I Don’t Belong (Anymore)

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The holidays are typically full of joy and reunions with loved ones – whether you’re going home, or have family & friends who have returned for the holiday season.

I am no exception. I have been so thrilled to see old friends that do not live in Vancouver anymore, East coast friends who were visiting, and people who I have not seen in months because between work, life, and other priorities, we simply haven’t had the time until now.

But this year was different. It felt different. Many things have changed over the last year – I’ve been out of school for year, I’ve got a ‘big girl job’, I’ve grown close to new people and apart from others, my own priorities and beliefs have shifted with age. So while all the joy and gratitude was still there, when I visited some of my old haunts and saw people I hadn’t connected with in ages – I couldn’t help but feel distant, out of place, and like I had outgrown what were once familiar comforts to me.

I visited one of my old work places that I had spent a good part of my university years in. My old manager was really happy to see me, but I was dismayed to find that everyone else who I had once worked with was no longer there. I have visited at least once a year since I left, and my past colleagues have always been there. My former group of coworkers had completely cycled through.

I visited another place that had been like a second home to me since I was a baby. I attend a Christmas party there every year, and each time I am really excited to reunite with people I haven’t seen all year. It always feels like a reunion with long-lost family.

But this time, I felt awkward, lost, and out of place. I saw many familiar yet distant faces, people I once knew well but no longer did. I saw teenagers, who I had seen grown up from when they were babies, now older, more confident, talking about what they wanted to pursue after high school. (Since when were you in high school?! What do you mean you’re not 6?) 

Given that’s probably how other people feel about me growing up, but it still struck me so hard that night. It felt like I was trying to squeeze myself into a tiny box that no longer had room for me. It was a place that I had fully outgrown, and for the first time ever, it felt odd to be back.

Sometimes it doesn’t even have to be a big event or realization. In the past, I’ve gotten together with former friends, and found that I didn’t have anything in common with them anymore. Proximity and convenience was the only reason why we were friends, and when you enter the real world and have limited spare time, you have to make an effort to keep in touch with those who matter to you. This automatically weeds out anyone who you aren’t truly close to.

Sometimes you find that you’ve outgrown places and/or people, and no longer feel a sense of belonging. But that’s okay. Things change, people change, and that’s just life. And there’s always a silver lining.

When doors close, others open in ways that you never thought imaginable. Where I no longer find a sense of belonging, I find community and unity in new places and new people. Where I drift apart from some, I find love and friendship in people I had never expected to, and unexpectedly maintain a strong connection with people who were only supposed to enter my life for a season.

So while I learned to let go of things I have outgrown, this year I also learned that friendship has no borders, and how incredibly lucky I am to know and meet friends who turn into family. It’s not about who you’ve known the longest – it’s about who comes into your life, makes an impact, and never leaves your support system.

Cheers to this past year, and I’m excited to see what 2017 has in store!

 

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In Transition // Trains of Thought

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It’s only March and I’ve already broken one of my New Years resolutions – to sit down and write a blog post (or some sort of written piece) every two months. The last time I wrote anything substantial was in November.

Truthfully, I have been swamped with a bunch of career and life changes, and battling some health issues. I wrapped up my undergrad degree in December and have been on the job search since – transitioning from school to the “real world”. In the past weeks I’ve had some big decisions to make about which opportunities to pursue and which path I should go down, but I am very lucky to have a strong support system and people who are always willing to help (even without me asking!).

Finding the intersection between my long-term career objectives and my opportunities on the table has been an interesting journey – but I’m happy to say that I’ve made a choice and I’m not looking back or second guessing my decision.

In the Fall, I got very sick for a month and was put through four rounds of antibiotics before I recovered. I had never been so sick in my life and it really slowed me down from my usual fast-paced lifestyle.

This past month, one of my wisdom teeth got infected and had to be extracted. The accompanying medication came with a myriad of side effects, which I’m still very much struggling with. But all of this taught me a lot about patience, and the importance of good health. It’s something so critical to have – because without it, you can’t do anything else.

