Life Liquidation, Zellers and Letting Go

Twelve years of living in Toronto, packed into 8 boxes.  After almost a month in Toronto spent packing, working and visiting, I got back to BC yesterday morning. These boxes containing most of my worldly possessions will be arriving at my doorstep in a matter of days.

A year ago I arrived in BC and my 6-week visit turned into a year long stay. When these boxes arrive later this week, my move back to the West Coast will be “official”

While I was in Toronto everyone kept asking me “How does it feel to be moving?! Are you sad? Excited? Scared shitless?!” To be honest I haven’t been sure how to answer people. All I can say is that this move feels right. Change is in the air and I’ve decided to embrace it.

If you live in Canada or are friends with any Canadians, you are probably aware that Target is coming to Canada (cue sound of angels singing) Yes, the wholly Tar-Jet is crossing the border and moving into spaces formally occupied by Canadian retailer Zellers. When asked to describe Zellers, I told Almie:

“It’s kind of like  Target….Sad Target. But instead of a Starbucks, there’s a cafe that makes the whole store smell like hot dogs”

Although it’s weird to see an icon from my childhood disappearing off the face of the earth, I’m not complaining. As Zellers stores have begun closing across the country, there’s been mass liquidation sales. Walking through a Zellers store feels like a bit like you’ve entered a bizarre doomsday-like retail experience where the only things for sale are a lone Ruben Studdard CD and a pair of tube socks. It’s like everyone is liquidating these days, including me.

I moved to Toronto 12 years ago as an 18 year old with two suitcases, 4 boxes and a whole lot of naiveté. My plan was to leave the city with the same amount of stuff I came with. During the month I was in Toronto I sold my bed, sold my couch and donated 9 garbage bags full of clothing, shoes and household items to the Goodwill. I literally cut my wardrobe in half: I sold off what I could to a local consignment store and happily handed over a bunch of stuff to Melissa who has this uncanny way of looking better in my clothes than I do. The other day a lightbulb went off and I called my Mom:

 “I’M ZELLER-ING MY LIFE AND IT FEELS GREAT!”

I packed the things that mattered to me most: the books that contain my favourite stories, photographs and a few bags & shoes I’m not ready to part with, and gave away the rest. I managed to fit everything into 8 boxes which I think is pretty good considering I lived in Toronto for 12 years and was often prone to retail therapy.

Although I wince at all the money I’ve spent over the years on things I inevitably just ended up giving away, it feels amazing letting go of all the physical stuff. This “Life Liquidation” has inspired me to exfoliate more items from my life (& closet!) so don’t be surprised if you see an online garage sale happening on Skinny Dip in the near future.

My last night in Toronto was spent with three of my favourite people – Mike, Jeanne and Melissa – at one of my favourite hole in the wall Mexican restaurants, laughing and catching up over greasy tacos and cervezas. It was the perfect way to end my stay in Toronto. I thought saying goodbye to my friends here would have this sense of finality, but it didn’t. As I hugged Melissa in front of the Christie subway station, she said to me:

“Even though you technically don’t live here anymore, it feels Toronto’s your second home”

Amen to that.

It doesn’t feel like anything is ending. It’s just the start of a new (exciting) chapter.

I hope you guys are all doing well! Stay tuned for more dating & relationship stories and sexy reviews coming soon… once I recover from my jet-lag. xox

Stop Comparing Yourself & Other Lessons From My 20’s

One of my favourite movies is Garden State.

I saw it when it first came out in theatres. I was 24, going through the beginning phases of a quarter life crisis and like the characters in the film, I spent a lot of time feeling lost, disconnected, searching for answers & love. Garden State spoke to me on a deeper level. I fell in love with the movie and promptly purchased the DVD as soon as it was released. During that time in my life I’d watch the movie often – partly because I loved it, but also because I was super broke, couldn’t afford cable and it was one of the only DVDs I owned. There in tiny bachelor pad, on my tiny TV, I’d watch Andrew & Sam fall in love, and feel comforted.

