Week 12: Cold reading

This is finally happening! My LONG overdue blog post about my week 12 challenge. 

You might be thinking, hey, didn’t this happen over a month ago? And the answer is yes. Have I been way too busy to write a simple blog post? Nope, just the normal level of holiday busy combined with a bit of laziness and a dash of procrastination. Better late than never?

If you know me, you may think that this post will be about me huddling in my apartment reading a book, under a blanket, with my Magic Bag hidden under an oversized hoodie. But no! I did something I’d never done and I went to a cold read for the New Ideas Festival (NIF). It’s basically just a bunch of actors (and me) reading scenes from newly written plays, without looking at the scripts beforehand.

My friend, Natalie, who is currently in the lead for most shout outs on my blog (I seriously want her to be a life coach for people like me), wrote a play for the festival and mentioned on Facebook that they were looking for people to participate in the cold read. Initially I wasn’t interested, but then I remembered that this is my year of trying new things, and this was a new thing!

I signed up for a time slot and made my way over to a theatre in the east end on a Wednesday night. There were a few directors and writers and stage managers sitting in the theatre, as well as the festival organizers and some actors. I was asked to read a character in two of the four plays that night, because they needed a 27 year old female for two parts. 

On the one hand, I was a little nervous going into this, but on the other hand I felt completely fine. After all, I was in the same boat as everyone else – no one had seen the plays before. But I was also in a room with people who had done more theatre than I have (except for that one play I did in university, and improv, I’m a newb to the theatre). 

I am so glad that I took the opportunity to do something new! I had a lot of fun, met some really great people, and ended up signing up for an audition for the festival (2 challenges in 1). Even if nothing else comes of it, it was still a good experience and something fun and new.



So what do you do?

This is a question we all get pretty often. What do you do? At one time, this was easy for me to answer. I didn’t like the answer, but it was pretty straightforward. Now, however, it’s a mish-mash of jobs, hobbies, and “others.”

It’s been just over two months since I quit my job, and I am so glad that I did. Sometimes I’ll be working, or reading, or doing nothing at all, and a smile suddenly appears on my face as I remember what a good decision I made months ago. Everything that I’ve done in the past 9 weeks has made me happier than the job I left.

Right now, I have seven-ish paying jobs, although two are wrapping up for the winter season:

  • tour guide (x2)
  • bootcamp instructor
  • newsie
  • swim instructor
  • marketing for a zombie clown show
  • writer (my first post for blog TO just came out!)
  • being a Kijiji god (although this is done now)
  • fitness instructor (volunteer)

I am working on two new job leads and I just applied to Big Sisters Toronto. I am also turning my biking across Canada blog into a book, and pitching the idea to travel publications. On top of that I am doing improv, attending shows, reading, writing, doing my challenges challenge, baking, working out, and thinking about what I want to do in five years.

So basically I’m keeping busy.

The newsie job is where I spend most of my time (a whopping 15 hours per week), and pays most of my bills. It’s a very easy, very relaxed job: I hand out free newspapers to morning commuters. All I have to do is smile and say “good morning.” That’s it. There’s no stress, no pressure, and no mean people yelling at me! Although my first day on the job I ended up with a ton of ink on my face.

I have a new sense of freedom. With that freedom, though, comes a bit of anxiety. Of course I worry a little about money, but I’ve done a pretty decent job of only taking gigs that pay well, so it’s not a huge concern. I think the anxiety comes from not feeling like I’m doing enough: some days I feel unproductive and like I’ve wasted time. Writing “to do” lists for the next day before I got to sleep, and keeping my calendar up to date is helping with this. Being organized and being able to cross things off a list as they get completed is a great feeling to me.

I’ve also been turning down work that either doesn’t interest me, or won’t pay enough per hour. I’m valuing my time more than I was when I was employed full-time, and getting better at saying “no” to things that won’t further my goals, and will take away precious time I could better spend working on things I enjoy. And that feels great.


Week 11: Fitbit!

I used to work in a gym, so I used to get paid to work out. Now it’s all up to me, and boy am I lazy.

OK, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s just that I’m not as motivated to actually go to a gym, or push myself. One of my favourite things about teaching classes (and attending them) is that I get pushed further than I would ever push myself when I work out alone. Two pushups? Yeah, that’s probably good for the day. Who has cake?

