Looking Forward

montrealphotoAbove Montreal streets in the summer <3

Happy July!

This is my favorite month- not just because it’s my birthday month- but because summer is finally OFFICIALLY here by now, relaxing-time is in full swing, and overall I am just a summer kinda gal so this time of year works well with my mood! In anticipation of this fantastic time of year, here are some things I have to look forward to.

Today, I am looking forward to… getting back to school and some long-overdue meetings. 

I’m one of those weird people who loves being exceptionally busy (in case you didn’t know) but I’ve been taking some much needed time off from long days at school. I specifically planned a morning and afternoon of meetings to get through some work for my new school project, which basically means meeting with friends, probably ordering yummy food, and spending endless hours in one of my favorite places, downtown Montreal. :)

This weekend, I am looking forward to… possibly going to Vans Warped Tour, seeing family, and one last little bit of relaxation time before summer school. 

Last year, Warped Tour was cancelled in Montreal (for no good reason!) but it’s BACK this year, and I do really want to go. Depending how I feel money-wise, I might go last minute. It’s one of my favorite music festivals, and I love spending the day outside with good music when it’s sunny. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll sneak over to my brother’s house to spend time with my niece & nephew, and soak up a bit of quality time with them before summer school kicks off next week.

This month, I am looking forward to… MY BIRTHDAY, going camping, and maybe *whispers* getting a tattoo! 

So besides the obvious awesomeness of July that I love oh-so-much, I have some great things to look forward to! I’m turning 25 on July 10th (I haven’t been too excited about it but I’m trying to change that around) and I really, REALLY want to get my first tattoo for the occasion. I also volunteered to be a leader at Girl Guide camp for a week, so I’ll be roughing it out from July 13-19th in a tent, swimming & doing arts and crafts with a lovely group of 7 to 9 year old girls. I grew up with Girl Guides and always wanted to volunteer with them. We’ll be doing a ‘Christmas in summer” theme for the week, sleeping in tents, making s’mores, and o-m-g I am excited! I may not be going on vacation this year, but I have been wanting to go camping for YEARS.

This year, I am looking forward to… two weekends of summer festivals in August, potential summer getaways, getting a full-time job, and going back to school. 

That’s a lot for one sentence and honestly, a lot of those were assumptions, but that’s my way of throwing out my good vibes to the Universe and hoping for the best! I am in FACT going to two summer music festivals; Osheaga (indie) and Ile Soniq (EDM) which should be a wonderful adventure. I’m also attempting to plan a little weekend away at a cottage of some sort, but that will depend on summer school. As for a full-time job, well I’m applying to some things in my field and crossing my fingers. I’m being picky and only applying to jobs that I truly see myself enjoying, and it’s very tough. I’ve done some great interviews but with no luck on an offer yet. I’ll keep trying, so keep me in your thoughts! And, well, school… I’m kind of looking forward to getting back into that routine, but I’ll probably regret saying that come September, ha. :)

What are you looking forward to?

Mid-Summer Goals

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I was looking back on the first half of 2014 recently, and was kind of feeling down about it. “What have I really accomplished?” was a fleeting thought, but I did my best to stomp that out because hey, I actually did a lot, and I seem to be getting harder on myself. It also just doesn’t feel like I’ve done all that much because I haven’t been keeping very proper track of it at all.

That is very, very unlike me.

I miss goals. I spent so many years setting goals for myself and working towards them, and it was always just a really comforting thing to have, because I felt like I was working towards a clear cut objective. I never realized just how much I valued being able to quantify what I’ve accomplished through goals. I just like writing down the things I have to do, and being able to cross them off after.

So! I’m not sure if I’ll get ALL of these accomplished, but I’d certainly like to try. Here are a few things I’d like to do this summer:

1. Read 10 books. That’s an average of about 5 books for the next two months. Considering I hadn’t picked up a single novel from January-April, I’m going to consider that really solid. I got back into reading this month luckily, and I realized I missed it a lot. Time to keep it up!

2. Get my driver’s license. Or at least, work really hard towards it. I have to renew my learners permit, pass the written exam again, and learn how to drive my mom’s manual car. I can do it!

3. Renew my passport and my medicare card. My passport expired in January, and I hate the feeling that I can’t leave my country. Not cool. And my medicare card has been expired since my last birthday in July. I am SO fortunate I haven’t gotten sick enough to need it since then. How awful of me. Must do this ASAP.

4. Eat healthier. I find this goal very vague, but that’s what I like about it in this sense. I don’t want to track my food intake or anything like that, I just want to make healthier choices again. I want to eat more vegetarian dishes like I used to, more fruits, less crappy food. School has a way of bringing out my worst eating habits & I want to get rid of them!

