Fashionista or Fashion Faux Pas?

Life’s too short to wear boring clothes.

-Carly Cushnie & Michelle Ochs

I went with my roommate this morning to Value Village (a thrift store that sells everything from bed sheets to Halloween costumes). Everything was 50% off, and as luck would have it their dress selection was actually quite good. My roommate found a dress, and I foolishly left a pair of blue suede pumps behind that would have cost a total of $2.50 (even I don’t understand how I let that happen). Thrift stores are wonderful things, they’re my second favorite place to shop after antique stores. The reason I love them so much is because it’s one of the few places you can go and find something unique. Yes often the  items are a few years old and not quite in style anymore, but I’ve never been one to care about what’s in style. I care more about fit and comfort then whether or not my shirt will look exactly like the other 15 women in my office who saw the same shirt in the store or online. And while I do like shopping local, where the uniqueness factor also exists, the thrift stores are much easier on my wallet.

I was the youngest of three growing up, and so the concept of new clothes existed, but more often then not it was hand-me-downs with a belt looped around me to keep my pants from falling down (I was the skinniest child ever my first few years due to an undiagnosed dairy allergy). Imagine a grade 6 girl with an afro perm, sweatshirt and navy blue corduroy pants cinched to her waist. I was definitely not in the running to be named most fashionable in my school yearbook, but I really didn’t cared.

I think the best outfits I ever had to wear though were the matching flower dresses and headbands my mom would put me and my two sisters in for special occasions. It was all the rage back then, and I’m sure many of you remember wearing something similar. Even better was the bowl/mushroom cut that me and my middle sister sported (somehow my older sister was able to keep her long blonde hair, meaning she got a matching scrunchie, while me and my other sister were forced to shed ours). It was the style of the 90’s, and looking back at pictures I do look pretty cute.

In high school I began to get an allowance of $50 per month, and it had to cover any fun things I wanted to do, as well as any clothes I wanted to wear. Being the scrooge that I am, I chose to pocket most of my money, and my wardrobe was never updated until I was in grade 11. When I got my first job working at a Tim Hortons, a job I would keep for six years, my oldest sister decided that my first check should be spent entirely on a new wardrobe, and considering I was wearing four year old t-shirts and six year old pants, it was probably a wise decision. My sister took me to the biggest mall in the city, and we shopped for hours, I had never spent so much money in my life before…and it was exhilarating. So much so that it became a yearly tradition, every summer until I went to university, my sister would take me to the mall and I would spend my first $400-$500 paycheck on clothes, accessories, shoes etc. Today I couldn’t imagine doing something like that, but at 16 my fiscal responsibilities were quite a bit less.

So why the foray into my fashion choices? Because it wasn’t until I was in university and had to make fashion choices for myself that I realized that what I wore and how I chose to present myself was an expression of who I was. Before that it was just me picking a shirt up off the floor sniffing it to see if it was clean and walking out the door with it on (confession time, I still do on occasion dig clothes of my laundry hamper and if they don’t smell too bad, worn them out – sometimes a girl just doesn’t have time to do laundry). My first year on of university I lived on campus, and by lived on campus I mean if I took the elevator to the main floor and stepped out the campus bookstore was on one side and lockers were on the other. I could literally roll out of bed five minutes before class if I wanted to and still have time to grab a coffee while shuffling down the hall in my pajamas. I, however, did not take advantage of such luxuries, and even now refuse to leave the house in pj’s or sweatpants (I have also banned my roommate for doing the same if we’re in public together. My biggest fear is becoming one of those people of
Wal-Mart memes). Instead, I would get up extra early and put together what I thought was a super trendy outfit such as skinny jeans, a green sweater, beige vest with matching green earrings and eye shadow and heels. Yes. I wore heels in university, every single day for a year! Coincidentally I stopped wearing heels in my second year after I realized that wearing heels and running to catch the bus was a recipe for multiple face plants.

My first year of university I really felt like I had arrived. I was on my own, making my own decisions, and killing what I believed to be adulthood. However, as I was looking through my Facebook photos of high school and university I realized something. From about 2008-2011/2012 my wardrobe was pretty much exactly the same! I wore the same shirt in my grade 11 school photo that I did to my first day of university class! Here I was in this new environment thinking I was killing the whole adult thing and really expressing myself and I looked like I was 15. In fairness, when I was 20 Costco wouldn’t let me have a sample because they thought I was under 12 and didn’t know what food I could eat, so I’m pretty sure I’ll always look younger then I am.

Every item of clothing I owned when I was a kid was a hand-me-down. I never picked what I got, I just was thankful I had clothes to wear (shout out to my mom for spending so much time ironing on patches to all my pants because I insisted on wearing holes in them by playing animals on the playground). When I hit high school I adopted my sisters style, if she told me it was cool I bought it, which carried into my university years. I hardly ever actually looked at clothes and formed my own opinion, they were always just there hanging in my closest. And when people would tell me that I had such good taste, I would smile and nod, and pretend that I really was that good at picking out my own clothes while secretly feeling ashamed that it was really someone else who had chosen them for me. I don’t know why I never said thanks “my sister actually picked it out,” I highly doubt anyone would’ve judged me for that, I mean I looked amazing either way.

So now what does fashion mean to me? Now that I’ve realized it can actually be an expression of who I am? Honestly not much. I have a few items that I’ve picked out because I loved them and no one was going to talk me out of them, to the detriment of my roommate who still can’t believe I own a cape pea coat (it’s exactly as it sounds) or a faux fur vest. I think these items rank up there with my alpaca hat and the orange tank top and pineapple pants I wore a few years ago (I recently made a comeback with those pants and a coworker looked at me and said “You would own a pair of pineapple pants”). I still don’t pay attention to the trends, it took me three years to understand the difference between jeggings and skinny jeans, and even longer to own a pair. I don’t know why you need more than three pairs of jeans or 12 different coats. And now when people compliment me on my outfits I answer truthfully by saying “thanks, it’s my mom’s/grandma’s.” Yes you read right, 90% of my closet is hand-me-downs from my mother and my grandma, and it’s awesome, because trust me no one I meet is wearing the same style anymore, which means I’m exceptionally unique (also why pay for a wardrobe when your mom’s is actually much cooler than anything you’d be buying…and free!)