So when my boyfriend bought himself a shiny new Fitbit (it’s actually pretty cool, it keeps track of your heart rate and sleeping patterns), his old one was up for grabs. And free – let’s be honest, I was mostly interested in the fact that it was free.

His old Fitbit (my new Fitbit) is pretty basic: it keeps track of the steps I take and the calories I burn. I’ve never been a big believer in a machine’s predictions of calories burned, but since I’m looking at it every day, it’s a nice gauge of how I did compared to yesterday.

And now, I get to compete. I’m a pretty competitive person, so when I’m offered a challenge (do over 10,000 steps, have over 60 minutes of activity, exercise 5 days per week), I have to complete that challenge. Even if I set the challenge for myself. I find myself “forgetting” things in one room so I’ll have to walk to them later to get my step count up.

The Fitbit is providing accountability for me. I’ve made my steps visible to my friends (at least I think I have, I’m still figuring out the app), so if I don’t achieve a goal, everyone will know! And I will not accept public failure.

For example, my boyfriend challenged me to a “daily showdown” challenge today (please insert your own duh-duh-duuuuuhhh music here, because that will help this sound way cooler). Unfortunately for me, he walks about 20,000 steps on a work day, and I work from home. Needless to say, I’ve been doing a lot of on-the-spot jogging today. But I also went for a run and did some yoga, because that was also a part of my goals.

The Fitbit app also offers a calorie food counter, which I would never have used before. When I was working in the gym, I could basically eat whatever I wanted, and then just volunteer to teach a bunch of classes and work it all off. Now, I could easily spend the day in front of the computer eating everything in the fridge, and lose my incredible two-pack (which is actually better than a six-pack, for reasons I won’t get into now). So I’ve started keeping track of calories in and calories out. This is actually a good idea for me because some weeks when I do end up teaching several classes, I sometimes don’t adjust my food intake accordingly and end up not eating enough. You think I’d have figured this out by now.

Although this is a weekly challenge, I think it’s going to be more long term. At least to make sure I get 10,000 steps, and as a tool to motivate me to workout. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go walk back and forth in the hallway because I’m losing by 8,000 steps.

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Get stepping!


Week 9: Financial Planning

Well, they can’t all be lipstick and tattoos. Occasionally, I force myself to do something responsible and adult-y. So this week, I went to the bank, and actually sat down and had someone explain to me (for the 3rd time) what an RSP is.

Years ago, an article was published saying that someone who starts an RSP in their early 20’s is better off than someone who starts an RSP in their 30’s, regardless of how much the person in their 30’s actually puts into the account. So obviously both of my parents sent me this article every day for 2 weeks. I finally just set up an RSP to make them stop. (The same thing happened when an article came out recommending to wash the outside of cantaloupes before cutting into them, because salmonella had been found on the outside of some melons.)

So I set up an RSP, started automatic monthly deposits, and didn’t look at it again for 4 years.

Smart, right? Turns out, could have been smarter about that.

But this isn’t a post about whether I invested in GIC’s or mutual funds (ha, as if I know what either of those are), it’s a post about growing up and actually paying attention to what the big bank is doing with my money (or lack thereof).

I got to the bank and met my advisor, Brad. Apparently Brad thought it would be a good idea to participate in Movember. He’s a financial advisor. With a patchy moustache. It did not inspire confidence.

Although Brad was definitely better than the people I’ve had before. I don’t know if it’s because I’m young or don’t have a lot of money, but banks seem to set me up with their freshest advisors. The last guy I had had so much gel in his hair that I initially thought he was wearing a helmet. He did tell me about a pretty cool party he’d gone to though, which was awesome. I’m super interested in where the guy who is handling my money goes to get drunk.

When you are setting up an RSP with TD bank, they make you fill out a questionnaire. My two favourite questions were as follows (paraphrased):

  • How long do you intend on living once you’ve retired? (The options were pretty grim, with the max being 10+ years.)
  • Do you plan on needing to withdraw a large sum of money in the next few years for a house, wedding, or child? (Because I love planning out the next few years of my personal life in a bank.)

But I’m glad that I went. I now have a pretty decent idea of how much money I have (clue: not much), how much interest it’s getting, and how much cat food I’ll be able to afford when I retire and die almost immediately after.


How I feel about financial planning.

Week 8: Red Lipstick!

I have done it! I have purchased, and worn, red lipstick. And it has looked good.

