change

Life Doesn’t Stop for Anybody

“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.” – The Perks of Being a Wallflower

It’s hard to believe three months have gone by. I sit here in the middle of an unusually temperate November, sun shining and snow still a daydream away, and reflect on the weeks that have been with a twang of disbelief. Three months ago, I was still working at a car dealership (and loving it; though as always seems to be the way, the jobs you adore most are the ones that make it the hardest to make ends meet), living alone in a house I was renting from my father. Well, I say alone; Rose makes for the best roommate in the world but has never done much in the way of paying her way.

house

panSince then, I have travelled Europe. The love of my life moved in with me, and I gained a cousin, too. I quit my job for a 32% increase in pay, a fancy title, a level up in responsibility, and a whole lot of Lessons In Developing A Thicker Skin. The weekend of the move-in, we also ended up buying another house. Though all incredibly exciting and terribly grown-up, all of this happened within about a month – the resulting excitement being rather diluted by stress and worry. Getting lost in foreign countries, changing friend circles, big new jobs and buying houses I’m told rank pretty highly on the stress scale, so the last couple of months have had their fair share of tears. But I have absolutely nothing to complain about.

I’ve seen lots of complaining lately. Friends, family, colleagues; I’ve been guilty of it myself. Starbucks Cupgate 2015? Makes me want to punch people in the face. I was listening to a news story on the way in to work this morning about a couple who’d planned to get married this Christmas and recently welcomed a baby into the world, after which the groom was diagnosed with a terminal illness. They are instead getting married today, and the city is helping in droves with things like donated photography, videography etc. It’s a true lesson in perspective: nothing, no matter how important it seems in the moment, is more important than loving each other. Our life is finite. Every second spent focusing on something that, let’s be honest, we won’t even remember at the end of our lives, is a waste of a gift. Perspective and gratitude should always be at the forefront, no matter how stressful things may seem in the moment.

This idea was once inspiration for a song I wrote a long time ago. I was working in a position I could only remain in for about six months – when you invest the largest chunk of your everyday life into an environment and a vision, you really have to be on the same wavelength as those surrounding you. Sometimes you enter into new ventures and find, for some reason or other, the way you are and the way things are are incompatible. Sometimes it’s physical – I could never show up at a building site and expect to have a successful career as a 110 lb construction worker. But sometimes it’s mental, and though I pride myself on endeavours of unity, sometimes you are simply outnumbered. You’re a thoroughly sensitive INFJ whose strengths are in words, feelings, ideas and relationships, in a fishbowl of Ts who have no patience for such things, because such things don’t fit the corporate mould. My chorus:

When you speak, can you hear yourself?
The hourglass is upside down.
Will you remember any of this,
When life is on its way out?

Funnily enough, that song was resurrected over the last month by a new friend of mine. During the summer, my band parted ways, and I was left with half a dozen handwritten songs and an enormous longing for people to work on them with. After putting out a plea to every musically-inclined soul I know on Facebook, I was met with interest! Guitarists, vocalists, digital artists, producers! People all genuinely willing to lend their time and talent to collaborating with me. In a burst of disbelief, excitement, and giddy enthusiasm, I somehow went from wishing for people to jam with to creating an entire EP – and this song, which initially didn’t even make the shortlist, became first in line for a complete makeover.

Over the past few weeks, my friend Dave has taken this from a tiny little acoustic ukulele track I threw up on the Internet moments after writing (and promptly forgot about) to… an epic, radio-worthy ballad I’ve fallen in love with. It has more layers than I could count… harmonies, instrumentation, swoops and whooshes and texture and big moments that brought me to tears the first time I heard it. I am so incredibly lucky to know such kind and talented people. Words cannot describe how it feels to look back and remember how terrified I used to be of even speaking in front of people, anxiety-ridden nights spent wishing I had the confidence to let the inside out without fear of judgment… and now feel ready to put my heart and soul out there for the world to see. I’ve been doing it for years behind a computer screen, but to be able to do this now… is everything I’ve ever dreamed of.

Still on topic (trust me), I picked up a book earlier this summer: The Art Of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help. I’ve not followed Amanda Palmer‘s career a whole lot, but I do know she’s married to one of my favourite authors of all time, and I do know that as soon as I saw the title, that book’s contents belonged in my head. I haven’t read it yet – but I think now is the perfect time. I’ve somehow found myself on the path that will lead me to one of the biggest dreams I’ve ever had for life, but in order to reach the destination, I do need help.

