. etc., then you will always find an excuse for not participating in this practice of self-love. We can’t keep telling ourselves that once we check boxes A, B, and C, then we will love ourselves because we’ll always find something else that is wrong. Needless to say, that isn’t a bad thing because the point of the human journey is just a state of becoming, and always becoming. If you didn’t become aware of the parts of you that need more work, then you wouldn’t be growing.

But it’s all a practice. I mean, your soul is the only soul like that in this world and it chose your body to call home. Therefore, you are the first person to try and figure out what it needs and what its purpose is. That process is messy and complicated because anything being done for the first time is messy and complicated. Your job is simply to feed your soul and that’s tricky because you have an ego thats voice tends to be a bit louder.

But maybe our job here is just to learn all the wrong things and try and be all the wrong things only to come back to ourselves so that we can peel away all the layers we spent years adding to. And so that we can find the root of it all again. Because that is where our truth lies. That is where it has always been. And maybe, we can understand that the process of unlearning is surrender.

Sometimes when you begin to surrender, you relate it to a form of defeat. That’s what makes the process so hard. That’s what makes the peeling away feel like a shredding of your skin. But what that defeat really is, is just compromising the ego for a connection that is far greater than yourself: it’s a connection with your soul.

Rushing towards Remember

I’m always two steps ahead of myself. I put too much on my plate and in a constant battle of lack of sleep and so much I want to get done. I have a full-time job and full-time creative projects to work on. I have countless books to read and research to conduct. I have food to cook and bills to pay and I have to do it all, and I have to do it all seamlessly.

Sometimes I feel I can’t keep up with myself, and my life doesn’t match the speed at which I am willing to work in. So I’m constantly facing this frustration within myself that I have to do more. That maybe I’m not doing enough. Maybe I am not enough. Maybe doors are closing because I’m not moving towards them at a fast enough rate. Go faster. Do more. It’s not enough.

That’s what the inner workings of my mind typically look like. But just a few weeks back, I was asked a question from my counselor, and it was something I needed some time to actually think about. She asked me, “What exactly are you rushing towards?” and I stood there with a blank face and whispered the three words I dread the most: I don’t know.

I. Don’t. Know.

I had to take a few weeks to really think this through because it’s something I ignored. I didn’t have time to think about what I was headed after so intensely because I was far too busy doing everything to get there. Wherever that was.

And then after incorporating yoga back into my daily routine, to feed my body when all I’ve been doing is feeding my mind and ego, I started to feel a sense of opening – an awakening of sorts. I am rushing towards being remembered.

I had to do some more of my own journal writing to fully understand what that meant to me, but all I knew is that it was true. I didn’t know what it meant. I didn’t quite understand it. But I knew that it was a truth in me that was aching to be revealed.

I guess there’s a part of me that is afraid of being forgotten. I’m scared I’ll always be the one left with the good memories along with the cold ones. I’m scared that they’ve left a mark on me, and me alone. I’m scared that in every relationship I’ve ever had that has ended and even in the ones that are still flowing, I’m the only one that reminisces about them. I’m the only one that feels too much. Too much love, too much anger, and too much sadness.

These things in my life feel like they are mine to work through and mine to hold. These things are mine to despair and mine to keep me awake at night. I feel that if I leave for a short while, I’ll never leave great enough of an impact for people to remember me. People will carry on with their daily routines and their lives as if I was never there in the first place.

I guess I wanted so badly to rush everything so that I could create something that left a mark on this world. To say, “Hey, I did something. I made something. I lived. I was here.” I was here.

What I’ve come to understand is that maybe rushing is a form of distrust. It’s not trusting the flow of your own path and it gives you a sense of total control on where you are heading. But that control is just a perception that feeds your ego. So right now, I’m doing the thing that I hate the most: I’m (trying) to slow down. I’m trying to pause. I’m trying to take the break I need from my own rushing.

I’ll even go ahead and explain the first step I’m taking into this break. I’ve been working towards a promotion for several months now and even though every other part in my life feels like it has taken a full stop, this one thing has suddenly opened and it’s all happening now. It’s something I’ve anticipated for so long and felt ready for, for quite some time now. But it just wasn’t moving forward and now it is the only thing that is. But this clarity of needing to reflect and slow down made me question whether this is a path I even wanted. And truth be told, it once really was, but it just doesn’t fit anymore. My heart isn’t in it the way that it once was and even though it’s the only door that feels open and asking for me to rush through, I have to turn it down. I have to ask for it to wait for me to understand what direction I want to move forward in.

This will involve having a conversation with my manager that I really don’t want to have. This will involve having to disappoint him and his expectations of me. This will involve turning something down without accepting something else.

Even though every muscle in my body is aching for me to trudge along in any path at all: Just move forward. Keep running forward. Keep. running. Keep. rushing. When I go to check in with my soul, it is telling me to wait. Wait until the right things open up instead of anything at all, because they will. They always do.

Sometimes, we just have to slow down and connect back with the flow at which our path is being created to actually see what that is. And that is exactly what I’m trying to do.

Update: Where I’ve Been and What’s in the Works

Hello beautiful humans! I wanted to make a video for you guys just as an update about where I’ve been for the last little while. I didn’t want to abandon my blog and I also felt a little guilty just diving back in without an explanation so I wanted to make this video to let you guys know about this project I’ve been working on. Let me know if you want to see more updates or videos! I’ve never done anything like this before so it’s a tad awkward and weird (kind of like yours truly). I know this isn’t a big blog, but I value those who come to read what I have to say SO SO much and I wanted to get more personal and make this video for you guys.

Truth: A Principle of the Past

It’s been a little while since I sat down to just sit and chat with you guys. That’s what blogging has always felt like to me: a conversation I feel capable of having. I’m not typically the best at conveying my thoughts through speech so this has always been the best form of conversation I’ve ever had.

Lately, I’ve been consumed by the novel I’m writing. It feels like the healthiest addiction I’ve ever had and for once, I feel obsessed over something that’s curing me instead of destructing what I have left.

2016 ended pretty harshly. It was a loss of some friendships that were really important to me, but got lost along the way as we grew in different directions. What’s been more difficult, or what’s supposed to be more difficult is to be living with the friends you have lost. This is a challenge I’ve met a couple of times before (in different contexts of course), but always handled poorly. My go to is to run. When conflict arises, I vanish. But this time, I spoke my truth and now I am living in it.

I’ve always wondered what the end of suffering looked like and I guess I’m learning that it’s the beginning of truth. That doesn’t mean that truth lives without pain. It doesn’t even mean that truth removes pain. To be frank, it actually creates a bigger mess than there was before, or at least it looks that way because now it’s out in the open instead of just in your head. Now other people get to see it and admit to their own truth as well, or maybe continue trying and denying their way out of what’s standing right in front of them, and always was.

The thing about the truth is that once it is told, it becomes a part of your past. Coming from someone who has lived anywhere but the present, I feel cleaner with a mess in front of me that I can now choose to put behind me. The other option is to dwell on something you’re too afraid to admit and living in the anxiety, which becomes a part of your future.

I’m not sure if any of this will even make a lot of sense to you guys because I’m just rambling on, but I wanted to take some time to reflect on my life, on the past year, and on the past month of December. I wanted to see what contribution I can make through my blog now as opposed to what I was able to do before. What more have a learned that I can bring to the table? And what kept ringing in my head was this book. This book that feels like my own secret journey or escape that I can take in my room. It’s an invisible cape I wear that drops me into a different world, one that I get the opportunity to learn about first hand. It’s the feeling I always get when I read a book and now I’m here, 40,000 words later, still smitten, still writing. Right now, this is my dedication and my focus, but I don’t want to leave this space empty so I realize that I have to work around my schedule and find time to tend to it at least once or twice a week because I miss this far too much if I leave it for too long.

I know this isn’t as long as my normal posts, but I wanted to check in and say that I’m not going anywhere. I’m actually realizing that where I am is exactly where I need to be.

Accommodating Suffering: A Note on Creating a Mess

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I care for myself a smidge more than I care for others. I wasn’t always this way. I actually used to not care for myself at all, probably because I didn’t like who I was all that much. I gave and gave until I had nothing left to offer and nothing left for myself either. It seemed to be a virtuous life I was living, or at least that’s what I told myself. And people took. They took what they could get from me even if it meant sparing little to nothing for myself.

People like a “yes man”. They like listening to someone who will carry their pain for them, whether they exhale it out in the form of anger, sadness, disgust, judgment or self-pity. I took it from them and I carried it for myself because I could handle it. Sometimes it meant I was their punching bag. Sometimes it meant I accommodate myself for whatever they need. Other times it meant I was their source of motivation. As long as they didn’t have to feel the pain for themselves, it was okay with me because feeling pain is bad but I was used to it. I could take more and more and more and let me tell you that people just LOVE to give theirs away and hand it over to you. But I also let them. Or not only did I let them, I asked them for it.

It was a scary cycle, one that I honestly thought was making me into a better person. But all it ended up doing was help people manipulate me. Let me repeat that, I would HELP people manipulate me. All it did was add to my pain. All it did was make me weaker and weaker until I felt so broken, I couldn’t move most days. I couldn’t leave my bed and when I did, sometimes it meant that I made it as far as the floor next to my bed and just lay there because it was colder on the hardwood floor and I just needed to feel something – particularly something more physical instead of perpetual mental strain.

So I guess now, I don’t feel FOR people. Instead, I will feel WITH them. And yes, there is a difference. I will still care about their well-being and their happiness. I will still be there if and when they need me and in those times, I will feel their pain alongside them. But I will not feel it for them. I will not take their pain because I have my own; because we all have our own. It’s not our job or our duty to carry someone else’s pain for them. It’s not even virtuous. It actually causes more suffering on both parties. I carry all too much and completely break and they don’t get to do the thing that pain comes for: They don’t get to learn. I take that away from them just as they are quick to hand it over.

And then there are times where what is best for us will affect other people and bring them pain. Maybe you’re in a long-standing marriage and tell your significant other that you’re gay, or a lesbian, or want to get surgery to change your gender. Maybe it means distancing yourself off from a friend who is a good person, but not healthy to have in your life. These are just a few examples of things that may cause others pain, but may end your suffering. Doing these sorts of things, and making these decisions does not make you selfish, it means you respect yourself. It means you accept the truth. It means you care about people enough to not have to lie to them by pretending. It means you care about yourself enough not to live in that lie by pretending. People will hurt. People will be angry. You will hurt and you will also be angry and guilty and made to feel selfish. But that is often the process of bringing the truth forward. That is the process and consequence of living in your own truth. That is often what has to happen to end suffering, for everyone, even if it looks like you have created a bigger mess.

