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17.7.19

IS THERE A WORSE FEELING
THAN LONELINESS?




Why do I feel the need to leave the house on a Sunday when I could just lounge inside all day, alone? Why does the idea of having a gym buddy automatically make the gym sound like somewhere I’d actually enjoy going?

Why am I constantly in communication with loads of people at once on Insta-stories? Why do I stay later at work or make my colleague(s) wait for me to finish just so I can ride the subway part of the way with a friend?

It's not that I have to be surrounded by people at all times. Although, that sounds like my extroverted self's dream. It's that life — in all it's beauty yet torturous ways — is easier done with another human being who gets all the human being-ness. That's not to say that other beings, like chihuahuas and/or moth-pets can't be great life companions. But let's face it, your dog won't reply to your insta-story or make you a cup of tea. And your moth-pet certainly won't be your gym-buddy. But that's a story for another day.

There was a time I can remember being surrounded by too many people that I just wanted to flea. In hindsight, I think I was surrounded by people who perhaps didn't provide what I wanted or needed in a friendship or relationship. Fast-forward almost four years and I've found myself in a position where I am not only single but recently moved to a new country where I knew only two people. Two.

I first felt truly lonely when I moved to London last summer. The city had the best summer weather they've ever had. The parks were filled with friends on picnic blankets listening to music, having a few drinks, talking, and laughing together. There I was, alone, wanting so badly to be them. To be with people, anyone, that I could talk to and enjoy the summer with. 


Alone in my dream city 

In the past, I didn’t realize it then but my loneliness was caused by a lack of being surrounded by the right people whereas my newfound loneliness was caused by a lack of being surrounded by people in general

What was confusing about this feeling was there was so much guilt attached to it. I had achieved my dream of moving to London. I had given so much just to be here. I traveled on my own to Stockholm. I had wandered the streets of London. I was among such rich history, art, cuisine, and architecture. And yet, there’s something about being in awe of something alone vs. being in awe of something with someone that made my experiences feel worthless. 

There’s a Swedish proverb that says Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half sorrow. I feel that it perfectly explains why I feel so happy when I can share my joyful moments with other people. It also explains why loneliness can feel so tough. Because of the nature of loneliness, I find that it’s not something I’d typically share and hence, halve the sorrow, making it feel like a big weight on my shoulders. There were times when I considered moving back home because I felt that being here with no one to share my experience with was somewhat of a waste. 


There were two main things that helped me stay here and get through the loneliness. The first was that moving here was one of my biggest dreams. So much of my heart was invested in it and I had sacrificed so much for it. The passion was what kept me going in the harder times.

The second thing that kept me going was my spirituality. Feeling connected to something bigger than myself, knowing that I am part of every other being on this earth, and reconnecting to who I am all help me feel less alone. There’s really something to it; Just think about monks that meditate in caves alone for years. How do they survive without human contact? 


Looking back now to just a few months ago, I realize how important having a strong social network is. When I was feeling the most lonely, it was hard for me to see the bigger picture. I knew there were other people out there feeling exactly the same and that if we could only meet each other, that we could effectively solve each other’s loneliness problem. Simple, right? 

If you’ve ever felt lonely before, you know it’s not a simple feeling and the solution often feels non-existent. What with all our new technology, we still can’t just order a friend online. Making friends requires meeting new people, building a rapport, and nurturing the friendship. It has to grow organically and unfortunately new friends don’t grow on trees. 


Who am I?

As I navigated my feelings of loneliness, I learned a lot about myself. I doubted myself a lot too. I slowly learned about my own social requirements. Loneliness is a subjective experience and the amount of social time each person needs can vary. For me, I know I’m in need of social time when I start to over-anaylse my own thoughts too much. When I feel tired for no reason, uninspired, or begin to question who I am a little bit, I know it’s time to see my friends. 

