be real, unique is chić

“A wise man once said nothing at all.”

At first, when I heard this quote, I was shocked, but inspired. Inspired to be a more quiet person, a more closed up person, less of an open book.

However, the more I think about it, the more that newfound plan seems ridiculous and counterproductive.

For the majority of my life, I have been a fairly open book. Obviously I do not expose complete strangers to my life story or ever speak of things that should be kept private, but with a fair majority of my acquaintances, friends, and family, I have tried to allow myself to be raw and real with them. Whether that be feelings, thoughts, emotions, ideas, hardships, successes, or anything else in between, I have tried to allow those around me to see the real me. I would often look around and see others who were generally more quiet and somewhat hidden and suddenly feel as though I was an annoyance, or a drag to be around; people did not want to hear what I had to say, or know this or that about me.

But I think that that mindset was somewhat twisted. In my mind, and from my perspective, being an open book immediately creates a feeling of trust and mutual respect. It shows that you care enough about that person to share parts of your life with them, and that you trust them to respect and understand you.

(of course, there are aspects of our lives that are not appropriate to share, and those general, unspoken parameters should be respected)

One of the people that I consider one of my best friends was someone whom I did not know very well a few months ago. When we first started spending time with each other, both her and I began to share stories and experiences, ideas and thoughts, and were able to learn lots about one another in a fairly short amount of time. We continue, every time that we are together, to learn more about one another, deepening our friendship and reinforcing our trust bit by bit. I felt so appreciative of the way that she was open and real with me right from the start, and truly believe that it was because of this that we have become such good friends. I remember having a sense of comfortability when I was around her, because she had trusted me with things, and I had done the same with her. We had allowed ourselves and each other, right from the start, to be as real and as open as possible, and that was what had led to a strong friendship having been formed between us.

I absolutely love to learn about others. Whether that be how they take their coffee, or their thoughts on politics, or their favourite music, or how they see their relationship with their parents, each and every particle that makes up a person is so interesting to me. Each seemingly small, unimportant factor of their life is what makes them who they are. Often when others have opinions or experiences that do not coincide with mine, I am more drawn in and amazed; to think that so many others have lived in the same world as I have, at the same time that I have, but experienced it so differently than I have absolutely enchants my mind.

The unique will always fascinate much more than the similar.

I hope that eventually everyone can experience the comfortable, trusting feeling that accompanies allowing yourself to be open and raw with others. Often, when the person with whom you are sharing comes to understand how raw and vulnerable you are being with them, they will not only rise to the occasion and become a trustworthy source for you, but will also be willing to be open and raw with you in return. Open, honest communication can genuinely remove a vast majority of the problems that people so often face with one another. Unfortunately, this world is such that some people may use your vulnerability or raw nature against you, and to harm or embarrass you, but I believe that we can grow out of that. I believe that each of us should be ourselves unforgivably and share that with others in the most genuine and caring way.

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belly laughing & best friends

Some of my absolute favourite memories growing up took place in my parents bedroom, with 5 people gathered around the room in various places, laughing hysterically. Although the majority of the reasons for such belly aching hilarity will probably forever remain a mystery to me, the memories will never be diminished. I love to laugh with my family, it has always and will always be a favourite pastime of mine.

My dad, Kribby, mentioned to me a few days ago that someone close to him had expressed an admiring, innocent envy of the close relationship that my dad had with his kids. My dad’s friend commented on the numerous nicknames and inside jokes which we shared with each other and the joking and chatting that we constantly engaged in with one another. It warmed my heart to know that our close friendship and love for each other showed, but it also made me realize how lucky I was to have said friendships with all of my family members. I can genuinely say that I love spending time with each member of my family, all for different reasons; each of my mom, dad, sister, brother, and now sister-in-law bring unique, special, and important things to my friendship with them that I appreciate more than I could ever express. We each have things that we enjoy doing with each other the most, specialized and specific to our friendship, but truly, in the end, the activity doesn’t matter as long as we’re all together: doing dishes has definitely never been my favourite chore, however, when we’re all cleaning up together, there’s always laughter in the air, and a skip in my step.