Here’s the thing about life: It’s a lot like cleaning your room. When you’re cleaning your room, it tends to get a whole lot messier than it was before, until it cleans up entirely. Because while you’re cleaning, you come across things you forgot about and can either discard or keep and find a place for. You can come across things that you’ve never used and probably never will, and throw them away or give them to someone who will get more use out of it. You can also come across things you loved but no longer need. Then as you create a bigger mess, and as you keep finding more and more things that you either keep and find a place for or choose to discard, your room will be cleaner than it was before. The bigger mess was needed in the middle to make the end result cleaner and better.

Messes don’t necessarily mean things are wrong. Sometimes, it means you have to re-assess. It is a signal that means things are going to be cleaner.

Living in a Paradox: A Case of Joyful Suffering

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Today I am writing at my favourite coffee shop, a place where I feel most welcome because lately, all I have been feeling is unwelcome in my home. There’s been a gap in my blog posts and I know that, but I’ve been needing to practice self-care more than I admit I have been doing for the past couple of weeks.

Here is the thing about overwhelming circumstances: they require tremendous amounts of self-care, and that isn’t only for the negative circumstances, but also for overwhelmingly positive ones where you get carried away in the glamour and glitz of your own happiness. This, sadly is not the positive form of overwhelmingness.

It’s not that I haven’t been writing lately, I have been, quite a lot actually. But this writing is for processing information and what I write here is from a point of clarity. I find that when you’re going through certain circumstances, the worst thing to do is dump your feelings all over the internet because that is not of service to anybody, including yourself. But after you process it, understand it, and are outside of it, that is when both you and others can benefit from the writing that you share.

Unfortunately, I’m not outside of the situation just yet, and perhaps I won’t be until either January or even April, but I have taken every day after the occurrence to step outside of it a little more. I don’t want to share too much before I feel I’m ready, but as of now, I feel like I’m re-living the script I had at my parents’ house but in this apartment, with these friends. It was a moment of clicking – a clarifying instance of “I’ve been here before” – that led me to the decision of looking for another place for January and hoping that I find someone to sublet the room I’m living in right now. This in turn, caused an uglier manifestation, as a part of me had already expected, but for the most part, denied.

Here’s what I have learned so far: Doing what is right for you and the sake of your mental health may cause great pain to other people, but it will also take you out of your own suffering. And taking yourself out of suffering is not only a great service to you, but it will be a great service to everyone else (even if they can’t understand that now).

It’s frustrating to be made into a villain, a selfish monster, a constant force of destruction, time after time. It’s frustrating to always be the person who takes all the blame for herself. It’s frustrating to have history repeat itself because you not only deal with the circumstance at hand, but you also deal with beating yourself over allowing it to happen again and not seeing the truth that was standing right in front of you.

But then, there’s peace.

There is this inner peace I have with myself. The inner joy that isn’t circumstantial like happiness, but it comes from knowing who you are and really liking that person. Doing the right thing for you isn’t going to make everyone happy. A lot of times, it’ll actually make most people pretty damn upset. But somehow, it’s all okay anyway. Somehow, I know I have handled it before; I know I have been through worse, and I know that things get more messy before they get clean. I know who I am and I know how to make decisions that are beneficial for me. I know how to take myself out of suffering because I have done it before.

At this moment, my home is just a place where I go to sleep and prepare food for myself, but not a place I live. But I’ve done all of this before and have been in these exact circumstances during childhood. What I do know is that life tries to teach you the same lesson over and over until you finally learn it. This time, I hope I have learned it (or am learning it properly) and I hope that this decision is what will make history hesitant before it decides to repeat itself again because it knows I won’t take its shit anymore.

Another thing I have learned is that practicing gratitude in times where you feel most ungrateful is the best thing you can do for yourself. I call it a practice because that is exactly what it is. It is reminding ourselves that we have people who love us and whom we love. It is reminding ourselves that we have come a long way and that this too shall pass, but it is here now to make us stronger. It is reminding ourselves that there is always more to learn and more to become.

So why haven’t I been the most posty-posty blogger?

Because I went to dinner with my good friend and we got seated next to a large table of 7-year old boys who just got back from hockey practice. Because everyone thought we were on a date (as people always do) and parents came up to us apologizing for their kids’ loudness and kept saying things like “At least this will make you guys not want children for a while” and it was awkward and hilarious. Because we got complimentary dessert from the waitress. Because we drank homemade coffee and stayed up watching three movies back-to-back.

I haven’t been blogging because I took a solo walk in the magical snowfall yesterday and just stood there in the middle of the street to stare at the sky and it probably weirded a lot of people out. Because I went to a friends house with a group of people and played board games where I kept losing and it was amazing. Because I can’t stop laughing when I dance like a lunatic at work and customers start to laugh and join in. Because I still start every morning by writing my gratitude and dancing to the Backstreet Boys. Because I talk to my best friend who lives hours and hours away for 4 hours at a time and she is a treasure in the world. Because my mom sends me 20 pictures of my cat every day after I had to send him home for his own safety and happiness a couple of days ago and she knows that I miss him.

Because in the worst situation, I am in the best place. I am the best version of myself and I am constantly surrounded by people whom I love and who love me. Because maybe I don’t go home to that, but I live in that for as long as I can, each and every day.

Because I may not be the happiest I have been, but I have placed in me a joy that doesn’t go away. Because in the midst of suffering, feeling attacked, in fear, betrayed, disgusted, hurt and lost, I also feel tremendously loved.

Mark Nepo once wrote, “My efforts now turn from trying to outrun suffering to accepting love wherever I can find it,” and that is the energy I choose to live in. That is the energy I choose over the other. And that is what I feel life wanted me to learn.

Anxiety’s Intention: What Happens When Your Mind Isn’t Preoccupied

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Do you ever feel like your life is moving in slow motion? Nothing is really going anywhere; just simple stagnation. You try to push yourself, do something, reach out, and just get one blank response after another.

That’s what I’ve been in the midst of lately. For someone who needs to be occupied by work or some sort of self-curated project at every moment, I somehow found myself in my own head…again. This seems to be a reoccurring thing which made me question if there was something there that I wasn’t looking at close enough. Maybe something that got lost in the clutter of my monkey mind that is all “do, do, do” and never “sit, relax, and be patient.”

A couple of days ago, I wrote my final and officially finished university. This was something that I’ve been anticipating ever since I made the decision to not pursue further school which was in the earlier months of 2015, so you can say it’s been a long time coming. To be honest, this one last class I had to take this Fall to graduate was just dragging on. Sorry if I sound a tad dramatic but there was a point I reached where it literally felt like it was sucking the life out of me.

I’ve been working full-time since the beginning of May and I’ve been writing, creating, and doing all the things I enjoy doing. Once that shift happened and September came, which meant I had to go back to school, it felt like this class was the one thing that kept getting in the way. It was one more thing I had to do that felt unnecessary. I was already living my life the way I wanted to, and once this class was over, I could finally have more time for it. I could finally spend more of my energy on things I love doing. Wouldn’t we all just kill for more time?

What I should have learned by now is that you can never anticipate your emotional state of being. You can anticipate certain outcomes (sometimes), but not exactly how those outcomes will make you feel. I think after I finished that final, I got a millisecond moment of relief before the anxiety kicked in. It was like this overbearing wind of “Now what?”

Now what are you going to do with your time? Now what are you going to make of your life? Now what if you’re still not happy? Now what if you’re still not good enough? Now what are you?

Here’s the think about anxiety, or at least about the anxiety I deal with: It doesn’t ask me who I am, it asks me what I am. There’s a difference.

The problem with the question of “what are you?” is that it asks you to take on a role, a category, a name, a path. Particularly, it asks you to mold yourself into one that has already been created. It asks you to choose, and choose quickly so that once you do, you can remain stagnant, unmoving, and resilient to growth. It’s comfortable there, that’s for sure, and I also hear that it allows the whole creating a “bio” or “about me” process fairly simple.

“Who are you” is the harder question because it doesn’t ask you to take a definitive standpoint. More often, it talks in the present tense: Who are you now? It’s more flexible than grounded. Now, for someone who is still learning how to “go with the flow” without being in a constant state of panic, that is super annoying.

I think that this feeling of being trapped and unmoving was framed from asking myself the wrong question. Instead of asking: “What are you going to do now?”, maybe we should focus on who we are now and who we want to be moving forward. What happens when you change the language of the question is that it also changes the intentions behind it.

For instance: I want to learn how to be more present and still, and for me personally, that means I need to make more time to practice meditation. I want to feel more connected, which again for me, means that I need to continue practicing truth-telling instead of shaming. I want to keep my mind growing and expanding, meaning that I should make more time to read.

When we practice it this way and when we ask ourselves in this manner, who we are will translate into what we do instead of the other way around.

This isn’t an easy thing for me to do. It’s actually very painful and challenging but I’m sure it’s the same for most of you guys. We live in a society that tells us that our identities are curated from our careers, our roles, and our labels. When we challenge that notion, we may just find the opposite to be true: that it is our identities, our beings, that curate what we contribute to the world and to our people.

 

Defying Pain: Are Hardships Dismantling My Progress?

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I ask myself this question a lot. It’s as if in the midst of becoming new, I had promised myself that this better version of me would no longer have to deal with depression, anxiety, or difficult circumstances. No, this version would simply be able to live in her happily ever after now. The hard part is over. It’s all easy, breezy, beautiful CoverGirl from here on out.

Writing this out, all I can really see is denial, denial, denial.

I was at a high, a level of consistent happiness that I never experienced before. Friends and strangers alike would tell me I glowed when I spoke. They asked me how I did it – as if I could lay out some informative step-by-step manual of sorts that they too could follow, word by word. But I loved it. I thought, “So this is what they all mean when they say that to help others, you must help yourself first.” It was a clicking; a universal understanding that finally made sense to me as I began to live by it.

And then life made a u-turn, circumstances changed, and all of a sudden I found myself back where I had first begun. I found myself on old terms with anxiety and depression. Getting out of bed in the mornings became more and more difficult. Dreaming was once again my safe place and reality, something I just had to move past for a set amount of hours until I could go back to sleep. Motivating myself to do the simplest things took all the energy I had away from me and I persisted with my attempts at isolation while longing for some way to re-connect.

I know this place. This is my disastrous comfort zone. All of a sudden, I’m no longer glowing, but instead, I find myself fading. Sometimes I fear that I’ll withdraw so much that I’ll disappear altogether. Was the happiness I felt an unintentional glitch in my life?

So yes, this place is familiar. I know it pretty well actually, but who I am in this place is different.

What I’ve come to understand about progress is that it is anything but linear. It actually looks a lot more like this:

what-progress-looks-like

 

Progress is more of an upward circular motion of ups, downs, and in-betweens – but it is an upwards motion nonetheless. When we find ourselves in hard times, we all of a sudden become convinced that this means we are failing and that all the work we did on ourselves was for nothing. And if we stay on this fear-based thought process, we may find ourselves at the root, when we begin to question: What is the point?

What is the point of being a decent human if you’re still going to experience heartache? What is the point of hard work when you still have to experience failure? What is the point of caring when you are still going to be rejected? What is the point of trying? What is the point of my existence?

