Life Update: 02/18/19

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It’s been a while since I have been able to write something of substance. So much has changed within the last few weeks, but it is definitely a welcomed change that has impacted me positively, for the most part. So lets begin..

Yesterday I had attended a Sarcoma Cancer fundraiser in memory of a young neighbour of mine who fought against this diseases for years. Unfortunately, her battled ended in 2018 but her memory lives on through her family, friends, and community that have come together to raise awareness for sarcoma cancer. It is nights such as these that remind me of the power of community and how when we come together, great things are possible.

In a separate area of my life, which is that of fitness and weight-loss, I am proud to say that I am now down 45 pounds. To be honest, the past few days have been a struggle. With going out often, to valentines day, to just craving junk food, I haven’t been keeping up my routine as best as I can. So with that in mind, I’m taking today as a fresh start and going back to my regular regimen with an open mind and good intentions.

The school component of my life has been very chaotic. This term definitely maintains a heavier course load compared to my first term. There is constantly stuff to do- presentations to prepare for, papers to outline, statistics exams to study for- and it’s quite exhausting. This weekend was the only weekend I have had off since the start and yet even when there is no school scheduled…theres still assignments to do. Fortunately for me, I have a fantastic support system that encourages me on a daily basis. I have to give a shoutout to Chantal here because without her constant encouragement and kindness, I would probably be very overwhelmed and unable to focus without freaking out. I just recently found out I finished a course with an A-, and although its not my finest work, I will take the grade because that class was a pain in my… well… you get it.

Emotionally and mentally, I do feel rather drained lately, but when I say emotionally I don’t mean romantically. It’s actually rather hard to explain. I am the type of person who invites my friends to come speak to me whenever they are going through something difficult or just need someone to vent to, speak to, or seek friendly advice from, but not professional advice. Within the past 2 weeks, a large amount of my friends have actually come to me, and while I typically feel honoured and willing to help as best as I can, a lot of their stories hit home for me. As a result, I feel almost tired all the time and I think it’s because I have been shouldering everyones concerns, which normally does not impact me at all. But with school taking its own toll on me, this second source is also impacting me as well. I think it’s time for me to engage in some type of self-care for a little while and take a step back from offering my help until I feel recharged and ready to help others without draining myself.

I went out on a second date with the lovely guy I had mentioned in a previous post. Although I am still not dropping names, I can reveal that the second date was just as good as the first. We went to my favourite restaurant, which he says he loved, and then ventured to play some games at Dave and Busters. And again, it just felt right. We can poke fun at each other, and laugh at one another and just be ourselves, which I think is very rare these days. But he is also very sweet, kind, and warm, which makes me that much more comfortable with him. I will be seeing him again, I think a few times, this coming week and we already have various plans in March. I’m excited to see where this goes.

I’ll have to cut this post a bit short for now, as I have a school group call for 2 presentations that I need to take in 5 minutes. I hope everyone has a blessed week ahead of them!

These Three Words

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3 words. 3 syllables. Different contexts. Different places. Different people.

The phrase “I love you” is spoken every single day. It might be something we say out loud, or it might be something we say internally. It can be spoken to a parent, a sibling, a romantic partner, or another loved one we may have. I tell my mom I love her on a daily basis. I tell my little brother the same thing. Its a phrase that I exchange between my father some days, but barely to my older brother (for no specific reason). I’ve said it romantically. I tell my friends I love them all the time, as I do with my grandparents. But how often do I tell myself that? How often do we look at ourselves, and just say “Despite it all– despite your flaws, mistakes, and your shortcomings- I love you”? The answer is probably close to never.

We set goals for ourselves while listening to what society says we have to be.. and we allow that to dictate our worth. We create an image of ourselves, an image that we seek to become. We present a false illusion to others in hopes of gaining their validation and acceptance. To be recognized as socially relevant. But when we look at ourselves- in a mirror, a moment of mental reflection, comparing ourselves to others- its a never ending cycle of I’m not good enough. I’ll be good enough when… and then when I do this.. and this..

