The Lessons I’ve Learned

It’s recently occurred to me that my year spent taking the road less traveled is ending in a matter of weeks, and life as I know it will change all over again.

I get asked questions a lot – from people at home, and people here. Why did you choose it? Which do you like more? What’s it like on the other side? To put it into perspective, I tell my friends here: “Imagine you pack your bags and move to Vancouver at a moment’s notice, where you don’t know a single person. You have to start from scratch. You are fully responsible for yourself. What would you do?”

What I don’t get asked is what I’ve learned. I’m nowhere close to being the same person I was when I arrived. And the life lessons you only learn from experience are arguably more game-changing than any career advice one could offer. I wanted to get a few of these things down on paper, as my viewpoint at age 21:

The notion of “doing it all” is possibly the worst expectation I could set for myself. I put so much unnecessary pressure on myself, and I try to be superwoman and hit the nail on the head in every single aspect for my life, and get frustrated when I can’t achieve it to those standards. This year I’ve learned that you CAN’T do every single thing perfectly all at once, and that’s 100% okay. There are only 24 hours in a day, and when you devote time and energy into one area, another will undoubtedly suffer. It’s all a balancing act, and it’s okay when the scales tip in a way that it shouldn’t.

I wear many hats – I’m a friend, daughter, sister, employee, marketer, ultimately a young adult trying to find her way in life – and sometimes one of them will require more attention.

Don’t sell yourself short. In anything in life. You have so much potential and so much to offer. Comparison is the thief of joy – be the best that you can be, and aim to keep topping your own standards. When you stop looking around and focus on bettering yourself, things just fall into place.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Being an organized person by nature, I love to plan and coordinate and colour-code. I own two Moleskines, I create to-do lists like its my job, and nothing makes me happier than crossing things off.

Historically, it doesn’t matter who you are – if I hang out with you, you go into the calendar so that I remember and can plan around it. But this year, I’ve learned that some most of the best moments I’ve had are spontaneous and unplanned. I used to need to plan my evenings/weekends in advance, and now I just roll with whatever comes up and it ends up being a great time. When you live life on the go, things change at a moment’s notice and whatever you had down on paper is now irrelevant. The key is to learn how to just go with the flow (as cheesy as that sounds).

Quality definitely trumps quantity in the company you keep.

If you love someone, tell them, and remind them often. You never know when it may be too late, and you could scream it at the top of your lungs and they would never hear you.

Trying to be anyone other than yourself is a waste of your time. Don’t apologize for who you inherently are. Surround yourself with people who love and accept you the way you are. Kick to the curb anyone who tries to change the basis of who you are to fit their idea of “perfection”.

Setting Thursday happy hour as a weekly recurring meeting on Outlook is probably the best idea known to mankind.

Just relax. Everything is going to be okay.

Objectively speaking, time you enjoy “wasting” is not actually wasted.

One Big Scary Adventure

…that my life has become.

Photo 2015-04-11, 2 10 48 PM

I’ve come to the realization that I’m more than halfway through my time in Toronto- and that’s crazy. It feels like just yesterday that I set my suitcases down in my apartment, took a deep breath, and thought, “Well. This is life for the next 7 months.” 

Looking back at the last 4 months, it’s incredible how much I’ve experienced- things that I would’ve never imagined in my wildest dreams. Just putting myself out there, continually being uncomfortable (and admittedly a little scared at times), and always taking risks has changed my life in ways I never thought possible.

Photo 2015-02-16, 11 26 06 AM

When things feel stagnant and you start feeling complacent, my number one remedy is to switch things up and try something new. I can actually count the number of times I’ve gone to an event or walked into a room not knowing a single person, and came out of the experience feeling endlessly glad that I took the plunge.

Yes, it’s scary. As you make your way there, every cell in your body will scream at you to turn back. Why deliberately put yourself in such a potentially uncomfortable and awkward position?

Because there’s not been a single time where I’ve regretted putting myself out there. That’s the only way you grow as an individual. Life can’t be the adventure you want it to be without taking risks. And the people you meet just might be people you now can’t imagine living without.

Photo 2015-04-19, 7 54 57 PM (1)

I’ve also grown so much at work and career-wise. I was compiling an interim report for my co-op office last week and while writing, found it difficult to fit all the things I’ve done during my time here into the one-pager. I’ve dived into an area of Marketing that is 100% net new to me- it’s never been taught in my undergrad classes- and I’m spending every day just learning and absorbing as much as I can.