These days I have been looking back at what my life was a year ago – and it’s amazing to see how things change year over year. For example, in March 2014, I had just returned from my first-ever trip to Toronto during reading week, full of energy and motivation to make my dreams come to life as a 3rd year student. But living and working there was still just a far-fetched dream.

In March 2015, I was doing just that – working in Toronto, for not the first time but the second! Living on my own in a cozy apartment on Bay Street. Braving -30 degree weather and “real Canadian winter” for the first time. Having full independence, meeting new friends, and flying out of Pearson more times than I’d like to count.

And now in March 2016, I am back in Vancouver and have graduated, started my first full-time job out of school (in a completely new-to-me area), and recently bought my first car so I can drive to work – whaaat? I am experiencing another kind of independence – without the safety net of being a student, things like your finances become a heightened burden. Ensuring you keep nurturing friendships and relationships that are close to your heart (without the convenience of proximity) requires more effort. As does balancing work with other aspects of your life.

I am excited to see where this next chapter of my life takes me. What will life be like come March 2017?

Only time will tell.

I Still Get Jealous…

*cue Nick Jonas and Tinashe*

“Jealousy.” What an ugly word, and an even uglier feeling. How would I describe how it feels?

A combination of your heart sinking, and feeling like you’re about to burst – a barely contained flash of insecurity and anger. It can stem from a variety of things:

  1. When someone achieves something, or attains something that you also desire – whether it’s a goal or a tangible object.
  2. When you feel unappreciated and undervalued for your efforts (but someone else gets the credit/recognition).
  3. When you feel threatened by somebody else – whether in a platonic or romantic relationship.
  4. When you fight for somebody’s clearly divided attention.

And these feelings can strike in a lot of different areas of your life. In the workplace, in your relationships (friends, significant others, family), in your community – hell, it can even happen with complete strangers that you walk past in the streets.

Ultimately, I think that the biggest contributor is insecurity. Because insecurity feeds jealousy, and jealousy feeds insecurity. It’s a destructive cycle that will leave your mind spiraling into dark places that harm your self-esteem, when it’s all really in your head.

I remember dealing with jealousy as a child and teen, but back then it was much simpler. It was who had the cooler gadgets, clothes, social events. Who got the better grades. Who’s crush liked them back. Who ran the fastest in the 200 metre sprint at Track practice.

I remember when I was fifteen, I wrote a paper about how jealousy can be a good thing – because you can channel that negative energy towards others into improving yourself and elevating yourself to the next level. It can give you the push and motivation to improve whatever aspect of your life that you are unhappy with. And I still stand by my statements seven years later.

Even something as simple as walking by someone and thinking, “Man, I wish I was as fit as her” could be channeled into positive self-improvement: “How can I adopt a more active lifestyle and improve my health?”. “I can’t believe he beat me on the Calculus exam” could turn into “How can I study more effectively?”. The key is to focus on bettering yourself, instead of comparing yourself to others – because that is where all the negative thoughts begin.

Over the last few years, I don’t really consider myself a jealous person overall. It usually takes something sizable to get a rise out of me. But like everyone else, I am human, and when it does strike, I’ve found that taking this approach has helped me greatly in managing my jealousy and turning it into a positive aspect.

Sometimes you can’t control it – like when your significant other is talking to someone that they could be interested in (or who is interested in your partner), or an ex in their life, or one of a million different scenarios. I’m not going to pretend like I know the answer to the complexity of romantic relationships, because I’m not even close to being qualified to talk about that. But I will say that people often want what they can’t have, and they covet what other people desire. It’s human nature.

