january blues

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When I was younger, I never understood why people hate January so much. Winter is my favourite season – that lack of daylight? Great excuse to be in your pajamas by 6 pm. And sweaters? Sweaters are right up there as humanity’s best invention. Another big pro for January: my birthday is this month, and I thought that should be enough to cheer everyone up (modesty has never been my strong suit). But this year, more than most, I get it.

January is tough. A lot of people are diving headfirst into a new year, weighed down by ambitious resolutions and met with cold weather, short days, and a sense of unavoidable failure. To top it all off, I read that today is unofficially dubbed “Blue Monday,” aka the saddest day of the year.

Here are a few things I’ve been trying to beat the “January blues”. I hope this month – and today in particular – you find extra reasons to be happy.

Beating the January Blues

1// Plan for the seasons. This might seem obvious, but there’s nothing worse than coming up with really fun plans only to have them ruined by the weather. I visited a few parks when I was in London earlier this month, and although they were beautiful – and very quiet! – I couldn’t stay for long before my fingers were freezing and the sky was getting dark. Instead, spend winter doing all the things that seem like a waste of a lovely day in summertime: movie marathons, baking, painting, visiting museums, re-decorating or re-arranging your room, or spending an afternoon at that fancy coffee shop you’ve been meaning to visit.

2// Invest in long-term gratification. I’ve spent the past few years trying to get better at this, which is tough when you have virtually no will power! But if you’re feeling down this time of year, it can help to have something to look forward to (and I don’t mean spring). Buy a film camera so you have to wait for the pictures to be developed, or mail a package to a friend so they’ll be surprised in a couple of weeks. If it feels like you don’t have anything exciting coming up, make something yourself!

3// Try a short-term challenge/scheduled program. Go vegan for a week or read 5 books this month. This 30 day yoga challenge is absolutely brilliant and super fun (although, tbh, I never made it past day 10. Maybe this year!). If you’re anything like me, having short-term goals that promise noticeable results can make you feel productive even in your lowest season.

Please tell me how you deal with feeling down this time of year. I hope January is good to you, and that you’re extra good to yourself. Happy Blue Monday (blue is a very nice colour, after all)!

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a beginner’s guide to showing up for people

 

birthday card

I saw a picture the other day – maybe you’ve seen it but if you haven’t, don’t try to google it because it will break your heart in so many ways. It was of an old woman – someone’s grandmother, mother, best friend – wearing a pretty dress and heels, all ready for her first ever art show, except for the sad look on her face. Because no one came.

Even describing it leaves me feeling gutted. Because it reminds me of every time I’ve put off sending an email or forgotten to reply to a Facebook message; of every missed phone call or blown-off conversation because sorry I’m busy. Social media has given us a thousand new ways to connect, and even more ways to let each other down.

Because getting to know somebody is about more than liking their profile picture, and being a good friend takes work. We – the generation that is taught that disinterested equals cool and that double-texting is an automatic red flag – know exactly how to measure out an arm’s length + keep people there. Maybe it’s subconscious, maybe it’s a lack of time or money or stamps and-the-post-office-isn’t-open-right-now. No matter what, we can do better.

2016 will be the year of sending birthday cards on time.

That’s my goal. And I won’t manage to remember all of them or I’ll add a sheepish “belated” to the cover, but I’ll try.

Let’s be the type of people who respond within the day. Let’s make “twenty-something” synonymous with “tries their best + cares about other people.”

I want to be known, and I want the people I care about to feel known – seen, recognized, loved. I hope there never has to be another lonely grandmother or forgotten friend, caught in limbo between cancelled plans and un-returned voice mails.

I want to show up for people – in 7 small ways.

1/ Send the goodbye text. Don’t just disappear from a conversation for hours at a time. Say you’re busy and have to go. Say goodnight even if you’re crawling into bed at 9pm after an awful day. When people do this to me, it makes me feel like I matter. Give yourself closure + tell the other person you care enough to sign off.

2/ Be honest with your no. If you can’t make an event, don’t click “maybe” or “interested” on Facebook. Don’t play ambiguous with other people’s feelings. Be honest + be real + make it when it matters. This also falls into subsection 2a: backing out at the last minute, except in emergencies, is the opposite of kind. Some days are tough but don’t be that person any more than you have to.

3/ Call to check-in. My dad has a black belt in showing up + seeing people. He manages to call my grandpa, aunt, uncle, brother and I each at least once a week – just to say hi. Sundays are reserved for catching up. I, still an apprentice, am trying to manage once every couple weeks. Clear your schedule + your space + just listen for 20 minutes. Golden rule: never reply to “what’s new?” with “oh nothing.” Think of something. My dad knows all about the new app I downloaded to make me drink more water. Dedicate part of your day to being silly + heartfelt + so present in that moment that the other person can hear it in your voice.

