When you look back on the grand scheme of things, of all the places you’ve gone and tasks you’ve accomplished, it can often be really difficult to pinpoint exact moments that have impacted or changed you in some way. Barring the big ones like meeting your partner, getting married, having your first, second or third child – can you think of smaller moments that have truly changed your life?
On a recent backpacking trip to Catalina Island with Scott, while essentially stranded on a remote beach with absolutely nothing to do, technology to entertain us, or external stimulation to consume ourselves, we spent a lot of time talking. Now, if you know Scott, you’ll know he’s not the most deeply emotional person – he spends his days operating in 0s and 1s and building “cool technology stuff.” He’s deeply analytical, and so it’s rare for him to open up about something emotional or self-reflective.
As we were sitting on one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, we got to talking about the things we’ve done together and our passions. I think the conversation started about how I half-forced him into scuba diving (it was one of the things I was absolutely determined to do in my life) and how it’s one of our most favourite things to do in the world. We got to talking about our advanced certification process and how as part of our requirements we had to do a “diver appreciation course” – basically, we had to go find a square foot section of coral and just sit and watch it for 30 minutes straight. At the time, it sounded like one of the most boring things possible – most people want to see sharks or turtles or clown fish….so we weren’t really stoked for it. As Scott and I were sitting and talking about this, Scott blurts out “you know, that dive actually changed my life. I always thought scuba diving, and life really, was about covering as much ground as you could and seeing as many big ticket items as possible; but that experience taught me that often there is so much more value in slowing down, stopping even, and taking the time to appreciate the small things.” And while up to this moment we had never talked about it, I got chills and said “ME TOO!”
Sitting and watching a piece of coral for 30 minutes was truly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced. When you first stop at a piece of coral, it looks pretty bland. Not much is going on. But when you hunker down and let the environment get used to your presence, things start to shift – flora starts to open, small creatures start to come out of the cracks and magical things happen. On that one piece of coral, we saw some of the tiniest and most interesting creatures we have ever seen diving – minute fish, little crabs, oysters opening a bit further to show glimpses of their pearls inside….truly beautiful and amazing things.
That experience was a life-changing moment to the old adage “take the time to stop and smell the roses.” Take a rest from the race, from trying to see all the big sights and highlights and take a moment to slow down and let your surroundings open up to you – and you’ll probably be amazed at what you find.
One interesting thing about being a Canadian in America is that pretty much as soon as someone finds out you are Canadian, they want to talk to you about it.
After asking you to say “about” over and over again – the first things people want to talk about are either healthcare, or the economy, and how Canada has fared so well with both.
I am going to start posting these conversations on my blog, because I find them so utterly hilarious. While I love living in America and the opportunities this country is affording me here, I struggle sometimes with the value and belief system of many Americans. Yes, I meet many many intelligent and amazing Americans every day, but this is usually in my professional context, or somehow related to it – the minute I am dealing with the general public, things start to “get real.”
My most recent such interaction was with my dental hygienist. While the dentist smartly asked me about hockey (nice neutral topic) when he found out I was Canadian, the hygienist started off on this hilarious monologue that actually ended up being somewhat tortuous (keep in mind, I’ve got stuff in my mouth and can really only mutter and grunt back at her): “Oh, you are from Canada? You guys have fared so much better through the recession than us. Why do you think that is? (pause – I grunt) I met this Canadian couple when I was traveling Italy last summer and I was talking to them about this, and they said it’s because the government raised taxes when things started to take a downward turn. (pause – I grunt) You guys really seem to know what you are doing up there. This couple that I met – they really had their lives together. Highly educated, newly married, around 30 and DEBT-FREE, my goodness, imagine that – it’s so RARE. (I’m thinking, not really lady, most of my friends sound just like this couple, they’re actually probably people I know….)
At this point she removes all of my apparati from my mouth so I can say something, so I chime in: “Yes, having a sustainable tax rate is very important, and so is lowering the interest rate to stimulate the economy. You know, I really don’t understand how so many states can get away being completely tax free here in the US. I mean, how do they pay for their infrastructure?”
She puts all the stuff back into my mouth and goes back to work and onto another monologue: “Well, those states have no people living in them. Vermont has like, 6 people. So they don’t need to pay for infrastructure or any type of social support. They don’t even need roads in those states! That’s how they do it. (pause – I grunt in horror) You know, I really wish I lived in one of those tax free states, I think I should move to one…I am just being taken to the cleaners here in California. And for what. For nothing! And there’s so many people here – it’s so crowded! I’m paying taxes to support all the people in this state who can’t get it together!”