I was researching the film recently for a writing assignment and found an interesting interview with Zach Braff (director and star of the film) where he said:

“I have this theory that your body goes through puberty in its teens, and the mind goes through puberty in your twenties.”

I came to a similar conclusion a few years ago. My mind (and my body to a certain extent) definitely went through a puberty of sorts in my mid-twenties. However if someone had read me that Zach Braff quote at the time, I’m sure I would have scoffed at it. This just goes to show that sometimes you need some distance from your experiences to really see them clearly.

I graduated university when I was 23 with a degree in Anthropology and English. I really loved my university experience and I wasn’t prepared for the shock to the system that happened when I graduated. Being in university allowed me to build this cushy bubble around myself. I went to class, I worked at my part time job, I studied really hard, I had fun dating and I partied with my friends on the weekends. When things went awry in my personal life I always had the consistency of school & studying to fall back on and keep me focused. When I graduated, this bubble burst and I suddenly had to deal with the “the real world”.

My room-mates and I went our separate ways and I rented a small bachelor apartment. I worked 40 hours a week, barely scraping by while looking for that illusive first “real job”. Aside from my bed, my furnishings consisted of a desk which no longer had legs, two lawn chairs and a couple of plastic storage bins. Also there was a weird scent like smelled like burning that wafted out of my kitchen cupboards for no particular reason. My life wasn’t exactly an episode of Cribs  (unless there’s an episode where a girl discovers she’s living below a meth lab then yes, my life was totally like Cribs.)

Like my living situation, my love life left something to be desired. After dating a wide assortment of unpredictable characters during university, I settled on the kite-boarder because he was older, stable, nice to me (most of the time), and seemed like a good choice on paper. Plus, dating him gave me an excuse not to hang out in my apartment. However, with 11 years between us we just weren’t right for each other  for many reasons. It wasn’t entirely his fault. Around this time I started my emotional hoarding. Although I was dating him, I was still obsessing over dudes I had dated before him who weren’t really worth my time to begin with. During this period I often felt lonely, frustrated and “stuck” (and I can’t help but wonder if he didn’t feel the same way when he was with me.)

While my mind was stuck in a mid-20’s angst death spiral, my body decided to go through a second puberty – literally. Shortly after my skin started to break out painful chin acne. At a time when I  desperately wanted to feel pulled together and adult, it felt like I was wearing a bandana made of pizza. It was a huge karate chop to my self-esteem. I spent many nights sitting on the tupperware bin I used as a desk chair, eating a large bowl of ramen noodles, fervently researching severe acne removal techniques.

(I never connected the ramen noodles to the acne, however I later found out that I’m extremely sensitive to gluten and dairy. One of the symptoms: terrible break-outs. Go figure.)

The worst part about this period of my life wasn’t that most of my furniture was made from items that you could find at an abandoned construction site or that my diet mostly involved two food groups (“macaroni” and “cheese”)  – it was that I became envious of the people around me who I thought had better jobs, nicer clothes, more exciting relationships, clearer skin and what I perceived to be better lives. I’d lie awake at night thinking, “When will it ever come together for me? When will it be my turn? When will my real life begin?”

I knew I had to take action but I didn’t know where to start. I think that’s part of the post-university 20-something conundrum – there are so many choices, options and challenges, that it can seem completely overwhelming and insurmountable. It’s enough to make you just go numb. That was my solution to the problem, until it wasn’t.

I’m not going to try and sugar coat this and tell you guys that there was this one “aha” moment that forced me out of my quarter life crisis. To be honest, it actually took several years of experiences, learning and work to really put my quarter life crisis behind me.

A few years later I went back to school to take some part-time classes. I remember the day one of my profs told the class:

“Don’t measure yourself against someone else’s yardstick” 

It’s stuck with me ever since.

When you’re in your 20’s you’re trying to establish your place in the world as an adult and it’s so easy to look to other people to gage your progress. I can’t count how many times I allowed myself to feel bad about myself because I didn’t have my “dream job” yet, or an advanced degree like so & so, or own a condo like ______, or make as much money as ____ who worked in _____ career. Did I actually want a career in ________ ? NO. So why was I  allowing myself to feel bad about it?! Everyone is on their own individual path. What’s right for one person isn’t necessarily  right for you. Keeping a running tally of who has what doesn’t do you any justice. Once I truly embraced this, I felt a lot better.

