Starting Over…Again

Phew ok, I am done with the breakup series for a while. This week I want to talk about the awkward stage I was forced into as a result of said breakup.

If you’ve been following me for some time, you know that I was living in Calgary, Canada because that’s where my boyfriend was from. I had been working as a consultant in the software space and traveled frequently as a result. I had been trying to build a social life in a brand new place while I shuttled back and forth to the states for work and to see loved ones. On weekends, I would try and explore as much as possible. I had a couple of vacation type trips planned with my boyfriend and I basically knew what the next few months would look like. This was in January of this year.

Oh silly me. I should’ve known everything would go to shit the moment I got too comfortable. By the beginning of March, my relationship had ended, I was deeply unhappy at work, and I had left Canada and had no idea what to do anymore.

Where did I go? Luckily, I’m in a position where I have a supportive safety net – my family. Even though I’m grateful to have this, it is still hard for me to admit because I prefer to view myself as self-sufficient, and independent, and having to go back to my parents’ house felt like taking a few steps backward. Additionally, I was wallowing in resentment for a bit, because my boyfriend’s life didn’t really have to change at all. He got to keep on living in the same city, with the same apartment, and see the same people as before. I felt like my life was the one that was upended as a result of all of this. I was feeling sorry for myself and was grumpy that I was the one who had to move and change yet again.

But there’s no use in feeling tragic for myself.

For the first few weeks after I left Canada, I was feeling pretty awful. On top of the resentment I was feeling, I felt alone, confused, and lost. I didn’t know where I should move, what kinds of career options I should pursue, or how I should start over. I was afraid to commit to any city, leasing agreement, or job opportunity. For a hot second there, I was paralyzed by the fact that I hadn’t planned for any of this and now I wasn’t sure how to proceed.

I kept doing my job, hung out with my parents, and basically didn’t do anything else. I didn’t even tell most of my friends from my hometown that I was back because I didn’t know how to face them. Do I have to tell the whole breakup story over again? Are they going to see me as a failure? I just didn’t want to deal with it.

This was a pretty rough period, but when I look back now, it only lasted about three weeks. Because since then – well, let’s just say I’m not feeling quite as stuck anymore.

In the last two weeks, I accepted a new job offer that pays more and means I don’t have to travel. I resigned from my current job (effective at the end of this month). I applied for an apartment in downtown Chicago and now I’m just focusing on finishing strong at my current job and planning for my trip to Japan next month.

And in total, it’s only been about 5 weeks since I left Canada in the first place. It only took five weeks to go from not knowing at all what to do, to knowing exactly what’s next.

This may not seem like a big deal to some of you reading this but I’m a hardcore planner, and having my plans wrecked by my relationship was actually a pretty big blow to my self-esteem. My ability to think ahead, make decisions, act accordingly, and deliver on my promises is a huge part of my identity that I felt like I had lost for those first few weeks after leaving. I wasn’t used to feeling lost or confused or unsure. Every other move in my life thus far had been calculated and thought through beforehand so even though change was uncomfortable, it was planned. The intentionality of my previous changes made them all the more bearable.

This was a new experience for me in the sense that I hadn’t sought it out at all and still needed to find a way to cope with it. And cope I did. There’s only so long you can feel sorry for yourself before you just start making moves to make things better. BUT, I will say that the hard part was good for me to go through. If you find yourself in a period of being lost or unsure of yourself, embrace it. Use it to think through different options, ask trusted people in your life what they think, explore – because good things really can come from unexpected situations.

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This is a picture of a cactus at the Getty Museum in LA. I officially have no more recent photos of myself suitable for posting here so enjoy.

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Heartbreak Appendix

I mentioned this briefly in my first post in this series but the hardest thing about this break up for me has been the forgetting.

It’s knowing I will forget the feelings I had for my ex over time, but also knowing that he will forget his feelings for me as well.

This is the part that truly kills me about this breakup. It’s the fact that we were literally part of each other for so long and we won’t be able to keep that anymore.

