Tag Archives: reflection

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.

On coming home…

In one word: weird.

There’s a rush of everything and everyone you’ve missed being so exciting, and the urge to do everything you used to do, and the hype of getting a job and a place….then a week or two passes…then all of the sudden it becomes more apparent than ever that perhaps you have actually changed…and perhaps more frightening, the notion that it might just be more comfortable to be new in a new place than new in an old one. I’d rather not know where to go in Hanoi than in the city I was born and raised in….and I surely do not want to be surrounded by 1995’s NINETY FIVES at the bar that are like so totally jacked about toonie Tuesdays and want to tell me about how they just got accepted to trades school and don’t know that Africa is a continent not a country.

I have pretty much kept Starbucks in business the last couple weeks, all the while well having already done 2 jobs, bought a new iPhone in cash, and already taken a week long trip back to Edmonton (where I went to uni). …in 3 weeks. I have been in Canada for 3 weeks. This year so far, I have spent more time in 10 of the countries I visited.

It’s a bit weird though, having the most clean slate I’m bound to have for the rest of my life. I have every choice I could want, but I want everything but to make the decision. I legitimately could go to grad school or work anywhere in the world and in an entry level position in virtually any career path. I have landed softly at home with my parents where my belongings are still in the boxes I moved them home in a year ago. I have enough in the bank to sit back and make ‘the right choice’ …

Additionally everyone thinks my opinion should either be so happy to be home and back to routine or so depressed and wishing I was still travelling. I don’t actually know where I stand. I think I’m in a complacent state of wondering. Probably a state most young people have encountered, but as I’ve blazed through the last 5 years without a spare minute or looking back, this might have been my first take at it.

Anyway….’on coming home’…it’s weird. I advise any traveller to prepare for it before you leave. I hid money around my room, bought fresh lululemon pants, and left myself coffee gift cards. Everything I would have gulped at after a long trip was there for me, and I had a solid 1500 budgeted for ‘homecoming’ just so I could be a little choosier with jobs and have fun with the people I missed as opposed to mooching (we’ll save that for the bday next month). I set myself up for it well, but I will tell you that any choices you thought you’d have to make will have exponential amounts of possibility based on things you’ve learned while travelling…and opinions you thought you had will be tested real quick. I guess in a weird way I feel like I don’t know myself because I know in theory that pre-travels Anika would have blown through 20 job applications by now, and had it ‘all figured out’….I’m not saying that I’d have it any other way, but I’ve definitely been forced into much harder choices much quicker than I anticipated.

The good news. I have great people in my life. Ones that stayed in touch and ones that didn’t really….but I gained the strength while travelling to take a stand for what friendships I value. Everyone I’ve wanted to be there has been, everyone I’ve needed has exceeded their ‘friend obligations’, and even some unexpected gems have risen to the challenge of making me feel happy to be back, and welcomed back.

I wasn’t forgotten. And as many annoying or daunting tasks that I have in front of me, that matters…a lot.


I’m sure there are big things that I’ll look back on in however many years and attribute to this [nearly] year I devoted to seeing the world. In foresight, I’m grateful because I can’t think of a piece I’d rather be placing in the puzzle of who I am becoming… But I’m also grateful right this second. I’m in the back of the family CRV driving the 16 hour journey home from Seaside, Oregon and for the first time since we first came over a decade ago, I’m marvelling at the scenery. The lush greenery leading up rigid peaks to the East and rolling hills of golden grass past the Columbia river to the West. We’re breaking the drive to two days, 8 hours a day, toilet breaks, food stops, lingering salt water taffy…compared to 24 hours with a squat toilet and Asians just a little too comfortable with bodily functions, I’m laughing.

The 8th and final semester of my Human Ecology degree was the most important to my degree. Not because it literally determined whether or not I’d get the 40,000 dollar piece of paper, but because it all started to make sense. Not to say I was in the dark for four years, but I always felt like I was going through motions, learning semi-useful theory, and doubting my post-graduation opportunities. In that final semester every presentation I made seemed a little easier, each paper contained ‘aha!’ inclusions from research done in other classes, and most importantly I finally integrated my core values with the profession of Human Ecology.

