Category Archives: Purpose Quest

An Ode to Lena Dunham and Girls

I have a confession to make. I’ve been obsessively googling “Lena Dunham interview” videos on YouTube for the past few days – sneaking them in the background at work, while I cook, while I tooth brush. Not to mention the frantic episode review searches every Monday, since no one in my circle is a devoted Girls Season 6 follower (that, or they don’t have cable).

Part of it is nostalgia for sure, since the series finale is tonight (how?). Part of it is because Lena Dunham and I are the same age, with similar neurosis and evidently, similar dreams. Perhaps it’s based on identifying with three of the main characters (35% Marnie, 40% Shosh and 25% Hannah), going through similar painful life lessons at roughly the same time.

The younger, poorer and more vulnerable Sex and the City knock offs circa 2012

The younger, poorer and more vulnerable Sex and the City knock offs circa 2012

The Courage To Create From The Heart

I first heard about Girls shortly after accepting a content and programming role at a telecom (TV Everywhere, “they call it”). Reps from HBO were very excited to share the premiere news, like all networks that pitched and pimped their fresh meat in order to get more marketing and merchandising love.

When I watched Season 1, I loved to hate it. And then I tried to watch Tiny Furniture and fell asleep. I thought Lena Dunham was overrated and a little weird but mostly I was just jealous that she had hustled and created her way to producing, writing, directing and acting in a fearless series that was based on her most shameful, raw, vulnerable moments and observations.

Lena Dunham’s commitment to portraying the truth, from awkward sexual experiences to UTI’s, Facebook stalking to brawls with best friends, masturbation to silicone penises is a sharp contrast to the veneers we share on social media and the benign pleasantries we exchange at work.

It requires facing the judgmental voices in our heads and the fear of being found out. Because once our most shameful traits and memories are out in the open, we for sure won’t be lovable. At least that’s what keeps me cocooned in writer’s block most of the time.

What will my current and future employers think? What will my Ex’s? What will my parents and grandparents think? What will my unborn children think if I published the moments that mattered most? I would never get married, get hired or live a normal life again.

But maybe the relationships we’ve outgrown are the ones that would fade out or temporarily hold. Maybe we’d attract a tribe like Judd Apatow and Jenni Konner who celebrate and support the real us. On that note, the oral history of Girls in The Hollywood Reporter is a fascinating, must read about the universe conspiring.

The Courage To Keep Going When Critics Say No

Lena has faced an inordinate amount of scrutiny and criticism since the debut of her show from valid journalists and critics to random trolls on twitter. They’ve criticized and applauded her appearance, torn down and built up her work, questioned her morals and values. There were even lawsuits from stories in her book. I had my own experiences with critics (outside of myself) and it didn’t end well.

In grade 12, my friends and I entered the “Sears Drama Festival” with an ensemble play about a group of friends and I was to play Martha, the one they could barely tolerate. The plot line cut a little too close to home, as I often felt like an outsider in our group of friends. Her character had the greatest emotional arc, with a breakdown at the end as her carefully crafted façade came tumbling down.

I remember crying backstage during our dress rehearsal because the Director wasn’t feeling it and I felt blocked internally and like I would fail. True to form, the festival judge praised a couple of my classmates but told the room that, “Martha just wasn’t believable.” I was devastated…and he was probably right. I really wanted to deliver a flawless and inspiring performance that would validate my childhood actress dreams and help win us a prize. I wanted outcomes. But I’ve come to learn that perfectionism kills presence and vulnerability, two key attributes of creating.

That same year I tried halfheartedly to get an agent but was told very kindly by one to take acting classes and come back (spoiler alert: I did not). A female agent told me the bags under my eyes were so deep that “not even stage makeup could cover them up”, among other harsh opinions. I cried during the car ride home with my dad, feeling like an idiot.

I decided that I didn’t have the thick skin required to endure endless rejection in that industry and so I focused on business school, a place where I could rely on my intellect and relentless work ethic to thrive and feel good about myself. It was 100% a fear-based + ego saving move. I didn’t realize then that the corporate world can be full of critics too.

So even if you manage to silence your inner critic enough to produce a work from your heart and soul, you have to continue to stand by your conviction that you belong in the arena, while being open to perspectives that can truly help you grow. In Lena’s case, learning about diversity inclusion and racial sensitivity.

