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Leisure/relaxation/free time 

My concept of leisure and relaxation has — at some point — attached itself to feelings of guilt, unworthiness, and selfishness. We're living in a time of doing, not being. Of getting things done but not necessarily enjoying the process. From wishing for the weekend only to spend the weekend working on our personal to-do lists; fixing up our living spaces, taking care of personal admin, and Marie Kondo-ing our t-shirt drawers. I could go on. 

While these guilty feelings towards leisure can be partially blamed on societal influence, I believe we can re-define this concept for ourselves in a way that aligns with our lives. I myself have had a complicated relationship with leisure. Years ago, I was the chronically busy over-achiever. This led me to an inevitable burnt out and I became anxiety-ridden and eventually struggled to even leave the house. I became dependent on relaxation for survival. This was a much needed wake up call and led me to discover many relaxation techniques. I started to value leisure as a productive activity. I then overly-embraced and, to be honest, ~preached~ wellness and relaxation techniques. 

I eventually learned that while my well-intentioned advice works for me, it may not be for everyone. This led to a phase of focusing too much on what I perceived were "wellness activities" and forgetting about the fun things I loved doing that weren't directly impacting my "wellbeing". It was almost like I couldn't enjoy activities that weren't aimed at my wellness. Sometimes staying up late to have a few drinks with friends is what I need. Sometimes spending three hours in a thrift store is what I need. I've learned that leisure doesn't always look like yoga, meditation, and staying inside all the time. 

This leads me to the present. I now feel like I've reached a happy medium where I know what relaxation means for me personally and that it isn't a waste of time — nor is it something I have to be doing at all times to stay well. 

Since moving to London, I've been making time for weekends away and booking my travels around things I have always wanted to do. I did all the right things for my recent weekend away in Bath, UK. King size bed — check! Spa booked — check! No other plans/time to just 'be' — check! 

While this weekend away gave me much needed time and space from the city and the spa was truly rejuvenating, I couldn't help but feel a thread of guilt woven into my weekend. Guilt around treating myself, feeling not worthy, guilty for taking time off work, and and guilty for investing time and money into something that could've gone towards something more productive like paying off debt. 

Before these guilt trips had the chance to full absorb my weekend, a book — of all things — changed my mindset.

If you know me, you'll know I'm not a big reader. Since moving to London and spending a significant time on public transport, I've started reading to pass the time. While in Bath, I stumbled into a bookstore in search of new reading material for the train back.  A series of small neatly packed books caught my eye.  One in particular, On the shortness of life; Life is long if know how to use it by Seneca caught my eye. I've been curious lately about slowing time and experiencing the truth of what it means to be alive. Written in 49 AD, I am surprised by how relevant this book is. Seneca is leisure's biggest cheerleader. 

For as soon as their preoccupations fail them, they are restless with nothing to do, not knowing how to dispose or their leisure of make the time pass. And so they are anxious for something else to do, and all the intervening time is wearisome: really, it is just as when a gladiatorial show has been announced, or they are looking forward to the appointed time of some other exhibition or amusement — they want to leap over the days in between. (Seneca)


I think everyone can relate to the feeling of wishing it was the weekend or counting down the days until the next vacation. Seneca views time — specifically, our personal time — as something of enormous value. We give our time so freely to work, other people, chores and activities that we don't enjoy. He applauds the enjoyment of being with ourselves and doing things purely for our pleasure: 

You are winning affection in a job which it is hard to avoid ill-will; but believe me it is better to understand the balance-sheet of ones own life than of the corn trade. (Seneca) 

This is not to say that we should all just quit our jobs and live a life of leisure — this simply isn't possible for the majority of people. Being someone who derives a lot of purpose and meaning from my job, I wouldn't do this anyway. I do think we could slow time by valuing our personal time more, by making time to enjoy leisure, and time to embrace and respect the art of living. Starting this book on the train ride back helped dissolve some of the guilty feelings and allowed me to take a step back to reflect on my previously complicated relationship with leisure. It feels good to reflect and pat my self on the back for how far I've come. 

As I've shared in my last post, I've been trying to slow things down. I've already been taking the time to walk a little slower and more mindfully, to not set time limits on activities, and to prioritize my wellbeing above everything else, however that looks for me. I think one of my greatest fears is that life will slip by me and I won't remember what happened because I was moving too fast. I want my life to be lived in the slow moments and the spaces in between

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I often get asked how do you like living in London? 

I frequently reply with I love it, I hate it, it's everything and anything, it's chaos, it's beauty and there's nowhere else I'd rather be at this point in my life. 

From the very first time I visited this city in 2014 to now — six months into living and working here — I've always been hyper aware of the chaos that ensues. Despite evidence stating that London remains one of the world's least dense big cities in population terms, there are still over 8.7 million people living here. Which is still six times more people than my Canadian hometown of Ottawa (1.3 million people). 