The people in our lives can not only satisfy our need for social interaction and connection but they mirror who we are. We are great reflectors of each other. Without even realising it, I learn so much about myself by the way I speak and the reaction to how I speak, the questions people ask, the emotions and energy I give off and receive, these all provide insight into who I am, and vice-versa. 

I finally feel like I’ve found my sweet spot of social requirements. I sound like a robot but for the sake of talking about loneliness as a concept, stick with me. 

I’ve thought about things like: 

  • Do I need to talk to a close friend every single day? 
  • Do I need to see someone in person a few times per week? 
  • How much alone time is beneficial vs. detrimental? 
  • Do I need to actually interact with someone or just be around people?

Knowing what we need and how to get it is essential to not only avoiding loneliness but truly feeling our best. Is there a worse feeling that loneliness? It’s certainly up there in the ranks of shitty feelings. And it’s one that can be all-consuming. There are so many facets to it. When I’ve felt really lonely, I’ve subsequently felt insecure, anxious, sad, scared, worthless, hopeless, and a lack of identity. What other feelings in the world also come with a string of other horrible feelings? Tell me. I’ll wait. 


The lonely cloud has passed 

As I type this post, I realize that I haven’t felt truly lonely in a while. Of course I’ve had times where I felt alone and I think it’s natural to feel this way from time to time. But overall, I realize that in my short time in London, I’ve managed to find and nurture some of the deepest friendships I couldn’t have ever imagined. When I decided to pack up my life and move to London, I made a conscious decision to start living the life I’ve always dreamed of. I feel like when I did that, everything flowed with my heart’s calling and the right people came into my life. I’ve made friends through doing things I love: volunteering at the London Design Biennale, teaching yoga, through fashion blogging, and with my flatmates of whom I know we’ll be lifelong pals. 

I realize now that loneliness is never something I should feel guilty about. Nobody chooses to be alone or to not have friends or relationships. We’re hard-wired as humans for connection. And there’s never been a more important time to remember this. As much as people have their differences and we’re individual beings, we’re more alike than we realize. What are united in our humanity and that includes our desire for love and acceptance.

PHOTOGRAPHY: LEANNE DIXON

One thing I’ve learned is to not be afraid to be the one to reach out, be vulnerable, and ask someone to hang out with you. Ask for their number or their social media and begin showing up in their life. Be fearless in showing them who you are. Because they feel exactly like you do and isn’t it the best feeling in the world when someone asks us to hang out? When someone opens their world to you and wants to spend their precious time with you, it feels damn good. 

After all, we’re all only here for such a brief time and the more connected the world is — and I mean truly connected by heart and soul, the better this round globe of wonder will be. 

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26.5.19

I ADMIT IT, THE YOGA
I PRACTICE AND TEACH
IS SUPER WEIRD




From the second my new colleague (who would soon be the person who introduced me to Kundalini Yoga) stepped into her new office — which was beside mine, circa '2013 — with her jars, essential oils, beads, and soft light lamps, I knew something different had swooped into my world. And it never left. 




Her name is Christine and she is the reason I tried Kundalini Yoga and became a teacher. It's funny to think of a time not long ago when yoga was considered weird. It was only for hippies, spiritual gurus, or Californians. Today, it's commonplace to hear about good 'vibes', put crystals around your room, talk about spirituality or order a turmeric latte on the way to work. 




Weirdness is a sliding scale. Everyone seems to have their own custom weirdness scale that dictates what they'll tolerate wearing, doing, listening to, and even what kind of coffee they order. I think my weirdness scale has always been a bit wider than the average one. Nothing truly shocks me and I'm actually attracted to things that are different. This is exactly how I felt during my first ever Kundalini Yoga class.




Yoga has become not only accepted in the West but has cemented itself in the health and wellness smorgasbord of endless activities we should be doing to stay healthy. But even within the widely accepted world of yoga, lies a black sheep. She's called Kundalini


I've talked about this yoga a lot but if you're new here, Kundalini Yoga is the type I practice and teach, and the single most important tool I use to stay happy, healthy, and quite frankly, sane
I'll put it like this. If Jane Fonda uses yoga to stay young, Russell Brand uses Kundalini Yoga to stay sober. This is not to say you need to have addiction issues to benefit from practicing this yoga, but it gives credit to how transformational it is. 



