Thursday, April 23, 2015

10 Cool Things

Well hello again, there!

It's hard to believe that it has been over a year since my last update. So much has happened since then! Looking back at all the changes in my life, both positive and negative, I guess I can understand why updating my blog wasn't too high on my to-do list. But as most scribes do, I feel a need to keep a record to help me reflect on how far I've come. So here goes...

10 Cool Things 
(that have happened since my last update) 

1. Defended my thesis! Yup, I finally finished my thesis, successfully defended it, quickly made all the required edits, officially submitted it, and received my bound copies! And yes, I did have a super epic party to celebrate. Disco bingo at the Grad Club with some close friends - a perfect fit!


2. Convocated. Twice. First comes tuition, then comes classes, then comes a graduation event complete with cap and gown! Or in my case, two! My B.Ed Convocation Day was shared with school friends and close family, while my M.A. Convocation was celebrated with my parents and my BFF. These two splendid days were full of special moments - like getting a hug from the Principal. Twice!

B.Ed - <3 Kingston & Queens U
M.A. - Masters get to wear cool hoods

3. Worked F1. This was a first for me. I always thought it would be cool to work at least one of every major sporting event type. Perhaps I will still accomplish this goal someday, but for now, my TV Production career is on indefinite hold. You might say I'm on the IR list. But before I left Canada, I got to spend one last gig with my TV family - and even met my BFF doing her gig near the tracks! Another first! (And yes, I still miss working live TV events.)

Driving on the track post-race!

4. Traveled to Asia. You might say it was a graduation gift, or perhaps just a chance to visit the places where my parents had lived, but this trip with my Mom (and sometimes my Dad) was a fantastic experience. Not only did I cross a bunch of countries off my travel bucket list - Hong Kong (because we know Mainland China is an entirely different experience), Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, and Thailand - I got to experience entirely different cultures, cuisines, and communities. I saw a lot. I learned a lot. And I gained so very much. It was a trip of a lifetime!

Climbed over 400 steps in Hong Kong!
Sunrise with Borneo monkeys in Brunei
Dipping my feet in the Indian Ocean in Penang, Malaysia

Touched history in Thailand

Explored the streets in Singapore

5. Moved to Sweden! Just one short week after I got back from Asia, I picked up my passport once more and moved to Sweden. Thankfully, having already pre-packed before my trip (hard) and wrapped up my life in Kingston (harder), I didn't have too much work to do. It was hardest to say goodbye to close ones, though, knowing I probably wouldn't see them for a while. (Fortunately, I found a great flight deal and got to visit my hometown over Jul break.)

Such a mess!

6. "Call me Ms. Jinnah." After settling in to my new home in Sundsvall in Mid-Sweden, I started teaching at the coolest school ever. Okay, so perhaps my vocabulary has been a little tainted by hanging out with pre-teens all day, every day. But seriously, IESS is a fantastic school and workplace, and a great fit for my first official teaching position. All jobs have their ups and downs but I have yet to regret my decision to move here, not even in just a little spark of a thought in the back of my mind at the end of a long, hard day.

Checking out my new school!
7. Turned my house into a home. Okay, so my apartment just outside downtown Sundsvall isn't really a house. Not even close. But with a little bit of TLC and a whole lot of cash, it has become a wonderful abode. And yes, I did a lot of shopping at IKEA. We're talking 3 trips before I had the basic furnishings for my new space.

Exploding Death Star! Coolest lamp ever!

8.  TRIPS!!! Since I've moved to Sundsvall, I've had the opportunity to travel to quite a few lovely places. From a quick cruise between Sweden and Finland to an emotional trip to Krakow, Poland, and a fantastic birthday trip to Athens and Santorini in Greece, moving to Europe truly has opened up many travel horizons. Plus, it's great for crossing places off the bucket list!

Pierogies in Poland
Baltic Sea cruise
Going back in time in Athens
Stormy Santorini

9. Found new friends. It didn't happen overnight, but I found a cool new group of friends to hang out with. It's been really fantastic to meet likeminded locals and expats who also enjoy doing geeky things and making terrible jokes. The parties are epic and the hugs are so very good for the soul.

Now that's a great hand of Munchkin!

10. "Home is where the Heart is." It's true what they say. I may not work as a teacher for the rest of my career, and I may not live in Sundsvall for the rest of my life, but I have found a place to call home, somewhere my heart can rest at the end of a long day. Life really is better when you have someone with whom to share the journey. And that's worth all the ups and downs that have come my way. As Rascal Flatts would sing, "God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you."

As we say in Sweden, "Skål!"

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

On making plans

Lately, I have been thinking about John Steinbeck's statement in Of Mice and Men: "The best laid plans..." You know how it goes.

