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.

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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

I’m the Serious Friend

I’ve been slowly coming to terms with the fact that I will never be the ‘fun’ friend. I love to laugh, tease, go out, and try new things. But I’m not the catalyst for ‘fun’ events. I’m not the friend you call when you want to get the party started. I’m not the friend you call when you want to do spontaneous events. And I’m not the friend with funny stories about that one time I got lost/was at a party/etc. I’m just not.

I’m the serious friend. The reliable friend. I’m the friend you call when you want to just go for coffee and talk about heavy shit. Or politics. Or business. I’m the practical friend. I’m the friend at the party that is sober to make sure everyone gets home ok. I’m the friend that will check on you when you’re not feeling well. I’m the friend that you can make plans with and who will be on time and who will never flake. I’m dependable.

This distinction used to bother me to no end. I would watch jealously while some of my other friends exuded this capability to infect others with spontaneity and charm. They attracted people to them and they knew how to just let loose, and perhaps more importantly, how to get others to let loose. I was jealous that they were so well liked. I was jealous that people always wanted to be around them, and they were the leaders of group social events. No matter how hard I tried, I could not emulate that carefree attitude.

I tried for years. But I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m not the fun friend, and that’s ok. Because I know from personal relationships that the fun friend isn’t always fun. They have bad days, they need alone time, they don’t always want to be out on adventures. They need to relax, and they need to process too. Everyone does. But that’s where someone like me comes in.

I get the most out of relationships where I can just have real, frank, one on one conversations with people. My friendships are built on coffee dates, and visits to new places, not parties, concerts, or nights out. Nothing against those kinds of evenings, I like to let loose (as much as my control freak persona allows), as much as the next person, but they don’t solidify friendships for me. So I realized I don’t HAVE to be the fun friend because I don’t need to have crazy times to build relationships. Plus if I think about it, I actually get a sense of pleasure from helping out my ‘fun’ friends. I don’t enjoy losing control, but I like making sure my friends are safe if they do.

So I think I’m finding my spot. I may not ever be the center of a social circle, but if the social butterfly needs to discuss some deeper stuff, I’m a great sounding board for whatever they want to talk about. And then that’s how I bond with them. Everyone needs to just talk sometimes, and that’s what the serious friend is for. My strengths lie in the smaller events. I’m a good listener. I don’t judge and I don’t shy away from serious topics. I will always go above and beyond to help a friend out and make sure they have what they need and that they’re ok.

So I’m slowly getting to the point where I’m glad I’m the serious friend. Not everyone is dependable and prefers conversation, just like not everyone can be the social butterfly. But that’s the point of having different kinds of friends anyways, everyone brings something to the table.

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Me visiting a museum. one of my favorite places to go with friends. I’m boring, I know.

A Few of My Favorite Things

Most people define their lives by milestones – degrees, jobs, relationships, trips – but what about all the other parts of life? Those milestones only make up a tiny percentage of our lives and although the feelings produced by them might be amazing, there are so many other little things in life that give us joy and they never get any credit. Yet those are the things that really make up our lives, and the cumulative effect of enjoying them can have a better impact on our lives than any one singular incredible moment.

This is my ode to the little feelings –

The feeling of taking off my makeup after a long day

The feeling when my head settles into that perfect spot on my boyfriend in between his chest and shoulder

The feeling of that first sip of cappuccino when the warmth spreads through my body on a cold morning

The feeling of unwrapping a perfectly wrapped present

The feeling of a good hug with someone you haven’t seen in forever

The feeling of being completely spent after a hard workout (or great sex)

The feeling of baking under the sun on the beach

The feeling of climbing into a bed made up of freshly washed sheets

The feeling you get watching someone’s face light up when they see something new they love

The special feeling when someone else’s fur baby comes up to you and can’t get enough

Everyone has their own little feelings that make them happy so I hope you take the time to enjoy them at the moment and don’t always let them pass by unappreciated. Life is made up of little moments and if we just look at them as filler in between the big stuff, then we’re missing out on a whole lot of goodness.

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The feeling of watching a beautiful sunset

 

The Sweetness of Doing Nothing

You wake up early, you’re completely refreshed. You stretch, get up, and get dressed. You walk down to your local café, passing by a newspaper stand on the way where you pick up a few of your preferred editions. You get to the café, grab a little table by the window for yourself and order a cappuccino with a chocolate croissant. As you pick through your order, you alternate your reading with casual observations of the people around you. Perhaps in a couple hours, your girlfriend meets you and you chat about nothing for an hour or two before returning to your apartment to make a simple tomato salad with fresh bread for lunch.

I don’t know about any of you guys, but that sounds like an amazing morning to me.

There’s a great scene in the movie Eat, Pray, Love (don’t ask me about the book), when Julia Roberts’ character is hanging out with her new friends in Italy and they are talking about how Italians have mastered a concept they call “the sweetness of doing nothing”. They explain that this concept is a worldview about how to enjoy oneself. Americans are shit at this, they say, because we have this need to always feel as though we are being productive. We can only take a break when we’ve supposedly earned it, and even then we still feel as though we should be doing something. In my example above, many people would feel that was a wasted morning. And if you did view it as relaxing, I doubt you’d pursue it because relaxing in the U.S. means vegging out in front of the TV for a few hours.

Because I’ve spent enough time in Mediterranean Europe thanks to my heritage, I believe that entire area of the world has one-upped America (and perhaps Canada now that I live here), in enjoying the simple pleasures of life. I’ve met Americans who claim to want the kind of morning I described above, but for most of them, this is just a fantasy. Sure, one could get up, go to the café, and read all morning, but unless they change their mindset, it would just be going through the motions. They would tell themselves, well I planned to go to the café today and read until 12. And they would do it, but there would be an element of dissatisfaction. They would be fulfilling yet another obligation that they’ve set for themselves, and what’s worse is that they might even feel as though there was something more productive they could be doing with their time spent at the café.