Eventually, I’ll forget the exact shade of blue of his eyes. Eventually, I’ll forget what his laugh sounded like. Eventually, I’ll forget how he would concentrate when making cappuccinos. I’ll forget that he would put brown sugar in everything. I’ll forget everything eventually. One day, he will just be an idea of someone I loved.

He’ll forget me too. He’ll forget how I got mad over open chip bags. He’ll forget what my skin feels like. He’ll forget the face I make when I’m trying not to laugh. He’ll forget what my shampoo smells like. He’ll eventually forget everything about me that makes me, me.

Of course, we’ll both remember events. Like our trip to Peru, or things we did in Calgary and LA. But those are just pins on a timeline.

I will eventually forget how it truly felt to be on top of Macchu Picchu with him. He will eventually forget how it truly felt to swim close to me in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Santorini. We will both eventually forget how it felt to people watch from Bottega Louie together in LA.

We may never forget that we did those things, but we’ll forget how we felt doing them together and that wrecks me.

The only bright spot I can think of in all of this is in the fact that the forgetting helps with moving on. It’s devastating to forget these feelings, but it would also be devastating to still feel them when you can’t even have the person that’s causing them.

In other news, here’s how I’ve been coping in real time –

  • I bought a slinky red dress, a ton of skin care, and a ton of earrings
  • I am actively trying to text my friends and family to fill my communication void. I already apologized in advance for spamming them.
  • I became obsessed with a certain anime. OBSESSED.
  • I also look at my old messages with my ex to talk myself out of reaching out to him (most times this works, sometimes  not)
  • I workout a lot
  • I’m also making a ton of life changes (more coming soon)

Do what you gotta do, right? This marks the end of my heartbreak series for now. If you want to recap, you can start with the beginning here.

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PC: Kiki Moussetis

Heartbreak Part Three: Reflection

As I’m working through healing from this breakup, a super important piece that I wanted to call out is reflection.

Let’s be clear though, this is the third part of a series being released weekly, so even though I’m going to talk about the last part in my process, these things don’t occur in nice, neat chunks and they certainly don’t occur this quickly. I’m still working through some ugly emotions, I still have weak moments where I want to reach out to my ex, I still can spend hours wondering what could have happened differently. I cry, I rage, I pout. This is a process, it takes time. Lots of time. So even though the following is attempting to focus on the positive, I don’t want to sugarcoat the fact that there is a lot of negative still mixed in for me – and that’s ok.

However, the negative emotions are almost the easy ones at this point. Anger, sadness, insecurity. They’re familiar now. I feel self-righteous in feeling them and that makes them comfortable. He did this to me, I was stupid, I don’t have this anymore, and on and on.

But then I think there’s an inescapable fact about all of this – we couldn’t have grown into the people we were meant to be without having loved each other. We also couldn’t have grown into the people we were meant to be without having left each other.

No matter how angry or frustrated or weary I am about all of this, the relationship caused me to grow and change and for this, the only thing I can feel is gratitude.

Before this relationship I had never done any of the following –

Lived with my partner, been in a long-distance relationship, traveled with my partner, started a life from scratch, been to Canada, skied, mountain biked, camped, cross country skied, or compromised for a relationship.

Apart from the outdoors stuff, those are not small things.  Those are actually pretty intense buckets of development in a relationship that could have only happened in this particular relationship for me.

Additionally, I learned a lot of things about myself apart from a relationship. I confirmed the fact that I’m restless, and I realized that I am far braver than I was giving myself credit for. It takes courage to take risks for love. It takes courage to move, or to move countries. It takes courage start over. It takes courage to try and make new friends from nothing. It takes courage to own your decisions when you can feel the doubt rolling off people. And the thing is, I am not afraid of any of it. It was hard for sure – there’s no sugarcoating that – but I don’t fear it.  In fact, I realized I don’t actually fear very many things at all (apart from spiders EW).

Perhaps the biggest accomplishment I gained from this relationship is that I no longer fear failure. I used to be terrified of it. Any failure, big or small, would completely cripple me and deter me from getting outside my comfort zone. But doing what I’ve done for this past relationship proves that I don’t fear it anymore. I took so many risks, some paid off and some didn’t, but I loved the process of taking all of them and the experience is invaluable to me despite the result.