5. Take a small trip. Okay so I can’t afford to travel to another continent entirely, but I’d still love to take an opportunity and road trip over the summer. I had this goal in mind months ago when I first started drafting this post, and I’m currently planning a week-long camping trip where I’ll be a Leader for a Girl Guide camp. I’m excited! If I can do another little weekend getaway, I’ll be so happy.

6. Start another 365 photo project. I started one on my 24th birthday and was doing really well until around February when I gave up on it. I miss doing it and I’m sad I stopped, but between elections and life, I barely had time to sleep, let alone take interesting photos every day. I’d love to do it again though.

7. Do things that matter. I’ll be taking a summer class in July/August, and I know that’s going to take up a lot of time (I want to do well!) so I’d like to focus my energy on other projects that really matter to me- not just *things* to keep me busy, which we all know I love. It’s time to be more selective, and see big results.

8. Remember the Summer Ground Rules. I wrote them MONTHS ago and had kind of forgotten about them, but I’d like to try and get back to the ground rules when I make decisions. They’re still totally valid and I don’t apply them often enough yet.

9. Get my finances in check. This is a long-standing goal of course, but it’s time to set some spending boundaries and make sure I can pay for school until I’ve graduated.

10. Apply for jobs I’m passionate about. In between having a quarter life crisis and working my part-time job, I’ve come to the decision that I need a job in a field I want to pursue as a career. I’ve started applying to jobs here and there, but I want to keep applying to these jobs, particularly in fields I’m super passionate about. I’m not entirely convinced I have enough qualifications for anything I truly want yet, but I want to keep trying!

Do you have any summer goals? 

June Five

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After a really hectic few months at school, I was really looking forward to having the time to get back into blogging as the summer months rolled in- and then I just didn’t blog. The truth is, I’ve had the *time* to do it, but I haven’t had the motivation or the interest. This year still remains my least documented year EVER, and that makes me so sad. I wish I knew why I lost the enthusiasm I used to have towards blogging, but I think the truth is that I’m still just really busy and I let blogging fall behind until it seems almost impossible to catch up.

Despite not really feeling like a blogger anymore, I still do miss it terribly, and I’d like to find the time to get back into it a couple times a week. I was walking home from work late last week, thinking over the plans I have over the next few weeks/months, and how I really haven’t had any time to just sit down and reflect over any of it. I’ve always been one to sort through my thoughts and feelings through writing, so it makes sense that my brain has felt significantly more all over the place than usual.

So I guess there’s no easy way to write a catch-up post except to just dive right in there, so here are a five things I’ve been up to lately:

1. Working, a LOT. I had kind of given up on my one single paid job over the year because I was just so busy, and it was the strangest thing to not spend much time there. I work in a bookstore- so lovely- and have been there for close to 6 years now. I’ve grown up so much there, and since finishing the year of crazy, it’s been really nice to be back there, falling back in love with reading, and settling back into a routine that makes my life feel less upside down overall. Also, the money part has been helpful!

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2. Spending time with family. I’ve always made time for my family- spending time with them has always made me feel sane- but I’ve been making an exceptionally conscious effort, especially on weekends, to see my niece & nephew, and enjoy quality time with the whole fam jam. Whenever I go a week without seeing them I am very sad and miss them tons, so family BBQ’s and hanging out with my favorite little kiddos has been the absolute best. I spent  two full days at my brother’s house with my sister-in-law and the kids a week and a half ago, and it was really really nice. Granted I was pretty behind on work after, but I literally just played with my nephew nonstop, ate my sister-in-law’s amazing food, and cuddling my baby niece. I’m very excited to find time to do it again!

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3. Reading. Not as much as I’d like to, but I’m working back up to the reader that I used to be. Which means I’ve also started buying books again, and that’s not the best, but I did miss that too. I read a really great contemporary-ish YA novel called Noggin by John Corey Whaley which I LOVED, and I picked up Ruin & Rising by Leigh Bardugo today as well- the third book in her fantasy series ‘The Grisha’. So good. I’m also really looking forward to the Hilary Clinton biography, as crazy as that sounds, I’m so excited about it! I’ve been trying to spend some time outside reading, which has been all sorts of lovely.

4. Seeing friends. This seems like a silly point, but I was just so BUSY during the year that a lot of my good friendships took a back burner because I didn’t have the time or energy to go out and see them. If I had any spare time, I would try and squeeze in an evening with family. Anyway point being, I missed friends a lot and I finally get enough sleep in my life to actually enjoy spending time out with them. Dinners, terrace drinks,  random coffee dates, it’s been all around very lovely seeing friends more regularly!