And even though for the most part I don’t care about fashion there are times when I have used it to my advantage. My roommate can probably tell you the countless times I’ve tried on outfit after outfit before going to hang out with someone I was interested in. Or how many dresses I’ve bought for every wedding I’ve been to. There’s the chaos of trying to find the perfect date outfit, and the perfect post-breakup outfit that’ll show that ex just what they’ve lost (at this point I think I need to realize that they’re just clothes, not miracle workers). Fashion, it would seem plays a much larger role in my life than I would like to admit. And when I do go shopping I often find myself in the junior section, especially at places like Marshall’s and Winners. Everything’s just so much cheaper, and more my style. Which is great until I show up somewhere and realize that I’m twinning with a 12 year old. My shoes are generally from the kids section unless they’re high heels. I am not joking, I fit a size 4 kids, and again, their shoes are often much cuter (and easier to get on, screw laces I love my Velcro shoes they take like two seconds to put on). Sometimes I wish I understood fashion better so I wouldn’t have to wander into my roommates room and ask her if my outfit matches or if I can mix gold and silver accessories. I’m sure she wishes that too. I wish I had my own sense of style, or could at least learn not to wear white, especially to work. How many coffee stains do I need to get on my pants before I learn? But then I realize that even though I don’t hand pick most of my clothes or really know how to match them I still find a way to be uniquely myself. I still add my own flair to my wardrobe (even if sometimes it doesn’t match or quite fit me properly…I can be really stubborn when I find something I like). Fashion is ever changing, much like I am. It evolves and becomes something entirely different, just as each season of my life changes me. So while I may hold on to a certain shirt or dress for nostalgia, I really hope that 10, 20, 50 years from now I won’t be looking at a picture from my twenties only to look down and realize I’m still wearing the exact same shirt.

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Confessions of a (Biased) Millennial

Be crazy enough to know you can do anything you want in life.

I have 154 friends…on Facebook. I have another 124 (ok some are repeats) on Instagram, and if I actually really used Snapchat I’d probably have quite a few “friends” there too. This is the world of a Millennial. Now I know Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and all other forms of social media are not exclusively Millennial owned, but they often seem to be synonymous with one another. And neither seem to have that great of a reputation.  

Lazy. Entitled. Self-Absorbed. Narcissistic. Materialistic. After doing a quick google search these are some of the top answers describing Millennials. A few months ago a video describing what’s wrong with Millennials, and how they got there, went viral. Surprisingly a large portion of the responsibility was laid on society for constantly telling us we’re special. The video quoted things like participatory ribbons and too much parent encouragement as reasons why Millennials are on the track to entitlement. Fair enough. I too sometimes get frustrated when I hear every kid in school needs to receive an award because no one can feel left out, or it’s important not to cut kids from sports teams because everyone deserves a chance to play. (For the record I tried out for the school basketball team when I was in grade 7 and got cut. I never did try out again, somehow I realized my dream of being the first 5’1 women’s basketball star wasn’t very realistic. I also ducked every time someone threw me the ball, so that also might have played into the reason I didn’t make the team). I can understand the argument on both sides. It’s important to encourage and build up generations, and this blog post is not meant to stir up the ugly debate of what’s better or worse. The point of this blog is to understand, from a Millennial perspective (which means there’s definitely room for bias here, I’ll admit that) how it feels to be lumped into a generation that is generally seen in a negative light, and whose positive attributes often get turned on their head.  

I started a new job about two years ago. It’s a job I really enjoy, in a subject area I never really thought I would: Finance. As an English major, and an avoider of all things math related, I never imagined I’d wind up working with numbers, and enjoying it! In fact I had been job searching so long when I finally got the interview that I couldn’t remember what it was for. About a year into my job I was talking to a co-worker about how pleasantly surprised I was at how enjoyable I found my work, and how I hadn’t expected to stick around this long (statistics show that most people my age don’t stay in a job longer than two-three years, and if someone sticks around for five they’re often there for the long haul) . They looked at me for a moment and then said, “O, I forgot you’re a Millennial, you need to be passionate about what you do.” In that moment I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. Was wanting to be passionate about your job a bad thing? I mean you spend 40 hours a week for approximately 40 years at work. I spend more time with my coworkers than with almost anyone else. Why is it shocking to want to be passionate about it, and why is this a Millennial trademark?  

I can understand how Millennials get such a bad rap. I am guilty of the following things: almost running into someone because I’m too busy texting to look up, taking multiple selfies until I find the right one, posting something on Instagram just to get a reaction, and many more things. When I lay it all out, I agree it looks like I am a
self-absorbed narcissist (which only accounts for half of my personality by the way…). The same viral video also talked about how texting and social media provide us with endorphins to our brain. Every time we get a like it brings us happiness. Which is probably why social media is so often filled with so many half-truths. Whose going to like the post of me crying my eyes out to Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks (You’ve Got Mail anyone?) on my couch with a bucket of ice cream and glass of wine after a terrible break up (true story)? Most people don’t want to see that, so instead my sad night becomes a girls night in with a much deserved junk food binge. Which is why people are suddenly surprised to realize that our lives are not all to reflective of what we’re actually going through. And don’t get me wrong, I am not saying we should all air our dirty laundry for the world to see (I could do a whole rant on those types of people, but I won’t). However, I am saying we could be a bit more real with one another. 

I say this because in reality I don’t have over 200 friends. I have about 10 really close ones and then about a dozen more that I see on a regular basis. I looked at my phone the other day and didn’t recognize about 15 per cent of the people in there anymore and another 60 per cent that are businesses, work, family etc., which leaves me with about 25 per cent of my contacts as friends, and probably 10 per cent of them are people I would call when I’m in a jam or need support. And my fear is that we as Millennials are buying into the stereotypes that have been thrust upon us. I recently watched a YouTube video about a Millennial job interview the other day. It started out with a girl in sweatpants sitting on her phone across from the interviewer. She never looks up from her phone, and throws around phrases like “I don’t get up before 9 so I’d have to start at 10 and can’t work past 3,” or “I honestly can’t function with out my Venti, triple shot, no foam, skim, extra hot latte.” (Come to think of it I may have taken offense to this because it was mocking my one true love: Starbucks!) And at the end when she doesn’t get the job she becomes enraged because she believes she deserves this job just because. I found myself forwarding the video to my roommate with the caption: So True! Except it wasn’t. I never take my phone into business meetings, I get up at 6:45 every morning and leave work at 5. I have never, nor will I, worn sweatpants to work. Nothing in the video described me at all, ok maybe the coffee part, and yet I watched it while buying into everything it was portraying about my generation. 

I understand that stereotypes come from somewhere. People don’t just wake up one day and arbitrarily decide things or label a whole generation. There are most likely a whole lot of Millennials who encompass some, or all of the negative qualities mentioned above, but I also think some of these attributions come from not understanding. My roommate told me something that really resonated with me: “If I have never experienced something, I cannot (or try not) to judge it for someone else.” Often times the people labeling Millennials, have never been a Millennial themselves. They didn’t grow up in the same technologically driven, social media, reality TV world we did. Their experiences are not the same. Just as Millennials struggle to understand  generations X & Y. A colleague of mine had a freshman in university tell the class that telemarketing and survey’s over the phone were still vitally important as people over 40 didn’t know how to use email and would be confused by it. (I don’t know about you, but if over half my work place doesn’t know how to use email they’re doing a great job faking it. Perhaps I should organize a tutorial for my department this week, just in case).  

I don’t want to accept the status quo, I don’t want to buy into the stereotypes of my generation. I want to be allowed to desire to be passionate about my job without someone making it sound like that’s a crazy thing. I want my work/life balance. I want my selfies! I am a Millennial who is sometimes self-absorbed and posts way too many photos of cheesecake on her Instagram, and I am proud of it! 

