Cupcakes, and other tips for Surviving your 20’s With Your Sanity Intact.

Hey so remember that time I got so insanely busy that despite jotting down ideas and taking pictures of all my new recipes, I didn’t actually blog for 6 months? Me too. Cool times. Not. Anyways – with graduate applications completed and a new village to call home I am back! (This one is legit a village. I heard the cashier at the grocery store say she had to go to the city, and by city she did not mean Toronto. She meant Barrie. True story.)

This is the view from our new place!! It was worth moving in a snow storm.

This is the view from our new place!! It was worth moving in a snow storm.

Something that has been on my mind a lot for the last few months, has been this idea of “I’m doing it wrong.” I’ve written before about how “should” is a really annoying word to say to yourself, but what I have been noticing lately in myself and others is this tendency to look to other’s lives to see how we are doing or to tell ourselves where we should go next.

You ever have that moment of self-doubt when you’re thinking, my God! Look at these other people’s lives – they’re so freaking perfect! What the heck did I forget to do to get there at this age?!

Don’t lie, we all go through it. And it’s worse thanks to the internet and it’s boundless amount of information all waiting to gnaw away at your insecurities.

I moved back home this summer. And I was feeling okay with this decision. It’s not like any of my friends had really big kid jobs right? And then they started getting really real big kid jobs as I call them. And in a fit of desperation I bought Adulting: How to  Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps (By Kelly Williams Brown if you’re interested!), which helped, but didn’t settle the unease I felt when my cousin got a job as a Director of Physician recruitment. And my high school friends started their Master’s degrees and at least half now had corporate jobs. People were growing up and going out in the world and getting real jobs. Then at least once a month I started noticing all my high school friends/acquaintances getting married and some were pregnant (or had kids). I mean I don’t really know how I feel about the kids thing, but they clearly had their lives together! Right?!

But in all this self-doubt and Facebook dream crushing there are four very important truths to remember:

  1. You Can’t “Win” Looking at Your Neighbour’s Test. 
    No seriously. Just like that grade 10 math test – you could be sitting next to the smartest kid, but they may still make a mistake. Except in this case, you’re not even writing the same test. Life is different for everyone. I have a friend who is several years younger than me and in a mild panic about what she should do with her life. And because she wants success, she looks at what others call success and wants that. Even if it’s never been an area of interest for her. Even if she’s really good at something else.
    What makes sense for my best friend who just completed teacher’s college makes no sense for my friend who is halfway through his engineering degree. Just because a friend is married and working doesn’t mean that answer A was the only correct answer.
    B) Stay at home and save up/figure out where you want to be,
    C) Go to school some more,
    D) Have a job and be single and awesome,
    E) Eat cookie dough from the freezer because you don’t know what to cook for dinner, and
    F) All or none of the above
    Are all valid answers. Really they could all be summed up into – find what makes you happy and do that. That’s the right answer. As long as it doesn’t involve routinely consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, ever consuming illegal drugs, electing to never clean your home/self ever again, or something that would seriously harm someone else, then by all means – continue. You’re doing fine so far.

    You're probably gonna fail with this strategy, but at least the internet is entertained.

    You’re probably gonna fail with this strategy, but at least the internet is entertained.

  2. Don’t expect a road map. (but if you’ve got a tour guide, feel free to ask questions)
    If you are confused at this point see (1). When I started university, I was (and still am) the first and only member of my family to attend/complete university. I had no freaking clue was a DGD was (similar to tutorials I think, but everything at uOttawa is bilingual, so we end up with a lot of palindrome shorthands). I also did not know what shawarmas were and had never eaten poutine. There were a lot of things about surviving and doing well in university about which I was totally clueless. I was lucky and clearly figured most of it out on my own, but I still graduated kicking myself for missing out on  lots of opportunities and wishing I had known things sooner. That’s life. Sometimes you have to accept you have no clue where you are going, sometimes you’ll follow bad directions (like the time my cousin told us “turn left and go up!”… we’re not all great at map reading. I can barely even point north when asked.). But pick where you want to go, ask for help when you find it, and accept that odds are at least 22.8% of the time you’ll feel at least a little lost, but I promise you’ll get wherever you are supposed to be eventually.
  3. Success generally takes longer than it takes to make cupcakes. 
    By all means try the cupcake trick. I mean you probably will be at the same life point afterwards, but you’ll at least have cupcakes. Which nudges you ahead just a bit. In reality, success is a slow and drawn out process that requires focus, drive, and general motivation (because not everything you need to do to become successful is fun to do but it has to be done). The only rule to this is that you have to keep going. At this point in my life I am at least 59.2% sure that the bulk of our problems with success and life in general are caused by impatience and unrealistic timelines. Chill. Plan ahead. But seriously – chill. And go buy a cupcake.
    kid president
  4. The Golden Rule Applies to you too. Talk to yourself like you talk to your best friend.
    (Really, just talk to everyone like that. But let’s go ahead and keep the inappropriate stuff to the actual best friends. The Starbucks lady needs you to be nice to her, but she doesn’t need to know about the epic sex you had last night.)
    When things go wrong or we screw up, a lot of us have a tendency to do one of two things: A) We get mad at the world, or B) We get mad at ourselves. Both are destructive, but at least the other guy can walk away when he’s had enough.
    I’ve talked about this in the past, but be nice to yourself. A trick I use is I ask myself – would I say this to my best friend if she came to me with this exact story. Odds are I wouldn’t tell anyone, let alone my best friend that he/she is a total failure at life because they didn’t [insert crushing disappointment/failure here]. I might give her some advice, reassure her that this was a mistake, but I’d tell her it’ll be fine and she’s still a cool person.  So be a little kinder to yourself. And as my mother says to me, “Stop making mountains out of molehills.”
    On the flip side. Imagine someone, say your ex or some human being who missed the manners memo, kept texting you or calling you or spamming your social media to mock or berate you. How many times would you listen before you blocked their number or reamed them out for their general lack of decency? Probably not long. So be nice to you…

