Tag Archives: Reflections

Speaking in Public Gives me Bad Dreams

26 Apr

Image from weheartit.com

I’ve always had this fear and dread of speaking in front of a group. You would think that after many years of presentations and speeches from elementary school all the way through university and college, through countless client presentations in my working girl years, the nerves wouldn’t grip me so much at any prospect of having to make a presentation.

Not so.

This morning I had to lead a session at work. It’s this thing we have on a weekly basis, where the entire company (about 30 people) gather in the boardroom while we take turns each week presenting (2 at a time) to discuss creative, thought provoking ideas that exist out in the world to help inspire us in our lives and our work. It’s kind of like our own TED Talks.

My partner and I did our research, put together a Powerpoint presentation – or rather, she did, as I fail miserably at having to do anything Microsoft-related – and even did a practice run-through yesterday morning. Still, that helped in no way to calm my nerves.

Last night, I had a horrible sleep. My night was not restful at all, waking up quite a few times to check the clock to make sure that I hadn’t overslept and also to make sure that my alarm was set. The anxiety also caused me to dream about upcoming my day, in which everything was unravelling in a way that was so wrong. First, my train was cancelled which caused me to be late for my own presentation. A few minutes into the session, I realized that I had left my notes at my desk, which was a two-minute run – which of course was a slow and excruciating one because it was a dream – away from the boardroom. Returning to the boardroom, I realized that the notes I grabbed from my desk were the wrong ones, which meant that I had to do that run back to my desk with my leaden legs. By the time I returned with the proper notes, we had run out of time, and my partner pointed out to me that I had failed to put an important portion of the presentation in the slide show.

It was one of those dreams that was so ridiculous but felt very real, complete with disapproving remarks and looks from management and colleagues.

What did I discover about myself today? It’s not that I have fear of public speaking — I don’t think that’s what my problem is. I think that I speak well in public, if I’m prepared and I’m confident in my material. And that’s just it. It’s the fear of being unprepared, or forgetting/missing something, that paralyzes me. What’s worse is being perceived by the audience as being unprepared. Even thinking about what I would do if someone asked me a question to which I didn’t know the answer gives me those bad butterflies.

In real life, our session ended up being a success this morning — we got lots of positive feedback and everyone seemed genuinely interested in what we were discussing. Nothing went wrong — in fact, my train arrived 2 minutes ahead of schedule, which allowed me to stop at a coffee shop and treat myself to a latté. I arrived nearly a half hour in advance of the meeting time, which gave me plenty of time to set up, review my notes and take a few deep breaths.

I really had nothing to worry about, but I’m suspecting that this experience still won’t make it any easier the next time it’s my turn to lead the session.


Saying Good Bye

23 Oct

Image from weheartit.com

It was an incredibly full week with an emotional end. I was busy for the last five days wrapping up projects, handing active projects over and training my temporary replacement. Each of my lunch hours was happily booked with farewell and celebratory dates with coworkers.

You spend what feel like endless days at work going through the motions to meet deadlines and do a good job. Some days you feel as if you are going to crumble with the stress and worry of your job. Some days you feel as if nothing is going right and you’re the one who’s responsible. Recognition and appreciation is rarely expressed for a job well done. You question your value and worth, and in turn, your happiness in your work and even worse, in your career.

Yesterday was my last day at my company, and while I knew it was going to be tough to say good bye, I had no idea that it was going to be a big emotional cry-fest for me and the people that I work with. I don’t need to say it here, but the majority of your time is spent with your work family. You live and work together, and you learn to love and appreciate everyone very much. Not only do they contribute to the work you do, but in a big way, they contribute to your life overall. They become more than just the people that you work with.

The whole company took me out for a nice lunch yesterday. There were bottles of wine and laughter shared over some really delicious food. My boss sat right across from me and toasted me, saying that in the more than 15 years that they’ve been in business, I was one of the best employees he’s ever had. This is when my crying started – how could it not, being paid one of the highest compliments I’d ever heard from him? We lingered for a long while over lunch and dessert, and I was just tickled that these people were there with me for my last lunch as a group with them.

