change the way you look at things

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal

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At a family dinner the other night I noticed something, I’ve changed. My relationship has changed. My goals have changed. My need to impress people has changed. What I spend my money on has changed. What I want for my future has changed. The way that I think about things has changed. The way I share things has changed.

Sometimes changes come hard and fast, other times they trickle in. From now until THE END you’ll notice a few differences on My Pen, My Voice. For starters the theme is completely different, I don’t love it or hate it, I’m just trying something new. I’m trying to arrange it so that I can keep the blog portion and still have an area to share new projects and exciting articles that I write for other websites. And for right now, this works.

I hope you’ll stick with me for the next few months and enjoy all of the changes as they occur. Let me know what you like and what you don’t, what works and what doesn’t.

Vanessa xo

WILD [Book Review]

Book Reviews

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My cousin Amanda recommended that I read WILD by Cheryl Strayed. It’s one of her favourite books, one that she knew I would love too. WILD is the most intense memoir(ish) book that I have read this year. Cheryl holds nothing back when retelling dark and incredibly personal stories from her childhood, her teen years, and her adulthood.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

I adored Cheryl’s writing style, her voice and her views on life. I held my breath on every word of every sentence. I cried, I laughed, I shuttered, and I wondered if I could ever do what The Queen of the PCT did. I enjoyed every person she met on the trail, I cringed at the thought of toenails falling off and the immense strain the hike put on her body, and I cried whenever she discovered something new about herself or her mother. I admire everything about her journey and more so, I admire her ability to write it all down and leave it on the page. WILD is about more than her literal journey, the PCT hike, it’s about life and how we approach it. It’s about the simplicity of complex problems if you just sit down, empty your pack, and think things through. It’s about how to carry yourself through life while understanding everything around you. It’s about lives ending too soon and appreciating the relationships that you have. It’s about goals and dreams and letting go when it’s time to let go.

“It was all unkown to me then….except the fact that I didn’t have to know. that it was enough to trust that what i’d done was true… to know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough. that it was everything. it was my life — like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. so very close, so very present, so very belonging to me. How wild it was, to let it be.” 
Vanessa xx
*quote from pg 311

Lesson Learned: Don’t Half-Ass your Life

Family Time, Lifestyle/Personal

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It’s a little-known fact that my mother and I don’t always see eye-to-eye, and yet I’m more like her than my father. I might shrug off her bits of advice and pretend that I don’t care what she thinks, but the truth is that her acceptance and wisdom mean a lot to me. My mom has this way of always doing things perfectly, she puts 100% of effort into everything she does. Whether it’s making dinner, grocery shopping, or reading to my niece, she never looks for a short cut. My mother is always put together. She ALWAYS has a pair of earrings on, long mascaraed lashes, and combed hair, even if she’s walking out of the house in track pants. If my mother had a mantra or a set of guidelines for life, it would look something like this:

Don’t half-ass your life.
Do things the right way, not the easy way.
Clean your room, make sure your clothes match, put on some mascara.
We might not be rich, but we can be presentable. 
Don’t do it for anyone else, Do it for you. 
Take pride in your life. 

Whenever I feel like giving up or convince myself that going out in a ratty sweater and old track pants is okay, my mom’s voice pops into my head, altering my choices. If you can’t show up to your own life and give 150% every single day, nothing awesome will ever happen. I think my mom is my number one (silent) supporter. She believes in me and knows my potential more than anyone else — it may have something to do with me living in her uterus for nine months.

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When I’m feeling uninspired, self-conscious, and down about my life choices, she sends me little notes of inspiration and positivity. When I don’t believe in myself, she does. When I don’t do my very best, she pushes me to. There’s no way that a daughter of hers is going to waste her life, or half-ass her dreams. She might seem like an overbearing mother, a nag even, but she’s my nag and when her green eyes burst with passion and her hands start flailing, I know she’s about to tell me one of those secrets to life, and I listen with an open heart.

