Old Ways Won’t Open New Doors

Over a year ago, when I first decided to break the full-time work and school cycle I had been building around my life, I had a fairly clear picturesque idea of what my life would look like after the change:

On the days I had free I would wake up bright and early–well rested and stress free. I would consume a proper breakfast, take a quick dip in the pool and head to the coffee shop around the block to write. Of course I would write brilliant things. Inspirational even. Surely my work would make it to some fabulously glossy publication. Either that, or I’d finally come to terms with how to finish my short story and novel. I pictured my evenings filled with cozy dinners and quiet strolls afterwards. All of this was supposed to effortlessly materialize as soon as I wasn’t preoccupied with the taxing hours of holding down a job.

Ah, and who can forget the plans to travel at a moments notice? The new me would have life changing epiphanies with every new place I visited and maybe even fall in love on one of these adventures. I expected to have been met with calmness and contentedness.

It is possible that the above are all unrealistic expectations of a life with “free time”. For those of us that never have more than a few days off in between jobs, equating free time to utopia isn’t uncommon. Just as we had once equated work and business to a kind of long-term bliss to success, we are envisioning the idea of free time in the same way. Idealizing but not compromising to satisfy the vision.

I set out for a more flexible freelancing schedule, most certain that my decision was right and my dreams would become instantaneous reality. Perhaps a week into my journey to self fulfilment, I felt exhausted having realized I wasn’t exactly having “the time of my life”. Another week would go by before I began to feel drained from my new found “free time”. I had gone from overcommitment and overwhelming hours to underwhelming days and unfulfilled nights. How confusing it was to feel this way. We’ve always been told to be bold, be brave, to take risks in order to realize our dreams. But wasn’t this exactly what I did? There was something about the “follow your dreams” ideal that we’ve been failing to interpret.

With compounding feelings of disappointment and additional stresses from my dwindling bank account, the previous pleasant state of quiet now presented itself as isolation. The lives of others have continued in my absence. Nothing was missing. How was I to re-engage myself in this life?

Collectively, my choices and emotions formed what would become months of self guilt.

Because was I even allowed to feel unhappy with this choice? Would others not be thrilled to be in the same position? Why was it now that I had the “free time” everyone appeared to so desire that I can no longer admit to feeling anything less than ecstatic?

Truth be told, I was reacting to a different situation with my old ways. The life I had chosen before didn’t live up to my expectations, but neither did this new choice that was supposed to open new doors. What are we to do besides react the same way when no choice we make lives up to our expectations?

Granted there was nothing really wrong with my lifestyle change. It was more a matter of not finding acceptance to circumstances that didn’t match up to my initial ideals, so much so that I couldn’t enjoy any of the changes–positive or not.

At this point in time, I was still more than determined to push forward with this change in attempt to make it look more like the original picture I had painted in my head. My underwhelming days took a toll on my motivation level but I desperately wanted to convince myself that I was still in control. Perhaps we cannot will ourselves to have life changing experiences.

Then something unfortunate occurred. As unfortunate events occur in all our lives, this is where we can all relate no matter the circumstances. Death, failure, heartbreak.

In the weeks to follow, I could barely maintain my focus on any work I did. What was left of my willpower was dedicated to making it through each day intact. The thoughts of how my life was supposed to pan out from this day forward was replaced by hopes of regaining energy. But what was the use? I was stubborn in my ways.

Though if my dissatisfaction has taught me one thing in the months that have passed, it has taught me that my old ways won’t open new doors.

I hated every second of having to admit that I was wrong. Letting go of what I’ve known “free time” to be and getting acquainted with loving busy days felt like taking thousands of steps back in progress.

There are no simple comforts in this story. However, in time the self guilt fades with acceptance. Just as compromising to find what we really want out of life is no longer “settling” but basking in the most optimal solution to the overwhelming expectations we have of ourselves.

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Unfollowed.

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Is there ever a good way to address the problem of unfollowing? Before the time of social media, this form of rejection never existed.

At one point or another in our lives, we get unfollowed. I don’t just mean via our social media accounts but rejected in various aspects of life as well. A friend might delete you off Facebook and a business partner could want to stop working with you. Some of these things we can shake off easily and move on. Then we are left with those that can haunt us for years to come, until we make an effort to seek out new perspectives in our lives.

After every single rejection we fret over how we’ll be able to put ourselves out there again after being so hurt. We become jaded over the frustration and anger. The same negative emotions pester us to no end and build a negative energy over and over again.

I won’t deny that to a degree, we all need the validation of others. But what’s more is that freeing yourself from being unfollowed or blatantly rejected in life only truly begins when you find fulfillment in yourself.

