Do it now, do it now, do it now!

I walked toward the escalator trailing behind a handful of giggly university-aged girls who were ready to change the world with a sun salutation and yoga pants.

An Asian man in his mid-to-late twenties fell into step beside me. “I’m the only guy,” he whispered. “This is so awkward.”

I looked at him sympathetically as the managers began to roll out yoga mats in a secluded area on the third floor of the mall. I surveyed the group of 10, all interviewing for one position as a full time seasonal educator at lululemon. Suddenly I felt self-conscious as I tugged at my crocheted royal blue sweater, pulling it further down over my dress pants and staring at my 3-inch heels.

“Clearly I didn’t get the memo,” I told my new friend. “I’m the only one not wearing lulu!”

The truth is, I had never owned a piece of clothing from the store. And until that day, I had never even set foot in a lululemon. And even though I spent all 3 months of my seasonal employment feeling like a less-than-graceful Zumba dancer who accidentally stumbled into an advanced yoga class (re: out of place), it appears as though my time with those chakra-loving hippies had a bigger impact on me than I realized.

****

“What’s your favourite lulu manifesto?” the Bubbly One asked.

“You do know what a manifesto is, right?” remarked the Forward One.

If by manifesto, the managers were referring to those sayings scribbled on the walls and the bags in the store, then lucky for me, I had just read a few while I was waiting for the group interview to begin. Must be karma!

I wracked my brain to think of one that stood out. And then it came to me. Three simple words, repeated over and over:

“Do it now, do it now, do it now!”

“This is how I want to live my life,” I said confidently, and then gave an explanation peppered with words like “goal setting,” “personal development,” and “balance.” (By that point in the interview I had started picking up on lulu culture). Truthfully, I don’t really remember what I said, but I’m pretty sure I garnered some head nods, deep breathing, and a “namaste” (joking about the last one). Not bad for a gal who didn’t know what an Astro pant was.

Though I can’t say that those are the words I live by, I can say that this manifesto is something I think about on a near daily basis as I seek to understand the importance of self-discipline.

As a creative person, it’s easy to fall into the mindset of, “I’ll create when I’m inspired.” But sometimes I feel inspired when I’m at work, or at church, or riding the bus, or drifting off to sleep. And then, when it comes time to sit down and do the work, I just don’t feel like it.

Between my day job and working at home, my hours are precious. And I don’t want to be wasting time with fleeting pleasures when I could be investing in something that I’m passionate about. I recently read an article called, “Don’t Follow Your Passion, Follow Your Time.”

Anyone can have a passion, but not everyone can be disciplined enough to use their time well. Not everyone can decide, “I’m going to do this now.”

Not after I check my emails.

Not after I go on Facebook.

Not after I make my third cup of coffee.

Not after I browse the desserts on Pinterest.

Not after I get the house in order.

Now.

Cuz as the lulu manifesto says…

The world moves at such a rapid rate that waiting to implement changes will only leave you two steps behind. Do it now, do it now, do it now!

What do you need to do now?

What’s Your Story?

“My ambition was gone. My story was over.”

Simon and I were sitting on the couch, browsing www.michaelhyatt.com and watching an interview with Don Miller on his latest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

After achieving his dream of living in Portland, Oregon and becoming a best-selling author with Blue Like Jazz, his ambition was gone. He woke up one day to realize that he didn’t know what he wanted anymore.

“That’s me,” I told Simon. “I don’t have a story anymore.”

*****

Jesus, My Father, the CIA…and Me,” Simon read aloud as he scanned the books on my bookshelf. “What’s that one?”

“That’s the one the publishing company sent me,” I told him.

“Oh yeah,” he replied. “I never understood how you took that so lightly.”

Rewind to July 2011. I had just returned from Thailand and there and was an email in my inbox. It was from Thomas Nelson Publishers

…and no, they didn’t want to turn Living With My Parents into a book (darn!) but they did come across my blog, and they liked it. They asked if I would be interested in writing a book review for a new author, Ian Morgan Cron. I said yes. They sent me two copies (one for me and one for a giveaway), and 1.5 years later, I still haven’t done anything.

Simon pressed me about this skipped opportunity; a connection that I failed to pursue.