Awhile ago I was talking to my dad, and at some point in the conversation I told him I could never do something, and he cut me off and said, “Don’t you ever tell me you can’t do something, that is not the daughter I raised!” He wasn’t stroking my ego , or trying to give me a false sense of entitlement. What he was saying is that I should follow my dreams, that if I wanted to become a 5’1 star basketball player then I could do it, but if I wanted to become an accountant or a flight attendant that’s ok to. The point is to do what you love, which I know is a Millennial cliché. Doing what you love does not mean quitting your job, selling all you have and joining the circus (or perhaps to you it does). What I believe it means is find out what you love, and then work as hard as you can to do it. Because I can tell you right now, I would never spend the next 40 years being a mathematician, no matter how good the pay was.

A Designer Life

In every room, the furniture reflects you larger than life, or dwindling.

– Adrienne Rich

I’ve become obsessed with creating the perfect house. Everything needs to be matching, and creative, and full of color (right on down to the garbage can in my kitchen). I have a vision of what my house could be, and I will stop at nothing to bring it to life. Well maybe not nothing, my bank account does have a say in the matter. I partially blame the design game I started playing a couple months ago. My colleague introduced me to it, and I have not been able to put it down. Essentially it gives you a room with perimeters to fill, and you create your dream living room, dining room, bedroom etc. However, my design game uses fake money, and I get rewarded every time I design something. In the real world no one’s going to give me $500 just because I bought myself a new couch. Which, by the way, I did four weeks ago, but sadly did not take into account delivery time. As a result, this blog entry is coming at you straight from the lawn chair I have come to inhabit for the next six to eight weeks (or more because everyone has been telling me about their horror stories with furniture delivery. I am now convinced it’ll be years before my new couch materializes).

I have been wanting to get “real” furniture for years. By real furniture I mean something I picked out because I liked it, and not because I was a broke university student who could only afford the $500 brown velvet couch on Kijiji. Now don’t get me wrong, those couches served me well for five years, but I really hated them. Brown is not a color that I love, I’m more of a bright, vibrant type of person, so the brown really brought me down. I am also the type of person who wants what she wants, and will not be deterred once I set my mind to it. As a result I now have my “singleness” pantry in the corner of my dining room (read my blog on impulse shopping to get the full scoop on that one). So six months ago I finally decided I was ready for a new look. I put my couches on VarageSale and waited in anticipation for the day I would be rid of them. Now because I am stubborn, and also wanted to use the money made off the couches to purchase a new one, I waited about five months before they actually sold. I refused to drop the price even when my roommate asked me to. As a result I eventually sold them for what I wanted.

The next step was to buy my sectional which would replace the two 7ft couches we used to have in the living room. My roommate and I had agreed on a sectional awhile back. It was from Jysk, which meant it was medium quality and not too expensive. Except when I finally was able to go and purchase the sectional I didn’t want it anymore. I looked at it, and it was just ok. I didn’t love it, and I knew that if I bought that particular piece of furniture in four years I’d be back looking for something to replace it. Thus began my search for the perfect sectional. I had a price point in mind, and after the first furniture store I looked at realized I was in way over my head. If I wanted a really good sectional that I loved, I was going to have to sink a good amount of money into it (I think I heard my bank account let out a whimper when it got to this point). So I spent the day going to every single furniture store in the city. Comparing color, price, comfort (my roommate and I have very different ideas on what makes a couch comfortable so we both had to compromise on that one). Finally I found one. It wasn’t the most expensive sectional I looked at, but it also wasn’t the cheapest, but it was mine!

I should mention that this is the first time I have shopped for furniture from an actual store. I have never had brand new furniture, and before that day I honestly couldn’t understand why my mom used to get so mad at me for wearing shoes on her area rug or spilling on the sofa. It didn’t seem like such a big deal. Mom, I will now apologize for all the times I messed up or ruined your perfectly nice and expensive furniture…I get it now. So there I was standing in front of my new sectional, envisioning just how great it would look in my living room when I heard the sales associate say “It should be ready for you in March.” March?! But it’s January! Why would it possibly take so long to get it to me, and more importantly what were we going to sit on for the next two months until it arrived?! That wasn’t even the worst of it, after resigning to the fact that I would have to wait two months for the perfect couch, I had so many other decisions to contemplate. Do I go with financing, do I want delivery, do I want warranty and on and on it went. My head was spinning, so I did what I always do when I realize that I’m in over my head with adult decisions. I phoned my dad. I honestly don’t know how many bad life decisions I may have made if I didn’t have my parents to call. I just started asking him everything about how best to handle this purchase (like when I did become concerned about my credit score)? An hour later I walked out of the store a proud owner of a new grey sectional which will match the navy coffee and end table my roommate purchased perfectly. She also bought a cuddle chair, which I have yet to inform her will be my new unofficial blogging/reading chair (I’m waiting for the first time she kicks me off of it because she owns it, however two can play that game, and my sectional is way bigger and conducive for napping).

My sectional was half impulse shopping, and half thought out, which is pretty much the story of my life. I get to a point where I know I want to make a change, and I’m gearing up for it, and then suddenly one day it just happens. I buy a new sectional or I take a new job or finally replace the battery in my car (I was really hoping to hold off on buying a new one till next winter, but my car had other ideas). I refuse to settle for something I don’t want. I think it’s because I’ve been in situations before where I’ve made an impulsive move because it looked good at the time only to realize that I was better off waiting it out and going for what I really wanted. So at times it may seem like I make incredibly rash decisions, but in reality I’ve been mulling them over for months before I actually make a move. And sure, some of these things really shouldn’t take me that long to take action on. My garbage can for instance did not need to be a two month decision. It really should have been as simple as my plastic one smells, I should get a metal one, o crap they’re like sixty bucks, o well I need it. Done. Instead I wavered for two months in a smelly kitchen on whether or not I should replace it. And then I couldn’t just get any garbage can, because let’s face it why would you buy a plain metal one when you can get a matching sea foam green one?! The sea foam green was my first choice, however it was sold out at all the locations I went to (yes I spent an entire afternoon scouting out garbage cans), and so I had to settle for a bright red one. To which my roommate asked me “why does everything we own have to be in color? What’s wrong with a plain garbage can?” My life just has to be colorful. I have no other explanation for it.

So my kitchen no longer smells, and my living room will soon (hopefully) look like adults live in it, and not two broke university students, but now I need to start mulling over where I’m going next. And I mean beyond the chalk painted TV stand I’m going to invest in (which I cannot wait to get). The planner in me will never stop planning, but I also realize it’s a good thing, because I’m not naturally impulsive. If I never thought ahead then I would never get anywhere because I would be too afraid to make the big decisions when they came around. My roommate is very impulsive, she listens to her gut, and for the most part it turns out great for her, because she knows when her gut is telling her to do something that’s right for her. I don’t get that. I need time to hem and haw, to look at my pros and cons list, and you don’t always have time for that in the moment of the decision. So pre-planning is how I prepare myself for the big choices I have to make. And it’s not like I can pin point it down to the very scenario I have to decide on, but I start to think about what changes I want in my life. Where do I want to be in a year? Five years? Ten years? What do I actually want to accomplish? What color should my living room walls be? I need to think about these things now, so I know that I’m headed somewhere, so I don’t allow myself to get stuck. It may be something as little as picking a paint color or as big as changing jobs or getting into a new relationship, whatever the decision is I want to ensure that I’ve taken the time to really know what I want so that I don’t wind up settling for less. So I don’t look at my life and only see the ugly brown couches that don’t inspire me at all. I want to see all the colors and pieces of my life that have made me love the design I have chosen to create.