    Rule #1

    Rule #1

And that’s all I got. I’m not perfect. My life is a hodge podge stuck in limbo still at this point. And at least 10% of my brain is consumed with thoughts along the lines of “oh-my-God-what-am-I-doing-with-my-life-I-am-going-to-live-with-my-parents-forever!!” and a further 12% is consumed keeping those thoughts in check. But I trust it’ll all work out eventually. Fifteen years from now, my life will most likely look nothing like what anyone else’s “perfect” looks like. It’s going to be chaotically perfect.
And overly caffeinated.
With at least 3 more throw pillows than Aaraf considers functional.

For now I’m going to dance around my kitchen to “Shake It Off”
T-Swift knows what’s up.


“Who Inspires You?” Is Sort of Complicated

This post was brought to you by a grande Blonde foolishly consumed at 7:30PM.

So throughout my entire education to this point I have been repeatedly been asked for the names of people who inspired me. Problem is that the question makes very little sense to me, so I stumble through some sort of answer, picking the most common people and mimicking my peer’s explanations. The question got a little more complicated when my manager informed me that ahead of Sunday’s staff meeting I need to bring in a 3×5 photo of a pet that inspires me. And I thought, “I love my cat, but good Lord, I have enough trouble doing this with people. How do I answer how she inspires me?!”

I am actually convinced that there is very little a cuddle fest with this cat cannot fix. But the only thing she inspires me to do though is nap ;)

I am actually convinced that there is very little a cuddle fest with this cat cannot fix. But the only thing she inspires me to do though is nap 😉

And this is the issue.

It’s not that I am narcissistic or feel no debt to the aid people have provided me over the years whether emotional, occupational, or instrumental support (you know like the time my grandpa came and got me and then called a tow truck to pull me out of the ditch, or my parents providing a roof over my head). It’s just to me “inspired” always comes with a “to…” as in “my mom inspired me to go to university.” (except I think I mostly did that because a) I realized what I wanted to do required multiple university degrees, and b) because I was expected to because I was smart enough to succeed).

People encouraged me yes, supported me yes, and I am in awe of what some people in my life can do and have done (really they are super heroes without capes) but I generally attribute events in my life to social norms – like smart people go to university; or to my own decisions and passions (without really contemplating much where those passions arose). For example, I fell in love with psychology when I was in grade 11, my school had such a limited social sciences and humanities department that while there was a grade 12 sociology class (the one that made students either wear a fake bump for 24h or carry around a fake baby for 24h and get signatures indicating that they changed diapers, fed etc), the only psychology course was combined with anthropology and sociology as an introductory course. This was also about the time that Criminal Minds came out (and no I wasn’t expecting my career to be exactly like the show, I just liked the idea of understanding people’s minds, but I was more on the help normal people thing than the criminal profiling thing). So maybe you could say Mr Crawford, the teacher of this course, inspired me to go into psychology, and he was one of my favourite teachers, but, inspired me? No. He was more of a placeholder. It probably could have been any other person, and it was more of an interest piquing than inspiration, and the content not the person did the piquing.

I love to cook, and I am awestruck by celebrity chefs, in particular Gordon Ramsay and Joe Bastianich, but my foray into cooking and baking has little to do with them really, they’re more people I am in awe of – they did nothing to trigger me to do anything.