 

This past weekend, my close family grew, and we gained one additional best friend. Bethany and Jack were married on the 28th of July, completing a match made in heaven. Although the two have known each other for many years, I did not meet her until 7ish months ago. I liked her immediately, and not only because of how happy she made my brother. Jack’s constant chatter about her life and her gorgeous looks and sing song laugh and glowing smile and easy going nature was quite adorable to see. Him and I have always been quite close with each other, but this year in particular, for the few months that he was living at home, we became even closer. Almost every night I could count on him to come up to my room and successfully distract me from my homework with stories from his day, and admiring words about Bethany. I loved hearing about her and was always so excited when, upon his return from a weekend in Calgary with her, he would run up to my room and tell me more. I loved the two together right from the beginning, and I remember the joy and excitement that I felt the day that he told me that they planned on being married. I was overjoyed, and quite speechless too. She made him so happy, and they were so in love. He ended that conversation with something like, “Wow… I have been wanting to tell you this for a while but we agreed to keep it between ourselves.” I finally understood why the late night chats had become less frequent — he could barely hold in his excitement and he didn’t want to share the news until they were both ready.

When I started to hang out with Bethany more, I began to realize how alike we were, and how easily we got along! It truly seemed like we similar in the craziest ways but one in particular stood out: Bethany loved to laugh and had a wonderful sense of humour. Immediately, I knew that her sense of humour would help her fit right into the family. (As if she actually needed an extra way… she was already perfect!) There haven’t been an immensely large amount of times that we, all 6, have all been together, but a fair few of the times that we have, have eventually resulted in all of our favourite pastime: belly laughing with our best friends. In fact, our most recent attack of laughter was caught on camera, as we stood outside the temple, less than an hour after the matrimony:

wedding laugh.jpg

The sun shone down from heaven, as we all chuckled and giggled at whatever was funny in the moment. The beautiful bride, and the beaming groom, surrounded by love and support, and laughter. I am so excited and happy to be able to now have Bethany as part of our best friend group — our family. I love her and I love Jack and her together, and I cannot wait to see where their future takes them. I now have not one, but two examples of what marriage should be in my immediate family.

 

Whoever said laughter is the best medicine was absolutely correct, but laughter with family is that much better. 

xo

Emma

Awareness Advocation: Mental Health

Disclaimer: all opinions, thoughts, and ideas are mine, unless otherwise stated. I am comfortable and happy with others having, and sharing different opinions. Not a single word in this post was/is meant to hurt or offend any. The following words are from my perspective, an outside perspective in the sense that I am lacking personal experiences, but an inside perspective due to how close and personal I have been with many of my closest friends and most treasured family members. This is not meant to discount or discourage in any way, shape, or form, and I hope that all of my readers will feel my love and passion for changing the way that mental health is seen.

Thank you.

The thing that bothers me the most about mental health is the way that so few are willing to talk about it. Having depression or anxiety is such a taboo, unspeakable topic in our world today, always hushed away or avoided in conversation. But why are anxiety or depression any different than cancer or diabetes? Each of these things hinders one’s normal, every day life, causes a deterioration of health, and should be discussed until a cure or at least help can be found for it.

https://youtu.be/hIynYIMS9Ec -What if everything you know about depression is wrong?

Please watch.

I have, as I am sure many of you have too, quite a few prominent relationships with people who suffer from mental health problems. Both family and friends of mine alike, some of whom I never would have expected, carry such heavy weights on their shoulders every single day. Whether their silence was due to them being unaware of what they were suffering with or whether it was because they were too embarrassed or nervous to share it with me, this past year, I have learned of so many loved ones’ sufferings. I was so happy to have them feel comfortable enough to share with me, and I made the biggest effort to show them love, support, and caring. I asked them what I could to do help, and whether that be talk in depth, or just know, I have tried so hard to be a strength during these hard times. It breaks my heart to know that so many people whom I love and care for more than I can describe are suffering every single day, and all that I want is to be able to help them in any way that I can, and help them find the help that they need.

I was speaking recently with a coworker and he was sharing with me his struggles with both anxiety and depression, how they had effected his life, and ways that he was working through them. I mentioned to him the way that avoiding the topic of mental health really bothered me, and he said something that really struck accord with me: “The only reason that I don’t talk about it much is because nobody ever asks me.” He went on to tell me that he has never been embarrassed or ashamed of his mental health issues, but rather desired openness and truthfulness. I loved to hear this from him, just as he was excited to find someone who had the same mindset as him, despite the fact that I have never suffered from mental health issues very seriously myself. I mentioned to him the depth of my desire to write about mental health and hopefully one day change the general stigma, and bring awareness and openness to discussion of anxiety and depression. He suggested that I use this platform which I have created to share my thoughts and opinions. I hope with my whole heart that each one of you reading this will feel my love and passion for helping others, and aiding them in finding help as well. I hope you will feel my love for all, and the fight that I want to put up against stigmas and secrets, by replacing them with openness and honesty.

