Remember when I wrote that moving to Toronto would be my next big adventure? At the time, I thought I was being kinda cute or kinda funny or something: I was moving back home after a few years of living abroad. I knew that this chapter would bring its own challenges, but how hard could it be? I’d navigated Korean grocery stores and learned to ride a motorcycle in Thailand and held my own at a massive Ecuadorian family reunion speaking only rudimentary Spanish, for heaven’s sake. Forgive me if I kind of thought, “I got this.”
Are you guys laughing? Because I’m laughing. Because I’m naive and young and I always seem to think, “I got this”, until I get some serious knowledge dropped on my head and it turns into a question: “Do I got this?” (Hint: no.)
I can safely say that the last six months have been some of the best of my life. They have been so rich with life, with love, with this beautiful feeling of community that I’ve craved for so long. I’ve gone home (way) more times in the last 6 months than I did for the past 6 years, which is such a blessing. I’ve spent time with my sisters, and my parents, and my grandparents. I’ve made friends with fellow entrepreneurs, with my baristas, with my colleagues, with strangers. I’ve gotten to work with so many amazing people, doing things that I am really passionate about. I’ve gained the kind of confidence that I didn’t know I was capable of. I have friends who feel like family to me. I’ve gotten so many incredible opportunities handed to me on what feels like a silver platter. So much so that one day a couple weeks ago I went to the park in the middle of the afternoon on a beautifully sunny day and I actually cried: I am so lucky. I am so lucky. I am so lucky.
Here’s the thing though. The last few months have also pushed me, hard. Would you like some examples? There was the time my rent e-transfer got deposited into the wrong account and for two months I thought I’d lost a huge chunk of cash that I didn’t exactly have lying around. There was the time that my landlords sold the house I live in and I didn’t know whether I would have to move out. There were weeks of work days when I felt frantic and tired and over-caffeinated and hangry because I didn’t stop to eat properly. There were a lot of nights, especially in the winter, when I felt incredibly lonely because I realized that my friends in the city had their own busy lives and mine felt, by contrast, very empty. There were a handful of times that I got news that sent me reeling for hours or days. There was the frustration of trying – for nearly a year – to get some of my most precious items sent back to me from another country. There has been heartbreak. There have been a lot of tears. There has been a lot of growth.
My dear friend Sonja helped me reframe this once recently by saying:
“The pain and heartbreak you are feeling? these are growing pains.“
Growing pains! The pain we go through as we grow. What we experience when we shed what we don’t want, to make room for what we do: the best version of ourselves and the best version of our lives. What I love about this idea is that it reminds us that it can hurt to grow. It can hurt like hell. It can push all our buttons and emotionally punch us in the gut and make us need to rage-walk around the neighbourhood listening to rage-y music. (Not to be confused with rave-y music, although to each their own.) In fact, as I’ve come to learn, the best kind of growth hurts us exactly like this, because it’s the kind that actually changes us, shakes us up, and improves our lives for the better.
There’s a piece of writing advice that I love which says that to be a good writer, you have to “kill your darlings”. In the context of writing, this means that you often have to cut out the sentences or characters that are the literary equivalent of My Precious: you love them maybe a little too much, and they’re ultimately not serving the story as a whole. They’ve got to go.
I’m learning that in the context of life, killing your darlings means cutting out the people and the limiting beliefs about yourself or the world that are somehow Precious to your identity, in order to make room for the good stuff. Here’s the thing though: at the time you do so, killing your darlings REALLY does not feel like you’re making room for the good stuff. It feels – pardon my French – like shit. If you’re like me, you may have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the idea of killing said darlings, and you will not enjoy even one single minute of it.
This is what I think is so important to remember, and why I resonate so much with the idea that these are growing pains: big, important life lessons are often about both growth and pain.But if we forget this fact, we aren’t going to ever want to do the work. We won’t kill our darlings or break our patterns or do the thing that’s scary. We’ll think: this hurts, I don’t like it, make it stop, and go back to the way we’ve been doing things all along. Staying still is way easier than moving forward. Or, as I joked earlier tonight: “Oh, so this is what not settling feels like – it totally sucks. No wonder so many people avoid it by just..settling.”
The fact is that it hurts to stretch, it hurts to shed your skin, it hurts to get two inches taller overnight. We have to remember that it hurts for a reason, it hurts because better things are coming, it hurts because we are being remade.
When I had been living in Korea for about 3 months, I lost my job. I’d moved across the world, made some friends, started to get the hang of teaching, and settled into the city a bit when my principal told me they were closing the school. I could move to another city two hours away, or I could get out of my contract and find a new job and place to live, since the school also provides you with an apartment.
