Heartbreak Part Two: Healing

I’ve never written one of these articles because even though I use the same steps to get over a breakup every time, I wanted to make sure I gave this advice from a place of pain so I could actually analyze if these steps helped rather than just spouting the same fluff as every other heartbreak puff piece. So here we go, this is how I personally deal with a breakup, in no particular order –

  1. Retail Therapy. There is a reason we shop to fill the void. But for me, shopping after a breakup isn’t so much about finding things to replace a person, it’s about buying at least one piece of clothing, jewelry, or SOMETHING that my ex hasn’t ever seen, or touched, or had any contact with. It’s a piece that I claim as entirely my own, has no relationship with the past, and it’s the beginning of me claiming my individuality back. I already bought a killer red dress and some earrings.
  2. Change Your Look. This is similar to the clothing one in that it’s a way to reclaim your appearance. I never do anything too dramatic here, usually a different hairstyle, or slightly different highlights, or a new ear piercing. Doesn’t matter how big or small it is, it is still something that your ex has no part in now. You don’t have to listen to their opinions and it’s honestly the perfect time to try out something if you’d been considering it for awhile. And afterwards, you feel just new enough that you can almost fool yourself into thinking that you’re a completely different person than that girl who dated that guy, and for a little while, you’re untouchable. Even though that feeling won’t last forever, it’s important to get a taste of it early on, because that’s the feeling your aiming for consistently throughout all of this. I haven’t done this one yet but I’m most likely going to get some new highlights and maybe a tattoo that I’ve been putting off for awhile.
  3. USE your support system. I had been feeling so lonely, stressed, and sad in the months leading up to this breakup because I was anxious about what was happening to the relationship and I unintentionally isolated myself. I was embarrassed to let them in on how everything was falling apart. However, once everything went to complete shit, I immediately leaned on my family and my close group of friends from university for pretty much everything. I could write a book on how each one of these people helped me cope with this kind of pain, but the important thing here is that I had a support system to lean on and I used that. I vented, cried, asked for compliments, advice, empathy, and they gave it all to me. This obviously is cathartic, but using them also puts you back in touch with them and makes you realize how many people you actually do have in your corner throughout a tough time.
  4. HOWEVER, set expectations with your support system as well. You should never feel like you have to talk about it or that you have to be feeling a certain way at a certain time. Your support system should do just that, support. My friends and family were super great in the fact that they were constantly checking up on me, but didn’t pressure me to talk about it, instead they just wanted to make sure I was ok and we would talk about it sometimes but sometimes not. They should be onboard with what you’re needing at the moment, not with what they are interested in hearing.
  5. Say YES to everything. Anything you’ve ever wanted to try, go do it. Your friend invites you to a new class or something, go do it. Go out with friends, family, or just yourself! Go out and do things constantly (note – this does not mean you have to go out and party, just go out and keep busy). There will feel like you have a huge void in your life at first because you just have to get re-used to living without your other person and you have to fill it with things that keep your attention. For me, I am lucky in the fact that I actually had to move to a different location, I have friends all over the world that I can leverage work into seeing, and I just planned a trip for myself which I haven’t done in AGES (I’m going to Japan and I’m PUMPED) . Historically, my most productive periods of life have actually been immediately following a breakup so here’s hoping that trend continues.
  6. DO NOT WALLOW. Or, if you must wallow, put time limits on it. I know this is an unpopular opinion because many people say you should take as much time as you need, but I think we’re all capable of being a little bit stricter with ourselves. Only allow yourself a certain amount of wallowing per day or week. And if you absolutely must wallow, make it a productive wallow. Cry while taking an aromatic bath, go on an epic venting session while masking, make a blog post out of it (haha), etc. Wallowing without a goal can quickly turn into an endless spiral of dark thoughts ending in you scrolling to the first posts of your ex’s Instagram and that is helping NO ONE.
  7. Practice gratitude. Even if you’re not into the whole zen thing, it is important to be able to see the positive side to things. The thing is that theoretically, the goal is to eventually find a person to spend your life with, which means that the actual precious time is alone time now. Who knows when that person will waltz in and preoccupy your time indefinitely. Be grateful for this time alone, for this time to get to know yourself, to be selfish, to only worry about doing YOU.

Overall, the main thing for me is that I have so much more time and freedom to play with that I have to somehow utilize now that I’m not taking someone else’s opinion into account all the time. Everything has been feeling a little off because it’s like I’m missing huge chunks of a normal day. We don’t have our nightly phone call when I’m away, there’s no one on the other side of the bed, there’s no one to cook new recipes with, there’s no one that makes me cappuccinos, there’s no one to give my constant energy and love to… Aw damn, now I’m crying again as I’m writing this…it’s just the feeling that there’s a void that I have to fill and I use the above steps to do it. They’ve worked before and I’m hoping they’ll work again, but unfortunately for us all, time is the only thing that will truly tell.