At the end of the day I was called into the boardroom for one last meeting. The whole company was there and my boss asked that everyone around the room say something about me. Oi. Trying to hold my tears back would’ve caused me to combust, so I just let it all out – I was so deeply touched by everyone’s words because they all described how much of an impact I had on them in the few years that I was there. I had no idea. One young designer said that out of everyone, I was her favourite Project Manager and that she was really sad to see me go. And one of the Principals, who I have always known to be so controlled, composed and wisely thoughtful, actually cried as she said to me that she was so very proud of me as an employee and a person.

Most emotional meeting ever.

The best part of it all was the going-away “card” that they gave to me. Working with creatives, you can always expect something crafted just for you. It was a coil-bound Steph Brand Guideline book which is hilariously supposed to act as a standards guide for my new employer. It outlines such things as my colour palette (Primary, Secondary and Tertiary), typeface (Professional Steph vs. After 5 Steph), Dos & Don’ts (Do: Play old school music, give her wine; Don’t: Ask stupid questions, Piss her off after 5PM.), and the required “safety area” around Steph, which is the equivalent to two Stephs all around.

It was a wonderful end to my time there, to know without a doubt that I was valued and that my work was good there and most importantly, that the impression I had made was a deep one. I leave that job with some great friends, and with the confidence that I can rock my next job just as well.

Thinking. Planning. Wasting.

18 Oct

Image from vi.sualize.us


There are two things that I’m kind of beating myself up over right now.

Next week will be my free one between jobs. I’d been planning to use the upcoming week to finally paint our living room. I really wanted to accomplish something that has been sitting on that checklist in my head. I just saw that Benjamin Moore paints are on sale until the end of the month. And yet that fan deck still sits in my drawer untouched. The universe is on my side here, and yet I still haven’t brought myself to choose some paint chips.

We’re about seven weeks away from our trip to India, and aside from our plane tickets, nothing else has been booked. I have no clue about where we’re going and what we’re going to see. I’ve been overwhelmed with my lack of knowledge of our destination and the vastness of it that I haven’t been able to effectively narrow down what I need to see. What do we fit in and how do we manage to fit it all in 16 days?

I used to think of myself as a big planner, but now I’m not so sure anymore.

I want to plan because all this lack of certainty in both matters is making me completely anxious.

But I know all it involves really is me being decisive. Something that I’m not the best at being.

Or, is this all stemming from a possible compulsion in me to always be doing something so that I don’t feel like I’m just wasting time.

I mean, it is a week off from work. Can it not just be a free week from work? And our trip to India is a vacation. Is it really necessary to fill every single minute with something to do so that I can feel like our time over there is worthwhile?

How can I learn to slow down and sit still without feeling the need to constantly rush to the next destination or action?

Forgive this stream of consciousness thing that just happened.

Well clearly, I’m also lacking focus for some reason.

I’m a Crappy Friend

11 Aug
Image from: vi.sualize

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bad, lazy friend. There are some people that I see as often as I can. There are some that I don’t see often. And then there are the friends that I would like to reconnect with, but for some reason or another, just haven’t had the guts to reach out to.

There are two people from my past with whom I’ve reconnected this week and have made plans to see. I’m looking forward to seeing both, but was especially glad to hear from my friend P this afternoon. I’d like to think that he and I had a special relationship – this feeling may not be entirely mutual, but speaking with him tonight gave me some extra super-duper warm fuzzies and brought a huge flood of memories. In a different life, I had met him through some mutual friends and had instantly developed a huge crush on him. Soon after that we were hanging out a lot. Clubbing. Movies. Dinners. Late night coffees when we had nothing else to do and he would pick me up from home. Once, he took me to a wedding as his date, and a year later, he came with me to my friend’s wedding when I needed a date. I liked him a lot, in such a way that I wanted to hug him lying down. Though as my own friends got to know him better, they began to suspect that I wasn’t his type. It actually got to a point that it was laughable and we would debate. DEBATE!

Fast forward 6.5 years. Today, P told me that he and his boyfriend are going to be happily celebrating their 4th year anniversary this weekend.

My friends were right. I have a seriously malfunctioning gaydar.