I distinctly remember going to the bathroom and hyperventilating. I was terrified. I was in a relatively brand-new country where I knew approximately 5 people, didn’t speak the language, and was still figuring out how to feed myself properly, let alone navigate the process of paying my bills and sorting out my visa situation, which is also tied to your contract with your school.
And yet. I had chosen the word abundance that year to guide me, even though this was a moment that felt like the exact opposite. It was a moment that felt scary and isolating and panicky. But sitting in that bathroom stall ugly crying, a thought somehow came to me. An abundant thought: I’m going to make this work on my terms.This was nearly three years ago now, but thanks to the magic of technology I actually just found the message that I sent my friend Dylan in that exact moment to prove that this thought came to me, Divine-intervention-style. Sorry about the swearing, mom:
Not all of what I envisioned in that initial set of messages turned out to be true, but I did go to the Philippines, and I did leave at the end of March like I had planned, despite the fact that 9 month contracts were practically unheard of in Korea. I found a new school that I liked far better than my first, where I got to interact with the kids more and do things in my own way. Despite all the fear-mongering from fellow expats that “I’d be lucky” to find another job in the same city, my new school was only a ten minute walk from my old school. I moved to an apartment literally two blocks north of where I’d been living, with bigger windows. I was still walking distance to the friends I’d made and to the beach I loved.
In short: I made it work on my own terms. I got everything I wanted, and then some. In the end, the second situation was so much better than the first.
I’m telling you all of this because I really, deeply believe that the way we think about things matters. What we believe to be possible has the power to shape our perspective, our behaviour, and our outcomes. I don’t have the science to back it up – I can’t tell you statistics or show you graphs to prove this point. I can only say this: I know people who don’t believe abundant things are possible, and abundant things don’t seem to happen to them. I believe in abundance, and I’m regularly bowled over by the beauty of the universe and how many opportunities show up for me.
In case you struggle with these ideas, here are three little things I’ve found to be true when it comes to abundance and manifesting that help me stay positive and optimistic:
1. Give It Time
Gabrielle Bernstein has this beautiful quote that has always stuck with me: “The universe is always working on our behalf, just not always on our time.” Another way I’ve heard her put it is: “The universe has your back, just not always on your schedule.” My belief in abundance does not mean I expect everything to be perfect right now. It doesn’t mean that I think things are going to happen on my idealized timeline, in the exact way that I want them to, or at the precise moment that would be most convenient for me.
It make take way longer than you’d like for exciting opportunities to show up in your life, or things might happen “too fast” or “all at once”, which can also be overwhelming. None of this means that exciting, amazing opportunities aren’t out there waiting for you or about to fall into your lap. It just means that you can’t predict exactly whenor how they’ll happen for you.
2. Notice Other Narratives
The truth is, the world is full of bitter, cynical, angry narratives of scarcity and fear: “There aren’t enough jobs to go around. You’re an entitled, stupid millennial if you think you’ll be able to do work you believe in and get paid for it. Good luck finding a nice apartment in this crazy real estate bubble!” We don’t have to look very far to get bombarded with anecdotes that “confirm” these statements: there are people who will practically line up to tell you about all the terrible things that have happened to them or why they can’t have what they really want or why it’s naive/unrealistic/idealistic for you to think or want X, Y or Z.
Which is why it’s so important to actively seek out other stories. Specifically, to surround yourself with the kind of stories that are about beautiful, positive, too-good-to-be-true-but-it’s-true! experiences. The kind of stories that make you think “wow, I didn’t even realize that was an option. I never even knew things could happen that easily, quickly, or effortlessly.” I’m lucky to have a few people in my life who think this way and live their lives from a place of possibility – and they’re always excited to share with me when something amazing flows for them.
In yoga school we learned the phrase “minimum one thousand possibilities.” It’s meant to remind you that in any given situation there are over a thousand ways that something can play out, or over a thousand options you could choose. It’s a helpful idea, because as the author Steve Toltz asks of humans: “Why is free will wasted on a creature who has infinite choices but pretends there are only one or two?”
In every moment we have infinite choices and infinite possibilities available to us. To believe this is to believe in abundance. For me, this means staying open to the idea that the ideal outcome could take many different shapes (minimum 1000 shapes!) and still feel abundant to me. It won’t be perfect (nothing is), and it won’t be exactly as I had envisioned, but it will tick almost all of the boxes and flow in such an effortless way that it feels ‘meant to be’. Or as some manifesters say, “This or something better.”
