But I Never Get Sick…

Lifestyle/Personal

Last Wednesday I woke up with drums beating in my ears, an avalanche of bricks falling on my head, and something like gravel stuck in my throat. I realized suddenly that I was soaked in my own sweat, my tank top damp, my p.j. pants stuck to my legs, my hair wetter than when I get out of the shower. This is impossible I thought, I never get sick. My brain felt less than functional, my entire body felt sore. Somehow I got out of bed and made myself a coffee. I looked at my phone, 6:45 A.M. and I couldn’t be more nauseous. I decided to go back to bed.

“Money cannot buy health, but I’d settle for a diamond-studded wheelchair.” ― Dorothy Parker

I spent the entire day taking naps and popping Advil in the sincerest hope for some peace and quiet, for the pounding and aching to subside. I don’t know how my head didn’t explode. The next few days got a little better, then a little worse. The trouble was that I couldn’t focus, writing and reading were excruciatingly difficult. Eating hurt my throat more than I thought it would. Searching for jobs online seemed utterly impossible. I didn’t even workout. Anyone who knows me KNOWS that something is really wrong when I can’t get up the energy to workout.

Like most people I take my health for granted. I wake up at the same time every morning, follow the same routines, and get shit done. I eat healthy foods, workout, and always make time to read and write. Being sick for a week completely threw my life upside down, suddenly I couldn’t do the things I wanted or that I am used to. I couldn’t even cuddle with my niece! It all made me a little depressed. The funny thing about being a wallflower or outsider is that we want to be able to choose when we want to be left alone. We don’t want to be told not to go near someone or not to kiss them, we don’t want to have to stay in our room alone so that no one catches what we have. Choosing to be alone feels completely different than being forced to be alone.

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It wasn’t all bad though. This SICK-WEEK allowed me to take a step back, to sleep in and rest, to take a breather and put a few things on pause. I like to be busy and I put so much pressure on myself to keep going, so maybe this SICK-WEEK was a blessing in disguise. I feel refreshed, ready to job hunt, ready to write, ready to go out and get it!!

Happy MONDAY!

– Vanessa

Not That Kind of Girl [Book Review/Thank You]

Book Reviews

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I’ve been excited to read Not That Kind of Girl since my interning days at Random House Canada when the book was first announced. I’ve watched Girls on HBO and love it but my admiration for Lena Dunham has more so to do with her words and her kick-ass attitude than her acting. Not That Kind of Girl feels like you’re reading a script from Girls, except it’s a tad more poetic and 100% real. Lena holds nothing back, sharing insights and stories about love, sex, her body, friendship, work, and family life. She writes with honesty, conviction, and passion. In sharing everything she’s “learned’ you can’t help but learn something about yourself or about the person you want to be.

Lena’s book doesn’t need to be reviewed. No matter what I say fans  will still flock to bookshops and purchase their own copy. In the big scheme of publicity, my review will not boost her sales or gain her fans, so instead of writing a review I’d rather write a thank you.

Thank you for expressing everything that I have ever felt, witnessed, or experienced in a kick-ass, unforgiving way. Thank you understanding the basic human condition, that we are all assholes who are afraid of death. Thank you for making the personal essay cool, valid, relatable, honest, and smart. For publishing the kind of words that fill voids, generate laughter, and banish embarrassment. Reading your book has given me the courage to continue writing personal essays, to share my thoughts with the world, and to challenge myself as a writer. Thank you for showing me that every story is important and that my thoughts are valid.

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AND I DECIDED THEN THAT I WILL NEVER BE JEALOUS. I WILL NEVER BE VENGEFUL. I WON’T BE THREATENED BY THE OLD, OR BY THE NEW. I’LL OPEN WIDE LIKE A DAISY EVERY MORNING. I WILL MAKE MY WORK. (201)

 

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

Lesson Learned: falling into place

Lifestyle/Personal

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On my 25th birthday I held my breath and blew out the candles with such ferocity that my wish didn’t have a chance to exist…

The clock ticks faster these days and any attempt to slow down my thoughts results in a quickened heart rate and nervous tic. I noticed crows-feet digging lines into the corners of his eyes as I sang him Happy Birthday the other day. A mirror of those lines are in the corner of my own, not to mention the pillows of darkness beneath my eyes. We’re getting older, but we’re so young — the world is still ours.