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5. Writing. Okay so I haven’t been around my blog much, but I have been super busy between Confront Magazine and MTL Blog- where I started working again in June. It’s been really nice getting back into the swing of writing, and doing some interviews for Confront. I interviewed this great Montreal girl band called Motel Raphael two weeks ago, and the very talented Canadian pop singer Victoria Duffield last week. Still one of my favorite parts of the job! Oh, and I was also featured as a travel guest blogger right here a few days ago! I am actually really happy with how that post turned out, even if it made me miss traveling a LOT.

So that’s where I’ve been this last month or so! I never imagined that picking my life back up would feel like such a process, but I’ve really enjoyed getting back into the swing of things that I love doing most!

How has June been treating you?

Summer Ground Rules

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This summer, I’m not going on any big trips. I’m not starting any  new, hugely time consuming jobs. I’m not planning anything big at all, really. The current plan? Get myself more on track.

I’m turning 25 in July, and I came to the realization that I’m not where I would have liked to be for my impending age. I’m still in University, I’m not saving up to move out, I’m not dating anyone seriously to consider a long-term life with, I’m not working a career job… I don’t even have my driver’s license yet.

I’m not saying that I regret anything- I’ve done a lot of things, too. I’ve traveled to almost a dozen countries, spent two years working with a charity organization and raising almost $80,000 for charities around the world, continued to work as editor-in-chief for a music magazine that is slowly becoming more successful, I’ve managed over 30 people at once in my spare time, and I’ve gotten myself halfway through a Bachelor’s degree in business.

But at 25, I just wish I had found a way to procrastinate less, watch less TV, and spend less money. I wish I had found a way to start putting more money away for my future, or work on those pesky, annoying tasks that adults have to do (like, get a license). I’m turning 25 and I feel like I’m perpetually stuck at the age of 16. I’m so happy and proud of myself for all of my accomplishments, but I also feel like I’ve spent so much time working on some projects, that others get conveniently forgotten.

This summer, in an attempt to avoid the “quarter-life crisis” that I’ve half-joked is coming my way, I’m setting myself some ground rules, and some goals (those will come soon enough). Five rules that I’d like to remind myself of every single day, as I continue to work on myself  and hopefully accomplish a few things that bring me closer to a happier place in my life.

The Rules

1. Set an alarm 5 days a week.
I let sleep steal so many hours from me, and make me far too unproductive. I spent so much of my time in the last 6 months or so living on a lack of sleep, that I’ve spoiled myself with 9-10 hour nights’ of sleep lately. Whatever it takes, even if I need to get to bed a bit earlier, I want to be up earlier than 1o or 11, even on some of my days off.

2. Always make the tough choice.
I want to apply this to all areas of my life. Whether the choice is between chips or an apple; paying off a bill or going out for dinner; accomplishing an annoying task or watching TV, I want to make the decisions that make me a better person in the long-term, not just make me feel good in that instant.

3. Make the time. 
I often convince myself that certain things don’t get done because I didn’t have time for it, and “at least I got those other things done”. But the truth is, those other things aren’t always important. I want to make the time to do the things that are more important, and that I’ve somehow pushed back and forgotten about.

4. Do things for me. 
I have found myself so often very close to burning out, or being so over the edge of that cliff that I stop caring. I think about others a lot more than I think about myself, and I will always prioritize work that affects others before I take any time for me. In an attempt to avoid a burn out, I want to do more things for me. It’s important to make time for important things, but it’s also important to take an hour to read, or enjoy the nice day!

5. Take chances. 
I’ve been learning a thing or two about failure, these last few months, and it hasn’t been easy. But I imagine it’s good for me, and in the long-run I’ll see some great lessons come from it. The thing with failure, is it finds a way to inflict fear and self-doubt in you. I want to keep taking chances on myself, no matter how much I may grow to doubt a certain ability or another. New opportunities will never come if I don’t at least put myself out there and give things a try.

Figuring Things Out

So this past semester, I ran to be the President of all the undergraduates at my University- basically the representative for all undergrads on campus. I was approached for the position in November by a good friend, thought it was complete insanity, but knew in my heart that I would forever regret not giving it a try.

And so began the craziest 5 months of my life. Once I made my decision, I walked up to one of my closest friends in school and asked her if she’d like to run in the elections on my team with me. Without a moment’s hesitation, she agreed. Together, we slowly built a team of 8 executives. It took a long time- our last member joined days before we had to pick up our forms to present our candidacy. But what an all-star time we had. 8 people that represented almost all the faculties, with such a wide range of interests and experience. Those people became half the reason I was so excited to be going on this crazy, crazy adventure.