By not constantly comparing myself to other people, I had so much more energy to actually. do. stuff. 

A few things that have also  become really apparent as a 30-something:  Things change. What’s true in your mid 20’s might be totally different in your early 30’s.

My friends who struggled in their 20’s like did, are now thriving. They’re now designing, creating, writing & starting careers in fields they are really passionate about.  The couples with the enviable “perfect relationships” – a lot of them are still together, however an equal amount are getting divorced and finding greater happiness with new partners that they are way more compatible with. Many of my friends who had their “dream job” at 25, are now looking into new options: embracing parenthood, switching careers, opening yoga studios – you name it. I still have friends who make infinitely more money than I do, however when it comes to my career they are supportive & encouraging beyond belief. This makes me realize it was never a competition to begin with.

You’re probably wondering why I’m thinking about all this right now. The truth is I’m selling my couch that I have in storage in Toronto. Some history on the couch: when I finally got that first “real job” and received my first bonus cheque, I bid my lawn chairs goodbye and invested in some actual furniture. My 25th birthday present to myself was a pretty black leather couch from Ikea. I was so proud of that sofa so much because it made me feel like I was finally a real adult. I was no longer sitting on lawn chairs! I had real furniture! I had arrived! The other day my friend texted me to say that she’d found a guy who was willing to buy the couch for $70 and I winced slightly. It’s weird to put a price on something that once meant so much to you, however I know I need to let it go. For a long time I used things – bank account balances, furniture, fancy purses, jewelry – as a way to bench mark my success and compare myself to people around me. However, in the end there is something to be said about letting go of “keeping up with the Jones'” and just doing your own thing. I no longer need the physical “stuff” to remind me I’m an adult. I’m enough on my own. Maybe that’s what growing up is all about: realizing this & throwing away the yardstick.

xox

S.

Wooden Monkeys, Shoes and Getting out More.

When I moved back to BC in November following my break-up I knew I wanted a change. Correction: I needed a change. Desperately. I willfully gave up the fast pace lifestyle of Toronto that included a lot of open bar media parties, late nights and uncomfortable (but sexy) footwear in favour of living with my 60-year old Mom in “Sleepytown” – the mid-sized beachside town I grew up in on the West Coast of Canada. These days my life involves less stilettos and late night cocktails and more Birkenstocks, quiet nights & peaceful times spent with my best friend and her 2-year old daughter. Sometimes I have these moments where I catch myself missing Toronto. I miss the friends I have there and I’ll often find myself standing in front of my closet feeling sorry for some of the pieces of my wardrobe that never get worn anymore. This town’s biggest downside is that there is nowhere to wear things like rainbow coloured Marc Jacobs shoes, a vintage Armani dress or a luxurious fur vest without looking slightly ridiculous. On the flip side, I feel at peace here. I’m healthy, I get lots of fresh air and my hair hasn’t looked this thick in years (FYI. Toronto water is murder on your locks. Trust me.)

However, this newfound sense of peace has allowed me to get “comfortable” – maybe a little too comfortable. In fact, I’ve settled into the laid back pace here so well that sometimes it feels like I’m living the life of a Senior Citizen. Recent Vegas antics and Portland wine tour  aside – my day to day life is pretty low key. I work from home and spend a lot of time alone or with my family. I was OK with all of this until one day I caught myself lingering a little too long for my own comfort in the scrapbooking aisle of Walmart before moving on to another store where I legitimately contemplated buying a giant body pillow shaped like a sock monkey. Hello, rock bottom. Nice to meet you.

A few days later my Mom sat me down and said:

“I’m getting kind of worried about you. I think you need to get out more”

I had to laugh to myself. A few months prior to this conversation, my life regularly involved going to a cocktail party, coming home around 11:30 (half tipsy), editing a freelance article before filing it & getting up early the next day to go to my day job. The last thing I needed was to “get out more”

My Mom: “I think you’re getting a bit….weird. Maybe you should try making some new friends”

Is it possible that my rapidly growing wooden monkey collection tipped her off?

