Finding Yourself

Look, I’m alive!

And I’m back with a little bit of a personal story of self-discovery. Quite literally.

I haven’t lived without an audience for as long as I can remember. I’ve been on Facebook since the beginning of high school. Performing my life for anyone who would pay attention. I guess that’s why I was so eager to start blogging; it was another outlet for my thoughts and creativity. And then the blog sort of lost its purpose, and I was doing it for reasons that weren’t about self-expression. So I stopped. It soon became clear how much I enjoyed living without an audience. Not only because it was exhausting to maintain, but also because I could finally figure out who I was without trying to impress anyone.

Facebook status updates. Tweets. Tumblr posts. Blog posts.
Snaps. Pins. Likes. Retweets.

It was all for the benefit of the people who follow me on those accounts. I was performing. I performed my entire personality and my entire life for the people with one eye on me. And it’s not like I’m an internet celebrity. It’s not like these people care what I’m up to. But I kind of like the idea of having that Instagram perfect life. Doesn’t everyone?

Actually, Instagram is the one thing I do still use on a regular basis. I haven’t stopped loving photography and sharing those photos. But that’s not for an audience. That’s because I like it.

And that’s what I’ve been up to. Finding myself. Figuring out what I like to do without the thought that other people are noticing. (Which, to be quite honest, is why I think this relationship I’m in right now is going so well – because I’m not constantly asking friends for advice on something they are not a part of. I love my friends, but learning what to keep to myself and what to share with others has been key in all of this.)

So what have I learned about me?

Mostly, I’ve learned how I honestly like to spend my time.

I got so caught up in the idea of being the quirky, shy bookworm girl and maintaining that image that I thought it was who I am. I mean, that has been people’s expectations of who I am since first grade – it’s easy to think that’s who you are. Family and friends can’t be reading you wrong for years, can they?

Well, here’s the truth.

I am an extrovert. That’s surprising to everyone. I am kind of quiet and can be nervous to meet new people. But I would one million percent choose to be with someone else over spending a night alone. I like talking to people. I like being surrounded by friends and drinking and dancing and going to shows. Too many nights on my own is what drains me – not too many nights going out.

I do love reading. But I wouldn’t choose it over playing a video game. Painting, sketching, and making pieces of art is something I like to treat myself to as a means of self-care.

I am passionate about learning. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed. But what I have discovered is that I’m not really into learning something by reading a book. I have a mind that learns better through images and sounds, not words on a page. I love listening to educational podcasts and learning new languages on Duolingo. That being said, I’ll almost always prefer to read a book over watching a movie. I guess fiction is still better left to my imagination.

I love to travel. I wasn’t sure if getting on a plane would be super stressful for me, or if I’d be okay when I got to another country. But it turns out I love to lowkey adventure. Iceland was amazing and now I know that I’d be okay getting on a plane by myself and discovering a new place to love.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for you is spend some time living without an audience. Don’t let other people dictate who you are or what you should do with your time. Stay away from the social media for a bit and stop letting other people’s opinions influence the way you choose to live your life.

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The Kindness of Strangers

I work in a school. So whenever I go into a public washroom, I see students – young women on their phones, taking selfies, laughing with friends, fixing their lipstick. Sometimes I have the unfortunate experience of walking into a washroom and seeing a girl crying. Most of the time, they’ve got a friend to support them through whatever is going on in their life. And sometimes I walk into a washroom and I’m reminded of an instance when I was in grade twelve, of an act of kindness that always sort of blew me away. That was nearly ten years ago, and I still think about it to this day.