I was reluctant to start a fundraiser (stay with me!) because I hate asking people for money. I hate feeling like I’m begging (please never put me in your wedding party if you’re having a social), and I hate seeing all the people see your cause and choose not to help. I take things way too personally at the best of times, so this sounded like a recipe for disaster until I talked to a couple of wise musician friends of mine and learned a few things. Notably: “Crowd funding isn’t a begging platform (which is good because no one likes begging), it’s a sales platform. The people who succeed are those who already have an audience that would have bought the final product; it just moves the chronology of payment around. People contribute to a crowd funding campaign because they feel like they’re buying something they want to buy. And ultimately, they’ll receive something for their investment.”

Huh. It really is just a chronologically wibbly-wobbly way of exchanging funds for a product. Anyone who donates to this campaign will receive something in return, even if all they donate is the cost of a coffee. Music, handwritten notes, photoshoots, a free CD… all in addition to the knowledge that they helped make someone who was once scared of everything make their dream come true. Any and all funds raised will go to the cost of the production of this record. Two very talented producers have been kind enough to gift a month’s work (so far) to me for my first track, and have given me a good quote on the cost of producing the whole thing, but I can’t afford it. I also want to repay the kindness of those who’re collaborating with me – fellow musicians, singers, and artists (the artwork, done by my good friend Jen, is out of this world), in addition to the cost of physically making this a thing. A lot of people have seen the campaign, and a few amazingly kind souls have been generous enough to support, but there is a long way to go. I have another 57 days, and I know it’s going to go by in a flash.

If you have two minutes and can afford to help in any way, your support would mean more than you could ever know. Story, sample, and link to donate below. Thank you ❤

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Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened

“How lucky I am, to have something
that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

— A. A. Milne

Today is a bittersweet day.

In the very recent past, I was fretting a little about my finances – since making the transition to living solo and being responsible for – well, everything – my wonderful job in the non-profit world wasn’t quite paying the bills. I landed some extra freelance work, and even went to an orientation for an evening job (at which point I realised what a frightful snob I was, couldn’t bring myself to phone Americans to ask them about their preferred brand of dog food, and left halfway through… this was following a test in which they asked us to explain the difference between an open-ended and a closed-ended question. Right?), but this course of action would have me waking up at 5:45 and working until 10:30 at night. I knew I’d probably burn out pretty quickly, and the extra money wasn’t substantial enough to make it worthwhile, and sometimes you have to give yourself a little bit of a break. So I crunched some numbers, made a tentative budget, and decided I would live off Kraft Dinner, shop at Value Village, and develop a passion for avoiding the world of music and theatre for the next five years, only at the end of which I would be close to paying off my debt. And then the universe intervened.

All of a sudden, I was being contacted by someone in the nation’s capital to ask if I was available for a job that I’d interviewed for a year ago (and been offered; I’d declined when funding came through that would allow me to remain where I was) – and that offered a 23% increase in pay. I’ve never been one to make a decision based on money – I firmly believe that we only have one life and we should do as much with it and leave as positive an impact in it as possible regardless of whether or not we have money – but reality was setting in hard, and I decided to take a leap of faith. I know it’s illogical, but I like to believe in signs sometimes, and the timing was just too coincidental. I had a giant problem, and the solution was being handed over with a nice big bow on top. So I said yes.

The next thing I knew, I was writing a resignation letter with shaking hands and a pounding heart, a mixture of excitement, relief and absolute heartbreak running through my veins. I met with my supervisor, her boss, and the Executive Director individually, shakily handed them each a copy of the letter, let out a squeaky “I — I’m going”, and burst into tears. By the time I got to the ED, I’d cried all my makeup off, and went into his office in absolute floods (which were only intensified when I saw he’d kept the giant ball of tin foil in pride of place, left over from my attempts at “decorating” his office). They each assured me I’d be missed, that I was gifted, and that I’d grown so much since I first started. They told me heartfelt things about admiration and resilience and said I’d made a difference in lots of lives. They said how they’d passed my blog onto their children who were going through difficulty because somehow they saw me as “an inspiration.” They gave me heartfelt hugs and boxes of tissues and left me wondering if I’d made an enormous mistake. But the last few months have been full of giant changes, and each one has led to new things that have been infinitely more wonderful than I’ve ever known, and in my heart, I know that this is a necessary step forward. The final step toward a brand new life.