Although it may seem obvious to be generally kind to people, we, so often, find ourselves willing to expect the worst, or choose to either say or think negative things about people. Cliche, though it may be, it is true– be kind because you never know what others are dealing with within. So many genuinely happy seeming people struggle constantly with chronic sadness. But, even if they’re not struggling with mental illnesses it is still so much better to just be kind anyways. Be kind to happy people, and be kind to sad people. Be kind to anxious people and be kind to relaxed people.

It is incredibly important that, when dealing with anxiety and depression, comparison does not come into play. Comparison could turn into competition, therefore creating belittlement. There is no need to discount or discredit another’s struggles or sufferings just because you think yours or worse, and vice versa. To look at others and see them suffering what you think is “more” or “worse” and deciding that you just need to suck it up, is wrong. Each person’s feelings are valid and important. Each person’s struggles are valid and important. Just as someone with a broken arm is going to the same level of help from the doctor as someone with a cut on their arm, everyone struggling with mental health deserves and is entitled to help and support.

The dramatization and glamorization of mental health over the last few years has absolutely broke my heart. Because I have dealt so closely with so many of my loved ones who do suffer with mental illnesses, watching as social media, TV, movies, etc. start to show these illnesses as something beautiful and to be lusted after truly sickens me. Being incredibly raw and open about mental illnesses should be encouraged, but dramatizing and monetizing fake representations of it is dark and twisted. The Netflix TV show, 13 Reasons Why was the first show that genuinely shocked me and upset me; although many may disagree with me, I do not think that anything of that dark nature should be shared on TV when so many have access to it. The idea of making people pay for the wrongs that they have done to you is corrupt and distorted. This TV show glamorized the idea of blame, at the highest degree. I have heard stories and read articles about young, vulnerable teenagers, being infatuated by this idea of others feeling guilt and heaviness and hopelessness themselves, because they had suffered previously. Not a single person on this planet deserves to be hurt or put down by others; being nasty and mean is not the answer to others being nasty and mean to you. Violence is not the cure for violence, rudeness is not the cure for rudeness. Choose instead to find help, move on, find alternate outlets, and rise above. Why, when you have experienced the depths of despair, would you want to force others to experience it too?

Throughout my experiences with mental health, I have watched closely as coping mechanisms, comforts, and constructive choices have been made. It truly makes me overjoyed to hear that anyone suffering, has found the help or the “cure” that they need. Watching support systems being built and watching improvements in general attitudes taking place is honestly one of the best things that I have ever witnessed. When I, myself, experienced a low, rough patch in my life this year, I began by ignoring my emotions and distracting myself with empty, emotionless white noise. When I eventually found what worked for me, I was ecstatic. I choose to asses my mood and feelings, and take the necessary measures (good music and beautiful sunsets) to work through them and find happiness and contentment once again. Although it was not easy or quick to find a positive coping mechanism, it was so worth it. As I was able to do so, I began to notice my friendships and relationships improve greatly. Friends of mine have come to me, often times slightly bashful, explaining to me activities, processes, or exercises that they have found help them to cope. Whether these be simple, or complicated, long, or short, by themselves, or with help from others, they are proud and excited to have discovered comforts and constructive brain or body exercises. When a coping mechanism is such that it is safe, productive, and healthy, power to you! Yoga, comedy, walking, meditating, chatting with family, and so on and so on are all excellent choices.

On the other hand, I have, unfortunately, witnessed many unhealthy, deteriorating “coping mechanisms”, which truly break my heart. The common practice of bottling up feeling and emotions, ignoring, and discounting them, will not work. If little, seemingly simple problems find a way to break out of their enclosures and burst back to the forefront of one’s mind, why would major problems be any better? Whether it be talking through emotions and experiences with someone, thinking through things on your own, doing something relaxing and quiet, or doing something exciting and big, there are natural healthy ways to help. Numbing agents are another supposed coping mechanism that should never be turned to. Messing with brain and body functions, and using substances to temporarily remove the pain is never the answer. Addictions and dependencies occur when one becomes reliant on a substance for their happiness. Temporarily numbing the pain, sadness, or anxiety is only going to hurt, and not help, in the long run. Whenever the effects of the substance wear off, it will be waiting for you, once again. To genuinely find happiness and find ways to deal with and get through one’s sufferings, one must find ways to become comfortable and happy with one’s self in the most natural and raw form.

