Finding that Work-life Balance

Work-life balance has always been something that I’ve struggled with. When I worked at Free The Children, they pushed the term “work-life integration” instead of work-life balance. Basically, the idea was that the stuff you do from 9 to 5 should … Continue reading

5 Fears of Freelancing

I am a freelance writer.

***

That sentence on its own is pretty terrifying, to be honest. But it’s true! I am currently a full time freelance writer – meaning that my current and only source of income is freelance writing. I have been doing some freelancing on and off since 2012. But it wasn’t until I quit my job in October and took off to Vietnam for a month that I found myself freelancing full time. So it’s been two and a bit months now and so far, freelancing is a work in progress and something I’m learning as I go.  Overall, I have to say that it’s going really well! There are lots of aspects of freelance writing that I love and many I’m still getting used to. Financially, it’s also working out and I’m actually making a decent amount seeing as I’ve only been doing this a short time. But despite how well things are going, I’m still scared. These are the five things that run through my mind pretty often and what I’m trying to do to stop them.

5. I’m scared I will hate writing.

Sometimes I’m scared I will hate writing. I have countless unfinished stories and starts of novels on my computer that are proof that I can fall out of love with my writing. And I get those feelings again when I find myself working on an article that I’m not passionate about or not interested in. When writing was just a hobby, it didn’t bother me too much that I would start a story and not return to it. But now that I rely on it for my income, I don’t really have the luxury of hating my writing and not returning to it. I have to keep going. And that is scary.

The cure: I went into my freelance “career” (can we call it a career yet?) with this fear in mind. And someone pointed out to me that even though I may have dropped stories or given up on ideas over the years, I have always consistently wrote. Since penning a play in high school, I have always returned to writing in some form. That’s almost a decade of writing! I also have this Hemingway quote up on a board by my desk which reminds me, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now.”

Other things I’m doing to ensure my love for writing doesn’t burn out is splitting my jobs into smaller tasks, taking breaks, working on client projects that I enjoy and always having some fun writing that’s just for me to fall back on, like this blog!

4. I’m scared no one will want to hire me.

I think this one boils down to our universal fear of rejection. Most people in regular 9-5s don’t have the opportunity to experience rejection all that often. As a freelancer, the chance of getting rejected comes up almost daily. Especially when I was first applying to jobs, it was hard to grow a thick skin so quickly and get used to the idea that some people will not want me. This also relates to a fear of having no money, since rejections are closely tied to my income.

The cure: This is definitely still something I’m working on. One thing I do to help is look back at the jobs I have gotten. I have about six clients that I am currently working for and have been hired by more than a dozen in my time freelancing. That’s twelve people who wanted to work with me and enjoyed my writing. That’s something! I also have a list of all of my published work and accomplishments, which helps to boost me up when I do get a rejection. Another thing I want to put together is some positive responses to my work, milestones I’ve hit and things that inspire me to write to help me get out of any rejection slumps.

3. I’m scared all my current clients will drop me.

With freelancing comes instability. None of my jobs are guaranteed. This isn’t something I had to worry about working at UBC. There was no way the university was going to run out of money and eliminate my job. And if they did, my union would be working hard to get me a sweet pension. But as a freelancer, I don’t have any of that. I could wake up tomorrow and have emails from all of my clients saying they no longer require my servces. That’s the scary reality of being a freelancer.

The cure: The first step to getting over this fear is just accepting that instability is a risk of freelancing. If I want to freelance and work for clients on my own time, I have to be willing to take the risk that the work could dry up. Practically, I feel better knowing that I have something to fall back on. I have my savings and I am confident that I could pick up a job in retail or serving if I really needed to. This fear also helps to motivate me to always be on the lookout for new clients and opportunities for work.

2. I’m scared no one will understand my work.

I don’t mean that I’m scared no one will understand my writing because I’m writing incredibly complicated and deep stuff. I mean that I’m scared no one will understand the type of work that I’m doing. The idea of being a freelancer is foreign to most of the people in my family and friend group. I don’t think it’s intentional, but it feels like it’s looked down upon by some. I had some conversations over Christmas and it felt like I had to justify what I was doing to people who just thought I was taking a break from real work. Another issue I’ve run into is people not understanding my need to work. I don’t have an office I go to where I can put in 8 hours. I have my desk in my living room and I divide up my work time throughout the day. But I still need to put in that time. So just because I’m home, it doesn’t mean I can get up and do errands or hang out. I’m working! And if I’m honest, this is a part of my freelance job that I also need to get better at. I need to get better at creating those boundaries that respect my time to work and my space. Because when I don’t, I spend all my non-work time stressing. My job doesn’t end at 5:00pm so if I put away my laptop to do something else, odds are I’m still worried about all of my unfinished work.