I can’t speak for the male population, but I know for girls, social media is ruining our perception of ourselves. Not all, but most girls are constantly engaging in physical comparison. We look at other girls on Instagram, for example, and think why can’t I be like her? Maybe if I change my hair, or wear more makeup, I’ll feel pretty. And when I feel pretty, then I’ll actually love who I am and be proud of that. And thats so toxic, because it is so hard to break that cycle. I know of people that will walk by girls at the mall and compare themselves to those around them. They see how they fair. What they can do to look just like them. I know I’ve done that before. And it hurts.

Insecurity is a real thing that comes in so many different forms. It is so difficult to not feel pressured to be a certain type of person. To get that amazing job or to constantly be motivated. I know I’m guilty of that. I’ve exerted pressure on people before too. But from a young age, thats what we’re told to do. We are told to be a specific type of person, and if we don’t become that… then we’ve failed.

Allowing ourselves to reflect inward can be really hard. It means that we have to face the good, the bad, and all things in between. We have to come to terms with who we are, where our lives are at that moment, the things we have done or the lack thereof. Sometimes not everyone can do that, and thats okay. But whats not okay is having expectations time and time again without giving yourself a break. It’s okay to have “wants”, but its not okay to let those “wants” dictate your life. We get so caught up in the moment that we don’t see how far we have come, how much we have developed, and thats exactly what we need to do, or rather, what I need to do. I need to take a step back and just recognize that yeah sure, I might not look like that person. Hey I might not even be as educated, or well versed, or in-tune with myself like that person is, but thats OKAY. And it’s okay because everyone is different and does things at their own pace. No one is the same, and in that, we all bring different things to the table. We all have our pros, and we all have our cons. We are all so unique, so gifted, and so talented in our own way.

So today is the day I take a step back and recognize who I am. Today is the day that I truly acknowledge the things I have accomplished and the things that I have failed at. But in looking at my failures, I will shed light on all the times I got back up and tried again. Today is the day I separate the thoughts of who I think I should be from the truth of who I am. Today I am proud of the women I have become in the last 23 years. I will acknowledge what I want from life, not what I’m told I need, and set my goals to achieve just that.

Today is the day that I tell myself that despite it all, I love you.

I Spoke About You, W.

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I got into a deep conversation with a new found friend. It’s ironic how the topic at hand was romantic relationships. I am a very guarded person these days, so I never intended for the conversation to go in this direction. Especially with someone new.

I had no intention of talking about you, why would I? But she got right into what I was trying so hard to dismiss. So I told her about you. Her final question? “If you had the ability, would you change your current romantic situation to include him again?”. I think she thought she knew the answer.

No. Because the fact is that everything I have been through has put me right where I am today, and I like where I am. That relationship taught me what I deserve, what I should stand for, and what I will not settle for. It showed me what I am willing to compromise on, how deeply and honestly I love, but it also showed me that love hurts and being vulnerable is scary. We weren’t growing together at that point, even though I wanted to. I really believed he was my forever, I was wrong. I was hurting almost everyday when he came back from being away, and he didn’t notice. He didn’t even seem to care. I felt alone. He was a stranger, not the guy I loved. And honestly, I would be betraying myself if I would just invite him back into my life again. I would be betraying my progress as a person. I would also be accepting all that he has done to me. If this was back in June, I would have taken him back in a heartbeat, but I’m not the same girl I was back then. She is gone. Destroyed by the past and I’ll never be that girl again. But that’s not entirely a bad thing. I am stronger. I am more resilient. I am more in-tune with myself. I am me, unapologetically and without reserve. Do I want him back in my life? Not in this moment, but I might consider future possibilities. But it would need to be a time where him and I could grow only through friendship. Starting a friendship now would be toxic, we would be like venom to each other. I still have moments when I resent him to be honest. What he did to me in October 2018 just confirmed my resentment. Yes, you heard that correctly..we ended in June/July 2018 and he reached out to me in October. He even told me he forgot my birthday…like really? That just put me back into that feeling of alone. How do you forget that? Did I really ever mean anything to him? What was once love is now just completely…questionable? I still care about him, but not to the degree I once did. The fact is, he choose someone else over me. He moved on extremely fast. It makes a person think. I thought I forgave him, but the reality is that I didn’t. I only told him that I forgave him so that he could continue to move forward without hurting. Why? I don’t know. I guess thats the type of person I am. I still put him ahead of my own self, but that has stopped. I just don’t trust him like I used to. But I trust me. And in this moment, I choose myself…