That’s a dangerous zone to enter, which I know that most of us have come to at some point or another already. So instead of feeding ourselves more doubt, I ask you to change the question.

It’s frustrating when you’ve reached a point of clear progression, one that is visible and you can identify, succumb yourself into only to find yourself back in a dark place. So here’s the first thing I’ll remind you that I have to keep reminding myself: Life is not difficult because you are doing it wrong. Life is difficult because it is designed that way.

I tend to forget that fairly often. We’re all just so used to either taking all the blame or finding something or someone to place it all on. But there is no blame here. This just is.

Instead, ask yourself who you are in this situation in comparison to who you once were. What tools, strength, wisdom, and resources that you have built over time can you bring here, to this place of pain? And on the flip side, what parts of yourself can you improve or strengthen during this time? What can you learn from this that can help you become even more?

Progress does not have a definitive endpoint. If you are a living, breathing being, you are and will continue to be in the process of becoming. When entering this dark place again, I realized that in the outburst of happiness, I think I convinced myself that not only had I become a better version of myself, but this was also the best version I could ever be. Of course, the major problem with that is that it leaves little to no room at all for further growth. As if I had learned everything I could ever know, and become everything that I could ever be at the age of 20. HA!

My point is that your progression does not dismantle with hard times, it strengthens. As much as we would all love to be consistently happy all the time, you don’t grow from there. You grow from pain and discomfort, which funnily enough is what we try so hard to get rid of or avoid completely.

Pain is not failure; it’s an opportunity. If we shut it out, ignore it, or distract ourselves from it while mistaking it as a form of “de-progression”, we miss out on the opportunity to become more. In thinking that pain is failure, we might just wind up resisting growth.

As Glennon Doyle Melton once said: Pain is just a traveling professor. When pain knocks on the door – wise ones breathe deep and say “Come in. Sit down with me. And don’t leave until you’ve taught me what I need to know.”

Justifying Departure: It Doesn’t Have to be Bad to Not Work

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Yesterday I turned 21. It’s funny because I’ve never felt different on my birthdays – not older, smarter, wiser – nothing, until my 20th. I remember that day clearly. The resistance I felt as soon as midnight came and I had entered a new decade of my life. For reasons I wasn’t able to explain at the time, I didn’t feel the beginning of something new as much as I felt the end of something else. I felt like I was in mourning that entire day when I was supposed to be celebrating. I kept wondering whether this was some sort of quarter-life crisis or if I was one of those weird people who thought that turning 20 meant that I was ‘getting old’. It didn’t make sense. Nothing made sense.

But sometimes our bodies know more than our minds can explain at the time. Now that I’ve completed the age of 20, I understand that what I felt at the time was a mourning of who I once was and who I will no longer pretend to be. It was a letting go of bad habits and a year of complete and sudden transformation characterized by my unlearning.

The thing about shattering completely and breaking off into pieces is that when you do go and put them back together, you don’t always place them in the same spots as before. All of a sudden you’ve used all these pieces of yourself to create something new. It’s a really beautiful thing, but it also comes with its own set of consequences.

Sometimes when you’re new, when your pieces are placed differently, you no longer fit with the old. That could be friendships, relationships, jobs, interests, hobbies, and so on. That doesn’t mean there necessarily had to be anything wrong with them and that also doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you. It just means some things won’t fit. No logical explanation, no event of heartbreak; It just doesn’t work anymore.

I think that’s been the hardest thing for me – not understanding why some things won’t work in my life even when there was nothing inherently wrong with them. I suppose for me at least, it’s much easier when there is some clear problem in the person or the thing, that I can categorize as solvable or unsolvable. But when something worked just fine, and then all of a sudden it doesn’t, and you can’t pinpoint any reason why, that’s when it becomes frustrating.

Glennon Doyle Melton, author of Love Warrior and human being that I talk about constantly, discussed the gravity of knowing. When I first heard that, it made complete sense to me because that is exactly what it is. You often hear people talking about listening to a voice that calls to you or something along those lines, but I find that those loud voices are just the noise of fear. Sometimes, you just know something to be true and that typically doesn’t come from a voice; it’s like a form of gravity that grounds you in truth.

These days, the fear banter has taken up more room for me. This haunting of why something that was so good, no longer works. I’m waiting for some reason to hit me with why the time is up for this relationship and I’m not going to lie, the both of us are still fighting for it to somehow work by learning how to reconstruct the entire friendship. Maybe we will manage and maybe (I write with an extreme hesitation) we won’t. The knowing is that what once was, will no longer work. That could mean that our friendship could flourish into something entirely new, or turn into my biggest fear of it not working at all.

I guess I’m just so used to things manifesting into their ugly truths before departing from them. But sometimes, things don’t have to be bad for them to not work. Some things don’t work anymore because they don’t work anymore. There’s no logical explanation and there’s no fateful event. And sometimes, we just have to learn to trust that and let go of what once was.

“You’re Pretty for a Brown Girl” And Other Racial Achievements

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Throughout my life, I’ve faced this constant separation from my identity – both from myself, and those around me. My family moved from Pakistan to Canada when I was 2 years old so I didn’t get to understand much of what came from living there, but I did have to face the consequences from moving away.

I always felt very out of place. It was like I was born in the wrong place at the wrong time. Simply put, I never felt a sense of belonging. I never knew how to fit in.

My mom never felt like she fit in with the culture in Pakistan. There was a harshness she felt with the institutions put in place and there were structures built that she could never adapt herself in to. So when we all moved to Canada, she taught me how to keep my faith. She taught me the value of kindness. She taught me that despite all the mistakes I make in my life, I will always be loved. She taught me the humbling nature of helping, healing, loving, and truthtelling.

However, she did receive a lot of backlash from that. She received constant disapproval, rejection, shame, and hate for raising my sister and I the way she did. She got this from both sides of our family, as well as the Islamic communities in Canada.

We didn’t cover our bodies up like we were supposed to. We didn’t go to the Mosque very often like we were supposed to. We didn’t practice religion the way we were supposed to. So surprisingly enough, we weren’t really welcomed in.

I hope to never offend anyone who does follow these practices because they just didn’t fit me and I’m telling my story about the way I was brought up. These practices were never of my focus. It wasn’t really about how I chose to dress or present myself. It wasn’t about doing things the way I was supposed to. It was more about being kind and treating people with respect. It was all about love, and only love, because everything good is rooted from there.

So basically, I didn’t fit in with much of that community. But then, I was thrown into neighborhoods and schools filled with white people, and suddenly I was expected to fit in there. It’s hilarious because often times, I feel like my life is a series of social experiments where someone forgot to tell me that I was the field researcher.

I’d watch TV and I could never see anyone who looked like me. I went to school and never felt like I could relate to anyone. I felt different and intrusive, and the beauty of elementary school is the brutal honesty of children who tell you exactly what you’ve been telling yourself all along: You don’t belong here.

I was bullied quite a lot and when I did find friends, it didn’t take them long to notice I wasn’t like them. So I would walk to school every single morning in fear that I would have no one to talk to again.

It didn’t help that I was also a book nerd and more introverted. I always preferred doing things on my own and keeping to myself, but when that is the only choice you are given, you can’t help but long for connection. All I wanted was to be wanted – by friends, boys…animals – whatever, I’ll take it!

Moving around often, I felt like I had a lot of fresh starts. There were so many opportunities for me to be a different person – one who was invisible enough to not be noticed, but social enough to have some friends. Somehow, it always ended up the same, with me at recess, sitting in the corner with a book in hand, constantly checking to make sure there weren’t many people around. I feared people, so so much.

Lucky for me, as I entered 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, I did manage to find people, but I didn’t have enough of a social background to understand how to connect with them. So with friends, I became their sidekick, their underdog. Looking back, I remember trying to analyze their dialogue: how they spoke and what they said, how they presented themselves and behaved so that I could mimic it. I literally felt like an alien learning how to be human – specifically a white human. I tried so hard to become the people I was friends with, but as soon as they all became bored of being friends with their reflection, they left. And when they left me, I would lose my identity again.

Then came high school, which is a bit of a blur. I began to really understand my weird, sarcastic personality. I became social, and often, the life of the party. Perhaps all that time studying how to be human finally worked to my benefit. I hopped from clique to clique, circle to circle, friends with everybody, close to no one. My favourite people were the drug addicts: the honest, the bold, and the outcasted. I mean, they were all jacked up, but they were my people.

15 was the age I discovered the beautiful escape that came from binge drinking, and so I began to drink excessively all the time. I rarely showed up to class to the point where the receptionist at the office knew my mother and as soon as she’d see the number pop up, she’d already signed me out for the day.

I started being recognized as the girl was “so pretty for a brown girl” because I was “basically white,” and I loved it. Finally, I would think; Finally, I almost fit in. What a fucking achievement.

When visiting family, I would receive constant praise over my complexion which was fairer than most brown peoples’. I took in all the compliments as personal success. I was so naive and so damn proud of myself.

I would get these comments from close friends, colleagues, boys, other students, everyone. So I started to use it in my defense if anyone were to question or threaten my belonging.

I’d feel threatened if anyone asked where I was from. “Pakistan, but I moved to Canada when I was 2 so I’m basically white.” I kid you not, that was ALWAYS my response. So that became my identity: almost white.

Race and religion have always been sensitive topics for me that I refused to talk about and even write about (which should have been some sort of a red flag for me but I ignored it). To be honest, I only started to feel slightly comfortable talking about it as of recently – maybe a couple of months ago. So I’m still in the midst of uncovering the underlying truth that I spent my whole life trying to hide.

I still don’t know how to heal or what to make from all of this, but all I do know is ‘not this’. All I can understand is that this was a deep shaming of myself that I tried to uphold for far too long.

No, I am not fully comfortable with it, especially now, after this election. Especially now, ever since all my fears of hatred, not belonging, and discrimination were validated. So yes, this election hit me pretty hard even though I live in Canada because this is not a national issue, it’s a global one. It’s one that has been apparent my entire life and yet, I still put all of my efforts into denying its existence.

If anything, this woke me up, as it did for so many people: minorities, women, the LGBTQ community, etc. I’ve been beginning to think that maybe this is a period of awakening. This is a period of opening, sharing, accepting and truthtelling.

I have a lot of family in the United States, most of whom are already facing more discrimination and hate than ever before, while experiencing their deepest fears come alive. Being someone who loves to fix, problem solve and heal, I feel tremendously helpless.

I think what we can do right now is continue to bring our strength forward, keep our love open, and speak our truths loudly. None of this is okay, but who we are in the midst of this chaos can make it better.

 

We’re Not Running Out of Time. We’re Running Out of Patience

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I’ve always taken great interest in time in all of its forms: the length of our lives, documenting our memories, sharing our stories, but most importantly, the timing of things. By that, I mean the way we categorize good and bad timing in regards to relationships, jobs, and our day-to-day lives.  It’s the “we are wasting our time”, “Life is short”, “You are late” and “It’s just bad timing”.