A little egg on my face? Perhaps, but after all these years, it’s been wiped clean. We’ve stayed friends and occasionally text and chat on the phone, and kind of make semi-committed attempts at getting together. Why do we let so much time pass and how do we get to the point where it’s too hard to pick up the phone to chat for no reason at all? I’m reminded each time we talk that it shouldn’t be that hard at all. Life gets in the way and blah blah blah, but we all know the truth that the hardest thing to do these days is to NOT keep in touch. Email. Text. Internet. Phones that go with us wherever we go.

So really, what’s my excuse?

These Images May Be Disturbing to Some

19 Jul
Photo by polandeze via flickr.com

Late last week, I came across a collection of abandoned toy photos on this photography blog. For the entire weekend, I couldn’t stop thinking about the images, especially those of the dolls, and how stunning the photography was to me. So then I had to ask myself why I couldn’t stop thinking about the images and about why I found them to be so arresting? They are eerie and haunting images. You could even say creepy and perhaps downright disturbing to look at.

Photo by BertBeckers via flickr.com

Maybe it’s because I just recently saw Toy Story 3 in the theater and silently rooted for the abandoned and misguided character Big Baby, and then cried like a baby myself at the end. Maybe it’s because I have inherited a slight fascination with dolls from my mom, who inherited it from her mom before that. And this has most likely led to my strange attachment to the two Cabbage Patch Kids that “live” in our house right now, and why I can’t ever step foot into a Walmart without taking a walk down the doll aisle.

Photo by Lucas* via flickr.com

These photos are incredibly moving to me, and are actually quite beautiful. Each of these toys has its own story, its own history. Each had an owner and was probably once loved.

Photo by howzey via flickr.com

And that’s what makes the photos so sad, is the thought that each was likely held in someone’s hands and admired, played with and loved.

Photo by jamelah via flickr.com

Met with lots of hugs and kisses and maybe some bedtime stories, attended a few tea parties, sat in many pretend school class rooms and shared a pillow with their owners.

Photo by Sea Moon via flickr.com

And now long forgotten and discarded as the children who owned them have outgrown their need for playthings.

July Weekend Road Trip #1

16 Jul
Image from: weheartit.com

Right after work today, The BF and I are driving 4 hours up to North Bay, which is the first in a series of three consecutive weekend road trips for me. It’s a teensy little getaway for us, disguised as my race weekend, because we’ll be staying at my team mate’s cottage by the lake. And when I say “cottage,” I may actually mean “luxurious compound of properties” because I have heard rumors that my team mate has been modestly understating the expanse of accommodations that his family has offered to provide for us. After all, there will be close to 30 of us staying with them over the weekend and I’m almost certain that we won’t be all piled on top of each other.

It’s been officially declared: 2010 has been the hottest year on record. Depending on which side of the fence you are on, this may not be a good thing. But to me, this summer has been fantastic. Hot, sticky summer days are what I live for. This is how I’ve always remembered my childhood summers – full of sun and humidity, encouraging listless days in the grass sucking on a popsicle from the freezer, and begging your parents to turn the sprinkler on for just a few minutes. Looking back, the days seemed endless because they would pile on one after the other with no meaning and very little purpose. Still, you wished that it would last forever, knowing always in the back of your head that the dreaded first day of school was looming.

And now, all we have are the weekends. Two days out of each week that you wish you could stretch and extend even just a little. So, once the race is done tomorrow, I will look forward to spending the afternoons lying listlessly by the lake. My tasty treats most likely won’t include popsicles, but will most definitely be cold and refreshing and very booze-y!


30 Apr
Image from: weheartit.com

We’ve become so accustomed to instant communication that we’ve come to expect immediate responses from others. It has blanketed everything we do with this sense of extreme urgency. It’s come to the point that if you do not respond to something within a reasonable amount of time, you are deemed unresponsive, lazy or dismissive.

The climate at my work has become tainted by this. If I’m not able to answer a phone call or chat message for any reason, I get chased. If I cannot answer an email quickly enough, I feel as if I’m not doing my job well. I’m sure this affects my actual productivity at work, because I’m expected to respond so quickly, that I will interrupt whatever task I should be concentrating on whenever a new email appears in my inbox so that I can address it immediately.

Recently, it was recommended by someone I work with that I get myself a Blackberry so that I could be better connected. So that I could have one more line connecting me to work. As if my mobile phone isn’t quite enough.