Talk soon,
Vanessa

Coffee Shop Thoughts

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal

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Nervous legs twitch beneath every coffee table in my peripheral. The entire cafe takes another sip of their foamy, double-shot cappuccinos and put down their cups in unison as I breathe a sigh of relief. Their nervous ticks and hipster shades soothe me. After an intense conversation with a fellow writer/friend I see my life, my decisions, my writing, and my blog in a new light. Ideas of substance burst into flames when under intense pressure. It’s time to diminish the stress and thrive on new thoughts and different ventures. I’ve tried this before and failed quite successfully but I deserve a second chance.

This doesn’t mean you won’t hear from me at all.

It just means that I have to put a few other things first.

Talk soon,
Vanessa

Credo quia impossibile… [NEW MANTRA]

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Toronto Adventures

Credo quia impossibile…

I believe it because it is impossible…

I found that Latin phrase on the signed copy of Cloud by Eric McCormack that I won from The Cooke Agency via Twitter. Can a phrase like that be a mantra because if so, it’s mine now. Over the last few years (like many other university graduates) I’ve struggled to start my career. My dreams include working for a publishing company or other bookish establishment and living in the heart of Toronto (with the bf), while writing freelance articles and keeping up with my blog. Right now I’m unemployed,  living with my parents at least 50 minutes from the city, and yes still blogging and freelancing. My dreams seem anything but possible from where I’m sitting, and yet I can’t stop believing that one day it will happen. I don’t think that my dreams are too big, or impossible, or crazy, I just need to keep trying and hope for a bit of luck to come my way…

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One day I’ll be able to miss this view…

ENJOY LIFE AND KICK ASS, 
VANESSA XX

* Photo taken with the Nokia Lumia 1020!

#GIRLBOSS [Book Review]

Book Reviews

I haven’t had the urge to carry a notebook around with me while reading a book in a long while, and then I picked up a copy of #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso. I found myself needing to write down all of the important quotes, anything that related to me and my current way of life, and ANYTHING that opened my eyes a little wider or got my heart pumping.

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#GIRLBOSS is Sophia’s story, how she went from selling a stolen book online, to shoplifting, to starting an eBay shop (Nasty Gal Vintage), to where she is today — CEO and Creative Director of a Nasty Gal. It’s the story of how she worked her way from the very bottom to the top by working long hours alone in front of a computer screen or sifting through thrift shops, teaching herself HOW to run her own business. She discusses what worked for her and what didn’t, she talks about all of the shitty jobs she had and how they prepared her for what would eventually become her empire.

BUT it’s not all about her nor is it a guide to becoming her. It’s a guide to becoming your OWN #GIRLBOSS, whatever that means to you. It’s not about becoming an entrepreneur, it’s about becoming entrepreneurial in everything that you do. It’s chalk-full of helpful hints, quotes, and stories from other successful #GIRLBOSSES (Alexi Wasser, Jenne Lombardo etc.). It’s a kick-ass book designed to open your eyes and help you on the road to kicking ass. I totally recommend it to any woman out there who knows that they’re destined for awesome and needs a little push in the right direction. All I know is that the second I put the book down I brainstormed ways to improve this blog, I made a plan to connect better with my readers, I searched up freelancing websites, and I decided to become that 1% (if you read the book, you know what I’m talking about).

Here are some of my favourite quotes from #GIRLBOSS!

you combine hard work, creativity, and self-determination, and things start to happen. (p 16)
There are secret opportunities inside every failure. (P 51)
Life is unwritten, like a great big experiment… I think it’s worth putting up with making some compromises, and even playing by (some of) the rules. (95)
Take care of the little things — even the little things that you hate — and treat them as promises to your own future. (121)
The last thing the world needs is another boring person or another boring brand, so embrace all the things that make you different (143)
Enjoy life and kick ass, 
Vanessa xx

Goodbye ?