All I can really say in these scenarios, where jealousy involves people instead of a “thing”, is to communicate with your loved ones. Friends, family, partners – it applies for everyone in your life. Be open, and let them know if something is bothering you. They can’t read your mind, so you can’t expect them to just know how you’re feeling. And if the person is never willing to compromise, or repeatedly makes you feel insecure and jealous with no regard for your feelings – then you should really consider whether this person is worth keeping in your life. Relationships should be based on a mutual respect and trust, not negativity and insecurity.

Like many emotions we go through, jealousy is part of being human. It’s how you deal with it, and what you create with it that makes all the difference.

I Am Scared To Death

Something that I have really grappled with the past year is the notion of Fear.

Fear of the unknown. Fear of change. Fear of failure. 

This year, keeping up with the rapid pace of life’s changes has taken up the majority of my time. It often takes a while for things to fully sink into my head, but I would often find myself going through the motions- getting on that plane, having that important meeting, executing a huge project- before I even realized it was happening. And once it hit, I could hardly believe that I had mustered up the courage to pull it off.

I told myself when I moved that I wouldn’t let fear stop me from building the ideal life that I envisioned for myself. So I went way outside my comfort zone and did scary things – like show up to events where I didn’t know a single person in the room, sign up (alone) for conservatory improv classes with no idea what to expect, and fly across the country to an industry conference solo, representing a huge brand (as a co-op student!), where everyone was at least 10 years my senior and had tons of experience.

Scary? Hell yeah. In each of these scenarios, I felt paralyzed with fear. It was the kind of fear that grips you and consumes your whole being. Recounting these adventures to my friends and roommates, I often heard “You’re so brave!” or “That’s pretty ballsy and fearless of you.”

But I am not fearless. To take a quote from Ellen DeGeneres: “I am not fearless. I didn’t do it because I am fearless. I did it in spite of the fact that I was scared to death.”

But bravery isn’t always a loud declaration or sweeping gesture. Sometimes, bravery is quiet. Another way I struggled with fear was in my personal life – the ability to have those honest conversations with people, to let my guard down, to admit my own feelings to myself. It’s a quiet victory when you manage those first 10 seconds of courage, but arguably way more frightening than any of the events that I described above.

Why? Because I hate showing vulnerability. It’s scary to even think about giving someone else ammunition they could use to hurt you. But being vulnerable is a part of being human – we aren’t always strong and confident, even when we pretend we are. And learning that this year has been a huge step for me.

I am excited to see what I can accomplish in 2016, and the ways that I can harness my fear and create extraordinary things out of it.

The Good Times And The Bad

There are many thoughts swirling in my head tonight surrounding adversity that I’d like to get down on paper. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the ups and downs in my life, how I deal with difficult situations and hardships that come my way, and the key things that I’ve learned.

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It all happened for a reason. When you’re in the thick of a tough situation or hardship, your vision is clouded and you’re not really able to see anything except the present. What I’ve learned through the ups and downs is that everything happens for a reason. You might not be able to see it right now, but when you look back and think, “What if things had gone differently?”, you’ll see that things happened the way they did to get you to where you are now.

Think about it. If things had even gone slightly differently in your journey, whether its a job offer, a relationship, your choice in education, or anything in your professional or personal life, the outcome would have been completely different and you would not be exactly who you are today. The best you can do is to trust your instinct, try your hardest, and trust that things will work out for the best.

Hardship shapes who you are, builds character, and shows you who your true friends and supporters are. Life is a classroom, and all the ups and downs are ultimately a learning experience.

You don’t have to respect people who don’t respect you. 

Respect is something that is earned, not given. And if someone decides that you’re not worthy of their time and respect, you really have no obligation to keep them in your life. Your time is precious – spend it with those who value and appreciate it. Don’t spend it chasing those who don’t.

I will never chase someone who doesn’t want to be around me. If you close the door on me, the trust is gone and likely, so am I. Likewise, if I close the door on someone, it will have been a well-thought out decision rather than a rash lapse of judgment, and I don’t expect them to stick around either.

