Category Archives: Learning

25 by 25

So there’s this post being shared incessantly about what to do before 23 besides getting married. I took a gander and decided that I had either accomplished the list at 5 years old (get a passport) or really couldn’t give two shits (join the peace corps)…and as any slightly arrogant 20-something I thought I would just write my own. So here is my list before 25 but really just how I think I’m a grown up…because writing to-do lists and actually doing what’s on them is honorary #26

1. Move out. You will not only learn how much your parents did for you growing up, but you will also get a rude realization as to the cost of actually living. Toilet paper is the hardest money to part with…but then you travel to Asia and it all sort of makes sense. You learn how empowering and lonely your independence can be and how to maximize the former.

2. Be Irresponsible. Often coming with #1, but sometimes (from what my younger sister says) very easily accomplished in high school. Get it out of your system. Everybody has an part of them that wants to see how cool 20 tequila shots and your head in the toilet at a rave really feels. So do it, then understand why it is (or should be) a phase. It will also make you way better at managing your time in the long run when you can go to bed on time when you have a real job because you know you aren’t missing out.

3. Be responsible. By responsible I am also implying learning how to manage your time. Responsibility never tasted so sweet as when you reflect to your less proud days. Doing laundry day more than once a month, actually buying groceries, having a bedtime, and everything else that has to do with being a ‘grown-up’ isn’t actually all that lame. Who knew the day would come when people would respect you for having only one beer because you need to go to the gym in the morning?

4. Be selfish. When else can you ever focus on you and only you. Soon enough there will be career, spouse, kids, and our aging parents. Savour the time to do what you want when you want. Be selfish to figure yourself out. What makes you tick? Do it, be aware that your doing it, and when you’ve taken what you need, carry on. Being selfish at least once (not a day, like a year) will not only refocus your life, it will make you accountable for everything in it…quite the humbling lesson.

5. Find peace with a regret. It all happens for a reason…right? Look back, think of the biggest rip-off you think life dealt you, or your most epic error….and think about who you would be had it hadn’t happened. Congratulate yourself on growing from it in the long run, and genuinely believe that it will all work out in the end.

6. Fall in AND out of Love. I’m laughing at my own cheesiness right now, but hey…25 is a long list… Live the cliche ‘young and dumb and in love’ to its fullest. Then feel yourself grow up a solid five years when the young and dumb over-power the ‘in love’. I mean that in the least cynical way possible…(and I know that this will spur controversy, oh well #7 Accept that you cannot please everyone.)

You can’t. And if it seems like you do either they’re all lying to you or you’re lying to yourself. There are ways to be unpopular for what you believe in rather than people just saying you’re a jerk…that is a fine line you should probably figure out by 25 too. The more you realize time is precious, the less you are willing to waste it appeasing to the desires of others.

8. Be the other kid. I’m sure that western schools have forced you into thinking you are a math/science kid or an arts kid. Even if you just try one thing…be the other kid and see how it goes. We live a lot of self-created stories because somebody once told us something and we held on to it for whatever reason. Test the theory, consider that you might just be OK at something else…or that doing it and not being great at it is OK too.

9. Say Yes. Not to drugs…unless still conquering #2…but to pretty much anything else to which you would have usually said No. It may go great, it may be horrid, either way you will have a first hand experience you wouldn’t have had if you had said no. And when you realize that that’s kind of how life works…that’s when the magic happens.

10. Do a diet fad. Maybe more women will agree with this than men, but regardless, being that aware of what you’re eating is actually a good thing, and while you’re at it watch one of those shocking food documentaries (if not for the skewed information, so you can converse AFTER dinner at social events). And when you realize why it is a FAD, hopefully you will have learned something about moderation as well as the value of good nutrition.

11. Learn how to cook. To pick up? Sure, Whatever floats your boat. You need to be able to nourish yourself, and eating out all the time isn’t good for your health or your wallet. Even if its a handful of signature dishes, know how to do more than use a microwave…not that also knowing how to use a microwave for anything isn’t a good skill too.

