Turning 22: “Everything will be alright if you keep me next to you.”

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“We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time
It’s miserable and magical, oh yeah.”

I turn 22 today, so, of course, Taylor Swift is playing on my laptop.The lyrics for her song, though, are relatable; they’re things I’ve been feeling for the last while.

Everyone’s been asking me where I see myself in the next five years. I’ve mentioned in previous posts how I’ve felt lost, and how this is a time where I’m rediscovering things about myself, and what makes me happy. My work, new material I’ve been exposing myself to, and various projects have helped me in determining a better idea of this.

However, that doesn’t mean the confusion necessarily lessens.

I joke about how I’m being faced with #adulting, but it’s true. Different responsibilities weigh on my shoulders than before; while it’s been a quick transition with regards to how long it took to take on those tasks, and to try my best at them, my mind sometimes is still amazed at the idea of it all. I’ll find myself asking: am I ready to do this? Shouldn’t I have a better sense of what I am doing, and where I’m going?

I like research; Google and talks with friends help a lot. It’s the latter activity, actually, which has helped me the most. Conversations with those who face, or have faced, the same transition provide reassurance, as well as advice. These talks are validation, which calms the insecurities, but they’re also opportunities to bond, be vulnerable, and to let go of everything that plagues us.

“Tonight’s the night when we forget about the deadlines, it’s time, uh oh.”

While I may talk about work and other struggles in my life with friends, we also have fun, be it with board games, food, or sharing stories, laughter ensuing these times. I love these people, those who I can have ‘deep’ conversations with, while also enjoying ‘shallower’ moments, times where I can be silly. I like being able to show multiple sides of myself, and knowing that these people will accept any of them, that I can be comfortable in revealing these aspects of myself. I can share my happiness and my fears. A place of safety and understanding is formed with these friends; no physical location is needed except for the space we share.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22.
Everything will be alright, if you keep me next to you.”

People need people. (Don’t mind me as I quote Skam; Noora Saetre’s a favourite character, and if you know this show, talk to me.) I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without friends, and I’m so grateful for all the people who’ve remained in my life, as well as newer ones I’ve met. Whether it is one conversation we’ve had, a smile shared, or several long Skype talks, as well as meetings over coffee, they’ve helped.

Some conversations have been life-changing, with regards to my perspective and understanding on various matters. Other gestures may appear smaller, such as just a well-timed joke that makes me laugh, or a listening ear to what feels like me ‘babbling’ out everything in my mind, but they are just as appreciated. These are what make people memorable to me, whether they remain in my life or if it was just a brief encounter, and they have no idea of there being such an impact.

When asked what I wanted to do for my birthday, or how I’d spend it, all I replied with was how I just wanted time with friends and family. I don’t need gifts, if I have the people I love around me, and with me. Even if further away, I appreciate any well-wishes or thoughts from the individuals I treasure deeply.

It’s nice to know there are people I can enjoy time with out there. And, no matter what happens with life, if I’m lost or facing issues, I know everything will be alright, if I have those people next to me.

All credits for the gif goes to its maker. 

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Going Back to My Roots: A Month Back in KW

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I’ve been living in my childhood home for the past month, and it’s interesting, because this is the first time that I’ve been here, for more than a two-week period, in years.

As some may know, from following me on Instagram, I’ve been keeping myself busy with gardening. However, this is not the only way I’ve come home to ‘go back to my roots.’ (That may or may not have been an attempt at a pun; if you love it, let me know. If you don’t, then, let’s just carry on.)

Photo taken in Uptown Waterloo, outside the Original Princess Cinemas by Janice Lam (lamjylam). Unsure of what it is, however.

Photo taken in Uptown Waterloo, outside the Original Princess Cinemas. Unsure of what it is.

There’s the fact that I’m home in itself. I love my family, yet living back here for more than two weeks at a time, has been a transition. It means getting used to certain schedules, and reminding my family members that certain foods aren’t safe for me due to my anaphylactic allergies. It also means getting to truly explore my hometown, as well, and see what changes have occurred, such as all this construction with the light rail being built. It’s cool, in some ways, to come back now and be more independent in getting around, which leads me to discover more cool things that Kitchener-Waterloo (KW) possesses. It’s also thought-provoking, to see what is gone, and what has replaced these.

With exploring KW and reacquainting myself with the city, part of this has included seeking new opportunities. I’ve been trying to get more involved in the community here, be it through different positions, various programs, or even events held by the city (see the Slideshow below for photos from the DISC program kick-off). Living in London the past few years for university has taught me a lot about myself, and has helped me grow – both as a person, and with regards to my skillset. I want to put those lessons, be it from in or out of the classroom, and continue on a path of discovery.

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I am happy to say that I am employed, part-time. At the moment, I’m working remotely for Western University, as a content developer for a project that will help incoming Psychology students in their transition to university. It has worked out nicely, since this position allows me to live and work from home, while utilizing my creativity as well as my education, and comes with a lot of flexibility. That last component is especially great, as I have found myself picking up some old hobbies.