Slightly less entitled more aware versions of Hannah, Marnie, Jessa & Shoshanna

Slightly less entitled more aware versions of Hannah, Marnie, Jessa & Shoshanna

The Courage To Live Your Values AND Use Your Voice

Finally, Lena is a woman of cause and conviction. She is a huge advocate for mental health, sharing her own struggles with OCD and anxiety, so we can feel less alone. She’s passionate about feminism and Planned Parenthood and sisterhood etc. Yes she’s in a position of power and influence where she’d be more “role-model” conscious and these activities benefit her personal brand and therefore wallet, but it all feels authentic to me.

When the Women’s Marches happened around the world, including Toronto, I realized I’ve never protested for anything. Been more of a blah, sit on the sidelines, “what’s the point?” kind of girl.

But I want to give a sh*t and put my money where my mouth is now. I want to be the 12-year old girl who auditioned for a drama program with very little experience, put her heart into it and got to jump up and down on her modest porch, smiling from ear-to-ear after receiving her thin acceptance letter in the mail. It felt like magic. And I think that’s the last time I took any major action from the heart, not the head.

So thank you Lena Dunham, I’ll be watching for an untidy and realistic ending to the confusing cluster f*ck that is our 20’s., reflecting back on how far (or not) I’ve come.

PS this very emotional interview with Jemima Kirke ( the character “Jessa”) is worth a watch.

PPS Who inspires you lately? Tell me in the comments. Remember what you see in them, you have in yourself. xo

How to Overcome a Shitty Start to the New Year (2015 Edition)

I spent Christmas Eve through December 29th more or less glued to one of three toilets in my parent’s home, with my first ever bout of the stomach flu. Thankfully, it wasn’t the vomiting kind – allowing me to avoid my life’s greatest fear. Oh but how I worried it would happen as the grand finale to end all symptoms. In the end, Immodium saved the day after a valiant return (we broke up two years ago). Yay TMI.

Not only that but my mom accused me of being depressed and manifesting the entire illness due to stress and anxiety. I knew in my heart she was wrong but for a minute I had visions of stretchers and strait jackets, a la Girl Interrupted. Double fist pump.

I fought with the person I’m dating (multiple times). I fought with her. My parents fought. The days leading up to and following “THE NEW YEAR” were, well, really shitty (in more ways than one). And let’s just say Instagram wasn’t helping matters.

I didn’t feel safe and secure in my parent’s home, but I didn’t want to leave. Because I wanted to be taken care of (and car access…fine cable too). Suddenly, all the inner work and calm of the past twelve months flew down the drain. I spent December manifesting how I want to feel in 2015 (I recommend the Holiday Council Course, but here is a FREE intention setting resource by Nicole Antoinette). My reality was the opposite of: RADIANT, CONNECTED, DELIBERATE and BOLD. How ironic.

I sulked for a while and then got down to work. Here are small, habit-forming changes I’m committed to making this year. I hope they spark some ideas & action for you too!

Core desired feelings of radiant, deliberate, connected and bold

This is what rooted for growth looks like (Pinterest you so fine)

Commit to these eight new habits in 2015 to feel radiant, deliberate and bold

1. Plaster your vision (board) everywhere

2015’s theme is “Rooted for Growth. ” I spent most of last year floating through life, not committing to anything all wishy-washy. This year I want to renew my vows to myself, my career, romance, real estate you name it.

You can use Pic Monkey to create a digital collage of images and then make it your laptop screensaver (your iPhone too). You can post it in your cubicle (ultra glam) or stick it to your fridge (hi magnets) so your bleary-eyed ass gets a stare down every morning (hiss: “are you game?”)

Last year I created a poster size collage and never looked at it. So far, this new method is much better at keeping me inspired by and in touch with my vision.

2. Meditate Twice a DaY (to keep the doc away)

If I had a penny every time someone recommended meditation generically or specifically after speaking with me I’d be rich. It’s like FINE. You wore me down. I’ll DO IT!

By July of 2014 I was using this theta wave song once or twice a week for 15-20 minutes. This year, it will be like brushing my teeth (non negotiable). Five minutes in the morning and at least five at night. Here is a video on how to meditate monk styles. Click here for a bunch of guided meditations I have never tried. Click here for a 30-day meditation challenge beginning Feb 1. Or try this App.

3. Do a 5 minute Daily Journal Reflection

I listened to a podcast with UJ Ramdas who is the founder of the “five minute journal.” Just answer three questions in the morning and two at night to keep you in a positive frame of mind. I just started yesterday but am excited. It is very manageable time wise.