It saddens me deeply to see the way that a small few have created a stigma of “faking” and “dramatization” for all who suffer from mental health. It is hard to watch people with genuine issues being written off because others have only ever had experiences with people using it as a crutch and exaggerating their struggles. When people decide to use whatever feelings of sadness or anxiety that they have to excuse their negative behaviour and validate their cruelty to others, they may get what they want, but others, suffering with serious mental health illnesses have to deal with the negative repercussions. It is so unfortunate to see their poor choices leading to manipulation and usage of others, and lack of support for those truly suffering. I hope that one day we will all be able to be honest and open with each other, being genuine and truthful about our struggles, and pushing to work through them rather than use them as a way to manipulate others.

I have asked a few friends and loved ones who suffer from mental illnesses if they have any input for this blog post. I prefaced my request with very little explanation of the blog post that I was writing. These comments are raw and real and directly from the source. Here is what I got in response:

“I think the biggest thing for me with mental health is that listening and being empathetic is the most important thing. Like I know first hand that sometimes communicating with someone about exactly how you’re feeling sounds so stupid and cliche but it’s literally just how you’re feeling. Despite any amount of “faking” that can be done about mental health, most of the time if you think it’s being over played or whatever, the person most likely just doesn’t know how to handle it yet. Anxiety is just fear of unreasonable things and the feeling of incapability to convince yourself you’re okay even if you know you’re okay. And then like silent subconscious inhibition of regular things you would do or say just because you’re worried about what they’re thinking. And then depression is just like overwhelming hopelessness and a feeling of inability to find anything to be happy about even when you know your life has good in it. But the BIGGEST thing is that people with mental diseases have some ability to cope and control their thoughts and their happiness. It takes time to learn methods to take your brain back from it but it does work and can happen if you try hard and have the right support. I really strongly believe that and it actually annoys me when they won’t take any responsibility for their actions.”

“In most scenarios those with legitimate mental health issues rarely to never complain or make it sound like they have it worse than everyone else. They remain quiet, trying to conceal how they feel inside. It’s also exhausting when people say and ask “are you okay?” or “calm down” “chill out!”. My response seems irrational, and childish when I say “stop it leave me alone” and of course the response to this is “oooohhhh” “blaaaahhh” “get over yourself” “woww grow up” “you’re so dumb” and so on so forth. And of course all I wish to do back to them is point out their flaws, but because I know they’re ignorant and crude, I sit back, whilst my brain goes wild, thoughts like a whirlwind, a hurricane at such high speeds that I feel nothing but everything all at once. Anger. Pain. Sadness. Fear. Uncomfortable. Exhaustion. Anxiety attacks are pure confusion. Nothing makes sense, it’s all a mud puddle, mixtures of toxic chemicals (negative thoughts), an abundance of water (tears & sweat), and grimey, mushy dirt (uncomfortable feelings), but instead of being a substance on earth, it’s within my head. Piecing things together after an anxiety attack feels like lifting the heaviest boulders off your shoulders, clearing a path towards safety. However that path, is a long recovery process, that often takes more than 5 minutes during class. Although my reactions to possibly simple task such as hole punching a paper, or as drastic as travelling away from home without close family, attempting to fill out important travel documents, come off as childish and irrational, physically I have control, however I cannot contain the overwhelming emotions that follow my frustrations. Sometimes during the most exciting of all days, hours and moments, one teeny pathetic action causing frustration grasps me, and I fall into a hole of anxiety. There is no rhyme or reason for mental health concerns and issues. You either have one or you don’t. Playing the attention games is something I disregard due to its popularity in today’s social media stricken world. However I do find less respect for those who do use “I have anxiety” as an excuse for not taking tests, refusing to hang out with friends to receive texts stating “omg are u ok, why didn’t u wanna hang tonight?” All for attention, the wrong attention. I do not point this out to those who perform this disrespectful act, and perhaps some of them do have mental addictions to social media, attention and the need to be wanted. But it’s not okay to abuse a term because you feel left out. Roughly 6 months ago, I recently discovered I have a minor anxiety disorder. I was not surprised, and rather relieved there was an explanation to my strange overreactions to simple problems. Learning to cope with this newly found disorder is not easy. I struggle every day, and I’m not asking for any shape or form of attention, I’m simply accepting what I have, and by saying it’s not easy, many others with this disorder hate to admit it as well, but mental health issues are awful, and you cannot sugar coat them with pictures of lovely eyes crying, a girl with perfect hair puking, a pretty body curled up in a corner in fear. Nothing about mental health is “beautiful” or “can be fixed”. It can be worked on, and sorted out, but not fixed. You cannot rebuild an entire person who has already been broken. However, by bringing awareness, you can help them rise up and face obstacles and leap over rubble. But there will always be debris laying in my path, and I’m willing to face it, with the backbone of my family, close friends, my horse, and of course, my dog.”