The issue for me isn’t that I think people are all place holders, it’s that the term inspiring makes little sense to me.

I am proud of my parents, and for the person I have become because of their guidance. Whether it was intended or not haha

I am proud of my parents, and for the person I have become because of their guidance. Whether it was intended or not haha

While I think some people are pretty kickass, like my mom who raised 3 kids while working full time and still found time to bake with me and read to me every night.

I am also proud of my grandparents. Who drove 6 hours to see me finish my first half marathon.

I am also proud of my grandparents. Who drove 6 hours to see me finish my first half marathon.

Or my grandparents who have always done the best they can with whatever money they had, and they never said no to a friend in need, they are so full of love and care for others. And many of the professors I have met over the years have been fantastic – really funny and informative, tough but fair. Or my guidance counselor in high school who noticed I was hurting and pushed for me to get the help I needed.
So I guess you could say my mom inspired my love of books, and possibly my cooking love, but she still calls marinara sauce marinaro sauce, and I love her for it. And I guess you could say my grandparents inspired me to be an incredibly caring person, and my grandma probably played a bigger roll in my love of baking than my mom as we spent countless P.D. days baking together. And you could say that the professors inspired love of different areas of psychology, and my guidance counselor inspired me to want to reach out and help other people.

Really though, when I look at inspiration seems to require a massive level of awe, an incredible feat that makes you want to do something, like reading about the Boston bombing victims and admiring their strength and courage and that they are running the Boston again as paraplegics, but I don’t really want to follow in their footsteps on that one (no pun intended). But their actions are still inspiring.

The story of Peter Sagal and Erich Manser is amazing, heart warming, and fills you with an understanding of can't and don't want to.  For a link to Manster's blog click here.  Photo from here.

The story of Peter Sagal and Erich Manser is amazing, heart warming, and fills you with an understanding of can’t and don’t want to.
For a link to Manster’s blog click here.
Photo from here.

So because I tack on “to” to the idea of inspiring, this concept seems odds to apply to people in my daily life. Especially since I am sort of a trailblazer within my family – we don’t even know any psychologists – ergo, who exactly inspired me to become a psychologist? No one, just my love of the field, my yen to understand the human mind, take it apart and see what makes us tick. My passions drive me to do things, I rarely feel inspired to do something, but I am frequently awestruck and admire a lot of people for what they have done and continue to do.

So yeah it’s a complicated question.
Or I make it complicated.

The way I see it, all these incredible people throughout my life have shown me how I should be as a human being.
My mom reading to me created an enjoyment out of it from the attention, but also sparked my imagination and showed me the joy of getting lost in another world. Her sacrifices and “mothering” showed me the importance of family. Combined with her parents, I learned that family is number one and no matter how much they drive you nuts, family is first. They are everything and you care about them; but you also care about everyone else, because everyone else are people too, and people matter. Having pets in both households taught me that animals matter too, and can be just as supportive, even if they don’t “say” anything. My teachers and professors have shown me the value of learning and where you can get with hard work, as well as the amazing things I could one day do, but they also showed me that to be successful you have to work for it, life (and A’s) doesn’t get handed to you on a silver platter. My guidance counselor showed me that it’s important to reach out and help people and recognize those in need to support.
So basically – I can come up with a massive list of people I am grateful to, and of people who had some impact on me, but their impact was through the small and cumulative actions and they shaped my person not my actions and future endeavors.
These people are all amazing in their own way, and I appreciate the awesomeness of those around me. So maybe in a sense they all inspire me, but it feels cheap to use the term so liberally, so I skip it all together.

“Who inspired you?” is a complicated, but “Who changed you?” “Who pushed you to be who you are/do what you do?” “Who do you think is awesome/brave/incredible?” and “Who are you grateful to?” Those are all easy questions.
But maybe I just don’t understand the meaning of inspiration in the way that most people do. I see it as they inspire me to be something, not do something.

I think Google agrees with me

I think Google agrees with me

Childhood and Heroes

Sitting on the bus the other day I saw a little boy and his dad and I could just tell that this little boy LOVED his dad – his dad was his hero. I think we all grow up with a similar state of mind, psychology calls it the Oedipus and Electra complexes, but what struck me is when does this stop? Why?

maybe this is why we stop admiring them...

maybe this is why we stop admiring them…

Growing up I loved my parents (mom and dad, I know you’re reading this, relax I still love you), they were the smartest, strongest, best-est people I knew. I have very fond memories of my childhood and I am still very close with my family, but this year I have come to realize just how much I am different from my parents, how much I’ve grown into my own person independent of them. And yet when I was a kid, as I’m sure most kids do – I kind of wanted to be my mom. This is especially true for certain careers like doctor, firefighter, police officer, or vet.