I no longer fear investing my money into things that may not pan out. I no longer fear investing my time into people that may hurt me in the end. I no longer fear being alone nor figuring things out on my own. These things still make me nervous and you bet your ass I’m still going to do everything in my power to make sure things don’t fail, but there’s no fear to prevent me from at least trying. I can’t find reasons not to take risks anymore because sometimes those risks pay off big time whether in actual results or personal growth.

So as much as I’m tempted to see myself back at square one, that’s really not fair. I am so much brighter, and better, and braver than I was before. This relationship started by sheer romantic whirlwind*. We met in France, he followed me to Greece, and we continued long-distance from LA and Calgary. We fell hard for each other and I took a chance and moved to Calgary. It didn’t work out and now I’m figuring out what to do next. That is a wild ride from start to finish.

Parts of me are still embarrassed at the failure (I’m not immune jeez), of course it sucks to tell people why I have no place to live at the moment. But that embarrassment won’t stop me from being honest, and it won’t stop me from doing it again, because carrying that fear with me to my future can only hurt me, and then what was the point of all this pain I’m going through now huh?

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Clara Yu coming in again with a great pic from my trip to LA last week ago

*In case you’re wanting to re-live my whirlwind romance those posts are linked here, here, and here. I made the mistake of doing this and ended up a sobbing mess so I hope you fare better than me.

Overpromising & Underdelivering

A while ago I was working on a project with a client and I was getting great feedback from them but I couldn’t figure out why. Quite frankly, I hadn’t done anything extraordinary or above and beyond recently, yet the client seemed especially impressed and appreciative of my work. So I went and asked someone else close to the project why they thought I was getting such positive feedback and her answer was almost embarrassingly simple, she said – you do what you say you’re going to do.

At first, I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why there was such a positive reaction to simply doing what I said I was going to do when I said I was going to do it. That sounds pretty basic to me. However, she explained to me that that is actually a pretty rare quality, and the reason I was getting so much positive feedback from the other person was because he wasn’t used to working with people like that on his team.

Now, this sounds pretty ridiculous. I got positive feedback for just doing my job? Maintaining the status quo? But then I thought about it a little harder, and you know what? Actually doing what you say you’re going to do IS a rare quality.

Think about your average day for a moment. How many commitments do you make? Sure, I’ll have that report to you in an hour; I’ll call you right back; I’ll meet you at 6 for dinner; Of course, I’ll try that new recipe you sent me; etc. But we’re selfish creatures, if something else comes up, or if we get distracted, sometimes things fall off of our radar, or we’re late, or we completely forget about them.

But I almost never do that. From a professional perspective, I’m painstakingly organized, so it’s never like I’ll forget to do something. Additionally, I have a level of work ethic that I simply expect of myself. I don’t make unrealistic promises so if I say I will have something done by this day or this hour, it will be done by then no questions asked. From a personal perspective, I view it as an insult to waste someone’s time so I don’t like to be late or to cancel or reschedule things last minute. Furthermore, if I say I will take someone up on an invite or a recommendation, I will actually do it. I will actually come to see you, read the book, watch the show, or try the food you recommend because I view it as a perfect opportunity to try new things and strengthen relationships.

Maybe most of us don’t realize how many promises or committments we make in a day. We use words like ‘for sure’, ‘definitely’, ‘absolutely’, so that we technically can’t be told we promised to do something, but they still create an aura of accountability. When we don’t hold up our end of these proto-promises, it still creates these little micro disappointments. You can see them on your bosses face when you tell him you couldn’t get to something but you’ll do it now, or when your friend asks if you read that book she was raving about to you and you say you totally forgot about it.

I do what I say I will do. It’s done when I say it will be done. If I set a goal for myself, it gets done. I show up when I say I’ll show up. These things sound simple, but maybe they’re not. Maybe we’re all in the habit of overpromising and underdelivering and we’re afraid to face our actual productivity capabilities in a day? Or maybe it’s the socially acceptable thing to do – take on more than you can deliver? Or maybe none of us think hard enough about the little things we commit to others?

