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.

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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

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.

May 2014 – A Life Changing Month

This past month has honestly been the most life-changing month of my entire life.

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More events have transpired in May 2014 than in the entirety of 2014 combined, and as I sit here on a beautiful Sunday evening in Toronto, I am taking some time to reflect before launching myself into another crazy month.

I have been here just under 3 weeks, living by myself for the first time ever. To say that it has been a roller coaster would be an understatement. It’s definitely not all glitz and glam- I’ve had to do some pretty humbling things- but I’ve definitely flirted with the fast life in my first couple weeks. It really has been full of ups and downs.

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I’ve had to rebuild my life and my home from the ground up. I arrived by myself with literally nothing, and quickly realized that I had a lot of settling in to do. I’ve needed to do a lot of adjusting to get used to my new surroundings- I wasn’t able to sleep for five nights in a row, while simultaneously starting a new job, meeting hundreds of new faces, and feeling out the corporate culture. At the same time, I had to learn how to live on my own and with roommates for the first time, and even try to master basics such as laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning.

I’ve gotten sick twice already, the first lasting 2-3 days, and the second lasting a whole week (I am still sick right now!). I’ve unfortunately had to miss out on a lot because of my body’s inability to keep up with me, but I realize that health comes first and that I need to take better care of myself.

I had a lot on my plate, and each day I felt overwhelmed, with new challenges thrown at me. It hasn’t all been amazing, contrary to what people might think. Sometimes it was surreal- is this really happening? Even three weeks later, sometimes I still can’t believe that I’m here.

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However, there were many high points. My first day of work was honestly just unreal- there was so much to take in and get to know, the views from the office were amazing, I braved Toronto rush hour for the first time, and to top it all off, I actually got to spend that same evening at the Shangri-La with my new boss, drinking champagne and being wined and dined. We listened to a jazz band that she thought would be perfect for our August event, and talked business at 11pm.

Since that first day, I am blessed to have met the people that I have, to build new relationships, and experience Toronto as much as I can. I have a whole bucket list of things I want to do this summer, and I am so excited for what’s to come.

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The first two weeks seemed to drag on for ages- it has felt like a lot longer than that! But as time passes, I become more and more adjusted to TO life, and things get better and easier. Today, as I returned from my first Sunday brunch in the city, as well as my first time attending a bridal shower, I walked through the streets and I just felt this calming realization that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and I am finally happy to be where I am. Living my dreams didn’t turn out exactly how I envisioned at first- but it has been a whirlwind, an adventure, and a lesson. I am learning new things every day, and my personal and professional development has shot up exponentially.

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I have a feeling that the next 3 months will move by so quickly- the best things in life are also the most fleeting. I am excited to see where this adventure of a summer takes me!

Are Humans Conditioned To Toil All Their Lives?

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I write this because it’s a trait I observe in myself and a quite a few others.

I’ve been a student for all my life, so each summer I’ve been blessed with the gift of having time off.

HOWEVER, for as long as I can remember, I do something every summer. When I was in elementary school, I would go to Magee (a nearby high school) and take summer classes. For fun. Anything ranging from cooking to public speaking to photoshop. I always used the summer to learn something new. Also, as you may have picked up by now, I have an immense love of reading, so I participated in Vancouver Public Library’s summer reading club each year, and always completed the entire booklet and more. I have very fond memories of hauling a heavy bag of books to and from the library twice a week, and the excitement I always felt when I borrowed a new batch.

(Slight side track: people often ask me how I develop my writing skills- did I have an English tutor? No. I believe it was because I read so many books and novels when I was young, and that really set the foundation for a lifelong love affair with writing and reading.)

During high school summers, I would work on my RCM diploma (piano, music theory and history), volunteer a ton, work at various jobs, and take summer classes. Not one summer ever did I take fully “off”. I had to be doing something. Part of me always wishes that I could drop everything for two months and just go travel the world, but I know deep down that I would likely go nuts from lack of productivity. I get bored after two days off from work. I may complain about having too much work to do, but it’s so much better off this way than if I were doing nothing at all. I thrive on being busy. I’m currently working at two internships and a part time job, and I hold several different extracurricular positions at school. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And I’m already a pretty mild case, if you put it into perspective. I know so many others who are hardcore workaholics. They’ll be working hard at many tasks during the school year, come out with top grades and amazing accomplishments, and spend their summers doing incredible things. They can’t go a day without being productive. They have a hard time taking a break or just sitting around doing nothing.

Which leads me to the question: Are humans biologically wired to toil all our lives? What is the meaning of life then, if we are constantly working towards a perfect ideal that we may never reach? We may reach our perfect ideal at the moment, but when we get there, there will be something else that we desire or desire to become. For example, let’s say you graduate and land your dream job at your dream company. But obviously now you’re on a whole different league. You need to climb up that corporate ladder. And hypothetically, let’s say you do, and even make it to CEO one day. As CEO, it’s a whole new ball game. You face so many new challenges you never knew existed before. Even though you think you’ve reached the top, there are yet numerous hurtles to overcome.

It’s a never-ending cycle. A never-ending struggle. And if all that we were meant to do with our time on Earth is work, then will we ever reap the rewards of our toil?