I will NOT buy MYSELF a Blackberry so that I can be more accessible for work. Because really? How dire can any of these emergencies by? We don’t save lives. These situations never involve blood, or guts. We work on Mac computers and make things look nice and pretty so that people will want to spend their hard-earned money to buy these things. It’s not life and it certainly isn’t death.

Technology is awesome, yeah. But all these devices and doodads that give us this amazing ability to communicate with each other when we don’t even have to be in the same room, or even have to use our voices to have good old-fashioned conversation and dialogue are causing us to lose sense of what a commodity our time really is. We’re in such a rush. Always needing to be connected in case we miss something. Responding. Reaching out for the sake of reaching out, or simply because we can and because that person is accessible, not necessarily for a meaningful connection. Our technology, which is evolving daily, is supposed to offer us convenience but it’s robbing us of our own time and not allowing us to appreciate it. It has made it almost necessary for us all to be connected to the world and engaged with it at all times. It’s made it hard for us to actually turn off and connect with the world the way that we used to. Remember how we used to be in those times?

Why I Am a Witch with a Capital “B”

12 Apr

I just recently started following Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project blog. There’s been a lot of coverage about this project and her book in the media, and I’ve also been tracking the progress of a couple of bloggers who have embarked on this project and have been chronicling their progress along the way. Rubin’s post today really struck a chord in me, so much that it stayed with me for almost the whole day. She wrote about the link between irritability/anger and the desire for control. She begins her post by writing:

One of my more disagreeable faults is my irritability. I lose my temper easily; I “speak in a mean voice” as my daughters describe it; I become impatient and act annoyed; I feel anxious about something, so I snap at my family; I feel criticized, so I lash out.

My initial thought when I read that was “Oh my God, that’s me!” As much as I try to deny it, I know that I am needlessly irritable and I lash out unnecessarily and flagrantly at The BF. I am an anxious person and I will often speak with that same harsh edge that Rubin describes, when it really is uncalled for in otherwise normal situations and conversations. And then when this happens, I am questioned as to why I am speaking in that mean tone and because I feel like I am being attacked or challenged, it usually erupts into a bigger deal and I deny that my tone was antagonistic at all. The truth of it is, I feel guilty and just as surprised that I have been so harsh at all.

There have been many discussions between me and my boyfriend about my need for control. About my need to have everything done my way, on my time line. Oh, and when I say “discussions,” I actually mean fights. He’s said on many occasions that I am the one who decides what needs to be done, how it needs to be done, and when it needs to be done. When things don’t happen the way I have “asked” for them to, I get angry and short with him. And when I can’t do things myself as correctly as I had envisioned, I become angry with myself. Worse is when I feel like I have no control of a situation, especially when I am at work, and this is when I become frantic because there are so many elements that need to be checked and balanced. If I’m going to be away from work for any period of time and I have to relinquish my projects to someone else in my absence, I fret secretly the entire time about whether or not I am going to come back to some kind of disaster.

I guess The BF has more insight than I am willing to give him credit for, according to Rubin’s post. I can admit it here on my blog for all of you to see, but I am actually reluctant to voice this revelation – or should we call it confirmation – to him. Is this why I am always so irritable and unpleasant to be around? My compulsion to be in control. My answer would be a loud, resounding “yes,” because sometimes I thoroughly annoy myself with this.

Like Rubin, I suppose I need to work on my mindfulness. In those moments that I am able to admit and recognize that I am being edgy, then I need to try to make a special effort to try to calm myself down. But most of all, I need to train my mind to know that there are many things that simply are out of my control. I need to learn to accept this. The last thing I want to be is that unpleasant person that no one wants to be around because she creates unpleasant situations, especially to The BF who has chosen to be here with me.

When I Grow Up

10 Mar

When I was young, I looked to grown-ups as big people who had jobs and owned stuff like houses and cars and had it all together. They knew stuff. Lots of it. And they always had cash in their wallets. They had jobs to go to and wore dry-cleaned, freshly-pressed clothes, and the ladies wore heels that made grown-up clicking noises on the floor. They were husbands and wives. Moms and Dads. Grown-ups that I looked up to, and who had me believing that someday when I grew up myself, my life would look like that too. I would know lots of things, always have cash in my wallet to buy stuff like Brussels sprouts from the grocery store and clickety heel shoes for work and gum for my purse. I would have a few credit cards stored in the slots of my wallet for the more expensive buys like jewellery and coats and televisions. I would have a husband and some children too.