I can’t say how I developed the skill of doing what I say I’ll do. In my mind, if I say I’ll do it, there’s just no other option. Turns out, that earns me a lot more respect than I thought.

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AMAZING hot chocolate at Dandelion Cafe in SF – courtesy of Ashley Chung who never underdelivers as a friend 🙂 

The Art of Vulnerability

If you’ve met me, even for only a few minutes, the first few words out of your mouth to describe me would not be anything along the lines of delicate, vulnerable, or emotional. You might say that I sometimes come off as a bit…aloof. This is partly because of my appearance (tall, athletic, with RBF of course), and partly of my own making. For years, I thought I had to handle everything on my own without ever betraying the difficulty of doing so. I thought that displays of excessive emotions, whether good or bad, demonstrated a lack of control, and asking for help? Oh my god, that was PEAK humiliation for me. I was pretty much this way all the way through my first year of university. I would bestow tough love advice on friends who got caught up in their feelings, and related the most to people, who, like me, didn’t rely too much on others.

This way of living took it’s toll though. I found that I would put a lot of pressure on myself, and I would implode frequently at home crying with my mom or venting to my sister. I suppose I only allowed myself to be vulnerable with my family because they were the only ones whom I completely trusted to actually support me without viewing me as weaker. In addition, there were many times when relying on others would have helped me do something faster or more effectively, but instead, I viewed it as safer to go it alone.

Then, finally, in my second year of university – two huge things happened.

First, I went to Shanghai to study abroad. I could literally write a book on how much this experience changed me, but for the purpose of this topic, it’s relevant because I couldn’t access my usual support system as easily. The time difference between Chicago and Shanghai is 13 hours so calls could only happen when planned. Furthermore, even though I had already gone across the country for school, it was quite another feeling to be across the globe. In California, I had always had it in the back of my mind that my parents could fly out and get me if things got bad. In China, I felt truly on my own.

The second is that the living situation in Shanghai was extremely close quarters. There were roughly 45 of us in the study abroad program, and we all lived in a couple buildings in our own mini campus. We were pretty much all living right on top of one another. Consequently, it was difficult not to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of every single person. At Pepperdine, there were quiet spaces you could go if you actually needed to be alone, but in Shanghai, even the most private areas were still public to an extent. So if you were going through something, you almost had to share it with at least a few people.

This was extremely uncomfortable for me at first. I felt as though I couldn’t escape the constant clamor of others and I’m sure I came off rude and distant more than once. But slowly, I realized that for the first time in my life I found myself surrounded by people who I recognized as happy, disciplined, and ambitious, but who also consistently asked for help, and consistently displayed emotion around others.

Never before had those two ideas been reconciled in my mind. But never before had I been able to observe my friends in such close quarters and truly realize that behind every face, no matter how tough, there is a story.  Nobody can be in control, happy, or strong ALL the time, including myself. The most amazing part was that when I did start opening up a bit more, nobody thought less of me for it. They still viewed me as a capable, strong person.

Although this was a huge personal breakthrough for me, the reason I just wrote almost seven hundred words on it is because this type of thinking is a skill. Recognizing vulnerability in others, and tying it to your own is a form of empathy than can be used in any situation. Of course, this is indispensable when it comes to your personal relationships, but it can be amazingly helpful professionally as well. For example, if a client or boss comes down much harder on you than normal, before getting angry or defensive, just take one minute, sixty seconds, to think about why. It’s actually super easy to do this because (if you’ve done this right) you’ve already spent time analyzing why you yourself get angry, frustrated, or disappointed. If you know that you get snappy when you haven’t eaten or right after you’ve talked to your mom, then you can afford the same grace to someone else. It doesn’t get much credit in buzzy business articles because it’s a soft, subjective skill, but I can promise you from personal experience that when people feel like you ‘get’ them, that goes a loooong way.

 

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You can be strong and vulnerable at the same time.

Feeling like a loser? That’s because you’re thinking like one.