“I used to be terribly naive about this. I would try to seem understanding and accepting if someone was talking about their struggles with depression… but I really couldn’t relate at all, and didn’t see how it could be out of someone’s hands- how they felt. It boggled my mind when it came up, but that wasn’t often.

Then it came into my life.

A friend (who also happened to be a doctor) saw depression developing in me, but I casually dismissed her concerns. Maybe that happened to some people, but not to me!

The morning I found myself at home, crying almost hysterically for no apparent/ immediate reason was the day it hit home.

Suddenly I could comprehend what had been inexplicable to me for so long.

I was blessed to find help and support; plenty of it. Thank Heaven.”

“Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s recent deaths by suicide are heart-wrenching.  They also show us where we’re still stuck as a society.  I recently had someone (who has an undergraduate psychology degree but who thankfully doesn’t work in the field) say to me: ‘But they were rich – it doesn’t make any sense….I mean, they could have gone and lived on a beach for the rest of their lives.’  I replied that we don’t react with the same confusion when celebrities are diagnosed or die from cancer, heart disease, or diabetes.  To which, this person implied that I am more sensitive (i.e. not thinking logically) about suicide since I have lost someone I love this way.  Actually, two people I love have died by suicide.  Of course I am and always will be affected by losing them; however, I am confident that my assertion that mental illness cannot be erased by being rich or famous is quite accurate.  Sadly, the view that mental health is somehow less ‘real’ than other bodily illnesses is still one that is shared by enough people to make it feel risky for some to share their experience.  People with mental health concerns are already struggling more than most people realize – belonging to a society and a culture that still questions the validity of their suffering, still suggests they ‘shake off’ their depression by simply deciding to be happy only further alienates these individuals.  I strongly believe one of the factors that further exacerbates mental health struggle is shame, secrecy, keeping quiet about it, pretending to have it all together on the outside, etc.  Of course, we can say, speak up!  Share your story!  But when someone is struggling and feeling vulnerable and alone, it’s can be terrifying to be transparent in a society where speaking up can be a risk – what will my family, social network, colleagues and clients think if they find out?  Will people think of me differently – suddenly see me as weak or unstable?  It is sad that some resist getting the help they deserve for fear of being ‘labeled’ and the stereotypes and connotations that are associated with a mental health diagnosis ‘label’.  I would like to remind everyone that these ‘labels’ are social constructions that were created by humans and can (and must!) be changed by humans.  Thankfully, the culture is shifting and I think it’s such an amazing time to be alive – to get to see it changing for the better.  There are still people who don’t understand (or even try to understand) mental health, but there are increasing numbers of people who care, who want to be there for those in their community – these people are SO important for those suffering from mental health concerns.  These people are their advocates, their believers, their support system, their safety net – they are the army of individuals who are saying: we’re all in this together, we care, you matter.  Make no mistake about it, that is no small thing and I believe it will change our social landscape around mental health.     

I recently started seeing a psychologist.  One of the first questions she asked me, during our first session, was: tell me about your support network.  I told her about my husband, my sisters, my parents, about my couple trusted friends who I confide in.  We are social animals and having a support system makes an enormous difference.  I am seeing a psychologist because I started noticing the signs of burn-out, depression, and increased anxiety: I started feeling a loss of vitality.  Things that would normally take little to no energy were draining me.  I often felt like I had no choice but to force myself to get through parts of my day, or even whole days.  I suddenly found that things I wouldn’t have given a second thought about before were now completely overwhelming me.  I felt like burying my head in the sand and waiting for this to go away.  However, I knew from previous experience and from my love of learning about psychology that I needed to take action.  I made an appointment with a psychologist.  I told the people closest to me what was going on.  

I have dealt with this before once or twice before in my life.  When I was 16 I was diagnosed with depression.  I also dealt with something similar in my early twenties.  I tried medication for a short period in my early twenties and since that time, I have managed to keep myself healthy with primarily lifestyle factors.  Self-care has been a huge priority for me in my life.  Self-care looks different for everyone and is basically what brings you life energy.  For me that looks like: yoga, walking/ running, being in nature, baths, walking my dog, reading, writing.  For some people self-care may be lifting weights or watching stand-up comedy.  I think self-care is extremely important to building and maintaining mental health.  Just as we work out and eat healthy to build and maintain our physical health (these things can also can be very beneficial to mental health), self-care practices encourage us to connect with ourselves – which build our strength and resilience for life’s inevitable adversities.  I find, that when I am regularly practicing self-care, I am better able to keep things in perspective and  I experience a stronger sense of well-being.  