Most recently I had the pleasure of working with someone incredibly bright in the field of academia with multiple upcoming publications. When she broke down, stating she was alone and that everyone hated her–it was all nonsense to me. Despite having been successful in her field of choice, landing the job of her dreams and having many adoring students she had read negative messages directed towards her while at the same time ignoring all the good.

Anyone in a similar situation would feel lost. Because of this, our motivation is temporarily heightened as we feel the need to obsess over results. This is what happens when we weigh our fulfillment on validation from others and their judgments. Staying grounded is key to having more self-love.

Before you decide on what to wear from your wardrobe each morning, you should wear the confidence. Why? Because it looks good on you.

There is no pleasing everyone. And if they unfollow? Good. You didn’t abandon yourself to keep them.

What we really need aren’t opinions from others on how we should feel. We need to do something. Anything. As long as we do it while treating ourselves with value.

It’s true what they say about us giving up power for others to hurt us by their rejection. Even when we look back to the people that unfollowed and countless more rejections that slapped us across the face in the past, we manage to see the good in it for being the pivot points of our lives. We survived another episode of rejection. And guess what? It wasn’t so bad after all.

So next time you get unfollowed or rejected in one way or another, know that it was just what you needed. Not that “they shouldn’t have!” or “you deserve better! nonsense.

Happiness that remains dependent on judgments formed by others will always be temporary. Beyond that, it’s difficult to recall the world we lived in before part of our validation became based on how many up-votes our thoughts received. Instead of fishing for compliments from others, we can try constantly complimenting ourselves instead. Why not tell yourself you’re awesome everyday?

Can we really learn from rejection you may wonder? Of course we can. Perhaps the rejection happened to show us that our approach was all wrong and yes, ultimately meaning we screwed up. Not only is it important to ask ourselves “Why?” but it’s just as important to ask “What can I takeaway from this rejection?”. We’re capable of reflections that make us better as human beings and prepare us for upcoming opportunities in our lives. Being rejected or unfollowed isn’t a “me game” where the whole situation revolves around you and you only. There isn’t a need to be battling more fears and insecurities of the imagination. Sometimes we’re more capable of nurturing ourselves after rejection than anyone else.

We’re the only ones responsible for healing our own wounds. Not time.

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Disney Fairy-tales and Other Glorious Lies

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“As long as you’re a genuinely kind person, you’ll be able sing with cute animals all day and eventually a fairy god mother of sorts will come and rescue you from your misery.” (What Disney plots are telling us)

Indeed, that is the magical world of Disney and folklore. The time when you were five years old and looked forward to talking to stuffed animals in a universe where wishes came true.

Perhaps our imaginations were boundless enough as we grew up to encompass more adventurous travels to places that do not exist.

But do you remember when you realized Disney fairy-tales do not in anyway reflect real life? That Santa was never real and if you were lucky enough your parents attempted to prolong your vision of this make-believe character. We felt in one way or another–cheated. Maybe confused as we all should be after having been fed years worth of lies. Taught to tell the truth but told fables to expand our horizons and grow our imagination.

Escapism is the adult form of Disney fairy-tales. In our adult lives, time is a constraint to adventures we would like to have. At the end of the day, it comes down to some form of reality that may involve mortgages and childcare support. As children we lived for the day a dragon swiftly takes us to the faraway land with fairies and as adults we live for the two days at the end of the work week. Why do we lie to our selves? Why tell ourselves we’re doing it right when all of this feels wrong.

We allow our career choices to define our self worth, cannot live without electronics, have visions of IKEA themed showrooms in the house and dream of getting a fat slice of the year end bonus at work.

The lies we tell ourselves are so much bigger than Disney fairy-tales will ever be.

Visiting  different workplaces in various areas of the city in the last month has reminded me of how little I’ve traveled geographically. Not that I was physically chained to anything but psychologically speaking, work often times has us tied up in the same corporate mindset. We’re told what tasks to perform and specific ways to conduct them. We’re literally cardboard cutouts that require the approval of others to make progress in our work lives and beyond.

Just because it’s a luxurious cage doesn’t make it any less of a cage. A seemingly high-end job can still be a constraint.

It’s too cliche to say that we’ve lied to ourselves so much that life is no longer the great adventure it once was when we were children. We stopped playing with puppets but allowed ourselves to puppets of the corporate world. Why create a reality only to desperately seek out ways to escape it?

Again and again we discover that adult life isn’t filled with unlimited freedom and happiness as we hoped. It will always be nice to believe there is something enchanting beyond the lagging computer systems and isolated corner cubicles.