It was the first day back from summer – my first day of my last year of high school. I’d signed up for an art class that was meant to focus on theatre set and costume design. Due to an underwhelming registration for that class, they’d merged it with the grade twelve art students’ class. I hadn’t taken art since grade nine, and these guys were all naturals. The teacher told us to draw a person’s face in two minutes – just a rough sketch using techniques we’d learned (which I hadn’t learned, because I wasn’t an art student). He came around to my desk and told me I was doing it wrong. Each similar exercise, he’d approach me and said I needed to draw faster: I wasn’t doing it right; I wasn’t good enough. Eventually he just didn’t walk around the class anymore, he just stood in front of my desk and criticized me in front of everyone. Finally, I’d had enough. I threw my pencil down and stormed out of the room, not waiting to burst into tears until I’d reached the girls’ bathroom. I don’t like any sort of attention, and all of his negativity was terrible.

I locked myself in a stall and started sobbing. Was this what grade twelve was going to be? It was only the first day and I already couldn’t handle the stress.

That’s when I heard a timid knock on the stall door. Quiet and curious. Then, a voice as small as her knock. “Um, hi – are you okay in there?

I sniffled and wiped my face, even though she couldn’t see me. “Yeah.” She obviously knew that was a lie, so I back-tracked. “No, I don’t know.”

“Do you want to talk?” Really? This girl actually cared enough to talk me down from this? I sighed and opened the door. The girl was tiny. I barely remember what she looked like, but I remember she was smaller than me. “Are you okay?

I explained what happened with my art teacher, and the girl shook her head. “What grade are you in?” she asked me. I told her twelve. Then she said the part that blew my mind.I’m in grade nine.

It was this girl’s first day of high school. She should have been terrified. Intimidated. Hoping just to get herself through the day. But this thirteen/fourteen-year-old girl had the courage to step up and knock on that door. And even though I was quietly sniffling into my tissue paper, she kept talking. “I can’t imagine how hard grade twelve is going to be. You’ve got to start thinking about graduation and school is getting harder… This is only my first day of grade nine, and it’s a little scary. But that teacher seems mean. Do you think you can drop the class?

I’d never considered dropping a class in my life. I loved school a lot. But I didn’t need it to graduate. I could have a spare period. She was being the logical one and talking me down from my anxiety attack. “Yeah, I think I could.”

If you don’t like the teacher, and you don’t like the class, maybe stick it out for a few days and if you still don’t like it – drop it.

Yeah. Thanks.

Do you want a hug?

Sure.I smiled as this girl wrapped her arms around me and actually squeezed. Not one of those awkward stranger hugs where you’re hoping to not have any more physical contact than absolutely necessary, but an actual, meaningful hug.

You got this. You’re almost done. You’ll be okay.”

I left the bathroom smiling through my reddened face, and didn’t return back to the classroom until 5 minutes before the bell. I ended up dropping the class the next day and saving myself a whole lot of unnecessary stress.

Often times I think about how brave that grade nine girl was. If I was in her shoes – the first day of high school, I’d be keeping my nose down. But that girl stepped up, talked me down from an anxiety attack, and was a friend when I needed one. I never learned her name, and I don’t think I ever saw her again. But the fact that she reached out and helped me did not go unnoticed.

Those random acts of kindness really do matter.

How the Arkells Changed My Life

I can count the bands I love on one hand. They’re not just bands I like, but bands that have had a serious impact on my life. Green Day has always been my group – the one whose music has meant the most to me and inspired me since I was ten years old. It’s been so long, I guess I forgot what it felt like to “love” a group like that. Then I got a chance to see Arkells at their homecoming concert in Hamilton.

“Take me to the bus stop Matty, drive me back to Hamilton…”
-Book Club

It was the first concert I’ve ever been to where I only knew a couple of songs, but still had a blast singing along. I fell in love that night – but not with a person. Arkells rekindled my love and appreciation for music. Their songs are so upbeat and happy, or emotionally charged. I can’t stand still. “Dirty Blonde” comes on, and I just need to dance.

“Give me your number, pick any colour, I can tell your fortune tonight.”
-Dirty Blonde

I guess that’s when I realized I wasn’t happy. In that moment, I fell in love with a sound harder than I’d fallen in love with the person I was dating. When I listen to their music, it makes me feel stronger – happier, sadder, giddier – than I felt when I was with the guy who was supposed to be “the one”.