The cure: I know the cure to this one lies in me. I need to be more confident in my own work. I think a lot of this fear is my own projection and self-doubt. At Christmas my family treated my job like it was fake because that’s how I introduced it. I was self-deprecating and joked that I was working in my pajamas all day (not a joke though, I do work in pjs most of the time). I have to ask for what I need and explain to the people around me what my work schedule looks like because it’s so different from what they’re used to.

1. I’m scared I’m not good enough.

This one definitely has to be my biggest fear. What if my dream career is something I suck at? It was easier when I was working at a job I didn’t care about that was easy to do. But it’s a whole new thing to feel unqualified or inexperienced at a job I love and want to make a lifelong career out of. I have this fear a lot when I’m applying to jobs; it goes hand in hand with my fear of rejection. It also creeps up when people make snide comments about the type of writing I’m doing. No, I’m not writing the great American novel or hard hitting journalism. But I am writing. I’m writing for a living. And I want that to be enough.

The cure: Again, the cure to this one definitely comes down to my own confidence. I need to get more confident in my writing. How do I do that? For me, it helps to look to my past work. I try to keep track of times when I’ve felt good enough and celebrate my small wins as a writer. It also helps to remember that I am new to this and can only improve from here.

***

All of these fears are legitimate and I feel them on a regular basis. But they don’t cripple me. It helps to have this blog as a place where I can explore these feelings and put them down on (virtual) paper. As you can see, I’m still working on these fears. I have some cures in mind but I don’t always remember to implement them. I want to figure out a better routine for my writing and work on keeping myself motivated.  I’m still learning!

But one thing I know for sure is that I am so much happier now working as a freelance writer than when I was working my 9 to 5 at UBC. I am excited about my work. I don’t wake up dreading the day and counting down the hours until I can go home – partially because I’m already home. I get to control my own schedule and do the work that I want. I get to write! It’s amazing and despite my big fears, I’m very happy to be doing it.

2016: A Year In Review

I think it’s safe to say that 2016 really wasn’t anyone’s year; I mainly blame Trump. But even though it wasn’t a stellar year, I still love to look back to recount the highs and lows and see what’s coming up for 2017.

***

I usually start my annual round ups by looking back at the previous year’s and seeing how well my predictions played out. Except, this year I took an accidental blogging hiatus from September 2015 until April 2016. Whoops! So I didn’t actually write a round-up for 2015. But I think I can safely say that my life is pretty different than what I thought it would be at this time last year. That actually seems to be a trend every time I write one of these reviews! Should I be surprised that my life is constantly changing?

So here’s a quick recap of my 2016:

January
In January, I had just finished spending my first Christmas with the Marriotts in Vancouver and had just moved into my new apartment. I was a month into my brand new job at UBC and was hosting Sophie, my previous roommate, on the couch in my studio apartment. Things were squishy but it was a fun-filled month.

Colin's birthday on the Canucks big screen!

Colin’s birthday on the Canucks big screen!

February
Sadly, Sophie returned to Ontario in February and I was roommate-less for the first time in a year. Besides that, February was business as usual as far as I can remember.

March
March was a busy month! My mom came to town so I got to enjoy lots of quality Moo time with delicious dinners and outings around Vancouver. We also celebrated Colin’s birthday and at the end of the month, we took off to LA!

April
We started the month of April in Los Angeles where Colin, his mom Margie and I spent 6 days thanks to a amazing flight deal. We packed in a lot during our short trip such as a basketball game, hockey game, city tour, beach day and visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Later that month, Colin and I celebrated our one year anniversary.

Venice Beach, California

Venice Beach, California

May
May was another busy month. We went to Victoria for Victoria’s Day, saw Macklemore and Matt Corby in concert, watched Billy Elliott and I started my new gig at the Allard School of Law at UBC.

June
If I thought May was busy, just wait until June! I spent the first couple of weeks getting settled in my new job. We also had Colin’s aunt, who had been sick, pass away, which was tough for the family. At the end of the month, it was off to Toronto for Colin and I where I got to be a co-maid of honour at my friend Kimberley’s wedding. We then took off for a quick couple of nights in Montreal. We got back to Vancouver, unpacked, repacked and left the next day to spend the long weekend in Pender Harbour.

Colin & I at Kim's wedding

Colin & I at Kim’s wedding

 

July
Our original plan for July was to do a roadtrip out to Calgary to visit Colin’s family and hit the Calgary Stampede. Unfortunately, with Colin’s work schedule, it didn’t happen this year. Maybe in 2017? But we did manage to get away to Harrison Hot Springs for my birthday weekend where we indulged in massages, courtesy of my mom, and a fancy birthday dinner. July was also the month where I got to see Newsies, Rock of Ages and a Vancouver Festival of Lights fireworks show!

