Steal the Little Things

I’ve realized over the past few years that I am a highly adaptable person. I’m not sure how I turned into this person since I distinctly remember being a nightmarish, stubborn goblin as a small child. But I have to believe this started early because I know I started to steal little things from people as early as age nine.

I don’t mean stealing material things (although my collection of different post-its was BOMB), I mean stealing little habits or tricks that I thought would make my life better. For example, the earliest memory I have of this is seeing a girl in one of my classes in fourth grade write a capital letter ‘E’. Up until that point, I had written it using one vertical line and then tacking on three horizontal lines one by one. But this girl (S/O to Emily Yuill) wrote hers as if it were a backwards three. I suppose this is also the cursive way to write it, but at that moment it seemed so fluid – one motion, smooth and unique. I decided I liked it, and I’ve written my E’s that way ever since.

Although that’s the earliest example I have, I can remember adapting all sorts of things – especially when it comes to ways of speaking and certain phrases. It’s been very helpful when I’m in a new environment to sound as alike to others as possible. I’ve become rather good at mimicking cadences of speaking and picking up common phrases in certain circles whether it’s a foreign country or a work environment. While this is helpful in my day to day life, I end up sounding quite strange when I’m speaking in a casually since my style has now become an amalgamation of many.

This also might be the reason I am obsessed with the daily routines of pretty much anyone. Those morning routine videos on youtube are like crack to me (a close second are packing videos). I am constantly searching for little tiny things that I think are more efficient or more helpful that I can add to my life. And it’s worked quite well for me, pretty much everything from my morning routine, speaking style, travel habits, and work behavior is a collection of tiny things I’ve noticed on others, adapted to myself.

I suppose this systematic collection of behaviors is basically what growing up is, but I’ve always been pretty aware of it. As soon as I see something I like, I immediately switch over to it to try it out. Not everything works though. For example, cold morning showers – HELL NO. I’ve tried a lot of things, sometimes too many things at once, and now I’ve amassed a whole swath of habits that I can trace back to a specific person, article, or video I’ve encountered.

This cultivation of activity is something that I’ve realized I love doing. I love looking for things that improve my life and recognizing them in others. Are there any behaviors you’ve adapted over the years? Think about it for a quick sec and see what things you do now that may have been appropriated from friends or family. You’d be surprised what you’ve collected.

littlethingsfeature

PC: Kiki Moussetis

Advertisements

Forgotten Talents

On Saturday I had the enormous pleasure of seeing the Calgary Philharmonic play the score to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Apart from my Harry Potter obsession, I realized I hadn’t been to the orchestra in a few years and I MISS IT. Not only do I miss watching the orchestra, I miss being a part of one. A little backstory here, I played viola as part of an orchestra for a little over a decade. And I was GOOD. Not great, but good enough to play in one of the most advanced orchestras my school had to offer. Unfortunately, I haven’t played much since high school and realizing that actually made me sad.

Back in high school, I had two “things,” if you will. Number one was swimming. I spent five hours everyday training and had at least one meet every week. Number two was orchestra. Being in the advanced orchestra meant I gave up at least half my lunch in addition to a normal school period for rehearsals. And of course, I practiced on my own in order to keep up. In between all that, I had my classes, and that’s how I went through school.

At the time, it was a lot. Training for swimming was exhausting and getting good at an instrument is an exercise in repetition that drove me nuts. But when I went to university, I stopped both of these activities cold. I told myself I wanted to focus on other pursuits like study abroad and internships and that since I didn’t want to become an Olympian or a professional musician it didn’t matter.

And it didn’t. I was perfectly happy swimming at my own pace for an hour workout rather than a 5 hour one and playing whatever struck my fancy on my viola rather than repeating the same four measure section over and over to wring it to absolute perfection. But after awhile, it did matter.

I hadn’t just done those activities in passing, they had been huge parts of my life for over a decade. I was really good at both of them, I had spent countless hours getting better, learning, improving, and then I just gave them up. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’d change my decisions. I’m pretty happy with the trajectory my life took, but I do wish I had made an effort to include them at a bare minimum.