Let us continue to believe in mountain top castles and whimsical creatures.

Let us continue to pass on fables.

Let us stop thinking we’re old enough to know better.

Let us stop thinking happy endings are just for wishful thinking children.

Let us refrain from the illusions created by our lies and enlighten ourselves with thoughts of countless possibilities.

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The Nature of Dreaming

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Whether you’re graduating from high school or college and just stepping into adulthood, the truth is there’s something left unsaid in commencement speeches. Among all the books, laughs, nostalgic thoughts only the optimistic future is openly addressed. How about those of us those are still lost? Regardless of the level of optimism we begin adulthood with, we will soon learn what ‘day in, day out’ truly means to the average individual. Routine, frustration, exhaustion. It is one thing to dream big but has anyone ever told you about the pure anger and disappointment before the day they found success? The journey to success is the process of living, not just the remainder of your life after becoming a millionaire.

We’ve been misguided to believe that dreams are supposed to be lived and carried out a certain way.

As people with dreams and ambitions we encompass pieces of passion, dedication and patience. We claim to others that we are destined for said dreams, yet seek how-to’s in hopes of validation that such ambitions are worthwhile in their eyes. Truth be told, satisfaction comes in many forms and the idea of unfulfilled dreams should not be a sufficient reason for anyone to stop trying.

In our world, there will forever be a more abundant supply of talent than demand for them. Talented so many of us are, but talent again, is not immune to rejection and failure. What we envisioned our lives to be in our youth is not the ‘be all end all’. Seeking a day job that falls beyond the scope of our original passions doesn’t equate to having no ambition. Why? Because inherently, we’re chasing the idealized concept of dreams to find happiness and satisfaction.

My idea of a dream is to travel, write, and develop my own business all in a day’s work. Naturally most people would assume I’ve enjoyed writing since I could pick up a pencil — that being published is what all writers envision to be success. But the desire to write never occurred to me until a little over a year ago. It made me realize that we don’t have to continue having unconscious dreams to which we have seemingly no control over. We have the power to make a conscious decision and desire dreams beyond visions of our youth. Our dreams can be selected.

True passion cannot be defined by any one individual and ‘day in, day out’ is just the cherry on top of our conceptualized dreams. Assumptions are always made involving giving up on dreams because it makes for a realistic future. If we’d only realize sooner that dreams aren’t fluffy clouds we land on, but more of a flower bed of thorns — beautiful on the outside, potentially harmful on the inside.

So let us realize one thing: the grueling days will still exist regardless of whether we choose to make a conscious decision to hold onto the dreams or not. And whether you realize it or not, you like me, we all have futures ahead of us. The dream isn’t to be measured by the number of outlandish things accomplished. Contentment isn’t to settle. Dreams have a cost.

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Everybody Else Has Their Lives Figured Out (But Me)

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How silly of us to be hurting ourselves on the regular basis. We do this by misguiding ourselves to only consider the successes of others. Which of course, makes us look back upon ourselves and wonder why the heck we’re so seemingly terrible at what we’re doing. It constantly makes me wonder whether it’s merely a matter of confidence after all these years. The expectations we’ve placed upon ourselves and our lives don’t always match those we’ve laid out for others –it’s tempting to measure success at first glance.

The most important aspect has nothing to do with how we measure success like you might think. However, it has much more to do with the fact that we’re allowing the successes of other’s control our personal accomplishments in life. Just like originality can come from two writers blogging about the same topic and expressing it in completely different styles, what appears to be the same dream shared by two people can still be your very own. As the saying goes… the grass is always greener on the other side. And how blatantly obvious this must sound to all of us. So obvious it is horrifying that we continue to live out our lives based on what everyone else has achieved.

Sometimes blood, sweat and tears is all we see in ourselves –allowing it to diminish the value of our successes. At the same time we neglect the blood, sweat and tears of others. Even if you cannot directly relate to the falls of others, it is crucial to understand that everybody hasn’t got everything figured out and you are most definitely not inferior to anyone.

This doesn’t apply to only one type of success, whether it be career, family or love. Many of us might only spot the families having dinner together on Christmas Eve and it makes us question how our own families should function. But how different we all are when expressing love. Perhaps on Valentine’s Day you find yourself single and at a movie where the theater is filled with couples –do you then ponder the idea of why you are not as sought after as your best friend? In reality, things are rarely what they seem like at first glance and there is no single way for someone to have their life figured out. Stop looking to others for the answer because they don’t have one either. We might even discover that the best way about having our lives figured out is to actively place the focus on self progression rather than everyone else.