At that point, the conversation got so ridiculous that I tried to close my eyes to get her to stop because my little heart was beating so fast. Was this woman serious? She completely identified the problem in her first statement, and when I thought we were on the same page…WHAM. Some weird belief system about taxes and what they go towards comes out! She then proceeded to tell me how the tax-free states are importing Mongolians and that she doesn’t even need to go to Mongolia, she can just go to Wisconsin to eat Mongolian food and experience that culture, and how this country is going downhill due to loose immigration policies and is just becoming one big cultural mess and tax catastrophe because you need to pay to socially support these newly immigrated populations…..
This woman’s essential monologue provided so much insight into what I often see with the value system of many individuals I have random conversations with: hardcore capitalism is so deeply ingrained in this society. I hear it over and over again “I work hard for my money, every penny should be mine to spend as I see fit – not to support my environment and the infrastructure that surrounds me.”
Ok, I get it….who needs roads, right? Or schools? Or policemen?….I know I plan on being so rich that I will live in my own compound, teach my children myself and hire my own bodyguards to protect me. But not until I’m much older than 30 and dig myself out of all this debt that every newly married young person has….
Today was this unusually windy and gusty day. When you live in a place where the weather is a pretty constant, temperate, “mild and sunny” twenty degrees year-round, you really take notice of things like this. On my way home on my bike this evening, I decided to take the scenic route down by the beach. I was literally taken away by the beauty tonight – the tempestuous wind had created the most beautiful rivets in the sand and the slightest marine layer had wandered it’s way inland, creating this eerie and ethereal haze, through which the sun was setting.
I had to stop and admire it. Now, this is something really rare for me - I’m normally so on the go, so caught up in my tasks and demands and requirements, that it’s rare that I a) leave work before it’s pitch black out (even in the summer) and b) take a moment to be present in my surroundings. I got off my bike, found a spot on the sand, and just sat.
And I sat and admired. I just breathed and appreciated. I slowed down, for once.
I was somehow moved to write S+K in a heart in the sand. And not 10 minutes later, the gushing wind had almost washed my creation of love away.
And I got to thinking - this was a message of something; for me, it was a message that love takes work. You can write your intention the sand, but it will disappear if you don’t re-trace it. It will disappear faster when the elements are more difficult - rain and wind will wipe it away faster than the mildness of a quiet, calm, sunny day. It was a sign for me that love isn’t easy and it doesn’t just stick - you need to work to re-define it more deeply and more frequently when things are tough....because that’s when it will disappear the quickest.
So today I want to thank the wind. I want to thank it for shouting so loud that I needed to stop and listen to the important things and for making me breathe and take it all in.
This Friday, I do something that most people generally loathe – I turn 30.
I’ve been thinking a lot about why humanity is usually at unease with this milestone and I think I’ve boiled it down to a few things: the end of one’s wasted youth…the impending doom of real adulthood and responsibility…the brink of middle age, complete with hair loss, belly expansion and gray hair….
But I’m going to say something that generally shocks people – prepare for your jaw to drop – I’m actually excited to turn 30. In fact, I’ve been telling random people I meet that I’m 30 for the past few months now.
My friend Anna thinks that it is because I have an “old soul age” – that my soul is actually like 45, so it becomes more content as I age. Notttttttttttt sure I buy it (sorry Anna), but I like to think it’s probably because my 20s were a really good run. Like, reallllyyyyyy good. If I look back at all I’ve accomplished in the last decade, I’m a little impressed (I promise, I’m really not an egotistical maniac. Really.). I completed a university degree, travelled the world (school in Europe, eastern Canada and quit my job at 26 to travel Southeast Asia), dated around, met my best friend & married him, built the beginning of what I hope will be a successful career, presented at conferences, published in a peer reviewed journal and other publications, moved to a new country and industry, made, kept and continue to build meaningful relationships…
But most importantly of all, I’ve fallen in love with myself, and with life. I’ve gained confidence, I’ve come to terms with my body, with my personality, and what I contribute to the situations I find myself in. I’m actually excited for more – for this journey to continue into my 30s. I’m excited to learn new things, taste new food, meet new people, and discover new places and things…and I’m excited at the prospect of the opportunities and challenges I will face and what I will come up against.
Yeah, I have some gray hairs now, and yeah, I have a few wrinkles under my eyes, but I feel as vibrant and alive as I did at the ripe old age of 20; the world still feels as exciting and new as it did to me back then.
I really do hope I never lose this outlook. Maybe I have rose-colored glasses, but the world looks so much better with them. I hope I feel just as excited about turning 40 and 50 and 60 – because life is fun like that and things change and you move into different phases…and while I’m leaving some pretty cool stuff behind, I know that some really amazing stuff is waiting for me ahead too.