I think part of the reason I am struggling with my mental health currently is because I started a new job with a lot of travel and a different schedule, and the first things to go were my self-care practices – clearly not ‘fluff.’  However, part of it too, I think, is that I, like many in my family, are genetically predisposed to mental health challenges.  I have witnessed members of my family mimic my own patterns – we experience a mental health challenge and work through it.  Then, some of us seem to be okay for long-ish periods of time – many years in some cases.  Then, we start experiencing the familiar symptoms again.  Nah – denial, my familiar friend will say.  This isn’t depression and anxiety.  Bury your head in the sand.  But then it gets to such a point where I can’t ignore it.  Where it is affecting my life to such a point when I am forced to look it in the face and say, OK, let’s work through this again.  And for me (and I am guessing most people), working through it is hard work.  It is exhausting in it’s own right.  But so far I have always come out the other side having more compassion and love for myself than I did before.  Having more gratitude for my support network – truly, what would I do without them?

As mentioned earlier, I have lost people I deeply cared for to suicide.  One of those people was my friend Becky.  Becky was warm and caring.  She was a deep thinker who wanted to better understand herself, those around her, and the world.  Becky was really fun!  She made friends easily and was very people-oriented.  She loved to read.  She loved ballet and was toying with the idea of going to school to be a teacher or an electrician.  She was my childhood friend and I hold-tight to and cherish the memories that we share.  I remember the room in her basement of her childhood home.  Her laugh.  We remained friends in adulthood as well.  Becky shared her mental illness struggles with me.  Her despair was palpable sometimes.  When she died, so many people were in utter shock and disbelief that she took her own life.  How could this be?  Becky?!  But she was so happy!  Always laughing and smiling – always making people feel valued and heard.  How could we not have known?!  I can imagine that for Becky, wearing her mask of ‘everything’s great’, as I think she did out of necessity, must of been exhausting for her.  I know she didn’t want to ‘burden’ anyone.  I know she wanted to selflessly be there for others, to have a good time with the people she was with and not be a ‘downer’.  One of my hopes is that I get to see an enormous culture shift in my lifetime – one where people feel comfortable speaking up and reaching out, feeling safe enough to be authentic.  Where it is the norm to react with love, understanding, and support when we hear that someone in our lives is struggling.  Thank you, Emma, for writing about this very important topic.”

I hope that both those who suffer from mental illnesses and those who don’t, can, in the future, work hard to be open and genuine about mental health issues. I hope that help and support can be two things that are very easy to acquire for all, and that everyone will choose to be willing to help one another. I hope that at least some of this made sense or helped someone.

If there is anything, ever that I can do to help, please let me know. I don’t know much, and I’m definitely no trained professional, but I want to help and love and support in every way that I can, nonetheless.

Waterton

Waterton Lakes National Park is so much more than a national park. Waterton is a feeling, Waterton is home. There is a sense of serenity, belonging, excitement, and relaxation all at once. The greenery, both that which preceded the fire, and that which followed it, represents growth and life, freedom and strength. The mountains, now speckled with dark, leaf/needle-less trees fought through the terror that the Kenow fire brought, and came out stronger and healthier on the other side. The deadfall, and dead underbrush was wiped away, allowing for brand new growth and more opportunity for smaller plants in lower levels of the forest.

In the store in which I work we have had multiple customers come in and let us know that they want to support us. We often hear “so sorry for the fires and the damage that they caused” and “we knew that you guys would be less busy because of the minimal hiking but we wanted to come anyways to support businesses, etc.” My heart, along with the owners hearts have been thoroughly warmed by the support that has been shown even in this very early season. The park has opened quite a few more trails than were opened at the beginning of the spring/summer seasons, allowing many more hiking opportunities for both tourists and locals.

The hikes surprise and amaze you with every twist of the trail and incline of the path.

Whether you’re climbing to the peak of Mount Vimy or just strolling along the lakeshore, friendly smiles, beautiful flowers, and breathtaking views are all there is to behold. Everyone seems to have everyone else’s best interests in mind, as they are always willing to help out and support each other. Hello’s and conversations between complete strangers can spark discussions and mind blowing connections from across the world.

