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19.2.19

WHY I STOPPED
FAST WALKING IN LONDON


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. 


People. 


Walking. 


Very. 


Fast. 




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. 



PHOTOGRAPHY // LEANNE DIXON 
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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3.2.19

FROM COUNTING CALORIES
TO COUNTING MEMORIES



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. 


PHOTOGRAPHY: LEANNE DIXON

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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5.12.18

PROGRESS
OVER PERFECTION


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: 


PROGRESS OVER PERFECTION

PROGRESS OVER PERFECTION
PROGRESS OVER PERFECTION



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. 



PHOTOGRAPHY: LEANNE DIXON

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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25.11.18

LOST AND FOUND
IN STOCKHOLM




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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24.10.18

LIFE IN LONDON:
THE CITY AS A TEACHER





When I open my eyes in the morning, one of my first thoughts is always I can't believe I live in London and Is this real? I get out of bed and do my daily meditation. I feel peaceful and grateful for the day. I eat breakfast and drink tea. I get ready and leave my flat — either for work or to run errands or go for a wander in a new area. One thing I'm still adjusting to is the sheer amount of people in this city. I now expect crowds, line ups, and just people everywhere I go. I love it because I'm never alone and being among a blanket of people creates a veil of anonymity, creating less opportunities for judgment from strangers. I hate it because it can be overwhelming and public transit tends to bring out the worst in people. It also takes a lot longer to get somewhere. I describe London as the city of polarities. It's everything and anything, peace and chaos, rich and poor, sun and rain, darkness and light. It's a circus that runs itself and never sleeps. It's unapologetically British. 



I tried my best to not have expectations around what living in London would be like. I set myself up to expect that I could love it, I could be scared and times may be tough, I would face a lot of potential rejections (have I ever), and I could have a hard time finding friends or groups to join. I wanted to guard this experience by leaving the expectations as open as possible. This has helped me in so many ways. It's given me space to interpret all of my experiences as they come. 



One of my yoga students asked me how I was finding London so far. I thought for a moment and what came to mind was London has been the best teacher. They had never heard it described that way and I find Londoners are always amazed by how the city is perceived. I went on to explain how before moving here, I considered myself a quite calm and patient yogi. Just a few months in, I have learned that this is not exactly true. I've learned more about myself since moving here than I have in years and this is one of my reasons for wanting to follow this dream. I had a feeling that a lot of the things I believed to be true about myself weren't true — or at least weren't being tested enough to know for sure.



We think we know what we want and what we like and what we don't like and what we can handle. Until we put ourselves in situations outside our comfort zone, we don't truly know ourselves as well as we think we do. 



Here are a few recent revelations that have made me ponder how well I truly know myself. 

I don't like the city sometimes and big crowds can be overwhelming.

Key word is sometimes. Obviously I moved to London because I do love it. I love how big and chaotic and gritty it is. I love the buzz. And as an extrovert, I do get energized by people. However, I'm learning that I've overestimated my tolerance for things like thrusting myself into a packed subway cart, waiting a long time in line ups, getting excited to go to an art exhibit or movie only to learn it is sold out, waiting lists, and *accidentally* going to a market or vintage store at peak hour and literally not being able to walk because of how many people are there. These ~little~ things are all new to me and are teaching me how to be more patient, tolerant, and grateful than I could've ever imagined. I feel grateful because I realize that visiting galleries, markets and shopping are privileges. 



Routine is not only important but essential to my wellbeing. 

Moving to a new city and working part-time, blogging part-time, and searching for full-time work has certainly thrown off my extremely comfortable nine to five routine of the past six years. I didn't realize how much I depended on having a routine and the affect it has on my wellbeing. I knew I wouldn't have a daily routine for my first months here but figured if I could start each day off on the right foot, it would make up for the lack of routine everywhere else. A few weeks in, I established a morning routine so that every day starts the same regardless.




Trusting that everything will be okay is a daily effort. 

On the outside, I always appear to have a positive, cheerful, and sunny disposition. While I mostly feel this way, I have many moments of self-doubt. This whole process has really tested my ability to trust — in my dream, in this journey, and most importantly, in myself. I made a lot of sacrifices to move here. I quit my job, I sold my car, I sold a lot of my stuff, I saved a lot of money and paid off debts. I didn't have a job lined up or a solid place or many friends in the city. I did have goals, intuition, and trust. I had to really trust that this was the right decision and I knew because I felt it in my heart. When I tuned into that feeling, I just knew it would be okay. I have to renew this trust every day and sometimes many times throughout the day. It is the most bizarre feeling moving somewhere and signing a lease, even buying plants or furniture — items that symbolize settling — without fully knowing how this will all work out. 





Building a sense of trust within myself that I'll always be okay no matter what is a teaching that I could've only learned by taking a big risk and following my heart. For that, I am forever grateful. London, you truly are the best teacher and I'll continue trying to be a good student. 


PHOTOGRAPHY BY LEANNE DIXON 










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