The Success of Failure

Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.

A few weeks ago I got stuck in a car wash, and by stuck I mean I drove off the track leading me into the car wash and was unable to move forward or backwards to free myself. Usually I’m a fan of technology, but the automated tracks they’ve got are not as easy to navigate as they look! I sat there with my wheels locked and unable to move for about five minutes. I was horrified! It was a sunny day, and the line up behind me for the car wash was incredibly long. Finally, the man behind me graciously got out of his vehicle to see what was wrong. He tried to direct me out of the track, but I had no clue what I was doing. Eventually, he stuck his hand through my window, grabbed my steering wheel and did it himself before directing me back on the track. Wanting to get out of there as fast as I could I tried to put my code back in the machine in order to pull through, except too much time had passed since I had last entered the code and it had expired! So there I was, once again not able to move forward or backwards. I had to take out my phone and call the gas station to open up the car wash in order for me to finally get my car through.  I came home and told my roommate that I would never go through that humiliation again. I was done with car washes, (to make matters worse, I walked out the next morning and discovered that someone had driven through a puddle and splashed snow and dirt all the way up my car and windows on the drivers side).

The only problem with the statement I made to my roommate was that wasn’t feasible. My car would need to be washed again, (for me that turned out to be the very next day), and there’s no way I could avoid it forever. Which happens to be true for a lot of things in life. There are so many things that we fail at, but have no choice but to get up and try again, because no one else is going to do it for you. What I’ve noticed however is that failure is considered to be a negative thing. It’s looked at as something to be ashamed of, something to shove under the rug. Most people don’t want to talk about their failures, they want to talk about their successes. However, I’ve come to realize that while my success are great, it’s the failures that I remember the most. The failures are what caused me to fight even harder to get what I want. The things that came easily to me obliviously didn’t take much effort, but the things I failed at and had to do over? Those took a lot of effort, it caused me to set aside my pride and try again.

When I was in university I decided to minor in Business Administration. It wasn’t something I had ever considered until my faculty adviser suggested it to me. I thought it would be great addition to my English degree and enrolled in the certificate program. The thing is, that math has never been my strong suit, I had avoided it since graduating high school, and is probably a large reason why I’ll never get my full degree in Business Admin. However, in order to gain my certificate, I had to pass an Economics class. While Economics isn’t 100% a math course, it’s definitely in the wheelhouse. Now I wasn’t a Deans list type of student in University, but I did have a fairly good average, and I had never been close to failing a class. Until I took Econ 101. I spent months pouring over assignments and re-reading the textbook. At one point my roommate even picked up my study material and tried to teach it to me. Nothing worked, and two weeks before the final I was sitting at a 30%. I knew there was no way that I would pass the class, so I went to my adviser and dropped the class. Four months of hard work seemed wasted. Six hundred dollars in tuition was gone, and I was no longer on track with my expected graduation date. On top of that I had a very important decision to make: did I really want this certificate in Business Admin? I didn’t need it. I would have my English degree, this was just a bonus. I could take an easier class, something to boost my average. The idea of not completing my certificate seemed really appealing, but I chose instead to try again.

I enrolled the next semester in an Econ class, determined to pass. I spent four to five hours a week doing the homework, and I went to every extra study session our professor offered, and I came out that class with a 73%, a much higher grade than I had been anticipating (I had just been hoping for a pass), and a lot more confident in my ability to apply myself to get what I really wanted.

I remember that experience vividly because I had to struggle for it. There was no way I could have passed that class without a lot of hard work. And there were times where the voices in my head told me that it wasn’t worth it, that I would just fail again. That I couldn’t do it. But I did. And I’m proud of myself for pushing through, but the thing is, this story and subsequent accomplishment doesn’t exist if I didn’t fail first. My failure wasn’t something to be ashamed of, it was something to challenge me to do better, to find another way, to not give up. I find that so many people see failure as a reason to do that. To give up or lose sight of their dreams, but most people I know who have accomplished their dreams failed at some point. Because there’s no growing without failure, there’s no learning. Life might be easier without the struggle, but I don’t think it would be as much fun. I don’t think that we would enjoy things as much if we couldn’t take pride in how we got there, if everything was just handed to us.

I had a chance to walk away from my failure, I didn’t have to try again, but we don’t always get that option. I will have to wash my car again someday, I will have to learn how to finally  hang the picture that’s been lying in my room for eight months (and it may fall off the wall, but I’ll just have to try again). These may seem like simple tasks, little things that don’t matter or don’t constitute as big failures, but the question I want to leave you with is this: if we’re not willing to confront the small failures in our lives, why would we tackle the big ones? The one’s that carry the greatest risk, but also the greatest reward?

 

Burning Down the House

Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.

A few weeks ago I set my kitchen on fire. I don’t mean like a tiny grease fire, I mean a real fire. Like if it had been left alone for even a minute or two long the fire department would have been called kind of fire.

I have a routine in the morning: I wake up, put my stove top espresso maker to boil on the stove and go have a shower. By the time my shower is done, my espresso has boiled and I can make my morning latte. I’ve been doing this for years without incident, that is until three weeks ago. In a rare occurrence during the week, I had done the dishes the night before, and since our house doesn’t have a lot of counter space, I had moved our electric kettle to the stove. All of this combined contributed to a morning of panic.

As per usual I started my coffee and went into the shower, only to have my roommate run into the bathroom five minutes later screaming “FIRE! FIRE!” I jumped out of the shower, wrapped myself in a towel and ran to the kitchen where I found my roommate swatting our kettle to the floor and dousing it in water. It turns out I had turned on the wrong burner and accidentally lit the cord attached to the kettle on fire. And as luck would have it, none of the batteries in our fire alarms were working (we have since replaced them for obvious reasons). However, my roommate had slept on our couch that night and awoke to the smell of burning plastic. I can almost guarantee I would have burnt our entire house to the ground if she hadn’t been there.

Instead I wound up wrapped in a towel in our kitchen thinking that if the fire department did wind up coming I probably wouldn’t want to be sent outside without any clothes…or my hair done (I mean a girls got to have some priorities right? In the movies this is exactly how I’d meet my future spouse.) Long story short, there’s some plastic on our kitchen wall from the fire and I owe my roommate a new kettle (I’m trying to convince her we should get a non-electric one so we can avoid any incidents like this in the future, plus they come in way cooler colors than the electric ones!)

