2014 In Review: On Letting Go & Wearing Big Girl Pant(ies)

In 2014 I discovered this thing called “Desire Mapping” by Danielle La Porte, which is all about identifying how you want to feel and then taking action in alignment with those feelings.

In retrospect, 2014 was all about making peace with the past. If I had to sum up the theme it would be “Surrender and Let Go” in order to truly move forward. I sought out teachers and spiritual healers of all kinds and re-read old diaries (twice) in my quest for answers and closure. I fell in love with and loathed the girl I used to be. Below are some key highlights filed under 2014’s relevant desired feelings.

Feel Nourished + At Ease: Work on Your Mind & Body

I started the year 8 pounds lighter, a consequence of an emotionally turbulent 2013. I really wanted to get my digestive issues under control and for the most part I did. By the end of the year, I had gained 10 pounds.

Most of it had to do with making peace with the past and getting better at removing myself from situations that I did not want to be in. I dabbled with meditation midway through the year. I tried Kundalini Yoga (meh) and Tai Chi (double meh).

But I also cooked more home food with the help of my mom so I had more control over what I was putting into my body. I also started a daily routine of probiotic powder in water with L-Glutamine, plus an acid reflux pill (after a terrifying introduction to heartburn, how shexy).

Feel Free + Flow: Move Out & Don’t Look Back

January gave me the first opportunity to go with the flow, freeing myself from imposed limitations and boundaries. The result was feeling full and alive.

In February, I rolled with the flow of a scary car crash that renewed my faith in people, fate and led to my first taste of independent living. I danced around my borrowed digs almost daily. I went car free Monday through Friday and eventually settled into a neighborhood I had only barely considered.

With permission to just be and lots of quiet, I finally let out bottled up emotions and cried everyday for three weeks until the tears stopped coming. I tried not to ask others for advice as often, especially for minor decisions.

Feel Expressive: Take a Course

I signed up for two UCLA online courses. The first involved creating a feature film outline based on a real life figure, using the Save the Cat framework. Most people chose legit historical figures like Einstein but I chose myself circa 2013, which made it really difficult to see the forest from the trees. When the story diverted too far from the truth, I turned my sights to memoir.

During “An Introduction to the Personal Essay” I pumped out three based on different real life experiences, which was freeing, awakening and therapeutic. I loved reading everyone’s work, giving feedback and receiving peer and instructor feedback weekly. Both courses were 100% hands on reading & writing.

Feel Love: Open your heart

In 2014 I tried my hardest to love myself as exhibited by all of the above. I reached out in love to a former best friend in January and enjoyed a healing reconciliation.

I experienced three different love connections this year, from super fleeting, to semi fleeting, to hopefully not fleeting. My heart was invested in all three and none of them were planned. One of them hurt like a b*tch but all of them felt like they were gifts from above in order to teach me a lesson I was ready to learn.

How was your 2014? What worked and what didn’t? What surprised you?    

How to Plan Your California Road Trip: From San Francisco to Los Angeles

I want to help you structure your California road trip on the pacific coast highway (PCH) so you maximize time out of the car, actually immersed in your surroundings.

But first, I have a confession to make. This Cali trip was intended as a solo expedition to prove that I CAN and not allow my single status to hinder life experiences. But all that changed due to budgetary and itinerary sacrifices I wasn’t willing to make, plus a parental throw down along the lines of “over our dead bodies are you going to LA by yourself”. I’ve learned that only when I don’t heed their advice, are they right and I couldn’t handle any more drama, so I listened.

Instead of flying between LA and San Fran (1 hour, $100), my dad met me for the coastal drive (4353835 hours, $100+ in gas) but it was so worth it. I think we both learned about each other – he says all you have to do is feed me every 3 hours (after two near starvation experiences in one day). I learned that he has difficulty tolerating me in my least perfect moments (road trips are stressful and uncertain).