4. Create a Gratitude/Positivity Jar
Someone in Holiday Council shared how she wrote down positive moments on paper, folded them into a once empty jar and then re-read them when she was sad, as well as at the end of the year for review and reflection purposes. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a hot date with Dollarama.

5. Get your Fitness on at least Twice a Week

Last year I was lucky to get active once a week and that just isn’t enough. I took a break from yoga for a couple of months and missed it. I might also pick dance back up and dabble in kickboxing during this polar vortex season.

But from spring until fall, I’m going to jog two to three times a week for a half hour. I always admired runners but never felt motivated to be one of them. After California I felt the call and started to use the “Couch to 5K” App but then it got too cold and dark to continue (bah humbug). I’m also running a 5k this year for the first time ever – preferably a fun one like “Colour me Rad”.

6. Stop Waiting for someone to come along before you hit up your bucket list

I would rather invest in real estate with the power and safety of dual incomes and life savings. I would rather go back to school or make a significant career change when I have the emotional support and financial safety of a partner to temporarily weather the storm. I’m even saving a visit to Toronto’s new(ish) aquarium because it would make a great date night. Not to mention travel. Even if I replace boyfriend with friend, I am still making myself dependent on someone else’s whims and/or life circumstances before doing what I want to do.

Okay so this one is more of a mantra or mindset but I’m going to commit to the experiences I’m craving and inform my friends and anyone I’m dating at the time of the details. If they want to join, great! If not, I’m doing it anyway and let the chips fall where they may.

7. Dress for Success

I decided to invest in boxing week sales and upgrade my professional wardrobe because a button up dress shirt will not define me. And when I make it (wherever that is), I will no longer wear one. But until then, I’m going to fake feeling like an adult until I make it (courtesy of Banana Republic, land of the spontaneous daily sale).

8. Don’t Rely on Chance: Get an Accountability Plan

I’m going to mark down with stickers on a physical calendar the days I meditated and journalled (Gretchin Rubin styles) and then expand it to other goals. I’m going to check in monthly on my 2015 plan instead of holding my breath, closing my eyes and hoping for the best. I might recruit a buddy to be an accountability coach. IT’S ON!

So tell me, did your New Year start off rocky or was it fabulous? What habits do you want to integrate this year?

Before You Quit Your Corporate Job To Do An Internship Read This

Penelope Trunk recently released an ode to internships for people of all ages who want to try their hand at a new career. What she didn’t tell you is what life will be like once you get there and how to leverage the experience to get bigger and better things. She also didn’t advise on how to validate the opportunity in the first place. You have to really want it for the right reasons to make it work after you are established in another career.

I recently quit my job in strategy/analytics at a telecom company in order to pursue a 6-month internship in web series production only to find out that it was not the right move for me.  Here are some things to keep in mind before you leap into internship territory.

Don’t Idealize Your New Creative Industry

Oftentimes we place careers in fashion, media and design on a pedestal but they aren’t as glamorous as they seem. The reality is that most aspects of the industry are mundane or rather business-like. The end goal is still to make more money than you spend.

If you play on the business side of the industry, beware that the product you work on is not more important than all other factors combined. Many who work in these industries view their work as a job. Some even have passions outside the industry.

If you want to play on the creative artist side of the business (designer, director, actor or more) then go for it! But why didn’t you think of this career in the first place?

It can be dangerous to turn your Passion into a Career if you don’t know what drives you

As an intern in a cool industry, you aren’t working on your own ideas or passion projects. It takes years to get there and luck plays a huge role.

I don’t love the craft of writing per say. I love expressing my own ideas through writing to make sense of my thoughts and feelings. As a full-time journalist, I would have to write content that sells. As a full-time screenwriter, I would have to understand someone else’s vision and take on someone else’s voice. Eventually I could strike it big with my own idea but working in the industry doesn’t guarantee it.

Why do you love an artistic craft? Is it personal or is it the craft itself?

Neil proves you can do awesome artistic things while in corporate

Neil Parischa proves you can do awesome artistic things from your soul, while in corporate. Also see Barry Avrich.

There is a Downside to Small Companies: Size can Matter

You can intern at large or small companies. Don’t assume that working at a small company will come with a more positive team culture or that your contributions will be more meaningful. In fact, don’t assume anything.

There are positives and negatives to having passionate founders and artists at the helm. Leadership style still matters as does clicking with your boss. Politics and power dynamics still exist as long as you work with other people (many or few).