August
In August, I headed back to Toronto where I was in yet another wedding. This time, I got to watch my best friend Andrea marry the love of her life. When I got back to Vancouver, my cousin Ryann and

Andy's wedding!

Andy’s wedding!

her boyfriend were in town thanks to med school placements that brought them out west. It was so fun to hang out with Ryann and Alex, go out to some great meals and experience Vancouver with them. Adding one more show to our year (we really see a lot of theatre!), Colin and I went to The Book of Mormon (his second time seeing the show, my fourth) with his good friends from high school.

 

Montreal

Montreal

September
Unfortunately, September was the big low of 2016. Towards the end of August, Colin’s dad Randy entered the hospital and on September 8th, he passed away. The short 11 days we spent in the hospital is still a bit of a blur and doesn’t quite feel real. Even though it’s been months, I still sometimes find myself waiting for Randy to come in from his workshop in the backyard when I’m staying in Surrey.

October
October was a month of a lot of changes, definitely spurred by the great loss our family suffered in September. I decided to quit my job, booked a fairly spontaneous trip to Vietnam and finally said out loud that I want to be a writer. We ended the month with my last day working a 9-5 at UBC (maybe forever!) and a complimentary stay on Granville Island thanks to a contest I had won earlier in the year.

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

November
I started this month by living with Colin and Margie in Surrey for 12 days before heading off on a three week trip to Vietnam with my friend Emilie! It felt great to get on a long haul flight and check somewhere new off of my bucket list. There were definitely moments that I did not enjoy – when I was too hot and just wanted to lie in bed with air conditioning all day. But overall, I loved the trip! Highlights include our perfect day in Hoi An where we hit the beach, went to a cooking class and got dresses made, cruising beautiful Halong Bay, going on my own writer’s retreat to Phu Quoc Island and all of the delicious and cheap food we enjoyed!

Christmas light maze

Christmas light maze

December
I got back to Vancouver just in time for the most festive month of the year. I had a couple weeks in Vancouver where I split my time between my Kits apartment and Colin’s place in Surrey and tried to fit in as many social catch ups with friends as I could. And then it’s back to Toronto for Christmas. I didn’t get to go home last year, so it’s really nice to know I’ll be spending the holidays with my family and Toronto friends. But it’s also very hard to leave my Vancouver family behind, especially since they’re a smaller group this year after some pretty significant losses. December was also my first official month of what I like to call “fake employment.” I’m really giving this freelance writer thing a proper shot. And, a bit to my surprise, it’s working out. I’m not rolling in the dough, but I am making a decent amount of money from something I only got serious about in the last two months of the year.

I’m posting this on the eve of my flight to Toronto, so I assume the last 8 days of the year will be filled with chilly Toronto temperatures, lots of happy reunions with friends and family, all of the Christmas songs and decor I could want, and more food than one should reasonably eat in 8 days.

What’s next?
This is my favourite part! I love looking ahead and trying to predict what the next year will bring me or writing down some of my hopes and goals. I used to do resolutions; I’m not sure I’m going to make any for 2017. I like the idea of setting goals and having affirmations to guide me through the year, but I don’t want to rush to come up with a list just to meet an arbitrary deadline.

So what is happening in 2017?

Career: I would love if I could be a full-time freelance writer in 2017. It would be the dream to make my living just from my writing. However, that might not be realistic, especially since I’m just starting out. So I’m looking to pick up clients and get some steady gigs. But I’m also applying to some part-time stuff so I can still focus on writing but have something more steady on the side. I hope by the end of January/February, I’ll have that a bit more figured out. But if I could end 2017 confidently saying, “I’m a writer” when people ask what I do, that would be huge. I can’t even put into words how happy that would make me to be able to boldly say that.

Living: Surprisingly, I managed to stay in one apartment for a whole year (I can’t say the same about any of my jobs…). But as I shared previously, the plan is for me to give my notice when I get back from Toronto because Colin and I will be moving in together in March. We’re looking for a spacious, modern and affordable apartment in New West, preferably right by the skytrain. Any leads?

Travel: My first trip of the year will be in February. Colin and I are joining his mom and some other friends and relatives at an all-inclusive in Huatulco, Mexico for a week. I’m not usually a fan of all-inclusives but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit a country I’ve never been to, hang out by the beach with my boyfriend and escape a dreary Vancouver February. Other potential travel plans include a family trip to Europe in May with my stepmom’s side, a possible trip with my mom in September and a little surprise I’m working on for the summer!