What I said to a stranger: "he's my daddy, not my sugar daddy" #onlyinLA

What I said to a stranger: “he’s my daddy, not my sugar daddy” #onlyinLA

In truth, I felt a bit disappointed for needing accompaniment but I couldn’t tell if it was my soul or ego talking. At least part of my motivation was to keep up with the independent, fearless women of the Internet and sound badass at the water cooler. But enough about me, this is about you!

When to go to San Francisco / California Coast  & Other Practicalities

San Fran is at its best weather wise in September and October BUT daylight hours are more limited so if you can’t do the ideal itinerary below, go in June to maximize sightseeing. Also the ocean is warmest in September at the end of the season (71F).

In terms of planning a weekend trip to Yosemite OR Tahoe – I would suggest booking last minute after you’ve arrived and based on the weather forecast. Outkast says it best: “You can paint a pretty picture but you can’t predict the weather”.

If you want to do any camping, I’d suggest early to mid September as a sweet spot. I found tours that did 2 nights and 3 days with camping in both Tahoe & Yosemite (for $500) but that would be intense driving and cold at night. Yosemite single day trips are available, but involve 7 hours on the road.

Freezing my buns off in Tahoe - 5 degree freak show

Freezing my buns off in Tahoe – 5 degree freak show

The Drive Itself from San Francisco to Los Angeles (LA) & Other Practicalities

California is full of mountains from top to bottom, which are 50 shades of brown (likely due to the drought). There is no cell or radio reception in Big Sur so bring CDs or a fully charged iPOD for the journey. Roadside service stations didn’t exist – you had to bank on the next town for sustenance.

Also Americans don’t seem to believe in streetlights. I would invest in a data plan since Google Maps App saved us many times (better than GPS).  And while they say Canadians are polite, West Coasters are so nice, happy and helpful.

I’ve never seen so many active and fit people in my life, from those biking the steep and windy roads to jogging Runyon Canyon in 40 degree weather. They must not be eating in the restaurants where portions are massive. You can easily split an entrée and appetizer for two and save some dough.  LA had the most organic and gluten free options, plus juice bars (vegan treats were harder to spot). Whole Foods will rob you and Starbucks is the equivalent of Tim Hortons (no value coffee chain).

In terms of accommodations, prepare to spend $200 – $300 a night for a hotel, motel or AirBnB. I booked three AirBnB’s but can only recommend the one in Lake Tahoe (Rick Gunn is my idol). I was expecting a personal experience where you hang out with the hosts but that wasn’t the case. Plus you have to make your bed on vacay (boo).

An Ideal California Coast Road Trip Itinerary from Los Angeles (LA) to San Francisco

If I could redo the trip, here’s what I would change. Keep in mind that subjectivity counts. Also if you’ve already been to either LA or San Fran on a standalone trip, you can shave days off in both city centers, which is budget friendly.

4 – 6 nights in the Bay Area based on your Itinerary

  • 4 Days in San Fran area proper (including one nearby excursion i.e. Sausalito/Muir Woods or Napa for a half day). Stay in City Centre. I hear road to Muir is extremely windy. Sausalito was a diluted version of coastal Europe.
  • 2 nights / 2 days at either Tahoe or Yosemite (if you want to mimic my itinerary) but not both as they are 5.5 hours apart (learned that the hard way and lost a hotel booking). Tahoe is 4 hours away, 1.5 of which include ascending and descending 8,000 feet.
Full House Credits - all day every day. Everywhere you look...

Full House Credits – all day every day. Everywhere you look…

The California Coast:  3 – 5 nights (instead of 2)

  • 1 – 2 nights in either Monterey or Carmel. If you skip Santa Cruz and drive straight to Monterey for lunch, drive the 17 mile and head to Carmel for dinner/overnight.
  • 1 – 2 nights in Big Sur area – the windiest roads, with the best views and most natural attractions (parks for hiking etc.) Big Sur has limited options (camping, cabins or pricy motels/hotels i.e. $400 – $500 a night). Book this first and base the rest of the trip around its availability.
  • 1 night in Cambria – cute, small town, ocean front, and one of the first towns an hour after Big Sur. My dad and I crammed everything before this point into the same day. This was our first coastal overnight.
  • I would stop in Santa Barbara for an afternoon but I wouldn’t do an overnight there unless you want to hit up the Camarillo outlets without backtracking from LA (1 hour north on the 101). We did an overnight here and regretted it. Stay by State street. Morro Bay and Pismo Beach are worth skipping too, especially the latter.
The Magic of Big Sur. Worth the headache & drugs.