“Have you ever gone after anything aggressively?” he asked.

“Of course I have!” I answered, somewhat offended. My life post-university until Thailand is filled with stories of me chasing one dream after the next.

So what happened?

Like Don said, “My ambition was gone. My story was over.”

What’s a Story?

A story is about a character who wants something and overcomes conflict in order to get it. Because the want is so huge the conflict makes sense; it’s worth enduring.

When I created this blog 2.5 years ago I was wading through resistance, trying to of figure out what’s next? I had seen some pretty remarkable stories come to fruition in my life, and then there I was, at 26 years old, living with my parents. I needed to want something again. It was time to create a new ambition.

And I did. I went to Thailand for 6 months. And this wasn’t just any ambition; I fulfilled a 6 year dream of living in Bangkok and working to end child sex trafficking. And then in July 2011 I came home, and I was depressed.

If I wasn’t going to go back to Thailand then I was going to get married. That was my next ambition. And lo and behold, here I am less than 2 years later – a newly married woman.

As I recount the details of the past decade I begin to notice a trend: the things that I long for, the ambitions that I chase, and the conflicts I have overcome have all amounted to beautifully written stories. One after the next. I have a long list of fulfilled dreams.

I don’t want to live my life just letting it happen; letting others write a story for me because I don’t write one for myself. And that’s essentially what takes place when we don’t know what we want.

Suffice it to say, my ambition has returned. It’s time to get out my pen and paper and write a new story.

How about you?

What Are You Thankful For?

Thinking of some things I’m thankful for this Friday afternoon:

Heat

There may be a deep freeze outside, but it’s always toasty warm in our apartment. The landlord keeps the heat cranked, and thankfully, we don’t pay for it. A nice change from the place I lived last year, where getting the hydro bill always made me shed a tear or two.

Our Apartment

I love our apartment. It may not be in the nicest part of town, and it certainly doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the inside is just what we wanted: spacious, big windows to let in the bright sun, hardwood floors, two bedrooms, and amazingly affordable rent. We love this place.

My Best Friend

Really, I had no idea that a guy could be my best friend, and that he would be my husband. Of course I always dreamt of it, it just didn’t seem like I was that “kind of girl.” What surprises me about marriage? How much I love spending time with my husband. I can’t get enough.

My Job

My writing opportunities are growing, slowly but surely. With more work coming in my goal is to be able to quit my day job in 2013 and be a full time writing consultant, working from home. I’ve dreamt about this since I enrolled in Rhetoric & Professional Writing at UWaterloo in 2002. Some dreams are slow in coming, but they are certainly on the horizon.

My Android

I was never really a phone person, but I got a Galaxy Nexus on my birthday (switching to the same plan as Simon saves us money) and it’s literally changed my life. It is organization in a phone. I have an app called “Timesheet” that tracks all the hours worked on my writing projects; I use “My OC Transpo” to know exactly when the buses I take are coming; email comes directly to my phone; I use a 5 megapixel camera to take beautiful photos (and Instagram them!), which then upload instantly to my MacBook Air using Dropbox; if I don’t want to write a text, I can just speak it; and of course, Angry Birds. Now I not only know what Angry Birds is, but I am addict. And to think, I almost said no to the Android because I thought my thumbs were too big for a touch screen.

Chocolate

We have a new standard in our home: to always have a steady supply of chocolate on hand. Mmm….

Goals

I started to really sit down and think about my/our short and long term goals and I’m excited to finally want something again.

That said, the day is speeding by. It’s time to get back to work!

What are you thankful for?

Growing Deeper Roots

Friends, Where Art Thou?

I have struggled a lot to make friends here. I don’t know what it is about Ottawa. Maybe because with every other move I made, there was purpose in it (ie – school, work) so I automatically had community.

It’s been incredibly difficult to move from a place where people are very  connected – by way of culture, commonalities, and even public transportation. In Bangkok, if I wanted to see a friend all I had to do was hop on the sky train – a 3 minute walk from my apartment – and I could be anywhere in approximately 20 minutes.

Here I rely on OC Transpo: “the bus service that will make your blood boil.” That’s how I feel about it at least. I’m lucky if I won’t have to wait 20 minutes for a bus.