Most people are resistant to change right? Do you know why though? Do you know why we get this anxious little feeling in our stomachs when someone tells us things have to be different? It’s because we really don’t like to have our status quo upset (STICK TO THE STATUS QUO! We could learn a lot from High School Musical, honestly). We don’t want to change because the current situation is the known situation. The current situation is safe. The current situation works, even if it’s not ideal.

In my mind, there are two types of change – forced change, and sought change. The first type is when your circumstances change beyond your control. Like when your company decides to start a huge initiative, or when harsh weather alters driving patterns, or when you get broken up with. Although all these changes are outside your control, it’s important to note here that in almost all scenarios, you still have choices. For example, if your company starts a new initiative, you can either stay and get involved, stay and be passively supportive, stay and be passively against it, stay and be outspoken and against it, or you can leave the company altogether.

The second type of change, the far more common type, is sought after change. We seek out change more than we realize and yet we still have the audacity to be offended by it when things actually do change. We look for new jobs, we apply for those jobs, and then we agonize over whether to take said jobs. We look for new people to date, we date them, and then we agonize over next moves in the relationship.

I know exactly zero people who have not sought out any changes in their lives. Change truly is an inevitability of life and yet there are some people out there who resist it at every turn. But as I mentioned above, most of the time, the change was sought after in the first place. So it’s not as if people don’t want to improve and change their lives, it’s that they are desperately afraid to turn their back on the known entity that is their current situation.

Why do we want to hang on to the situation we’re already in? Because it’s fucking hard to change. Not only are the logistics of change hard (i.e. moving states or countries is expensive and time consuming), but the mental and emotional impact of change can be brutal. It’s not fun to be out of your element, to be the ignorant or inexperienced one, especially if you’re used to filling that role in your current life. It’s tough to give up the things you are already confident in to replace them with potentially better, yet still unknown things.

Personally, I really try to embrace change as much as possible. Of course, there are things I would hate to change – I would hate to give up my friends, family, or boyfriend. But I try to be as open as possible to new career opportunities, new social opportunities, travel, cultures, and locations to live. This comes at a cost though. Each change carries its own emotional weight. *Moving to a new city, state, or country is not easy. Starting over is not easy. Traveling alone to a new place is not easy. Dating new people is not easy. Starting a new job is not easy. And even though every single one of these things that I’ve done has been really hard, they’ve also been supremely rewarding. If I had not actively sought and embraced these changes, I would not be the person I am today. I would not be as independent, I would not be as empathetic, I would not be as intelligent or open-minded, and who knows what else I wouldn’t be! So even though I am fully aware of how difficult change is, I still seek it out, over and over again, because I know that it makes me more confident, and I am absolutely sure that there is always something to be gained.

If you’re struggling with making a change, then try flipping your perspective. All change and situations have two sides, but it’s up to you as to which side you want to view those.

 

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My sister and I are both masters of embracing change. Thanks mom and dad?

 

 

 

What to Sacrifice for Love?

Love is a funny thing. That’s probably my favorite adjective to describe love because even though it is so much more than that, the way that it affects us is truly funny. Falling in love is like going on the best vacation ever. The falling part is amazing, blissful, and extremely exciting. But if you decide to pursue a real relationship, it’s like going back to work afterward. Not that in the sense that it’s a letdown, but you realize that you both are separate people with separate personalities and desires and you have to work to reconcile those if you want to be happy together.

When I was younger, and romantic movies and books were my sole source of experience, I always thought people only broke up for dramatic reasons like cheating, or realizing their family hates you, but there are far more heartbreaking issues that can try and tear you apart.

There are big questions that inevitably have to be discussed in any long term relationship. Do we both want kids? Do we both know where we want to live? Is that the same place? How do our careers interact, does one of us have a lot of travel? Whose family do we live closer to? How do you treat money and deal with financial issues?

These are the heartbreaking issues because by the time you discuss them, you’re already attached and if you disagree it can be difficult to reconcile because these are topics of strong conviction. For example, if I was completely in love with my boyfriend but I find out three years in that he doesn’t want kids one day, we have a big problem. I know that I want them someday, so even though everything else in our relationship is going really smoothly, we would have to end it unless somebody changed their mind.