In the 4 months that I’ve been here, I spent a week back in Vancouver. I spent a week in South Carolina. I’ll be going up North this long weekend for my first-ever cottage experience. I’ll be flying to Edmonton next month for a weekend. And I’m looking to make a New York trip sometime during the summer months.

Photo 2015-04-15, 2 56 18 PM

I’ve also learned many things about myself along the way. Like the fact that while I love being around friends, I also can’t go too long without getting in some quality me-time. That it’s important to stay connected with the people you love, no matter where you go in life, and to not forget your roots. And that I put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself to do everything perfectly, all at once, when it’s simply impossible to do so.

It’s been a great year so far- of learning, growing, and experiencing. I’m really excited to see what adventures the summer will bring!

Change Someone’s Day in Ten Seconds

“Climbing the Corporate Ladder” – IDS Toronto 2015 Exhibit

People won’t always remember you, but they will remember how you made them feel.

Above everything else, I believe in treating people with respect. It doesn’t matter if its your boss, the cleaning lady, the CEO, the gardener, an elderly woman trying to cross the street, a young child- treating everyone equally with kindness and respect just goes such a long way.

The janitor at your office is mandated to clean up after you, and your direct reports are mandated to do whatever tasks you assign them- its their job- but something as simple as smiling and saying “Thank you” goes way further than you know. Everyone likes to feel appreciated for what they do. Saying that you don’t have time to acknowledge their presence is nonsense- it doesn’t require any extra time on your part at all.

I know this because it affects me the same way. When people treat me kindly or make me feel like I matter, I remember it, and it can boost my mood for hours. And when people do the opposite and put me down, I remember it, and it can ruin a perfectly good day in a second. The same principle applied to when I was working my first summer job at 14 years old behind the counter at McDonald’s, and it applies when I am a concierge for UHNW clients at high profile company events. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you do- the concept of respect is universal.

I was in the restroom after work hours at the office one night, and there was a lady doing maintenance cleaning. Before I exited, I stopped and said, “Thanks so much for cleaning up after us. We really appreciate it.” And she returned a big smile and a “You’re welcome.” It made both of us feel good, and the exchange took all but ten seconds.

I have immense amounts of respect for people who work in blue-collar or pink-collar service jobs, having been one of them for many years. In fact, even though I now work in a highly corporate office environment, sometimes I find myself working on the front lines in client-facing roles where my years of customer service experience comes in handy. When it comes down to it, I’m never afraid to get my hands dirty.

But it doesn’t matter what you do or where you work in. We’re all the same underneath- we’re human.

Everyone wants to be successful, but was it really success if you step on other people to get to where you are? We all have our off days, but taking a minute to appreciate those around you and those who serve you will go further than you could ever imagine.

One Of My Biggest Flaws

It has felt like an eternity since I moved into this massive refrigerator they call a “city” (it’s more like an igloo with skyscrapers)- but it’s only been half a month. So far, I’d say things are pretty good. I’m slowly settling into a rhythm at work, and at home living on my own yet again.

“Home” feels more like home as each week passes, although I will never fully get used to the cold. My Vancouver friends Snapchat me complaining about 6 degrees and I just want to throw my phone out the window, except you don’t want to open it when it’s -20 outside.

Something that I noticed about myself when I moved last year was that I expected everything to be perfect immediately. I expected myself to be fully acclimatized in the new city and my new job right away. I tried to buy EVERY SINGLE THING I needed to live (as I arrived mostly empty handed) in one day. And of course, that doesn’t happen. You just don’t settle in overnight. And I was very frustrated with myself for not reaching this unattainable ideal right away.

Slowly I learned that it takes time to get used to your surroundings, to build up a network, to settle in. It’s just like when you’re moving- you will not unpack all your boxes and have everything looking Ikea catalogue perfect in a day, in a week, or even in a month. Throw in an entirely new environment and it just makes it ten times harder.

This time I thought it would be easier. And it was. But the frustration returned the first week when I started my job- when I struggled to adjust to work life again, to take care of myself, and the expectation of immediate perfection came back.

Have all the things I need to live on a day-to-day basis, a fitness regimen down pat, a packed calendar (not from work) and thriving social life, get over jetlag and get plenty of sleep, kill it at work, eat healthy, be totally immune to the freezing cold, be on top of my game in the kitchen and around the house, AND save as much money as possible. Right away. All at the same time.