An interaction from one of my favorite rom-coms (French Kiss, 1995) that I think sums this up perfectly:

Luc Why are you chasing after him after what he’s done to you?

Kate Because I love him! And I’m afraid that if he doesn’t come back that I’ll… it’ll hurt so much that I’ll just shrivel up and I’ll never be able to love anyone ever again.

Luc You say that now, but… after a time, you would forget. First, you would forget his chin, and then his nose, and after a while, you would struggle to remember the exact color of his eyes, and one day you wake up and, pfft, he’s gone: his voice, his smell, his face. He will have left you. And then you can begin again.

What do you do to get through a breakup?

*Author’s Note – I actually talked to my ex yesterday morning to work out some logistics with the stuff I left behind in Calgary and I completely fell apart on the phone, so just remember if you’re going through this that it is a work in progress and you’re allowed to have moments where you just CAN’T.

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I visited LA this past weekend and spending time with my friends here was MUCH needed

Heartbreak Part One: Broken

This was the hardest section of this series to write by far. I actually wrote the next two parts to this way beforehand because I just couldn’t bear to face this one for a while. If you couldn’t tell by the title – my relationship has ended. I’m not going to go into the mechanics of why or what happened because this is still a public space and I still respect the relationship and him enough to not share all the details. However, the reason this article was still important for me to write is that I wanted to talk about what it feels like to be heartbroken. I wanted to just kick off this series with my true feelings about how this went down and all the awful things that invade your mind when you’re going through a time like this because heartbreak isn’t as simple as packing up your shit, going out with your friends, and finding someone new. I was with my boyfriend for almost three years. We lived together. We traveled together. We met each other’s families. We were truly part of the fabric of each other’s lives and you don’t just ‘get over’ something like that. It takes time.

For me the first thing that set in was honestly panic. I panic because I had been planning on the relationship lasting. When I thought ahead to the future, the relationship had been taken into account. Future travels, living arrangements, opportunities, etc. But now that the relationship no longer exists, my plans have gone up in smoke. All my plans and my future have to be rethought, different plans have to be made and I’ve lost a key supporter in those plans, so I panic.

I’m not sure what the next feeling is called but basically after I’m done panicking, I have an intense need for closure. Especially with a relationship as long and intense as this last one, I feel that there should almost be a formal conversation, splitting up everything, and a proper goodbye. We did love each other for a long time and I hate breaking up over time, in pieces, because it doesn’t feel right to me. I respect the other person enough to want to face them in person and honestly, I need to be prepared for the last time I’m ever going to see or hold someone I cared about so deeply for such a long time. I feel I deserve a goodbye so I will do everything in my power to achieve that meeting. However, in the meantime, there are two other emotions that are pretty prevalent throughout this whole process as well –

The first is grief. Grief because I’m losing a best friend. I’m losing a lover. I’m losing all the little things we shared – inside jokes, favors, trips, nicknames. I’m losing an apartment. I’m losing a city. I’m losing the people I met through him. I’m losing a whole life I created and that makes me intensely sad. The hardest part about ending romantic relationships in my mind is that one day you’re best friends, and the next day you’re supposed to be nothing to each other. The part that hurts the most is that eventually you’re just supposed to forget each other and knowing that one day you’ll be forgotten by someone who loved you that much causes almost physical pain. There’s a reason people compare breakups to losing limbs because that’s pretty much how it feels for a while.

The second is anger. I can be a pretty bitter and resentful person when things don’t go how I wanted them to and this is true for breakups as well. With this one, in particular, I went through periods of being so angry that I had even moved to Canada, that I had taken a risk on him when I felt he wasn’t willing to take risks on me. I was angry at the way he handled things the last few months and even in the last few weeks before everything was decided. Part of how I have to cope, is finding the bad things in the other person. Somehow prove to myself that I dodged a bullet in the end, so I pick on things about the other person in my mind and I foster anger towards them. I convince myself that they’re a coward and immature and that they don’t deserve my time. These truly are ugly feelings but when I’m emotionally compromised, they’re hard to keep at bay.

Lastly, the nastiest feelings of all – the insecurity feelings. Why wasn’t I good enough? What did I do wrong? What could I have done? Was I stupid for believing him when he said x? Why did I say that didn’t matter? Was I stupid for hanging around as long as I did? Was I stupid to move for him? I know the logical answer to all these questions, but it doesn’t stop the doubt creeping in. Knowing doesn’t stop me from nitpicking everything in the last six months to uncover ‘the reason’ for all of this. Knowing doesn’t stop me from looking at myself in the mirror and tearing apart all the things that could possibly be considered unlovable about myself. I know it’s wrong, but it feels like I missed something. It feels like I was on a sinking ship that I refused to recognize was sinking because I was just too dumb to notice. It feels like I was tricked or betrayed, but I blame myself because it should have been obvious. I know these are irrational thoughts but when someone flips a switch on you like that you blame yourself for not noticing earlier because there must’ve been signs right?