I get it though. Some of us are unaware, others just feel like the secret to having perfect lives has been outed to everyone but themselves. Doesn’t it also seem like the people that have it all figured out can always achieve things that appear so out of reach for you? Self-reflection can do us worlds of good but every supposed success of others doesn’t need to equate to re-evaluation of your self worth. While you are able to understand the mistakes of others, there is certainly no reason to think they are not capable of accepting yours.

Sure we have strong tendencies to think “everybody else has their lives figured out (but me)”. Sure on our bad days it appears unfair that the rest of the world is seemingly living in a cloud of bliss filled with cats and rainbows. But I’m most certain, with a little reminder, we can come to terms with the fact that everybody else does not have their lives all figured out. Rest assured that if the above logic all applied and everybody did have their lives figured out –that would mean your life is all figured out as well.

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Why You Should Travel

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Let me start off by saying that I’ve always been the scrimping-to-save-every-last-penny type of person.

That being said, I’m no stranger to being told that I should travel and do the things I want while I’m young and have the chance.

I’m working on a happy medium here.

Day after day, we are bombarded with the idea of quitting our jobs now in order to pursue a life of carefree travels  –why we should travel. For whatever reason, those that are only taking their annual 3-week vacations are deemed to be restricting themselves to unfulfilled lives.

From the very beginning we’ve had misconceptions over what the ideal career would look like. Having the most fulfilling jobs that are best fit for each individual never meant that it wouldn’t come with pain and frustration. The concept of ‘loving every moment’ of our work is simply too abstract for our complex lives.

Feeling hesitant to pack up your bags and jump into an unknown world doesn’t mean you’re fearful of living on a budget or even clinging onto a stable life for fear of change. You see, life isn’t defined by whether you leave your cubicle to travel; it’s a matter of bringing Paris, New York and Rome all to a warm and fuzzy place you call home.

The only time we can truly grasp onto is now. We scrimp every last penny to go on what we’ve labelled once-in-a-lifetime trips. On these days or even weeks if we’re lucky, we neglect all our e-mails and even the internet because we’ve come to understand that perhaps we’ll never visit this geographical spot again.

Now allow me to suggest that you were never able to go on this once-in-a-lifetime vacation. Instead you were home with the people you love the most. Certainly being with these people is once-in-a-lifetime.

Why is it that we don’t jump upon these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to spend time with the ones we supposedly care about the most? Instead, many of us can be found purging on television shows and internet fads as if being home makes time a limitless commodity.

We’ve forgotten that home –like Paris, New York and Rome –is also, once-in-a-lifetime.

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The Difference Between Stories and Experiences

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“Those who tell the stories rule society.” –Plato

When I began to post my thoughts publicly just six months ago, I had to make a good effort to get over how self-conscious I was when it came to talking about my experiences. While I had no readers at the time, I felt incredibly disorientated with my words and paralyzed when it came to storytelling or lack of. Yet at the same time, when I heard the everyday stories of others trudging, navigating, and skipping their way through the world I was completely intrigued by experiences that could have been my own.

The more I learned from the stories of others, the more I learned about myself and how I wanted to avoid pitfalls, take risks and travel through life. It seems to me that despite how great the world appears to be, all our stories are worth telling if only you’re willing to share them. Now when you can be entirely honest, ask yourself: What makes their story better than your experience? The only difference between your experience and their story is that you never had the courage to tell it to make it a story.

Perhaps the single biggest mistake we make is considering ourselves to be individuals that possess independent experiences and isolated thoughts that aren’t relevant to the people in the world around us. Such fallacies demean the value of not only our experiences but also our own abilities to express what we know. Being confident enough to tell stories from your own experiences doesn’t make you self-absorbed but rather, open to sharing with others.

Remember that article you read? How about the incredible story a friend told you about from their adventures abroad? Those stories resonated with you and left its mark in your memory like your own experiences. Fact of the matter is those people reached out and made a connection with you that day using their story and you can do the same.

Maybe you’re still not convinced your experiences are worth “story-status”.

Why not think of it like your social network? Enough people in the same Facebook group or Twitter list make for a community. The connections made through stories are the same. They create not only connections but build communities, create successful initiatives and drive power.

Storytelling is power.

In fact, the power of storytelling is so great that over the course of human history the ability has both produced influential leaders and shunned those going against popular opinion. To stop a story from touching the lives of others is to stop the story from ever being told again.

Not all stories have resonated with you (which are most of them) and this will likely be the case with the stories you end up telling but it doesn’t make your story any less valuable. Just recall the stories that once touched you with their words and how you would be a different person without them.

Return the favour, stop keeping the experiences to yourself and share stories.