Working in non-profit has been an absolute joy. My coworkers became like a sort of family, there to celebrate with decorations, afternoon tea, a TARDIS and Photoshopped Star Trek cards during the good times, and with hugs, coffee, boxes and cars to help me move during the challenges. It was part of the mission statement to have fun. It was also part of the mission to make a significant contribution to people’s lives, and we did both brilliantly. Nothing will compare to the feeling of seeing people’s whole worlds completely turned around, the effects that will last the rest of their lives, or the feeling I got after in absolute terror, I’d facilitated my first workshop, and had a round of applause at the end. I dressed up in Christmas costumes with these people, ran around the city taking ridiculous pictures with strangers, and learned lessons at staff retreats that will stay with me forever. These people helped me believe in myself, take risks, see the world differently, and do things I never thought I’d be able to do. I poured my heart into this job and the people I shared each day of the last two and a half years with, and I feel incredibly sad to see this chapter ending.

But whether you call it a sign, karma, orchestration of the universe or inevitability as a result of genetic makeup, this new door is opening for a reason, and I have faith that this is going to lead to brilliant things. New people, new challenges, a significantly less stressful financial situation, and new opportunities as a result. My new job is at a Big Corporate Company in a downtown high-rise – I’ve worked in non-profit, freelance and businesses with less than five employees for the last half-decade; it’s going to be a bit of an adjustment. I’m scared, but I’m almost as excited. I leave with people who’ll forever have a place in my heart, who’ve helped me become who I am this very moment, as friends. And I’m growing. I’m doing the sensible thing and taking measures to get into a better situation. I’m paving the way for all the things I want to do in the next few years in life – I want to learn more skills, challenge myself more, save more and see more of the world. I want to travel and get more tattoos and buy a car and take more classes. I want to be able to afford healthy food. I want to give more when World Vision phones me up or when friends have birthdays. I want to experience more and just be more. It seems the journey of Becoming A Grown-Up is continuing more rapidly as of late, with bigger steps and scarier hurdles and larger gaping chasms of uncertainty, but as with anything in life, you just have to accept it, go with it, and give it your all. Make a decision to just be brilliant.

Today is my first day. And despite all the nerves and anxiety that have made a thoroughly jarring and unwelcome return over the last few days, I have no intention of doing anything less. Wish me luck…

So it goes…

FINALLY, after what feels like absolutely months, I can say I’ve returned to the online world! I feel absolutely horrible I haven’t been able to keep up with you or write back to your lovely comments, but last week, with the help of a team of wonderful boys, I moved, got The Men in, the Internet hooked up, and am currently in the process of catching up on everything. Come to think of it, this may take another week. 🙂 

Unsurprisingly, a couple of things that seem to have worked their way into my mind as of late and taken up residence are the ideas of risk and change. If I were to describe the events of the last few months, you might wonder why said mind hasn’t handed in its proverbial resignation (seriously, when DIY espionage, treason, and a hundred-and-eighty-degree turn in life path, people, relationships, accommodation and finances all crop up within a few weeks of each other, sometimes the only thing you can do is laugh!). But in keeping with one of the goals I wanted to put into practice, I seem to have latched on tightly to the notion of acceptance, and consequently hitched a surprisingly comfortable ride through the last few weeks. 

Every hand we are dealt by the universe is accompanied by a choice of reaction, and if the last year has taught me anything at all, it’s the power that lies within every one of us to choose our response. For a long time, it used to be panic, and despite the best counselling efforts of one Mr. Adams, crap would happen, and I’d fly into a fit of despair. The rug would be pulled from under my feet, everything would go up in the air, and I’d find myself scrambling frantically in an attempt to maintain some semblance of control. But at the end of the day, panic is just one option of many. My boss once described a metaphor for change that’s stuck with me to this day: a trapeze artist swings through the air, and unless she takes a leap of faith in grabbing onto the next bar, momentum will slow to a stop and she will be left hanging.  There is a comfort in holding onto what’s comfortable, held back by the fear of free-falling through the air, heart racing, nerves pounding, not knowing when or where the next bar will come. But if you don’t take a leap, you’ll be left hanging, until the only way left is down. Sometimes a leap of faith is exactly what’s needed to launch you toward bigger and better things. 

breaking at the seams, heaving at the brace
sheets all billowing, the breaking of the day
the sea is not my friend, the seasons they conspire
yet still I choose to swim, and slip beneath the tide
James Vincent McMorrow, If I Had a Boat