In that moment, I decided I was tired of feeling numb. I realized I don’t need a person to make me feel – I can feel things on my own – with a book, with a game, with a band, with a song. And whether it was with another person, or by myself, I realized this is how I wanted to feel for the rest of my life.

The Arkells were the light in my life when I was numb and repressed by my selfish ex.

“I just want to love you, but it’s so hard.”
-Private School

They were there when he left me.

“When the rain starts comin’ down, a little rain ain’t bringin’ me down.”
-A Little Rain (A Song for Pete)

And they were there when I fell for someone who respected me, and who empowered me to be the person I wanted to be, for me. Not for him or for anyone else.

“It used to be just weekends, now I want you everyday.”
-My Heart’s Always Yours

The Arkells were my lifeline in a time when I needed something to shake me from my comfort zone, and tell me that there was something better out there for me. I just had to get out of my funk and find it.

And I can already feel the difference between going through the motions, and being just plain happy. I’m as happy as I was that night in Hamilton, and I feel happy every time I put High Noon on my record player.

I cannot wait to see the Arkells when they come to Toronto this month, because this time around it’ll mean so much more.

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On Friend Groups – And Why I Don’t Have One

This post was inspired by Beverly’s post on her blog, Bev’s Eye View. Because I’ve seen a few instances, and know quite a lot of people who are part of a group of friends and love it. And I can see why! You have a group of people who you can go out and do things with, who have your back, who feel much like a second family. Why wouldn’t that be awesome?

Unfortunately, I’ve just had too many bad experiences with groups of friends, that I kind of don’t want one anymore.

First, let me clarify.

This is not to say that I don’t have friends.

I do have friends. Lots of friends. Some might say too many friends.

While people in friend groups have a set group of people they reach out to when they need someone, I’m not limited to that. I have like 5 people I’m super close to, but they’re not close to each other. Most of them don’t even know each other. And then I’ve got about 15-20 people outside of those 5 (who again, mostly don’t know each other), and genuinely enjoy hanging out with on a regular basis. So I maintain those friendships.

I just honestly prefer hanging out in very small groups, or one-on-one for more personal human interaction time. In elementary school, it was always about “who was mad at who for what stupid reason”. I have two friends I still talk to that I knew in elementary school.

In high school, I had probably the closest thing to a friend group I’ve ever had. I was dating a guy and was welcomed in by his friends. I quite liked having them there, but there was always the itching feeling that they only included me because I was dating their best friend. We broke up. Four years later, the friendships still stuck. Until they didn’t, and I was promptly “ejected” – shall we say – from being included in that group. Cool.

I’ve sort of been included in friend groups of the boys I’ve dated, but after this incident, I was much more aware of maintaining my own friendships and not relying on this means of meeting people. Because when the relationships ended, so did the friendships.

I find my experience with friend groups has been very negative because I see them, a lot of the time, from the outside-in. The people involved in them are cliquey; they’re scared of not being invited out with the rest of the group; they don’t venture into new territory and try to include new people.

I love not having a friend group.

I have various people in my life who I can talk to about different things and who know me on different levels. I can spill my deepest secrets to a friend I met in college, then the next day go to a book signing with a friend I met online, and then have drinks with a friend from work, and then have a girls painting night with a friend I met through a friend, and then go to a concert with a friend I met through an ex. I’m not stuck doing the same thing with the same people, ever. And quite honestly, it’s fuckin’ sweet.

I’m not limited to the same 5 or 6 perspectives as people who have the same friends forever. I’m not scared to talk to new people and cultivate new friendships. In fact, I love meeting a new person and getting to know them, and going on some new adventure together.

There are few friends I’ve hung onto for a number of years, but most of my friends come and go. And I don’t mind. I enjoy knowing people, no matter how temporary. Old friends fade and new ones come and add to my life in new ways. And the ones that do stick around, well those are the ones I see as my family.