The snow in the winter is more than one could ever imagine, piling up so that walking from a snow drift directly onto the roofs of houses is possible. The snow capped mountains become snow covered, and the entire park becomes a winter wonderland. The wind never fails to almost literally sweep you off your feet. Sometimes accompanied by rain and storms, the wind can gust up over 100km an hour, causing crashing waves on the lake and waving leaves in the trees. However, a calm, windless day with nothing but sunshine can literally take your breath away; the smooth glass surface that overcomes the otherwise busy lake creates a stunning reflection, doubling the majesty of the views.

Even in the mere months that I have lived in this beautiful place, I have felt incredibly rejuvenated and motivated. Living here has pushed me to better myself in more ways than I would have imagined. I have a strong desire to exercise and eat healthier. I want to hike and see all of the stunning views and waterfalls and lakes. I want to be confident and outgoing and meet new people and be friendly and kind to each person that I meet. I want to work extra hard in my job and have knowledge about products and Waterton in general and help everyone that I can. I want to save money and prepare for the fall by planning and learning. I want to love my friends and family and spend all of the time that I can with them. I want to challenge myself and take on projects to improve my talents and change for the better. I want to be honest and upfront with people. I want to do what makes me happy.

I want to mirror the wildflowers and the tiny green shoots, pushing and persevering through any trial or tribulation, coming up stronger and more beautiful on the other side. I want to allow challenges and set backs to strengthen me and push me to do more and be better.

My friend and coworker, Ashtyn and I decided a few weeks ago to take on the climb up to Sofa Mountain Peak. With little to no knowledge, and absolutely no experience, we undertook the climb. Through sarcastic remarks, dry humour, and lots of water, we were able to continue with each difficult step of the way. Step after step of shale, boulder, and root alike, we eventually made it to what we thought was the top. Along the way, we had been constantly commenting that if over the next hill, we didn’t find the peak, we would turn around and give up. However, through positive self talk and perseverance, we took our mental and physical selves to what we thought was an unreachable goal. By telling ourselves that we would peak it for so long, we eventually did. After false peaks and boots full of shale, shaking hands and scraped up knees, we eventually found the actual top of the mountain and the feeling was unbeatable. Success, freedom, ability, strength, and pride in ourselves. We thoroughly enjoyed the hike, but only if you asked us the next day. That push is what defines so much of Waterton to me.

The mountains portray an immovable strength and boldness, willing and able to stand strong and proud. They have the ability to make me feel so small, reminding me of my singularity in a world of billions of people. However, by climbing to the top, I instead feel like one in a million, like an unconquerable being.

I love this place and so many of the people here. My parents spent their honeymoon here, celebrating their love and reunion in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I feel that that has given me a special connection to this wonderful National Park that I will never lose. Growing up, this was our destination of almost every single summer day; whether we were hiking or swimming or licking ice cream cones, this was our place. My dog, whom I love more than words can express, spent countless happy hours in the lake before he passed on. I remember clearly hearing his barking begin as we drove through the park gates: just seeing the water and knowing that he would get to play made him too excited to contain. Throwing his ball and sticks may have seemed like an annoyance then, but I will never forget how happy my pup was in the water. This national park will always have a special place in my heart. I hope one day to be able to bring my own family back here to enjoy summers on the mountains and in the lake.

abstract certainty

  • The other day, I was watching a documentary and heard the phrase “catalyst for change.” Immediately I felt inspired and motivated. We live in a beautiful, wonderful world, but that world is unfortunately full of problems and issues with accompanying drastic negative effects. I want to use my ability to write, (which will improve greatly within the next four years) to become a catalyst for change. I have come to this conclusion because, despite my best efforts, I have been unable to conclude about or differentiate a specific issue in the world that I would like to focus on changing.
  • I have witnessed and looked up to so many activists over the years that have a very specific passion for a certain issue in the world and have been able to make major changes in that particular field. Although the research I have done and knowledge I have on many different world issues may be minimal, I truly do not believe that I could decide on one to dedicate my life to. World hunger, world poverty, the environment, agricultural issues, clean water shortages, human rights, and so on and so on all seem as important as one another to me… how can I choose just one?
  • I feel so far from being able to make significant change, but I promise myself and you that I will try my absolute hardest to create change. The abstract aspect of my goal is one that thoroughly frustrates me. Due to this, I have decided to start a series on my blog of awareness posts. My first one is in the works already, and will a be very thorough and in depth look into mental health. I want to provoke thought, catalyze change, and inspire action, both in myself and in others and I want to utilize my writing to do so.
  • Due to the fact that admitting that one has a problem is the first step to changing and fixing it, I hope and believe that even with my small audience, bringing awareness to issues will be a productive first step. I am excited to see where this goes, and how, in the future, I will be able to both increase and better my movements for change.
  • Our world is great… let’s make it better.
  • uncomfortable comfort

    “Epic failures,”

    someone once said.