Lifestyle/Personal

The other day I thought about contacting agents and putting together a proposal to turn my blog into a book. I saved all of my posts to a Pages document and fantasized about all the wonderful people in the world, reading my blogs (mini-essays) in print form and really resonating with my words. I thought about all of the people my words could touch, how many people could feel a little less lonely because they read something I wrote.

I was quickly brought back to reality after speaking to a few of my friends and colleagues. My blog doesn’t have a theme, it doesn’t have a niche, and I never really thought about an audience when I started it. It was simply meant to be something that was for me, somewhere I could practice my writing and maybe even build a platform. After 4 years and approximately 240,000 words I realized that I’m not far off from where I started. I’ve made wonderful connections and have worked with amazing brands but my blog is too personal and that creates a roadblock. I totally get it, I understand it. The thing is that I don’t know how to write any other way, I don’t know how to write without my heart in my left hand and my pen in my right. I write to understand truths, to find the truth and hope that someone out there understands where I’m coming from.

If I stopped writing this blog, I don’t think many people would notice. I’m a tiny person with a tiny, yet emotionally charged, blog in an internet world full of bloggers. FUN bloggers who can inspire your wardrobe or your next travel destination or a craft or your latest home improvement project OR your next meal. They’re all well-written, they have prettier photos, and they don’t force you to contemplate life. They just are. That is why they are so much more successful than I am.

When is it time to realize that I am not the next Carrie Bradshaw or Emily Schuman or Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman or even Julie Powell? Will it be enough for me to know that My Pen, My Voice is still just a place for me to think, to discover, to tell personal stories? Yes it will. When will I realize that this blog still has the same intention as it did in 2010 — to put my thoughts out there and hope they put a smile on even one person’s face? Today.

My Pen, My Voice isn’t going anywhere (in print or otherwise).

As seen on Twitter: ‏@AmandaLogan

As seen on Twitter: ‏@AmandaLogan

– Vanessa

patience is a necessary nuisance

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal

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My last day at work was a tough one. Tears were not shed but a piece of me will always be in that place, second homes are not easily forgotten no matter how imperfect or stressful or dramatic they are. I worked with such amazing kids (I say kids because they’re closer to 14 than I am), I served fantastic customers who would give me advice or make me laugh when I was having a bad day, and I worked for two people who were more than my bosses, sometimes they were my friends, sometimes they were my grandparents, sometimes they were my therapists. I’m happy and relived that I left on good terms, that their door is always open and that I can return as a customer and a friend. I’m ecstatic that they believe in me and that they wish for me to be successful. I hope I can make them proud. *If you’re ever in town (Bolton) give them a visit, I swear their lattes are the best kept secret in Bolton — the pizza is pretty rad too*

I can be impatient and a little stubborn sometimes, so now that I’m on full-out-job-hunting-mode I’m a little hyper. I want things to happen so I’m going out and getting it — or trying to. I’m feeling the pressure and in spite of those who think me a little crazy, I feel like something awesome is just on the horizon. Dreams, they drive your soul and guide you in the right direction. I might not have a plan but I know that I’m on the right path.

Hope your long weekend is filled with love and light!

Vanessa Xo

The Closet Purge of 2014

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal

I feel different lately, like everything inside of my head has jumbled together, broken a part, and ended up in a different place. My heart feels the same and yet just as different as the thoughts in my head. I still love who I love but some kinds of love have come to an end. I’m still me but with a different style and interests and likes. For example, my bedroom is no longer ME. I walk into it and stare at the deep purple walls realizing that they belong to a quiet, angry, and confused young girl. I sit at my desk and the sad purple walls stare right back, asking me Who are you? These walls don’t belong to the confident and happy dreamer I’ve become and so they must go.