Everything that we do is dictated by the clocks we have hanging over our heads

So what I’ve been wondering is this: Is living an unsatisfying life our way of rebelling against time? Is it our mockery to not go after what we want? Is it our way of telling the universe that it’s wrong and we have more time than we think?

But then, it turns on us. We get caught up in this joke that we have internalized and we start working at the wrong job. We start living for money rather than earning money to live. We get nice houses and fancy cars. We consume and consume and then we come to think, “Now what?”

So maybe we’re not running out time, we’re simply wasting the short amount that we have. And maybe, we’re simply running out of patience.

I think we’re all just fucking tired at this point. We’re tired of our lives not going the way we wanted. We’re tired of enduring pain over and over again. We’re tired of all the garbage that society feeds us. We are tired of this horrific election. And we’re tired of ourselves. We’re tired of our minds and our worries, our anxieties, and our fears. We’re tired of it all.

That’s kind of where I’m at right now. I feel like I’m just trying to get through each day so that I can go to bed and somehow conjure up enough energy to get through the next. What I’m beginning to wonder is whether this is such a bad thing. Maybe we have to go through these extremes in order to learn how to focus on one day at a time. Maybe in a weird and twisted way, this is how I learn how to be more present.

Perhaps getting through each day can turn into making the most of each day. On both ends of the spectrum, our focus is on the present. The outlook, however, is what is in need of change.

I think gratitude journals, or even just writing down 3 things that you are grateful for every day, can help with that. It can help maintain the present-based focus but change the outlook. To be honest, this is something I’ve always overlooked or just buried in the back of my mind. I’d always tell myself that “I’ll just say the things I’m thankful for in my head,” but 1) I don’t remember to do this and 2) I think it’s more useful to write it down.

After a week, a month, etc., you can look back at what you were thankful for each day and most likely, you’ll see a common theme. I think that’ll give us more awareness on where we should spend the majority of our energy. Being someone who writes so much, I know the effects that words have on the way we look at the world, as well as the way we choose to live in it. So that’s exactly what I intend to do, and it would be amazing if you guys were to join me with this. Let’s live in the effects of our gratitude by just writing down 3 things every night before we go to bed or every morning before we begin our day (or both).

If you’re standing where I am – just trying to get through each day – I think that we’re on the right track; we’re just on the wrong end of the spectrum. Let’s try to make the most of our day rather than get through it.

I get that sometimes all we can do is use the little energy that we have to just get through. That’s okay, too. You do what you have to do today and sometimes that means to just breathe or take a walk or cry. But remember that it all comes in waves, flowing up and down. I think gratitude can help shift our gaze in the midst of any state we are in, as long as we remain patient enough to let it do its work.

Unlearning Resistance: The Story of a Relationship Absentee

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I’m the person who will go into any relationship, whether it be a friendship, a workplace, or a significant other, only to spend all my time trying not to lose it. I place all my energy towards trying to get something to not end, and then it does. When I stand back, I come to realize that I never allowed myself to enjoy it in its existence. Instead, I spent my time in this relationship, living in my own head.

The problem with life and relationships is that at some point, things have to come to an end. Having this perpetual fear of loss, I’ve learned the hard way that there are some things that are out of our control. When other people are involved, it’s only partially in your control. By that, I mean that you are only in control of yourself within that relationship.

In a way, it’s like a teeter-totter. Both people stabilize and ground it by working at opposite ends. For me, while I always thought that I was putting in most of the weight in my relationships, I recently had a moment of clarity and realized that maybe, just maybe, I was actually weighing them down. Or worse, maybe I wasn’t even present in them. In almost every relationship I’ve been in, have I chosen to not be there?

When you live in your mind; when you live in your anxiety, you are not helping to ground or stabilize the teeter-totter. You are simply floating in your own air. You are not present.

At work, I was given the opportunity to train in visual merchandising. This came from a lot of hard work over time. Then it came from feeling like I wasn’t moving up or being given enough opportunity. To make a long story short, I was offered another job that paid better, gave more opportunity, and looked really good on paper. What I learned was the cost of the job which was a lot of emotional abuse. I left that job very quickly when I realized what was happening to both my physical and mental health. I returned to this one, where I was welcomed back with open arms. So this opportunity also came from love, trust, respect, and communication.

That story of how I got here is a very long one that happened over a very short time span. But basically, here I am, being given the opportunity that I wanted – the opportunity to explore my creativity. The opportunity that I worked for, and the opportunity that I asked for.

So here’s the thing that happens when you finally get something you’ve wanted: expectation. There are the expectations of others and then, most importantly, there are the expectations that you set for yourself. I don’t know about you guys, but mine are always super realistic and attainable because I’m just such a balanced person who has it all together.

HA. HA.

Okay, let’s step into reality again.

When it comes down to creativity, writing is fairly easy for me. It’s like walking, talking, or breathing. I just do it. I kind of have to do it, and I have done it for as long as I can remember.

Visual merchandising is something I have never done, but I saw it as an opportunity to challenge myself and my creativity. It was another pursuit of curiosity. It was my chance to learn how to tell a story, for once, without words. But there is a craft to it. There are concepts and themes that the company wants, and you have to work freely but within some limitations. There are rules and time constraints. It’s fast paced and confusing at times, but it is so exhilarating. Everything has to be instinctual because you have no time to over-think. (Great time to learn how to do that, especially being the over-thinker that I am.)

This is a new visual creativeness that I’ve never done before, so even though it might not come as much of a shock to you as it was for me, it turns out that I’m not the best at it. Oh how badly we wish we could challenge ourselves and learn something new by already being good at it. That’s the dream, isn’t it? But of course, that’s not the way life works. We have to put in the hard work so that we can learn and blah blah blah.

What is true of the situation is that my workplace is encouraging. My work family that I adore, believe in me. This is my training. This is the learning process. But then, I find myself vanishing from the teeter-totter. Rather than staying active and present in my relationship with creativity and my work, I float in my own air. I disappear into my own mind again. The cycle then continues and I worry and fear losing something that I worked so hard for. I fear not being good enough to tackle something that I asked for and that others believe I can do.

This pattern is familiar though and I know that my relationship with my mind’s scrutiny becomes heavy and I end up losing the relationship that I never truly entered – the relationship I spent all my time worrying I’d lose. And in the midst of all that worry and fear, I also lose the fun and joyous part of the work.

This comes from a background of instability. I never really understood what ‘constant’ felt like growing up, and therefore, I always felt out of control. But living in your own head does not give you control of a situation; it just removes you from it. It’s an easy button.

So, this is me trying to change my pattern – the pattern of resistance. I will continue trying to be present and I will continue feeding myself words of encouragement and love. I will be in this relationship. I will be on this teeter-totter, because my friends, the only way to be in a relationship is to show up for it. Often times, we just don’t realize that we are in our own way. We forget that it isn’t our minds that control us, but it is us that controls them. We are capable of controlling ourselves, but in order for us to be better at it, we have to unlearn our own resistance.

Perhaps instead of focusing on the end or the potential loss, we should focus on why we began in the first place. Why did we enter this relationship? Why did we take this new task/job/role/etc.? Why did we want to begin? And it is the answer to that question as well as the matter of whether it still holds truth to it today, that we can decide whether to continue.

On Not Being Prepared: Creating Warmth Where None Exists

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A journal entry from the first snowfall that happened Thursday October 27:

The first snowfall of the season came during the wrong season. Life is ironic that way, isn’t it? I have to admit, though, there is a beauty in watching the snow fall from your windowsill, drinking a warm cup of coffee, lighting a scented candle that airs out your space, and cozying up to write.

My first thought when the snow began to fall was, “I didn’t plan for this to happen now. I’m not prepared for this.” Funny, that’s what I always say about my life.

I guess the problem – or my problem – with winter is that it asks you to create your own warmth. In the summer, the weather is given to you. You don’t have to ask for warmth, the sun just places it on you. The winter requires more from you because it knows you are capable of the work. It’s so annoying.

There is a beauty in the winter. The magic and the lights and the festivities. It’s not that the winter gives you nothing in return; it gives you more. It gives you family, friends, a coming together, a reunion. That, I love. But the cold and the wind and the heavy burden of layered clothing; all of it weighs me down. Winter asks for effort, and I’m always too tired to put in the work. But even so, it comes back every year to give us another chance.

It’s kind of like that clingy ex-boyfriend who won’t go away, except winter is more genuine about it (most of the time). I mean, it gets pretty pissed too. I’m talking about that minus 40 degrees celsius, icy and cold weather where I’m advised to not leave my apartment if I want to keep my fingers on my hands. I was there, winter. I remember.

Winter requires us to put our strength forward, strength that I didn’t even know existed in me. I have never been very good at winter-ing. With the joy of coming together, what happens if you feel more alone than ever? Find your people. But I can’t! Yes, you can. But it’s hard. I see your pain. It’s real. But I also see your strength. It’s bigger. (If you haven’t figured it out already, that’s winter’s voice talking.)

I’m beginning to think that maybe winter came at the right time this year. It finally matched my spirit, my imbalance. It reminded me that maybe the work starts early this year. Maybe I don’t need any preparation because I had the spare time in the summer to bring all my tools together. I didn’t have to create the warmth then, so I could focus my energy elsewhere. Maybe I’m already ready to create the warmth right now. Maybe we all are.

Hello, first snowfall. I was waiting for you.

Depression’s Return: A Revival of the Fittest

depression

These days, every day feels like recovery day. I have to re-find the tools I need to feel better, but none of the old ones work. I guess that’s the problem with depression. It always finds its way back, even after all the work you put in. It wipes everything out of you, so you no longer know a single thing about yourself. What do you love? What do you need? What makes you happy? I don’t really know anymore. I don’t know anything.

But with depression, if we all remember that it passes, and we make it through that time, we’ll remember that we CAN come out of it. We will come out of it. But if we remember that, we also have to remember that when that happens, we come out with fresh eyes.

After getting wiped out of yourself; after getting wiped out of everything you know and believe, you get to start all over again. This isn’t a bad thing. The last time I found myself inside of a depression that lasted 5 years, I came out completely new, unrecognizable, and more myself than ever before. I have a feeling that this won’t last as long because I’m a lot stronger and better than I once was, but it may end up doing something good for me.

Right now, I’m interested in the process of unlearning. I realized that I’ve covered myself with so many personalities and representatives of myself over the years, that I’m still trying to unwrap and unravel. I’m still trying to get to the root of who I am and always was. But that’s a process in and of itself. That’s not exactly something that can get done in a day (even though my impatient self would LOVE that).

There’s a lot of people I felt I had to be or pretend to be over the course of my life that this unlearning of how to be those people doesn’t come so naturally to me. The root of myself isn’t a people pleaser, she’s just exactly who she is. But I shamed myself out of her. I told her that this isn’t what the world wants. I told her that she wasn’t enough. So, not only is this a process of unlearning, but it’s also a process of damage repair.