The Magic of Big Sur. Worth the headache & drugs.

3 – 4 full days in Los Angeles (Instead of 2) 

  • Malibu was underwhelming (The Real Housewives say hi) though we didn’t see Zuma Beach (supposed to be nice, no bathrooms). Paradise Cove charges $40 per car and loses sunlight rather early (#europedoesitbetter).
  • Talk shows only film Monday to Thursday and are a full day thing. Ellen gets booked way in advance.
  • Stay by the water, where it is much cooler and comfortable if you can. Also “heated” pools matter off season.
  • Venice Beach is tacky bordering on terrifying. There were a lot more homeless people too (Hollywood dreams gone wrong?). Santa Monica is nice, if you like to hear kids screaming on rides. 3rd street has a nice pedestrian promenade with shops & restos (check out The Misfit). Lemonade (the franchise) is awesome – let’s start one and get rich.
  • You can rent bikes along the water at Marina Del Ray, Venice Beach or Santa Monica (and likely other beaches too).
  • Runyon Canyon has no bathrooms and its all uphill when you get there. We learned that the hard way.
Santa Monica Fun #pplinLAmademenervous

Santa Monica Fun #pplinLAmademenervous

I’d go back to Cali but I would take on less, be more clear on “must have” experiences, go slowly, stay in hotels or with friends and I would do LA down to San Diego for more palatable beaches. It wasn’t as rejuvenating as Europe – just mildly disorienting and unfamiliar, without castles, ruins or temples to awaken your soul. But still a nice break from the routine of every day.

Leave your Cali travel tips in the comments – do you disagree with anything? Hidden gems I missed? Resto reco’s? 

No I don’t want to get drunk with you: A Rant

Yes I’m drinking Ginger Ale and no I don’t want fries rye with that. Since when did not getting drunk become taboo?

I think I get more flak these days than when I was in high school, proving peer pressure persists beyond acne and hormones. But I’ll admit my motives were not always healthy…

In high school I stayed away from substances to “be good” and impress my parents (for love and stuff). I also wanted to stay in control and avoid my #1 anxiety-inducing phobia of throwing up (also linked to uncertainty). But indulging in fear avoidance behaviour is not the way to go.

In university I gave drinking more of a shot (pun and it stays) but eventually linked it to digestive upset. And apparently I’m not the only one. Have you ever been in a bar/club and smelled what I refer to as the DRUNK FARTS? It is vile and rancid, only detectable after sundown, you pick the bar. Proving that some people just shouldn’t.

If only I could throw down shots like LMFAO and Lil’ Jon at the corporate party, I might be further ahead.  But alas, as a chronic over sharer (sans assistance), I don’t want to get drunk (or crunk) with co-workers. Sorry?

What irritates me is that if I used religious beliefs or an AA badge to justify my lifestyle, no one would debate it. But simply admitting that I don’t like the taste of alcohol, or feeling sleepy/dizzy the night of or a write-off the next day is so not okay.

I can’t help but wonder whether these grown up influencers want the best for me (join in on the fun), or if they are trying to protect their own interests (self justification etc.)…Probably a bit of both.

I’ve grown to like the challenge of feeling as free and fun as the tanked guy in the room, or getting drunk by osmosis (grade 10 science, whaaaat).

Today my view on substances is to do them from a place of neutrality and love and make sure they aren’t a crutch for something deeper within you (a cover up if you will). Or that you aren’t doing them to gain acceptance from others.