Anything else? I think that’s all I’ve got planned for 2017 so far! I kind of love that the year is open and that I can take advantage of any opportunities that come my way. You know I can’t resist a good deal on a flight! But I’m really stoked for the things that I do have planned. I’m trying out my dream career as a writer and I’m loving every minute of it. I’m months away from moving in with my boyfriend and getting to live out my domestic fantasies in decorating a new place and maybe stepping up my cooking game. And I’ve got lots of exciting travel plans on the horizon. 2017 is sounding pretty stellar already.

***

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! All the best for your own stellar 2017 🙂

A labour of love

When I started this blog, it was a place to express my strong desire to escape and get away.  And when I finally did get away, it became the perfect platform to share stories and photos from my trips abroad.  Now, more settled back at home, my blog has become a way for me to express myself and still share aspects of my life with anyone who happens to be reading.

Throughout all the phases of this blog over the last 4+ years, it has always been a creative outlet. Writing has always been my creative outlet.  I’ve dabbled in different types of writing over the years: fictional with short stories and scripts, blog posts, academic writing, editorial writing and freelance article writing.

I’ve always said that I love writing.  In fact, one of the reasons this blog came into existence is because it combines my two greatest loves: writing and travel.  I have never had a problem admitting my love for writing.

But admitting that I want it to be more than just a hobby? Now, that’s scary.

Over the last year (or probably longer), I’ve really struggled with a career path. I bounced around – non-profit, counselling, HR – but nothing really stuck.  I used to think I was so much smarter than those kids who decide they’re going to be doctors at the age of 7 and hold onto that for the rest of their lives. I thought by being open to all my interests and not committing to one thing, I was setting myself up for a more realistic career path.  And hey, maybe I will return to those other interests in the future and I don’t regret any of the career turns I’ve taken.  But I’ve also realized by not committing, I’m not putting myself out there. I’m not saying what I want. I’m not going after my dream. And honestly, it’s because I’m scared.  I am terrified that if I say my dream out loud, it means I could fail.  But if I don’t say it out loud, I’ll never know if I could succeed.

So, I’m saying it: I want to be a writer.

In fact, I am a writer! Not only on this blog, but I’ve been freelance writing for almost five years.  In the last few months, I’ve picked up a couple of new projects.  And I’m looking to add even more.  So I’m a writer and I’m looking for work! I really want to make writing my career. I want to be a writer. That’s my heart work. It’s terrifying to admit that. But it’s also really empowering. I’m not sure when I decided it was okay to bury my dream of writing but I’m done with that. I am slowly learning how to acknowledge my passion and give it the attention it deserves.

And with that acknowledgement comes all of the terrifying possibilities of rejection, writer’s block, networking, etc. I’m slowly coming around to those ideas. But it also comes with a lot of pride, creativity and great opportunities. I’m nervously excited.

So with that, if you or anyone you know is looking to hire a writer, I would love to be considered.  You can check out my work in my Writer’s Portfolio and contact me with any projects.  Please feel free to spread the word: this writer is going after her dream!

Am I ready for a dog?

So if you’ve spent any time with me in the last year, you know I’ve spent a majority of that time cooing over adorable puppies on the street, stalking dog shelter websites and longing to bring home a fur-ball of my own.

***

But am I ready?

I grew up with a dog, the beautiful and berserk Yoda.  Yoda was a big puppy – over 100lbs! He was a barker and a shedder.  But he was also the most lovable goofball and definitely added a lot to our family.  It was amazing growing up with a dog.  However, I’m the first to admit that our parents did most (all) of the work with Yoda: morning walks, grooming and buying huge bags of dog food all fell within their responsibility.

Yoda & the fam - circa 2006!

Yoda & the fam – circa 2006!

So am I ready for a dog of my own?

What kind of dog? As much as I love Yoda, I know I’m not ready or inclined to bring home a dog of that size.  Ideally I’m looking for a small dog with a shorter coat.  And I really want a senior dog! Senior dogs have a harder time getting adopted, because they aren’t as appealing as the puppies.  I love the idea of being able to provide an awesome home for a dog’s final years.  Senior dogs are also usually lower-energy, housetrained and (lucky for me) more affordable!

Where will the dog live? So I’ve recently moved into a new apartment. And while I love my new place, it’s definitely small.  I don’t know if this is a deal-breaker for a dog or not.  Some dogs, especially small senior ones like the kind I want, are more than happy to have their little dog bed area and don’t need much more than that. I think as long as I’m able to give my dog the time he/she needs outside, having a small inside space will be okay.

Am I allowed to get a dog? Right now my landlords are in the “considering” phase, due to a bad dog experience with a previous tenant. I definitely want to be respectful of the other tenants here and would never go against my landlords’ wishes.  Their concerns (not letting the dog do his/her business in the front yard, not having a dog home who barks all day) are valid and things I would need to consider before bringing someone home.