This is why Americans love multi-use products and activities. Killing two birds with one stone is a compliment. This is why we have supermarkets and malls whereas Greeks or Italians have to go to the fresh market, the bakery, and the butcher to get their groceries. This is why the economies of the two areas have inverse happiness ratings as compared to our economics. Over here we are obsessed with getting more done in a day. It’s a source of pride for some people to tell everyone else how busy they are and how many things they’re going to do that day.

I’ve had it. It’s so much unnecessary pressure to always be doing something. Furthermore, when you’re obsessed with always doing something, too often you end up burnt out. I want a happy medium. Perhaps, I will always err on the side of being busy since I am an American, but I want to become at peace with the idea of doing nothing. I’m only really great at doing this when I’m on vacation, but it’s because I’ve given myself over to a relaxed mindset, and I need to figure out how to incorporate this feeling into the everyday. Maybe it’s as simple as people watching out my window while I have my coffee, or going for a little walk, there’s got to be an easier way to live life than to be obsessed with productivity every hour of every day

 

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Me on a beautiful day where all I did was go for a run with my mom, take my sister downtown to go for lunch and shop around aimlessly for hours. 

Moving to Canada: Finale

As of last month, I hit my one-year mark of living in Calgary, Canada. This is the official conclusion to my moving to Canada series that has slowed down over the course of the year. I’ve spent a whole year residing here, picking up new hobbies, making new friends, and exploring. What did I learn?

Making friends, especially in a smaller city is HARD. Like BRUTALLY HARD. The thing is, in cities like LA, or New York, there are SO many people that aren’t from the surrounding area, that state, or even the country so you bond with other people that didn’t grow up there over your same ‘otherness’. In Calgary though, it’s smaller, so more people you meet are from the surrounding area or provinces. As such, there is a tribal knowledge that is tough to break into. This isn’t a dig at Calgary, I’m sure this would happen in any city of similar size. Everyone has gone to school together, or lived and worked there for years and they have all these little things that just don’t make sense to an outsider. Jokes about different parts of the city, a restaurant that used to be where that bar is, different sets of hobbies, etc. It’s one of those cities that you can walk around pretty much anywhere and bump into someone you know (to be clear, I am not a fan of this. I adore the anonymity in big cities). To truly fit in, would take a long while. I have done a good job I think, making friends, but more often than not, I still feel like I’m on the outside.

I also am having way more of an identity crisis than I bargained for. Before moving up here, I was pretty indifferent to being American. Honestly, I was a little embarrassed due to our incessant antics around the world. But since moving, I’ve become way more patriotic. It’s difficult to put my finger on exactly why, though. Since Americans and Canadians look and dress pretty much the same, I am often assumed to be Canadian and this irks me. Part of it is because I can’t help but compare the two countries since they are so similar but so different at the same time. The other part is because I think I’ve realized how much being an American is integral to my personality and the way I am, and I am intensely reluctant to give up that part of myself.

There is a certain comfort in things that are American versus Canadian for me. Like how everybody is so rude on the road in America. That might sound like a terrible thing, but I miss it. I miss talking about the audacity of American politics with people who don’t see the situation as an elaborate media joke. I miss the sheer amount of things to do in U.S. cities like Chicago and LA. Pop up shops, concerts, art shows – they never skip major U.S. cities, but they definitely skip Canadian ones. I miss the fact that everything is instantly at your fingertips in the states whereas in Canada the mail takes for fucking ever. I miss the intensity of ambition that is ever present in American cities whereas Canada is more laidback (I’d like to point out that this is most likely due to the fact that they have amazing benefits no matter your socioeconomic status so there’s not as much worry). But the point is I MISS IT. And right now, I’m not willing to let that part of me go.

So this is the struggle of identity I face now. How do I keep my American identity while still successfully assimilating in Canada? Is it even possible? Or must I say sorry to everything and sell my soul to the oil industry?

The thing is, Canada is great in many ways. Since being up there, I’ve learned a ton of new hobbies – skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking and I’ve learned to enjoy the outdoors a lot more. I’ve also really enjoyed being closer to my boyfriend, discovering cool parts of Calgary, and learning how to set up a life from almost nothing.

And maybe I only feel this way because I’ve truly only been halfway in this whole time. Due to my job, I’ve spent nearly the same amount of time outside of Canada as I have in it. How can I really be a good judge of the place when I’ve never worked there and only developed the bare minimum of a social life since I’m gone all the time? A terrible one probably.

But this is all I’ve got right now. I’ve tried my hardest to make the most of the situation, but I’m at a loss of how to continue this way. I have no roots in Calgary, but also not enough time there to plant any. In the same vein, turns out it is ridiculously hard to get a job in Canada as an American, and what’s more, is that Calgary doesn’t exactly align with my career interests.

But all of that aside, let’s say I got an amazing job in the city, and joined a bunch of things to meet people. The risk in the back of my mind is the feeling that I’d have to give some part of my identity up to be 100% happy up there versus clinging on to my familiar self and perhaps only ever being able to achieve 70% happiness. When is the proper time to allow yourself to change?

So many questions, so little answers. To help cope with this feeling of being in between, of being lost, I’ve dedicated a large amount of mental space to taking things one day at a time. Right now, I’m not moving anywhere different, and I don’t have another job on the table. So why drive myself nuts? The best I can do is navigate each day and ask myself what I can do to make myself as amazing as possible no matter where I am.

To catch up on my entire Canada series, you can start here.

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The outdoors are a major perk of Canada living