On the flip side, if you avoid substances from a place of fear, that may be just as bad and something I plan to work on more. I’ll admit I used to prevent my Ex from over drinking so he wouldn’t throw up and activate my anxiety, which is just as bad as peer pressuring (#guiltyascharged). This is something I like to call “control freak problems”.

At the end of the day, we live in the land of the brave and home of the free (or at least beside them). We should be more concerned with our own actions and let others be.

Take on the social customs and expectations that work for you and discard the rest.  Be who you are with flexibility to transform at your own pace. And if someone questions your life choices, just give ‘em the Jenna Marbles face:

The Jenna Marbles face aka stop talking, Sorry I'm Not Sorry, Thanks but no Thanks

Jenna Marbles throwing some shade i.e. stop talking


Also this kid is my idol:


On birthday wishes, desire mapping and moving out

Before the New Year dawned, I vowed I would move out by my 28th birthday. On April 27th with three days to spare, I got the keys. How’s that for manifestation?

I thought I would start looking in April but the universe intervened when I got into a car accident early Feb, totalling my wheels. But there was a silver lining, or several.

So this happened…zoom zoom?

So this happened…zoom zoom?

Not only did the accident renew my hope and faith in people (the EMS workers, police officer and doctor who stitched up my forehead were so awesome), but I also made some money from the insurance. And I no longer had to make the conscious decision to get rid of my car.

The very next day, an oblivious coworker asked if I would sublet her gorgeous one bedroom apartment, in a ritzy area of Toronto for just 50% of her rental fee. For once I didn’t have to think before leaping, it was an immediate HELL YES.

Oh you know just a 300 square foot deck w a view #livingthedream

Oh you know just a 300 square foot deck w a view in the city #livingthedream

Why Subletting in Toronto worked for me

  1. I got to test out independent living with training wheels, no strings attached or investments required.
  2. It gave me a quiet, peaceful and inspiring refuge to focus on my UCLA online writing course.
  3. It helped me identify what I really needed in a space and neighbourhood
  4. It tested my relationship with uncertainty, as the end date was not predetermined.

The only downside was it skewed my perception of what my dollar could get me!

How to Navigate a Home Rental Search

I knew I loved swanky attic living but it was out of reach. I consciously gave myself two weeks to find a new space, so I wouldn’t ruminate in analysis paralysis. If you are prone to procrastination, paint yourself in a corner.

I ended up making a long wish list and assigned ratings to each coveted trait in order to rank the properties (much like university business casing); highest score wins! This helped narrow down which properties I eventually went to see.

I also identified the kinds of feeling I wanted the space to awaken and foster within me, based on Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map. After delivering an unforgettable connection in Dominican, I knew the book would come through again. Definitely worth a read if you like self reflection and feelings.

Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte perfect for the beach

My version of relaxing: desire mapping on the beach.

Both steps were necessary to marry left and right brain, gut and rationale. After comparing Toronto’s rental market to online dating, I chose to sacrifice square footage in order to hit my $1,200 budget (plus hydro, insurance, cable + internet).

Don’t be afraid to negotiate! I knocked off $200 in rent due to our mutually desperate situations. Also my landlord is a writer, which is quite synchronistic, don’t you think?

On High Park Living and the After Glow

Greek YiaYia in Toronto

YiaYia visited my digs!

I ended up in Toronto’s High Park neighborhood, which was not on my radar. I learned that you could take the girl out of the suburbs but not the suburbs out of the girl. Being surrounded by gridlock and skyscrapers gave me anxiety; I needed to be close to nature but close to work and this area had me covered.I’m glad I didn’t take on a room mate just yet – my INTJ spirit loves living alone!

While the unit came furnished, it’s been fun personalizing with textiles and art. I even created a vision board based on my core desired feelings, that stressed me the f*ck out to complete, caused a fight with my mom and I don’t even really look at it now.  So you know, it was worth it.

Behold the pinterest inspired vision board.