12. Go to a black tie event (other than graduations/weddings) So you can see what classy is. Not the lowest & shortest dress or having the date with one. Being able to drink a reasonable amount, and learning all sorts of staples to womanhood like double sided tape and your heel threshold are very important lessons…along with: Dancing like adults (ones that act it, not one’s who’s ID says so), having grown up –profanity free– conversation, and acting like everyone’s watching.

13. Learn your homonyms. The difference between knowing your shit and knowing you’re shit… enough said.

14. Get Stay in shape. Did you know our hair’s peak is at 19 years old? Pretty sure that it’s the peak for our whole body. I used to live a beer drinking, pizza eating college lifestyle followed by a weekly 10km run (which was never hard) and still be a size 4. Not only do hangovers now last 2 days, but I also get food hangovers, and I need about 5 times as much physical activity to stay in shape. Find something, or many things, that work for you and commit to them. Make fitness a priority, because they really aren’t lying when they say it gets harder with age.

15. Get an appropriate e-mail. (This is for you sxxihunixox@hotmail.com/ footlong69@aol.com)…and entire on-line identity for that matter. The world is a creepy, creepy place. I might be one of the ‘creepiest’ people when somebody has a new love interest, but I like to look at it as the modern day street smarts needed to survive. If you are putting a kegstand picture on linkedin you are neither hire-able or datable.

16. Read a fiction and non-fiction book. Read in general. Do you know how many struggling authors there are? Imagine how decent somebody must have thought these published people are to have invested money into printing their work. Read fiction, get lost in a story supported by your own imagination. Read non-fiction, learn how many captivating stories of humanity remain untold.

16. Iron/Steam your clothes. 16 a. Learn how to do grown up laundry. Also buy grown up clothes if you ever worked at lululemon…god knows we own way too much stretchy stink free neon…Know how to iron your pants and suits, how to make silk look chic, and how not to shrink your $200 shirt. When you get around to having nice clothes you will want to make them last…and the first time you pay to have your $200 shirt dry cleaned you learn to either not sweat or start reading washing instructions like your mother told you to.

17. Invest money. (and save money). See how amazing it is to grow your savings, learn the insecurities of investing, and ultimately set goals and visions to the long term. You will notice that investing and saving often come hand in hand, the stock market can be just as addicting as Gossip Girl and eventually buying a house will seem more important than Apple’s latest money grab

18. Invest in your wardrobe. Power suit. You should own one. Begin to buy classic pieces you can wear to WORK. Dress for the job you want not the job you have, and stop turning a blind eye to the fact that your appearance will affect how far you get in life. ‘God’ or whatever (genetics if you ask me) gave us what we have and we have to work with, but actually doing your hair in the morning and wearing nice clothes with nice accessories is something we can control and should do. Not for the vanity but to be professional and respected. If you’ve been fortunate enough to begin your stint in the ‘corporate’ world in your early twenties, you know how important this is.

19. Thank your parents. I’m sure you’ll do this pretty quick after moving out and realizing how many fairies don’t live in your pristine childhood home. Whoever raised you invested immeasurable amounts of time, money, and worry to do so. A few moments of personal clarity that come to mind: my baby sister telling me what ‘those’girls now do in grade 7, cleaning floors and walls and every stupid surface houses have, how much weight I gain when food is ‘free’ again at home.

20. Go to post-secondary. Preferably finish it too. College, university, trades school…learn how you learn, invest in something you’re passionate about, if nothing else, realize how stupid high school really is. University taught me to ask questions, that ‘natural’ smarts aren’t everything, that you get what you put in, what hard work really is, and most importantly how little I know. I learned about myself, my limits, my learning style as well as a whole lot of stuff I will never use again–the pros still outweigh the cons, though.

21. Volunteer. Do something for the benefit of others over yourself. Be aware that there are causes and people that need more and have less than you do. Realize that you, as a young person, have time and that time matters, and that it can actually be just as needed as money. Volunteering allows you to be a part of something bigger than yourself and it is one more place to belong in this growing dog-eat-dog world.