My perspective is unique — coming from THE land of vast, open spaces. Even after spending six months living in London, I am still in awe of the amount of people, the narrow streets, and THE. TUBE

I started to notice a trend on the streets and on the underground. 





Whether it's on the way to work or to meet friends, switching platforms on the underground, choosing a cashier line at the grocery store, or walking running up and down the escalator. These people are SWIFT! 

At first I thought ah, they must all be very late for work or an appointment. But then I started to notice it wasn't just a few people. It was a collective rush. Every single person is LATE!? This can't be. There's no way they rush from place to place just for fun!

In London, especially within public transit, it's not uncommon to see everything and anything. I feel like I've ~almost~ seen it all but nothing amazes me more than this constant buzzing phenomenon. 

London often gets compared to its American equivalent, New York. While NYC is famous for it's fast walkers, it turns out that they've been out-run by some of the European cities. A number of years ago, a study was done that ranked the fastest walkers in the world by city. Turns out New York ranked number 8, with London at number 12, and Ottawa, Canada OF ALL PLACES actually made the list at number 20. I guess fast walking isn't such a foreign concept to this Ottawa-native after all. 

Fast walking didn't actually seem that bizarre to me until one day I noticed that I, too, was fast walking. I felt like a fish that got swept up in a school of fish in a current that I couldn't escape from. It wasn't until I was sweating and panting — after manually climbing up the entire escalator — and realizing that I wasn't late, I didn't even have a job yet, and I was rushing for no reason — that I noticed a problem. 

Here's the problem with rushing. When I rush, I become hyper focused on the destination. My brain jumps to the future. I feel anxious and nervous about not arriving at said destination on time. This can sometimes lead to a spiral of negative thinking — and coupled with the heavy breathing and lack of mindfulness — makes me feel kinda shitty. 

For what? 

Ok, I've been late. Many, many times. And I know for sure that by the time I realize I'm late, there isn't that much I can do about it. When I'm late for something, it's almost always because I took too long getting ready and lost track of time. Rushing to my destination will only ever save me minutes. Mere minutes. That's all I get. And I've gone and rushed — putting my body through stress. 

As someone who's had a history of anxiety, I've figured out that fast walking is not for me. I have to work everyday at improving my environment to be as conducive to wellness as possible. Alas, this is why I've stopped fast walking in London

Sometimes I get caught up in the collective wave of rushing but I'm getting better and better at stopping myself. I'm aware that when I rush, I lose touch with the present moment and I become less mindful. I forget things more easily, I stress over pointless things that are out of my control, and it makes my breath fast and shallow. And if my yoga journey has taught me anything, it's that the speed of my breath dictates the speed of my thoughts. For me, the antidote to chaotic and catastrophic thoughts is slowing down my breath. 

I've talked about how London has been the best teacher for me. Living here has forced me to face myself in a way I've never had to. It's been humbling to start at square one and I've had to rely on me, myself, and I to figure this big dream out. Living and working here has brought my anxiety levels to a place I hoped I'd never see again — but it's also cemented my self-care routine to the top of my priority list. It's never been more important for me to do the things that keep me feeling well. I'm still not very good at asking for help but by doing what I can to stay well, I'm feeling better. Starting with walking at a slower, more mindful and relaxed pace. And I don't care who passes me.

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A friend recently described me as someone who is very comfortable with who they are. I think it's so rare to receive honest feedback about ourselves and I truly appreciated them taking the time to think about how they perceive me. The best feeling was not only hearing this but actually resonating with the feeling of being comfortable with who I am. 

This whole journey over the past six months (packing up my life and moving to London, England) has really tested my self-worth. It's made me confront so many fears, lingering insecurities, and negative self-talk. Even within just one aspect of this move —the process of finding a job— I had to analyze every detail of what I had to offer and sell myself; and in turn, I've had to face a lot of rejections. This whole experience has given me a stronger sense of self and a huge appreciation for who I am as a person. 

Everything has happened at such a speed that only now am I realizing how much I've changed. One area I've noticed a huge shift in is how I eat, how I feel about my body, and my relationship to food. 

I've shared my past experiences with dieting (specifically being on the Keto diet), poor body image, and disordered eating. I've only recently realized how relaxed I now feel about food and can enjoy eating without feeling guilty. I'd like to say it was hours of self-reflection and meditation that brought up this realization. But truly, in London fashion, it was my cashier at Sainsbury's (my local grocery store) who truly made me think. 

A little story. 