We spent an insane amount of time putting our campaign together. The weekend before campaigning began, I spent 19 hours working on the same one thing, until it was as close to perfect as can be. Every step of the process was a steep learning curve. It was scary, and it was so easy to doubt everything we were doing because we still had NO idea who we would be going up against. But we rallied, had a few sleepless nights, and put together a really great platform for students.

I remember the first day we went around getting signatures to submit our candidacy and I found out who my Presidential opponents were. There were three of them. That entire week of getting signatures from students was like one anxiety attack after another. Every time I thought I  couldn’t handle one more piece of news, there were 10 new things happening that could change the entire game. I was so anxious, so nervous, and still had very little idea what to expect.

The following week was the official beginning of 10 (business) days of campaigning. They were spread out over 3 weeks, and then there would be 3 days of voting. Basically, the entire month of March was spent with my team, in the halls of our University, meeting students, attending events, and being under the scrutinizing eye of anyone who cared to pay attention to the elections. There were debates, radio shows, meet & greets, photo ops, and video interviews. I slept 3-4 hours a night, constantly dreamed about my campaign, and didn’t go to a single class. I barely remember my life in March- it feels like a blur. I wasn’t myself. I was always tired, always worried, always feeling like people were staring at me. I wore the same shirt for 2 weeks and couldn’t be more sick of the color red. I slept at my friends’ house near school and only went home on weekends to recuperate.

And yet? I still managed to get out of bed every single morning, ready to take on another day of campaigning. I pushed myself to what felt like the very edges of my sanity, teetered on the cliff of my own well-being, hoping to win over an entire school of students who would allow my team to represent them. It was on some days thrilling, exciting, and I felt like we were taking on the world. On other days it was terrifying, and I would sit curled up in a ball in my office wondering why the hell I was putting myself through all of this.

The truth is, I re-organized my entire life around this potential job, with this team. I re-imagined my life, visited the office, and despite being terrified every day about losing to one of my competitors, still saw some form of light at the end of the dark tunnel of the month. Presidency was juuuust out of my reach, and yet not all that far, at the same time. I doubted myself, and I never believed in my abilities more. I was confused, and so certain that THIS was what the next year of my life should be like. Complete, sleepless insanity. It would be wonderful. I truly, genuinely felt (and still feel) like it was a job I would be able to do happily, and successfully. I rarely doubted my own abilities, but rather the sheer luck that went with trying to convince students to go out and vote.

Throughout all of this, I was also planning the largest event with my Casa Cares team. Our end-of-year charity fashion show was the last day of voting. I would be hosting a 500 person event, and then heading to school once it was over to find out the results of the elections.

And so, at the end of everything, after pushing every emotion I had down as far as they would metaphorically go; after refusing to feel one more thing until all of this was over; after setting aside my passions, my hobbies, my family, all for the potential greater good of 40 000 undergraduates, I found out that my entire team lost. It was 5am and they were still counting ballots. We sat in the room and heard that we were “definitely not winning” and I was just numb. I had just gone through the craziest three weeks of my life, organized an insanely successful (and equally as terrifying) event that night, and found out that the last 5 months of my life had been spent working on a project that would never come to exist for me.

At first, I shrugged, sat down and just stared blankly ahead. Then I went outside and paced. A friend came by and told me she was very sad for me, and she started crying. And then I started crying. Some of my closest friends and teammates were there, and we all hugged. I didn’t even realize how much I wanted to win until that exact moment, until it was too late. It didn’t feel real, to be honest. I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with myself, or how to move on from that place. I ended up going home around 6 in the morning, and truth be told I don’t even remember the next day. I avoided a lot of people as the final results were announced, and I avoided school for a few days after that.

The results were three weeks ago and I’m doing a lot better. I’ve caught up on sleep, put efforts back into school, spent time with friends & family, and started focusing my energies on what comes next. What makes me most sad is how close I became to that team, and how much I would have loved working with them. But I am such a strong believer that everything happens for a reason, and I know that failure is part of life. I do believe that this wasn’t the right opportunity for me. Do I still think my team would have totally kicked ass? Yes. But I also know that I am happy to be right here, right now; able to blog again, see my family, spend time with my newborn niece, see old friends and enjoy their company, and read books. I put so much of my life on hold without even realizing how different I had become. These things that I love so much make me who I am, and I was so caught up that I didn’t realize how much I missed all of it.

I think what’s left right now is a bruised ego, more than anything. It kind of feels like a break up; like I’m picking up the pieces of my heart off the ground to glue back together. Because I did put my heart into this project, and I’m nothing if not extremely passionate about everything I undertake.