You think after this incident I would have learned my lesson. However, earlier this week I came home from an exhausting day at work, and had to bake a cake for a friend. I recently bought new measuring cups with metal handles, unlike our old ones which were made of plastic. Something that didn’t seem to make a difference until, out of habit, I placed a measuring cup in the microwave to melt my butter. As we all know metal and microwaves do not mix. There was a bit of an electricity issue and I had to use oven mitts to take my measuring cup out of the microwave, but so far our microwave seems to still work. As for anyone who may have eaten that cake after I used the electrocuted butter, I apologize for any genetic mutations it may cause you in the future, but anything I make is eat at your own risk.

Perhaps I just shouldn’t be allowed around anything electrical, I also spilled feta cheese all over my phone charger whilst it was plugged in a couple weeks ago. So far my phone is fine, unless you think that my Google maps randomly turning on and directing me to the nearest gas station when it hits 90% charged is weird.

It’s amazing how many things I do in a day that I don’t think about. Every password I put in at work is based off a routine. Anytime I stop to think what it might be I forget it. I go for coffee at the exact same time during the day, and I know I’m not the only one whose driven somewhere on autopilot. Most of the time we do these things on a regular basis without thinking because we’ve done them so many times and gotten the same result. However, my experiences with my stove and microwave got me thinking, how much of my life am I just wandering through aimlessly? What am I not appreciating about the everyday things that I should be?

I get so focused on the milestones. On what’s coming up and where I’m going, that the minute something becomes normal or routine I get bored. When I was in university all I could think about was graduating and the amazing career I was going to have. And when I got a job all I could think about was the next one I was going to have, and how that would help me achieve my dream job (confession time: I don’t even know what my dream job is). A new job is only new for so long, and then it just becomes a job. However, I love my current job. As an admin I wind up doing different things all the time, interacting with a lot of my office, and basically just trying to anticipate the needs of my team and how I can make their lives easier. I have a boss who wants to see me succeed and gives me so much opportunity. However I’m still restless. I can always find something that isn’t quite enough about my job. It doesn’t pay enough, I don’t have enough responsibility or I’m not important enough. And when that happens I start to just go through the motions. Get up. Got to work. File paperwork. Come home. I lose the joy in a job I love because not every day is exciting, and some days look the same as before. I begin to get lost in the normalcy and suddenly a week’s gone by, a month, a year, and I can’t really remember most of it. I haven’t really been present for most of it.

I was the same way in a lot of my relationships. I struggled with being present. I was always so focused on what happens next. When will we fall in love, get engaged, get married? I didn’t know (and still don’t really) how to do an everyday relationship. The concept of just hanging out eluded me. Shouldn’t every moment you spend together be epic? Shouldn’t there be butterflies, and long winded speeches, and grand gestures? (I may be watching too many Hollywood movies. Clearly I need to scale back a bit). I would get bored in a relationship the same way I did at work. I started falling into doing the motions instead of actually enjoying the relationship. How many moments just passed me by because my attention was somewhere else? Because I wasn’t engaged enough in the person I was with?

Ideas and concepts are great. And as a planner it’s what’s always on the back of my mind. What’s my next move? Where is this going to take me, how is it going to get me to where I want to go? However, it also causes me to lose out on a lot of moments happening around me because I can’t see them. I’m so focused on the big picture, I forget about the small picture, which is just as important.

Sometimes you just need a wake up call. For me it was setting my kitchen on fire because I was so used to my day to day I didn’t even pay attention to which burner I was turning on. Or noticing that my measuring cups are no longer microwave safe. Mindlessly wandering through life can be dangerous. Luckily for me my roommate was there to (literally) put out the fire that I had left in my wake.

The future is great. It’s exciting and it’s scary. But it’s not the be all end all. We’re going to get there no matter what, it’s inevitable. However, we can either be engaged in the little moments of life that lead up to the big ones, or we can be so focused on the big things that we miss out on the little things that brought us to the moments we’re idolizing so much. This is going to be a tough one for me. I already know that, but in order to avoid any more real or metaphorical fires in my life I need to focus on what I’m doing now, and not what I might be doing later.

 

The Struggle Is Real: The Harsh Reality of Adulting

This whole getting older and being responsible thing is getting in the way of my fun.

 

I had the day off today, every other Friday I don’t have to go into work. It’s funny how quickly I got used to having that extra day off every other week. Each time I have the day off I tell myself I’m going to relax, take it easy and enjoy the extra day. I can’t remember the last time I actually did that. It seems, that being an adult has gotten in the way of my desire to watch Netflix and chill (and when I say Netflix and chill, I really mean just being able to chill out on my couch and do nothing at all.) I wish that that is what I got to do today…but it wasn’t.

I moved out on my own when I was 19, my parents were very lucky (or unlucky depending on how they see it), that none of their children wound up taking permanent residence in our childhood home. Thus leaving them with the ability to abandon us all for Toronto and Dubai. (I’m just kidding about the abandonment part, it was actually me who decided not to follow them all the way to Toronto). By the time I had moved out I felt that my parents, for the most part, had adequately prepared me for life on my own. Due to the family rule that was established when I was 15, every Thursday was my night to cook (you’re welcome Dad for those five straight years alternating between spaghetti and meatloaf). So I had the cooking part down. I had been working at a coffee shop since I was 14, and thus had generally learned the value of money. This also allowed me the privilege of not having to work the first two years I was in university if I didn’t want to. I chose not to work, and while it wasn’t the worst thing to do, I probably would’ve chosen different if I got to do it all over again.

So there I was at 19, in a city I didn’t know convinced that I was a full-fledged adult. I mean I knew how to cook and I knew how to pay bills, what else was there? Turns out there’s a lot. Like how to apply for a line of credit (and not get taken advantage of, see Breaking Up Is Hard to do for my saga on banks), where the best deals for buying groceries are, and how to properly install curtains. The list goes on and on. I used to wonder how my parents got so smart, they seemed to have the answer for everything, and then I realized it was probably a lot of trial and error…and some common sense thrown in there too (something I seem to be lacking in the gene pool at times.)

As the years went on I felt like I was becoming more and more like a real adult. Maybe there’s stages to it, like stage one is moving out, stage two is paying your bills, stage three is making appointments on your own instead of having your parents do them (I really struggle with that, I went to the doctor for the first time in four years today because I was too lazy to make the call). Either way, each time I did something that made me feel like I was grownup, it was like I was checking something off on the adult checklist. Own health card and insurance? Check. Car? Check. Buying vegetables versus sugary crap? Check. Going to bed early instead of binge watching Netflix? …Check? (for the most part I’m good at this although I do have the occasional slip.)

Doing these things have become so “hard” that it even has been given it’s own colloquialism: Adulting. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve used the phrase  “I’ve adulted so hard today,” or “you should be so proud of me for adulting.” What is that? I’m pretty sure my parents didn’t come from work everyday and tell us to be proud of them for going to work, feeding us, and cleaning the house. Even though they do deserve an award for all that, to them it wasn’t this huge thing that needed to be recognized every single time they did it. It was called life. It was called growing up, and even though I recognize this I still have put throw pillows from Chapters on my Christmas list that say “the struggle is real” and “I can’t even.” I am officially showing you all just exactly what kind of millennial I am.