Academically it all started to mix, but that final component followed an assignment to write our mission and vision as practitioners. I’ve had jobs with a couple big ‘brand’ companies; mission statements weren’t a new concept, in fact I was sure I’d find a perfectly cheesy tag line to satisfy the passing criteria easily. But when I sat at my computer type out a simple sentence for 5% of a 4th year course, I was stumped. I felt like I had to choose in that moment what I wanted to do with my life because mission statements are goal specific. So if I chose to pursue HR it should be about recruiting, targets, development…but a position in cancer care should be about compassion, support, and empowerment. In writing this simple (changeable) statement, I felt I was choosing my career path forever. Obviously I wasn’t.

My personal values weren’t conflicted, I just didn’t understand until the eleventh hour what my whole degree really meant. If ‘Human Ecology’ were greek and I were giving you that disproportionately long translation, I would say it means ‘it’s all connected’. And when I stopped writing company mission statements and started writing my own I realized that no matter what career I was targeting it at, it turned out the same. Go figure. I strive to empower individuals and communities to achieve their highest potential through providing accessible resources, inspiring education, and being a role model for integrity. Sure, a recruiter may want to hear about my success in achieving sales targets for business versus my volunteering and understanding of families for patient care…but in terms of my personal attitude and intention towards what I’m doing, that’s all same same but different.

The last couple months of travel have been sort of like that last semester; every weird moment, accident, and world wonder fit together in just the right order for me to experience situations and meet people at just the right time so that in the end the ‘why’s melted away and my confidence that I was meant to do it all is unwavering.

I’ve been in Oregon with family for the past week in what a friend of mine referred to as a state of suspension. I’m not home, but I’m not still travelling; I’m with family, but not friends; it’s familiar, but not home. It’s a pleasant yet potentially detrimental place for introspection (…and job searching) . It has been good though, to condense my whole ‘speech’ before meeting the masses and facing job interviews.

As I drafted cover letters I found myself doing the same thing I did with my mission statement over a year ago. Using ‘organization, adaptability, cultural awareness’ on business letters and ‘empathy, understanding, humanity’ on patient care positions…then I stopped. I took a step back and thought about what nearly a year, 4 sub-continents, and hundreds of people met ultimately meant for me…hoping that it would be something a little more profound than characteristics I could get just as well from being part of multi-racial school club or petting some cats at the SPCA. What I’ve decided is this: travelling has shown me the value of an open mind and heart; an openness that empathizes with needs, appreciates all perspectives, and recognizes every opportunity for growth.

Sure, there are other great by-products to travel like Aladdin pants, bargaining skills, using a squat toilet, or knowing how to describe the taste of zebra…but in the end, even the less lame things like saying yes when you would say no, acting with right intention, letting go of outcomes, and recognizing the contentment that can in fact be found in simplicity all lead back to having an open heart and mind. I would have heard every golden nugget of advice or food for thought just for being in the right place at the right time. It was the openness that allowed me to accept, processes, and live it.

So, when I really think about it…after a month of Yoga Teacher Training, making my body (and probably my heart) as physically open as it’s ever been….it’s really no coincidence that the months following were when it all ‘came together’. Whether we realize or not, our discomforts arise from a lack of openness, in hips or in life…

Carolyn said on day one of training, “People are happier when they do yoga”. I heard it, I smiled, and thought of my own superficial benefits from practicing asana. Somehow though, in this state of suspension it has returned to me and I’ve brought it all together. You know how they say body language says it all…like if you’re standing in a circle, your feet and hips may point to who you’re most interested in…duh, it’s in cosmo…maybe right, maybe that’s the angle your blisters don’t hurt in. What is true though is that the more open your body is, the more open you are. Your posture improves so your aura can shine bright and you are open to receive the love and opportunities headed your way. Years of running will produce tight hips, it doesn’t make you a close minded person. However, in working through the tightness physically you are allowing yourself a greater range of comfortable motion which subconsciously is mirrored by the heart and mind.

So my friends, travel young…not because you can’t travel old, but because you will have that many more years to share your stories, see things more openly, and go again. And do yoga. Stick with it. Trust me.