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Hoarding Memories

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Does it make sense when I say: I really want change for improvement in life but continue to be a nostalgic hoarder of objects that remind me of the past? These days, I tend to consider myself as someone open to change and new things in my life. That wasn’t always the case. I remember leaving my first home of 10 years for a newer, more beautiful home. While I was incredibly excited about my new room, a part of me was devastated. I wanted to keep a grasp of the feeling of familiarity that my first home gave me so much that I vowed (as the naive ten-year-old I was) to one day move back there.

None of those thoughts ever made me realize that it was the people, friends, family –loved ones –that made empty objects seem like they held more significance than they deserved.

Like the little overpriced restaurant at the street corner of my former home, it still holds an unexplained amount of significance. I lived in the area during my earliest, most blurry phase of my life and bought meals from the restaurant on what seemed to me as the rare special occasion and once before the school year began. This would make me illogically obsessed with the idea of going back every September. As if not having done so meant unfinished family business or a sign of something misplaced in my little cycle of life. It become a part of my history, my family’s history too if you will.

When I took walks in the summer I often found myself spending extra hours just to visit the place I once called home. The driveway seemed much narrower than the one that remains in my collection of vague memories and different flowers had been planted in place of my favourite daffodils. But my family wasn’t there. Suddenly the hoarding of such memories and giving them great significance meant nothing. But that didn’t stop me from wanting to visit again or stop feeling an odd connection with the place. Walking by the elementary school near the home was a similar story. The hopscotch lines are now covered by the perfect, impeccable pavement. Even the tree I used to climb had been chopped down and thus, remains no evidence the memories I have hoarded over the past decade ever existed.

This isn’t a sad story though. Being too attached to the memories despite having the people who created them with me turned the spotlight away from more significant things that are currently forming me new memories (likely better).

Despite the old box of picture books being of little use today and my refusal to give them away because of the memories, there is no turning back to the time when I most enjoyed them. When I am reminded of the memories I hoarded for so many years, I see a person that lacked the optimism to face a better future ahead. Time is unforgiving and waits for no one.

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In Light of Mother’s Day: The Greatest Love

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When I was a young child my only wish was to grow up. I would never have to be told what to do again. I’d be able to buy that stuffed toy bear I desperately wanted, play on the swings for an extra hour or even have 10 more cookies than my mother would allow…

In the journey of growing up, I tried my best in everything I thought to be meaningful in hopes of one day being successful and fulfilling my childhood dreams. School, volunteering, music, sports, studying… At this time, I believed by doing so I could prevent myself from growing old with regrets. During this time I neglected spending time interacting with my mother.

It was not until I grew old enough to be considered an adult in this society and met mothers my own age, did I finally understand the many sacrifices she’s made for me. In reality, when she stayed up all night to make sure I finished that Science project in ninth grade, she didn’t have the intentions of forcing anything upon me. And while I fell sick often as a child, she was more sick with worry than I ever was physically ill. All this time she supported me by providing me with more opportunities to pursue more interests, passions and dreams.

But what about her own interests, passions, and dreams?

When my mother was young, she was an avid baker, had a love for history and story-telling and was an exceptional student. I hear from my Uncle that if it weren’t for giving birth to me, my mother would never had left the well-deserved position in a firm she loved so much. At this time my mother would hush him and insist all this did not matter. After all, this was decades ago.

At this point in my life, the one thing I didn’t want to happen to my mother was for her to miss out on more of her own opportunities.

I decided to take the initiative to sign her up so she could instruct a baking class on the weekends. I told her I was certainly more than old enough to take care of myself and it was time for her to pursue her own interests, passions and dreams. To which she replied laughing, “I know I look young but how could you mistaken me to your age?”

From when I was first born, growing up, and even now… all my mother has done is spend all her time on supporting me in everything I did. This day, I hoped to help her revive the opportunities she lost by choosing to take care of me these last few decades.

Seeing her come home from the baking classes some weeks later, I noticed how exhausted she was. All this time I believed that she agreed to go to these classes because she wanted to relive her dreams from the past. Little did I know these efforts were actually for me.

“You shouldn’t be doing this if you’re going to be so exhausted!”

“But you were thoughtful enough to plan this all for me.”

“Because I thought this was your dream.”

“My dream is for you to live happy.”

Although my mother has said so before, it never hit home until recently. I never realized that her single greatest dream was for me to live well, for me to be happy for the rest of my life.

So, today I want to do a little more for myself. A little more to better myself.

Because now I know that living my life to its fullest is not only the best route I can take for myself, but also the path to fulfilling her dream.

I love you, Mom. Everyday should be Mother’s Day.

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