    But,

    why… epic… failures?

    ;oxymoron, self contradiction.

    But,

    Thomas Edison pops in like a light bulb,

    “10,000 ways not to build a light bulb.”

    Find positivity in the disappointing,

    hope in the discouraging.

    Rainy days:

    green grass, effervescent flowers.

    Just like

    Disappointing results when first-time attempting anything:

    things can only improve.

    Just like

    Loneliness:

    self reflection.

    Just like

    Disinterest in different styles:

    increased passion for the style that you love.

    Half of the fun directly results from

    simply trying.

    Belly laugh at each mistake,

    Smile in the face of failure

    & success will smile back!

    Failures are epic,

    Mistakes are glorious,

    Errors are contributive.

    This little attempt at poetry may have been one of my own epic failures. A major role model and mentor of mine suggested trying different writing styles to improve my writing as we discussed “epic failures”. My unsure state of thought provoked this idea– attempt a different writing style that I am not overly comfortable whilst writing about stepping out of comfort zones.

    do what you love, love what you do

    do what you love,

    Often in life, others perceptions and opinions can hold someone back from doing things that they love. If it were up to me, this insecure submission to what other’s think would be abolished. Although it doesn’t always seem like something that is completely in your control, you can choose to ignore negative feedback and judgement from others. By doing so, doing what you love can and will become so much easier and more enjoyable. Go out of your way to discover and find the things that make you feel more alive, the people that make you feel surrounded by sunshine. Take time to just sit and enjoy or sit and create or sit and meditate. Try to do nothing and simply think and try to do everything and stay busy. Choose not to worry about your lack of ability or your need to ask questions and what other people will think of those things. Choose to try new things and practice old things alike to both constantly learn, and to improve that which you already know. As long as yourself and others are safe, choose to be completely and unforgivably yourself no matter the circumstances. Choose every day to partake in activities that make you happy for yourself. If you find yourself doing something is in any way for others and not for yourself, don’t force that.

    I have done things this last year that I thought I genuinely enjoyed, but that I now know I didn’t. I am in no way devaluing the fun and excitement that I experienced, however, I know now that I did many things for other people, while telling myself they were for me. This summer, I have challenged myself to do things solely for myself and to improve myself. I am going to try to exercise more, read more, learn more, work on my writing, hike as much as I can, make lots of friends and be kind to everyone I meet, work hard in my job, save money, plan for next year, show my friends and family how much they mean to me, etc., etc. I know that in doing these things, I will find a surplus of happiness and fulfillment because they are helping me improve myself and my relationships with others. I am choosing to be happy, and I am choosing to do things that I love, rather than things that I think the world will love about me.

    This evening after work, I was able to go and sit on the dock by the lake and soak up the sunshine while I read my book. What an unbeatable feeling. Peaceful and relaxing, and good for the soul.

    love what you do.

    Many a time while I have worked in waterton, I have asked customers how their day has been so far. Often they’ll reply with a positive answer and then return the question. When I answer that I am happy or doing great on that particular day, I often get the response of, “Oh it can’t be that good if you’re in here working all day!” Or before I even have the chance to answer they’ll follow their question with, “I mean other than work” or “I guess it is just a work day though.” I have also had friends of mine dread going to work, or comment on how they find little to no enjoyment while at work.

    In response to both situations, I like to let the person know that I have the dream job and I actually love coming to work. That may sound harsh or cocky up front, but I truly do, and it really isn’t because of the day to day mundane tasks that my job entails. It isn’t because I particularly like folding shirts or opening change rooms or helping people try on hiking boots. I just love what I do, no matter what it is. So often, whether or not something is enjoyable or something that we like, is 100% up to us. Choosing to love what you do is actually quite simple, but can have a life changing impact on your day to day attitude and mood. If 40+ hours of your week are going to be consumed by doing your job, you might as well love it. Shifting to this mindset or changing your attitude may take time and effort, but it truly will be worth it in the end. Being able to wake up every morning excited to go to work and complete tasks or help people will rejuvenate your outlook on life, and provide you with an increased sense of fulfillment and appreciation for both work and days off.

    Although the workplace has been where this lesson has stood out most prominently to me, the same can be applied across all aspects of life. Any situation that you feel a preconceived disliking or annoyance about, can become something that you enjoy. It is all up to you.