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Bread crumbs and the end (but not really)

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This post wraps up my salute to 2011 and my warm welcome to 2012. I saved it for last because it was my goal to write five posts in five days.

5. Goals

The thing that most distinguishes my life as an irresponsible adult-child, and my life as a moderately responsible adult are my goals. And I don’t even mean the content, I mean the existence of goals.

Sure, I’ve always thought ambitiously of things I’d like to do, but only within the past year or so have I been using the SMART model for goal-setting. For those of you not familiar, those kinds of goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable and Timely. It’s important to include all these elements in your goals because they do a lot to keep you on track.

For example, what if I said I wanted to read more. How would I know if and when I’ve reached my goal? Now what if I said I was going to complete the #50BookPledge in 2012. Now I know that I have until the end of this year to read 50 books.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a compulsive list-maker. You can find evidence of this on my fridge, bulletin board, in drawers, waste bins, my phone and notebooks. But when we’re talking about something as essential to feelings of happiness and self-fulfillment as goals, I needed to figure out a way to keep all these in one place.

I found this great project called Day Zero. You create your own list of up to 1001 goals (completing the long list should definitely be on your list of things to do!) You can use the site to track your progress, share your goals with your friends, and make notes about what was involved. I’ve got just under 50 items on my list and 2 already completed.

But when it comes to goals, I’m not inclined to share. I read an article that said that the chemical released in your brain when you tell someone about a goal is the same chemical produced when you actually achieve a goal. You can trip yourself up before you even get going by tricking your brain into thinking you’ve already achieved your goal. So while lots of people like to share their to-do lists because they think their friends will help them stay on track, sometimes it’s better to keep these things to yourself.

What have my goals helped me to accomplish?

For starters, paying more attention to this blog. Also, finding the job of my dreams, paying off my debt, saving up for big purchases like my ludicrously awesome TV and a recent trip to Cuba.

Effective goal-setting had almost everything to do with my success of 2011, and now that I feel so much further ahead than I did this time last year, I tingle with excitement thinking about all the possibilities for 2012.

Well, that wraps up my salute to 2011. It was an interesting year, that’s for sure. Happy new year!

Forever yours

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At the risk of jeopardizing all my cred as a writer, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.”

I’ll just spell it out: 2011 was the year of losing friends.

4. Friends

Now let’s not get all “poor Mag” or anything. Some of them moved on to bigger and better things (no hard feelings there) and others just moved on (no hard ones there either.)

I had friends move to distant reaches of the country, the continent, heck — the world, and they got new jobs, got married, or had babies. And as much as I miss them and wish they were close enough to squeeze, I can’t begrudge them the fantastic things they’re doing.

My own move lost me a few friends — some as it turned out were just proximity buds, the kind of folks you surround yourself with because, well, you’re surrounded by them. Others couldn’t understand why I decided to move from Vancouver and severed ties. And still others just couldn’t stand me.

Of course, 2011 showed me who my dearest and truest friends have always been, netted me some pretty fabulous new friends, and rekindled things with dear old friends with whom I’d lost touch.

I’d be remiss to overlook the best friends I have on the planet: my dad and my sister. We do not always see eye-to-eye, always get along, or always like each other. But we share a bond that time, distance and grudge can’t do a thing to tarnish.

I joke that my dad is the product of a kinky three-way between Google, HomeDepot, and FutureShop over a three-star, seven-course meal. He’s not just my dad, he’s my bud. The days and nights we’ve spent chilling out, drinking beers and shooting the shit have made it easy to relish the return home.

To say my sister and I don’t always get along is an understatement so grandiose I refuse to elaborate. Our arguments alone deserve their own five-part series of posts. How aggravating to have someone exactly like you in every way except for the ways that you’re completely different! She’s stubborn and offensive and selfish and so am I. But she’s also hilarious and kind and generous. Her capacity for loving makes me humble, in the same way her capacity for forgetfulness breaks my heart.

To my nearest (and furthest) and dearest (and never forgotten) friends, this is a message to you: I love you, and I am grateful for every moment we spend together, every breath of every word we share, every pixel of every email traded. I love you for your text messages, your silly pictures, your hilarious hijinks, your irreplaceable adventures. I love you for your smiles and your embraces, your laughs and your tears, your compelling arguments, your curse words, your arts and your smarts.

Thank you for being mine, thank you for letting me be forever yours.

(Read the rest of the series: home, work, love, and goals.)

Wild about squirrels

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I read somewhere once that ‘the true journey of discover lies not in new landscapes, but in having new eyes’. I’ve already mentioned twice that left my adopted home of Vancouver to return to my hometown of Oakville, but I haven’t yet talked about the person who played sherpa in that journey.