Last weekend Simon and I had a married couple from our church over for dinner, Josh and Johanne. We were discussing our goals for 2013, and I said I really only have 2: friends and work. First, to build some deep, meaningful friendships, and second, to expand my writing network and hopefully get more contracts.

Josh asked me what I meant by wanting deeper friendships. To put it plainly, I said, “I want to feel like I’d have a reason to stay here even if Simon wasn’t in my life.”

I’m sure if I would have come to Ottawa and remained single, I’d have had more of an opportunity to invest in good friendships. But then again, if I never met Simon, I can’t tell you that I would have stayed…

“Will you marry me?”

Johanne called me on Wednesday night when we were both walking home from work.

“You know, I’ve been thinking about what you were saying on Saturday, and I want you to know that you’re not in this alone. I have friends here, but I don’t have friends that would make me call Ottawa home….so….uh….I guess what I’m saying is…do you want to become better friends with me?”

My face starts getting hot. I’m blushing.

“Oh gosh!” she says, “I feel like I just proposed!”

“I accept your proposal,” I reply, feeling touched. “And I commit to becoming better friends with you.”

It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one lacking good friends, not the only one feeling like I just can’t quite be myself, and not the only one longing for something deeper than chit-chat on a Sunday evening after church.

And it’s even nicer to know that I have been sought out in friendship. Pursued. I have confidence that I will grow deep, lasting roots here in Ottawa, even if it takes time. And that’s key.

After all, I’m growing an oak tree, not a mushroom.

Life Simplified.

I have a new goal for 2013. Mom will be proud: Get organized!

Now that I am married I am experiencing a newness where  “my stuff” and “your stuff” is “our stuff.” I don’t just have a roommate where we keep separate living quarters, separate food, separate lives…I am sharing these! And of course, it can get a little messy, in more ways that one.

Now that we have merged lives and belongings we are realizing we have a lot. Our two bedroom apartment is quite roomy but when I finish the laundry and I’m searching high and low for a place to store the extra towels and sheets, I can’t help but wonder where the heck a baby and all its belongings would go, should life take that turn before we buy a house.

I don’t like clutter. I don’t like stuff. It overwhelms me. I’m not saying that a little bit of disorder overwhelms me. I’m overwhelmed when there is so much junk and no where to stash it all. Do we really need it? We’re just two people!

Things I plan to tackle:

  1. Creating efficient use of space for our closets and desks (which may involve getting crafty)
  2. Putting life into 2 binders: freelance work and finances
  3. Organizing mail immediately, which includes getting rid of junk and flyers
  4. Organizing all receipts by month and by person
  5. Getting some dollar store bins to separate recycling (right now it all piles up under our sink).
  6. Donating all the stuff we don’t use/need to a drop in centre for low-income families down the street from us (so far this includes a vacuum, printer, laptop, DVDs, and lots of clothes!)

I may sound lame and boring right now, but I really long for a simplified life. When you find you have no where to put stuff…that’s a problem.

If you know of any great resources or websites, let me know! And I’ll let you know how my projects turn out.

Here’s to 2013! A life simplified.

My Most Memorable Trip

In early July, just weeks before leaving Asia and coming back to Canada, I travelled to Laos for a week. It was my first solo adventure and by far the most memorable trip I’ve ever taken.

Lao PDR

It started in Vientiane, the capital of this small country that borders the north of Thailand, where I reunited with La, a girl I met at a bus stop in Vancouver 2.5 years ago. Three days later I hopped on a plane to Luang Prabang, a UNESCO world heritage city in the north of Laos, with no agenda whatsoever.

I spent 35 of the 45 minute flight holding hands with the Laotian woman beside me who was scared to death of flying and didn’t speak a word of English. As we landed in the jungly north and she finally released her grip on me, I told her one of the few phrases I could say in Thai (which is similar to Lao): “Phra Jiaow wei pon” or “God bless you.” She looked at me strangely, either because I said it wrong (most likely) or because Laos is a closed country, where according to law people cannot bring religion outside of the (government-run) church.

Since I didn’t plan a single aspect of this trip, I had no idea where I was going to stay. While standing at the baggage claim I found the friendliest-looking people on my flight and asked if I could share a taxi with them to their guesthouse.