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A few other things have to go too. After years of nagging from my mother and a little inspiration from my best friend, I completely purged my closet on Sunday. Sometimes you grow out of clothes physically, sometimes emotionally. I looked at the clothes hanging in my closet and the a lime green chiffon shirt, two pairs of shorts that don’t fit, a dress that I wore to my nineteenth birthday, etc. no longer appeal to me. I am not the same person who wore those items so I got rid of them. I kept anything that I wear often and will only add items to my closet that represent me.

photo 2It seems like the more I get rid of the more I’m able to see who I really am. The more I change, the more I can discover what really matters to me. It’s the most refreshing feeling in the entire world. My last day at the pizza place is Friday and I think that’s the spark for all of these little changes. I outgrew that job, I outgrew my clothes, and I’ve certainly outgrown some of my thoughts. I’m welcoming the new with open arms and a waving flag that reads COME GET ME! I’M READY!

Love Always (if not forever)

Vanessa

the weight of Insecurities

Bursting the Bubble, Family Time, Lifestyle/Personal

Perhaps you saw my sulky tweet about going for a physical. The one where I gained 6 pounds since the last time I visited the doctor two years ago. I don’t usually tweet things like that, I highly doubt you care how much I weigh or how much I’ve gained, but I do. In 10th grade I got fed up with being the only girl who wasn’t naturally thin, so I made it my goal to become skinny. I wanted to be pretty, thin, and get noticed by the hot guys in my grade. I wanted desperately to have a boyfriend. I went on a strict NO JUNK FOOD diet and worked out with Billy Blanks tapes every day. Eventually I lost the weight but it didn’t get me a boyfriend, nor did it rid of my insecurities.

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Feeling beautiful is all that matters. Thin, thick, whatever. Beauty is on the inside. Oh and CHOCOLATE TASTES AS GOOD AS ANYTHING FEELS!

The thing is that I will never be thin — maybe subtly toned and thick but never thin. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over that or be okay with it. Even nine years later, I don’t feel confident most days. I try on clothes and even though I’m “tiny”, it doesn’t make me enjoy shopping any more than someone who isn’t. In fact, trying on clothes isn’t the only thing that irks me, I hate seeing myself naked. I despise bathing suits and refuse to look at myself before heading into the shower. In the mirror all I see are the same imperfections I’d notice when I was sixteen years old. I see extra skin or flab that wasn’t there before, I see cellulite from my bum to my upper back thighs and I grimace. How can a 25-year-old woman not love her body? Not love the skin that’s treated her well her entire life? It baffles me and sickens me that hearing that I am now 129lbs instead of 123lbs is something that could ruin my day but it does.

So what now? Is this vanity or a simple case of I don’t look like the women I see in magazines or movies? Or is it something even worse than that? Have I made being “thin” “skinny” or “tiny” my main characteristic? Am I vain enough to think that that’s how people remember me or am I silly enough to hope that that’s how they remember me? The more important question is why, why would I want that to be the way people remember me? Wouldn’t I rather have people say “Vanessa? You mean the writer from My Pen, My Voice?” or “Vanessa? That sweet girl with a weird but fun sense of humour?”  or “Oh Vanessa? Ya I remember her! She’s awesome.”  There are all kinds of beautiful out there and they don’t start with a number on the scale.

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This is me. Today. I’m a writer, traveller, and reader. I am a daughter, sister, aunt, granddaughter, niece, girlfriend, cousin, and friend. I have brown eyes, big thighs, and a small waist. I have big feet and love having my toenails painted. I like my lips, they’re exactly like my moms. I love to laugh, especially if it’s over a Lavazza latte. I like working out and I am healthy but I love my mom’s muffins and cookies too much to give them up. I love Italian food and penne alla vodka is my favourite dish. I weigh 129lbs and I am beautiful, not in spite of or because of that number. It’s just one little piece of who I am and if I can have so many people love me for all of these things, then I can learn to love myself too. It’s a journey, a process, and I’m on the right track.

Love Always and Forever,

Vanessa Xo