I’m finally getting to a place where I can figure out what’s next, though. I actually applied for a job a few days after losing the election, made it through two rounds of interviews and then got rejected. Suffice to say, I was on a roll. But I was reminded that I really am passionate about certain things in life, and that passion shines through when people speak to me. I was recently hired to be on the organizing committee for one of the largest business case competitions in the world. A new team, a new home next year, and a whole new experience than the one I was expecting to jump into.

I am so excited. So life isn’t quite as neat and tidy as it was half a year ago. I don’t feel like I’m *as* on track as I would have liked to be, months before my 25th birthday. Most important to me is that I don’t walk away from all of this with a 1 500 word blog post and regrets. I want to accept that this is a thing I did, it was hard, it was simultaneously emotionally exhausting and fulfilling. It was heartbreaking, and it changed me. Hopefully for the better. I think I learned so much throughout this experience, and it opened doors for new opportunities I hadn’t even considered before.

I’m sorta kinda still in limbo. I’m working on learning from my mistakes. I’m reminding myself that one lost chance doesn’t mean all hope is lost forever.

I’m still figuring it out, but I’ll be okay.

Two and a Half

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Munchkin,

You turned two and a half last Friday, where has time gone?! The last six months have especially flown by while your parents prepared for your baby sister, but you’ve been doing a whole lot of growing up in that time. It’s unbelievable to think of you as a two-year-old and you right now.

Best part? You’re now a full-fledged conversationalist. Okay, well, you’re not exactly perfect in any language yet, but we have some pretty good talks in French and English. You imitate everyone, and I think it’s an absolute riot. This might actually be my favorite age so far, because you now understand everything we say to you… AND THEN YOU ANSWER BACK. It’s great, seriously.

So, you haven’t been home with your baby sister yet as I write this. Actually, it’s a Saturday evening and you’re fast asleep upstairs at my house. You’ve had a pretty nuts two weeks while your parents try and figure out this whole second baby thing, so your grandma offered to take you on for Easter weekend. We’ve had a few good games, a lot of dancing (we discovered ‘Happy’ by Pharrell today!) and some pretty great photo sessions.

It’s honestly just been so fun watching you grow up every time I see you. I’ve been so busy- so distant- these last few months, it’s nice to spend a bit of time with you during finals and figure out who the two and a half year old version of you really is. I think you’re going to start changing a whole lot again very soon when you meet the new baby in your house, so I really want to enjoy these last moments, just the two of us, while I still can.

Being an auntie has been eye-opening. I love being your best friend, even though you somehow have about 800x more energy than I do. I love watching you grow up, and I love seeing what a wonderful difference you make in our family. You’re always making everything fun for all of us again, and it’s great to feel like a kid and play silly games all the time.

This summer is going to be all fun and games, let me tell you.

Lots of love,

auntie Melissa

Monday Five

So I’ve been away for blogging for some time now. Just about 3 months, actually, which is probably the longest I’ve gone without blogging for as long as I can remember.

I thought I might try and get back into things by talking about 5 things I’ve been up to in the last few months. My blog has always been the place where I can look back and re-visit any time in my life, so it only seems fitting that I should at least make an effort to record the craziness of 2014 so far.

1. In January, the CASA Cares team started getting into serious planning mode for our 11th annual charity fashion show. We hosted weekly practice meetings for the models, and I spent a countless amount of hours visiting venues, and putting together the bigger details (like the name, theme, etc). It was by far the biggest event we planned of the year, took a total of 5 months of planning, and was one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire year.

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The event came together amazingly well (of course there are things I can imagine doing differently now) but we had one of the best groups of student models I could have ever imagined. They went from a group of strangers to a team of dedicated individuals who really made the show one of the best ever.

The fashion show took place at the end of March, and was probably one of the most stressful days of my life… Ever. Seriously, organizing a 500 person event with a team of 17 executives was hands down of the most trying moments I might ever have to go through. But I learned so much, and love my team even more for going through all of it with me.

fashion showAt the end of the show, my team presented me with flowers. Such love <3

2. The main reason that I kind of disappeared for 3 months is because I did this crazy thing and ran in the University-wide elections to be the President of the Union that represents all 40,000 undergraduate students. It took months of preparation and putting a team together. We poured our heart and souls into a campaign, we put so much trust into each other after having known some of each other only for weeks. It was probably the most intimidating thing I’ve ever done, and I genuinely couldn’t imagine having done it with anyone but these other 7 people.