It’s evident that the Type A personality doesn’t just apply to work and school- it spills over into all aspects of your life. This year, I am working hard on being okay with disarray and imperfection, with letting go of unattainable ideals, and to simply just be easier on myself.

I don’t want to be stuck in that cycle of setting unachievable standards for myself, and then berating myself when I don’t reach them. All of these things hinder your happiness and overall quality of life, and life is too short to always be so harsh on yourself.

I’m excited to see what’s to come! It may be freezing, but the atmosphere of spontaneity and the fast-paced lifestyle is year round. It’s going to be an amazing 7 months ahead of me 🙂

Winter Beauty Favourites – Vol. 2

If you know me at all, then you know I’m a little obsessed with beauty and skincare. I haven’t done any sort of beauty blogging in a whole year now, and with all the cold weather recently, I thought it would be a good time to talk about a few favourite products of mine during this time of the year.

I also did another Winter Favourites installment last year, which can be found here if you want to check that out as well. As a point of reference, my skin type is oily-combination and sensitive.

Photo 2014-12-30, 8 33 17 PM

This first thing is something that was recommended to me by a friend this year, and now I absolutely cannot live without it. My skin is highly finicky when it comes to moisturizers- I’ve tried many, and I’ve found that the majority of them irritate my skin in some way or break me out. The biggest problem I have with facial moisturizers is that they never fully sink into my skin- it just sits on top of the skin and feels greasy (and gets all over my pillow at night).

Photo 2014-12-30, 8 35 32 PM

I seem to be the only one I know with this problem, but the Complex 15 Daily Face Cream is a godsend. It is very light (perfect for oily-combo skin), yet effective in moisturizing my skin. While it doesn’t fully sink into my skin as with most creams, it doesn’t feel greasy and uncomfortable either. It’s the perfect compromise for me personally. It is dermatologist-recommended, hypoallergenic, and affordable- you can find this at most drugstores for around $15.00.

 

Photo 2014-12-30, 8 38 44 PM

This is the first moisturizing mask that I have ever liked. There has been a lot of hype surrounding GLAMGLOW masks in the past two years, and I never really bought into it. But recently I got the ThirstyMud mask in a holiday kit and I LOVE IT. You put it on after you wash your face, and you can either wear it overnight or wash it off after a few hours. Afterwards, your skin is so hydrated and plump and just feels amazing. I top it off with my normal moisturizer after and my skin just looks so glowy.

You can click here to see what the actual product looks like- it’s got a yellow-y colour and the texture of a facial moisturizer.

 

Photo 2014-12-30, 8 36 18 PM

This is an interesting product that became a big trend this year. This is the AmorePacific IOPE Air Cushion BB Compact. Essentially, this is a BB cream in a compact which boasts easy application and a dewy, flawless finish. It is very moisturizing, contains SPF 50 PA+++, and lasts up to 6-7 hours on my skin.

Photo 2014-12-30, 8 36 33 PM

Photo 2014-12-30, 8 37 16 PM

Inside the compact is a puff applicator and a sponge soaked in product. To apply, you just press the puff against the sponge to pick up product, and gently pat (not rub) the product all over your face. It comes in only 2 shades – 21 and 23, and 2 different types of coverage – “Natural” or “Cover”. I have C21, and it is definitely too light for me. I bought this in the summer and it was visibly too light, but now that it is winter it matches me a lot better.

If you are not extremely pale, I would say go for C23. You could go for the Natural coverage if you have perfect skin, but C21 and C23 are already pretty lightweight in my opinion.

It is not necessarily a good product to wear if:

  • You have severe acne. It will not hide major discoloration and scars.
  • If you have a darker skin tone.
  • You have oily skin AND the weather is hot and humid.

But if you have dry skin that is on the paler side, you will love how moisturizing and light this BB cream is. I bought mine for $45.00, but it comes with a refill compact, so it can last for up to a year.

 

Photo 2014-12-30, 8 40 04 PM

Photo 2014-12-30, 8 40 15 PM

I’ve never really tried body scrubs until the last couple of months, but I absolutely love The Body Shop’s Mango Sugar Body Scrub. It is exactly as it is described- a sugar scrub that smells so much like a mango that I actually get tempted to eat it. It smells delicious, is effective and abrasive enough for my liking, and actually leaves your skin moisturized with a layer of mango seed oil.