This was horrible to write. If I’d been writing this on paper, there would be tear stains all over this article. I don’t enjoy wading through these feelings especially since normally I’m only ever experiencing one or two at a time, not all of them, because they’re painful. It’s embarrassing to tell people you’re feeling truly awful because someone else broke your heart. You wonder if other people are wondering what’s wrong with you and then you feel even more inadequate.

But the thing is – I’m not inadequate. I’m not stupid. I’m not oblivious and I am way past good enough. But these feelings are there anyways. Creeping around in my head, causing me to sob at work in the bathroom in between meetings, preventing me from getting out of bed in the morning, clawing at my reflection in the mirror.

*EDIT: I wrote the above paragraphs about a month and a half ago now. I couldn’t bring myself to release it or start this process until I felt a lot better. Part of me felt like posting this would put a stamp of finality on everything that I wasn’t ready to commit to. I’m at a much different point in the process than I was when I wrote this, and I’m definitely feeling a lot more stable now. However, I still thought it was important to release it in it’s more raw form because heartbreak can be ugly. The feelings associated with it are ugly and uncomfortable and even just feeling them can cause guilt on top of everything else. But when you’re in pain, rationality can sometimes take a backseat and that’s ok if that’s what it takes to get better. It’s important to recognize that no matter how ridiculous the feelings, you’re still feeling them, and they still affect you and it’s necessary to acknowledge them so you can eventually pull yourself and move forward.

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Beautiful shot taken by my sister at Knossos in Crete

 

How to Get a Promotion

When I first started out in my career, I came across a ton of articles about how women were consistently passed over for promotions for a startlingly simple reason – they didn’t ask for them. Whether these articles held much truth or not is another matter, but they affected me in the fact that I became hyper-aware of the promotion structure and my own abilities related to it. I wanted to make sure I was taking my career into my own hands and that I was being proactive instead of simply waiting for people to notice all my hard work. I’ve since asked for and received a promotion and I know this first step when you’re starting out can be hard so I wanted to share how I did it.

The first thing you should do is examine your work ethic. Inventory your recent endeavors and be critically honest with yourself. Have you been putting in the work? Have you been meeting your deadlines and quotas? Do customers and clients like working with you? Are you making the company money? Are you truly adding value? Ask yourself all these questions and examine your answers. You may find that you’ve just been skating by and that means you’re not ready. If not, you should still dig deeper and figure out why. Maybe you hate this job or the company or maybe you’re simply bored, but either way, your work isn’t reflecting what you’re capable of and it’s not deserving of moving up.

Next, try to get feedback from others. Performance reviews can be ideal for this but oftentimes they don’t occur frequently enough to be valuable. Ask people you work with frequently, ask your boss, ask the people you manage. Ask your clients. Whoever you feel comfortable asking – ask them! Tell them you’re always looking to improve and ask what you could be doing better. This will help add color to your self-assessment and help you see if you are giving yourself the same amount of credit others are.

Alright, so let’s say you have been working your butt off, adding value like crazy, clients and colleagues love you and you’re itching to take on more – now you’ve got to pitch yourself. You know you’ve been working hard, other people know you’re good at your job, so you’ve got a solid foundation to pitch. First thing I did once I got to this point was write down all the things I’ve been doing right lately, and I also wrote how they compared to how good I was at them when I started. Showing growth and improvement is a huge plus because it demonstrates that you are coachable and will most likely continue to improve. Have a good handle on all your positives, but also write down the things you can improve on and create high-level plans for getting better at those things. You want to focus on your positives, but you also don’t want to be taken by surprise if someone throws one of your lacking points back at you. You should be self-aware on all fronts before moving to the next step…

…which is is to schedule time with whoever the relevant party for a promotion is. Mine was my direct manager. Promotions and personnel changes ultimately go through C-suite management at my company, but my boss was the one I had to convince to fight for me at that level. I scheduled a specific time with him to talk about my progress thus far. My strategy was to approach this from a learning perspective. I knew I had been putting in good work, but I had to ask how he thought I had been doing, and what he thought was necessary for me to do to progress to the next level.