Considering it was 4pm and I was wearing leopard print pyjamas when she told me this, I had to agree.

Lately, I’ve been trying to make more of an effort to socialize, make new connections and re-establish old ones. The last time I actively tried to make new friends was when I moved to Toronto, 12+ years ago. Here is what I’ve learned from the process this time around:

Making new friends means doing things you never thought you’d do. 

This summer I did something I swore I’d never do.

I joined a book club. 

I’ve been anti-book club for as long as I can remember. Mostly because I dislike the idea of “assigned reading.” However, my friend let me in on a secret: book clubs are really just an excuse to hang out, drink and eat delicious things. I’m very good at doing all of those things!

FYI. We’re currently reading Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by the Bloggess and How to Make Love like a Pornstar by Jenna Jameson, which we’re meeting on Thursday to discuss. This is my kind of book club.

Although joining a book club feels like the stereotypical thing you do when you move back to a small town, it’s a start. You can’t go on a wine bus tour everyday. Besides, the book club girls are nice and I just might get to wear my rainbow Marc Jocobs shoes after all.

What I didn’t mention about the wine tour that I probably should, is that I spent the next 12 hours afterward being violently ill. It was bad. Really, really bad. Like, “I’m so embarassed that I’m 31 and this is happening to me” BAD. Me and that much wine are not friends. My Mom and I were discussing this the other day:

My Mom: “You really freaked your sister out. She called me that night to tell me that you were passed out on the bathroom floor”

Me: “I heard that conversation which means I wasn’t passed out. I was merely resting between dry heaves. There’s a big difference”

To which I added with a smile and a raised eyebrow, “Besides Mom, you should be proud of me. I made a lot of new friends that day!”

Mom: “I think you should stick to book clubs”

So there you have it. Things to take away from this post: I need to make more friends and probably quit drinking.

If you have any advice on either of the above, please share!

A Long Overdue Post about Portland, a Bus, Wine & More Wine.

Last week I was in Portland Oregon for 5 days. My sister was playing at a music festival in Portland over the weekend so my Dad and I decided to tag along & turn it into a family road-trip. I know what you’re thinking, “Two family road trips in one month Simone?! Are you insane?!” Truth be told, this road trip was a lot of fun and I kind of fell in love with the city of Portland and it’s denizens who seem to spend all their days eating & drinking delicious things, riding bikes and looking ridiculously healthy while doing all of it.

One of the things I love most about being part of the blogging community is that you automatically have this network of really cool people that you can hang out with wherever you go (going to events like Bloggers in Sin City where you meet bloggers from all over obviously helps with this.) When I told fellow #BiSC Alum Doni that I was going to be in Portland for a few days she invited me to join her on a Wine Bus Tour of Portland. As soon as I read the words “wine” and “bus” together, my response was “Yes please!”

Last weekend Portland was host to the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference. Thanks to some of Doni‘s handy connections, last Thursday we were able to tag along on a “Wines of Chile Portland Bus Tour” that took us around Portland on a red double decker bus to some of the city’s finest dining spots where we sampled delicious food and Chilean wine. It was a fun afternoon full of hanging out with cool bloggers, yummy eats & delicious wine. OMG, SO MUCH WINE (I can’t emphasize this point enough.)

Doni and I met the group at the hotel and hopped on our ride for the afternoon:

Me, Doni and Elia on board the bus (drinking pink sparkling wine of course)

One of the nice things about blogger events is that you never have to feel guilty about being on your phone:

Our first stop was Andina, a delicious Peruvian restaurant where we sampled two different Chilean wines – Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc and Cono Sur Pinot Noir and ate what I consider my perfect meal – grilled fresh octopus with chimichurri sauce & caper majado de papa (so, so delicious) – before getting back on the bus to head to our next stop.