3. Love

The story starts, really, on a June afternoon in 1998 when I skipped an english class with a girlfriend and spent an afternoon in a park joking around with a couple of boys. One of them I knew well from other classes, but the other I only knew by reputation. He was cute and funny, and to a seventeen year old me, totally out of my league.

While we didn’t become fast-friends after that sunny afternoon, but thanks to the Facebook (honestly, how did we keep in touch with old high school friends before that?) we stayed in touch despite more than a decade passing.

He heard about my move to Vancouver; when in early 2010 I heard the first rumbles about his possible move to Vancouver I didn’t get too excited (when you move across the country you hear a lot of pledges to visit that are never fulfilled.) But when he messaged me to say that he had boarded a cross-country train and was Vancouver-bound, I said I’d take him out for a beer.

He arrived in Vancouver on a Saturday. We met up on Sunday, and we’ve hardly spent a day apart since.

Spend a moment, if you will, to appreciate the irony of moving across the country to meet and fall in love with a person you knew as a kid from your hometown.

When I’ve needed a friend to listen to drunken ramblings, or tear-soaked tales of woe, or to share a side-splitting laugh with, he was my first choice. When I wanted exciting love and passion and emotion to fuel dreams of the future, there he was. When I lost everything, my job, my home, and my willingness to pick up one foot and put it in front of the other, he was soft shoulder, umbrella, and cattle-prod. We share favorite meals and inside jokes, and differ on taste in movies and music, we value passion and creativity above all else, and appreciate the quiet moments when they come.

It’s not uncommon for us to spend hours not speaking, absorbed in our own pursuits, then to start a conversation as if we’d only left it off a moment before. In fact, the conversation does not end. We are constantly discussing, debating, dreaming and dissecting a million different subjects. He is unlike any man before him, he is my equal. Not perfect but perfect for me. A challenge and a reward and a motivator for the thing that comes next all wrapped into one.

He was the best choice I made in 2010, 2011, 2012 and every year that follows.

(Read the rest of the series: work, friends, love, and goals.)

WTF to WIN

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And so continues my five-part rehash of 2011 / countdown to 2012. In the last post I talked about how my idea of home changed, and yet somehow stayed the same, despite many miles and many months of uncertainty.

But this next post is all about certainty.

2. Work

In the summer of 2010 I hatched a plan. I was going to get as much practice as I could, and save up every penny I could, and begin 2011 by quitting my horrid job and going into business for myself. I would be a freelance social media specialist and tweet my way to a fortune.

Yuh. Then I woke up. Or rather, then I got fired. I mentioned this in my last post; it was the catalyst for a LOT of change that went down in 2011. There’s nothing quite like being called into your bosses office and told that you not only have to clear out your things and square away your affairs in less than 20 minutes, but that you also better hand over the login to the BLOG for which you spent two years painstakingly building a following with delightfully humourous and often educational posts about art.

“What the actual fuck?”

Granted, for months I conducted myself as though I was beyond the notice of my boss. In my defense, he barely spoke a word to me for most of 2010 and even declined to give me an interview when I asked for an annual review, so being handed an envelope with my terms of  dismissal came as complete shock.

The worst part about it was that I had a plan. I had a plan. But when it came time to put that plan into action, I found myself ineffectually scrambling and ultimately floundering.

As I told you in my last post, unable to find a job in Vancouver I moved back to Oakville to look for work in Toronto. If you’ve had to look for work recently, you can imagine my distress that for every job in Vancouver that I was both qualified for and interested in, there were TEN in Toronto. This is not an exaggeration, but a lamentation.

By June I had a bang-up cover letter, several good practice (but ultimately unsuccessful job interviews) and a better head for the social media business on my shoulders than when I left Vancouver at the end of March. I also had, most importantly, an offer for a job that appeared to be my dream job.

I accepted an offer as a Social media communications specialist. Can you say WIN?

The job has been a daily challenge, and I’m proud to say I’ve met and overcome every single one. I come from an arts background, working for publishers, not-for-profits, and event management companies. Taking a gig in the financial industry has come with a serious learning curve.

Six months in, and it takes only a few sentences before I exhaust my vocabulary of trade-talk, but supported by the finest colleagues I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, I’m learning more every day.

And without waxing too poetic on the subject, (mostly because I don’t want to jinx it) I have found a mentor. She sees me plainly — my strengths, my weaknesses, my transparent excuses, my ludicrous humility — and pushes me (sometimes pulls me) to meet some incredible challenges. She wants the best for me — because she is even more passionate about her work than I am mine, and wants what’s best for the company. Without her advice and support and yes, even her bad moods, I wouldn’t have achieved what I have so far. And I wouldn’t have the eyes for the goals I’m setting for 2012 either.

(Read the rest of the series: home, friends, love, and goals.)