When I left my job in professional hockey communications, I planned on focusing on finishing my thesis. I put my life into storage for a year and moved back into the family home to save on costs. I was so intent on getting my work done by the next convocation date. I remember how determined I was.

And then, the NHL lockout started. Which really, shouldn't have affected my plans, except that my thesis was on professional hockey and players' use of social media. And the players I had earmarked to interview for my thesis were either not available or I couldn't contact them because of communications restrictions during the lockout.

So I bid my time and when the lockout ended, I jumped on the opportunity to move forward with my plans, albeit one semester later than I'd planed on finishing the thesis. And then, I was diagnosed with ridiculously low iron levels. We're talking so low that my doctors wondered how I was standing straight, let alone working out three times a week. This also explained my chronic fatigue, and why every time I tried to work on my thesis, I'd basically fall asleep at my desk. Or on the couch. Or in bed. Sometimes literally.

I took more iron supplements than an average pregnant lady must take, and eventually got myself to a manageable energy levels. By then, I had already decided that I was due for a career change, and had applied to, and gotten in to, the Faculty of Education at Queen's University. That gave me the summer before my programme started to try to finish my thesis. I worked like a horse (or insert your favourite hard-working analogy here) and submitted what I thought was a well-rounded, mostly complete draft to my supervisor just two weeks into my new programme. Note the word "draft". My new plan was shot, as was the opportunity to graduate in the winter of 2013.

All year, I've worked on my thesis between Education homework and teaching assignments, hoping not to let this next opportunity to graduate slip through my fingers. My thesis is currently days away from being ready for the defence process. This plan finally seems to be going well!

But then there's the career plan. As we all know, there are no teaching jobs in Canada, especially not in Ontario. Or so say all the government and union representatives. And yet, there are plenty of opportunities for teachers with French skills. As I am fully bilingual, I planned on taking my French as a Second Language course this spring, so that I would be qualified to apply to the only teaching jobs a new teacher can get: those in French.

Indeed, my plan was to settle down and teach in Kingston for the rest of my life. But you know what they say... One minute I'm covering all my bases by attending a career fair at school that provided options for careers outside of traditional teaching jobs - including overseas opportunities - and then, after a brief conversation, and 20 minutes of more formal conversation, I was offered a teaching position in Sweden. Within 24 hours, I had accepted the position, and I am very much looking forward to teaching math at the Internationella Engelska Skolan in Sundsvall, Sweden for the next two years.

As much as this latest change of plans is exciting, it also means I have to make a bunch of other plans: visa applications, wrapping up my life in Kingston, moving overseas... And I've got until August to figure it all out. I cannot express how eager and happy I am to be stepping into this new adventure! My only reservation? I have no idea what to expect. And I think I've finally learned my lesson about making plans.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

On 2013

Oh, I know. I could've come up with a better title for this post. But you know what? It's not important.

That's something I learned in 2013. The small details we worry about? They're only worth losing sleep over if they make an impact on your or someone else's life. Of course, everything makes some sort of impact, but the past year has taught me to manage my energies and focus on things that truly matter.

But this post is not about the past. Because while 2013 was full of great moments and lessons learned, the whole point of living is to keep getting better, stronger, happier. And dwelling on past mistakes is not, I have found, the best way to keep you motivated and moving forward. So here are some of my most meaningful accomplishments of 2013, with a new goal for pushing myself further in 2014.

1. "Be gentle with yourself." - Yup, I'm still working on this one. All my health practitioners, friends, family... This is what they repeated to me throughout 2013. When you're dedicated to your work (as I am) and have a tendency towards perfectionism (as I do) and are stubborn about meeting real or self-imposed deadlines (as I am), well... You tend to forget that a healthy, happy life requires balance. Not necessarily in every moment of every day, but overall, balance, or a rhythm of balance, is key to longterm success. And part of that is learning to say "no", which I'm also still working on. So, in 2014, I will endeavour to be gentle with myself in actuality, not just say that I will and then forget to build in "me" recovery time when I'm trying to make everything fit into my schedule.

2. Learn from past mistakes but don't let them bring you down. - Oh, y'all should see my Pinterest boards. There's one called "Life Lessons". Half of those are about finding love. The other half are about making mistakes, learning from them, and not letting others' actions hurt you. In 2013, I finally learned my lesson about friendship. Don't invest into relationships that your counterpart is not investing in. Don't set expectations or make assumptions that your understanding of this friendship is the same as the other person's. Don't let your kindness, love, and thoughtfulness turn you into someone else's puppet. So, in 2014, I will endeavour to make time to pre-assess, assess, and re-assess (that's a teacher joke!) my relationships and voice my concerns early rather than let them build and explode into messy fireworks.