My friends can all tell when I haven't been doing my daily meditation. I certainly feel a difference. And when I'm feeling low, anxious, or overwhelmed, meditation is the first thing I turn to. I've experimented for years with ways of keeping a daily meditation habit and I finally found that doing it first thing in the morning is best. That way it's simple and easy but also forces me to prioritize it above other important morning rituals like filling in my brows or picking which shoes to wear. I'd honestly rather be eyebrow-less than have a stuffy mind. Meditation is like cleansing my mind of all the built up and swirling thoughts of the day before. It's like a mind-shower. 



 

It took me a while to get comfortable with Kundalini Yoga. The weird mantras, the turban, everyone wearing white. I understand why all these elements work and why they make the practice so powerful. I believe in the strong lineage of teachings and it's a practice that's only made my life better. Yet, I am still scared to let my flatmates hear me meditating. I keep my opening mantra super quiet. I avoid loud breathing exercises. I avoid doing meditations with a lot of mantras. I take off my turban before I come home after teaching a class. Thursdays at 8 pm at Joy Yoga in East London, y'all! 


It's not them, it's me. My flatmates are the least judgemental people and are fully supportive of my practice. And yet, I still can't just do it. Maybe I haven't fully accepted the weirder aspects that come along with this type of yoga and it's blocking my ability to be inhibited about practicing properly. 




It also flows into my work life. Sometimes, I'd love to step away and do a meditation in my office space. I also would love to run a weekly class and teach the people I work with as I think it might really help some of them. I'm scared of opening myself up to judgment. Maybe I'm not giving my flatmates and workmates enough credit. I'm the one being judgmental.




For this photoshoot, I felt like I got a little closer to this uninhibited self I idolize. I wanted to do the shoot in the place I feel farthest away from the yogi in me. The calm, happy, and loving side of me supersedes the angry, irritated and impatient me that I become the second I land at the Oxford Circus x Regent St. crossway. And yet, dressed in my yogi garb, seated in the same meditative pose I perform in my room each morning, I felt free. There were hundreds of people walking the streets and driving in their cars. I remember taking a deep breathe, closing my eyes, and repeating a mantra — one that anyone can understand: 


"This is me and I don't care what you think." 


PHOTOGRAPHY BY LEANNE DIXON

I've talked about how London is my greatest teacher and how I've never relied on my spiritual practice more than I do living here. Now I just need to embrace this part of me that I so deeply believe in and let her shine, shamelessly. 

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23.4.19

HOW I FEEL ABOUT THE
ENDLESS THINGS
TO DO IN LONDON


One of the realities — and best things — about living in a city like London is the endless amounts of things to do. It’s part of the reason so many people move here. Being someone who has always worked in public relations, I’ve always been fascinated by the way London is branded. This city attracts an insane amount of tourists every year so the branding, design, and marketing must be done well. 



I’ve never found myself lacking in awareness of what’s going on in this city. Mostly due to the weekly free and gorgeously designed Time Out London magazine, Instagram accounts like the not-so-secret @Secret.London, and the advertisements literally everywhere, London does a damn good job of making it's people and visitors know what’s up.

The first few months of picking up Time Out and anxiously scrolling through the pages to see what new cool thing is going on was exciting. Over time, though, I started to notice the feeling of FOMO rising up again and again. Does anyone say FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) anymore?


The reality of working and living in London is that most weeknights I’m pretty exhausted. Although, I know this is true of my Canadian friends and may just be an adult thing. So, let’s rule the weekdays out. On weekends is when I feel acquainted with FOMO the most. Making friends in a new city isn’t the easiest thing and I struggle sometimes to want to go out and do things alone all of the time. Certain activities truly require friends. One thing being the parks in the summer when everyone gathers in clusters with picnic baskets, drinks, music, and activities.