The thing is, I wasn’t comfortable yet just marching in and saying I deserve a raise and here’s why. Maybe someday I will be, but being so young in my career, I felt it was more advantageous for me to come from the perspective of wanting to improve and learn, rather than seeming entitled, no matter how much I really believed I deserved it. This approach took a little bit longer than maybe it would have otherwise, but it ultimately worked. I got proper feedback on my progress, my improvement points, and was able to prove that I deserved to move up.

Lastly, no matter how great you are or how deserving you may be of a promotion, it’s also important to realize that there might be external factors that could influence your progress. Your company may not have the budget to increase headcount or offer raises at the moment, there may be some management turmoil going on that you’re not privy to, they might be trying to restructure company hierarchy so promoting people doesn’t make sense at the moment. There are tons of things that could be happening so it’s important to be able to have those conversations as well.

If your manager declines your pitch, then you should ask why not. The answer to this question is important, because if it’s something as simple as title rearranging, then maybe you are ok to wait, but if they don’t give you a clear answer or vague feedback, then that could also be a sign that you’re in the wrong environment for your progress. Don’t be afraid to judge your managers and superiors just as critically as they may be judging you. You don’t ever have to offer that feedback, but it’s important to recognize it so you can change your situation if necessary.

Ultimately, if you’re only after a promotion for a title change or more money, then you probably shouldn’t be pursuing it. A promotion usually means those things, but it also usually means more responsibility and you should be ready to grow and change accordingly. This is why I felt it so important to learn about myself from this process so that I could truly be ready for that extra accountability when the time came. If they had given it to me when I hadn’t been ready, then I probably would have floundered under the pressure and that’s ultimately a loss for me and a loss for the company, and nobody wants that.

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The beautiful Calgary Library. I don’t live here anymore, but the library is still kickass

What is Sexy?

Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of fanfiction. THAT’S RIGHT, go ahead and judge me. If you don’t know what fanfiction is, it is when someone takes either the story or characters (or both) of a certain piece of work, whether it be a novel, tv show, movie, etc, and create their own story based on it.

Now, the reason I bring this up is because there’s a lot of sex and romance in fanfiction. People grow attached to certain characters, and certain character relationships, and want to create a space for those feelings. Unfortunately, because anybody and everybody can write whatever and however they want, there are a lot of bad sex scenes written out there. We are talking BAD. Worse than Fifty Shades of Gray. Worse than those period novels with half-naked men on the front. Worse than a Twilight fever dream.  Just bad.

Although some of these scenes are bad because the actual word choice and syntax is bad (who knew there were such terrible synonyms for ‘thrust’?), I also think some of them are bad because they focus on the wrong things. Obviously, I’m no expert, I just read a lot of these stories, but what I’ve noticed is that people like to focus too much on the actual sex part.

See…the thing is…sex isn’t actually that sexy. Sex is messy, animalistic, and if you think about it for too long – gross. The sexy part of sex is in how it feels, not what it is. But these writers focus on graphic portrayals of the act, rather than the feelings, which ultimately leaves the reader feeling detached and often cringing at the crude descriptions instead of losing themselves to the material.

As I mentioned before, I’m not an expert at writing these scenes (although, now I’m thinking I should give it a shot…), but the scenes that truly get your heart racing have perfected something that the others completely miss.

Anticipation. Apprehension. Tension. Uncertainty.

Maybe it’s just me, but the ‘will they? won’t they?’ feeling is where it’s at. One character noticing a flash of skin on the other. Eyes looking at lips. Lips brushing but not touching. Pulling close, pushing away. This can be maddening to consume in media, because you just want the characters to get on with it, but the tension it creates makes that eventual sex scene so much more believable and gratifying.

The feeling all this build up creates is similar to hanging out with your crush. Remember having a crush? Remember when we were all fifteen and hormonally imbalanced and everything felt extra EXTRA heightened? There were all these little things that happened before you eventually kissed. Hands brushing, lingering hugs, wandering eyes. Your heart beats unnaturally fast, your breathing is shallow, and there’s all this tingling in your stomach and below.

Movies and TV have a leg up on writing in this respect because they can simply show us the characters, and build up the tension through good editing and music. Reading forces a little bit more imagination into the mix which means these scenes must be treated that much more delicately.

So why am I writing this? Most of us probably aren’t trying to figure out how to write smut better in our spare time (no judgment if you are though), but I’m writing this to explain why the sex can never be the only sexy part of the journey. In media, and in life. It’s the hunt, the anticipation, the tension, the foreplay, that ultimately makes sex truly sexy. We often dismiss these feelings as merely a means to an end, but if we actually examine ourselves closer, we’ll find that we enjoy them. We want to work for it, we want the uncertainty, we want the chase, we want to go after things just out of our reach to see if we can catch them, and when we do, it’s just that much more satisfying.

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Me, attempting to be sexy. PC: The extraordinary Clara Yu