Why does this all matter? It matters because four weeks ago I again believed I had reached the pinnacle of adulthood. I work with youth during the year, and every summer we take them on a trip. This year was my first time going. There were 16 kids and I was the only female leader. Leaving me in charge of six girls for an entire week. We decided to take them camping, and I refused to drive our ten passenger van (plus lets be honest here, I don’t think anyone, me included, thought I could drive it even if I wanted to.) So I got the minivan. I think minivans must give you special powers. Like you enter them as a regular person, but you exit them as soccer mom! In the first day alone I had uttered the phrase “you’re teenagers I shouldn’t have to referee who gets to sit in the front seat,” and “if you’re the last one to leave the van you have to close the doors!” (I had flashbacks of my mom yelling the very same things to me as a child. And for the record when you’re the youngest of three you never get the front seat.) I had to show people how to set up a tent, something I have to say I had not done much of before. My dad had always set the tents up when we were little, and when we were older we had a tent trailer that he also set up.

Somehow I did it. I kept all the girls alive, I climbed a mountain (and when you’re the chaperone you’re not allowed to complain about the length of the hike), and I managed to navigate the winding and terrifying roads through the mountains. Overall I was feeling pretty proud of myself…until this week. This week I realized that as much as I’d like to think I’ve figured out life, there’s still so much I use my parents for. First there was the evening I was taking my nail polish off and my dog surprised me by jumping onto the couch causing me to spill 100 per cent acetone on my computer. And that’s not even the worst of it! Jumping up to grab something to clean it off with (FYI once it sets in there’s nothing you can do, and it sets in after about ten seconds), I spliced my pinky toe open on my dogs rawhide bone. There I was, bleeding all over my bathroom floor, phone in hand calling my dad. No word of lie this was our conversation:

“I spilt  acetone on my computer how do I get it off?”

“You can’t….why would you spill acetone on your computer? Don’t you know that it stains/can kill your computer?”

“Ok never mind, how do I tell if I need stitches? Or if my toe’s infected?”

“Put a band aid on it, do you have any polysporin?”

“…You’re lucky I have band aids.”

“Ok, well the worst that will happen is it’ll fall off…or you’ll die. No big deal”

My father ladies and gentleman, always the jokester. This wouldn’t be so bad if later that same week the lights on the dash of my car went out. I spent five minutes in a parking lot turning my light on and off trying to get my dash to light up in the dark. When I couldn’t do that I called my dad, who because he isn’t in the same city as me, couldn’t really help me. He just said sounds like a fuse…turns out my car has a dimmer switch, which as most of you probably know dims the light on your dashboard! (I realize I’m painting myself in a really bad light right now, but I honestly know very little about cars.) I have to wait till it’s night out to make sure it’s the dimmer switch that’s the problem, but since all my fuses have been checked out and found to be working I’m gonna say that’s the issue.

This all comes back to my day off, where I was supposed to relax but instead wound up getting up at 8:00 am (shout out to my roommate who woke me up at 7:30 because she thought my appointment was at 8:00 and didn’t want me to miss it: I appreciate you caring about me…even if I did lose thirty minutes of extra sleep). I went from the dentist to the doctor to the mall to fixing my car. There was no Netflix fit in there, but I did manage to do the dishes! All in all I guess what I’m trying to say is that I need to wake up and realize that “adulting” is really just doing life, and I need to embrace it rather than brag about the fact that I actually found time to fold my laundry for the day. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go fill my car up with windshield washer fluid…I’ve been running on empty for the last month and a half.

Listen to Your Heart

It’s okay to follow your heart but take your brain with you.

When my roommate and I were still in university we made a plan, when we both graduated we would take a month off before the real world set in, and backpack through Europe. We had it all planned out, my parents even bought me the backpack for my birthday, but despite my spur of the moment nose piercing and my equally impulsive wrist tattoo, I still remain a lead with my head not with my heart girl. And so I decided that instead of going to Europe, I should stay home and pay off my student loans. My roommate was very understanding, but also told me “I’m still going, if I don’t, I might never get there.” It’s something I greatly admire about her, and am hoping will rub off on me. I had plans to go to Europe the following year, but three summers later and I still haven’t gone. I’ve done many other adventures: Dubai, a road trip to Colorado, and hopefully Hawaii in the Spring, but still no Europe.

A few months ago someone challenged me to stop leading with my head, and start leading with my heart. It’s a hard challenge, because I’m such a planner. I plan Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays months in advance, and I’m always looking ten steps ahead rather than enjoying the one I’m on. Hence choosing student loans over Europe. There’s a part of me that yearns to be more impulsive, to follow my heart more (Or maybe just quicker. I hate that often a simple decision can take me so long to make). But there’s another part of me that’s proud of where I’m at in life. That I know what I want and how to get there. But deep down I think I know the biggest reason I find it so hard to let go of using my head and listen to my heart is because I’m afraid.

I’m afraid of making a mistake. I’m afraid of failing. I’m afraid that if I don’t plan out my life, and know exactly where I’m going my life will descend into chaos. I don’t know what to do with chaos. But then I look back at some of the decisions I’ve made in the past few years, and I realize that I’ve followed my heart many times whether I realized it or not. Moving to a new city. Every person I dated. Changing my degree. Volunteering with youth. All of these choices weren’t made because of my pro/con lists or my extreme overthinking. They were made because my heart yearned for them, because I knew without a shadow of a doubt that they were choices I was supposed to make. And my head wasn’t going to talk me out of them.

This doesn’t mean they all turned out the way I wanted them to. This year for instance turned out a lot differently than I would’ve liked. But it doesn’t mean they were bad decisions, it just means that following your heart can bring you places you weren’t expecting. And I’ve navigated the unexpected before, you can’t be 25 without hitting a few bumps in the road. And I’ve survived them all.

So yes, I would love to follow my heart more, and I am most definitely working on that. However, I can’t always throw caution to the wind. I have responsibilities, and people I’m accountable for. My friend recently sent me a video, it was about why men don’t often approach woman, and as often happens with YouTube I got lost in a video trail. An hour or two later (ok it was probably only 20 minutes, but you can really lose a lot of time clicking video after video), I found another video by the same guy. He was talking about how his desire for ambition is his greatest strength, but it is also his greatest weakness. That really struck a chord with me. I know that my logical, analytical, planner personality is my greatest strength (especially in my job as an admin), but it can also be my greatest weakness. Over the past few years I have really let it hold me back. I’ve let it speak fear and complacency into my heart and hold me back from taking chances.

And so I’m taking my friend up on their challenge. I am going to try to follow my heart a little more, and my head a little less. I want to use my strengths, and improve on my weaknesses. And one day I know I’ll take up my backpack and make my way over to Europe.

The Bonds of Sisterhood

Sister – Someone who’s been where you’ve been; someone you can call when things aren’t going right; is more than just family; a sister is a forever friend.

One of my first memories with my sisters as a child is of my oldest sister babysitting me. We lived on an acreage, and at a young age she had mastered the task of the driving lawn mower. Her favorite activity when babysitting me was to hook up our old wagon to the back of the lawn mower and drive me and my other sister around the yard. We loved it, unfortunately our next door neighbors saw this as an incredibly dangerous past time for three girls under the age of twelve. As a result, we were banned from using the riding lawn mower as a toy, and we had to have someone older babysit us for a few more years.