Maybe in a weird and twisted way, I need this depression right now. I need to be still in my pain and keep trying to recover every day. Maybe I need to be wiped clean again so that this time, after the wiping out, I can come out even closer to the root of myself. This time, my eyes will be even fresher. This time when it passes, which it always does, I will be closer to myself.

When Are You Going To Be Enough For Yourself?

when-are-you-going-to-be-enough-for-yourself

Do you ever take the time to sit still for a little while and ask yourself: “Am I happy right now?” I think I do that too much. Lately, I’ve been questioning myself quite a lot. I grew up a lot this summer and I was on a level of high that didn’t even feel real to me until it was over, and everything changed again.

My whole life began to feel like it was being jerked around at all ends and I lost a lot of people in the process of it all – a lot of people who I was close to. A lot of people who weren’t so pleased with the changes I made in my life; the changes that brought about all the joy. Those people are still here, but our connection isn’t.

My life was once a lot more difficult and a lot crazier. And so, being in the state that I’m in doesn’t really make a lot of rational sense to me. I’m not depressed, but I’m not filled with as much joy as I was before, either. And up until now, I had no idea that there was something in between those two extreme states.

I’m not so good at relaxing, either. I have to be doing something, constantly. I have to be reading so I can learn more, or writing so I can understand more, or crafting and creating or finishing an assignment for school or working at my job. I need to constantly be working to keep my mind at ease. But from what? Well, I think somewhere along the line, I started to believe that if I wasn’t being productive, I was failing.

A lot of my life was spent trying to survive – trying to just be alive. It was a lot of budgeting and calculating in my head, how much food I would be able to afford that could keep me going for a while. It was a lot of trying to just get myself out of bed. It was a lot of trying to just get myself through the day, each and every day.

Now that I have a full-time job, I don’t have to worry as much about financial burdens as I used to. No, it’s not easy, but I have a steady income that I’m able to get by with. I have my creative pursuits and my curious nature. I have some freedom. So what the hell is the problem?

Time.

Some part of me feels like I “wasted” a lot of time for so many years and it’s almost like I’m trying to catch up with my own life. I’m trying to make up for all the years I was “unproductive”. I need to learn everything, do everything, create everything, and I have to do it all as quickly as I can to perhaps meet some deadline that I’ve conjured up in my mind for my life. All of the things I could have been doing in those years I spent just trying to get through, need to get done now, along with whatever else I could have achieved by now.

It always goes back to feeling like I’m trying to balance out my life’s time scale. But each time I dig a little deeper, it seems to be rooted from the idea that I am not enough.

And you know what? I’m so tired. I’m tired of not meeting my own expectations. I’m tired of justifying myself TO myself. I’m tired of burning myself out over and over again. I’m tired of being so hard on myself every time that happens, which it always does. I’m just so tired.

Why has it become so hard for us to stop doubting ourselves?

I don’t really have an answer for this one, other than I think we just need to be on the lookout. We need to be the security guards of our minds, constantly watching and monitoring the load of crap we give ourselves each day.

We have to guard our language and our choice of words, not only the ones we use for ourselves but the ones we use to describe our surroundings and our people as well.

I think our strength is tied to the types of obstacles we are faced with throughout our lives. I don’t mean that in a “challenges make you stronger” way (which they obviously do), but I mean that maybe the obstacles we face are strategically placed throughout our lives in such a way that we build off of each one. Maybe life only hands you the hardships that you already have the strength to handle, and those hardships prepare you and build your strength up for the next one so that you will already have the strength to handle that as it comes. All of these keep us growing and moving forward and becoming.

But the challenges we put on ourselves are the ones that hold us back. Those are side-tracks; the paths that will only keep us circling around the same place over and over again. We don’t become more from them. We become trapped inside of them.

So to end off this lengthy post, remember that everything that you did today, was everything that you needed to do (and probably even more than that) so AMAZING work. But, also remember that your productivity does not dictate your self-worth. We are already more than enough.

The Root of Personality Tests: What Are We Actually Obsessing Over

personality-tests

Recently, I took the True Color personality test that the company I work for purchased and altered slightly to gear towards our workspace. We’re trying to learn how each individual not only works, but also learns and communicates differently. In understanding that, the hope is that we can become an even better team in the long run.

Just yesterday, one of my department managers, who also happens to be a good friend of mine, was talking to me about her results and how glad she felt with the outcome of it all. “It understood me. I react that way, I’m emotional in that way, I shut down that way – It’s so me!” 

I also remember how excited I was to take it. By excited, I mean to the point where I actually had a coworker email it to me so that I could secretly take it earlier than I was supposed to, and completed it under the pseudonym of John Smith. I know, I’m just so creative.

But this whole concept and the excitement that came along with it got me thinking. And yes, this is where the psychology major in me comes out with all the analyzing. But I began to wonder: Why are we so obsessed with personality tests? Why are we so eager to validate what we already know about ourselves? What is the intrigue and what is the root of this obsession?

We already know how we tend to react in negative situations. We know the extent of our sensitivity. We know what triggers us. We know, deep down, what is true about who we are.

My department manager already knew what happens to her mind when conflicts arise. She already knew her sensitive and empathetic nature. She knew all of this and so why did it matter that some test just told her the exact same information she already held within herself?

Here’s what I came to understand from it: Whether it be the Myer’s Brigg or True Colors or whatever else test you take to “understand your personality,” they all seem to have some categories set in place. When you’ve finished taking them, BOOM, you’re placed in one of those categories.

But the accuracy of the results will also tell you something other than what you already know, and that is this: There are other people out there just like this; and therefore, there are other people out there just like you.

So what if this obsession with personality tests isn’t just correlated to understanding ourselves more? What if the bigger, and more often hidden element is rooted in our need to belong, and our desire to feel connected. Maybe it is less about confirming what we already know to be true for ourselves, and instead, confirming the notion that we are not the only ones like this.

We are not alone. There are other people who feel this way when this happens. There are other people who react like this in that scenario. There are other people like you and I. We take these tests and we become obsessed with them because sometimes (and maybe now more than ever before) we need to be reminded of that.

Reconstructing Criticism: Not Everyone Will Like What You Create

how-to-deal-with-criticism-as-a-writer

I like alone. I do well alone. I like keeping a distance from the world because to me, the world has always felt unsafe. People have always felt unsafe. Criticism has made me feel unsafe. Life has been unsafe.

I have done a very good job at keeping my distance from reality, even I was a kid. I daydream, I read, I listen to music, and I create stories. Anything and everything I have ever done to keep myself sane has come from that form of distance.

Drinking was once an escape for me, but not exactly an escape from reality. That was what I did in my sobriety. Drinking allowed me to enter reality in the safest way I could imagine. It was my easy button; an escape from my mind and a release into reality. Though alcohol often gives you a heightened experience of every emotion – happiness, excitement, temptation, and more often, depression – it never heightened any of that for me. The world was already at that level when I was in my normal senses. But what it did was heighten my ability to express how afraid and alone and unsafe I felt, and continue to feel.

Now that I rarely ever drink and am learning how to change my relationship with alcohol, writing is what I depend on for my safety. My writing is my safe place.

So now, let’s talk about what happened just the other morning. Yesterday, I read my mother a very small portion of the novel I’ve been working on and in an instant, my safe place became cluttered with doubt. Why? Because she didn’t like it.

Before I had even gotten to finish reading the first paragraph aloud to her on FaceTime, she interrupted with some adjustments, tweaks, and suggestions for me.

Now, in the early stages of writing – ESPECIALLY during the first draft, it’s been advised over and over to NOT share your work because it might halt you from continuing. My problem is that I tend to not listen to this kind of crap and it comes back to bite me in the ass.

I was so excited for what I had written because I LOVED what I wrote. I loved the way I wrote it. I loved how my main character was teaching me her ways through her words and actions. After writing it, I read it over and over so many times that every single word in the first chapter got sewn into my brain. I needed to read it to someone. This was something I was so proud of and I was more than ready to just share that feeling with someone else.

My mom is a very genuine, kind-hearted, compassionate and loving person. She is also the most honest human being I have ever met. She lives to tell the truth and I admire her so much for that. Being raised by a woman who will always tell it like it is, is the reason I turned out to be the way I that I am.

But this is my work. This is what I put every fibre of my soul into. This is my pride and joy, my taste of liberty. This is my safe place. Needless to say, I didn’t read any more of it to her. I know when to stop because I know how poorly I handle any sort of criticism, especially when it comes down to my writing. After our conversation, I quickly hid my book in a drawer to keep it out of my sight – not too sure what I was trying to accomplish there, but that was my go-to action. I guess I just needed to distance myself from it. I needed to recollect my thoughts because suddenly my safe place wasn’t so safe anymore. Now I needed to hide from this, too.

Once my initial surge of panic and doubt and fear dissolved, I began to gain a hint of clarity. I really had to dig down inside of myself to understand why it is that I write in the first place. What made me begin? I didn’t start sharing my work until I was 13, which was when I began experimenting with the world of blogging. But I’d been writing since I was 7 years old.

The reason I do this is not exactly for other people. Being someone who tends to bottle everything up, I write to find a way to understand my thoughts and emotions. I write to release. I write to understand the world around me. It’s a way to put my thoughts and opinions somewhere other than my head, so they don’t just get to live in there. It’s a decluttering of my monkey-brain. Writing brings me joy. Sharing it gives me the opportunity to voice my opinions, my emotions, and my feelings. That doesn’t mean that people have to agree with what I have to say or even like the way I say it. It was simply the way I learned, and am continuing to learn that what I feel and what I believe in matters.

I can sit here in the sharp table of doubt, questioning myself and why the hell an overly sensitive empath like me would ever, in her right mind, even consider sharing her work. Because my mom is not the only person who is not going to like it, and that’s okay. My writing is not everyone’s cup of tea. But my opinions and means for sharing are also not for anyone’s approval. You may have your own opinion, and you may voice that opinion, but that doesn’t make mine any less significant.

Of course the “me toos” and “I relate to this” comments have a special place in my heart. They are incredibly encouraging and a great source of motivation for me to continue writing. But they aren’t the only source of encouragement and motivation for me to write. If they were, the critcisms would be far too unbearable and I would have probably stopped writing many many years ago.

But this is my outlet. This is my freedom and this is my creation. The doubt and fear will always crawl their way back in through the hidden side-doors, windows or attic. The voice that mocks my efforts will continue whispering the “you’re not good enough’s” and I’ll just have to calmly ask it to quiet down because some of us have work to do and can’t spend their days sitting around, judging other people.

It’s okay not to like my work. Of course I would rather people enjoy it, but I understand that everyone has their own interests and opinions. However, if your motive is to get me to stop, it’ll take a hell of a lot more than just that.