My Guesthouse

Bryan and Paris, a gay couple of from Nashville, and Suphanee (Sue), their American-born Laotion friend invited to me hop inside their 15 passenger van, which had been rented by Paris’ extended family (also an American-born Laotian who was making his first-ever trip to Laos).

His aunts and uncles chatted excitedly in their native tongue and passed around a bag of bacon-flavoured dried shrimp, which I politely declined. When we arrived at the guest-house I was offered a room straight across the hall from my new friends, who graciously invited me to “hang out with [them] the whole time!”

Since I’m an introvert, I knew that having company for the entirety of my solo adventure wouldn’t bode well with me. So I joined them for a traditional meal at a restaurant down the road, became slightly intoxicated by the 640 mL bottle of Beerlao I drank (if you’ve been to Laos you know how it goes: drink the beer, buy the shirt), and sauntered back to my guesthouse in the sweltering heat for a much-desired nap, snapping photos of the Mekong River along the way.

National Beer of Lao PDR

The beauty of Luang Prabang is that with so many adventurous backpackers strewn throughout the city, it’s easy to make friends with a random person at a temple and share a meal with them by the riverside.

Abby and I met at the top of Mount Phousi, a temple that overlooks the city. (I’ve never been so hot and sweaty as I was climbing to the top of the hill). We, along with 50 others, seated ourselves toward the western sky and watched the sun set over the Mekong River. (Unfortunately the battery in my camera died at that point – but I figure those are the types of pictures that are better taken with your mind).

The Mighty Mekong River

As she told me her story it sounded quite similar to my own. At 25 years old, after living in California for her undergrad and an entry-level career, she was about to move home to Illinois and take up residence in her parents’ house for the next several months, a season I had recently (and gratefully) ended.

She told me some of her fears and concerns, which were precisely the kind of struggles I faced living under my parents’ roof as an adult. This was the first time I had thought about living with my parents in a long time. Thailand had captivated me the moment I stepped into the warm, spicy air, leaving the memories of home far behind me.

Despite my struggles (which, let’s be honest – were largely due to pride) I could look back and say that it was a rich season filled with lots of growth. And I was tremendously thankful to my family for the support they gave me during that time.

My conversation with Abby encouraged me to start reflecting on my 6 months in Thailand. I would be back in Canada in just a few weeks and I thought this would be a good way to prepare. The next morning I grabbed my journal, headed to a bakery/café, and found a secluded corner where I could pour over the pages for a solid two hours.

I am an avid journaler, so my thick, green book – a gift from my friend Amy before I left for Thailand– was filled with roughly 4 months of memories. I read every single word and recalled all of the events and experiences that came with them. My heart was spilling with gratitude and the thought that continues to resurface in my life was loud and clear: God writes good stories.

Journal scrawlings

When I came back to Canada I was not a fan of the story that I was in. It was hard and I felt aimless and uncertain of where I wanted to be. And my natural self always equates hard with bad. But what I failed to remember is that what makes a good story is conflict.

As I sit here and soak up all of the positive and negative turns of Chapter Three, I want to realign my perspective and commit this blog to being a place where I tell good stories in every season of my life. I want to see the bigger picture, have a thankful heart, and look to the future with certainty and expectation of what’s to come as I await another great story written by the best Author I know.

I Made it to The Wall!

There’s a wall in my parents’ house with 3 large photos framed and hung proudly in the great room. They are photos of my brother and his family. The photos of me – until very recently – were small and placed on a table nearby.

I’m not the only one who has noticed this arrangement. When friends come to visit they often comment how my brother is “dominating the wall.”

This, in turn, has led to the phrase, “One day I’ll make it to The Wall!” One day…when I’m married…when I have children. One day I’ll make it to The Wall. For now I’ll take my place on a side table. I can live with that. I aspire to The Wall.

Well, as of this past Friday night, I made it to The Wall.

And no, I’m married, or even engaged, or with child. But maybe my parents jumped the gun a little now that I have a boyfriend.

I made it to The Wall!

Regardless, I’m just happy to be up there. Now I don’t have to try to explain to my friends that my parents love my brother more than they love me (just kidding). Thanks Mom and Dad!