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

Question: When does a blogger stop blogging?

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal

I started my blog in 2010 as a way to get my writing out there, as a way to get comfortable with my words being read by family members and complete strangers. It’s evolved many times as my content expanded into book reviews, product reviews, travel diaries, restaurant reviews, and everything else in between. I’m proud of the my voice, the voice that this blog has helped harness and create, but when is it time to move on? When I started My Pen, My Voice I wasn’t sure how long it would last or who I would meet because of it. I’ve met some wonderful writers, publishing folk, and have made great friends that I am thankful for. I’m thankful for being able to share my life with other people and for those posts that actually resonated with my readers (however few they might be).

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I know fashion bloggers, lifestyle bloggers, and book bloggers who have made careers out of their blogs. Who have made so many opportunities for themselves in this vast place we call the Internet. They’ve made a name for themselves and stand out from the millions and millions of bloggers out there. I’ve been waiting patiently for my break, convinced that my blog would be turned into a book or that someone in publishing (or even Ellen DeGeneres) would stumble upon my blog and offer me a book deal. It hasn’t happened, but instead of being devastated I’m shifting my energy.

I love my blog, but I’m afraid that sometimes it distracts me from other writing projects, from a novel I’ve been thinking about, from short stories that I’ve started but never finished, and from pitching to other websites or magazines with different content than my own. I fear that since I am my own editor I’m not growing as a writer and that my content has been recycled. I find that to be a wasteful state for a writer, for a person.

“the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”
– Benjamin Franklin 

Long blog short, my last post on My Pen, My Voice will be published December 31, 2014. It’s time to make some changes in my life and make some room for other writing priorities. I will begin a new year not as a blogger/writer but as a Writer. You’ll still read my words on Chic Darling, Passion8, and CanCulture. I’ll still be writing every single day. I’ll still be tweeting and reading and sharing my adventures with you, but it won’t be here, on this blog. Maybe one day I’ll have an author website or maybe I’ll write for a magazine or freelance my ass off. I don’t know, I just know that it’s time to move on because change is good and I’m ready for it.

So, let’s make these last few months of 2014 and this blog count.

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…almost

Vanessa xo

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!

the transformation begins via a fresh coat of paint

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal

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Last night I went to spIn in Woodbridge with one of my favourite human beings. We chatted for three hours non-stop about life, love, work, travel, and everything else in between. I’ve known Lina for almost three years, travelled with her (and our bfs to Chicago), and have had many adventures with her in between. She’s a creative type (like myself) who is yearning to get into interior design. We’re both working our butts off, taking risks, and just hoping for hard work and luck to thrust us into our desired careers. We’re both a little unsettled and without plans in sight, we’re driving ourselves crazy!

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Somewhere between coffee/tea and dessert, we had an epiphany. We feel so unsettled because we have so many options and don’t know what to choose. Since my closet purge I’ve been trying to let go of some baggage, allow for little changes to uplift my mood, spark some creativity, and maybe even help me focus a little on who I am and what I really want. My latest project is redecorating my room, I do a lot of writing, blogging, and job hunting in there but recently the dark purple walls have been weighing me down and closing in on me. I want to feel relaxed, confident, and focussed and since colours really do affect your mood the purple has got to go. I choose a different state of mind.

 We can literally do anything we want right now, the toughest part is figuring out the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. Maybe all you need is a fresh coat of paint and an open-mind.

ENJOY LIFE AND KICK ASS, 
VANESSA XX

You can’t predict the weather but you can weather the storm.

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

I cannot believe how quickly this weekend flew by! I spent my weekend about three hours away from home with a few fantastic ladies to celebrate my bestie’s bachelorette. I packed my bikini and sunscreen in hopes that I would soak up some sun and FINALLY get a tan this summer. Sadly, even after a little sun-dance, it stayed hidden behind the clouds.

A cool wind and constant rain kept us inside but we made the most of the weekend. Eating, sleeping, drinking the most delicious coffee I’ve ever had, watching Bridesmaids, gossiping, and relaxing in my sweats turned out to be exactly what I needed. You never know what can happen when you bring together a group of women (some of which don’t know each other). I’m thankful that well all got along, got to know each other better, and made a few memories over the weekend too.

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You wouldn’t think that a Bachelorette would bring about some intense thoughts but as I sat around and observed the conversations being had, I learned more about myself than I bargained for. In order to be successful I need to be as confident as the girls I was surrounded by this weekend. In larger groups I gravitate to the background or stick to the only person in the room that I know and that has to stop. The only one judging me is myself and I need to get over my self-consciousness in order to change and grow as a person and a professional. To be a #GIRLBOSS (although no one used that term this weekend) I need to stop making excuses for myself and to try harder. I need to know that I am doing everything I possibly can to live the life I want and I cannot give up. I also have to learn when to let something go and just have FUN.

Thanks to the Real Party Girls of Kathryn’s Bachelorette for teaching me all of this and so much more!

ENJOY LIFE AND KICK ASS, 
VANESSA XX

#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