Every rash decision I’ve made and every opportunity I’ve been afraid to take has led me to this land of mass confusion. All options are in the air — I’m a juggler throwing balls so high, losing them in the sky. I’m waiting impatiently for one to come back down, hit me in the head, and get me back on track. My mind is fatigued most days and this uncertainty isn’t invigorating, it’s a burden. I’m waiting for everything to fall into place.

“Falling into Place:
deciding everything is falling into place perfectly as long as you don’t get too picky about what you mean by place. Or perfectly.” ― Brian Andreas

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!

stop dickering around.

Lifestyle/Personal

I LOVE spending Sundays in Toronto, well in all honesty I love ANYTIME in Toronto. With every corner you turn you can see something new. It’s my kind of bliss — tiny adventures a block at a time. Yesterday afternoon I went to Gusto 101 with the bf and cousins. We sat on the patio and were pummelled with sunshine — it felt great. I had the burger and a glass of their white wine that’s on tap ($1 an ounce!) my mouth is still salivating. Whenever I’m in the city I tend to think big thoughts, dream big dreams. Everything about Toronto is so much BIGGER and FASTER than anything in Bolton.

This is how it is, you’re stagnant for so long and then all of a sudden everything happens at once. All of a sudden your dreams shift and mould into something completely different. All of a sudden life is catching up to you and you can’t seem to understand how quickly you turned twenty-five. You feel like you were nineteen last week instead of six years ago. All of a sudden every single choice you make has an immediate result and impact on your life. All of a sudden you’ve got to stop dickering around and grow the eff up.

IMG_7942I’m not the type to dick around. I want different things than I wanted last year and I’ve got to work hard in order to get them. Patience is a virtue but persistence is a necessity. Changes are immediate, with no end in sight. I don’t want to press pause, rewind, or even fast forward because I’m enjoying the uncertainty of my life right now. My story is just getting interesting…

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

greatness and all that jazz

Bursting the Bubble, Family Time, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Restaurant Reviews

piclabThursday was a perfect day for walking around the streets of Toronto with one of my favourite girlies in all the land. I invited my brother’s girlfriend, Christine, to accompany me to the Chapters Indigo media preview. Although she’s been dating my brother for years we’ve never spent much time together, so when I went to pick her up I was a little nervous. I’m always scared that I’ll be awkward or run out of things to say to people but I was happily surprised when we literally could not stop talking!

I think one reason we get along so well is because we are a lot alike. We crave adventure, we’re ambitious, we’re quiet and yet can’t stop talking when we’re with people we like spending time with. We keep things to ourselves but are learning to speak our minds. We love our families, boyfriends, friends, and even books. We’re tired of saying yes to people who don’t appreciate us and have made a pact to not do things that make us unhappy just to make someone else happy.

As our chatting continued, my nervous energy melted away and we were both able to enjoy an evening in the city. We walked to Chapters Indigo head office and then over to The Store On Queen so I could pick up a pair of pants I ordered (I was super bummed that I didn’t get to meet Hubby and Wifey), and finally headed to the O&B Canteen for a bite to eat (dinner was delicious by the way).

IMG_7516IMG_7517IMG_7520 IMG_7553I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again — I LOVE BEING DOWNTOWN. The hustle and bustle makes me feel alive. The murmur of various conversations, the sardine-packed sidewalks, the endless rows of great shops and fabulous restaurants is so different from anything I experience on a day-to-day basis. King Street West is my favourite part of the city — it’s familiar and foreign. I can navigate that block pretty well and still see something new every time I walk it. I feel like I belong in the city, I should be walking home from work, grabbing an early drink or a late latte with my boyfriend, friends, or solo. 

What is about the city that makes me feel great? Is it just Toronto or all cities that make me feel like I can do anything, be anyone, and achieve my biggest dreams? An important part of this feeling is surrounding myself with people who feel the same way, or who at very least believe that I am capable of all those things. People who think I am great and that I can achieve greatness. Thank you to all of those people.

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 Love Always and Forever,

Vanessa Xo