*Also, this is in no way a bad note on my mom. She is a brilliant, strong, vibrant woman and an insanely talented artist. This is a note on criticism and my ability to cope with it. It’s important to listen to criticism that is constructive, and put that in your file of collected information, applying only what you feel is best for you. Always know that what you create and what you have to say won’t be liked by everyone and that if you live to please everyone else’s likes, you will not only face constant disappointment, but you will also be doing a great injustice to yourself and your work.

Not everyone will like what you create. Quiet the noise and do it anyway. It’s that easy and that hard.

My Body Isn’t Mine: The Binaries Created For Us To Be Incomplete

my-body-isnt-mine-how-binaries-are-created-for-us-to-be-incomplete

I’ve been thinking a lot about sensitivity and the forms in which it comes in. If you guys don’t already know by the amount of praise I give to the book, Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton, it is something that has REALLY resonated with me. If you have yet to pick it up and give it a read, I highly recommend that you do ASAP. I’m currently reading it for the third time because it is that good!

Anywho, in the book, Glennon mentions her disconnection with her body that led her to an eating disorder at age 10, alcoholism as she grew older, and a disconnection between herself and her partners during sex, which stayed true after she got married. I guess this proves that even as magical and powerful of a thing as love is, it can’t cure everything – especially when ‘everything’ includes being brought up in a society and encompassing a culture that personally engraved for you, a certain way to think about yourself.

What she discusses is how humans are made up of the body, mind, and the soul. However, because of the way our society is and because of the way we have learned to understand the gender binaries, women are raised and are led to experience a tremendous amount of shame towards their body from a young age. Because of this, even though our beings are made up of body, mind, and soul, women tend to vote their bodies off their islands. As for men, they are brought up to be shamed out of their emotions and therefore, vote them off the island. Here we are, incomplete humans, raised to be missing vital parts of our beings. These tend to be the kinds of effects that come from this:

Women tend to use their minds to connect with others, and men, their bodies. This is typically why a lot of men connect more from sex or playful touching whereas a lot of women enjoy talking, telling stories, and getting to know one another using their voice and listening to others’. Often times, when men and women come together to form relationships, they just end up missing each other. But how can we connect with one another if we’re using different parts of ourselves to form that connection? Better yet, how can we connect with each other using the part of ourselves that the other has lost connection with?

I guess the only way is to have a reunion with what we shamed away and vote it back on the island – the most simple and complicated solution.

When I read this, it made COMPLETE sense for me. Being someone who connects with other people by getting to know their minds, I realized that I never was able to connect with my own body and was never able to form connections with others using it either (even though I have tried to do so many, many times before).

I don’t connect with my body. I don’t connect with touching or hugging or sex or any of that. That’s actually a way that I like to escape. I used that to pretend to connect, while not really knowing how to.

I often feel my body is not my own. It’s for others to comment on, others to approve of, and others to objectify. It changes day to day, hour to hour and minute to minute. Every time I look in the mirror, it’s different from what it was before.

My body always felt like it was my presentation for the world; it was never who I was.

Though sex is supposed to be the most intimate act, I relentlessly used it as some way to trick my mind into thinking I’m opening up to people. But opening up your vagina is not exactly the same as opening up your heart. Lesson learned – I think.

So back to sensitivity and why I needed to give you all that information before asking you this: What part of your body is affected the most when your mind is hurt?

I ask this because what I realized is the way I might be able to vote my body back into the triad of my being, is to be more aware of how my emotions affect it. For instance, when I’m tense or bottle up my emotions for a while, it takes a toll on my stomach and digestive system. This has been true since I was a child and although at the time, I never understood why my mother would always ask me to tell the truth when I’d been having stomach pains for weeks, it makes SO much sense now. How do mothers always know these things?

For my mom, it’s her back that starts to ache when she has too much on her plate. For my sister, it’s her heart and blood pressure that rises. The same goes for understanding other emotions. What I’ve noticed in happy moments is that my shoulders are lighter and my legs are more bouncy.

When we notice how our emotions are deeply connected to our bodies, maybe we can use our bodies to teach our minds. Maybe mind and body learning from one another while teaching one another is what will help them rejoin.

At this point, I’m not really sure if I even made a whole lot of sense here or if I just rambled on, but I’m still learning and trying to understand what good can come out of being aware and taking note of these connections. What I hope for is that it will somehow allow me to reconnect with my body. I hope it’ll allow all of us women to vote them back on our islands. I hope we can all learn, and continue learning, how to be whole and complete on our own. And I hope that in turn, this will allow us to connect with one another with greater ease.

Losing Tolerance, Gaining Patience

Throughout my life, I’ve gained quite some tolerance. I gained a tolerance for poor outcomes. I gained a tolerance for poor behaviour. I opted out of self-respect to keep this tolerance steady. It was always a strength in my eyes. I was capable of dealing with a lot more than other people could.

I had this superpower that was conveniently activated at all times, ready to take on the next bad thing. I think part of this came from the universal female desire and need to help people. So not only was I able to tolerate these circumstances, I was going to change them. Not only would I deal with poor behaviour, I was going to fix it.

I believe that everyone is inherently good, but some just allow their egos to take over their souls more-so than others. But they shouldn’t worry at all because I will help them change. Or perhaps it would be easier if I just changed them myself. People don’t exactly like putting in the work so I can do it for them. It’s fine. I’m fine. They’re fine. EVERYTHING IS FINE.

losing-tolerance-gaining-patience

As we all probably know, we can’t change people and we don’t have the authority to dictate what anyone’s journey looks like, including our own. And after every conspicuous failed attempt, I started to become the problem.

When you only look at things for what they can be, rather than what they are right now, they begin to lose their value and you begin to lose your trust.

I dated men who had the potential of being better and kinder. They had the potential of loving me. I say ‘dated’ loosely because often times, we were never “officially” dating (whatever that means), but we totally had the potential to. I made friends with people who had the potential of accepting me into their lives. I obsessed over what could come from these people and these circumstances instead of first accepting who and what they were already.

I fell in love with the idea of life rather than the reality of it.

What happened when I kept failing at changing things and people is I began to change myself. I adjusted myself to fit what they needed because that was something I actually had control over. And so when those people left my life and circumstances changed into something I could have never seen coming, I began to lose myself. With the adjustments I had made, I came out of these relationships and life events without any clarity of who I actually was.

I learned that my tolerance was not a virtue, rather it was a waiting game. As I continued to hope for people to change, I kept changing myself until I completely lost my own authenticity.

What I’m trying to learn now is how to be patient. How to have patience with people, patience within myself, and patience towards life’s unfolding. Along with patience comes trust. Trust for what already is and what is to come. Rather than trying to shift and change and gain some sense of control over my own life, what if I were to just be? What if I were to just allow things and people to be? What if that’s how patience is accrued and what if that’s exactly how life wants to unravel?

I don’t mean patience with people who are treating you poorly or allowing circumstances that you can get out of to continue hurting you. I mean patience in the timing of things. Patience in accepting who people are now at this very moment is exactly who they need to be. This doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be in your life, but they need to be that person for their own journey.

Instead of surrounding myself with the potential of goodness, I try to look at who and what things are in the present and how well they compliment my intentions, my happiness, and well-being. This often doesn’t leave you with very much, but what it does leave you with is the truth. And an honest life is far better than one that is pretending to be.

An Unsolicited Confessional: My Inner Truths

Lately, I’ve been feeling very disconnected from both the world and myself. After making all of these changes in my life, I realized that I don’t really know who I am exactly. I don’t really know what remains true about myself and what no longer does. So I decided to make a list and share it in this space. These are the things that have always been true. These are the things that I’m working on changing. These are all parts of who I am. These are my inner truths:

  1. Sitting by the water has always brought this flow of energy and inspiration to me that I can’t seem to find anywhere else.
  2. My interests change so often that it’s difficult for me to keep up with them. I was not made to do one thing and only one thing and stick with that. I have so much respect for people who were wired that way, because I wasn’t.
  3. Stationary aisles and stores light me up.
  4. I can be quick to judge people and leave them. I can be quick to forgive people and allow their torment to continue. I am a living contradiction.
  5. I’ve always been one to bottle my emotions and alcohol has been my release. I still crave it sometimes when I actually just need to cry or talk to someone.
  6. I hate it when people comment on my body. I hate that that is the first thing they feel the need to comment on before my mind.
  7. When I am reading more and more, it’s often during times when I need to live in other people’s stories to get away from my own.
  8. I have a habit of running away when things get bad and then I get frustrated when my problems catch up to me. This always happens and yet, I continue to do it anyway thinking that maybe it’ll work the next time. It never does.
  9. I get EXTREMELY exhausted from having to justify myself to other people. I shouldn’t have to explain my actions, my desires, my interests, or my decisions to them. I typically do it anyway. Still learning.
  10. Learning how to say “no” has been the most liberating experience.
  11. Since I was a child, I would only be fascinated by toys that had a musical element to them. Music has always given something to me without asking for anything in return. I never felt I owed anything to music other than my time. I guess we’ve both just always enjoyed each other’s company.
  12. I don’t know how to do anything in moderation. I am obsessive and extreme.
  13. I’ve always been a people-pleaser. I’d rather have people not know me than have people not like me. That’s been changing.
  14. I don’t think I could ever get tired of walking. My best friend is the same way and we always used to pick endpoints and walk around for hours, often in the worst weather conditions. We’ve walked 50km in a day before and that time, we were actually exhausted by the end of it and needed food + sleep IMMEDIATELY (so that we could do it all over again the next day).
  15. I don’t handle any sort of criticism well.
  16. I treat my cat like a mother treats her child. He’s a bit of a jerk to other people and sometimes I blame myself when he acts out. It makes me wonder whether I’m cut out to take care of anything.
  17. I am 60% introvert, 40% extrovert. I can be the most social person and I can also be the quietest. This greatly depends on the people I’m around and whether I’ve had enough time for myself.
  18. It’s very difficult for me to tolerate ignorance. People who don’t keep an open mind, or have perspective are people I can never sustain long relationships with.
  19. I would like to learn how to be patient, but learning how to be patient requires patience and I am not patient! Oh, the irony of life.
  20. Kindness has always been my mantra and the legacy I’d like to leave behind. If that is all I’ll be remembered for, that will be more than enough.

 

What are some of your inner truths? If you decide to write your own post on it, be sure to share it with me! I’d love to read it. 

Life Recycled: Why Certain Situations Tend to Repeat Themselves

Invasive. Intruder. Imposter. I am all of those and I always have been.

I’m eleven years old, promising my mother as she cries on the side of the bed next to me, that one day I will leave this house and after that, I will never come back. I’ve been keeping that promise more and more, having not been to my parents’ house in over a year. This is counting two Thanksgivings ago when I came back to visit for the weekend and was immediately kicked out. My mother still visits me from time to time, but I don’t go back there and I don’t intend to. I don’t belong there and I was never welcome. I was unwanted and yet I was needed to keep hold of the dynamic that was present.