I miss competing at meets, I loved the adrenaline, I miss the feeling of winning,  and I miss cheering on my teammates.

I miss being part of an orchestra, creating a sound so big it fills the whole room. I miss joking with my stand partner, and honestly, I just miss playing.

I’ve replaced these things in my life now – I took up new sports, and now I write as a creative outlet rather than play music. But I miss my old commitments. I was glad to be rid of them when they were overwhelming, but nostalgia has come to haunt me and I think it’s about time I start swimming some laps and playing some music again.

Are there any talents you stopped, whether because of a life change or because they were too exhausting? Did you ever pick them back up? Let me know in the comments!

 

forgottentalentsfeature

I hope she doesn’t hate me for posting this throwback, but this was taken behind the scenes of one of my favorite concerts ❤

 

Stress Fest

I had some enlightened political post planned for today, but instead, I decided it was high time I got a little bit vulnerable with this blog.

The last few weeks I have been under incredible pressure. I have been ridiculously stressed before, but not since university, and even then I handled it in questionable ways.

To set the scene: I have been travelling for the last 6 weeks nonstop. I rolled on to a difficult to please client, with tons of time-sensitive work, and I fly out every Monday morning to see them and fly back late at night on Thursday evenings. When I return home, I feel like I’m being pulled in a million different directions between spending time with my boyfriend, my family, my friends, and my own personal hobbies like this blog.

Usually, I think of myself as pretty collected. The last few weeks…not so much. The tiniest comment from someone can send me into a full-blown depression spiral (suicidal thoughts, and all), and my anxiety levels are so through the roof that I’ve had a sobbing breakdown almost every Saturday for five weeks straight. We are talking on the floor of the bathroom ugly crying until I can barely breathe and my face is so puffy it looks like I had an allergic reaction to something. So you could say I’ve been rather high strung lately and it has not been pretty (it should be noted that my boyfriend has been extra great these past few weeks and deserves a shoutout).

Believe it or not though, I am actually handling the added stress much better than I have in the past and that’s because of one simple thing: I have not given up on my wellbeing.

In the past, when I’m under this much stress, my diet goes to shit (like gummy bears for dinner), my sleep takes a hit from staying up late trying to distract myself with shitty TV, and my workout schedule becomes just another chore. Although these behaviors felt like they were helping in the moment, ultimately they bit me in the ass HARD. My skin broke out, I was tired all the time, and I felt out of control.

Clearly, I’m no expert but my ONE tip on handling stress is to keep your wellbeing a priority. It is the one thing you can always control and the one thing that may just keep you sane as all the external craziness washes over you. Below, I’ve outlined what I do every single day to mitigate my stress and promote wellbeing. Not all of these will sound appealing to everyone, and maybe they don’t’ even apply to some of you. Everyone has their ‘things’ that help them feel healthy, whole, and in control. As long as you know what yours are and you make the effort to practice them no matter what, then you can’t really go wrong.

  1. You knew this was coming – I workout. 6 days a week, I make an effort to do something active. During the week, these are especially helpful because it helps me expel any negative energy that comes from a stressful day with the client. On Fridays and Saturdays, it is simply about feeling good about my body.
  2. Diet. This one has been harder to control lately as I’ve been travelling so much, but I’ve made a special effort to eat better while on the road. Eating lots of heavy, rich foods just makes me feel tired and slow. I notice a visible difference when I eat lighter, more nutrition dense meals for lunch and dinner. I also limit my desserts as those are usually my kryptonite.
  3. Meditation. This one is a new thing I’ve been doing since the start of 2018. I take ten minutes every day to go through a meditation exercise to regulate my breathing and practice controlling my perception of certain emotions. I use the Headspace app since I’m not practiced enough to guide myself through a meditation and the app has this calming male British voice to walk me through exercises which makes it much easier.
  4. Self Improvement – This takes many forms, but for me, I spend ten to fifteen minutes every single day practicing either my Greek or my Spanish (unfortunately Mandarin is getting left out because Duolingo doesn’t carry it). I also spend a half hour to an hour every day reading or writing. These are things that I’m doing for my own personal growth and that feel especially rewarding because I am doing them solely for my own improvement, not for anyone else.