This was a bit of a weird one for me (although really no weirder than a bikini wax), but also very exciting. I don’t know where I got the idea of adding red lipstick to my challenges list, but I’ve always admired women who could confidently wear red lipstick. They always look so polished and classy and put together. I, on the other hand, usually look dishevelled and like I haven’t showered in a few days… which is sometimes true.

I felt that buying and being able to pull off a devilishly red lipstick would make me feel grown up and fancy – much like a child wearing their mom’s clothes. And it worked.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t often wear makeup, and as a result don’t really know how to apply or buy it. Whenever I do buy makeup (once every three years) I go to Mac, because they know what they’re doing. The employees there are always very well coiffed and have probably been experimenting with makeup well before any formal beauty education. Whereas I made mud pies and wrote snarky blog posts.

And so I ventured to the mall to get the help of a Mac employee… on a Friday evening. This was a mistake. With only six Mondays left until Christmas, the mall was pretty busy on a Friday at 4pm. This blog post should really be titled “Katharine visited a mall and DIDN’T leave.” Because if I hadn’t had a timeline to adhere to, I would have been out of there.

But I stuck to it and battled the crowds until I met Gabriela, a makeup artist and my new BFF. Gabriela had a perfect cat eye, on both eyes, so I knew I could trust her. She asked me a few questions and helped me select a good colour. And then, bless her, she showed me how to apply lip liner and lipstick.

Apparently there’s a technique to this, and I had no idea. I listened carefully, watched her in the mirror, and absorbed all of the information she was dishing out.

I have since applied and worn my favourite new lipstick (Brave Red) and lip liner (He Said She Said) out of the house. Admittedly I did not do as good of a job as Gabriela, but she’s had a lot more practice than I have. I felt real pretty in this shade, and I am happy that I’ve finally grown up into a real lady.


Me and my awesome new lipstick!

Finding My Voice… Again

I first started finding my voice in university. I went far away from my home in Oakville, Ontario, to the beautiful little Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Quebec. It was tough being away from my family and high school friends, but it was also one of the best decisions of my life.

During my first year at university, Bishop’s full-time students numbered about 1800, which was only a little larger than my high school. The small size, in addition to the rampant partying at the school, allowed me to make some life long friends, and a huge amount of acquaintances. I would walk 15 minutes to campus in second year, and be able to say hi or wave to about half of the people I saw.

It was here that I realized that my voice was valuable. In class, at parties, and in extra-curricular activities, I started speaking up and voicing my opinions. I had done this a little in high school, but I didn’t think anyone was listening to me. Now, at university, I was not just saying words, but making my statements heard.

Between my third and fourth year at school, I decided to take some time off and do some travelling. I travelled for 10 months throughout Europe and Australia, and most of my travel was done solo. I had to speak to complete strangers at a new hostel every few days, in addition to meeting locals (many of whom did not speak English) on a daily basis. I gained a sense of independence and self-confidence that had eluded me before: if I could navigate my way around a foreign city, I could do anything.

After completing my university degree, I found a couple of jobs and moved to Toronto. I was working as an executive assistant at a retail design firm, and also giving tours on the big red sightseeing buses. As the youngest person in the retail design firm (by several years), I focused on being clear and well-spoken, and through a lot of trial and error (as well as some very supportive bosses), I learned to state my thoughts confidently.

A few months into these employments, I also started doing improv comedy. Once I got over my stage fright (six months and countless silent performances later), I felt pretty confident going up on stage and being ridiculous in front of a crowd. I was finding my voice, and learning to use it.

I left those jobs to cycle my way across Canada, and when I returned I started working at a fitness facility, which included a pool and gym. I was working as a lifeguard in the pool, and a sort-of consultant in the gym – basically, I was enforcing rules, while also getting to know members.

This meant that a lot of people didn’t like what I had to say. A lot of people were either defensive and rude to me, or angry and aggressive. Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of great people there, but on bad days they were often overshadowed by a horrible member’s behaviour. I had a guy yell at me for several minutes because I asked him to put his bag in a locker. I got called more names than I care to recount.

Even when I had pleasant conversations with members, I was still guarding my tongue. I stopped stating my opinions because no one wanted to hear them; people were happier talking at me than to me.

There were also a lot of sexist undertones to the conversations I started having. When I was carrying a 45 lbs. weight up a flight of stairs, someone told me it was good practice for motherhood. While I was cleaning a machine, a guy told me I would make a great housewife. I had to explain to a member why it wasn’t ok for him to say to his male buddies that he loved Lululemon while I was walking away from him.