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We ended up losing the election to one of the other two teams that ran. I haven’t spoken much about it since finding out two weeks ago. Coincidentally, we got the results the night of the fashion show, right after the event was over. It was such a “circle of life” kind of moment, one year coming to an end and finding out that the following year would be going in a complete different direction than I had planned. It hasn’t been easy to readjust.

I don’t think I’ve ever gone under as much scrutiny as being a Presidential candidate in these elections. We spent a good month preparing our campaign, posters, platform, and then we had just over two weeks of actual campaigning in school to do. If I said I slept 4-5 hours per night, I’d almost think I was exaggerating. Those campaigning days are still such a blur to me, I sometimes don’t even know *how* I got myself out of bed every day. But I did, and it was hands down the craziest experience (no pun intended on our team name) I’ve ever undergone in University.

3. I applied for another internship too soon after elections were over, and found out I wasn’t accepted for that either. Hey, if I’m writing a candid blog post on my life, it has its ups & downs. There have been a lot, and I mean a LOT of both recently.

4. The interesting thing through all of this is that I’ve learned a heck of a lot about myself. Okay, so maybe I’m a little bit less confident in myself some days than I used to be, but I know I just haven’t found the opportunity that’s right for me just yet. It’s scary, because I’m turning 25 in just a few months, and I just imagined myself in a very different place right NOW, but that’s part of life- right? It’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Life is also about rejection, and failing at some things even when you’re doing awesome at others. I’ve taken all this extra time in my schedule to find myself again, fall back in love with my favorite things that took a back-burner in all of this mess, and that’s been really nice. I started reading again, seeing friends, family, sleeping, and even planning to go to some concerts in the near future.

The GirlsCelebrating one of my best friends’ 25th birthday, worry free in April. <3

Some days I wake up and think that things really do happen for a reason, and other days I wake up wondering why I can’t just get *one single thing* that I want in life. I’m melodramatic sometimes, what can I say. I’m kinda scared to see what this summer holds for me, in all of its unpredictability. But scary isn’t necessarily bad. I have so much wide-open-time to find another extraordinary opportunity to go after!

5. My niece is here! I’m ending this long-rambling blog post with some good news! She was born with several complications, but everything is looking up officially. I got to hold her for the first time over the weekend and she is just the sweetest, most precious little thing I’ve ever seen. Well, at least since my nephew was born! I can’t wait for her release from the hospital (soon, I think!) to spend more time with her. Yay, babies. :)

Eliana

I’m an auntie… Again!

Dear Eli,

I remember the day I found out about you for the first time like it was just last week. I was docking in Miami after a week-long cruise through Central America, and your dad sent me a text message with the news- I was going to be an auntie again. I was OVER THE MOON, what a way to end a vacation, right?! We had just spent a week in Miami earlier that month as a family, all your grandparents, your parents, your brother, and me (family vacations are the new thing since your brother was born) and it just felt like all was right in the world.

Fast-forward to 5 months later when we discovered you weren’t just a baby, but a baby girl?! The entire family nearly fell off their chairs with excitement. We have all been SO anxious to meet you. These past 9 months have simultaneously gone by in the blink of an eye, and yet I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life to finally hold my niece in my arms. I’m such an emotional auntie- you’re going to have to get used to that.

You were born yesterday, April 8th 2014, at 7:27am, but not without a few complications along the way. You are a sweet, quiet, calm 6.5 pound baby (so little!) that has a few little obstacles to jump over before you can settle happily into the crazy family that you’ll soon get to know. Your existence is still so surreal to me, because I haven’t been allowed to hold you yet. I’m already so sad and nostalgic for Day 1, that memorable day where we’re all supposed to say hello to you for the first time, and yet we all have to wait just a little bit longer until you’re feeling better.

I told you I was an emotional auntie! Already sad and nostalgic and you’re barely a day and a half old… I mean really.

It’s been SUCH a different experience, seeing you come into this world compared to your brother. If I’ve learned anything in the last 2 and a half years with you brother, it’s to enjoy every single day with you, instead of looking ahead to what you’ll do next. These first days are so precious, and I can’t wait to finally spend some time with you and see what you’re like.

I wrote a letter to your brother on the day he was born that looks forward to all the things I wanted to do with him. I’m not going to do the same for you, because you’re already such a different case, and you’re making that very known to the family. Instead, I’m going to keep sending you love, positive thoughts, and enjoy seeing your sweet, squishy little face in all of our arms.

I am just so excited to really see you and hold you for the first time, even though you’re already here, I can hardly think any further than that yet. Soon enough you’ll be playing with barbies, wearing dresses, and breaking lots of boys’ hearts. I’m going to be patient this time around and spoil you every day that I get to see you until those days come around.