22. Practice self-reflection. Set goals, achieve them, change them, fail at them…then think about it. Appreciate them all for what they are and be at peace with it. Be so wise as to consider how you impact other people and how you react to the presence of others. Reflect to become self-aware, to keep yourself accountable, and as the first step in winning a Nobel Prize for figuring out the meaning of life. This is my plug for yoga–try it at least 10 times. The first 9 suck for 50% of people (no, not a real stat, do it anyway)

23. Purge your friends. On Facebook and everywhere else. Learn who the real ones are (I hope for your sake it is before you get burned). Have enough self-respect to cut the people who don’t make you happy out of your life. Understand that we accumulate friends of circumstance over the years, and that’s OK, but there’s a time an a place for everything including friends. This will allow you to be a better friend to the good ones and eliminate the unneeded stress and drama that often comes hand-in-hand with the people no longer worth entertaining.

24. Learn to appreciate sentimentality. This is a new one for me…it comes along with gratitude, but ultimately what I mean, is to appreciate the tangible for their ability to remind us of the beautiful intangible memories. Value your ‘things’ and your ‘places’, screw ‘Landmark Forum’ and go tie whatever meaning you want to them. After all, in the end what do we have besides our memories (well not the actual end, nobody knows what happens then…) Example, my favourite night in Byron Bay…great people and conversation…I took a small stone from the beach to remember it by.

25. Travel. The younger you go the longer you will have the memories, and the more you probably will travel because of the oh-so famous travel bug. ‘Travelling’ will evolve for you over time, each place will be different, each trip will contrast the last… but every time you go, you will grow as a person, meet somebody you wouldn’t have met at home, humbly remember that life could be different, and be inspired. Need I say more? If you do nothing on this list, do this…and the rest of it might just follow.

Bonus: Work in the service industry. So you can realize ‘those people’ are people too, many of them just as educated as you, and so you can start being a respectful and polite customer.

That’s a wrap. (I’m sure there are more)…perhaps I’ve gained humility in my old age.

2013: Good Health

Isn’t that what you hope for when you’re old and have everything else? I’m sure your genetics are great, and you eat gluten free, plus you’re too young to have any ‘bad’ diseases. You’ve never smoked, wear SPF 60 and limit risky behavior (or whatever they call unprotected sex these days)…Let’s, just for a minute, pretend that none of that matters.

I’ll start with the obvious: Never take your health for granted because anything can happen. Having an achilles repair at 15 will teach you that the odds aren’t to be trusted. And in recent news, for somebody that is typically pretty healthy, last year I had stitches, an xray, CT, ultrasound, and extensive non-routine blood work (all overseas). Being unwell while travelling magnifies the perceived severity of the situation because you are losing valuable days you could be spending seeing the world being drugged up in bed. Then you think about it for a few minutes (because you’re stuck in bed) and you realize that if you’re living the life you should be living, a sick day at home should suck just as much (almost).

So yes, it is important to do all those things (the sunscreen and whatever else), because we should do all that is in our control to achieve our best health and every bit helps…but we also need to make the best of our health while we have it because you never know when things could take a turn for the worst and an unfortunate reality of it is the luck of the draw. It shouldn’t only be cancer survivors who celebrate each day cancer free, every day any of us is healthy is a day somebody else isn’t. We, as a society, seem to have gotten on some messed up bandwagon where we need to lose it all before we appreciate having it [that’s assuming we ever get it back to the same capacity]. I don’t know about you, but I’m not keen on the idea of waiting for a tragedy to start living the life I want. All I wish for now (on wishbones, tarot cards, shooting stars, etc.) is good health. That’s what my parents have done for years while I’ve been wishing for the newest Apple gadget or big career opportunities but what good is any of it if you don’t have your health?