I’m the youngest of my sisters by about five years. This means that when I was little and my sisters were about ten to fifteen, they loved having me around (or so I like to think). What I think the liked the most is that they had someone to play the roles no one else wanted when we played pretend (my roles mainly consisted of me being the baby, whether that be an actual baby, a baby lion from the Lion King or any other animated movie we chose to reenact. If there was no baby role then I was regulated to any male role that needed to be filled.) For me I didn’t care, I was being included, even if I was only allowed to play with the Barbie missing an arm or got the last choice in dress up. As a child I trusted my older sisters explicitly (something I slowly learned was not always the best choice after being taught dog food was good to eat, and that the reason my mouth was washed out with soap was because my sister didn’t want to cop to being the one who actually dropped a profanity). This was my role as the youngest sister, and I embraced it wholeheartedly, if not with a tad bit of whining, crying, and tattling along the way.

As my sisters and I grew, so did the space between us. When you’re sixteen it’s not cool to have your eleven year old sister trailing after you. I, however, didn’t care. I wanted to do everything they did at the exact same time they were doing it. Classic youngest child. Being the youngest wasn’t always so bad, there were times when my sisters argued on my behalf to allow me to grow up faster (most times it was because they wanted to do or watch something that my parents wouldn’t allow me to see or do yet. So in an effort to get what they wanted they convinced my parents I was in fact, old enough to watch Friends, or stay at home alone so they could go out on the weekend).

Despite all of this, I always saw myself as just behind my sisters. Always trying to catch up and seen as equal by them rather than the chatty nuisance all younger sisters tend to be seen as. When I was entering junior high my sisters were graduating high school, and when I was graduating high school they were finishing up university. It seemed like I was never going to catch up. I saw them grow closer as they went on their separate paths, but always be there when the other needed them. There wasn’t a lot I needed from them in high school, unless of course it was advice on how to convince my parents to let me do something. I always knew they still loved me (I still have the thank you for not dying hippo my sister sent me when I was hit by car riding my bike),  but I felt disconnected from them somehow.

Even when I moved away for my first couple years of university I wasn’t quite sure how to connect with them. I still felt like I was the little sister who couldn’t possibly understand the stage of life they were going through. And then I got my first boyfriend and went through my first break up, and I didn’t know who to call. And then my phone began to ring, and my sister was on the other end offering to drive down and punch any guy who dared to break my heart. Although I didn’t take her up on the offer, it was exactly what I needed to hear. As the years went by I began to realize that just because my sisters were older, they saw me as a grown up (something I don’t always understand because I don’t even see myself as a real adult half the time). That just as they had grown up, so had I.

I mentioned in a previous post that both my sisters wound up getting married five weeks apart, and then they adopted puppies from the same litter. While my one sister just had a baby in September, my other sister will be having her first child in October. Their lives seem to be running parallel to one another, and mine is taking a path not even close to theirs. One day while I was on the phone with my sister she told me how proud she was of me this past year. How even though it had been pretty hard year for me she was impressed at how mature I had become. And then she told me just because my life hasn’t taken the same path as her and my other sister, doesn’t mean there was anything wrong with me. It is nice for them to be able to experience these milestones together, but me not doing them alongside them doesn’t mean that I’m not able to still connect with them.

That’s when I realized that all these years I hadn’t been chasing after my sisters, I had been looking up to them. I had been trying to emulate them. Each of them have amazing qualities that I admire so much. Like my sister’s impetuous nature which brings her so many amazing adventures. Or my other sisters ambition and preservation/inclusion of family traditions in our lives. There are so many wonderful things they have taught me, and I have learned so much from both their successes and failures. And I’ve come to the realization that even though I won’t get to experience everything alongside them, they will be able to teach me everything they know when my turn does come around.

So perhaps I’m the lucky one. I have been blessed enough to have two amazing sisters forge ahead of me in the world, who are fiercely protective of me, and constantly encourage me to follow my dreams, and even though we’ve had our fights (what kind of siblings would we be if didn’t), I wouldn’t trade these two woman for the world.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Just be yourself. Let people see the real, imperfect, flawed, quirky, weird, beautiful, and magical person that you are. – Unknown

When I was in elementary school my mom got me the worst haircut I’ve ever had. At the time it was probably really in style, but I hated it. She had my hair cut into a pixie cut, and then permed it. It looked like I had a permanent afro. It probably wouldn’t have been so bad, if as a child I wore any girly colored clothes. Instead I wore a lot of orange and navy blue and ran away from anything pink or purple. Unfortunately, my choice in clothing combined with my new haircut often caused me to be mistaken as a boy. There were quite a few times where I was followed into the girls washroom by someone telling me I walked into the wrong one.

After that experience I refused to cut my hair from grade 7 until my high school graduation. I grew it out till it reached down to my back, but I never did anything with it. I have naturally curly hair, which is hard to tame on its best days, but back in high school I couldn’t be bothered to do anything more than wash and dry it. It drove my mom crazy, she was always after to me to style it, or at least blow dry it before I left the house. In retrospect maybe having short hair would have been better for my lack of styling.

It wasn’t just my hair I struggled with. I couldn’t do makeup to save my life. I had no interest in the time it took to put it on or learning the proper contouring techniques or shaping my eyebrows. I never wore anything more than a pair of jeans and hoodie for the longest time. Much of this was to the chagrin of my older sister, who loved all of these things and really wanted to teach me all of her secrets. Doing hair and makeup came a lot easier to her (while I’ve since learned the basics of hair and makeup, I’m still convinced it’s a skill that some are much better at than others.)

The thing is for the most part I didn’t care. I didn’t care that my hair was unruly or that my eyebrows weren’t professionally tweezed. I didn’t care if I looked like all the other girls in my class or if I had the perfect outfit to wear to school.

Why does all of this matter? Because I’ve always been a little proud that I didn’t care too much about these things. I was glad I was able to shrug off a bad hair cut, or leave the house even if my eyeliner isn’t exactly perfect (something that makes my roommate cringe, shes the master of the perfect eye, and that I blame on how small my eyelids are). But two months a go I went in for a regular haircut, and I came out fuming.

As someone with curly hair, it’s often hard to find someone who knows how to properly cut your hair (usually it should be cut dry vs. wet, but if it is cut wet, you never cut it at the exact length you ask for because curls always pull up.) For the past couple of years I’ve worn my hair just above my shoulders, and when I went in I asked for it to be cut to my ears, knowing that it would grow out again fairly quickly. Instead my hairdresser trimmed the right side of head to almost non existent and the back pulled up pretty far as well. It was nothing like I’d asked for, but I couldn’t say anything. I just paid for the haircut and walked out the door completely devastated. I felt unattractive and extremely unfeminine. I had never been this unhappy with a haircut before, and that includes the pixie cut with bangs my sister talked me into my freshman year of university.