On the other hand though, I could think about it and say, you know, it’s fine if I don’t have kids. The caveat with these kinds of compromises is that you must be sure. Giving up your point of view on these issues is not to be done lightly. You may be able to fool yourself into thinking you don’t want certain things to agree with your partner so that you can be together, and this is a dangerous path. It may work for a while, your partner will surely be happy that you’ve changed your mind, but you may end up seriously unhappy and resentful that you had to give up something so completely important to you.

Why am I talking about such a heart-wrenching issue? Well, with respect to my own relationship’s privacy, our issue is the geography one. Where do we want to live in the end?

But wait Melina, I thought you already lived together, you made a whole series about moving to Canada!

Yes, you’re correct. Our current arrangement is that we live together in an apartment in Calgary, but it’s not the most ideal right now. I spend 3 out of every four weeks traveling for work and my boyfriend travels in spurts for work as well, sometimes for up to four weeks at a time. Furthermore, Calgary may not be sustainable for me at the moment since it lacks the number of career opportunities I’m currently interested in, and as an American, it’s extremely difficult to get hired anyway without already having residency status to work.

With my current job, we are just barely seeing the value of this arrangement. However, if I wanted to change jobs to something with far less travel, I’d have to move back to the U.S.. For the short term, this is fine. We have done long distance before and we’re confident we could do it again. The issue is the long term thinking. Where are we going to live? Where will we settle down and start a family? This is a question with no answer yet, in my mind because we are both so young and we can’t know what the next few years will bring, so I can’t commit to any place because I don’t want to close any doors as to where life could take me. On the other hand, my boyfriend really doesn’t have a huge reason to ever leave Calgary. His family and friends are all there, and his career trajectory fits perfectly with that city.

Part of me is desperately afraid that if I leave now, we won’t make it. He’ll realize how great his life is staying there and he’ll wish he had found someone else who didn’t present this problem. On the other hand, I also know I can’t stay. At least for now, I still feel the need to grow my career and my experience in other places. Part of me thinks that one day, Calgary could be my home, but I don’t want to make all my decisions with that end goal in mind since I want to be open to where my opportunities take me.

The only solution to this dilemma is time. We can’t know where we will be in five or ten years, and yet we’re still trying to plan for it, and we’re driving ourselves crazy with the possibilities.

Hence, my question of sacrifice. I love my boyfriend so completely, but would I be able to sacrifice everything else for Calgary? If I’m being honest with myself, right now it’s impossible, and later on, I just can’t know.  So how much is too much to sacrifice for love? I know the ‘right’ answer to my dilemma: I should go where it’s best for me. At least for now, I’ll be happier in almost every other area of my life and as for my relationship, if we both really want it to work, we’ll make it work. But knowing the ‘right’ answer doesn’t make this any easier. I don’t want to stop living close to him almost more than I want anything else, even if it’s not the best choice for me in the long run. And that’s the funny part of it all. The irrational part. The part that makes love so infuriating.

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I do like the skiing in Calgary…

23 Was Not My Best Year

It’s that time of year again, that awkward five-day space in between Christmas and new years where some people have to work, some people just keep the party going, and I have my birthday. Tomorrow I will be 24 years old.

One of the ways I make my birthday feel a little special amidst all the other holiday commitments is by reflecting on my year a little earlier and I work on setting goals for myself based on my birthday, not based on the new year (the two just happen to very closely coincide).

Last week I listed out a bunch of accomplishments I had this year (link here) and while all those are great and I’m super proud of them, 2018 honestly wasn’t my best year. This year felt like one long uphill battle, mostly with myself, in which I would try so so hard to make things work out, only to have those same efforts backfire or crumble. I spent a lot of time feeling resentful, ungrateful, fearful, anxious, and panicked. Consequently, I spent a lot of time crying, venting, or snapping at those around me.

I struggled a lot with moving to Canada, adjusting, making new friends, picking up new hobbies, and changing my perspectives.

I struggled a lot with the demands of my job, the intense travel schedule, unwieldy clients, and what I perceived to be a lack of recognition.