It’s important to note that while these things help enormously in terms of keeping me feeling like I’m in control, I am still reduced to an insecure pile of tears every Saturday so there is still work to be done. And it’s also significant to note that it’s ok to be overwhelmed sometimes. It’s going to happen. The important thing is that you have an action plan to get on top and get going again.

 

 

stressfeature

Me trying to channel Wonder Woman to cope with my stress PC: Kiki Moussetis (the queen of stress)

 

She’s the Brave One

It’s my sister’s birthday today! I’m sad I can’t be in Chicago to celebrate with her but it’s a Wednesday and we both have lives to live so we celebrated a little bit early. She turns twenty this year which means nothing so I’ve started planning for her twenty-first instead.

In any case, I had to, of course, write a little shout out post to her. I’ve written about my sister and my relationship with her a couple times before, and she’s even been a guest author on my blog so I’ll spare you all the repeats of content and focus in on one of my favorite things about her.

For those of you that don’t know, my sister suffers from a bit of social anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Sounds like a horrible combination to me, but she bears it like a champ for the most part. The crazy thing is that despite all of those emotional blocks, she is fearless.

First things first, she is studying to become a film director. Most parents I know would have a minor heart attack if their kid wanted to go into film because it’s just not a dependable career (this includes my dad who pleaded repeatedly with her to get a second major at first). Consequently, many kids would be talked out of such a path early on and go on to major in something boring to get a boring job that brings in good money (enter, me).

Not her though, she saw the special features on the Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, and said yep, this is the life for me. I’ve always been jealous of people who know exactly what they want to do, but she not only knows, she knows she has chosen a path that is very difficult to succeed on. She knows that to become a star director, there will be a lot of shitty jobs, long day, and bad pay. Or you know, she might submit a film to Sundance next year and become a breakout star at 21. It could happen.

She also never backs down. Ever.

Let’s compare us for a small moment. I have a pretty strong moral code. There are certain things that I just will not let fly and I will call people out on for the most part. However, I do have a threshold where I will flex my morals for my own personal gain. My sister does not. At least not one that I’ve seen. She will defend her views and others with every breath she’s got and no amount of personal gain could make her budge on that.

Her empathy for others is tied to directly to this moral code since she strongly believes that everyone should have equal opportunity and that people with more should help people with less. One of her common habits is eating lunch out in between classes, but if she passes someone on the street begging for food, you can bet she just gave her whole, recently purchased, lunch to that person and would go hungry that day instead. Most people I know would never do that. (Maybe I’m just friends with selfish people haha).

Furthermore, while she sometimes has trouble standing up for herself depending on the scenario, she almost never has trouble standing up for others. She refuses to let people be judged based on their demographics and will absolutely not stand for discrimination. So help anyone who tries to patronize or marginalize a group in conversation. She will RUIN you.

But in the end, it’s not about her witty insults or fiery conversation, it’s about the fact that she is willing to go to the ends of the earth to achieve what she believes in. Doesn’t matter if it’s her passion for film or her passion for others. Most people are like me, we compromise our ideals if there is something in it for us. We obviously have our limits, but we are much quicker to give up abstract beliefs when there is a reward. My sister is not. She will not flex, bend, or break.

There are tons of things I love about my sister – She can always be counted on to sing showtunes with me, she can calm me down literally within seconds, she’s the best writing teacher I’ve ever had, the best debate partner, she has fearless style – and so on. Of course, she also has flaws, but lacking conviction is not one of them and that is perhaps my favorite thing about her.

Happy birthday Kiki! I’m stocking up on sangria for next year!

 

kikisbday2

PC: Our loving mother

 

 

My Mom Knows the Words to Every Disney Song

I know I’ve jumped the gun a bit since Mother’s Day is still a week and a half away but next Wednesday is already reserved for another special post so I’ll just have to talk about how great my mom is a little sooner.