I’m fifteen now, falling for a boy I will later refer to as my ‘first love’. I’m fifteen years old and I know nothing about myself, but I know everything about him including how his heart is still with someone else. I am not wanted by him, but he needs me. I cater to the attention and reassurance his ego craves. I am his punching bag when his doubts and insecurities arise. We’re both lost, but he always knew what he wanted. I always knew what he needed.

We continued our on-and-off-again relationship for the next couple of years until he left me for a girl who liked going to the gym and playing video games. I disliked both, and suddenly I was unwanted, and no longer needed either. I promised myself that I wouldn’t get into another relationship until I gained more clarity on who I was on my own. I haven’t been in a relationship since.

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I’m 20 years old now, a few months away from 21. I just came home from a dinner with a group of friends I considered ‘my people’ for the past three years. They sat in a cluster around a table at a Vietnamese restaurant. I sat in my own discomfort. I stared at the strategically placed TV in the restaurant the way that people stare at their phones and click random buttons to look like they’re doing something important while waiting alone in a crowd of strangers.

I wonder if they could see the discomfort through my silence. I wonder if they could feel my insides screaming, “I don’t belong here!” I am not wanted here, but my presence is needed to keep hold of the dynamic. I wonder if they notice, but I tend to forget how well I’ve mastered the art of pretending.

Over the years, the situations have often been recycled into alternative, modern versions of the past, but the feeling is always static. I can distinguish it before I even walk into it. And yet, I walk into it anyways.

What I do know is that life tends to keep recycling the same at you until you finally learn the lesson it is trying so hard to teach. I guess I’m still in the midst of figuring this one out.

Connecting Hope with Resilience: How to be a Woman Today

“Every girl must decide whether she to be true to herself or true to the world”
– Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior

Two years ago. That is what I can remember being the first time I opened up to a man. The funny part is that I barely knew the guy. We were neighbours who occasionally said “hi” to each other in passing, and from time to time, he would come over to my porch and we would have cringeworthy small talk while smoking a cigarette. That was all, until it wasn’t.

One night, I went out to my porch and he made his way over, as he typically did. This time though, the conversation was far different than our typical script and I, for once, did most of the talking.

To be completely honest, I’m not exactly sure how the conversation began and how it turned into a lot more sharing on my part. I guess that’s what you get from having too much tequila in your system.

I shared a lot of my past and a lot of my present that night. Maybe it was the tequila. Maybe it was my need to let go of everything I keep bottled up inside me for so long. Maybe it was a weird connection I felt having finally met a fellow writer (who by the way, doesn’t consider himself to be a writer, which is such a writer thing to do).

Anyways, I feared a response of pity. That’s typically what I always fear. I don’t really know what response I wanted in return, but what I received was something I never could have expected. Or perhaps it was something I should have seen coming all along.

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He said, and I quote, “You’re so lucky you’ve been through things. Like, actual hard stuff, you know? You get to have a cool story.”

First of all, why is it that so many of the writers I have met are terrible speakers (myself included)? Our written words are delicious, but as soon as anything comes out of our mouth, we either sound like two-year-olds learning vowels for the first time, or high school teens trying to act cool after being confronted by a group of popular kids.

Anyways, all I could feel in that moment was disgust. All I could feel was a tremendous amount of insult and a lack of perspective.

Here is what I wanted to say:

“How dare you? How dare you distance the credit I deserve for holding my shit together and reward the lottery system of the universe for starting me off in poor circumstances? How dare you stand there feeling jealous of my story? How dare you even call it a story? Because no, this is not a story or a movie or a book where everything is tidy and scripted and edited and the ending is wonderful. This is not a story. This is my fucking life. 

And no, I will not stand here pitying you either for not having your “story” be more “hard”. I will not taste the venom for your privilege of being a caucasian male who comes from a well-off middle-class family. I will not pity you, nor will I feel jealous of you. Why? Because you sir, have the amount of ignorance that I am incapable of even breathing around.

When I tell you about my father’s suicide attempt when I was 15 years old. When I tell you about the dark hole of peace that alcohol gave me, along with how it completely ruined me. When I tell you that having a home or groceries on the table was never a guarentee. And when I tell you the embarrassment that came along with walking into food banks and then being turned away. When I tell you these things, the LAST thing I want to hear is that I am lucky. I am NOT lucky. I am fucking strong. This is not the story I was given. This is the life that I made.”

That’s what I wanted to say. Here is what I actually said:

“I’m not lucky for having a hard life. I’m just managing things as they come and I’m not really good at it but I’m trying and I’ve always tried. But I guess you’re right. I’ve learned a lot from having things be pretty difficult.”

It’s not like I didn’t speak the truth because I did. However, I didn’t allow my opinions to have a voice either – a problem I find many women tend to have. You put a smile on your face and you agree with his stance even if a fire is burning your insides in opposition. You do it because that is what history has taught us to do.

I didn’t use my voice that night. Instead, I let him continue to think that I approved of his ignorance. To this day, that is the story that haunts me, and also reminds me to never let that happen again. I should be able to say something and I should not hesitate to stand up for myself. It is not my circumstances that should get the credit, it is me.

It took me a long time to learn that, and I’m still learning. We’re all always learning. To be a woman in this day and age comes with a lot of uncertainty. History has expectations for us that our minds and hearts contradict. We don’t have the same role models that men do. We don’t have generations upon generations of women who have the type of freedom that we are being given now. So ,we don’t exactly know what to do with these choices and this freedom. I can’t tell you what you personally have to do with it. However, what I can advise is this: Do not hide behind it. Do not hide behind your freedom and do not hide behind yourself.

People Aren’t Pleased When You Stop Living to Please Them

There is a tide of forgiveness that washes over me from time to time. Actually, it washes over me fairly often. Typically it is forgiveness for what others have done to me in the past. But more recently, this tide works to forgive myself. This summer was a string of changes for me – a time I took for myself to work, live alone, and work on the person I was so that I could come closer to the person I wanted to be. Little did I know that by the end of it, the person I once was would be unrecognizable. It was as if she was a close friend who’s only connection with me was our history and the time we had spent together. What I also didn’t know was the amount of criticism I would get from bettering myself and the amount of backlash I would receive from some of those whom I considered my closest friends.

Clarity is a funny thing. We all ask for truth and seek honest interactions, but when our vision clears up to what is really going on around us, all we want is to be able to crawl back passively and hope for ignorance. The blog post I had written prior to this one, just a month ago, was very bubbly, fun and filled with hope. It was all about how I went from eating McDonalds 2-3 times a day (not the slightest bit of exaggeration) to eating organic, healthy meals that I make for myself. It was about how I’m working 14 hour days and being able to finally financially support myself without wondering how I’m going to afford the next meal with less than a dollar in my bank account. It was about following my curiosity and that leading me to grow from not only writing, but to learning how to play the guitar, researching about architecture and design, enjoying visual merchandising, attending open mic nights for writers and attending book launches for local authors, making new friends with people who are kind and wildly creative, and not being ashamed of myself and my own creative pursuits. It was about feeling good about who I am now, meditating, waking up early every morning so I have time for myself to read and write and research before heading off to work. My drastic change was an inspiration to myself and that energy I was feeling helped some other people along the way.

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That was the post I was going to publish a month ago, but posting it now would feel inconsistent with what’s happening at this moment as a result of my own personal growth. The good and the bad really come in waves throughout life and I was never ignorant enough to believe that this burst of joy would remain consistent from here on out. However, I didn’t expect I’d have to remove so many people from my life. I didn’t expect for people to be so direct, aggressive and vicious and the worst part is that when you finally reach a place where you feel like you are able to make good decisions for yourself and be kind to yourself, and to love yourself, it’s difficult to understand why it would affect anyone else in a negative way. That inconsistency of negative reactions that correspond with what you feel is your success, and getting it from a number of people can begin to make you second-guess yourself. Is what I’ve done for myself, actually considered progress? If it’s coming from that many people, there must be something wrong with me. WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING WRONG?

So here is what I’ve learned and what I’m continuing to learn from all of this. There are people in this world who secretly (and sometimes, not so secretly) praise your failures. When your struggles become someone else’s form of entertainment, know that you are should never belittle yourself or hide from progress out of fearing their disappointment. The warmth and kindness, love and support that I’m getting from certain people in my life makes up for the emotional abuse I’m getting from the others. And if you do ever find yourself in this place and are battling with the idea of losing your sense of loyalty to others by removing them from your life, know that if you sucummb to their needs, you’ll be losing loyalty to yourself.

Along with the changes I’m making in my life, there will be a lot of changes (both visually and content-wise) in this blog. That will come soon, but I wanted to get this out there first. There’s one thing I’ve found to be true and I only learned it through blogging and sharing my words, and it’s this: when you are going through something – anything at all – someone else is too. Situations vary, but we’re all humans here, and it’s the emotions that we feel that connect us to one another.

When you stop living to please other people, it turns out that people aren’t very pleased with you. What I’ve also come to learn is that that is none of my concern.

Why I Chose to Quit my Life – A Not-so Morbid Tale

I’ve never been capable of making decisions at ease, rather it was my sister who got praised with that gene. Growing up, my mom, my sister and I formed our own little exclusive squad where our rituals included eating one large pizza each, every single day after school, and coming home to read, play, or watch re-runs of Sailor Moon on our the satellite television that we illegally installed.

Side Story: I didn’t know our satellite was illegal for the longest time and so I would go to school as a fourth grader telling my friends to watch *insert TV show here* on channel 1000+ and would actually get into heated arguments about how that channel really does exist. One debacle was with a boy I’ll refer to as Jim Newson. He didn’t believe I literally had thousands of channels on my TV and so I told him to come over so he could see for himself. I had a huge crush on Jim so I really wanted him to come over. He never did. And that was the end of my third non-existent relationship. 

Back to what I was saying: Decision-making has never been my forte. I guess it came alongside this need to fulfill everyone’s wishes and desires. I didn’t mind putting my own at stake to ensure that their’s were met. I’ve always been a people-pleaser, and I’ve lived comfortably, even floated in the midst of deep misery, satisfying what everyone else needs from me. Until one day, it was no longer okay. Until one day that I decided: not this.

I took a hard look at my life, where I was, the person I was becoming, and who I wanted to be. I had no idea what I intended to do with my life, but all that I did know was that it wasn’t this. It wasn’t the life that I was currently living. I didn’t want to live this way and I didn’t want to be this way. For once in my life, I decided to decide for myself.

Now, for a person who is constantly thinking about how my life choices will affect all those surrounding me, it appeared to be a bit selfish at first. Until I decided that being selfish is exactly what I needed to be. Is it so bad to want to live your life the way you want to live it? And so, the most rational thing I could do was to be the most irrational human being I have ever been, and spoiler alert: it was liberating…at first.