“Being fit feels better than junk food tastes”…or something like that. But seriously, it does. Not only does not gaining weight save you money on oversized sweaters and useless diet pills…but it makes you happier with what you have and who you are. The confidence gained from being fit, not skinny or jacked, merely ‘fit’ can change your outcomes in relationships, the workplace, and your overall confidence in pursuing goals. I’ve realized that if I can go workout with friends it costs less money, equal time, and an inverse calorie expenditure as going out for food…somehow I just figured this out recently. In addition to that, I am meeting more people and becoming more integrated into my community. I suppose the whole ‘fit’ thing all comes back to the idea of accept or change…but I feel like the challenge we (or maybe just I) face is in the goal we are setting. When I was in India I lost 30 lbs in less than 2 weeks. I was lighter than the number on my driver’s license and I had never felt so weak, incapable, and unwell in my life (even once the sickness had left my system). It was then, that I was my ‘goal’ weight that I realized I had been setting myself up for a choice between unhappiness and failure…not so fair to do to yourself if you ask me…

I saw an article the other day that said the most successful goals are those we don’t share with others. Psychologically when we tell others about our goals we consider them done. Yes, telling others keeps you ‘accountable’…but do others really hold you to your word? Most friends will just support your excuses, and I’m guilty for it too even with the people I love most. When I set goals and tell people I find (personally) that I am making goals that sound impressive. The are also usually far beyond what I would have to achieve to be happy. Would I like to look like a VS model? Well I certainly wouldn’t turn you down…but if you offered me Jennifer Lawrence I would be just as healthy (probably healthiER to be fair), and because my life would be more balanced I would probably be happier too.

When I decide that I am going to start working out more and eating healthier because I will be happier I actually stick to it. Mostly because it is a lifestyle shift rather than a random number that signifies success. I believe that health and happiness come hand in hand. More than ever I am realizing the unhealthy images we try to achieve for our bodies and how we waste so much time hating ourselves for not achieving them. When I got home and got my bloodwork done after all that I had been through and my mind went to the worst case scenario I wasn’t thinking about how if I found out I was dying I’d like to look more fit in a bikini. I was thinking about the people I love and my mark on the world. A healthy weight is part of good health, and a certain level of fitness is a healthy challenge to strive for, but the obsession over image versus health is a serious issue I’m still in the progress of working through.

All of that to comes to the general statement that the healthier you are, the better you feel, the more you will be willing to try new things, the more you will learn & experience, the happier you will be, the more people that will be in your life, the odds of living longer or at least holding more healthy years is better, and so you have more time to make memories…and in the end, isn’t that kind of what it comes down to? So I’ve decided two things: to commit to health and to be grateful for every day of it I’m granted. The seemingly terrible chore of getting out of bed at 6 AM is in fact a gift some people don’t have the luxury of doing…now consider all the other extraordinary things our healthy bodies do to us every day…

2013: The Value of Time

I could write for days about 2013. In fact I intend to at some point write a book of my adventures…and this blog covers those in detail pretty well. I’m writing the reverse of a new year resolution (depending how you look at it), I’m writing a ‘resolved last year’. I am testing the theory that celebrating what I achieved/how I grew is more motivating than only saying what I have to change to be successful or happy.

I will always see my travels as an invaluable experience…not because I saw the Taj Mahal and Victoria Falls (though they were wicked awesome)…but because of what I couldn’t have learned as clearly anywhere else, at least not in such a short period of time. If I ‘took away’ three things from this year they would be: the value of time, the fortune of good health, and choosing to see the beauty in everything. This is the first of three posts deconstructing my experience and theories about those three ‘learnings’ or ‘take aways’ if you will.

The Value of Time
Time is money. We’ve all heard it, and most likely said it. The expression typically implies that we mustn’t waste our time at work because the more we waste the less cash we make. Have we ever actually thought of it like that in terms of the value of time instead of the value of money? Perhaps we should think of it in terms of our donations to our community or our overall wealth. I would even argue that many of us are more afraid of not having enough money over not having enough time (in days, not in a day).

With volunteer management being part of my role and having upwards of 1000 recorded volunteer hours under my belt, you could say I think volunteers are an integral part of society. My approach to my job is that volunteers are donors and should be treated as such. If Jane gets paid $25/hour at her day job and volunteers with us 3 hours each week we could argue that she makes an annual contribution of nearly $4000 to our foundation. As a young person I have taken this approach to volunteering: I don’t have the money, but I do have the time [to donate]. Without the volunteers to canvas a charity doesn’t reach the people with the money to donate…both play equal parts in the growth and sustainability of the not-for-profit sector.