It seems that lately I’ve become incredibly passionate about the idea of change. I think without it, one stifles all possibilities of future growth, of becoming more, of doing more and seeing more and exploring our unchartered potential… I don’t want to get to the end of my life, look back on my map and see that the ship never left the harbour. Someone once said that ships are safe in a harbour, but that that wasn’t what ships were for. I want to look back and see trails across stormy seas through torrential rainstorms and bands of pirates, up to new countries and through new sights and civilizations, stopping for treasure and beautiful sunsets and meeting a plethora of all sorts of fascinating people with whom I’ll share stories and build memories and from whom I’ll learn great lessons. I want to see it full of adventure and culture and colour, and I want to be left with battle scars that tell the story of a life well lived. I don’t want to settle for what’s comfortable. Settling’s better left in Catan. 

One does not discover new lands without consenting to
lose sight of the shore for a very long time. –
André Gide

I recently met somebody fantastic who has the words “so it goes” etched across his arm. Apparently I’d been living under a rock, and wasn’t familiar with Kurt Vonnegut (!), but in its stark simplicity I think it’s the perfect summation of an attitude with which to face life. Everything you could need is packed into three simple words that simultaneously accept and dismiss absolutely everything. Which is brilliant. There has been no shortage of people lately asking if I’m okay, telling me I must be doing terribly, and expressing confusion or doubt when I genuinely tell them I’m fine. These three words encapsulate the spirit with which I want to live: crap happens, and at the time it sucks, but it’s fine. We keep calm, as they say, and carry on. We focus our energies on forging a better future, not on futile attempts at rewriting an already written past. 

So in the spirit of great change and acceptance, a natural successor would be that of risk. It’s hard to imagine any change taking place without taking a risk first, but we seem so conditioned to construct walls of caution and fear around our hearts that we inadvertently become prisoners of our own design, and go through life staying in one place, allowing fear of hurt or failure to cage us in, outweighing the hope or potential of something more brilliant. It’s sad that people’s first reaction to my state of mind is one of surprise – why not choose to be fine? Why not take big leaps into creating the future? Why waste time on things that have already happened and doors that have been closed; why not learn their lessons as fast as you can and move on with life’s next chapter? If you take a risk and things work out, you’ll be that much happier; if they don’t, you’ll be that much wiser.

I was reading an interesting article recently about a study on the number one contributor of happiness. Money, health, attractiveness, popularity, and a hot sex life were all expected answers, but according to a report by The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, “all these mentioned life goodies were topped by the biggest life goodie of them all: autonomy – defined as “the feeling that your life – its activities and habits — are self-chosen and self-endorsed.”

This makes sense, when you take a moment to contemplate how lovely autonomy can make you feel – and how miserable its absence can make you. In fact, when you’re upset about something in your life – a  break up, a job problem, your weight – it’s usually because you’re feeling as if you’re no longer in control of this area your life. “Having a strong sense of controlling one’s life is a more dependable predictor of positive feelings of well-being than any of the objective conditions of life we have considered,” says Campbell.  A University of Michigan nationwide survey also sings the praises of autonomy – reporting how the 15% of Americans who claimed they felt “in control of their lives” also raved about having “extraordinarily positive feelings of happiness.”

It’s all about how you choose to react, and I believe that with a focus on choice, action, acceptance and attitude, risk really can be a win-win thing. Life happens. We just have to allow hope to be of greater weight than fear, and be active participants in shaping our future. The possibilities are endless if we only take a leap once in a while, and, as they say, choose to build wings on the way down.

Here’s to change, to taking big, giant leaps into the unknown and risking your heart for the sake of possible brilliance. Here’s to resilience, to the power of choice, and to making the most of every precious moment we’re given. Here’s to everything that’s ever been, everything that ever will be, and to shaping everything that exists in the here and now. Here’s to great stories, battle scars, epic lessons, and infinite potential. Here’s to writing the next chapter. Here’s to risking it all, and hoping for the best. Here’s to life. After all, we only get one.