When you’re diving into this new and exciting revelation, everything seems to get a tad blurry. It’s kind of like when people win the lottery and all of a sudden they have all this money that they’ve never come across before and they decide to just splurge all of it at once. That’s the kind of adrenaline rush I got, and so in the heat of the moment, I decided to say adios to university. It felt like it had done what it was supposed to do with my life. It gave me an experience, and I felt that it was time to finish it once and for all, and so I changed my 4 year program into a 3 year one so that I could graduate early (I should be done in December this year). I turned my part-time job into a full-time one so that I could be more financially stable doing whatever the hell I was going to do. So I was on my way to do…something. I would be done school so that would no longer be a burden. I would be working full time so I could support myself while doing that thing that I’m going to do that I haven’t quite figured out yet. Either way, WOO! I’M MAKING MY OWN DECISIONS! YIPEE! I was being pulled in by so much excitement and adrenaline and craze all at once and it was both the greatest and briefest moment.

And then, it was reality check time. When this whole super-crazy-oh-my-god-I’m-a-strong-independent-woman-who-can-make-her-own-life-choices rush passed, as it always does, I was finally struck by the ever-so familiar banter of thoughts that were deeply rooted in fear. If you’re a sociopath or some glimmering non-human entity floating around the world, you might be wondering what this thought-process looks like. Well, it went a little like this:

Did you just drop everything you’ve ever worked for? Do you understand WHAT THE HELL YOU ARE DOING? Yeah, I don’t think you do. Finish your four years of school, you idiot. Get a real adult job. Do what you’re supposed to do because I don’t know if you know this, but you just left a life of comfort without even DECIDING what you are going to do with all this spare time. Are you just going to work retail the rest of your life? Is that what you want to do? Keep struggling financially then, hunny. What happened to ambition? What happened to dreams? What happened to FINANCIAL SECURITY?!! HELLOOOOO? Are you listening? You’re a loser. You’re going to be a bum. You’re going to sit on your ass every single day of your life and do nothing and be nothing and that is it. Good job. This is why you don’t make decisions you nutjob. You don’t know how to do this. Get some perspective for once. Get a reality check. You. are. a. failure. That isn’t going to change anytime soon.

Day after day, this is what it felt like. It felt like the one time I decided to decide, I had chosen wrong. I didn’t have experience making choices for myself and I had just made the greatest, life-altering one, so what the hell was I thinking?

I focused more on school because maybe if I did that, I would feel more passionate about my degree and want to pursue it as a career. Maybe changing it back to 4-years would be better? I could do that, right? However, that plan clearly didn’t work. The only way I could actually pause these intrusive thoughts, I soon found, was to read. And so, I read. I read books on books on books just to get away from this idea that I had completely ruined my life. I was taken out of my own reality into magical places. I was shifted back into the world of books that had always been my own true place of comfort and safety. And then one day, after placing a bookmark in another novel to grab a bite to eat, I was ready for the fear-banter to begin again. But that’s not what I got this day. Instead, this faint curious notion patted me on the back and whispered, “You like books,” and I’m kind of just standing there waiting for my leftover Chinese food to heat up in the microwave like, “Yeah, no shit Sherlock.” And then, in response to that, something else happened. It was something along the lines of, “What if you decided to write a book?” What if I did?

It’s not like the fear banter just went away (because when does it ever?) but I decided to look into this idea. What if I decided to write a book? What harm could it do to my life? None. How much excitement could it bring to my life? – Potentially, a lot. I mean, you can probably tell that weighing the pros and cons wasn’t the most difficult of tasks. So that’s it. This is what I’ve decided to do, and for once, it feels like I’m doing something right. I don’t know how long this is going to take and I really don’t know what I’m doing while I’m doing it, but progress is being made. I didn’t know at the time what I needed to be doing, but all I knew was that everything I was currently doing, was not it. What I’ve learned is that sometimes, that’s all you need to know. I don’t know what’ll happen from here on out, and to be completely honest, I feel really uncomfortable while I’m doing all this. But it’s the good kind of discomfort. It’s the, “Hey, you’re not completely miserable and don’t really know what to do with feeling content for once” kind of discomfort. But for once, although I have nothing completely planned out for my life, I feel more okay than I ever have before. All of this because I didn’t want the life I had, and made the decision not to live that way anymore, even before I had the slightest idea of the life I did want. All I can say is that if this is selfish, then being selfish is really fun!

I’ll also be blogging regularly again to let you guys know about what’s going on, what progress is being made, and the emotional roller-coaster of it all. It feels good to be back.

I Have No Idea What I’m Doing, But I’m Doing It

I “announced” on twitter that I had some pretty big news that I’d share with you guys. I mean, the word “announce” makes it sound all big and important and probably made you think it had something to do with you, and perhaps it does. Maybe the decision I have been going back and forth with for quite some time until finally coming to a solid conclusion, will help you make yours. Let me start by going back to the early days of elementary school.

I was a nerd. I was THE nerd. I was THE teacher’s pet (not as annoying and never the person constantly raising their hand up to answer every question, because I was shy and awkward) but I just did my work, I got really good grades, and I had great relationships with my teachers. That’s really all it was to me. School has always been my safe place. I can do school, and I can do it well. I can spend hours of my time color-coding my notes and adding page numbers and a table of content to my notebooks because I’m a weirdo, and I think it’s fun. I can spend days and nights living off of coffee and little to no sleep, just studying. I was the ideal candidate for university because I pretty much fit all the criteria. That was, until I got here.

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I’ve told you guys before that I once had a plan for myself. I was going to finish high school, do my undergrad, my masters, my PhD in Clinical Psychology, and then go straight to work. That plan, as you all may know if you’ve read my posts from time to time, has fallen apart over the years. Clinical psychology seemed like the perfect route for me. I’ve always wanted to pursue a career where I could live my life to help others while also being able to pay my bills and this field hit both the check-marks! Kind of perfect, right? Wrong!

Over the years, I’ve begun to understand my love of learning about people and watching people (okay, it sounds creepy but all you people-watching lovers should get where I’m coming from). I used to be a really quiet person and I’ve always been a strong listener which has helped me throughout the years because I’ve learned that being the person who always has something to say doesn’t necessarily make you more knowledgeable. I think it’s more important to have to hear what others have to say and take it in, understand it, and take time to digest the information before deciding whether you agree with it or not. Listening gives you perspective and I think that’s also helped me as a writer. Observation can take you places. You heard it here first, folks!

Now, let’s just jump into the subject of part-time jobs. I have always hated working. For some reason, going in to work has always given me great anxiety. It doesn’t matter if I get along with everyone there and the work environment is great – I just don’t like it, or I guess, I didn’t like it. Then again, I’ve only really worked at fast-food joints and restaurants. Despite my hatred towards going in to work, I have always been a great worker. I am someone who loves working while I’m on the job, however, going in to work (like that 20 minute time frame before clocking in), I panic. If I were to paint a picture for you, imagine what a person looks like when they are experiencing a heart attack, and that was what it felt like in my brain. So as a result of that, I called in sick quite often and gave most of my shifts away. As much as I loved working while I was there, the pre-panic attacks were not worth it. Maybe a part of it was the “people-pleaser” in me that gets anxious that I might screw up and everyone will hate me and I’ll become the worst employee. Another part of me simply hated the routine lifestyle that it promoted. So I moved around a lot from job to job. Having a job was never much of an option for me, only because in short, I needed to survive and help my mom pay the bills. So recently, when I got a job at my favourite clothing store, Urban Outfitters, I was giddy and excited, but cautious at the same time because it was likely that this will be yet another temporary gig, meaning that I should still keep copies of my resume at hand.

Then, something happened. Instead of that panic moment, I began to feel excitement with going to work. I walked in to an environment that embraced creativity and freedom of expression. I don’t work with people who constantly nag me about what I’m going to do with my degree. Instead, the topic of creative passions always seems to arise. I get to talk about my writing and they talk about their passion of strumming the strings of their acoustic guitar or the feeling they get when they colour a page with delicate strokes of a brush. I work with creatives and with that, I learned that my one stop for everything in my wardrobe was also my one stop at finding my kind of people. The environment is hectic and you have to constantly run around, completing different tasks as you go. Every day is different and you never really know what you’re going to have to deal with when you go to work. It’s busy and chaotic and overwhelmingly exciting. It’s my element. With that, Urban Outfitters has become my home. It’s a place that offers opportunities in not only retail, but also other departments. A place that has visual departments, craftsmen, fashion, music, and the one thing that’s dearest to my heart: writing.

With my internship, working, and full-time school, things have been more than chaotic lately. I get to fall in love with writing each day as I make my way through my internship. I get to surround myself with creative people at work. School however, has become less and less important in my life. It’s not to say that I haven’t learned anything from it, but it’s more than I’ve found something better, and I almost feel like school is holding me back from going further into what I want to do with my life. School is routine-based whereas I’m looking for a beautiful mess to conquer.

I saw a quote recently as I was scrolling through my pinterest feed that said “You did not wake up today to be mediocre,” and it hit a nerve. I feel that right now, school is the only thing stopping me from becoming more, from doing more. For someone who loved school, I know that a lot of that love came from the safety it gave me. I know that as long as I’m in school, even though I’m accumulating debt, I can put the real world on pause. But school is boring for me. The content is interesting and something I would enjoy doing if it weren’t so structured and rushed.

In a post I published a while back, I mentioned that I wanted to remove all backup plans in my life so that with whatever I decide to pursue, there is no option but to succeed in it, and I think my time at school is coming to an end. From wanting to continue studies until my late 20’s to finishing up this year and graduating early, it’s probably the greatest risk I’ll ever take. I hold a lot of importance to education. I think it’s a great base for knowledge, not only about the world, but yourself. At the same time, I think learning by actively doing something is also very important. I think taking risks are important. Most of all, I think listening to your gut is important. I don’t think school is for everyone, and I learned that as much as I want it to, it isn’t for me. I like being busy. I like running around. I like having tasks thrown at me to complete for a deadline. That’s what I get at my internship and Urban Outfitters, but not university. I don’t like sitting in lectures for hours at a time because I’m a fidgety person and I need to constantly be doing things. I don’t like reading books to be rushed and forced because it’s something I otherwise, naturally enjoy doing. I like busy. I like chaos. But I despise structure, and that’s what school really is. That’s why I think it’s great for some people, but I’m not one of them.

Maybe jumping into the real world and figuring things out when I have no plan at all is the worst idea and will lead me to great distress. Or, maybe it will be the best decision I will ever make. Either way, instead of completing 4 years, I’ll finish up after my 3rd (this year) and work full-time, keep writing at my internship and blog, find other writing gigs, and basically just see where life takes me. Every individual that I admire is someone who has taken great risks in life and it led them to great struggle but then, great success. I have no idea what I’m doing, but for once, I think I’m headed in the right direction and I need to trust my gut on this one. In order to have great things come your way, you have to believe that you deserve them and have the confidence to just go for it (or do what I’m doing and fake it ’till you make it!)

This year is going to continue being tough because I have a lot on my plate, right now. But, I hope you guys will stick around for this exciting/terrifying adventure I hope is coming my way.

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