Aww how cute. It is in the manual...

Aww how cute. It is in the manual…

What struck me on the bus is that the father was likely a construction worker, he had oil on his florescent yellow jacket and his hands were calloused. While there is nothing wrong with being a construction worker, I don’t think it’s something a ton of kids dream of. Maybe as teenagers they become more interested, and certainly from what I’ve heard it’s a high paying position. One that may make me rue the day I decided to spend 10% of my life in school for psychology, but it’s not one of those jobs that people tend to brag about, not the jobs that get you automatically labelled as a “fine upstanding citizen.”

This little boy clearly didn’t care at all – you could tell this little boy thought his dad was even cooler than all the superheroes combined. Which made me smile, but it also made me wonder when did I develop dreams of my own? When did my life plan become “please just let me have my own life.” In a completely loving way. No seriously. I love them. But do I want to be them? Certainly not. Especially not yet.

I’m enjoying not having bills and a mortgage payment to worry about, and while I regularly play parent when I am in the Village – getting groceries, taking the dog to the groomers and making dinner – I am not ready to have to do these things for anyone other than me. Grocery shopping on Saturdays and remembering to feed my cat before I leave for the night is enough thanks.

The big joke has been around the family for years, that well if this psych thing doesn’t pan out I can come back work in the “family business.” Which it’s a cool business, they’ve really done well from the days out of the basement when Molson’s announced they were closing the factory. But I have no interest in workplace health and safety. I think there was a time where this was at least vaguely part of my plan though. Maybe?

I went through a number of career options growing up, none of which seem even vaguely related looking back. I still remember the first time I talked to my parents about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I remember this being in response to some sort of school assignment that required me to do something on what I wanted to be when I grew up. Like I had a clue in grade 2. Sort of. I would love to say I remember the exact cutsie wording of telling my mom I wanted to be like her when I grew up, and I’m sure I said something to that effect, but what I really recall is going out to the garage and asking them what I wanted to be when I grew up. And I guess I was still at that age where I expected my parents to tell me everything I needed to know, including what I wanted to do with my life. We settled on marine biologist that night, but from there I jumped to chef, then forensic scientist, on to pharmacologist, then straight up doctor after doing my undergrad in psychology, then finally after a year of undergraduate I settled on psychology.

Sounds like I’ve got it all figured out right? Not really. I still don’t know what my end game is – do I want private practice or hospital? What area should I focus in? At this point I’m not even sure what I am having for dinner. Let alone where I want to be 10 years from now.

Watching the little boy on the bus, my heart smiled, but I know that 5, maybe 10 years from now he’ll hit a phase where he tells his friends his parent’s are lame/uncool/a pain. He’ll complain that his parents won’t let him go out, or that they wouldn’t lend him money, or that they made him finish his homework before going out. Regardless of how close kids are with their parents, there is always that one period in their lives, where they just wish they were older because quite frankly, mom and dad are “cramping their style.” I was super close to my parents, especially my mom, but I won’t lie, I went through it too.

Yeah... this is what normal will be to my kids...

Yeah… this is what normal will be to my kids…

Why? Maybe it’s some sort of strange rite of passage into adulthood? Maybe just an excess of hormones that have yet to be properly calibrated? Maybe social pressures? Kids laughing at them or making fun of them because of their parents or their relationship with their parents? Or maybe it’s just part of growing up, we have to become autonomous functioning adults, and our parents only know us as their babies?

It kind of made me sad, to look at this little boy and all his adoration, and know that one day he would probably yell at his dad for “ruining” his life, or that he would eventually stop looking at his dad with adoring eyes and switch to rolling eyes. My nephews are in the adoring phase and I wish I could freeze them their forever. It breaks my heart that unless I let them away with just about anything, I am likely to become a member of the “uncool adult crowd.” Damn growing up sucks.

dad vs mom

Today, I value my parents for entirely different reasons than when I was a kid. I admire their strength in the face of adversity, I admire the sacrifices they made for us kids growing up so we would never go hungry, I admire my dad for taking a potentially devastating bit of news and turning it into perhaps the best thing that could have happened (though it did also kind of take over our lives). I admire my mom for always putting others first and taking care of everyone, even though I wish she would put herself first sometimes. In short – I admire them for who they truly are, flaws and all instead of the flawless beings I praised as a child. And I guess for all their style cramping – they are the reason I have made it to where I am today.

So hey, thanks guys, you’re pretty cool after all.

So maybe that’s the consolation prize? That little boy may not unconditionally love and adore his dad forever, but one day he will love and adore his dad, not because it’s part of being a son, but because growing up has taught him that his dad is worth the admiration.

Seems fair.