I was in Canada for three weeks holidays over Christmas and returned back to London on January 10. During my first grocery shop since being back, my cashier struck up a conversation based on what I put on the conveyor belt. She looked at my selection of fruits and vegetables and said Wow, very healthy! I smiled and humoured her comment as she began scanning the items. Then, she looked at me and said Ain't nothin' wrong with a lil jiggle and shake, though! You be careful. I don't want you to wither down to nothing! 

I don't doubt her message was rooted in anti-dieting and body positivity. Loving what you got and what not. Sure. But what struck me more is how shocked and concerned she was that by simply buying healthier foods, that I was starving myself and trying to lose weight. I have come all this way and genuinely am in a place where I am happy with my weight, my body, and all that comes with it — jiggles, shakes and all. 

What if I had waited to lose weight before following my dreams?

A few years ago when London was just a dream, a someday, I used to think I had to be perfect before I moved. I remember thinking that I wanted to lose weight before I moved. If I had still thought that, I really don’t think I would be where I am today. It makes me think: What if I had waited? I'd still be waiting. 

I used to have these kinds of thoughts all the time. I used to see weight loss as a destination to happiness. When I decided to put my happiness first, I started to see dieting as something that would get in my way of achieving my dream. When I was dieting, I was constantly thinking about my next meal, how I would cut calories, and many of my thoughts revolved around feeling guilty for something I ate. This took up so much mental space that I didn't have room for anything else. 

It's taken me years to move into a space of self-love, non-guilty eating and body positivity. However, living in London, has taught me to eat slower, to live actively by walking everywhere and taking the stairs, I quit weighing myself, and I only wear clothes that fit me and feel good. If I'm craving an almond croissant, I have one and fully enjoy every bite. I eat anything I want and it's that simple. The thought process ends there. Whereas if I craved a croissant before, there would be hours of negative self-talk and reasons why I am not worthy of eating that.

I don't eat based on events, hashtags, opinions of others, or strict schedules.

Today, the conversations that go on in my head revolve around how delicious a meal was or how it was prepared or how much fun I had with the people I shared a meal with.  For me, eating has evolved from being a game of restricting and binging to revolving around people, culture, flavour, indulgence, love, care, and enjoyment. 

Do you ever step back and reflect on how you've changed? 

I think it's so important to do. We may not always notice the little victories until it's a big victory and then we celebrate. If you need some help, start a conversation with your friends and ask for their feedback and if they have noticed anything new with you. Supportive, compassionate and thoughtful friends have been a major part of my healing my relationship with food. 


If you're into hearing more on the topic of body positivity, I'd encourage you to listen to a podcast I recently stumbled upon: The Sunday Social: Do we still diet? 

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I'll do this after I do that. I'll get to it once this happens. I can't start this until this is perfect. Perfect. Perfect. Perfection. 

How many times does perfection get in the way of starting or doing the things we love? If we can't do it perfectly or under the perfect circumstances, we don't see the point in doing it at all. 

I've done this my whole life and will continue to do it. I will put off projects or self-care or life plans until the circumstances or plan is perfect. At first I thought it was just a Virgo trait (it is) and shrugged it off but then I realized how everyone can relate to this awful perfection trap. For me, perfection has made me procrastinate the bigger things like moving to London, re-designing this blog (notice anything different?) or choosing a daily meditation to practice — and the smaller things — like cleaning my room, planning my day off, or making a meal. If I can't clean my entire room perfectly, I'll put off cleaning it at all. If I can't decide on the perfect plan for my day off, I'll just end up staying home or running errands instead of doing something enjoyable. 

Perfection: a condition experienced by many — exasperated by social media — can cause frustration, procrastination, low self-esteem, and if left untreated, can lead to sadness, lack of purpose, and constant questioning featuring too many what ifs.

Let's be scientists or philosophers? for a minute and dissect perfection as it relates to human life. Everyone defines perfect differently and we all have varying levels of personal standards of perfection. I think it's fair to say — and I personally believe — that perfection is an illusion. Just as social media is an illusion. It is a curated, edited, airbrushed montage of just one tiny facet of our lives. Based on the idea that perfection is an illusion, that means perfection doesn't exist. So, why do we care so much about something that doesn't exist? 

Sometimes people — myself largely included — get caught up in living in a non-reality where life revolves mainly around the superficial things like appearance, status, money, and to-do lists. Living in reality means connection with others, accepting myself as I truly am, feeling emotions even the dark ones, and being versus doing

*lost in a philosophical black hole as I usually am* 

Okayyy let's go back to my original point of perfection causing procrastination and so much more. A few weeks ago I had a moment where I realized I had been living in this state for years. It was during my daily FaceTime chat with my sister. We were talking about my blog and how I wanted to re-design the layout. She said: Didn't you say you'd do the re-design once you moved to London and felt more inspired?

