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 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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!