As soon as I finished my answer, she looked me dead in the eyes, and just said “Girl…You’re very self aware. You are so much stronger then you think you are. I’m being honest. Not a lot of people can go through what you did and handle it like you did. You’re a really strong person, Natalie, and that’s really admirable. I mean it. Like you are really inspiring and so strong. You deserve much more then that and I’m excited to see who comes your way. I’m just…wow”

In that instance, something changed. A sort of recognition. The past was in the past. Sure, I think about him sometimes. If I know him, and I think I do, he thinks about me as well, he might even miss me. Who knows, maybe I’m being conceded. But we have both moved on and that’s just how life goes.

Sometimes the pain is still there, but time will heal it completely. I remind myself that I love the memories and the idea of a person that just doesn’t exist anymore. I have forgotten the colour of his eyes the same way he has forgotten mine. My mind goes blank when I try to remember his smile or recall his laugh. He is fading. The most important part? I can taste freedom

Are You Ready For It?

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Back in December I was fortunate enough to complete my first official term in graduate school. A few days ago, I received my marks. But first, lets take a brief look at my Master of Psychology journey so far

My very first day was filled with undeniable fear. I distinctly remember walking into my first class thinking, do I belong here? Who are all of these people? Am I going to succeed or am I going to fail?  I was internally questioning my abilities, but I would never actually show that I was questioning my skill.Everyone always talks about graduate school as being highly competitive. I’ve even heard that your peers aren’t your friends, they’re your competition. Not only did this make me feel guarded, but I was very skeptical when people would approach me and start conversations.

The first few classes were a bit awkward because everyone was trying to figure out who they click with, who they would consider doing work with, and no one was truly comfortable with each other. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but it’s almost although overnight things changed. We started asking each other questions, people would ask me for help on assignments, we would make plans to go out and see each other, study groups were forming, personal things were shared, we were becoming a team.

It’s a nice feeling having people that you can turn to for guidance. I think there is still some underlying competition, but for the most part everyone is very well versed, skilled and knowledgeable. There is always something to learn from someone because we all come from different academic backgrounds, and in my opinion, that is a huge advantage for our school.

Two classes worried me the most this term: Quantitative Analysis 1 (statistics a.k.a math) and Interviewing and Alliance. Long story short, me and math do not have a good history. We had a test every time we had the class. Thankfully, this course didn’t occur every week but rather once a month. I found myself studying for the tests 2-3 weeks in advance to be able to know, understand, and apply the material to any circumstance. These aren’t your typical math tests that follow a “here’s the question, now use the formula”. This math class, psychology mathematics, used application as its poison. You didn’t have to know the formula, no calculations for the most part, but you needed to know when to apply what statistical applications and when. And you weren’t studying one or two quantitative measures…you were studying multiple outlined in mathematical jargon. You were presented case studies and research and you needed to dissect what was presented to you. It was tough.

The other course, Interviewing and Alliance, sounded complete fine until the professors teaching the course told us that we needed to conduct a live therapeutic interview in front of the whole class. So now not only were your professors judging your abilities for a grade, but your classmates were watching. Talk about anxiety provoking. The best part? There was no way to prepare for the interview because they choose the students at random. One therapist, one client, randomly selected. Each student got the chance to be the therapist, obviously, but it was even intimidating to be the client. Try having a student figuring out your vulnerabilities in front of your classmates, its hard. My heart dropped when they called my name to go up as the therapist. I never thought the sound of an iPhone alarm would make me so happy, but when that profs alarm went off to signal that my time was up I was ecstatic. I went up to one of the two professors after class ended that day and asked if she could provide me with any feedback. Her words? You did so well, it was a good interview. I was questioning if you were already in the field or not, thats how good you were. Keep practising because we can never get enough of that. But i don’t have any feedback really. You phrase your questions very well, you’re very attentive to your client. I put a start next to your name. You’re on the right track. You’re going to be great. Very well done, Natalie. To have that type of validation from a professor that has her doctrine, that has a practice, that is essentially living the type of life that I want to live one day, was so beyond validating. I felt all my worries fade away.

So what were my final marks? Pretty damn good if you ask me. I never anticipated these types of grades merely because I didn’t think I was capable of them. I got an A in both Quantitative and Interviewing, which was a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. I didn’t think I could do it to be honest. I was constantly comparing myself to my talents peers.

But at the same time, I was extremely dedicated to my school work this term. I have never pushed myself so hard academically, not even in my undergraduate degree. I went to work throughout the term as well. I was always busy. But school for me is something that can either make or break my future and my dreams.Graduate school requires attention, focus, and discipline. I need to do well now, especially if I want to go for my Doctor of Psychology in 2020, which I REALLY want to do. Why wouldn’t I want to be a doctor?

If anything, these marks act as proof that I am capable. These marks prove that I am my own worst critic but I can do this and I will do this. They act as a reminder that hard work pays off in the end. And despite your self doubt and self criticism, if you’re meant to do something… you will always find a way to make it happen.

But this did come at a cost. I experienced stressful moments. I definitely had times where I questioned if I was cutout for this type of profession because I found some things to be difficult. Fortunately, I had people to support me. My mom and dad were constantly encouraging me. So was my little brother, who would watch me highlight pages and pages of notes while telling me I was brave and my notes looked scary. Chantal, one of my new friends that I met through school, was always there if I needed help. She was also always there to tell me that I was being too hard on myself and that my work was excellent. Felicia, who just started her first term as an M. Psych student, was always giving me advice when I needed it most. Ryan, who stuck by me through the worst nights, was always in my corner. He gave me reassurance when no one else’s words would suffice. He comforted me on sleepless nights and stayed awake with me. His faith in me and my capabilities allowed me to have faith in myself.

Moral of the story? Stop doubting yourself. Give yourself a break. Don’t forget to breathe. Trust the process. Make room for selfcare. YOU GOT THIS.

When Strangers Turn into Friends

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Objective of the week: complete a 4 day intensive graduate course with incoming students I have never met.

This week, I was placed in a room with 21 strangers. Imagine looking out into a sea of faces that are already all so familiar with each other and just feeling isolated. That was me on Monday. I thought to myself, these aren’t my regular classmates, and I’ll barely ever see them again, so do I really need to talk to these people? Just get through the week and you’ll be fine.

Looking back at it, those were premature thoughts that just projected my own insecurities. I didn’t give anyone a chance and made judgement calls right away. I automatically thought that because I was a semester ahead of these people, I wouldn’t be making or maintaining any friendships.

The fact is, this past week has granted me the opportunity to meet so many kind and generous souls. Due to confidentiality, I cannot go into depth about what events unfolded, but what I can tell you is that each and every person in this class has allowed me to see the world in different ways.

I was able to see the world through different cultural, creative, and professional lenses. I was enticed to self-reflect and see where I, as a person, can improve myself. But most importantly, I was given the opportunity to really know people- not their likes and dislikes- but rather their most guarded selves. This act alone is very intimate and sacred.

Being able to hear and see people be so vulnerable with each other is a gift. It’s not something that comes easy or is just expected, but it is something to be cherished when it occurs. I know that for me, being vulnerable is very rare and only happens with those I feel comfortable with. So when someone was vulnerable with me, I always tried to thank them for their bravery.

Earlier this week, we had to take a test that would indicate our own personal strengths. Mine included:

  • Kindness & generosity
  • Honesty, authenticity, & genuineness
  • Humour & playfulness
  • Social intelligene
  • Citizenship, teamwork, and loyalty

Each student was expected to grab a large sheet of people and write down these strengths. After doing so, we were told to go around the room and sign everyones sheet. There was no particular way to sign, meaning we could either write our names or even add a little message. I wasn’t expecting much to be honest. Of course I made friendships, but I did’t expect anyone to write anything for someone that wasn’t going to be in their future classes. I was beyond surprised at the beautiful heartfelt messages that were left on my paper. I have never felt more appreciative for a group of people in my life, besides my own cohort. After reading their messages I realized.. not only did I see their true nature, but they also saw mine.

At the end of the four days, it was actually really difficult to leave these kind hearts and my new found friendships. I exchanged numbers and socials with a lot of people. I found out that a few students also live near me, and we all made plans to stay in touch and get together at times. It was so nice to hear people say how much they would miss me, or how much they wished I was in their class permanently.

The moral of the story? Try not to have preconceived notions about something. Sometimes having a judgement can really mess up great opportunities and friendships that would otherwise not reach their full potential. I am so happy that I was able to break out of my old thoughts and embrace all of those around me. Go into things with an open mind and endless positivity. The world can be a great place if you just be receptive to the good things around you. I can gladly say that I have easily made some good friends for life.

Although that class finished yesterday, I have an 8 a.m. course to get to this lovely Saturday morning. And even though I miss the group of new students, I can’t wait to see my own cohort. It’s been almost a month since I saw them last because of the holiday break. For my group, it’s like people who were once strangers in a crowded room waiting for their professional life to start, have now become a family.

I Promise this Promise

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Ever since I was a little kid, promises were something that I took very seriously. In my eyes, promises were binding agreements that put forward someones true and real intentions. If you didn’t have true intentions, you don’t make the promise. No false hope. True colours. Simple.

Not my photo

The problem with this is simply that because I recognize my promises to be truthful and timeless, I assumed that other people did too. And that is my own fault. I believed every promise I was ever told. I believed it, no matter its context. I believed the friendship promises, the reward promises, and the relationship ones too. And each broken promise hurt differently. Someone once said to me a version of “I was once made the same promises I made you and those were broken. So why do I have to keep mine with you?”. I wasn’t being regarded as my own person. Instead I was disposable because of a broken promise that once hurt him. This made me raise my guard. Some broken promises even made me question if I could ever really be loved and be someone’s wife someday.

A lady at work once told me that my heart was a naive one. When I looked at her, puzzled and in shock that she said that, she just looked at me totally calm and collected and said “not everyone has a pure heart like yours. People will make false promises in order to get what they want. People can be greedy. You, Natalie, are just too genuine. You fight to see the good in people even after they’ve wronged you. Your level of forgiveness and compassion is rare, but it’s your biggest weakness. Don’t play the fool in your own story”

She told me that back in August 2018. For months I didn’t believe her. How could my heart be naive? Yet time and time again, I would think about our conversation. Something kept drawing me back to it. Maybe she was right. The fact is that i’ll never know if people really stand behind the promises they make with me. But what I do know, is that my promises are real and I keep them.

So, I promise this promise…

For those that have wronged me in the past, I promise to try to forgive you at my own pace. If I can’t forgive you, I promise that I tried but couldn’t see past the events that unfolded and the emotions elicited.

For those that I call my best friends, I promise to look out for your best interests and be present at any moment you need me. I promise to be a shoulder for you to cry on when you need someone there. I promise to bring you laughter when you’re feeling down. I promise to answer your phone calls at 3 a.m. I promise to just be there for you as best as I can be.

To my family, I promise to make you proud. I promise to be more involved in everyones lives. I promise to love each and everyone of you so unconditionally and whole heartedly.

To my future self, I promise to never stop fighting for you. I promise that you will reach your goals. I promise that you will end up right where you’re destined to be.

Dear Santa

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My Christmas started the same way it always does-with my little brother knocking on my bedroom door telling me to wakeup and get downstairs. I haven’t been excited for Christmas in years, and this time was no different. I think as you get older, that Christmas magic just starts to disappear for some people. My participation in Christmas festivities is usually wrapping everyones gifts, and competing with my older brother to see who got our little brother the best gift. Hint: it was a very close call this year, but he won.

Anyone who really knows me can attest to how much I dislike receiving gifts. I prefer to be the gift giver, just because I like seeing people smile and making them happy. Usually when people ask me what I want, I just answer with “nothing” or “I don’t know”. The funny thing is, even when I say that, I still appreciate something small but prefer handmade thoughtful gifts above store bought items.

Usually the gifts I receive prove that no one really knows me or what I like. And as a teen, that kind of sucked. But as an adult, it’s something I had gotten used to because I just started to appreciate receiving gifts as a whole. Putting on that smile and saying thank you was just a habit at this point, but this Christmas was different. This Christmas made me happy, and honestly, it made me cry. Everyone got me a gift that reflected the things like I like and the events I enjoy. My brother pulled through and got me Ariana Grande tickets. Although I’m beyond grateful for him and his gift, looking at them now.. I feel bad. They were expensive and I probably should not have asked for them. But hey, see you in June Ari!

Im grateful for every single thing I have received from my friends and family, but two gifts really stood out to me the most this year. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by people who have nothing but pure intentions, genuine kindness, and love. The first gift is from my parents. They donated to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) on my behalf. For something that seems so simple, this small act means the absolute world to me. Not only does it mean that my mom listened to what I wanted, but it also means that she recognizes how much mental health means to me. It shows that she not only supports the field I’m trying to get into, but it also demonstrates that she is willing to also support the cause of fighting the stigma. The second gift is from my best guy friend, Ry. I told him time and time again that I didn’t want anything for Christmas. I’ve grown so accustomed to guys saying “okay” and not gifting me anything for the holidays, or even birthdays. The first few times thats happened to me, it’s been totally cool. But as the years go on, it kind of sucks to put a lot of effort and thought into someones gift and then see them put no effort into something for you. It almost makes you feel like you aren’t worth their time. But anyways, instead of buying me something (which I refused on several occasions), he got creative. He’s currently in the process of writing me a story, and although its understandably not completed yet, he gave me a rough outline of the main plot. Evidently, Ry is a writer. So to receive a gift that showcases effort and dedication…it feels good.

Natalie, I know deep in my heart you were placed on this earth to make a difference. Thank you for opening our eyes to those in need. Merry Christmas little bean. God bless you today and always. May 2019 bring you plenty of open roads to pave! Mom & dad

My Christmas day continued at my aunts house, where my moms side of the family gathered, as Christmas Eve is dedicated to my dads side of the family. It’s crazy to see how much my moms side of the family has grown, there’s easily 45+ of us. You’d think that in a family that large we would be distant and not see each other often, but the truth is that we are close and tight knit and have each others back through thick and thin. You can feel that unconditional love when you go hug someone, that genuine two arm hug with a bit of a squeeze. I almost dont want to let go, and with some people, we stood just hugging each other in silence for at least a minute. Unspoken actions can sometimes speak the loudest.

I found myself in so many different conversations that night. But the one question that my Nonna (grandmother in Italian) always asks is, “when you going to bring the boyfriend to ma house? You so smart and so beautiful. You need a smarta boy”. Any Italian granddaughter, or any granddaughter really, can relate to that question! And its not just a one time question..it happens every time I see her! Regardless, I love her and her food with my entire life. Although there were plenty of adults, I spent a lot of time with the really little kids that night. You know, the ones that are just starting to walk, or even speak. Its the absolute best when you first see them and they’re super shy, but 15 minutes later you’re their best friend and they want to stay with you. Theres just so many different aspects of that night that I want to write about, but if I do that you’ll be reading thousands of words. But if I could sum it all up I would say…

Dear Santa,

It’s been two years since I’ve been able to really appreciate Christmas again. This year, the magic of the holiday season granted me the ability to appreciate all the thoughtful actions of those around me. I am so thankful for being able to spend another Christmas with all my grandparents that are simply getting older as the days go on. I feel privileged to be surrounded by my family, friends, and loved ones, this holiday season. I hope that all the little kids around the world were filled with the spirit of wonder when they awoke to gifts from Santa. For those who recognize that Santa isn’t a physical entity, I hope that their holiday was one that instilled the magic of Christmas. Thank you for gifting me a holiday season with minimal snow flakes, laughter, happiness, and most importantly, love.

A Year in Review

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Someone asked me what I remembered the most from 2018 and the lessons that life has taught me in just a year. Initially, my mind went straight to the negative. But instead of dwelling on past events that I no longer have control over, I started to truly reflect on 2018. This year was actually amazing and granted me with various opportunities for reflection and self-growth.