One is gardening, as I mentioned earlier; I’ve always liked being outside, enjoying the sun and fresh air (though, not the mosquitoes. I donate blood already!).

As well, there’s the hobby of photography. Right after I finished my undergraduate studies, before I went on my Ottawa trip, I bought a new phone, one I chose partially due to its camera functions. Some friends would say I’ve always been a bit of a shutterbug, but this phone has truly led me to explore more in this art. Not only do my photos come out better, but I also have enough storage for photo editing apps like VSCO (feel free to check me out here; also, let me know if this site is still relevant?).

This is partially why I’ve been posting so much more on Instagram, and why there have been several photos of plants, and the outdoors; the beautiful weather, and exploring KW, be it my backyard or the towns, has provided me a wide range of opportunities to play with my phone camera. An aspect of that, for me, is trying out different angles, to find the best shot; different angles can also lead one to view things and places in different ways.

Wild fungi growing in my backyard. Photo taken by Janice Lam (lamjylam)

Wild fungi growing in my backyard.

Coming home for the summer was always in the plans. Coming home for a time with no exact deadline has been different, and was, at first, unexpected. However,  it’s been a good time so far, and I hope more here continues to show me different things.

End note: There’s also the fact that I started blogging here again, and that’s nice. I just hope anyone reading this enjoys what I write somewhat as much as I enjoy writing these random – with regards to both timing and content – posts.  

Restart: A New Chapter

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I currently write this as I return from Ottawa, having been there for the past few days. I originally went there for the purpose of presenting my thesis at the 47th Annual Ontario Psychology Undergraduate Thesis Conference. However, I found it to be much more than just an academic experience; the trip was much needed, in terms of figuring out what I’m going to do next.

It’s been awhile since I last blogged, and that’s been for many reasons. One is that I was just busy in general, finishing up my undergraduate degree, a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, which included working on a thesis, as mentioned earlier. Mine happened to be on perfectionism, emotional intelligence, and subjective well-being, topics I am very interested in. My passion for them certainly helped make the large amount of data analysis easier, though I will note I actually do enjoy statistics.

Me presenting my thesis at the Western Student Research Conference, March 2017

Me presenting my thesis at the Western Student Research Conference, March 2017

There are other reasons, though, ones I’m still unsure of discussing here; the topic of how much one should disclose/share publicly vs privately has been weighting on mind, and I’m still trying to decide what my answer to that is. I think, for others wondering this as well, that it’s up to each person’s comfort level. I’m still determining what mine is, as I’m the kind of person who very much enjoys intimacy, as well as vulnerability, and while I definitely think we should be able to show such in this society, again, it’s up to each individual to think about who needs to know what, when, how much, as well as why.

As you may guess from that last paragraph, I’ve been pondering a lot of different matters. One large one has been what my next steps are after finishing my degree. The plan had been graduate studies, continuing in Psychology, possibly with perfectionism research; alas, plans sometimes don’t always work, and that’s okay, but then some reconfiguration is needed. As a friend told me, it’s good to be planning, but not always to have a plan; this is especially in the case where you only have one idea for what to do, and you are so set on it, that when it doesn’t work out, as it can happen, you end up finding yourself stuck, and unable to process.

Sometimes, life sends you on a different path, and that’s where I currently am. I’ll admit I’ve been a little bit lost, trying to determine what this next year could look like, as I truly must do something, and currently don’t have anything structurally set up.

I say structurally, as in, a specific schedule. School, with classes and meetings, comes with certain times one should be in class; work, typically, includes a schedule as well, where one has to get stuff done. What plans I’ve come up with are those of my own making, projects where I am the only one who will ensure they have to get done; I’m the one setting deadlines this time. I truly am my own boss, this being in comparison to where I would look to what my professors or boss would say regarding assignments. I had those guidelines to work off of, and now, it’s really all on me.

I feel like I’m ‘adulting,’ as people would say, and – though I am turning 22 this summer, – that’s kind of scary. How do I know I can accomplish all the things? How do I know things will work out? The path I’m walking now seems a bit foggy; what’s the destination I am walking to, and is it what I think it is? How far away is it? So many questions can leave one stumbling, and tripping, as one doesn’t just look where they are walking, and one rather frets over what the next step may be. Doubts are normal, but truly are time-consuming.

This Ottawa trip, however, reminded me to just enjoy each moment as it comes, and to trust that things will work out.

View of the Canadian Parliament Buildlings from Major's Hill Park

View of the Canadian Parliament Buildlings from Major’s Hill Park

I came out to Ottawa on my own, this being my first solo trip ever. I chose my hotel – Byward Blue Inn, which was great, by the way, – and booked the room, as well as my train tickets, by myself. As someone with anaphylactic nut allergies, I searched up restaurants that I could eat at beforehand, and put these on a Google map, while also starring possible attractions I could get to within walking distance of the inn.

