Letters to anyone,

I’m not sure what it is about 1:00 am that really draws me in but I seem to find myself in the same place, every night.

I was fifteen years old when I first fell in love. The feeling, unlike anything I’d ever known before in my life, took over me like a fire engulfing a home in a mere matter of seconds. Before I knew it, I was flat on the pavement wishing for the ability to be anywhere but where I was.

It’s funny how life does that to us… knocking us on our ass when we least expect it, testing us, seeing what we’re capable of and how long we can withstand the pain of heartbreak and heartache.

You know, Michelangelo believed the best way to judge the essential elements of a sculpture was to throw it down a hill and the unimportant pieces would break off. Sometimes, I think, life is like that. It tosses us down a hill. But when we reach the bottom and only the important things are left, that’s when our vision clears.

Would I go back in time and change anything? Certainly not. Could I have been smarter, done better or avoided the heartbreak? Certainly, absolutely, and not at all. When I made it through that, my vision cleared. The beauty of heartbreak is that it teaches us, not only about ourselves and who we are. but heartbreak teaches us what we want for our lives and what we don’t want. And 15 year old me, well she had a lot to learn.

I’ve heard people say that if you wait long enough, if you hold out hope and always keep trying, good things will come. And I think, slowly but surely they do. I don’t think it’s a massive change, as though you get to wake up one morning and be a completely different person. I think it’s much more subtle than that. We make small improvements every day and suddenly that heartbreak that encapsulated our entire existence seems like a distant memory.

The heartbreak I am suffering these days, it’s a different kind of heartbreak. I do think the same principles apply, though. 30 year old me, she still has a lot to learn. And this heartbreak, it may not be over a boy, but if you asked me honestly I would tell you it hurts just the same.

Well, I had this all thought out in my head and now that I’m here, I’m having a hard time drawing this to a close. I want to say something profound, something hopeful, something thoughtful, but I can’t. Small changes, I guess. One day at a time. If you’re there, if you’re struggling, if you’ve been tossed down the hill, just remember that those unimportant pieces are falling off (being left behind) for a reason.

Sincerely, Vee.

30 lessons to live by

While I believe there’s truth to the statement ‘you learn through experience’ I also believe there’s truth to the idea of learning from others mistakes, gaining from others wisdom and becoming who we are thanks to those we surround ourselves with.

Even if they might sound cliche, there’s plenty of life lessons that can be learned from the simple act of listening/reading. In a lot of cases you might already know these lessons. In a lot of cases, it’s just a matter of re-reading it to put it top of mind.

Here are 30 lessons to live by that withstand the test of time:

  1. You are not your parents. As much as people might try to tell you that you’re just like them… you are not, I repeat YOU ARE NOT, doomed to repeat their mistakes or force yourself into the same situations as they are/were in. Be yourself, don’t try to become them.
  2. Collect moments, not things. Memories are the only currency we have that doesn’t diminish in value with time. While tangible objects collect dust and can invariably disappoint over the years, our memories never dim, nor fade. They forever live on in our minds with a bittersweet sense of belonging.
  3. A man is not a financial plan. This one comes directly from my mother. Trying to hinge your bets on living off someone else is an insecure way to live. Make sure that you’re capable of looking after yourself financially, then your partner can add to your life, not control it.
  4. Debt isn’t worth it. Buying things you cannot afford might fix your problems in the short-term, but long term will give you nothing more than stress and anxiety.
  5. Failure is growth. Society tends to tell us that failure is a bad thing and that’s really not the case. So long as you’re learning from your failure, you’re growing as a person. Learn from your failure and you’ll appreciate your success so much more when you accomplish it.
  6. Comparison is the thief of joy. As cliche as it sounds, it’s true. Don’t compare your step one to someone else’s success. [Insert Name Here] might be a billionaire at 20, that doesn’t mean you’re a failure if you’re not.
  7. Change is good. Even when it seems like it sucks. Remaining stagnant in a world where change is all around you is a naive failure to flow with the natural order of the world.
  8. Age is just a number. Don’t ever discount someone because of their age. Age does not tell you intelligence, competence, capability, confidence, or anything about a person beyond the year they were born.
  9. Body positivity has zero to do with what you believe is attractive. Body positivity is a respect for the human body and what it does for a person. What you find attractive in a person has NOTHING to do with treating people with respect and appreciating what your body does for you and their body does for them.
  10. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. There’s no need, reason or excuse for being rude, mean or demoralizing. If you can’t be kind, keep your mouth shut.
  11. Putting up walls diminishes authenticity. Creating a persona to shield yourself from surrounding judgment, or potential judgment, diminishes the integral aspects of who you are. Don’t let your true self fade behind the walls you build.
  12. Exercise contributes to every aspect of your well being – physically, mentally and emotionally. It improves your health and your outlook. It forces much needed serotonin on your brain and can vastly benefit your outlook towards the world.
  13. Giving love is one of the best gifts you can give. Receiving love is one of the best gifts you can receive. Never underestimate the value of love.
  14. You get more from giving more. Success doesn’t come from seeing how much you can take. If you want to live a life of abundance, give with grace and give as much as you can.
  15. Even if you’re questioning whether to let your head or your heart decide, ensure you listen to your head. That tiny-voice inside of you always knows what’s right.
  16. Grudges cause nothing but pain. Allow yourself to move on from the past. Remember that just because you forgive does not mean that you need to forget. You can forgive someone and not carry the weight of the pain they caused whilst remembering so that you don’t ever have to suffer that same pain twice.
  17. Travel makes you more interesting, insightful and an accepting person. You learn when you see how others experience and you become more open to things beyond what you could ever imagine. Travel and travel often.
  18. You aren’t always right. There’s always more than one version to the story. Practice humility and remember that you’re wrong sometimes, too.
  19. You define your life. If you want it to be meaningful, make it meaningful. If you don’t, you won’t.
  20. You cannot control others, only yourself. Make sure that you’re a positive example of what you want the world to be.
  21. Gratitude multiplies happiness. Consciously focusing on what you have, rather than what you don’t, is the best use of your brain.
  22. Please yourself first. Don’t wait for approval from others in order to look after yourself. Just like no one in this world can make us feel as bad as we can, no one in this world can make us feel as good as we can.
  23. Self-awareness is more valuable then personal achievement.
  24. Knowledge is power. The more you learn, the more you earn. The more you know, the more you bring to the table. The more insightful you can be, the more tolerant and understanding you are. Don’t ever stop learning.
  25. If you want something done right, do it yourself. You know what’s right for you. Don’t try to pass it off on someone else if you know you’re more than capable.
  26. Your thoughts are like boomerangs. What you put out into the universe will come right back to you. What do you want coming back?
  27. The easy road is never that. Trying to take the easy way out is like trying to cheat the system. In the end, it’s going to come back to haunt you.
  28. Honesty, even when it hurts, is far better than any lie, comforting or not.
  29. If someone shows you who they really are, believe them the first time. I’ve heard this quoted to Mya Angelou. She’s pretty darn right on the money when it comes to this quote. Offering second chances always seems to show you what you already know/knew.
  30. Make every day count. You never know when it will be your last.

On ‘shattering glass ceilings’

I remember the excitement I felt when my nephew was born. While my sister-in-law was pregnant, we had been told while my that he was going to be born with some pretty serious health issues, so the day he was born a healthy, happy baby boy with ten fingers and ten toes and seemingly, perfectly healthy, I couldn’t help but think we had been given a gift from the universe.

I promised myself that kid was going to know everything good in life. I wanted to share with him a love for things like Frank Sinatra, the smell of old books and the feeling you get when you walk in the rain. More than that, though, I wanted to share with him a desire. A desire for what he loved, for what he wanted, or for more. Always more. See, if I could teach my nephew just one thing, it would be that he never settle. He’s capable of so very much, and I say that in part being a biased Auntie and in part being an optimist who believes, with the right motivation, he can be whatever and whoever he wants to be in this life.

I remember the excitement I felt when my niece was born. I was over-the-moon at the prospect of a little girl gracing this family of boys that I’d been living in for so long. (The female gender is grossly underrepresented in my family) The day that I held her in my arms for the very first time, I remember thinking that I’d never seen anyone on earth more beautiful than she.

I promised myself that she was going to know everything good in life. I wanted to ensure that, as a girl growing up in a family filled with men, she was given every opportunity to be whomever she wanted to be – whether that girly and dainty, or rugged and strong (or all of the above). More than that though, I couldn’t help but think about how different her life was going to be from that of my nephew. See, if I could teach my niece just one thing, it would be that she seek to shatter glass ceilings and not fit into glass slippers. There’s no need to fit in to a world in which she’s born to stand out, stand up and create her own kind of incredible. She’s capable of so very much, and I say that in part being a biased Auntie and in part being an optimist who believes, with the right motivation, she can be whatever and whomever she wants to be in this life.