Somewhere along the years of my adult life, November has become by personal New Year’s. I’m not entirely sure why; for some reason that I cannot name, the shorter, darker, cooler days of new fall that begin around September always throw me off a bit. Call it what you will, but I seem to take this time to slow down a bit from life….reflect on my situation, and generally speaking, I make some sort of grand decision to change things around mid-November. A new job, quitting my job to travel the world, quitting my beloved job to try out LA, moving houses….it always seems to come around this time (November 24th, in particular, holds a few anniversaries for me), and I’m left closing a chapter of my life and feeling kind of out of sorts about it. While there is always a glimmer of excitement and hope for the new door that stands in front of me, it’s that moment where I turn around and look around the room I’m leaving: the photos, the trinkets, the memories…. and I take a big breath to let it all wash over me. That’s where I’m at right now.
I moved to LA one year ago. Aside from the time I quit my job and got rid of most of my stuff to travel for 6 ½ months, this is for sure the scariest and biggest undertaking I’ve ever done. It might even have been scarier than the travelling. This past year in LA has been this really intense journey for me. I’ve had to prove myself to a lot of people, in a lot of facets, and while I think I’ve done well, I’ve had to fight a lot of demons, explore sides of myself I didn’t really like very much and work really really hard to reinvent myself.
I don’t know if it was fate or some kind of message from my higher self, but on my exact one year anniversary of being in this huge wild city, I found a store while wandering aimlessly with two new friends called “Kiki and Kenna” that sells the most gorgeous handmade jewelry. It was sort of like a sign – that maybe I belong here after all and that I’ve done OK. So I bought a locket, something I could keep that would remind me of my time in LA, the serendipitous moment of finding a store named after my very unique name, and how things always seem to work themselves out.
And so, here we go again. Last year I moved to LA. I moved two a new country with a few key belongings, bought new stuff, established a new credit rating, started a new career, got a promotion, got married, made new friends, explored new areas, and here I am. As I write this, I sit amongst a few boxes of a few key things ready to move to Marina Del Rey (a new city, a new zip code), sign a new one-year lease and see where this crazy city takes me this year. And in a way, it’s almost scarier – last year I kind of knew what I was up for and what lay ahead; this year, it’s all a bit of a mystery. I can’t really imagine where I will be next November 24 – but that’s the fun of life.
So, here’s to that door handle and what lays ahead – I think I’m just about ready to open you.
Usually I try to reserve my blog for insightful posts about life, epiphanies, art, the more cultured side of things…but I just got back from Burning Man and thought I should share some of my learnings. Because you know what? I did have lots of epiphanies at Burning Man and it was definitely an artful and cultured experience, in its own way. So what did I learn at Burning Man? Would I go back? I’ve narrowed it down to four big things that I took away from being in the Nevada desert for a week at one of the most intense “experiences” of my life.
1. The World is all About Balance.
I already really knew this one, but Burning Man really crystallized this for me – for every up, there is a down…for every beautiful moment, there is an equally ugly one. For every bright, loving and giving person, there is also someone who is dark and who will take what they want, when they want it. Burning Man was the land of dichotomies for me; a place of brilliant beautiful moments where I felt so light I could touch the sky, but this didn’t come without moments that were so low and heavy for me that I nearly lost hope. Everything at Burning Man is so extreme: the environment, the dust, the artwork, the people, the outfits, the activities…so it’s not really surprising that I experienced so many extreme moments that never ceased to balance each other out – like a pendulum on a neverending swing.
2. Embrace your Creative Side.
I’m a really, really, REALLY analytical, organized and put together person – so it was really hard for me in the beginning to go with the burning man flow and get in touch my creative side. When I first got there, I kept thinking “why are people spending all this time and money on trivial things like sculptures, art cars and music? wouldn’t humanity be better served putting all this energy towards giving to those in need? to helping the less fortunate?” But once I let go a little bit and put the logical side of myself aside, I started to GET it…to get the beauty of all the creativity of my surroundings. That Black Rock City was there to open my mind, to hear the music, see the art, and that I would come away from it invigorated to contribute to a greater good….to something truly bigger than myself. I was filled with ideas, thoughts and inspiration for projects upon my arrival back to “the default world.”