Photo 2014-12-30, 8 41 02 PM

It is especially important to exfoliate during the winter months to get rid of all the dead skin and buildup, and this one just takes the cake.

 

Photo 2014-12-30, 8 41 47 PM

This is a recurring winter favourite of mine- the Bath and Body Works Winter Candy Apple fragrance smells divine and I always wear it during this time of the year. I have this in both the body mist and the shower gel, and I just can’t get enough. It’s sweet and festive, but still soft and subtle, and for the price range you can’t go wrong.

So there we have it! I hope this inspires you to try out something new and to take good care of your skin this winter. I hope you all had an amazing holiday season, and I’m sad that it has ended so quickly. Wishing everyone a very happy new year and all the best in 2015!

Bittersweet Goodbye

In a few days’ time, I will be hopping on a plane back out East for my new job. Which I guess by this point is not really news, or a surprise, given the nature of my blog posts from the past year.

I think it’s been evident that I’ve loved working and living there, and I am excited to continue my journey there for the next 7 months. Moving is always a struggle, a challenge, but the payoff and the lessons that you learn are just so rewarding.

What makes this time different from the last time I moved was that my summer gig was a very last-minute, rushed, whirlwind-type of affair. Between my offer date and my start date, I had 13 days to find a place to live, plow through stacks of paperwork, and physically move myself over. Less than 2 weeks’ notice to pack up and rebuild my life! It was insanity, but the kind that made me excited to get up in the morning.

This time, I received my offer 2 months in advance. There was plenty of time for me to absorb the information, find a place to live, and slowly start to tell friends, family, and people in my social circles about me leaving. And in the last month, I have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of people in my life who have reached out to me. Who I have been able to spend time with, re-connect with, and remind me all over again about why I love this city so much and the people in it.

I’ve been so touched by the kind and encouraging words, messages, and Christmas cards. This has hands-down been the best winter break/holiday season ever, and I honestly cannot believe that I am leaving in 3 days- it just isn’t really sinking in. The past month has been kind to me, and I have been very happy.

It also just makes it that much more difficult to leave it all behind. The more time I spend with loved ones, the more I admire my beautiful hometown with that gorgeous backdrop of nature, the more reluctant I am to leave.

But the fact that it is so hard for me to leave this time is a huge blessing. Thank you for giving me so many reasons that make it difficult for me to leave, that make me miss Vancouver before I’ve even left. I’m truly lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life who I will dearly miss. And I am lucky to have a piece of my heart in each city.

All the best for the new year, my friends. May it be filled with realized dreams, accomplished goals, and a sense of joy and wonder. This isn’t goodbye- just a “see you later”.

(Literally, because I have to finish my degree this year. And who knows- I may be back to visit sooner than you think 😉 keep in touch!)

The First Time You Call Someplace Home

When you first move from one place to another, you never refer to it as home.

Not intentionally, but because it truly isn’t home to you. For the first little while, you feel like a visitor- in my case, a displaced Vancouverite who’s not really sure what she’s doing or where she’s going. Your new place feels more like a hotel, or like you’re simply crashing with a friend for a few days. It feels unfamiliar, uncomfortable, cold. You yearn for the comforts that you’ve taken for granted all these years.

You pull the blanket around you tighter and close your eyes, trying to imagine yourself at home in your own bed. You trick yourself into believing that it is, so that your mind will finally rest. Day in, day out.

When you talk to friends, you refer to your new place as “your apartment”, and when you leave work for the day, you say “I’m heading out”, rather than “I’m heading home”. These are all technically correct. It is a subconscious reflex- you can’t control it. You won’t realize it either.

The first time you call someplace home, you will surprise yourself. The taste of the word will feel strange in your mouth- like speaking a foreign language.

3 weeks in-
Roommate: “Are you on campus? I forgot my keys and I’m locked out.”
Me: “I’ll be home around 6:30.”

“Home”. You roll the word over on your tongue, trying to digest what you just said. Evaluating your comfort with the concept that a foreign place could be a home to you. You are momentarily lost in thought.

And it will happen again. And again. Until it is an automatic reflex. And only then will you take a step back and realize just how far you’ve come.

After being displaced this summer into a tiny residence and three different hotels- my point of reference of “home” has shifted again and again. And I’ve come to realize that home isn’t a place or a person- it is a feeling. Home is a feeling that you carry with you wherever you go.

And I will carry it with me again when I leave this January, and I will carry it wherever my life takes me.