This year I’m soon to have another niece. I’m also going to have one more niece or nephew (we won’t know which until that baby is born, as my brother wishes to be surprised by the gender. I think it’s a girl. Cough. Totally a girl. Cough). My brother, Aaron, has asked me to write something for his baby-to-be. He said, if I could teach his soon-to-be little girl just one thing, what would I teach her? Honestly, I think if I could teach her anything it would be that she seek to shatter glass ceilings, not fit into glass slippers. I know that it’s cliche, but I stand by the statement.

Girls are raised differently than boys. We’re taught to be quiet, to not be too opinionated and to worry more about how we’re perceived on the outside than how we’re perceived on the inside. Boys are raised to be strong, opinionated and with the notion that the world is at their fingertips. It’s just a fact of life. I think if I could only give one thing to my nieces it would be that they know they’re strong, can be opinionated if they want to be and that the world is also at their fingertips.

I have no worries for my nephew. He’s growing up to be one hell-of-a kid. He’s articulate, intelligent, strong, loves sports and all the good music, he thinks it’s cool to dye his hair purple. He knows the world is his oyster. Presently he’s talking about wanting to be an astronaut and go to space when he grows up. And, if he still wants to in ten years, I have no doubt he will.

I worry about my niece, and my niece to be. While my niece is one hell-of-a kid, I can’t help but feel as though we’re sending the wrong message as a society when she tells me she’s not allowed to play hockey because it would make her too manly. How does an eight year old come to these conclusions? They’re taught to her. They’re taught to too many girls and I don’t think it’s right. In 2019 a girl should be able to be whomever she wants to be, and it’s time we start teaching that to the female gender.

And if, in time, she decides that the glass slipper is what she wants to wear, I’d be more than happy with that fact. So long as I know she’s not settling for it, and that it’s her choice, her desire and her dream.

The world is your oyster, my dear. All you have to do is believe.

Stupid things I did when I was a teenager.

Story time!

Back in the stone-age, pre-facebook, circa the point in time where cell phones were just starting to become common, there were so very many reasons to be happy and so very many mistakes to be made. That is what it means to be a teenager, after all.

Hey, we’re all human right?

I’m the middle child. I’m also the only girl. It’s safe to say that the majority of my child-hood was spent being ignore or forgotten about. That’s not me whining, that’s stating truth. Parents with four sons tend to worry a lot more about their sons then about their daughter’s making bad decisions. (Sorry boys) I had a double-whammy as I was also the middle kid. Middle kids across the world can attest – we get forgotten about a lot.

I took full advantage of being forgotten about and did a lot of stupid things. I love reading stories like these – hearing what people were like when they were teenagers. Hearing the trouble we caused and the lessons we learned that have shaped the adults we’ve become.

  • I let someone pierce my bellybutton at a house party using a safety pin.
  • I borrowed my parents vehicle to go for pizza. I just didn’t tell them that pizza with friend’s was in the States. This was, obviously, prior to legislation coming into place requiring a passport to get across the border.
  • I used to skip 4 of the 5 days per week of school to go to the hospital and spend it with my friend. Thankfully, school was always something that came relatively easy to me. When it came to writing exams or figuring things out on my own for homework, it wasn’t too difficult.
  • I dyed one half of my hair pink and one half of my hair blue. Dying my hair a crazy colour isn’t something I consider to be stupid. What I didn’t like though was that I did half one colour, half another. That looked ridiculous.
  • I dated a drug dealer. For several years. And I believed him each and every time he said sorry and that he’d changed and that he wouldn’t treat me like shit anymore.
  • I, along with a friend, decided one weekend that I badly wanted to see Alaska. Alaska was not close enough for us to get to in a weekend without getting on a plane. But, for some reason, we got in her car anyway and started driving. We got stranded in the middle of a no-cell-reception portion of the drive with two flat tires at 2 am and started walking until we could find someone to help. We got into a truck with a strange man at 3 am (thinking back on this I’m amazed we didn’t get chopped up to little pieces) and instead of helping us, the man drove us back to the car with the flat tires and left us there, in the middle of nowhere. That was a long, cold night.
  • I had a fake ID that said my name was Britney Spears so that I could start getting into bars at 16.
  • I broke my ankle playing soccer and, when they gave me an air cast instead of a real cast, I decided it wasn’t cute to wear to Formal so I took it off when I left the house. Let’s just say, walking around on a broken bone is not smart. I ended up making my ankle worse.
  • I was hired for, didn’t show up for and quit a job all in one day. Yeah… that one I got in a lot of trouble for from my parents.
  • My high school was a lot like that on Veronica Mars. Actually, it is/was eerily similar when that show came out I thought it might be based off my school it was so close. Anyhoo, some members of the basketball team got in a lot of trouble for gang-raping a cheerleader at a house party. One of their rich daddies was a lawyer who, not only got them off, but threatened legal suit against the school until the basketball team was reinstated to play. Feeling like we didn’t want these assholes to get off the hook for what they did, we did the only thing we could think of at the time (and I in no way condone this). Some kids from school and I went out into the parking lot during basketball practices and flattened all of their tires and put some serious scratches down the sides of their cars. Which, because the school was filled with children of predominately wealthy folk, meant that a lot of really nice cars had some really shitty damage done to them. While I know that I could have gotten in a lot of trouble for this one, so I don’t always share it with people unless I really trust them, I don’t regret this one. I don’t condone this behaviour, but I also felt as though those guys needed to at least suffer from something that their lawyer couldn’t legally get them off the hook for. It’s retaliation that didn’t/doesn’t make much sense… but what they did to that poor girl was inexcusable and horrible and though I don’t know her anymore, it probably still stays with her to this day.