Dancing in the living room

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Last year I wrote about all the things I was looking forward to in 2011 — it was going to be my year! I turned 30 at the end of 2010 and felt pretty confident that, with a bit of resolve and  a lot of luck, it was going to be my best year ever. Whether or not it was my best year still remains to be seen. But it was, however, the greatest year of change I’ve ever known.

If I had to sum up the year in just a few words (though let’s be honest, brevity has never been my strong suit) I’d say the past year taught me that if something can’t make you laugh it shouldn’t make you cry either.

But because I want to say more than a few words, I’m going to give you a five-part insight into what 2011 meant to me. Starting with home, then work, love, friends and finally goals.

1. Home.

In 2007, with a lot of gusto (and bravado) I very suddenly packed up my life in Oakville, ON (or what could fit into two suitcases) and boarded a plane to the other side of the country. I made a home, and friends, and a life in Vancouver, BC. As years passed I believed that I would never leave, or at least that I’d never return home to Oakville. I lived close to the ocean; I had hangouts where staff knew my name; I had an intense romantic relationship with a city. I felt, more than I ever had before, a feeling of being very much at home in my environment.

But quite suddenly everything changed.

In the third week of 2011 I lost my job. Perhaps the best worst thing to ever happen to me. I hated that job. It was an abyss into which I poured my creativity and humour, never to be seen or heard from again. What truly broke my heart wasn’t losing my job, but being unable to find a new one to replace it. Unemployment was a cancer that gradually turned me against the city I loved so much.

Why?! I cried to rainy skies, to ubiquitous ravens, to mist-sheathed mountains. Why can’t I stay?

With money running out and options evaporating I made a decision that echoed the surprise and bravado of one four years previous: to pack my belongings and move again.

I returned to Oakville, spending 76 days in my childhood house, battling feelings of defeat and depression and utter regret at the sacrifice of my old life. Then things happily turned around and I found a new home to make my own. By mid June I was employed again (more on that later) and moving into a newly renovated but century-old apartment in a lakeside village just outside Toronto.

The new apartment bears a few reminders of old ones — furniture and art and books I lugged 4400 kms from the west coast. But it is entirely a new apartment, made a home by the loving man I share it with. The man who supported me, pushed me and sometimes dragged me through the second darkest time of my life.

We have two adorable kittens who make my life a pleasant hell, and a routine I wouldn’t trade for a million ocean views or loamy breaths. I have a cook’s kitchen all my own, a living room big enough for us to dance in, and a space that feels like a relaxing retreat where my mail comes.

Transitioning from utter independence to sleeping under my dad’s roof again, to finally clawing my way into a pretty little apartment was nothing short of shell-shocking.

Home is not just where the mail comes.

Home is not just where they have to take you in when you show up on the doorstep.

Home is where I quietly arm myself against every possible misfortune, where I loudly celebrate my victories, where I dreamily reminisce on yesterday, and where I hopefully plan for tomorrow.

It’s the treehouse, and it’s my home.

(Read the rest of the series: work, love, friends and goals.)

An untitled post about coming back from a long break

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Even the most devoted, passionate bloggers take an occasional hiatus. And when they come back, they spend their first post apologizing that they’ve been gone so long.

Rather than apologize, I’m going to say thank you.

Thank you for continuing to visit my blog all these months that I have been silent.

While you won’t hear apologies or excuses, I am going to give you a quick recap. Earlier this year, I lost my job. I was living in Vancouver with my boyfriend who was also looking for work. We made an honest go of things on the west coast, but there were simply too many excellent job prospects in Ontario and it didn’t take long before we moved back to our native Toronto.

I was hired by a homegrown player in the financial industry as their social media communications specialist. You could say I’ve been swallowed whole by my job, but I love my work, and I don’t resent a second that I’ve spent working instead of blogging, or following some other self-centered pursuit. But the time has come that my heart and my mind can’t be devoted so singly. So here I am, back at SSC.

My life — my working life — is dominated by social media. So expect lots of posts about issues related to this intriguing and evolving form of communication. Also, since turning 30 at the end of last year, I’ve taken a real liking to goal-setting and I’ll want to share some of these with you. I’m also very interested in home styling and decor, crafting and DIY; I’ve even taken a social approach to this passion. See, there’s cross-over in everything.

I can’t promise that posting will be regular, but I can promise that my posts will be honest and my best.

Oh, also, I promise to keep mentions of my two kittens to an absolute minimum. They’re assholes anyway.

Again, thanks for visiting regularly these last few months, and I hope you enjoy the posts ahead.

Forwarding Addresses

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Forwarding Addresses

(Originally published here)

I like to think of myself as a pro at changing addresses. In four years I’ve moved five times. In fact, as I write this, I am mid-move. Read the rest of this entry

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