Do I have time? How will the dog fit into my schedule? This one is a bit of a pickle.  The FTC office I work at actually allows dogs, so I would be able to bring my buddy to work with me.  However, I wouldn’t want to bring my dog in everyday, so I’d need to have a back-up plan.  Do I bus home at lunch (do-able, but not ideal)? Hire a dog-walker (expensive)? Or hope my dog can make it without a bathroom/exercise break during the work day (possible but uncomfortable)? And then there’s my shifts at the Arbutus Club on the weekend, where I definitely can’t bring a dog.  Would my dog be okay if he was walked at 3:00pm and then not again till I got home at midnight or (if either of us are too tired) the next morning?

Can I afford it? While I’m far from rich, I do think I would be able to afford a dog.  I understand that there would be some big ticket items at first and then monthly/yearly expenses.  The dog sites I’ve looked at estimate anywhere between $700 and $1200 per year for proper dog care.  And proper dog care is obviously something I wouldn’t want to cut corners on.  It would be a big expense, but I’m confident in my current income and ability to manage money.  However, senior dogs do tend to err on the more expensive side of healthcare…

And what about my travelling? One thing that’s kept me from clicking the “adopt” button on all the shelter websites has been my near-constant nomadic status over the last year. Now that I’m more settled, I feel a bit more ready for permanent changes to my life, like a dog. In the next two years, I don’t see travelling for longer than a couple of weeks (crazy, right?), during which my dog could stay with a dog-loving friend or at a doggy daycare.  Of course, a dog, even a senior dog, is more than a two year commitment.  And right now I don’t exactly know where I’ll be in two years.  A big contender: moving to London.  But regardless of where I go (or if I stay), I think my next move would be long-term.  I learned while living in Amsterdam that I prefer slow travel with a homebase.  So wherever I go next, I plan for it to be a long enough move that I could do the work to bring my dog with me!

****

So, am I ready?

Getting on board with on-boarding

I spent the last week back in Toronto (again) for Free The Children training aka on-boarding.  I was also able to fit in a few dinners with friends/family and experience some frighteningly frigid temperatures.  The whole week was kind of a whirlwind, but I’m flying back to Vancouver (literally, I’m typing this on the plane) with a ton of information about FTC, new co-workers I’m happy to call friends, an extra blanket of love from my friends and family, and a re-invigoration for my job.  Not bad for a week in -11 degrees, eh?

*****

Bianca (my co-worker from the Vancouver office) and I arrived in Toronto on a rainy, mild afternoon that looked and felt suspiciously like the Vancouver we had just left.  But Toronto was quick to show its true colours: we bundled up in double socks, mittens, hats and scarves every time we left the hotel room that week.

On-boarding started Monday at 9:30am where we met the rest of our cohort (Cohort 34 – what up!) of new (or new-ish) FTC and Me to We employees.  We were also introduced to our on-boarding leaders: Matt and Nabeela.  The rest of the week was a series of sessions designed to give us a greater understanding of the organization’s history, the different departments that make up FTC & M2W and how we fit into the bigger picture.  Needless to say, it was a lot of information!

Coming from a very small regional office – the BC office is currently 17 people strong – it was incredible to get a taste of the 400-person operation at our Toronto headquarters.  I had no idea how big FTC and M2W were! We own 13 buildings in Cabbage Town and are still bursting at the seams.  I love that in an age of charitable exhaustion and tough financial times, I’m working for a charity and social enterprise that is thriving and expanding, without spending more than 10% of any donation on admin costs.

I learned A LOT this week.  Some of it I already knew.  But most of it was brand new and extremely eye-opening.  We were introduced to a bunch of different departments, most of which I had either never heard of or had very little idea as to what they did.  It was incredible to see how every facet of the organization works together so seamlessly to support Free The Children’s mission: working internationally to free children from exploitation and poverty, and working domestically to free youth from the idea that they can’t do anything to change their world.

Raiding the M2W Style closet!

Raiding the M2W Style closet!

One of the most incredible parts of on-boarding was meeting so many of the superb staff in Toronto.  Every person we met was full of energy, full of information and so full of passion and purpose for their work.  It’s equal parts intimidating and inspiring to work alongside such a high caliber of person.

A few moments of on-boarding were particularly impactful for me: the quick friendships I was able to make with my cohort; the dedication, familiarity and wisdom of our leaders, Matt & Nabeela; getting to hear from Spencer West in a casual and conversational environment; meeting FTC senior leadership staff like Scott & Dalal; taking part in facilitation training with Morgan, who the day before agreed to meet with us (and stay late) purely out of the kindness of his heart; and learning about the incredible M2W trip experiences we offer to youth.