Honestly, I could go on and on. I was an idiot I know that. But I also know that you learn from the choices you make in life and I believe that everything I’ve been through has brought me to this point. I’m a pretty resilient person, at least I’d like to think I am. So I don’t mind when we all gather around the table and share stupid stories of years passed.

We were all young and dumb, once. I’m so glad I’ve become a person who can embrace who I was. I don’t like regret. I once heard someone say that you should never regret anything because at one point in your life it was exactly what you wanted. Well, that’s how I try to lead my life. Embrace it! And, if anyone has actually read this far, tell me a story of a stupid thing you did when you were a teenager.

Things I wish I knew when I was 22

  1. It’s not the end of the world. Yes, things sucked. Debt is not fun. Having shitty people in your life is also not fun. Realizing that the bull shit you thought you were going to be done with when you finally find your place in this world is a fact of life. But, at the end of the day, you’re still going to wake up tomorrow and put one foot in front of the other. Move on, don’t forget, just look past it.
  2. DON’T EVER SETTLE. The moment you do, you’ll end up with so much less than you ever settled for. You are important. Yes You. And don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. If you want to run a marathon – instead of listening to someone tell you why you can’t, put your running shoes on and get to training. If you want to be a doctor, you better be willing to study. If you’re going to be President, you better want to be president. Barack Obama didn’t just wake up in the Whitehouse. How many people told him it was never going to happen? He didn’t give a damn and neither should you.
  3. Just because you don’t talk to them for long periods of time, doesn’t mean they’re any less of a friend. Shit, life happens. You know that better than anyone, so don’t go holding it against the people in your life when they get busy.
  4. If you let the bad stuff matter more, you’ll never be happy. Heartbreak and loss, destructive insecurities… they’re the inevitable facts of life that catch up with everyone eventually. When you don’t have a reason to be happy, give yourself a reason to be happy. Just as much as you want to be happy, the people in your life want you to be happy too. So go get a pedicure, walk in the rain, buy a puppy… whether the reason small or large, give yourself a reason to smile. You deserve it.
  5. Remember to laugh. Remember to cry. Remember you’re only human. As much as it might suck to feel vulnerable, strength comes when you discover your weaknesses and overcome them. Laugh a lot, cry a little and learn your lessons. Repeat.
  6. Go easy on yourself. Everyone and their dog can say “I’m my own biggest critic” because we’re always aware of our biggest flaws and greatest insecurities. Thing is, even the harshest critics in the world take a day off once in a while. If they don’t that negativity will take over who they are. Are you going to let it take over your life?
  7. Play the lottery. Lightning isn’t supposed to strike twice, but it does. The underdog isn’t supposed to win, that doesn’t stop them from it. Not asking is worse than asking and getting a no. Not playing lessens your odds a whole lot more than buying a ticket. You never know when your windfall will come. Open your arms and let it.
  8. Work. Work hard. Work your ass off. “C’s may get degrees” but in all honesty, what reason do you have for not doing your best? Laziness is a demon that will eat away at you if you let it. Be the best version of yourself. Work, work, and work. Each time you do something, strive for a higher achievement. You don’t know what you’re capable of until you get there, so work your ass of and get there.
  9. Rome wasn’t built in a day. As much as it’s become common place to say, it still isn’t really understood properly. Change is not an overnight occurrence. You won’t wake up tomorrow and be a completely different person. It’s a much slower, much smaller process than that. Don’t expect yourself to change, allow yourself to change. One day you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come and wonder how you ever were that person.