Goodbye 2015!

It’s been quite a year for me. I’ve tried lots of new things, learned a bunch about myself, and had some fun along the way. Here are some of the highlights of my 2015:

  • Moved in with my boyfriend. This was a biggie because neither of us have killed each other in the almost 11 months we’ve been living together (because yes, I’m writing this blog post mid-January). Good thing too because I gave my bed away so I’m pretty committed now.
  • Started an herb garden. And kept it mostly alive. They don’t look great and occasionally they go through a prolonged drought, but they’ve been alive since the summer, which is really good for me. (Let’s just turn a blind eye to the orchid I killed.)
  • Got a full time job. And then left said full time job. Sometimes I’ll be doing something and I’ll just stop and think, “I’m so glad I quit my job!” If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have the opportunities and the time that I do to enjoy myself and do things that make me happy and fulfill me.
  • Got into and out of a funk. I got really unhappy toward the end of my full time job and I didn’t realize how unhappy I was until I left that job. All of a sudden it was like a weight had been lifted off of me. I felt more confident, happier, and lighter. A few people commented that they noticed a difference in me. But more importantly, I noticed a difference in me.
  • Started a series of part-time jobs. These part-time are mostly in fields that interest me, and at the very least provide adequate income and don’t take up too much of my time – this allows me to continue doing things that I love, even if they don’t pay.
  • Travelled to Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Montreal, but not on a bike. Vacationing is fun! And it had been quite some time since I had taken a vacation that wasn’t also an epic journey across a country. So that was fun.
  • Started my challenges challenge. Even though this sort of fell off the tracks at the end of the year (I was busy!), it’s back on track now. The challenges challenge has opened me up to new things, and forced me to try things I’d always wanted to try because I have a deadline! Deadlines rock.
  • Found a better balance between saving and spending. I’ve always been a good saver. My credit score is ballin’ (bet that’s the first time anyone’s ever used ballin’ to describe their credit score). This year though, I started spending a bit more money on things I would enjoy – like the occasional nice dinner or new clothes so I don’t look like a homeless person.  I still have a budget and savings and RSPs and all of those fun things, but I also have the memories of the experiences I spent the money on.
  • Bought a stove. OK, half of a stove. And we’re still paying it off. But this is a big showing of commitment for me. A few years ago I had a lot of trouble signing a two year phone contract because I didn’t know where I’d be in two years. At least now, wherever I go, I’ll be bringing half a stove.
  • And of course I had a birthday and matured as a human being and met a bunch of cool people yada yada yada.

All in all, it was an amazing year. Thanks to everyone who made it so special.

 

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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.

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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.

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