3. Lean into the Discomfort.
I was sooo uncomfortable when I first arrived at Black Rock City – the dust, the noise, folks in strange outfits and people in varying states of substance abuse. It didn’t help that I had ventured out on my own, without a close friend or partner for comfort, and I was really freaking uncomfortable with everything. The playa was vast and scary – I couldn’t believe people were riding around out there. I wandered around by myself but the camps were too intimidating to go into. But, slowly and surely, I started to become OK with the discomfort. To get on my bike and ride around in a dust storm. To visit the trash fence at sunrise. To do things I wasn’t sure I really wanted to do, try things I wasn’t sure I wanted to try. I leaned into the discomfort a la Brene Brown, and it really ended up being OK….I actually started to LIKE the discomfort. Because it meant I was alive and feeling and THERE.
4. Have an Open Mind.
Stop questioning your reality. Respect what is going on around you and let it flow. Let it feed you and fill you, because you’ll come back with a new appreciation for SOMETHING. When your cup is empty, you never know what kind of interesting drink someone will fill it with! I couldn’t figure out why everyone was so excited to burn a man…I felt regret and sadness – that guy in the middle of BRC – he had guided my way for the past 6 nights. But then, in one fell stroke, I got it….it wasn’t A man, it was THE man. For me, Burning Man signified living a life out of the ordinary, doing what inspires and moves you, and getting outside of the box – there’s so much more out there if you open your eyes and mind and take it in.
So, there you have it. My four big learnings from Burning Man. So, would I go back? You know, I would. I had a lot of really crappy moments: someone stealing the seat on my bike and replacing it with a scratchy one that made my legs bleed…being left all by myself…a strange old man motorboating my boobs….people saying hurtful things to me to assuage their insecurities…but I also had some truly amazing ones. Riding around with a superhero purple-haired unicorn and fuzzy bear, making new friends by firelight and witnessing surreal dance-offs, listening to amazing music and watching beautiful lights, exploring art for the sake of art, and deepening relationships with old friends – kind, gentle, loving spirits. I would go back again because nothing worth doing in life is easy, and I think it’s a good reminder and exercise for balance, creativity, discomfort and open mindedness. And that….. is pretty awesome.
Never before in the history of human interactions has it literally been so easy to keep tabs on your entire social network. With literally a few clicks and a name search, you can find almost anyone from your past or present and “friend” them on facebook…and immediately feel more a part of their lives by seeing status updates, photos and events go by.
The flip side to all of this is the fact that, literally, at the click of a button, you can “unfriend” someone – something that we’ve never really been able to do before. Most of the time we don’t go around and say to someone’s face “you know what, I don’t want to be friends with you anymore.” Previous disintegrations of relationships generally involved a fading out or a losing touch – nothing blatantly obvious that someone didn’t want you to be a part of their lives anymore.
But now, you can. Most of the time, it doesn’t bother me if someone “unfriends” me – it’s usually some far-reaching person who I haven’t spoken to in years and who I didn’t really care to keep in touch with anyway; it usually followed the same trajectory of “fading” that real life relationships followed anyway. And most of the time, I would hardly notice…it would usually take a while until a mutual friend posted a photo or something that would clue me in that that person had deleted me off their list…and I would generally give a little chuckle and move on with things.
Recently, I experienced a somewhat devastated unfriending…someone who I actually talk to somewhat frequently, who played a very large part for a very substantial period of my life and who meant a lot to me. Someone, who, when we first found each other on facebook actually told me that they were grateful for facebook, in that it allowed us to reconnect and to “not be lost to each other forever.”
So it really came as a slap in the face to me when, I went to go send said person a message and they were gone from my list and un-searchable through my page. But the thing that really surprises me is that this person has TWENTY-ONE mutual friends, one of which I see on a DAILY basis and another who is one of my bestest friends in the world that I speak to often.
I’ve really racked my brain on the possible reasoning of this drastic move to completely remove me from this person’s life, and while I have many theories, I’ll truly never know. And for someone like me, who places such a high value on transparency, honesty and open communications with my fellow humans, I find it really really frustrating that a person could just wipe me out of their life so easily and effectively.
I’m pretty sure that because of all of our interconnections and network webs (and that I actually do have their cell phone number and email), I will come face-to-face with this person one day and ask them why they chose to blatantly remove me from their online social life, but until then I am choosing to move past it without calling them out on it.
So there you have it – my thoughts on the dreaded facebook unfriend. What about you? Has someone important in your life tried to wipe you out of their digital life? And have you ever called someone out on it?
UPDATE: So literally a few days after I wrote this post, the person heard through our network of friends of this facebook deletion and re-added me and sent me a note. They said that I had “mysteriously” disappeared from their friends list — that this has happened to them with other friends too. Something smells a bit fishy to me on this one…would LOVE to hear the peanut gallery chime in with theories/thoughts/opinions on this one!!