So I guess my “friend group” exists. It’s just 20-30 people big. And I never hang out with them all at once.

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An Open Letter to My Future Partner

Dear Future Life Partner,

I have a lot of love to give. So you’d better be ready to accept it all.

I’ve been neglected and ignored. I hope you have the bravery and strength to take on a relationship. Because I don’t do anything half-assed.

If I’m with you, it’s because you’re the one I want to spend my life with. I don’t like wasting my time.

I don’t expect you to take care of me. I can take care of me; I just want someone who will support me in my choices, and who I can support, too.

I want to spend my life travelling and going on adventures. Even low-key adventures. We can adventure to a new restaurant, or try a new activity. But I want to experience life, and I want my experiences – whatever they are – to be with you.

I want to come home from work and surprise you by saying I’ll cook dinner. I want us to have tickle fights on the couch that end in me smothering you with kisses.

I will make you a priority, and I hope you do the same. You don’t have to perform any grand gestures, but if I can see that sparkle in your eye when you look at me, that’ll speak volumes.

I get hurt. I care too much. I have faith in people I shouldn’t. I know this. But you are the last person I want to misplace my trust. I will always have faith that you will be there for me. Please don’t let me regret trusting you.

Future Life Partner, I can’t wait to meet you. I don’t expect a lot – but I think I deserve someone who loves me back the way I love them.

I have a lot of love to give, so you’d better be ready to accept it all.

Ten Things I Learned in 2016

I feel like this hasn’t really been a good year for a lot of people. But it’s almost over! And although 2016 has been one of the most emotionally and mentally stressful for me, I’ve also learned quite a bit about myself and how I want to conduct the rest of my life. So here we go.

1. Take chances. Sometimes you’ll surprise yourself.

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We had to find an internship for my final semester of school, and I was terrified I’d be the only one without an internship. But I found one! And it went okay. Did some networking, got some social media experience for my resume. I didn’t think I could do it, but pushed myself, and ended up in the perfect internship for me.

2. Put 110% effort in… not everything you do.

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I’m the kind of person that puts all of my effort into everything. Anything I do is Michelle certified 10/10 effort. But this year I got burnt out to the point of mental exhaustion. One of my teachers sat me down and actually told me, “if you redo this assignment so you can get higher than an 80%, I will be mad at you. Go home, relax. Like, don’t do any homework. Don’t do chores. Don’t worry. Just relax. Do nothing.” So now I kind of take that advice and apply it to other things in my life. It’s okay to take a mental break – watch TV, play video games, veg out in bed. Meditation and learning how to chill out has been a huge breakthrough for me.

3. Broken hearts fucking suck.

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I’ve never been heart-broken before. I mean, I’ve liked people who never liked me back, but there was some acceptance there. This was a case of “You’re with someone who you shouldn’t be with, and yes you love him but you need to get out of this so you can grow as a person –  thank me later”. It hurt a lot. I’ve never been that depressed before. I’m fine now, but at the time, I didn’t want to see how I could be okay without my best friend. It’s given me a new appreciation for being hurt – and trying extra hard not to hurt other people.

4. Adventure is fun, but being reckless is stupid.

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After the break-up, I was reckless. I wanted to adventure and try new things. But at the time, that meant going out until 4am with my friends, not remembering how I got back to her house, or going on dates with people just to get out of the house and keep my mind off things. It took me meeting the right boy at the right time to realize that I should be respected and respect myself, as well. I deserve to make relationships and friendships with people, and that in itself was sort of a great adventure. Now my adventures are cultivating friendships and trying new things that don’t hurt me.