In a small shop, resources are tight in terms of time and money. This means you have fewer people to learn from. Those with enviable skills have less time to teach you. It also means there are fewer bodies to handle grunt work, so everyone has to pitch in to mundane tasks Including garbage duty.

But if you move to a massive company in a creative industry, is it really that different than corporate (especially if you are on the business side)?

This could be your future

This could be your future

Don’t be Myopic and know thyself before leaping

If you feel apathetic towards your corporate day job, examine WHY. 

Mind Games: Are you taking things personally? Are you over emphasizing the negative? Are you comparing yourself to others? Is gossip bogging you down? Do you need more patience? These aren’t great reasons to leave your job to take an internship.

Fixable Changes: If you still like your job function, would greater responsibility and visibility fix things? Is the culture getting you down? Talk to your manager(s) or HR first since the solution to your woes may lie within your company, department or team. Or get a similar functional job at a new company – not an internship.

Lifestyle: Do you want more time to invest in volunteering, hobbies and making memories with your loved ones? If yes, move closer to work or lobby for more flexible work hours – not an internship. If you want to be your own boss, start a company and/or complete a business plan on the side – not an internship.

New Function: If you want a dramatic career shift then taking an internship is smarter than going back to school. Either way you’ll start from the bottom but school just adds to the expense. Take advantage of your cushy job to explore new career directions on the side. Leap only when you have crunched the numbers and done your research.

Sometimes You Just Need A Break From Your Corporate Job

In my case, the internship was worth it because I saw my old job with fresh eyes. It validated that I’m not there just because 17-year-old me chose Business School. It’s not just job security or the money that drives me. I missed the structure, the people, autonomy, creative freedom and the distribution side of the industry.

During my absence, my old company had a chance to re-evaluate and re-focus my role and I feel lucky to be going back. I’m blown away by the compassion both the internship and corporate leaders expressed. We’re all people at the end of the day.

So this is the beauty of taking an internship or any job action: you will learn new things & set wheels in motion no matter what – you just can’t control how it will all play out. Life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’ll get.

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What career risks have you taken and how did they turn out? Share in the comments!

Why Paying Attention to Introverts Matters

DENIAL is what happened When Myers-Briggs slapped me with an INTJ label. Luckily Susan Cain’s Quiet helped me own up to my introverted temperament. It’s like that ugly quilt you hide from company but pull out on the coldest of days. Share the warmth my friends. And don’t call it ugly – it’s called character.

Defining the term Introvert

In a nutshell, introverts are highly reactive to both positive and negative external stimuli, making them very alert, sensitive to nuance and emotionally complex. They also have rich inner lives.

Our disposition to introversion is genetically predetermined, on average by 50% (ranges from 0% to 100%).

I can’t tell you how many times I wished I was different. Knowing that at least part of my disdain for clubbing is genetically driven is freeing. If your idea of a wild Saturday night is staying home with a book or movie, own the shit out of your preference.

How to manage your introverted temperament

The first step is self awareness. Once you have that down, self coaxing is an effective way to get you through difficult situations, by leveraging the Neo Cortex to soothe unwarranted fears brought on by the more primitive amygdale.

You can also try to become an effective self monitor by looking for clues and then modifying your behavior to the social demands of the situation. Sounds rather inauthentic to me, so maybe it is less about changing who you are and more about making choices that play to your natural strengths.

Cain also illustrates how being true to your introverted temperament can still fuel social and cultural change and inspire others via public speaking or other acts of courage.

Let your inner introvert shine through

Let your inner introvert shine through

8 Career Options for Introverts

After proving that our school system is geared towards extroversion in order to prepare children for the real world, Cain highlights the pitfalls of an extroverted workplace. I don’t know about you, but this explains why I have felt extreme discomfort in both the concrete jungle and schoolyard.

Apparently in the 1990’s the workplace was geared towards solitary work. Since then, cubicle square footage has shrunk and poorly run meeting invites have multiplied, leading to a decline in productivity and a rise in personal ailments.