I struggled a lot with my relationships, maintaining old friendships, striking up new ones, moving in with my boyfriend but traveling all the time, making sure I spent enough time with my own family.

I struggled a lot with my goals. The whole world feels so large and limitless that it’s overwhelming to think about my place in it and what I could be doing to make the biggest impact and bring me the most joy.

This whole year I just haven’t felt good enough. And most of that feeling is on me, I realize that, but that almost makes me feel worse? I can look at that laundry list of things I accomplished this year and still feel like I wasn’t able to keep it together, that I disappointed so many people, and that I wasn’t happy enough.

So something’s gotta give, right? Right. In 2018, the root of a lot of my issues was my own insecurity, my own tendency to over think and analyze an issue half to death until it’s so distorted and unrecognizable and I completely freak out over any decision regarding it. I have more specific goals for this year, but the overarching theme is going to be jumping into things feet first. I want to spend a little less time overanalyzing my choices, and more time committing to them and making the best out of the situations I find myself in no matter what. And as I stare down the barrel of turning 24, I have to think, it can’t be any worse than 23 was, right?

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Me looking back at 23 like BYEEEE

Recognize Your Accomplishments

With about a dozen days left in the year, the time for reflection, albeit cliché, is inevitable. It’s natural to want to linger in the present and even the past when the future is looming overhead. Even though the new year doesn’t necessarily mean anything for most of us other than changing the year column for our dates, it still feels like something is ending, and something new is beginning.

This time of year can actually be pretty hard for a lot of people so I wanted to talk about how to best leverage this period for your peace of mind and reflecting more on the good than the bad.

In the age of social media, it is almost impossible not to find your self comparing yourself to other people at some point. But what if we harnessed this need to compare for good, for once? Because this time of year can be so special, it is easier to remember it from year to year, so why not compare your 2018 holiday self, with your 2017 holiday self?

A year can feel super long, or super short depending on what you’ve filled it with, but I guarantee that no matter how miserable or great it was for you, you’re in a different place now than you were last year. At most you might’ve gotten married, had a kid, had a loved one die, got a new job, or moved countries. At the very least, you learned, saw, or went somewhere new. And all of those are important!

Sometimes, it’s so easy to get bogged down in all the tough stuff, or the stuff that doesn’t go right, or the menial tasks that make up the day to day. That sounds cliché (again) but it’s terrifyingly true. Nobody appreciates when things are going ok, they only notice when things go wrong. But all it takes is a few minutes to pull yourself out of whatever is currently bothering you and revisit your former self.

I’ll go first. 2018 was not the best year for me, but compared to last year, I have grown a TON. Here are all the things the 2017 version of me hadn’t accomplished –  I didn’t know how to cope with living in Canada, I hadn’t made a single new friend in Canada on my own yet, I hadn’t asked for a promotion, I had never run a Spartan race (or any road race), I hadn’t come into my own as a fully fledged project manager, I hadn’t been to Mexico, Milan, or Crete, I couldn’t speak as much Greek, I didn’t know anything about Canadian immigration laws, Canadian politics, or Canadian economics – I could go ON and ON, about all the tiny things I did that I had never done, new restaurants I went to, new events, new people I met, books and movies I saw, and things I learned over the course of the year.

So if you’re looking back on 2018 as a shit year (like I was), please take another step back and make sure you recognize all the things that you DID accomplish and that made you HAPPY this year. No matter how bad your year was, somebody made you laugh, something interested you, and you did something new – cherish all of those because those are the things that make each year different from the last.

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Photo Credit: Kiki Moussetis

What it’s Really Like to Travel for Work Every Week

Next Monday I will take my last flight of 2018 home to Chicago for the holidays. That flight will be flight number 70 for me this year. SEVEN ZERO. Seventy flights, seventy different planes. I traveled 30 weeks out of this year for work, 4 weeks out of this year for planned vacation, and 4 weeks for family/friend visits in between it all. That is nearly 38 out 52 weeks spent away from home. I know some people travel way more than this, but this is the first year I’ve had to cope with a schedule like this.