My current apartment, the business I started this year, the new job opportunities that are coming to me: all of these things don’t look exactly as I’d pictured them, and they all have their quirks. But all of them flowed to me easily and naturally, met or exceeded my expectations, and felt completely abundant.
This is the difference between scarcity and abundance. In scarcity, we think there’s no way to get what we want: it’s too hard, there’s not enough, it’s impossible. With an abundance mindset, we believe that we can get what we want: it can be easy, there’s more than enough, and it’s possible. It might not look exactly the way think it will, and it might not happen right away, but it’s possible.
I absolutely try to live my life from a place of abundance, but I feel like I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to manifesting, limiting beliefs, and the power of our thinking in shaping our reality. So, if you have resources please share them with me! Do you have tips on believing in abundance and banishing the scarcity mentality? Do you have a manifesting practice or favourite teachers who help you think this way? Please share in the comments below! I’d love to read what you have to say.
It’s wintertime where I am: the days are mostly grey and dreary and kind of dark. It’s cold, and I spend a great many hours indoors staring at a computer screen. It’s a time of year that is not so good for the soul.
Since I moved to Toronto back in October, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about building a life and a home for myself. I’m learning how to take care of myself and trying to figure out what really makes me happy. My mom said it best (doesn’t she always?) in an offhand comment the other day: “You’re trying to be deliberate.”
Part of the puzzle is self-care, which is the piece I find the hardest. I’m a creature of habit and routine, which means I can eat more or less the same thing, go on more or less the same walks, and wear more or less the same clothes every single day. Mostly, I like being this way, because it means I get to save a lot of my mental energy for things like writing and creating and making. Sometimes though – mainly in the winter months – it can start to feel monotonous. I have a poster in my bedroom that reminds me: magic is something you make. This is extremely hard to do! For me, self-care is about making that magic – or noticing it – in my everyday life.
Here are some of the ways I’ve been exploring self-care lately:
1. i’m not a robot
I heard a line on a podcast the other day that I found enormously helpful:
Self-care is the daily practice of remembering that I’m not a robot.
It’s a long interview, so if you want to jump ahead to that part, head to 1:40 or so.
When I heard this, I instantly thought: that is me.That could not be more me. The host of the show talks about how some days she’ll feel particularly tired, and spend the whole day saying things like “Why are you so tired today?! You had plenty of sleep! Stop being tired!” Another day she might feel hungrier than usual, so she’ll get baffled and annoyed as to why that might be, and fight against it by not allowing herself what she really needs.
Well folks, the answer is that we are not robots. Our bodies and minds are mysterious, beautiful systems that fluctuate depending on the day. Some days we’re more tired. Some days we’re more focused. Some days we need a lot of breaks. Some days we need extra food, or more sunshine. Some days we need to unplug.
All of the above is totally fine and normal and human. It’s only when we expect ourselves to be well-oiled machines that we run into issues. Just having this tiny phrase to repeat to myself is helping, as is setting alarms to remind myself to eat, stand up, and take breaks. Thou art only human, honey.
2. Pay attention to what you’re paying attention to
I’m taking a money + happiness mini course this week (it’s free and awesome) and today’s talk was full of great advice. One of the things Sarah talked about was how we pick up all kinds of false beliefs about what makes us happy from TV, magazines, Instagram feeds, and the people around us. Part of the work of really living a life that makes you happy is about learning to ignore whatever is not true for you, and for most of us that means ignoring the majority of what we see and read.
Instead of recommending that we just shut it all down and never interact with another thing that is not aligned with our values (which would be impossible, stupid, and probably end up making us ironically unhappy), she recommends bracing ourselves before we engage with at media or people that we know tend to mess us up a little bit. Before we watch that video or scroll that Instagram feed or meet up with that friend who we love but whose values around certain areas of life do not match our own, her advice is to remind ourselves repeatedly: this is not true for me, or this is not even real.
I absolutely, 100% need those reminders for a lot of things that both a) make me happy or inspired and b) make me feel a little bad about my life. Your things (people, accounts, shows) are probably totally different than mine, but I’m guessing you know exactly who or what they are. Having that mindfulness about what I’m taking in and absorbing can make all the difference.
3. Be Impractical
Over the past few months, my mindset has felt, at times, relentlessly practical. I’ve tried to be efficient and streamlined, get into the zone with my work, stay productive, and get organized.
Sounds great, right? Right. But when you start to feel annoyed that you can’t keep working because you have to go to the bathroom (yet) again, or feel like you can’t do the laundry or make lunch because it will cut into work time, something is wrong. YOU are wrong. (I’m talking to myself here.)