I was seriously so blown away by Jeff’s presentation on the service learning trips we offer to youth.  Not only do the trips allow young people to visit Free The Children communities and take part in meaningful service, but they give youth a chance to immerse themselves in a new culture, make connections with community members and go through leadership training.  My own experiences with travel have been beyond transformative in my life.  And it all started with my service trip to the Dominican Republic at 17 years old.  It would be an absolute dream for me to be able to take any part in facilitating that life-changing experience for another young person.

And after full-days of inspiration and information, I spent my evenings catching up with a small number of friends and family members.  It was kind of funny, since I had just been home for Christmas, but I will always take advantage of any opportunity to see my loved ones.  And, who knows when I’m going back to Toronto? At this point, it may not be till Christmas!

So on Monday, Bianca and I joined my mom and cousin Megan for indulgent steaks and other yumminess at The Keg.  Tuesday I met up with Kimberley and Sasha for tacos, overly alcoholic drinks, popsicles and board games! Wednesday I got to see Andrea, Pamela, Lea and Zab for pizza and dessert.  And then on Thursday, my last night in the city, I went to dim sum with dad, Ali, Jade and Lee and then on to more board games and dessert.  I didn’t get to see everyone (sorry!) but I tried my best to squeeze in as many people as possible in my very quick 5 night stay!

Board games & dessert with the Canning family

Board games & dessert with the Canning family

Yummiest tacos at La Carnita!

Yummiest tacos at La Carnita!

And during that 5 night stay, I had a few different thoughts about Toronto.  Walking around Cabbage Town with the afternoon sun, finding an adorable card shop and amazing sandwich store – that’s the Toronto I love.  A Toronto full of sunshine, shopping, cute neighbourhoods and new friends.  But that quickly turned into blustery cold nights, waiting for unreliable transit, streets filled with traffic and lots of work waiting for me when I returned to the hotel.  I guess if there’s any city I have a true love/hate relationship with, it’s Toronto.  As much as I rag on the weather, crowds and lack of majestic scenery (what do you mean there are no mountains or an ocean?), I can’t help but keep Toronto in a warm spot in my heart.  In fact, I had a physical defensive reaction when a friend of mine expressed how much she doesn’t like the city.  No one can talk bad about my city….except for me! 😉

<3

******

So that, in a very long-winded and detail-overloaded blog post, was my week in Toronto! Now it’s back to my 2 jobs (and very full inbox) in +9 degrees, rainy Vancouver.  My next few weeks will be catching up on the work I missed while in Toronto, trying to take advantage of Vancouver’s Dine Out and getting ready for my next short excursion…to San Francisco!

2014: A Year In Review

Is it 2015 already?

***

Actually, it’s been 2015 for a little while.  You can tell I’m a bit behind on my blogging – whoops!

One reason I keep a blog is so I can look back on all the wonderful things I’m fortunate enough to experience in my life. It’s kind of incredible to sit back and scroll through the year.  2014 took me to a lot of new places, let me meet a lot of new people and accept new opportunities.

For the last few years that I’ve had this blog, I do a post at the end of each year that sums up what happened and predicts what’s to come in the new year.  It’s a chance for me to take stock, count my blessings and get excited for the year ahead.  Today I looked back on my final post of 2013.  My predictions for 2014 were pretty accurate.  I did spend the most incredible 5 months wandering around Europe with some of the coolest people I’ve been lucky enough to meet.  And I did come back to Vancouver to finish off my courses at UBC.  But there were also a few surprises: I took a job in Tokyo, Japan for the month of July, I fit in a number of visits to the always-lovely Toronto, I got a job serving, I finished at UBC and I got the full-time job of my dreams at Free The Children!

2014 was a year of movement and maturity. I travelled to a huge number of new countries (10!) and a few old favourites (aka my 5th trip to London).  I called 5 rooms in 4 cities home throughout the course of the year. I logged a scary number of hours on planes, buses and booking those planes/buses online.  I learned that my entire life can fit into two large suitcases, and I love that.

Maturity came in heading to Amsterdam by myself for 5 months.  This wasn’t my first solo trip, nor does a semester abroad really count as solo, but it was certainly a growing experience.  I lived with two complete strangers, who became amazing friends.  I navigated my new city of Amsterdam, and then a dozen or so other new cities on weekend jaunts around Europe.  And, most impressively, I cooked for myself for 5 whole months without developing scurvy or burning down the house (we did come close a few times).

Maturity was found again in my role in Japan.  I chaperoned a group of high school students learning a language I didn’t know in a country I had never been to. It was a whirlwind (and humid!) 4 weeks, but I’m so glad I jumped on that opportunity.