I thought about writing about travel tips or airport routines but I wanted to focus on something more important. What I actually want to talk about is the toll this travel has taken on me this year. I never thought that I would be on a plane this much, and if I did, I’m sure I thought it would be infinitely more glamorous. In the past, traveling was always an exciting event. Airports were fun to explore, and the rush I would get when the plane would take off would last me until my destination. Unfortunately, only a small percent of my trips this year invoked those feelings – my vacations. The rest of my trips were for work and decidedly un-glamorous.

My work travel is slowly killing me. In the past, I would travel once or twice a month which I think is my ideal. I get a chance to go and visit new clients, explore a couple of new cities, great. But for most of this year, I have been shuttling back and forth every single week. A lot of San Francisco with some Denver, Seattle, LA, and Salt Lake City sprinkled in. Monday morning fly in, work, work, work, Thursday night fly back. This is pretty typical for consultants, but because the first year or so at this job I didn’t travel this much, I didn’t realize how much this type of schedule would drain me.

I don’t want this to be a depressing post, but I do want to be honest about what it feels like to travel for work all the time. The first issue I have is physical. It’s much harder to get into a good routine of working out when your schedule is never consistent. I can’t join a gym or commit to new types of training since I would never be able to participate. Eating well is a nightmare since while I’m traveling, I can’t cook for myself so I have to spend increasing amounts of time getting my hands on foods that are actually good for me. Just the plane ride itself can be hazardous since they are known incubators of disease and can also do a number on your skin and hair since the air is so cold and dry.

The second, and far more damaging issue with this way of life, is the emotional part. It is lonely, living this way. The actual traveling part is always done alone. I go through security alone, I sit at the gate alone, I fly alone, I uber alone, I eat alone. Then when I get to the client, that’s obviously all work. I get some social interaction, but being a consultant is having a lot of either work conversations, or small talk conversations that don’t really mean anything and are more draining to participate in than refreshing. Evenings are usually, once again, spent alone. There are occasions where I’m able to meet friends that are in that city, or there are work dinners, but nine times out of ten – I spend the night alone.

Doing this every once in a while wasn’t so bad. But every week? It starts to wear you down. I grow more and more resentful of my trips because they take me away from spending time with people I love. Earlier this week my Monday morning flight ended up getting delayed by two and half hours and I broke down in tears in the bathroom because if I had known this before I left my apartment, I could have spent those two precious hours in bed with my boyfriend instead of wasting away at the airport yet again.

There are, of course, two sides to every story. Travel really wears me down, but I do have an insane amount of air miles, credit card points, and hotel status that I can take advantage of now. I’ve barely paid for any of my vacations out of pocket because I have so much status to use up. I also have my airport routine down pat and most of the time it only takes me ten minutes or less from the curb to the gate area. Sometimes, I even get upgrades and then I really feel fancy. But all of that feels hollow compared with what I’m sacrificing.

I know I can’t be the only one who feels this way, and I can only imagine how much more guilty and awful I would feel if I had kids or something that I was leaving behind each week, but I also have met a ton of people that cope with this lifestyle just fine. They leave every week, are home on the weekends, and that’s just their life. Part of me knows that eventually, I too, would get used to this, it would just become my norm and I would figure out how to feel less lonely. But part of me also doesn’t want to. I don’t think I want to be one of those people that is everywhere but lives nowhere. Maybe this lifestyle is easier for people who already have an amazing community built up at their hometown, but I feel travel pains ever more acutely as my social life in Calgary hangs by a thread since I’m never there to nurture it. When I travel, I feel like I’m missing out, and when I return, it’s obvious that I have and that feeling is killing me. And it’s not missing out on parties, or dinners that gets to me, it’s missing all the small moments – watching a movie with a friend on a weeknight, laughing with my boyfriend while we cook dinner together, going to a gym class where I see the same people every Tuesday. None of those things can happen for me with this life, and THAT is what is killing me. THOSE are the things I’m becoming more and more attached to, and I’m coming to the realization that I don’t want to live a life that means giving those up all the time.

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The darker the line, the more I’ve done the route.

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One of the only flights I did for fun this year – my boyfriend flew me over the rocky mountains