Keep on fighting, you are gonna be one hell of a tough cookie later on.

Love always,

Auntie Melissa

Favorite Reads of 2013

For the last few years, I’ve become even more of a reader than I ever was growing up. I was really set this year on getting through a huge amount of my un-read bookshelf, but as life sometimes goes, I didn’t. I went months without picking up any book at all because I was just too busy and had zero desire to.

That’s not to say that I didn’t read at all in 2013, though. Actually, some of my now all-time favorite books I read for the first time this year. In no particular order, here were the ones that really stood out:

Graceling by Kristin Cashore- read my review
I can’t remember the last time I loved a fiction book this much. I had been meaning to read it for YEARS, but finally a good blogger friend, Jessica, convinced me it was time to pick it up and that I wouldn’t regret it. I actually re-reading this book in the last two weeks of December because I knew that to get back into reading, a favorite novel would do the trick. I loved it JUST as much the second time around.

kristin

Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Another book that sat on my shelf for far too long. I read this book while I was on vacation and, even though I knew everyone loved it, was still completely caught off guard by how much the story impacted me. I haven’t had the chance to read his other two books yet, but I do plan to in 2014.

khaled

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor- read my review
2013 was the year I discovered my love of fantasy novels, because this one also completely blew me away. The storyline is so out of the ordinary, but I just could not put it down for the life of me. I’ve been meaning to read the sequel ever since, but didn’t want to wait two years for the third to come out! I would have to say that Laini Taylor and Kristin Cashore have some of the most eloquent & beautiful writing I’ve ever seen in YA novels.

laini

Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahallan
This non-fiction book tells the story of the author who develops an extremely rare disease that literally turns your brain against the rest of your body. It was pure luck that a doctor would finally diagnose her correctly when she was on the brink of losing herself completely. The book is extremely well researched and includes pieces from videos, her journal, and the few things she does remember from that time in her life. As a past Psychology student, this book fascinated me from start to finish.

susannah

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I’ve never been big on thrillers, but the way Flynn manipulates the reader throughout this entire story is absolutely insane. I know not everyone likes that feeling very much, but I think it’s the sign of being an incredibly talented writer if you can have everyone believe with such certainty that a certain story-line is developing, when in fact it’s entirely another. SO GOOD.

gillian

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
I went through a YA fantasy phase this year, and after the other two I needed my fix! Jessica is always the best at recommending so I trusted her 100% and was not disappointed in the least. I am a big fan of all these emerging authors with these completely out of the ordinary stories to tell! Definitely check this one out if you’re looking for a good fantasy ready, but nothing too over-the-top complicated.

leigh

Behind Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
I’ve always been very interested in Indian culture, and this non-fiction book, written by a journalist, tells the story of a group of families that live in an Indian slum, and how all their lives come together. They are in fact all real people, but the way she wrote her book, it comes together much in the way a fiction novel might. It’s really eye opening to see how some people are forced to live on the other side of the world, and how corrupt their government is. It’s hard to believe there’s nothing we can do from the comfort of our homes, when these people live with almost nothing.

katherine

 

What were your favorites of the year? Any must-reads in 2014?

Well, that was fun, 2013!

I remember when 2012 was coming to an end, I was  bit nervous. Last year was so wonderful, and I was worried that 2013 just wouldn’t be able to match up- no matter how hard I tried.

But on the contrary, 2013 has been one of the most amazing years of my life. It had its ups and downs of course, but I also learned so much about myself in the process. I wrote a post at the beginning of the year and said:

I want to make 2013 matter in the grander scheme of things. I want EVERY year to matter, but now that I’ve experienced Great Big Things, I want to continue to experience them without feeling like a new year means a new me. I want to always improve on myself, yes, but I don’t want the experiences of one year to negatively affect how I view the next, like thinking they can’t match up to one another.”

I completely forgot that I had even written that, and just came across it now. I’m happy to say that I think I found a way to make this true for myself. Because 2013 was VERY different from 2012, and I imagine 2014 will be even more different than the last two years combined, but everything happens like a domino effect. I’ve realized that if I want something, if I want something to happen for myself, it’s not TIME that will matter, it’s the choices that I make and the chances that I take on myself.

Here’s a little look back at the last 365 days:

January 
- I set some New Year’s Goals that I stuck to for a little while, but life just got so hectic that I didn’t keep up very well after the first few months. I think this is the first year I can say that I did not pay much attention to goals. Luckily, some of the ones that I *didn’t* think I would accomplish I actually did, without even realizing I would. So that’s pretty cool!