(More wine & photos after the jump)

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Things I Would Tell My 20-Year Old Self # 10 – Kate

I’m on vacation this week visiting my family in sunny Kelowna, BC. I’m trying to stay as “unplugged” as possible so I am really glad that Kate of Suburban Sweetheart  volunteered to write the next instalment of Things I Would Tell My 20-Year Old Self.

Suburban Sweetheart was one of the first blogs I really connected with when I started blogging. Kate has killer writing chops and is by far one of my favourite bloggers & writers, period. From her hilarious documentation of daily life, to her heartfelt posts about her loved ones, Kate is the only Blogger that has managed to make me laugh so hard I snorted AND cry, all within a couple posts. I’ve heard her blog described as “Seinfeld-esque” which is partially true – if you know, Jerry Seinfeld was female, had a social conscious and was actually someone you wanted to be friends with. Kate is smart, witty & stands up for what she believes in. This is all to say that I think she’s great and I am really honoured to have her guest blogging for me! I love her advice to her younger self and I hope you do too.

Dear 20-Year-Old Kate,

Man, it’s going to be a rough year for you. Like, “rough” doesn’t actually cover it. You thought last year was rough because during your sophomore year of college, life started to get a little nutty: You joined a sorority. Your roommate-slash-former best friend moved out. Your boyfriend of a year dumped you because he said you were “too depressing” (ouch). You were almost arrested for smoking pot with your RA, of all people. You drank a lot, slept around a lot, and cried a lot – sometimes all at the same time.

Kate, everything that happened last year was just building up to this one. Your twentieth year should be exciting, right? You should be full of “I’m not a teenager anymore!” happiness and excitement. But if you thought last year was bad, this year is going to grab you by the hair and smash your face against the ground like a bitch in a bar-fight. You’re going to wonder whether you can make it through; you’re going to doubt that there is a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel that is your life. You’re going to think about killing yourself, but your ex-boyfriend is going to do it to himself first, and then you’re going to go bat-shit crazy for awhile. You will transfer colleges, move in with your mom, start dating someone new. You will basically lose yourself – not just this year, but for another year or two afterward, as well.

If I could give you a few pieces of retroactive advice, my dear young self, they’d be:

  • Life is better when you’re alive. This sounds like a given, but you don’t really feel this way right now, andI’m worried about you. Don’t you dare squander this opportunity to live your life.
  • Don’t date down. Years from now, you will recognize that in your grief, you started dating someone who was all kinds of wrong for you. A nice guy, sure, but do you really want to be dating someone with no education and zero ambition? Someone who laughs like a donkey with a sinus infection and dances like he’s being electrocuted? Take note, 20-Year-Old Kate. Bad choice.
  • Your sadness does not define you. At this point, you’ve started to believe that unless you’re hideously unhappy, you are not being your true self, like you’re some magnet for disaster. You’re a better writer when you’re lost, it’s true, but you’re also miserable, so it’s not actually a great trade-off. Let yourself get better, Kate. Let yourself be happy. The writing will survive. Let yourself survive.
  • Medication is not embarrassing. You’re going to cry like a baby when your doctor prescribes you Prozac – but then it’s going to start working, and you’ll never be embarrassed of it again. You wouldn’t think twice about taking medicine to control diabetes or high blood pressure, would you? Neither should you feel any shame about your depression. Let modern science work some miracles on you.
  • Just say no to McGriddles. Commuting to college from your mom’s house for an 8:00am class every day makes stopping for fast food breakfast reaaaaally tempting. But, um, I’m going to hate you for this one later because those pancake sandwiches sure have done a number on my – er, our – once enviable figure. Stop eating your feelings.

Let’s be honest, 20-year-old Kate: I can’t change things for you, no matter how much I’d like to try. The truth is that you’re in a bad spot right now, and you’re going to be for a couple more years. It’s going to be a long, hard road back to the top, but please believe me when I say that you will get there. And once you do? Man, you’re gonna have some stories to tell.

Lots of love,
Almost-28-Year-Old Kate

Follow Kate on Twitter (@heysuburban) & check out her wonderful blog here

What advice would you give to your younger self?

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