5. The best things are worth waiting for.

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Look at this guy. My beautiful boy. I can’t even. I’ll give you the cliffnotes version: Luke and I grew up down the street from each other. Same grammar school, same high school. I always knew who he was, always thought he was such a cute dork. Never spoke to him. We met on Tinder after this year’s rough break-up when I was trying to meet new people and get a fresh start, and he was the nicest person. No boy has ever been so respectful and kind and gentlemanly to me. Neither of us wanted a “relationship” at our first encounter, but we fell pretty hard and it’ was downhill from there. I sort of believe in fate now, I don’t know. But we didn’t rush into anything, and now I am the happiest I have ever been in a partnership. ❤

6. Act confident and you’ll be confident.

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Fun fact: the girl who runs this blog hates herself most of the time. It’s something I’ve been working on fixing this year. It’s also been helpful to have friends and a partner in my life now who are supportive. I got hired on full-time at my student job, and was given a lot more responsibilities and that one thing sort of made me feel like a superstar. It’s a desk job, nothing fancy shmancy – but I acted the confident part of someone who deserved the job and now I have this job I love, and am actually pretty good at.

I also overthrew the girl in my head who said I couldn’t do anything athletic and ran a 5k this year, so that was pretty awesome. I’m going to keep this confident streak up through 2017 because it opens a lot more doors than when you hate on yourself all the time.

7. Friend and family bonds must  be cared for, not assumed.

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I don’t care what people say about friendships and family relationships being “meant to be” or “if you’re related to them, you have to love them”. If I’ve learned one thing this year, this may be the most important one. Do not force friendships with people who clearly don’t want to be your friend. Do not feel tied to family members who mentally and emotionally bring you down. If they’re not supportive, find yourself a “family” that is – even if that family is a group of friends.

I’ve spent this year nurturing the friendships with the few people I do appreciate and love. I’ve also spent this year re-connecting with old friends and strengthening those bonds, or talking to new people who have grown to be some of my best friends. Find people you can rely on, blood relative or not, and surround yourself with them – I’ve been a lot less insecure this year, and it’s because I put my trust in people who I can actually rely on.

8. I’m an adult.

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Guys, I  turned 25 this year. I graduated college. I got a full-time job. I’m looking at apartments now. Like. I’m a full-blown adult. I’m adulting all over the place and can’t hide behind the “I’m still a kid” thing anymore. This year was the first time I’ve thought about the independence of adult life and not felt super sick and anxious. I feel like I can do it. It’s very exciting.

9. Feeling beautiful on the outside doesn’t make you vain.

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I grew up being told that girls who were into makeup and clothes were dumb and trying to fill voids in their life with lipstick and shoes. That was a mix between teen girl movies making all the “bad guys” look like the Plastics from Mean Girls, and my family knowing I’m a weirdo who had no friends, so they tried to comfort me with: “You’re better than those girls, you don’t need them”. Well. 2016 was the year I embraced my femininity and really got into things like fashion and makeup as a form of expression, and let me tell you, it is not dumb on this side. I can be smart and nerdy and still like dresses and shoes. It’s been a fun and eye-opening discovery, to say the least. The fact that I judge people less makes me feel like I’m being judged less. Funny how that works, huh?

10. Live like there is “no day but today”.

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I got my first tattoo this year! In January, the words from RENT’s “Another Day” got etched into my arm as a double reminder: don’t put off until tomorrow what could be said  today, but also, remembering to take things one day at a time and to move at my own pace.

I went on a roller coaster this year even though I was terrified. I went dancing a few times even though it was later than I’d like to be downtown. I met new people and tried a lot of new things just by saying yes when I wasn’t entirely up for an outing. At the same time, I’ve taken a lot of days to myself, staying in bed playing games and saying no to people when I need to take a mental break. “No day but today” is a reminder to live in the moment, but also to take care of myself.

Maybe 2016 wasn’t entirely terrible. A lot of crazy good things happened, and I’ve kind of been inspired to start my own life.

So that’s a huge step for me. How was your year? What are some positives you’re taking into 2017?

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Goodbye, Quiet Girl

I’ve spent a lot of time throughout my life trying to please other people.

As a kid, I was taught to do as I was told and pay attention in class, and I’d get a pat on the head and a gold star.