For me, self-care is about coming back to the impractical things, and making time for all those intangible things that don’t have a “purpose” or “objective” that can be measured or calculated. Things like going to work at a beautiful café, even if it means I’m a tiny bit less focused while I’m working. Going for a really long walk in the middle of the workday, just because it’s the only sunshine we’ve seen in weeks. Doing things just for fun: reading books, knitting blankets, writing blog posts. Buying flowers for my apartment. Recently I took a bath after my shower and it was deliciously impractical – and very soothing.
Constantly reminding myself that not everything needs to have a dollar value or specific outcome attached to it helps a lot.
I am not so great at any of this stuff, so tell me: how do you practice self-care? What does taking care of yourself look like for you?
Doing a year-end review always brings me so much joy and reminds me of that old saying: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I have a tendency to feel like I’m not “doing enough” as the weeks and months go by, but taking the time to look back over the year as a whole always reminds me of how lucky I am and how much I’ve experienced. This year was a big one for me, and it’s pretty surreal to remember all that’s happened in the past 12 months. Here are my highlights from each month of 2016:
My boyfriend (at the time) and I took a trip to the coast of Ecuador, to a place called Canoa Beach. We spent a few days enjoying the heat, the food, and the sheer novelty of being on a beach mid-January! Throw in some outdoor yoga classes, stunning sunsets, and beers with my toes in the sand and I was a pretty happy camper. I also tried paragliding for the first time, and despite a rough crash landing with the instructor, it was a lot of fun. Canoa, like so much of the coast, was unfortunately affected when the earthquake hit in April, so it turned out to be extra special to be able to visit when we did.
The highlight of February was my friend Katie coming to visit me in Quito! We spent a week running around the city, exploring the old town, heading up El Panecillo, soaking in the baths (and hanging out with the llamas) at Papallacta, watching movies on my couch, and eating as much awesome food as we could manage. We also went to a local soccer game, checked out the drive-in movie theatre, risked our lives climbing the tower at the basilica, and took the TelefériQo up to the top of Pichincha for amazing views of the city. It was so great to show her around and to get to know Quito a bit more myself.
I spent most of March getting more involved in life in Quito. I joined a book club full of awesome people, found cute coffee shops near my apartment, started teaching private yoga classes, went to a few trivia pub nights with new friends, started volunteering for a local organization, and helped run yoga in the park every Saturday. I also went to another live South American soccer game! What an experience that was, especially since it was a FIFA 2020 qualifying game, and Ecuador won.
At the very end of March and the beginning of April, I went on a press trip to the Amazon rainforest and stayed at Sacha Lodge. The experience had me pinching myself the entire time – I saw monkeys and caiman, climbed up to the top of a 600 year old tree, walked a 40m high sky canopy, went on a night walk through the jungle (very loud, very amazing), and stayed in my own private cabin complete with a hammock on the porch and a lullaby of frogs outside. It was incredible. You can read more about the adventure here.
After kicking off my birthday month with a trip to the jungle, I went on to have a fabulous time back in Quito. On my birthday, my boyfriend’s family surprised me with a four-piece mariachi band that marched into the living room and played for hours while we all danced. I cried, because it was so hilarious and thoughtful – and even though I no longer live in Ecuador, the people I met there will always hold a very special place in my heart.
In April I also started an intermediate Spanish course at the local university, which was a ton of fun. My professor was a real character, a born-and-bred Quiteña with tons of personality, and it was so great to start to get a better grasp of the language.
This was a busy month! I finished up my Spanish course and wrote my final exams. I picked up a couple new freelance jobs. We went to a beautiful wedding and danced the night away. Toward the end of the month, I flew home for the summer, and a couple days later, we had a big beautiful party in my mom’s backyard for my Grandma’s 88th birthday!
This was my first time home (besides 2 weeks at Christmas) in a very long time, so June was spent reconnecting with as many friends and family members as possible. My sisters and I took my dad out for a lovely Father’s Day dinner on the waterfront. I started sewing my very first quilt! I went to see the Making a Murderer Conversation on Justice with my friends (#fangirl #TeamStrang). On a whim, Katie booked a trip to Toronto (we are in the best LDR ever) and we spent the week exploring yet another city together: we had beers on the waterfront, saw a Jays game (which was inadvertently a Korea reunion), went for hikes, ate great food, had a campfire, and really kicked off summer.