And a final dose of maturity hit in these last 4 months in Vancouver.  I was back in proper school, which I hadn’t been in since 2012.  I was living and working outside of Residence Life for the first time in my Vancouver life.  And I was setting things up for the greatest wave of maturity: finishing my undergrad at UBC, living by myself in Vancouver and starting an amazing full-time job at Free The Children.

So coming up in 2015…. I don’t really know what predictions to make for this upcoming year.  My plans now seem a lot more stable; no more continent jumping every few months.  I’m set up in Vancouver with house & job for the next 2 years.  It’s rare for me to describe a new year without talking about the big trips I’ll be taking. But it’s also kind of exciting! I’ve talked before about not having an upcoming trip and how I’m pretty okay with that.  I’m okay starting and ending 2015 in Vancouver – more than okay, I’m stoked about it! I’m sure my life is going to take on so many more facets I don’t even know about yet.  So while I plan to be living in Vancouver and working at FTC for all of this year, I’m certain there will be new opportunities, new people and a few surprises thrown in to make 2015 just as wonderful as 2014 was!

A week of change and busy-ness!

A lot of big things have changed over the last week or so: I finished my last class of my undergrad at UBC. I started my new job at Free The Children. And I got an apartment for January! Look who’s growing up 🙂

***
So all of these things happened at pretty much the same time! My official last day of class (LDOC) was on Thursday, Nov 27. I worked at the Arbutus Club on Friday and Saturday, took Sunday off, and then started at FTC bright and early on Monday.  By Thursday, I had signed my tenancy agreement on my new place.

My first week at FTC has been pretty awesome – busy – but awesome! I definitely hit the ground running; I was emailing and phoning educators by my second day. It’s been really nice being back in the office. It was like coming home! A lot of familiar faces and really nice new faces.  The work is familiar, but I’m learning a lot more.  And I’m really excited about it! Each day I’ve been able to find out new things about my role and remind myself how stoked I am to be doing what I’m doing.  And that reminder is especially helpful when my alarm goes off at 6:50am every morning 😦

Despite celebrating my final LDOC, my UBC commitments aren’t quite done yet. I had a paper due this past Friday and two final exams next week. It’s pretty hard to channel school mode (which, let’s be honest, hasn’t been fully activated for the majority of this final term) when I’m just getting into working full time.  By the time I get back to my house around 6pm, I’m exhausted! And then there’s the mundane tasks that still need doing: groceries, laundry, showering, etc. But I managed to get my paper in on Friday and I’ve carved out a few last minute study hours tomorrow.

And I am still serving on weekends. It’s actually kind of nice to be working both jobs.  I was excited to go into work tonight: to see my friends and to do something completely different from what I’ve been doing at a desk the last 5 days. And I’m sure I will feel the same way Monday morning coming off of Sunday night’s dining room shift.  So while it’s crazy busy, it makes me appreciate each job (and each job’s awesome co-workers!) that much more.  Plus, the added income does not hurt!

The last part of my adult equation: my own apartment! In January I will be moving into an adorable studio in South-east Vancouver.  It was the first place I went to see and I really liked it! The place is tiny, but it has everything I need and is really nicely furnished.  Plus, I’m excited to be living in a whole new neighbourhood.  My entire Van life has taken place within the UBC/Kits boundary, and I’m psyched to be moving out of that and discovering some place new.  Added bonus: my new commute to work will be 15 minutes on the bus instead of my current commute time of an hour!

***

So that’s what I’m up to right now! Add to that a few social engagements and holiday gift shopping, and you’ve got my very full calendar! It’s a bit crazy, but I know that craziness is only temporary and I’m managing.  By January, school will be completely done and I’ll be settled into my new place – which will definitely minimize the crazy.  Until then, send me your love, luck and prayers as I attempt to get through my final finals (haha) while working 7 days a week!

That perfect weekend

This past weekend was…perfect!

***

Nothing crazy happened. I didn’t win any contest or go on any big trip. But I did have a really wonderful weekend. I got to do a lot of things I love with a lot of people I love even more. Sometimes I forget how much awesome my life is comprised of (like in last week’s sad rant). But this weekend was a perfect reminder of just that.

Saturday morning started with a wonderful catch-up Skype date with my momma. It had been some time since we had talked and we both had lots of updates for each other. It was nice to have that time with her, even when we live 3 time zones away from one another.

After Skyping, I headed out into the cold, but beautifully sunny, day to meet my good friend Emilie so we could exercise our civic duty together. Even though I’ve been of age to vote for over 4 years, this was my first time voting. And it was so exciting! It took a little while to fill out the paper work, but it was well worth it. And rocking the “I voted” sticker all day was half the fun.

We voted!

We voted!