4/ Bad days require action. If a friend tells you they aren’t doing so well, be there. Be there via text, easily reachable, if they need to be alone. Or be there in person, eat pizza on the living room floor, and tuck their hair behind their ears while they cry. Don’t mistake a call for help with a random text. People can be melodramatic – show up anyways.

5/ Mark your calendar. I was trying to make plans with a friend – the kind of girl who’s so busy I’m surprised she still finds time to eat + sleep + laugh on the daily – and she put it in her calendar. Our vague, tentative, let’s-do-something-fun-next-Friday was suddenly a real thing. Make space. Block off time. Show people they’re worth it.

6/ Send birthday cards. My grandma had this down since the day I was born and here I am, 21 years later, still forgetting to buy stamps. They don’t have to be the prettiest stationary or written in the fanciest writing. They don’t even have to be delivered in the right month. Tear a page out of an old notebook and scribble down some words. Show someone else that they mean more than just a quick “hbd” post on their Facebook wall at 11:50pm.

7/ Find your people // love them hard. This one is tricky – realizing that you can’t show up for everyone + 8 billion birthday cards means licking way too many envelopes. You can’t take every person you meet on a 5 hour coffee date, catching up about what exactly? Oh right, how we just met. But when you find those people you want to hold the closest, make them feel loved. This isn’t about exclusion or making someone feel left out. It’s about doing what you can + showing up when it matters.

Seven little steps and seven months to go in this year. Let’s keep 2016 real + keep trying our best. I am texting back as soon as I can + putting birthday cards in the mail.

10 things

I wish I could introduce myself in person, over a cup of coffee or tea, while the world bustles along around us. We’d meet eyes, smile sheepishly down at the table, and gesture wildly when the story got good.

In the meantime (and probably for the best, so I can’t knock anything over), it’s nice to meet you! I started this blog to try to be honest and write words that matter. Here are ten things you’ll know about me by the end of our coffee date:

1. I love making lists. My to-do lists read more like New Year’s Resolutions, every day of the week. It’s all wake up early, work hard, be happy. I’m proud of myself if I can check at least one thing off by the end of the day. Sorry if I get a little dreamy-eyed.

2. I’m not from around here. This will probably be obvious when I show up either 5 minutes late or 30 minutes early because I still don’t understand traffic, and hold my phone in front of me like a talisman when I walk, trusting screen shots of Google maps to bring me to you. I was born and raised in a small town way up north, but Vancouver is starting to feel like home.

3. I’m studying International Studies and Communications at Simon Fraser University. I go to school on a mountain and regularly feel like I’ve been punched in the face by knowledge. It’s the best feeling. If you ever want to discuss the Panama Papers or theories of international development, I’ll grab another cup of tea and make myself comfortable.

4. Rainy days are my favourite. I hope it’s raining when we meet, so we both arrive with dripping umbrellas and squeaky shoes. Vancouver’s climate speaks to my soul.

5. I love coffee, tea, or really any warm drink in a cute mug pressed into your outstretched hands by an equally cute barista. If a library and a coffee shop had a baby, I would move there and never leave.

6. I am always happy to talk about books. When I’m not in school (and even when I am, shhhh), I spent half my time with my face buried in a book. Currently reading/being ripped apart, page by page, by Beloved by Toni Morrison. Please send me your recommendations for life-changing reads.

7. I can’t seem to stay in one place for too long. Don’t get my wrong, I love routine. I once ate the exact same thing for breakfast for 3 months straight. But that hasn’t stopped me from reluctantly and anxiously jumping at every opportunity to turn my life upside down. Last fall, I moved to Prague for four months and found new parts of the world to fall in love with. There were tears and bad days, but I’m already planning my next adventure.

8. If you ever need a 2am Denny’s pancake run co-pilot, I’m your girl. Anytime, anywhere, day or night. The best things happen over greasy hash-browns and a lack of sleep. There might not be a pancake emoji yet but you and me, we’ll make it happen.

9. I wish I was a morning person. I’ve been trying so hard to turn myself into one: making pots of coffee and setting my alarm earlier and earlier. But I never get used to it, and my eyes never seem content staying open when they could be fast asleep. 6am is calling my name but it hasn’t happened yet.

10. I am trying to be honest. I’ve been a serial blogger since I knew what the internet was. I would pick a pretty domain name, scatter a few words here and there, and then leave when I decided it wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t good enough.

But these days I’m learning that “good enough” doesn’t actually exist. There’s only practice, trying your best, and sticking to it. I know there’s a chance this thing won’t last, but I am trying to be honest with both of us.

What you are is already enough.

Sorry if I came on a little strong there, but really, what’s the point of being halfhearted? We’ll see where this goes. And if it ends in a real life coffee, then we’re both doing okay.