As I was sitting there fuming, I couldn’t help but think why does this matter? In a few weeks it will grow out and I’ll love my hair again. When did I suddenly get so insecure about how I looked? Obviously I have felt insecure about how I looked before, but it had never bothered me as much as it was now.

The next morning I had to go into work, and so I decided that in order to take the attention off of my hair I would wear an amazing outfit and make sure my makeup was on point. I even took the time to accessorize (something else that I really struggle with)! I was so confident walking into work with my blazer and matching shoes. This feeling lasted about two minutes when the reception looked at me and said, “you know your blouse is inside out right?” I looked down to see that she was right (she tells me something like this at least once a week whether it’s my sweater being on backwards or my shoes not matching my outfit). I quickly took my blouse off intending to put it on correctly, forgetting that I had put on lipstick that morning. Needless to say red lipstick and white blouses do not mix. My outfit was ruined! I had to borrow a cardigan from a coworker and my blazer and necklace no longer worked with it. My confidence was gone…until the first person to walk by my desk looked at my new hairstyle and complimented it. And then another person…and another! Suddenly I realized my new hairdo wasn’t as bad as I thought. My roommate had tried to tell me that when I came home, but she’s my roommate and she has to say things like that.

Suddenly I started embracing my hair, and my confidence came back. In fact, I’m going back this week for a hair cut, and getting the same style done. The purpose for this blog post is that this whole experience has made me think about the concept of beauty. I can’t remember the day I decided that wearing pink and purple was okay. Or the day I put makeup on for the first time, or when I bought my first pair of heels (side note, I have mastered the art of walking in heels, I can in fact, walk faster than my roommate in heels while she’s in flats). At some point I slowly started doing all these things, and there’s nothing wrong with any of them. However, I found that lately I wasn’t doing any of these things for me. I was doing them because I wanted other people to like me, so that other people would think I was pretty. I wanted to be one of those women that people look at and couldn’t believe how put together they are (rather than the inside out blouse wearing woman I usually am).

And that’s when I realized that I needed to stop. I needed to stop worrying about my hair, or the fact that I started getting pimples on my face, or whether or not the outfit I’m wearing is in style if the only reason I’m doing these things is to impress others than what’s the point? And I know that I will have my days just like everybody else, but overall I need to be ok with who I am. Because in the end who cares if fifty percent of my wardrobe comes from my mom and grandma, they’ve got great taste! I look just as good with my bushy eyebrows as my roommate does with her shaped ones. We all have our things, we all have our own form of beauty, and even though it may be hard to see sometimes, it’s time we all start embracing it. I know I’m going to.

 

 

My First Love

Some books you read. Some books you enjoy. But some books just swallow you up heart and soul. – Joanne Harris

At this very moment I am sitting on my couch eating ice cream out of the carton watching my roommate and her boyfriend work, which is really just an excuse to sit at the table and flirt. It’s actually quite amusing, and my spot is perfect for mocking them at the same time…I’m not sure they find that part quite as funny as I do. As my roommate’s boyfriend would put it, the cynical side of me has reemerged (I think he kind of missed this side of me over the last few months, even if he’d never admit it).

The truth is I’m not actually as cynical as I come across, for the most part I just do it to annoy my roommate, which has about a 90% success rate. In reality I am a romantic at heart. I realized that this weekend when I returned to Pinterest for the first time in six months. I have a Pinterest account for one reason only: the quotes. I love quotes. I can spend hours scrolling through and pinning them to my quotes board. I have a few other boards as well, but my quote board has the most pins by far.

As I was scrolling through the quotes I had saved over the years I realized that there were three main themes to the types of quotes that I chose to pin. Inspiration, beauty, love. I know that first category can cover a lot, but for me inspiration relates to quotes that describe the person I want to be, but haven’t quite found a way to embrace yet. It’s like I have the person I am, and the person I want to be, and I’m working harder to get closer and closer to that person. Not because I’m dissatisfied with myself, but because I know as time goes on I need to keep growing.

The thing I love about quotes, or words in general, is there ability to come together and say exactly what you’re thinking or feeling at the moment you’re thinking or feeling it. Words have the ability to penetrate your soul.  You remember advice, a story, or a phrase you heard long after it’s been said. They find a way to take root in your heart and speak into who you are.

I think that’s probably why I became an English major in the first place. I loved the way words could make a person feel. I loved examining what was beneath the surface of a book or a poem, because there was always more than met the eye. Words are some of the most powerful things in the world. They can be used to build people up, but they can also be used to cut people down.

A few years ago, my roommate and I were struggling with feeling loved and beautiful. It was a problem. So one night I took a bunch of note cards and scrolled through my Pinterest writing out quotes such as:

“Be confident. Too many days are spent comparing ourselves to others and wishing to be something we aren’t. Everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses, and it’s only when you accept everything you are – and aren’t – that you will truly succeed.”

“You are the content of your character. You are the ambitions that drive you. You are the goals that you set. You are things that you laugh at and the words that you say. You are the thoughts you think and the things you wonder. You are beautiful and desirable not for the clique you attend, but for the spark of life within you that compels you to make your life a meaningful one. You are beautiful not for the shape of the vessel, but for the volume of the soul that carries it.”

“There is nothing more beautiful than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me that is the essence of true beauty.”

I took these quotes and I posted them all around the outside of our mirror. So whenever we looked at ourselves and thought that we weren’t pretty or loved, we would know differently. We would be empowered to think differently…and it worked. It caused us to look at ourselves differently. To be less concerned with what the world thought of as beauty, and more concerned with loving ourselves the way we were.

For years the wall across my bed was filled with note cards with various quotes. I’m talking about an entire wall, and about half of it was filled with different quotes that inspired me. I never wanted to forget a single word that elicited my love for the English language.

My roommate often mocks me for the amount of quotes I send her, or how I can go on and on about a quote and how it applies to my life. How it makes me feel or something it reminded me of. There are very few things that can get me going, but words are one of them. And then this summer she got me the best gift of all. I had walked into an antique store and saw an old fashioned typewriter, and I fell in love with it. I wanted it so badly, but not badly enough to spend $200.00 on it. As luck would have it, my roommate went out running later that week and passed by a garage sale. She glanced at the closest table, and there it was: a typewriter! She booked it home to get money and purchase it right away. The minute I opened it my mind ran wild with all the ways I could use it. Remember when I said I was an 80 year old woman on the inside? Well this just fed right into that part of my persona. I immediately ran out and got some fancy paper and began to write. I wrote a few letters on it, and as I wrote a thrill would run through  me. This typewriter was bringing me to life.

I guess the point of this long explanation of my love for words is to show you, that even though I make a lot of jokes about being a spinster or becoming a permanent fixture in my roommate and her boyfriends home (whenever they get married), I am actually a romantic at heart. I save the smarmy quotes on what love is, and I repost the inspirational quotes about chasing your dreams and not being defined by societies definition of beauty. And I find myself more often than not getting lost for hours in the words of those who chose to write down their innermost thoughts, who probably never thought they’d wind up inspiring anyone else but themselves.

With that I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the Velveteen Rabbit:

“He said, ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”