3. Stop doubting yourself and take risks. - This one is about all the new things I tried this year and found I actually enjoyed. Competing in Dancing with the Stars for Easter Seals Kingston. Painting acrylics on canvas for the first time. Writing songs on the guitar, with the intention and the inspiration for the song coming from playing the guitar. Meeting new people, who are now a huge part of my friend-family. Going to new places, because I've always wanted to, and because I could, like re-visiting Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC. Making last minute decisions instead of always planning everything out. A lot of these great moments come from learning to manage my anxiety, so this point is also linked to points 1 and 2. I owe a lot of thanks to my support system, both friends and family and things - yes, things! - because sometimes, you just need to watch your favourite cheesy movie and eat waaaay too much chocolate, and then chips, and cry it all out. And then move on. So, in 2014, I will endeavour to keep taking risks and to stop talking down to myself. Because who is going to stand up for me if I don't even stand up for me? 

4. Just go with the flow. - Surprisingly, while this has always been one of my guiding ideas, it occurred to me this year that I wasn't actually doing this. In moments, yes. In some situations where I found myself confident and comfortable, yes. But overall? HA! You're looking at a perfectionist workaholic planner, here! You think I can just "go with the flow" without thinking it through first? In 2013, I made last minute decisions. I didn't book hotels for my whole trip to the States in advance, and used Hotwire once I figured out, just 2 days beforehand, how I would deal with an unplanned chunk of my trip. That was awesome. That was going with the flow. And it was so rewarding. I also made spur of the moment decisions that go against my usual personality trend. Like deciding to go out after I was already in my PJs, after the time I usually like to get home. Why? Because good friends encouraged me to. And while I like to say they peer pressured me into it, I peer pressured me into it. Why? Because the only way to be comfortable outside of your shell is to actually break out of it. They're baby steps, sure, but it's better than no steps at all. If I can do it while troubleshooting under pressure in my work life or during emergencies, why can't I do it in other situations without triggering a "fight or flight" response? So, in 2014, I will endeavour to just "go with the flow" in unknown situations and try not to freak out or make such a big deal out of it when I do. Everything always works out in the end if you have good intentions. 

5. Love is the answer. - Again, this is something I've always felt. In 2013, I actually found the right words to express it. So, your life sucks. You're broke. Your shower takes forever to heat up, and then gets cold within minutes. So, your friends are actually not your friends (again!) So - and y'all know you feel this way too - 5 friends got engaged, 3 got married, and 2 had babies. Oh, and another one just announced she's pregnant. Oh, and so-and-so got the job of their dreams, and this person from high school you just Facebook stalked is a doctor now?! What?! Yeah. We've all been there. We've all felt that way. (PS: those were fake stats.) It's okay to not be happy all the time. It's okay to be happy for someone yet, oddly, also not. This does not make you a bad person. Love is the answer. Love is always the answer. It's just that sometimes, you have to love yourself more than you love others. Most people, it seems, have the opposite problem: they love themselves more than they love others. For me, 2013 has been about realizing that I've gone too far on that path, and need to come back to me. Put myself before everyone else. Yup, we're back to saying "no" more. But realizing that you're doing it with love, for yourself, and respect, both for you and for the other person you're telling, in advance, that you wouldn't be at your best if you agreed to do yet another thing on that already busy day. Hopefully, that other person is also living with "love is the answer" as their guiding principle and they don't hold it against you. So, in 2014, I will endeavour to trust myself more. To reach into my heart, feel what I feel, allow myself to feel what I feel without prejudice, and let my instinct guide me. Because I know that by holding on to the belief that love is the answer, I can do anything. We can do anything. I can make my little world better, and hopefully inspire someone else to do the same, and this idea, this fundamental truth that love is the only way that it gets better... Hopefully, 2014 will see it spread to those who need it the most.

I don't make New Year's resolutions. First of all, I technically celebrate, like, 4 different new years? So it's hard to know when the "new" year begins and ends. The truth is, it doesn't. There is no clear-cut line in space and time that says, HEY! STOP EVERYTHING. CLEAN SLATE! every time the Earth orbits around the Sun. So this is probably the closest I get to making resolutions. I kinda just make them as I go, as life teaches me new lessons and as the opportunity arrises for more personal and professional development. (This is also why I don't diet, or believe in diets.)

Still, I'm looking forward to seeing what new challenges 2014 brings, and I'm hopeful for new experiences, good and bad, that will help me grow into a better, stronger, and happier person.

Here's to happy continuings! 

PS: Friends don't let friends drink and drive. Or get high and drive. Or drive when fatigued. Be safe out there tonight, friends. Don't take unnecessary risks! Hope y'all have a Happy New Year!