Second, in regards to wealth…would you rather be the richest person in the world with a week to live or earn an average income and have 50 years…even 20…even 1? Maybe the answer to that is less obvious to some than it is to me, but I see just as much value in the time I have as my bank account. No, I won’t say time is more important, because I do think that you need to earn a living to support a healthy lifestyle…but (especially as a 20-something) I think our concept of wealth is extremely distorted. First, we don’t actually ever know how much we have left. Have you ever stopped and thought of how amazing it is that you are as old as you are…thought of all the things that could have gone wrong, things you’ve overcome, or people you know that haven’t been as fortunate? Do it.

We tend to panic about investing money to RRSP’s and buying houses completely forgetting how much time we have that we won’t get back. (Note: I am investing in that stuff too…but the key is balance) I have seven years before I hit ‘thirty’…in quotes because society has turned it in to a successful life checklist instead of an age. That seems like a terrifyingly close time to be married with kids with a white-picket fenced home in suburbia (not that those are my specific goals)…but then I remember that 7 years ago I hadn’t even applied for university, I was working at Starbucks part time, and wanted to be the next Mia Hamm. In that seven years I have visited over 20 countries, completed my degree, had three other jobs, met 3 times the people I knew then and moved out (among other things). Had I chosen to just work to make money scrapping travel and my 4-year degree my bank account would probably (definitely) be quite a bit prettier, but I would never doubt how much wealthier I am today because I invested my time.

Third and last: relationships. Intimate or friendships, I am standing up for myself and my time. For some reason it is really easy for me to identify one sided relationships my friends are having with their significant others while I am the same person in some of my personal friendships without even realizing it. Many of our friendships will last longer than most of the relationships in our lives so all the more reason to demand respect and chose individuals that will support your success as you do theirs.

Yoga teacher training helped me in removing myself and my bias from situations. That act alone has helped me see how ridiculous some of my friendships were and the toxic effect they had on my life. The good news (which is better than this Debbie downer mumbling) is that it has also helped me see the people in my life that are great. The people that have seen me at my worst…which has been pretty questionable at times… and still balls to the wall support me in anything I do. The cliché ‘people I can count on’…but most of all, the people that make me better (and that I think I’m making better in a non-manipulative way).

How do you make people better? How can you tell if people are making you better? I am convinced (for now) that I have deduced this to 3 points. (I like lists…and odd numbers).
1) Challenging each other. Not to a pokemon duel or a kegstand contest… but do you ask the hard questions? Maybe you answer them. Having the trust to be honest without repercussion. Maybe it’s a little bit of healthy keeping up with the Jones’ to keep you on the bandwagon in the latest diet fad. May I add the disclaimer that good intention is the magic ingredient…competition or comparison are different ball games.
2) Who you are for each other. Not buying flannel and skinny jeans because somebody is totally into hipsters… but does being ‘there’ for this person mean more to you than staying in your comfort zone? By ‘there’, maybe you have to be a better listener, have more compassion, meet new people…not changing who you are fundamentally but strengthening friend/life-skills to be ‘there’.
3) Believing in each other. Both ways. Do you respect that person enough to be their voice of ambition and confidence when they feel like there is no winning? And is that person there to tell you who they know you can be when your head is stuck in a fog? Once again I stress: BOTH WAYS.

I have cut out SO many people from my life. If you are still not convinced on my time vs. money comparison let me put this into more quantifiable terms than ‘being there’. What my life had become after university and working in a youth dominated retail environment was a portfolio with 100 unpredictable stocks. I had to try to tend to all of them because I didn’t know which ones would become valuable or stay in my portfolio, and many of them fooled me because I couldn’t do my research. Now I have 10 well-researched, reliable stocks that I will continue to invest in because I know I will get a good return. Shit does happen, but ultimately I know I can count on them in the long run. And because I feel secure and stable, I have time to do, learn, and live much more.

In one easy summary: My time is valuable and limited, I will not waste it to please others, I will invest it to making myself and those who invest in me better.