My favourite month of 2016! July was packed full of things I love. One weekend, I was invited up to my friend Mike’s cottage with Laura and a group of friends, and we spent the whole time eating delicious vegan food, playing board games, stand-up paddle boarding and swimming. Another highlight was a day spent filming videos and doing photoshoots with the Red Tent Sisters at a beautiful home in Toronto.
Best of all, in July I took my now-annual (!) trip to New York City to hang out with Katie and Nancy Sue! We spent the whole time eating amazing food (special shoutouts to Benny Tudinos and Goa Taco: you have my heart now and forever), hit up The Strand and Nature Republic as much as possible, rode bikes through Central Park, played Pokemon Go in taxis, went to a Gaelic football game (and a Gaelic football afterparty), toured The Tenement Museum and did a hundred other amazing things together. Katie & I also went to Vermont with her family for gorgeous, highly strenuous hikes, gin & tonics, outdoor showers and star-gazing. Then we topped it all off with a Rob Thomas and Counting Crows concert, for the win.
Without a doubt, the best part of August was bringing home Bodhi, my mom’s Golden Retriever puppy. He is the best, and really helped to make 2016 so special for our family.
August was also important for another reason: I ended my long-term relationship with my boyfriend and simultaneously decided to move to Toronto.
The first words that come to mind are: busy and messy. There was a sudden death in our family, which meant a very emotional time and a bittersweet memorial service.
All at the same time, things very quickly fell into place with my new living situation, so I spent most of the month running around getting things out of storage and buying new kitchen stuff. Also, my friend Adrienne came to Toronto and we had a sleepover to celebrate our first time seeing each other in more than 2 years.
Yay! I moved into my first Toronto apartment and instantly fell in love with my new neighbourhood. I hung things on walls, put things on shelves and settled into my space. I celebrated my move to Toronto by spending lots of time with my friends and exploring: tons of walks on the Sunnyside boardwalk, friend dates at adorable coffee shops, a walk down Leslie Street Spit, lots of time meandering through High Park, and leaf peeping. I also did some dogsitting with hearts in my eyes.
November was a bit bumpy as I worked on finding my rhythm and building my new life. I read a lot of great library books, suffered after the election results, watched the Gilmore Girls revival, started knitting a sweater, and kept up my weekly coffee dates with Laura. My sisters and I went home to celebrate my mom’s birthday with tons of sushi and cuddles with the puppy. November was also when I had my most profitable freelance month ever!
I always love December for the lead-up to the holidays, but it was even more fun this year because I was finally close to home! My whole family visited my apartment at different times, which helped to make it feel even more like home. I went to my friend Laura’s yoga jam class where her brother Ian played acoustic guitar the whole time…it was amazing. Other super-fun events included an aromatherapy workshop, hanging out my high school friends for the first time in 3 years, having a surprise lunch with my mom and Grandma, and of course, every moment of the holidays.
And so here we are, at the end of another year. When I look back like this, I feel grateful. I feel blessed. I feel excited about what hidden, wonderful opportunities 2017 might hold that I don’t know about yet.
One Second Everyday
This was my first year doing the one second everyday project and I’m so happy I did it! I definitely missed more than a few days – basically all of August, in fact – but it really doesn’t matter. Having this little record of what each day looked like is so special to me. It is also so interesting to see just how much my life has changed over the past 12 months.
Firsts of 2016
My friend Laura inspired me to think about the “firsts” I experienced this year (you can see her list here), so here are some of mine:
I donate monthly to Pencils of Promise through their Passport program. I also began giving to the Ian Anderson House, a local hospice, made some one-off donations to UNHCR, and supported both my sisters’ fundraising efforts for runs they were each doing.
6. Daily goals:
Plan my day: I’d say this happened this year about 75% of the time. I also realized that I’m ready to drop this as a ‘goal’, because I do it when I need to and soften it when I don’t.
Wake up by 7AM: I didn’t count, but I’d say this only happened about 25% of the time. I’m more of an 8AM kind of gal, even if I wish I were more of a morning person.
Do something creative: This wasn’t really specific enough! I am creative every day, but not always “for fun” – often it’s for work, which I usually find fun anyways. I’d give this one a score of 80%.
My Word of the Year: Light
This was easily my favourite word out of all of the words I’ve chosen over the years. I kept up an Instagram hashtag all year to collect the photos that made me feel happy, were inspired by something positive, or that helped me find perspective during a weird or sad time. My word was catchy enough that it stayed in mind as the months went by, and broad enough that it popped up for me in so many different ways and at different times. Although this was an amazing year, it contained quite a bit of dark (as most years do). I was grateful to have this word as a reminder when things got hard.
If you’re curious, you can see more of my year-end reviews here: