musings on: wanderlust

I’ve never been big on this whole “wanderlust” concept that has taken twenty-something culture by storm in recent years. I’ll admit I went about my post-university years in a fairly conventional way—which I guess, these days, is actually pretty unconventional. I finished my 4-year degree and went straight to grad school; I spent the last semester of grad school applying for jobs and going for interviews; I received a contract position and started working a couple of weeks after graduation; and my contract position eventually led to a full-time job. I moved to a new city and got an apartment. I bought a car about a year after that. And life has basically been moving along pretty seamlessly since. Of course, I’ve always made plenty of time for fun and adventure (because otherwise, what’s the point, right?) but I’ve always put a lot of value on responsibility and direction. That’s just the way I’m built.

Now here we are, about three years into my career, and I’m feeling very ready for a bit of a mix up! Call it wanderlust, call it restlessness, call it finally having enough money in the bank, but with my twenty-sixth birthday fast approaching (eep!) I find myself longing for a change of pace and a change of scenary. Am I content the majority of the time? Of course. Am I looking to completely rebuild my life? No. Do I feel the need to escape everything and everyone around me? Definitely not. But am I feeling a need for rejuvination? Well, yes. You see, in my mind, we can’t possibly make the most of the very limited time we have (especially the limited time we have as young, healthy, energetic, unattached twenty-somethings!) if all we’re doing is cruising along at full speed moving singlemindedly towards all of the things we think we want and need—money, a better job, love. I think it’s infininitely important to have goals, and to go after all that you’re looking for in your life, but sometimes taking a breather, reevaluating, and simply enjoying being who and what you are at this particular moment can be the best thing for you—and can help get you ready for what’s to come. Often, to get out of your head, you just need to get out of town.

Luckily for me, my vacation time is scheduled, my tickets are booked, my bags will soon be packed, and I’ll be jetting off for a month-long European excursion with three of my oldest and dearest friends in just a few weeks. I feel very blessed and crazy excited. I can’t wait to soak in beautiful countries and cultures, meet incredible people, eat incredible food, and take in a little piece of what the world has to offer.

Even for a tried and true straight path gal like myself, sometimes a temporary dip onto a winding backwoods trail is exactly what the soul needs.

The Lone Traveler

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musings on: gratitude.

Fittingly, in the aftermath of Mother’s Day, I was reminded the other day—for the zillionth time in my twenty-something years—that my mother is remarkable. How she manages to stay on top of her own life, career, and marriage while also patiently and lovingly dealing with the issues and demands of four children who are all in completely different stages of their lives with completely different needs (seriously—we’ve got a late twenty-something, an early twenty-something, a second-year university student, and a high school student. How?) is a quality I am continually in awe of, and one I can only hope I’ll be able to replicate with my own children one day.

It had just been one of those weeks—you know the ones I mean. My job isn’t right. My love life isn’t right. My bank statements definitely aren’t right. Where should I be living? What should I be doing? And what am I doing wrong? Oy. My mom stayed on the phone with me for who knows how long, listening when she needed to, laughing when she needed to, and offering advice when I needed her to. She said a lot of things that made a lot of sense (like she always does) and managed to pull me out of my temporary funk (like she always does), but one thing she said to me really stuck:

You attract the same energy you’re putting out into the world. If you give off negativity and depression, that’s the only thing people will see in you. If you’re tough and positive and grateful, you will attract the things you want.

This might sound like a cliché—something I should know by now and not something I needed my mother to tell me—but I’ve learned never to underestimate the power of a cliché in a critical moment. Clichés of romance, clichés of inspiration, clichés of motivation—we overuse them because, more often than not, they are exactly what is needed and what makes the most sense in a particular situation. And, in my experience, they also tend to be true. And I think there is infinite truth to the point my mom was trying to make: if you’re grateful for what you have and hopeful about what’s to come, everything you have will feel like enough and the things that follow will fall into place in their own time.

It’s strange, and maybe also a little sad, to think that the people who are most blessed tend to be the ones who struggle most with gratitude. Why is it that the more we have and the more things go right in our lives, the more we lament what we don’t have and the things that have gone wrong? I made a prime example out of myself the other day. I have a job in an industry I long hoped to be a part of (even if temporarily), working for a company that I believe in and with people who are kind, intelligent, fun, and supportive. I have a big, loud, loving family who I can say anything to and do anything with, and who are always there when I need them. Whether I go back to my hometown, or to the city where I attended university, or to the city I’m currently living in, I’m lucky enough to find people who love me and friendships from different phases of my life that continue to enrich me. I’ve been successful enough so far to afford an apartment and a car and, on a smaller scale but equally important, things like groceries and a gym membership. I’ve been able to travel. I volunteer for organizations I care about and have met endless people who have inspired me. And, never to be underestimated, I am healthy. Things aren’t perfect, and like every person (twenty-something or otherwise) I am definitely a work-in-progress, but all things considered, I am blessed. Why is it so hard to remember all of these things when you’re feeling disappointed or hurt or overwhelmed? Maybe it’s just that innate human desire to continually be better—do more, see more, have more, be more. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think I would be equally unsatisfied if I was becoming complacent with my life. But there is a critical difference between being content and stagnant and being content while evolving. I can be satisfied with what I have and make the most of my life as it is on this day but still know that there is more for me—and believe that I will get there.

So I choose gratitude. Grateful for where I’m at. Grateful for the people that surround me. Grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given. Grateful for mom.

musings on: the 20/30 transition.

I was out for dinner with some girlfriends over the weekend, and someone brought up the point that we are now an entire undergraduate degree away from having completed our undergraduate degrees (4 years, yikes), that we are now much closer to 30 than we are to 20 (can that be right?), and that if we want to have kids by the time we’re 32, we really should have met the guy who will be the father of said children, like, yesterday. A little frightening, no?

Let me start by saying that I have never been a big believer in the “biological clock.” I’m not denying that such a thing exists—it is scientifically proven that women who become pregnant and have children past a certain age are putting both themselves and their baby a little more at risk. What I mean is that I don’t believe in putting that kind of pressure on our bodies; I think that our lives unfold in different ways and at different times, and there is really no use in becoming frantic about the fact that we aren’t quite where we thought we might be by a certain age.

But this kind of anxiety is all part of what I’ve started to call the 20/30 transition—those few years in which you’re caught moving between the chaotic student life of a 21 year-old (whose main concerns are: exam schedules, flipcup, pub crawls, all-nighters, jeans vs. trackpants, and complex carbohydrates) and the somehow even more chaotic life of a burgeoning adult in their 30s (who is more likely to be dealing with things like the corporate ladder, RRSPs, car payments, credit card statements, mortage vs. rental, and, of course, that dreaded biological clock). For those readers who are still enjoying the relatively carefree life of someone in their early 20s, here are a few things you can look forward to. (The rest of you, you’ll know what I’m talking about.)

  • A weekend bender now results in bloodshot eyes, a killer headache, the dehydration bloat, and a seriously unproductive Monday at the office, instead of a 3:00pm wake-up call and a trip to the closest fast food joint.
  • “Dating” used to mean making eyes with someone over the beer pong table, maybe a late night study session or two, dancing the night away at the campus bar, and then giggling as all of your friends gush about what a cute couple you make. It now involves tracking down a bar with the appropriate demographic, self-help books, online profiles (cringe), awkward, not-so-subtle matchmaking from your couple friends, and sifting through endless man-boys (think Britney Spears’s “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman” anthem, the masculine version) who aren’t quite sure what they want yet (which is OK, because you really don’t either).
  • Monday mornings now begin by putting on your newest blazer, commuting to work, and arriving at your desk to find a massive to-do list courtesy of your boss, instead of rolling out of bed at 10:00am, putting on your newest school-incrested hoodie, and then falling back asleep in the back row of PSYCH 101.
  • Your relationship with your parents used to consist of hastily written emails telling them you were still alive as you ran out to either a class or a party (because where else would you be?). It now involves regular phone conversations in which you are hyperventilating over your lack of money, your lack of a decent job, your lack of a decent apartment, and/or your lack of eligible men—and them assuring you that it will all be OK.
  • Holidays with your family used to involve questions about what classes you were taking, what cool clubs you were a part of, and what you might want to do after you graduated. They now involve variations of the question: “Why haven’t you met anyone yet?”

Case-in-point: growing up is hard. But no one ever mentioned that “growing up” doesn’t end after you turn 18—in fact, it continues (and seems to become increasingly harder) as you make your way through your 20s towards the age where you can no longer pretend you’re not a real adult: 30. And, not to dampen the unique set of pressures faced by people in their 20s who are balancing the standard demands of building a life and a career on top of caring for a spouse and/or children (because I have mad respect for you!), but my experience suggests that the 20/30 transition is especially daunting for the singles of the world. Trying to figure out who you are on top of trying to figure out what type of person you want to be with—and how you are ever going to manage finding such a person—feels impossible. But here’s what I’ve started to learn: you can always count on Paul McCartney for some solid words of wisdom.

Take these broken wings and learn to fly.

We can work it out.

Let it be.

Time will keep turning. The biological clock will keep ticking. 30 will come, whether you feel ready for it or not. And you will be fine.

j.