I’ve come to learn that the best thing to do in this city is: decide. Pick something to do and do it. Having a lot of things to do and see is not a bad problem to have; it’s too much of a good thing, really. But, when you’re single and don’t have a huge friend group just yet, it’s easy to feel like everyone has someone to hang out with and it can be lonely at times. I’m lucky in the sense that my flatmates are also my friends and we hang out a lot even if it’s just at home eating popcorn and watching a movie.



Another contributor to my FOMO is when I scroll through social media. When I’m home, it’s tempting to scroll social media and that doesn’t particularly help the situation. I just have to remind myself that most of social media is where people post their highlight reel and not their real lives, just as I admittedly do. I try to keep it a bit real but I’m conscious that my life probably looks dreamier that it truly is.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY IZZY

That being said, I still walk around this city with stars in my eyes and need an occasional pinch to remind me this is real. Everyday, I find something new and get to know this place a little better. So far, my favourite museum has been the V&A museum with it’s gorgeous marble walls and sculptures. I’ve been falling a little more in love with the Marylebone area everyday as that’s where I work. Every week it seems I walk by a new little shop or community centre that I’m surprised to find. I’m still learning on a hunt for my favourite clothing stores but I do enjoy a little Brick Lane vintage shopping. 

On my current to-go list is Portobello Rd. Market in Notting Hill, Hampstead Heath (for the gorgeous nature), Museum of Brands (nerding out!), Kew Gardens (duh), and various music festivals. I also want to spend more time in East London, my original love! 


What are your favourite things to do in your city? 



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10.4.19

WHY I AM GRATEFUL
FOR MY STRUGGLES




Being a human on this planet isn't easy. Everyone has experienced their version of pain, struggles, blocks, traumas, and breakdowns. I haven't had an easy ride. I've shared parts of my story with you and I always want to share as much as I can. The story I'm most free to share is my personal one because it's mine and I have learned to own it. I've shared my struggles with anxiety and suicidal thoughts. I've shared a bit about how I got through that time and how I stay well today. At the height of that struggle in 2014, I could've never imagined moving to London on my own and doing the things I've done. That was when I first tried meditation. When I closed my eyes for my daily one minute meditation (yes, that's how I started, can you believe it?) I could see a spark of the person I am today. Without being aware of what I was doing, I was visualizing myself happy, healthy, full of energy, and doing everything I ever wanted to do. 

This was the start of everything that I attribute my happiness to today. But it didn't start pretty. Today I want to share how facing obstacles has led me to inner peace and more happiness than I could imagine. 


The obstacles 

I wasn't always a positive person. In high school and college, I struggled a lot and cynicism became part of my personality. I was bitter about my circumstances. I had a lot of anger. I'd bottle up everything and explode unexpectedly. I'd drink, party, and date mean boys to feel better. I'd put pounds of makeup and clothes on everyday just to feel beautiful. I had a challenging home life and lost someone close to me. The ability to see anything positive in the obstacles I faced was a far stretch. A yellow brick road, you could say. 
The breaking point 

My breaking point was the time I had my first anxiety attack and first suicidal thought. I've shared the full story before but essentially I was at home and my heart started to race, my body felt really hot, and even though I didn't want to die, I felt a compulsion to jump off my balcony. Instead of following my thoughts, I picked up the phone and called my sister and then my parents, anyone who would pick up and listen. They came over and it took hours before I would calm down. Something inside me knew I had to reach out, sit with this feeling, and unpack what was going on. 


The uphill 

Healing from my days of severe anxiety and panic attacks took years. I learned to be open with my feelings with the people I trust. I did talk therapy and unpacked years of trauma and fear. I learned to take care of my body. I learned boundaries. And most of all, I found Kundalini Yoga. 