Behold the pinterest inspired vision board.

But I will say this: I no longer feel ashamed for living at home as long as I did from a pure economics perspective. I’m not sure how long I’ll stay in this space, if, when and where I’ll buy (maybe not Toronto) and if I’ll ever return to my parents home. Sometimes its best to relax into the now.

Also, look mom, no hands!

9 Things Apartment Hunting and Online Dating Have In Common & How to Survive Both

I learned the hard way that $1,600 is the average price of a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto and I can’t help but feel that singles are penalized in the rental and real estate game (no spouse to split the bills with).

As a single, suburban gal used to lots of indoor and outdoor space, I thought $1,200 would get me 600-700 square feet including utilities, on the subway line, in a safe neighborhood, with a cute interior and non-sketchy neighbors. Instead, it gets:

  • 450 – 550 square feet in a rental building, a bachelor in a condo proper OR a basement apartment in a house
  • “Renovated” and “modern” as euphemisms for shoddy reno job or a 100 year old building hiding under some fresh paint
  • No air conditioning
  • Laundry. Sometimes. But it will be shared with other tenants & coin operated
  • A heating system you may not be able to control (Nelly, is it hot in herrr?)
  • A pint-sized kitchen Polly Pocket would be hard done by
  • A 10 – 15 minute walk to the closest subway station
tiny condo bedroom toronto

Is it a walk-in closet in the suburbs or a bedroom in the city?

This search is starting to resemble my foray into online dating, where my wish list went unmet. I just want to get that feeling, like honey I’m home!

9 harsh realities apartment hunting and online dating have in common

1. Decide on your non-negotiables

…And don’t waste your time meeting up with a unit that doesn’t meet your needs, otherwise you’ll wind up exhausted and more likely to settle on the first half decent option that comes your way

2. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

If the price is too low for the location and amenities, why hasn’t IT already been snatched up by someone else? Sounds like a case of sweet talking to get you in the sack. Don’t fall for it!

No profile pictures are a bad sign

The unit is likely hiding its true colours via anonymity (yikes). Also…

4. Pictures can be deceiving.

While it is unlikely that Mr. Unit is packing some extra square footage, IT may be older than it looks and definitely not into organic food, pedicures and routine physicals. In other words: TLC.

Watch out for Scrubs.

Watch out for Scrubs.

5. You may have to deal with excess baggage from an EX.

You got all dressed up but are disappointed to find unmade beds, clothes and crap everywhere. As if the current tenants literally transformed the place into an ugly, tear-stained mess. While the unit should have taken time to heal, they posted a profile prematurely. You may have to suggest that the unit works on itself before you consider dating it again.

Messy Apartment

I’m having a hard time picturing our future together…

6. The landlord (a.k.a mother) is not impressed with you.

Her baby has the upper hand, not you! Put your money where your mouth is because there is a lineup of competition around the block.

Monster-in-Law movie starring Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda

You’re not good enough for my…unit! Monster-in-law ya’ll

7. Take precautions before meeting up.

Tell someone the address. Better yet, bring a friend along for the ride – you never know who’s lurking on the other side. Meet up in broad daylight too.

8. Make sure you are on the same page

I prefer a month-to-month or 6-month lease but most units require a 1-year commitment. Sure it takes time to get to know someone and a year flies by but who knows where life will take me in 6 months? If your unit is looking for marriage but you want to play the field, move on!

No Strings Attached starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher

Let’s test it out first, no strings attached?

9. Trust your gut feeling.

Does the energy of the space jive with your core-desired feelings? Don’t rationalize its virtues. If it is good on paper, but doesn’t feel like home, it’s not for you. There are plenty of fish (err properties) in the sea (ahem market)!

All I can say is if I do end up back at my parent’s house after this glorious 2-month subletting stint, I won’t feel bad. I’ll save double the cash to put towards my very own box in the sky!

Aura is the tallest condo in Toronto at College Park

I’ll be on the 78th floor top left #thanksbutnothanks