January – June

The early side of 2018 was one in which I spent my time supporting my ex- partners dream of entering the military. The months preparing for his departure into boot camp, and continuing on with no communication for 2 months, were hard. But in that time frame I gained a perspective on myself that I never really had until just recently. I put my own wishes aside so that he had my support and encouragement. I sent him 3 letters per week while he was in boot camp so that he could have a little bit of comfort while there. At the time, I didn’t think much of this, simply because I thought it was the right thing to do. However, after looking back and hearing some stories, I found that not many people do these things for their partners when there is space between them. Although our time expired, I am now able to acknowledge my level of commitment, loyalty, and selflessness, that I was never truly aware of. Traits that I hope I can carry forward with me into 2019.

In the meantime, I was busy in school completing my undergraduate degree in psychology. I was also simultaneously applying for graduate school in order to pursue my own dreams of becoming a psychologist, a dream that seemed so close but so far away. I distinctively remember being at work when I received an email that would essentially change my life. In April, I was granted acceptance into a Master of Psychology program here in Toronto. Now, I know people would typically call their parents right away, but I called my best friend who showed me so much unconditional love and support when she found out. And shortly after, she too was granted admission. As this was unfolding, I didn’t feel as though I was excited for the future ahead, at least not until I could officially complete my undergraduate degree. In June, I officially graduated as an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Psychology student. I don’t think anyone really prepares you for the moment when your name is called and you get to walk across that stage. It’s as though I felt nervous, happy, accomplished, and relief all at once. All I remember thinking was: Don‘t fall. Don’t fall. Shake all these peoples hands. Don’t fall. Don’t fall.

July – December

Limited Edition Vans Warped Tour 2018 ticket signed by Derek DiScanio

I spent most of my summer working and trying to get my mind off of things and meeting new people. I got tickets to the Vans Warped Tour Toronto date, where I caught up with friends and saw bands that I’ve admired for years, and met my favourite singer, Derek DiScanio. I saw the likes of State Champs, Crown the Empire, The Maine, Waterparks, etc. I also ran into one of my favourite people and past co-workers, Nail. Have you ever heard of that theory where they say being held tightly actually makes people feel better and has proven to be beneficial on several occasions? Well, just as I was starting to think about the memories I had with my ex-partner, I saw Neil. After he shouted “Oh my God! How are you gorgeous?!”, he gave me the biggest and digest hug that I’ve probably ever received. We caught up for a little bit, and ran into each other from time to time that day. I missed my friend, and to this day I don’t think he knows what he did for me in that moment. I also remember watching We the Kings while they were playing a song called I Feel Alive. I remember the lead singer, Travis, asking everyone to just forget about everything they’re going through, and be here with him in this moment. Something resonated with me when he Sid this, and I had this indescribable feeling of freedom. July was also the month I genuinely connected with someone, but thats a story for another day.

Eiffel Tower at night – August 2019

August was a month filled with adventure and uncharted territory. As a graduation gift to myself, I went to Europe with two of my best friends. We ventured through England, France, Switzerland, and Italy. From walking the grounds of Buckingham Palace, to sitting under the Eiffel Tower at night, this trip was anything short of breathtaking. I’ll admit, I fell in love with Switzerland and Italy. Lucerne, Switzerland is like a postcard. I woke up one morning, walked out onto my hotel balcony with my best friend looking up at the mountains that surrounded us, and just thought, can I leave my life behind and stay here forever? Part of me needs to go back to Lucerne, but another part of me longs for Venice and Rome. On a day to ourselves, while everyone else ventured to a nearby island, me and my best friend Felicia, ventured around Venice. Let me tell you, Venice is a labyrinth. Luckily, we didn’t get completely lost, but this was easily the best day of the whole trip. Yes ladies, Italian boys are absolutely. beautiful, but that wasn’t the only captivating thing about Venice. Sitting by the water watching the gondolas go by, eating fresh pizza, partially speaking my families native tongue.. I could go on forever about this trip. Maybe Ill put my trip into a separate post sometime soon. Needless to say, this was a journey of a lifetime. I met so many people, and so many amazing friendships were forged with individuals from all over the world. And definitely plan on visiting my New Zealand and Australian friends in the near future!