Next, Emilie and I hit up a toy store/craft studio where we sat down with a group of eight year olds to paint some pottery! We both went for large latte mugs and let out our inner artistes. I’ve done a few pottery paintings in my day and still find the rainy day childhood pastime to be really fun.  Unfortunately, my artistic ability does not reflect the number of hours I’ve spent at different art studios (and my parents have cabinets full of mugs/plates/figurines to prove it!).

Creative craftsmanship at its finest

Creative craftsmanship at its finest

From there we grabbed a quick (and yummy) bite before heading off to work.  Work was surprisingly relaxing. I got to work in the dining room with some lovely people and only had a few tables.  We all got out by 10:30 with relatively few broken glasses/messed up orders.

And to finish off the night: Emilie and I went for late night sushi! I love spontaneous outings like that. We were just sitting waiting for our buses when we decided sushi would be a great idea. And it was! I was grossly full, but it was well worth it.

YUM!

YUM!

On Sunday I woke up to another beautifully bright day.  Which was perfect for my friends Andrea and Zoe who were running a 10K and half marathon, respectively. I headed out to UBC and met up with some fellow UBC-ers to cheer them on and congratulate them at the finish line. It was awesome to see so many smiling faces crossing the finish line – almost awesome enough to make me want to run (almost).  To celebrate their athletic achievement, we went out for a post-run brunch of delicious eggs, hashbrowns and complimentary banana bread at Enigma.

Congrats ladies!

Congrats ladies!

From brunch, Andrea and I met up with our friend Malindi at Starbucks and then headed downtown.  Malindi and I had plans to see Urinetown (the musical, not the place, of course) with our other friends Ashleigh and Jenna.  Urinetown was the residence musical I had worked on in my first year advising (back in 2011) with Malindi, Ashleigh and Jenna. We decided catching the Firehall Art Centre’s version would be the perfect mini-musical reunion.  The show was really well done and a ton of fun (buy tickets!).  But even better was seeing old friends and catching up over coffees post-show 🙂

IMG_20141117_114845210

Such a good show!

 

And then I got to have a chill Sunday night at home. It was nice to not be working and to have some time to recharge a bit before another crazy week of work, school and whatever else I have going on (grad photos, I think?). So while my weekend wasn’t terribly productive – I have no groceries, a carpet that could use a vacuum and many untouched schoolbooks – it was really nice to be able to spend time with some of my favourite people in Vancouver. These are the people who are going to make living here for the next two years (at least) so wonderful.  I’m looking forward to it!

***

Where are you headed next?

I used to love that question. For the last 4 years, there has always been an upcoming trip for me.  From interning in the Dominican Republic after graduating from high school, to my most recent summer month working in Tokyo, Japan, I’ve always had some new locale marked in my calendar.

***

But for the first time in a long while, I’ve had to answer that question with, “nowhere.”  I don’t have any upcoming trips, exchanges, volunteer or work opportunities scheduled anywhere around the globe.  Most people get anxious when they have a big trip coming up; I find myself getting anxious that I don’t have one. 

I’ve settled into a pretty good routine here in Vancouver with work, school and social things.  I go to church. I visit the library.  I have a neighbourhood grocery store, and an infinitely cheaper grocery store a short bus ride away.  It would be more than fair to say I’m comfortable with my Vancouver life as it stands.

And usually when I get comfortable, I get that itch to go somewhere new and try something slightly uncomfortable and unknown.  I usually scour travel deal websites with abandon and don’t stop until I’ve found some obscure contest or job posting.  I’m usually open to that next adventure.

But this time, I’m not feeling the itch to leave.  I’m not on travel websites or scrolling through (too many) destination guides.  I’m not blindly applying to jobs I’m unqualified for, just because they happen to be set in insert cool city name here.  And I think it’s because instead of going somewhere new, I’m trying something new.  I’m committing to live in an awesome city for at least two years.  I’m starting a full time job.  And I’m going to be signing a proper lease on a new place.  A part of me is scared that I’ll get too comfortable and forget to leave again.  But honestly, I don’t see that happening.

So for now, I’ve traded in Lonely Planet guide books for the IKEA catalogue and weekend breaks to the cheapest European cities for new restaurants and gorgeous views around Vancouver.  I’m excited to try this “settled” thing for a while, knowing my version of settled will probably still involve a few globe-crossing trips whenever I have the time (and excuse).

***

Okay, I lied.  I do have a family trip coming up this Christmas, so I guess that counts as where I’m headed next.  I’ll be back in Toronto mid-December for job training and then take off with my step mom’s side of the family for a week in the Dominican.  We had a few awesome days together at the cottage this summer and I’m excited to do that again but with more sun and more open bars 🙂