I also started watching the way I spoke to members: I found that asking politely and succinctly worked better when enforcing rules, because it meant I wasn’t embarrassing anyone. Apparently men don’t like having behaviour corrected by a female, especially in a gym setting.

I started realizing that new people I was meeting (outside of the gym and pool environments) weren’t getting to know the real me, because I was getting lost under layers of fear, self-doubt, and apathy. My stage fright came back, and I stopped pushing myself to try new things. I was at a complete stand still and started getting frustrated with myself for my lack of drive and passion. I was losing the things I loved about myself.

And then I quit my job.

I quit because this wasn’t the career path I wanted to be on, and also because I had identified the source of my stalemate. My job was making me doubt myself and my abilities, and stopped me from being myself, finding a vocation I was passionate about, and pursuing hobbies that I loved.

I’m two and a half weeks out of work, and I haven’t been this happy in a long time. I’ve been doing my challenges, writing, reading, doing good improv again, podcasting (more to come), cycling, leading tours, making friends with strangers, reaching out to old friends, and applying to amazing jobs. I feel more confident; I’m starting to recognize again that my opinions are valid, and that by not speaking up and out I am denying people the privilege of getting to know me and hear my voice. Because I’m worth knowing.

Girl Yelling Close Up

Week 4: Head Shots

I know it seems like a long time since I posted a weekly challenge – it’s just because I did my tattoo last Monday, and then head shots the next Friday. So while it seems like I cheated, I didn’t!

Last year, my friend’s boyfriend, Sam, wanted to learn to swim. So we came up with an exchange: I taught him how to not drown in 3 feet of water, and he would do head shots for me (he’s an amazing photographer). We met a couple of times and he made a lot of progress in the water, but I never took him up on the head shots. I don’t know why, it just wasn’t a priority.

When I mentioned my challenges challenge on Facebook, Sam and Liz (his girlfriend) suggested I actually get the head shots done. So we arranged a time.

Admittedly, I was a little nervous for this. OK, a lot nervous. I don’t like being the visual centre of attention; while I don’t mind being on stage or speaking in front of a large audience, the idea of walking down a catwalk with all eyes on me makes me nervous. And don’t think that I don’t realize how ridiculous this sounds. No one has ever asked me to be in a fashion show (obviously), and these head shots would be me in a room with a friend whom I feel comfortable with. But I still felt a lot of pressure.

People would be looking at these photos. Really looking at my face, and all my features, and my ability to pose for a picture, and my ability to look pretty. Yep, there it is. Would I look pretty enough in these pictures? I wasn’t so worried about what other people would think, but about what I would think of myself.

I think we all probably feel this way at some time. “I don’t like the way I look. I don’t like the way I dress. I don’t like myself.” Pictures have a way of forcing us to look at ourselves in what can be a harsh light, and we don’t always like what we see.

Whoa. OK, I realize how deep that just got, so I promise the rest of the blog post will be a lot lighter.

Because it was a great experience! I showed up to Sam’s apartment/studio on Friday afternoon, and mentioned my nervousness to him. I was also feeling a little under the weather, at the very beginning stages of a cold, so I wasn’t feeling particularly beautiful. He said not to worry, and so I didn’t.

He sat me down and asked me what I would be using these head shots for. Ummm… to have? That’s probably not a great answer. In retrospect this may have been another influencer for why I waited so long to get the head shots. I don’t know what I want to use them for. Do I want to act? Do I want them for a business profile? Or do I want to have them just to have a nice photo of myself? Deep thoughts, my friends.

Sam helped me pick out the right shirt to wear (I had spent the morning frantically selecting and ironing a few shirts), and we began.

Sam had me sit on a stool in front of a white back drop, and started chatting with me. We talked about my unemployment, my challenges challenge, his new employment, and other things. He was snapping photos the whole time. Occasionally he would ask me to move a little this way, or tilt my head a little that way, but otherwise I was left to my own devices. We laughed quite a bit and it was a very relaxed atmosphere.

An hour and several poses later, we were done. That was it. Completely pain free.

I am now very excited to see the end results.

A "sneak peak" of my head shots! Photo credit: Saajid Sam Motala

A “sneak peak” of my head shots!
Photo credit: Saajid Sam Motala