I would have a house filled with furniture and pots and pans and plants. I would cook all the time, and my fridge would always be full of food and my cupboards full of snacks. I would have the time to do everything that I wanted. I would have fun on the weekends and go on vacations and read books and drink big glasses of red wine and have martinis with my friends. I would have a job that was easy to do because I would be an expert at whatever it was I ended up doing. I would be self-sufficient and intelligent and mature. I would not be unsure of anything.

There is a little bit of a gap between that, and what I am now as a 30-something grown-up.

I don’t always have cash in my wallet, and I have limited myself to 1 credit card. This is so that I can control my money and budget. And while I wear heels at work, I will get out of them and wear flats at my first opportunity because I value my comfort. I stay away from clothes that are dry-clean only, and I will avoid wearing anything that needs to be ironed because I just don’t have the proper time to maintain items like this. I’m always in a hurry to get somewhere because I am constantly running out of time. I have a house, wherein which some rooms don’t have proper furniture and mismatched pots and pans line my cupboards. It’s also where plants come to die. I am cooking all the time, and while I enjoy doing this, the main motivating factor for this is the money we save by not eating out so much and by brown-bagging our lunches. I don’t have a husband. I don’t have children. I have a job that’s not exactly easy to do, and while I’m good at what I do, I’m far from being an expert. I am unsure of many things.

I guess this is what it means to be an adult, to understand that we are always in a state of growing. That there are always things to be learned, that I will not ever have all the answers. That it’s ok that it’s not perfect. I thought adulthood would erase struggles; it didn’t, we just have different ones. Are we all doing what we thought we would be when we grew up? After a few years of trying different things, I have found a career that fits me. For now. But if you ask me where I think I want to be in five years, I wouldn’t have a good answer for you because I really don’t know. A little bit more grown-up, I suppose. A little less afraid of failing. Learning more about what is important to me. Being sure of the relationships that are meaningful to me. And not so secretly wishing that I had more of that cash in my wallet.

*Image from weheartit.com

Home Was Not Built in a Day

19 Feb

It’s our 1-year anniversary in this house together.

A year since we took that plunge into cohabitation.

One year since we walked through that front door with big plans on how we were going to make this small-ish space our home.

It’s hard to believe that this much time has passed, because I feel like I haven’t accomplished nearly as much as  I had set out to do. Was I naively ambitious? Probably. Or did I just lack motivation? I hope not. Since we moved in, it feels like not much has really changed. The carpet we wanted to tear out and replace with hardwood is still here. And while the house came complete with California shutters on our upper level and side windows, our front and back doors still remain without window coverings. We haven’t yet gotten around to painting any other walls besides those of our kitchen. And while we’re in the kitchen, we’d talked endlessly about building a banquette bench in the recessed wall for our table. As of this minute, it still is just a wall. The tufted fabric headboard I wanted to make for our bed still lives in my head as a plan I want to execute next week…or the week after that…or the next long weekend we have.

By now, I thought that things would be different.

When people ask me how the house is, my response usually is, “It’s coming along,” even after a year, it is still coming along. We are building our home s-l-o-w-l-y, and I’ve learned that I have to exercise patience, something that is not at the top of my list of traits. It’s a struggle for me just to deal with the day-to-day stuff – the finances, the meal planning and cooking, the cleaning, the job – and after I’ve done all that stuff, I need to find time for other important stuff like Lost, The Bachelor and Glee. How in the world do I fit in headboard building?

For now, I am content and satisfied because we’ve created a comfortable home for ourselves with as much as we have. And while I wish that I had more better looking things to make my house all charming and pretty-like, I know that I need the proper time to devote to it. We may not have a proper coffee table, or real furniture in our spare bedrooms, but this is the space that we enjoy coming back to every day. And I suppose that should be what is important, and what I should remember to appreciate each day. It’s all the little things that make this modest little space our modest little space.

Curling our toes in this carpet.

Leisurely Sunday morning breakfasts.

Taco parties with friends.

Sleeping next to him in our headboard-less bed.

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