The solutions 

If I didn't have these huge challenges, I wouldn't have been in search of solutions. And within the solutions, I have not only healed my brain and body, I've discovered my dreams. My 'solutions' were not only helpful during the hard times, they've become part of my new way of living. This is why I have gratitude for the obstacles I've faced. If the need for something bigger and better than what I was feeling wasn't there, I don't know if I would've found it. Obstacles are not only life's greatest teachers, they remind us of our inner strength. There's something in all of us that wants to not only survive but thrive and go beyond. 

The cave I meditated in during my trip to Mallorca.

The spirit 

Yogi Bhajan, the Kundalini yoga master who brought this yoga to the West in 1969, says The question is, Are you spiritual or are you not? The truth is you are. The reality is you don’t believe it. I've always known I was a spiritual person but I never connected to it through religion and didn't know there was another way to do this. Kundalini Yoga is the way I've personally been able to practice spirituality on a daily basis. It's taught me what it means to be a spiritual being and I'm now able to bring this spirituality into my daily life. 

The humbling

I just spent a weekend on the island of Mallorca with Guru Jagat, a Kundalini Yoga master. During one of the classes, she said There is nothing more humbling than the human experience. My obstacles have kept me humble. They've taught me about compassion and empathy. I recognize that I'm very privileged, abundant, and blessed to be here and living in this time. I always try to treat everybody the same. I don't care if you're the CEO of the company I work for, I'll treat you with the same respect as the person who replenishes our tea baskets. Yoga has helped me truly feel and embody the fact that we're all one in the same. 


The not-so-easy ride

When I see my obstacles as teachers, as something that pushes me to go beyond myself and discover people, places, and things that enrich my life, I can make peace with them. I've also made peace with the fact that I can't make peace with some of the struggles I've had. Some of my experiences really broke me down and I wish I hadn't gone through them. But when I can see the positives in the outcomes of what I learned or felt that has helped me be a better friend or colleague, it helps me move on. 


The story 

I used to resonate with the phrase It's never too late to re-write your story but now I slightly disagree. I feel like it makes me feel ashamed of my past experiences moreso than it makes me feel hopeful of the future. I do agree it's never too late to make change but I've learned to see my story as something that has shaped my character and for that, I'm grateful. That being said, I'm ready to detach from said story. When I repeat the same stories over and over, I start to identify with them and it becomes part of my personal identity. I'm learning to detach my experiences from who I am because they're not one in the same. I used to relate so much to my childhood traumas and this translated into a victim mentality or almost a competition of judging people who haven't 'been through the same shit'. Everyone has been through something and I'll never know the full extent of that. This is why I try to treat everyone with the same respect and kindness.


The purpose

I'm a chronic over-thinker and I spend a lot of time in the 'What is my purpose' department of my brain. The answer to the question that I so often ask is that my purpose — and all of our purpose — is to live this human experience. To go through the obstacles. To be alive and present, here and now. To live and inspire. To share and create. This is it. 


Out of my head

One way I'm learning to get out of my head is to get into my body and my environment. Being in Mallorca was a sensory-overload in the best possible way. The warm humid air, the orange trees, the sea, the sun, and the people. These elements made it near impossible for me to chill for very long in my own mind. They're a reminder that there's so much more than me and nature helps me focus on something way bigger than myself. Regardless of what I've been through and what topic my brain wants to replay over and over, there is so much beauty happening all around me. Not just in Mallorca, but anywhere I go. 


Gratitude

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to travel. Visiting new places is opening my eyes and widening my lens to new cultures and environments. It's strengthening my trust in myself and also my reliance on all the wellness solutions I've discovered through facing obstacles. I've never needed and practiced yoga so much. I've never been so proactive in reaching out for help. I've never felt so alive and well. 








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21.3.19

MY COMPLICATED
RELATIONSHIP WITH
LEISURE



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)

PHOTOGRAPHY // IZZY MANUEL

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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