On the side of one of the many mountains in Switzerland
Venezia (Venice) – August 2018

Coming back fro my trip meant one thing: school was starting soon. I was excited and nervous at the same time. This is my future. This is the point I’ve worked tirelessly to get into. Walking into a class full of unfamiliar faces can be intimidating. But within a matter of minutes, this room full of strangers become a room full of family. I have never been more grateful for a group of people who radiate nothing but positivity and genuine intent. This type of group is rare. We’re not in competition with each other, but instead we create a space for growth and development. If one person is feeling down, we all band together and life them up. It’s quite extraordinary. I truly believe that I have made friendships that will last a lifetime.

It was one of these friendships, along with my other close friends, that really helped me through a tough time. Without saying too much, I lost someone very dear to me back in 2016. Recent events in October had reopened the emotional wound that I had been tending to for years. I looked perfectly happy on the outside, but inside… I was a complete mess. I would wake up to messages from my friends asking me how I was, if I wanted company for the day, or even telling me to call them at any given time if I needed someone to talk to. I had support from everyone that mattered most to me. And that feeling, that feeling of just love and being genuinely cared for, was something I hadn’t felt in years. I hope everyone gets to experience this type of love on a daily basis.

November was a month filled with mixed emotions. I said see you later to one of my closest friends who is now living her best life in California. And although I miss her dearly, I know that she is happy, and most importantly, she is healing and growing. November was also the month that I did something that I have always wanted to do- get certified in suicide first aid. I took a 15 hour certification course in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) in order to help those who are contemplating suicide. I have a suicide first aid ticket on the back of my phone in hopes that someone who needs to talk will see it, and in turn come to talk to me if they would like to. Although a tender topic, suicide is something that I hold very close to my heart. Through this training, I can now confidently help those around me to the best of my abilities. I also have training for mental health first aid in February 2019. I would encourage anyone, mental health professional or not, to receive this training, because you don’t know who will need your help and the difference you could make.

As for December, well I’m living in it right now. This month has essentially been my zone of reflection for 2018. I recognize that I never saw the value of a moment while I was living it. I had to take a step back and appreciate it after the moment had passed. If anything, this year has taught me to be grateful for the moments we have, the opportunities that we are granted, and for the people we get to know and meet. I have learned to be present in a moment, and appreciate it while its happening, instead of thinking about anything other than what’s right in front of me. 2018 has shown me that yeah, life has its unfortunate moment that you cant always control, but you can control how you react to them. I’ve loved and I’ve lost. I’ve. been told that my happiness is reliant on me finding another person and being happy with them. I’ve been told that I need to find myself again. But thats the thing, I was never lost. I was almost always happy, single or not. I have definitely changed this year. But thats just is, who said that I have to stay the same? Welcome change, embrace it, and become it. Evolve.

Special Thanks

I just wanted to take the time to acknowledge a few people that made my year beyond special:

  • Felicia, one of my best friends, your unconditional love and support has helped me in ways that you will never know. I genuinely cant picture not having you in my life. Thank you for always being there for me and wiping away my tears during my rough patches Our friendship is something that I cant put into words. You’re essentially the sister I have always wanted
  • Ryan, I have never known someone who could give me mental and emotional support the way that you can. We have known each other for a little while and you understand me in ways that not many people do. Your patience with me is unparalleled and I cant picture my world without you in it. Thank you for sticking by me through it all
  • Chantal, I cannot being to express how happy I am to have met you back in June. Our friendship is something I will always cherish. Thank you for always having my back, for dealing with me 24/7, and for your constant encouragement. I cant wait for next semester, but most importantly, I cant wait to watch our friendship become even stronger than it already is
  • Jonathan, we ma not speak everyday but you always check-in to see how I’m doing. Our conversations allow me to think clearly and rationally, and you give me some of the best advice. Thank you for being my voice of reason when I’m overly stressed.
  • Monica, I am so happy that we reconnected when we did. Words cannot capture all of the things I want to say. Your constant encouragement and trust in my abilities, and just me as a person, mean the absolute world. I am so proud of the person you are, and the person you’re becoming
  • Steph, Nicole, Alessia S., Brittany, Chelsea, Danielle, Celina, Daniela, Michelle, Jessica, Alessia C., Veronica, Alex, & Neil, thank you for every single thing that that each of you has done for me this year. You have all played a part in my 2018 that has made it as special and as significant as it is. Here’s to more memories, laughter, and smiles.