Me, having lived four months already in London, felt this question slap me upside the face with truth. It launched me straight out of my non-reality as my reality sunk in. "Inspiration" was just a pretty name I gave to my fear of not achieving perfection with my re-design. And this fear fuelled years of procrastination. So not only did I not re-design my blog, I continued to post despite growing to actually hate my (now previous) layout. 

After we got off the phone, this mantra came to me and kicked me in the butt: 



When I choose to make progress, move forward, and take action, that's when I achieve my goals. It's letting the walls of perfection fall to reveal something so pure and unique to me. It's about loving and believing in myself enough to trust that whatever I create isn't perfect but it's real. And my best self is created from this space of honesty. 

It's easy to get caught up in comparison of what everyone else is doing and the need to feel accepted. But what ends up happening is everyone does the same thing and the perfection bug actually causes repetition. 

My friends know I had been talking about moving to London for years before moving. I wanted it to be perfect. But I got to a point where I had to just take action and go or I would be waiting forever. My move wasn't simple or easy and I've faced many, many, rejections and walls. But this experience taught me to live here and now, and to actually do the things I talk about doing someday. Because like perfection, someday doesn't actually exist. 

The day after my chat with my sister, I did my blog re-design in just a few hours. It felt good to finally do it and not worry about it being perfect. Once I started it, the pressure was off and having done it, I now feel inspired by myself — not London  to finish it off. 


The next time you're about to put off anything because you're scared it won't be perfect, remember that progress is more important than perfection. Clean your room just a little bit, apply for that job without re-reading your application fifty times, start that book, pick up your paint brush, let your laundry pile up a bit while you catch up with that friend you haven't spoken to in a while. Be imperfectly you. 

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One of my many reasons for moving to London is to travel other cities in Europe. Traveling isn't something I've done a lot of so I'm excited to finally see more of the world. I went on my first lil trip at the end of October to Stockholm, Sweden. It's somewhere I've always wanted to see but never thought I'd go there so soon. 

The idea came up when I was looking at tour dates for one of my favourite artists, Jorja Smith. She released her first full album, Lost & Found, in June, and it's been on repeat — front to back —ever since. It's rare that I enjoy a full album beginning to end. My attention span mixed with my music taste means I get obsessed with one song or album and play it over and over. I've also watched Jorja take over the R&B music world with this album and knew this first full tour would be something so precious and special. One I couldn't miss. 

Her tour sold out across Europe. Except in one city. Without hesitation, I bought my ticket and booked a flight to Stockholm. 

Stockholm is the first city I'd been to where English wasn't the common language. While I expected to feel quite lost, and I did geographically-speaking, the city felt similar to Canada to me. The fresh air, greenery, open spaces, wider roads, and the people were so friendly. It was comforting to experience a culture so similar yet so far away, especially as I've never been out of Canada for this long. 

Jorja was JUSTTTTTTTTTTT!!! Just just. When she first came on stage, she was a bit shy but had this silent confidence. Her presence was sweet and gentle yet powerful and honest. She sings so effortlessly her lips barely move but her voice travels straight to the soul. She expressed a lot of gratitude to her fans and I adored this about her. 

Not pictured: the fact that I had to spend all day resting and pull myself out of bed to go to the concert. Prior to travelling, I had a cold virus that was lingering for a few weeks and the flight and air pressure made it worse. I spent a lot of time alone in my hotel eating cough drops, popping Swedish medicine tablets, and creating piles of used tissues. I felt this overwhelming sense of being alone and introspective — in a way that wasn't transformational or teaching to me. It was an uncomfortable introspection that made me realize how much people energize me. I truly am an extrovert and in this situation I didn't feel like I could make friends in the little time I spent there, especially not knowing the language. I'm learning that it's okay to feel vulnerable and need people. I'm trying to be more gentle with myself. 

Despite being so ill, I did my best to make the most of my trip and enjoy the quiet moments. Looking back, this trip was more testing, emotional, dark, and deep than I ever expected and I don't hate it. 

I spent my mornings walking around and trying all of the pastries at Vete-Katten — a Stockholm institution. I went shopping of course and have to say I like the fashion sense — potentially more than London — sorry bub. It's minimal but architectural and interesting. They also had very Canada-esque outdoor clothing stores which I found amusing. 

I visited the museum of modern art and ate real Swedish meatballs. I spent an embarrassing amount of time in the grocery store analyzing all the Swedish foods. If you want to learn about culture in a new city, visit the grocery store. Seriously. 

I walked through the downtown core as the light began to dim (around 3 pm) and listened to another one of my favourite artists who happens to be from Stockholm: Veronica Maggio. I remember discovering her music in Canada and only dreaming of visiting Stockholm some day. This was a truly special can't believe this is happening moment. It made me realize that anything I can dream up, I can experience. 

As I was sad to leave and still miss the fresh air, I am glad to be back in my new home. I missed you, London! 

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