If you have to work in a corporate setting, try to choose one that:

  1. Allows for enough “in-character” activity (i.e. solo work)
  2. Provides a private enough work space and enough restorative niches within your day to regroup
  3. Makes use of your persistence and tenacity to solve complex problems
  4. Partners you up with an extrovert who is better at handling information overload, multi-tasking and performing under pressure; you will complement each other
  5. Allows you to pursue restorative niches in your spare time: whatever floats your boat

But if you find yourself hungry for a career change, consider this:

  1. What did you enjoy doing as a kid? What kind of work do you gravitate to now and who do you envy? Let these answers guide you
  2. Find an activity that you enjoy so much that you pursue it for its own sake, without needing a reward. This will lead you to a state of flow, where you can naturally act “out of character” for the benefit of your cause
  3. Choose a career that lets you avert novelty and live in your own head. We’re talking artists, writers, scientists or thinkers (side eye to myself)

The goal is to attain an optimal level of stimulation most of the time. Or as high school science class taught me: seek equilibrium.

Psst! You won't regret reading Quiet (whisper)

Psst! You won’t regret reading Quiet (whisper)

You won’t regret buying Quiet

Cain’s writing is fueled by passion and her tone is conversational, despite the academic subject matter. If you are an introvert this book will help you understand yourself better. And if you live with one, work with one or are raising one, it will help you interact with them. Highly recommended for parents, teachers and managers in my opinion. And thank you toSandyB for recommending to me – it has kind of changed my life.

So there you have: let your freak flag fly, whatever your temperament.

On Finding Your Silver Lining from Liberal Arts, Your Voice in My Head & Losing Clementine

On Finding Your Silver Lining from Liberal Arts, Your Voice in My Head & Losing Clementine

The first three months of this year have been a soul searching, existential struggle. After an urgent and unplanned escape to Jamaica, I have a renewed sense of hope to share with you.

MOVIE WATCH: Liberal Arts

I caught this gem of an indie movie on Air Transat’s in flight experience, but it also available on Netflix. The premise revolves around 30something year old Jesse – recently dumped and uninspired by his job in college admissions.

His retiring professor invites him back to his alma mater for a final hurrah. While there he meets Zibby (Elizabeth Olson), a sophomore bursting with possibility and maturity beyond her years. Side note: I now have a girl crush on Olson who is so authentic and delicious to watch. Think Maggie Gyllenhaal meets Jennifer Lawrence.

This film could have become a predictable rom com but the Zibby/Jesse relationship is really just a catalyst to explore the fact that adult life has not lived up to 20 year old Jesse’s expectations.

On a personal level, I connected with this yearning to go back in time. To shrug off the chain-linked cloak semi-adulthood has gifted me. The past always looks rosy through hindsight’s glasses. But we all have to keep moving forward and embracing the next phase, which was emphasized by the Professor’s departure (Richard Jenkins).

As Jesse struggles with his decision to get intimate with Olson, he’s really wrestling with igniting passion back into the adult version of his life. But how and does the fire still burn? If you feel lost, this movie will make you feel less alone.

MUST READ NOVELS: Your Voice in My Head / Losing Clementine

Both pieces of fiction revolve around female protagonists who are clinically depressed yet successful in their creative careers. Don’t be put off by the heavy subject matter – these women see humour in everything and are endearing because of their self deprecating and honest world view. Both books are page turners that will give you perspective.

Your Voice in My Head is a memoir written by Emma Forrest (coming to theatres in 2014), who developed self defeating behavior in adolescence (bulimia, cutting, attempted suicide), despite growing up in a normal, loving household.

Emma sank deeper into self loathing behaviour after unhealthy relationships with both men and women until she met her therapist Dr. R. She ultimately gained freedom from her demons after dealing with his untimely death and a heart wrenching break up all on her own.

Emma’s writing is breathtakingly beautiful, here is a taste:  Time heals all wounds and if it doesn’t, you name them something other than wounds and agree to let them stay.

 

Losing Clementine review

Losing Clementine, a great beach read.

On the other hand, Ashley Ream’s Losing Clementine is about an artist in her late 30’s who cannot overcome her scarring past with therapy or medication. She was abandoned by her father and raised by a single, maniacally depressed mother who ultimately died alongside Clementine’s sister.

Clementine gives up and hatches a meticulous and thoughtful suicide plan. She has 30 days to tie up loose ends and live each day like it is her last. It is her pursuit for closure that forces her to confront forgiving herself and her family history.

A Caution on Comparisons

If I were to give advice right now to myself and by extension to you, it would be to stop blindly comparing yourself to people who have more than you because you are ignoring the other half of the population that has less. #1 doesn’t really exist and the race is in your head.

Despite the bombings in Boston, the universe is doling out energizing surprises to everyone around me. It is easy to  ignore the blessings we already have and engage in self pity. Let’s choose to believe that the positive energy is contagious and we’ll be eating fistfuls of confetti sooner than we think.