As a teenager, I had some pretty unfortunate friends who labelled me the “quiet one”. They weren’t terrible people, but they constantly put me down and anytime I tried to state an opinion, I’d get a pat on the head and an “oh dear, Michelle is trying to speak up, isn’t that cute?” My personality wasn’t wanted there, either.

As a young adult in university and college, I was in a couple of unfortunate relationships. One that was highly toxic, wherein he completely suffocated my personality in all ways – trying to make me what he wanted (which was apparently, a clone of himself). One that wasn’t as bad, but we spent all of our time together, so our personalities became one.

I am twenty-five years old and I have no idea who I am.

Any smidgen of my own personality traits that crept through before were just fan-obsessions. I was “the girl who loved musicals” and I threw myself and my entire life into being a musical fan-girl. I was “the girl who loved books”, so I threw myself entirely into being a giant book nerd with the biggest shelf.

Recently, I’ve discovered that being in constant competition with others in this way is almost as toxic as being smothered by peers who are trying to keep you down. I was trying to be the best at these things that I loved, and know the most, and read the most, and be involved in those communities, and along the way, I realized I’d never had the opportunity to find out who I was without these things.

So I stripped them away.

No more friends who keep me quiet and tell me I can never be “that girl who goes on adventures” or “the girl who changes history” or “the girl who demands the attention of the room”. No more hobbies that keep me in competition with a community of people who fight to be the biggest fan of anything.

I’m trying to figure out who I am, and am lucky enough to be in a position where I am surrounded by amazingly supportive friends and have a boyfriend who doesn’t want to change me, and who isn’t threatened by me wanting to be something more than “the quiet girl”.

What have I discovered so far?

I was told my whole life I was too weak to be athletic. I just ran a 5k last month.
I was told growing up that I was smart and was better than pretty “girly” girls. I can be both smart and girly. I’ve discovered that I really enjoy makeup and clothes. And shoes. I like putting things in my head, but I can also like what I put on it.
I was told video games were for boys and I would never be good enough to play with other people. I play video games on my own now, and have a lot of fun shooting aliens. Being good isn’t important.

Basically, I’m discovering a whole lot of hobbies that I was constantly pushed away from, and they’re all things that make up the real Michelle – the one who is doing what makes her happy, not doing things because people tell her to do them (or not do them).

I’m hoping this blog is a reflection of everything I am. Not just one thing. I contain multitudes.

So goodbye, quiet girl. It was nice knowing you, but now it’s my time to shine.

Oh the times, they are a-changin’: Blog Updates

Here’s what you need to know:

  • I started book blogging because I love books and I wanted to write about them.
  • I cultivated and established my book blog because I wanted to have something on my resume as proof that I was capable of marketing myself.
  • I kept on book blogging because I have a lot of friends who blog and I really enjoy working with the publishing companies.
  • I’m going to start taking a lot of steps backwards with this because I now have that job in social media/marketing, and this gig isn’t as fun as it used to be.

Reading books I have to read and then forcing myself writing reviews on them isn’t fun anymore. I have so many other things to do, and I honestly just hate coming home after work and thinking about the fact that I have to read these books. It’s like homework; it’s stressful, and I don’t want to put that pressure on myself anymore, when I could just not do it.

So here’s what you can expect from my blog from now on:

  • I’ll still write about books! I’ll only request books from publishers I know I will want to review, to cut back on the “homework” feeling, and I’ll also review books I choose to read on my own time.
  • I’ll still write, in general. That will never change about me.
  • I’ll continue to write about my musings – things going on in my personal life, ideas I have, etc.
  • I’ll also write about things that I enjoy doing more. TV shows, movies, nerdy happenings, also potentially my real job (that I love far more than book job), cosmetic hauls (which I’m starting to get interested in), the other hobbies I have that I don’t get to write about.

I’d like to write about a handful of things and not limit myself and my personality to one hobby that I don’t even enjoy doing as much as I used to, because it’s become work.