It being my first solo trip, though, I still wondered: What happens if I get lost? What if I have an allergic reaction, what will I do? I was excited, but nervous. I was also worried, because after the Ottawa trip, I knew I wouldn’t have something big to look forward to for the next while. I’d be back to feeling lost, which isn’t a fun mindset to be in.

I took the train up on Thursday, and had the conference mentioned earlier on Friday. That was pretty alright, as I had set activities: get on the train, make the transfer in Toronto, get to the hotel, find food, get to the conference,etc.

However, I had chosen to stay an extra day, Saturday, as a vacation for myself, and with that, I had also meant to not tell anyone I knew in Ottawa about my visit; I know a good number of people who live in this beautiful city, and while I would have loved to see them all, I knew I only had the one day. I wanted to spend that day however I wanted to spend it, without trying to cram seeing everyone, so I thought it better to see no one I knew. That makes sense, right?

Nonetheless, a friend learned of my trip, and reached out to me, arranging for a brunch, along with a friend of hers, and a friend of that friend. It was with some trepidation that I went, thinking to myself that worst case scenario, I’d spend an hour or two with awkward conversation, and maybe a coffee, in the situation where I wouldn’t be able to eat anything.

The brunch went so well, probably the best it could have; I can’t see how it could have improved. I found myself laughing, chatting easily, and getting to know the women I was with, while enjoying a piece of heaven in the form of a chocolate banana pizza (look at that deliciousness!!!). This meant so much to me, because while I knew my friend from school, the other two, again, were strangers at the start. Nonetheless, we connected; I didn’t need school, nor work, to meet people. We had other things we could talk about, like Netflix.

As well, I COULD EAT THE FOOD!!!! We had gone to Cacao 70, which is known for its chocolate treats. Majority of the time, I skip out on desserts at restaurants, because of the degree of seriousness my allergies hold (I can die. I’d rather not.). I had passed by the place on Thursday, as well as Friday, but probably wouldn’t have gone in alone, out of the assumption I wouldn’t be able to consume anything. This brunch therefore not only led me to having a good time, and realizing that school as well as work aren’t the only way to meet people, but also brought me to try one of the greatest foods ever (seriously – chocolate PIZZA!).

The day only got better after that, too. It rained, but I didn’t mind it, as I ended up wandering, and realized that, at least in the Byward market area, Ottawa is very grid-like. This means that even if I get ‘lost’, if I continue down one road, I will eventually find a place that is familiar, from which I can direct myself to where I need to. (This is ignoring the fact that Google Maps, and location-tracking, exists; these are very helpful tools, but I do like to try and save my data when possible. That, and it is nice to know I don’t need to depend on technology for everything.)

This led me to remain calm, and so, I could enjoy myself as I walked. I felt a very natural, and pure, curiosity within me; I entered stores I may have skipped out on had I been with others, not wanting to waste their time. I explored streets, and ways, because I was with myself; the only person’s time I had to concern myself with was my own. This was a wonderful thing, too, because I found delightful places, ones I want to check out and return to in the future.

The walking also helped me realize how close places are to each other. An example of this is how I went to the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica for Mass; I had known, via Google Maps, that it was near, and in the direction of Major’s Hill Park, and the Parliament Buildings. However, I hadn’t realized how close it was to these areas. This meant that it was a lovely surprise for me when I discovered the proximity, and that after Mass, since I was by myself, I could go walk and look around, as well as take photos.

Basically, Saturday showed me that even though I may not have everything planned out, and though I may not know everything that is to come, things will work out. Surprises may, and probably will, come about, surprises that can be equally delightful as they can be frustrating (like stepping through a puddle and soaking my shoes, as well as socks). In addition, I may not be walking the path I thought I was, and I may not know every step I am taking, but I will get to where I am meant to be, wherever that is; things may just look a bit different than expected, but that’s alright.

These are things I have said to others before, but I think majority of us can agree, it’s easier to say something, and believe it, for someone else, rather than ourselves. Either way, this Ottawa trip was rejuvenating, refreshing, and utterly delightful. My heart and soul felt so happy; I haven’t felt so stress-free in such a long time.

Now, I’m hoping as this trip ends, that I can keep such feelings, and find more things to make me feel so joyful. Be it little moments, discoveries, or events, let them happen as I enter this new chapter in my life. I’m ready to explore, on my own or with others, what it is that life has to offer.

(Shoutout to the Byward Blue Inn and Cacao 70, as well as the Smoque Shack, the Grand pizzeria & bar, and Atari, for excellent accommodations, be it for where I stayed, or where I ate; these places were all great with my allergies, something I truly appreciate, and definitely think helped make this a wonderful experience!)

Salmon Tartare from Atari, located in the Byward Market area of Ottawa

Salmon Tartare from Atari, located in the Byward Market area of Ottawa