The idea of motherhood is still something I find unbelievable. Not only do mothers grow and support a tiny creature with their own body, they then have to extricate it painfully from their body, and then, of course, support it for the next eighteen years give or take a few. And while western countries are slowly becoming more progressive in terms of divvying up childcare responsibilities, in most parts of the world, mothers do most of the child-rearing work, especially at the beginning. Motherhood requires such selflessness, patience, and nurturing. Therefore, I find it extremely difficult to wrap my mind around this concept since I, on the other hand, can barely keep a damn cactus alive, much less a helpless little human.

Consequently, I believe mothers deserve an ENORMOUS shoutout. And of course, like most people who love their mothers, I think my mom is the BEST. Not only did she put up with, excuse me SHUT DOWN, all of my petty shit, she also made me resilient which might be one of my most important traits. Oh, and she also made me taller than average which I LOVE.

My mom is a very no-nonsense person on the surface. One of her favorite lines to feed me and my sister was “crying doesn’t solve anything”. Sounds harsh, but she’s right, isn’t she? I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen her breakdown, and if she decides to keep a straight face, she’s almost impossible to crack. One of the perks of being a swimmer was that she had to control her yelling since she knew I couldn’t hear her from the water. She doesn’t give in to puppy dog eyes, pouting, screaming, crying, or begging. I hardly got in trouble because all it took was one look from her to make me feel so guilty about whatever line I had toed, that I never did it again.

On the other hand, and she may kill me for outing her this way, she is a child at heart. Once you crack the surface even a little bit, she’s a total jokester. She’s the reason me and my sister know ALL the words to every Disney song, her sarcasm is off the charts, and she does enjoy the occasional harmless prank. She would tickle me and my sister mercilessly and would make up tons of ridiculous voices when she read us stories.

Despite all of the above traits, there are specific things that my mom did that really turned me into the person I am today. One of the most vivid memories I have is when I was probably about seven or eight and I remember my mom was in the upstairs bathroom getting ready and we were arguing about something – I have no idea what – when I told her I hated her. I remember being LIVID (or as livid as a seven-year-old can be) and shouting that at her. She calmly set down her makeup and walked straight past me down the stairs. I ran after her screaming my head off to tell me what she was doing. She made it all the way to the garage door, I was now crying, and I yelled, “where are you going?”. She turned and told me she was leaving. She said, if I hated her so much, she would leave so she didn’t cause me any more trouble. Oh boy did I backtrack after that. I was practically weeping and pleading that she didn’t go, and that I didn’t mean it. Because of that instance, as well as a few others, I always endeavour to mean what I say and say what I mean.

My mom is also a great study in small talk. I’m only now using some of her techniques, but she was always so great making small talk at the grocery store, with her colleagues, and at parties she didn’t even want to be at. I’ve always admired this about her, and now that I’m older, I realize how important this skill really is. She’s the kind of person that everybody feels comfortable with. I have no idea how she does it, but maybe I can figure it out sooner rather than later.

Probably my favorite characteristic about my mom is how open she always strived to be. For example, at the first signs of puberty, my mom handed me a bunch of books on the subject and told me to come to her with any questions. This technique made sense for me since I was a voracious reader. The part that was amazing though, was that she truly meant it. I was able to ask her anything. Sure, some questions were a little awkward, but she answered every single one and never made me feel judged for asking. And no matter what, she always made it clear that it was much more important to her that I was safe and happy than anything else. When I told her I was ready for sex, she took me to get birth control no questions asked. When I would go out with friends, she told me to call if I drank because she’d rather come pick me up than have me drive myself for fear of her finding out and getting in trouble.

This article is already getting too long, but I could go on about my mom FOREVER. She’s the reason I have such discipline to work out. Her eyes are the coolest shade of gray/blue/green. She makes killer baklava. She loves to watch animated movies with me and my sister. And she ALWAYS picks up the phone when I call her even though I’m the worst and only call her when I’m in transit. I can call her sobbing and she knows when to soothe me and when to tell me to buck up. She’ll stroke my hair so gently it makes me sleepy and when I’m in town she’s my ultimate gym buddy. Happy Early Mother’s Day Mom, I’ll see you tomorrow!

 

23333984_1480069792084513_5746181997728525809_o

Just me, rushing to try and be as cool as my mom. PC: Kiki Moussetis (for both photos)