Your support system is everything. I am tremendously lucky to have amazing friends who are always there to listen and hold me up when I need it. Quality over quantity, indeed. It’s nice to have a wide circle of acquaintances, but what really matters is who you can call at 3:00am when your world is falling apart in the thick of a crisis. I could stand losing a lot of things, but I can’t live without the deep friendships that I’ve cultivated and will continue to develop over the course of my life.

Sometimes, the tables turn in ways you least expect.

I Regret Nothing

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Something that’s been on my mind lately is the notion of regret. All my life, I have lived with a little bit of a utilitarian perspective: What will maximize my enjoyment or happiness the most, even if you suffer consequences as a result? Do the consequences outweigh the benefits? Does the work you put in yield a result that was worth the effort?

(Truly a business student… heh. Not even sorry.)

As we live life aiming to capture the biggest net benefit that we can, we undoubtedly run into situations that make us take a step back and wonder if it was worth the risk, or the effort. I’ll be the first to admit it: I make mistakes on the daily. I screw up, things don’t always go my way, I beat myself up after the fact for not doing something right. (Not to mention that I can be super clumsy, but it’s just something that I’ve embraced)

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Case in point.

But the reality is, just as you cannot control the weather or when the sun sets everyday- you can’t control the way other people act towards you. You can’t control what roadblocks are thrown at you in this journey. But you can control how you respond. Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it.

Sometimes, you can do everything in your power to make something work, and it just doesn’t. Sometimes, what you thought was your ulitmate dream job/school/anything doesn’t quite turn out as expected. Sometimes, the people that you care about turn their back on you, and you have no idea why.

But if you were given a chance to go back in time and do it all over again, would you do anything differently?

If the answer is no, then you have to be content with the fact that you did your best and lived without reservations. If something makes you happy, don’t hold back. If something upsets you, cut your losses and move on.

Looking back at the past year of my life, I can safely say I don’t regret a single moment of it. I’ve learned, grown, and changed exponentially; I’m not even remotely the same person as I was before. I’m a firm believer in our personalities never being static- we are constantly evolving based on new experiences and the people around us. I’m glad I made the choices I did, took the risks I did, and had the experiences that I did.

Live boldly and unapologetically, because we only get one shot at this – so we better make it one hell of a ride.

Airplanes and Other Musings

Somewhere over Lake Superior – August 15, 2015, 2:45pm EST

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Returning home after an incredible 8 months in Toronto. I can’t believe how fast it’s flown by, but I’m absolutely gutted that it’s come to an end.

Time after time, I keep finding myself returning to this amazing city. In 2014, I lived there for 4 months, and visited two separate times. This year, it’s been home base for the entire year thus far, and I’ve just been constantly flying in and out. I’m likely set to return in October briefly for a work project.

The places I’ve seen, people I’ve met, new experiences that I’ve had – I wouldn’t have traded it for anything else. I am endlessly grateful for every new friend and acquaintance that I’ve met, for my colleagues for making my work term a wonderful learning experience, for a new place I could call home.

Home.

After a year of living out East cumulatively, referring to Toronto as home doesn’t feel strange on my tongue anymore. Each time I move and leave, it’s always so challenging as I struggle to adjust and to build up a network all over again. But it’s worth it every time.

I can’t even imagine what my life would be like without the people that I’ve met. Thank you, truly, for embracing this west coaster into your lives and for making my time here so special. I promise that this isn’t goodbye – I’ll be back. 🙂

At the same time, I’m excited to go back to my hometown for at least 4 months. I’m excited to be somewhere that I know I will always belong, to be reunited with my beloved family and friends, to breathe in that amazing west coast fresh air and eat delicious sushi. I’m excited for a break from that busy, fast-paced work lifestyle and just take a moment to focus on myself.

The last 4 months before “real life” begins.

Lucky that I have a head start on how to properly adult – although seriously, does anyone ever really know what they’re doing?

I’m excited to see where this semester takes me.

– J