Time and Space (and money. Sadly, this post isn’t half as nerdy as it sounds)

As you read this, I’ll have finally moved into my new place. The past few weeks have been full of decluttering, packing, and hauling heavy things up three flights of rather narrow stairs, but I’m finally on the other side, much more settled, and theoretically much fitter.*  I’ve moved countries, continents and through seven different residences in the last decade, and contrary to all evidence, it’s never something I actually enjoy. I loathe moving. The process of going through absolutely everything, weeding out all the junk, packing away a home you’ve invested time in decorating and making your own, and closing the door on all the fun memories had in it isn’t something I particularly enjoy. Especially when you’re leaving a beautiful big house in a fantastically quirky, artsy neighbourhood a stone’s throw away from all your friends (and an ice cream shop close enough to get a ’99 during the adverts of Britain’s Got Talent). 

So with this move comes a lot of adjustment. An adjustment of time in that my evenings are now free to spend however I wish – as much as I absolutely adore having company, I can’t deny that the idea of coming home to a full, empty evening to fill with productive things like writing, reading, or endeavours at learning to cook is wonderfully appealing. Another adjustment is going to be one of space. In my house, I’d gradually accumulated more and more things with which to fill it, which resulted in far more things than could possibly fit in a one-man apartment. My new cupboard space is small, and my kitchen is compact. Still big enough to have a bit of a dance while waiting for cupcakes to cook, though (a must!), but a squeeze nonetheless. There are 45 degree angles between the walls and ceilings which gives the whole place brilliant character, but also makes it a slight impossibility to hang all my photos and art. This may be a sign to finally grow up (but but!) and shelve the band and Doctor Who prints for later.  

There’ll also be an adjustment of surroundings. Over the last two years I’d fallen in love with my little indie neighbourhood (exhibited perfectly one night last week when I saw a man, on a skateboard, wearing a sombrero, and walking a dog) and just how much character it has. I loved how close it was to all my friends, and how I could walk past all the little boutiques and restaurants on a sunny day all the way to downtown. I loved the fact that my street was tucked away and faced the river, with a glittering view of the (albeit makeshift) downtown skyline. The neighbourhood was definitely going to be the thing I was going to miss most, but I’m determined to learn to love my new area. It’s not that far, and it’s close to other restaurants and shops. The street is full of giant old houses and lined with a canopy of trees. It’s beautiful… but it’s just a little more grown up, I think. And I still feel a bit of an indie kid at heart. 

The biggest adjustment, however, will undoubtedly be a financial one. I’ve always shared accommodations with other people (which has definitely resulted in a few war stories), and split rent, bills, and usually food at least in half. This place isn’t the cheapest suite I could’ve gone for, but it was still close to friends and family, and it had character. The sale was probably catalyzed by the fact that my new landlord is a fellow Brit, too. I work in non-profit at a job I absolutely adore. But this means that disposable income is pretty much going to have to become a thing of the past. Randomly, a few days ago, I received a phone call out of the blue from a recruiter I’d been working with when I’d been job-hunting years ago. They had a position that would be “perfect” for me that if I was hired for, would result in a 30% increase in income and an exponential decrease in money-related stress. But it was mundane. And it didn’t directly have an impact in people’s lives. They even asked me if I wouldn’t just be frightfully bored… so I had a decision to make. Money or meaning? If I stay where I am, I’ll be living paycheque to paycheque, shopping at the Dollar store and taking up part-time residence at friends’ places adopting all sorts of free leisure activities like Star Trek marathons and games of Settlers. (The space version of course; do I look like a girl that enjoys agriculture? J) But I’ll be spending every day going to do something I love, with people I love, in a job at an organisation that exists to make a positive impact in people’s lives. If I leave for the sake of money, sure, I’ll be able to afford more and pay off my debt more quickly, but I’ll be sacrificing something I care about and spending my time doing something that doesn’t really have any significance. And that doesn’t sit well in my heart. My decision’s made – I’m definitely staying where I am. I just have to learn to live a little less frivolously and give up a few luxuries is all. I knew I took that poverty challenge for a reason. 🙂

So a lot of change is going down right now… but that’s always what makes life such an adventure. Change is a key factor in growth; if things always stayed the same I fear I’d coast through life, never taking any risks or learning anything new or stepping outside of what’s comfortable… Change is always a little daunting at first, but I think if you dive straight in and make yourself at home, it’ll be one more step on an upward path of growth and experience. Speaking of diving straight in, I’ll be getting Internet hooked up tomorrow, and will finally be able to catch up with everything in the blogosphere after what’s felt like an eternity! Here’s to new beginnings…

 * “Theoretically” being the operative word; in theory I would be much fitter, if I hadn’t remedied the post-exercise hunger pangs with the frightfully convenient iced cappuccinos and pastries two blocks away.