You’ve paid the fees. You’ve got the outfit and the equipment. The Operator is waiting. You just need to jump. But getting off that ledge is really freaking hard. You know you want to do this – you have made all the plans, weighed all the options, but when it comes time to make the leap, your brain is screaming at you that this is not logical – NOT safe! – and every time you take a few steps and peer down, convinced that you are ready, your body protests and your feet stay planted right on the ground….until finally, you tell your brain to shut up and jump.
Sound familiar? I’ve felt this way twice in my life…the first time bungee jumping, the second time getting married. Seriously.
Now, I know that in putting this out there, I’m subjecting myself to a lot of critique…like, “wow, this girl probably shouldn’t have been getting married if she was feeling this way” or, “what kind of a woman seriously questions getting married?” But I’m doing it because I think it’s more common than most of us care to admit. That it is actually NORMAL to reflect and consider something that is really scary and that calls into question who you are and how you define yourself. And I’m hoping that, like I hope with all of my posts, I connect with people and make them think and even help to make them feel like maybe they are not so crazy after all for having similar ideas or emotions, but are too afraid to admit them for fear of being dismissed as different or abnormal.
Getting married made me realize the importance of actually having a wedding, with all the funny traditions and rituals which I thought were so ridiculous until I went through it myself…I mean, seriously – it is so silly to get dressed up in a big white dress, prance around, dance, be the center of attention…but I think we do it to help ourselves jump off that ledge – it’s like we NEED the investment, the love and support of our friends and family, the elaborate plans – to help encourage us to take the plunge. To do something that really scares us, to commit to one sole person, to put our hearts in someone else’s hands and be completely vulnerable to someone and trust them for the rest of our lives. All of that emotion and support from our loved ones is our harness and rope – the things that allow us to jump and know that we will be OK and that we will bounce back up into the air after an incredibly thrilling ride.
Almost everyone has asked me if I feel different now that I’m married, if things have changed between Scott and I. And nothing really has – but I feel like our bond is stronger and deeper…like we went through this really crazy and thrilling experience together and that we are closer for it – that no one else but us were there to see it and feel it and live it. Like most of what we have done that has brought us closer and has shaped who we are together, it was the shared experience…the basking in the love and celebration and excitement – the wild ride – that has solidified us. We have another adventure to add to the notches on the belt, and it kinda felt like we bungeed holding hands…and I’ll never forget how it felt to jump or to be lifted back into the air even higher than where we jumped from. I will forever cherish it, and my partner in crime who held my hand just as tightly as I held his while we soared through the air together.
Yep, similar feelings. The bungee jump and the marriage jump – for me, anyway.
I have had an amazing, real, raw and emotional past few days….which have consisted of four sequential completely honest and open conversations.
The first, I was really frightened to have with someone I find wholly intimidating, and had been putting it off for weeks. But once I had it, my heart lifted, and I was free of a lot of the burdens I had been carrying around. The second was completely surprising with a new friend – it shocked me how open this new friend was being with me, and it made me nod and go, yeah, her and I – we’re meant to be friends. We belong together. The third was with one of those people that you HAVE to be honest with – the kind that you cannot hide anything from, so unbelievably perceptive and intuitive, it’s like they read your mind..and it probably didn’t hurt I was completely naked at a spa in LA’s K-town at the time (an experience that warrants a whole new blog post on its own!). Standing in front of someone, completely stripped of literally everything, it’s almost like the honesty has nowhere to go – no collar fold to sneak into, no pocket to hide in. And the fourth. Wow, the fourth. With a dear, longtime friend, experiencing some of the same things I’m going through right now with love and marriage and all of that “adult adolescence” stuff. I wish we had been more honest with each other before….before I had moved away and put a country between us. But maybe that’s why the honesty flew out and over the state lines and provinces that separate us.
So if being honest feels so good, why is it so tough for most of us to look someone in the eye and tell them the complete and utter truth? Why do we avoid it? Why is honesty so bloody rare? Why do we sugar coat things, say things we don’t really mean and tell half truths to “appease” the other person when they’d probably be more satisfied hearing the whole truth?
I received this beautiful compliment between the second and third conversations from the wholly intimidating one that my honesty is “quite possibly, my most admirable quality.” Thank you for that, Sir – I needed to hear it. And although it was delivered in a fleeting moment, it has stuck and resonated with me.
These experiences over the past few days have solidified my beliefs that I need to be honest and open and vulnerable – I will be happier, those around me will be happier, and the world – MY world – will be a better place.
So here’s to honesty and putting ourselves out there – I feel pretty sure we’ll all be the better for it.