- I read like 8 books this month, which would end up being almost half of what I read all year. SAD FACE. I only read 23 books all year (I actually read one book, Graceling, twice!) I’d really like to get back into reading more in 2014 again. I’m not too sure why I stopped!

February
- Attended the first annual Entertainment & Management Conference at McGill University in Montreal. It was SUCH an awesome day, and my first conference ever attended. I just registered for this years’ as well… Only one month away!

desautels

- I started my blog feature ‘Five Songs That Changed My Life’ which I kept going for 6 months before deciding to close it down. I had always wanted to invite bloggers to take over once a week for a feature, and opening it to music lovers was the best way to do it!

March
- I found the time to do a lot of writing around the internet, apparently!

- I went on a road trip to New York City with three friends from work. I hadn’t been since 2008 and had been DYING to get back there. We spent three nights, and I fell right back in love with the city that never sleeps.

nyc

- Ending my first year with Casa Cares, we hosted our annual fashion show benefiting the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation. We spent MONTHS putting the event together, and raised almost $20,000 for the cause. It was such an amazing night, and it’s also when I started announcing that I would be next year’s President!

fashionshow

April
- I went on a road trip to Boston for the very first time with a friend, and spent the weekend visiting their concert venues (ha)! On our first night there we went to see Andy Grammer & Parachute, and on our second, we saw Andrew McMahon, one of my absolute favorite musicians. If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time you’ll know that I’ve been a fan of his since 2004, and this was the first (and only) time I met him. What an epic weekend! I also discovered one of my now-favorite bands, Erland, who opened up for Andrew that night!

andrew

May
- On May 1st, I officially signed my papers to start my one-year mandate as Casa Cares President. I’m about 4 months away from my term coming to an end, which is CRAZY. Time flies! I remember how scared and excited I was to get started, and now we’re just a few events away from the end of the year.

president

- I interviewed Joe Trohman and Patrick Stump from Fall Out Boy for CONFRONT Magazine towards the end of the month, and I can still say hands down that it’s in my Top 5 interviews of all time working for the magazine. I wrote about it over here. You can read the feature article on the bands’ break-up and reunion here! So glad to have these boys back.

June
- I went on (another) road trip to Toronto with one of my best friends to see Taylor Swift & Ed Sheeran on their North American tour together! We also went to the MMVA’s red carpet which was a pretty cool experience. But really, hanging out in TO for a few days & being away from home? Much needed.

We’d bought our tickets for the Swift/Sheeran show almost 9 months in advance (such Ed Sheeran fans we are!) but it was still bittersweet, knowing I wouldn’t be seeing him for a few years while he records his next album. Three times in two years was pretty great.

ed

July
- I turned 24!! I celebrated quietly with some friends & family, and it was all kinds of lovely. I also decided to start a second 365 Photo Project on Facebook, which I’m not almost halfway through.

365

- My nephew was baptized and I officially became his Godmother, too! It was pretty neat. My best girl friends came to celebrate!

baptism

- I went on a mini one-day road trip to some random town to see another favorite band, Jimmy Eat World! It’s been a while since I had seen them, but this year was extra awesome because THEN WE MET JIM ADKINS. Apparently it was the year to meet favorite musicians, that’s three more down!

jeww

August
-  I always look back fondly on the month of August, because it always seems to be the month that I leave for vacation! This year was no different. I spent one week in Miami with my family, fell in love with yet another city of the world, and then headed out on my first ever cruise with one of my best friends. We went through Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and Grand Cayman, and one final day in Miami when we docked. It was beautiful, a tiny bit more expensive than I had planned, but so great to get away for two weeks.

liberty

- When I got home from my cruise, one of my best friends came over and asked me if I’d like to be the maid of honor at her wedding in 2015. She wrote me a nice card and EVERYTHING. I can’t wait! The next day was her engagement celebratory brunch, and that’s when I realized I’m at the age where I have FRIENDS getting MARRIED.

maidofhonor

September
- The semester of crazy began. Casa Cares hosted like, 4 events to kick off the year, which meant lots of long, tiring nights spent at school. I didn’t realize JUST how much work this year would be, so September was a nice little wake up call. I started off pretty stressed, and did my best to enjoy it more & more as we went. I think after our huge 20-team soccer tournament being such a success, I realized that although it was a LOT of work, it wasn’t as scary as it felt in the beginning.

casacares

October
- School, school, school. My social life revolved around it in October with more outings related to University life than ever before. Between events, midterms, doing interviews to hire the second half of my team for Casa Cares, it *kind of* felt like I lived in my office! But I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I discovered multi-tasking, getting work done & still having time to see friends on a WHOLE new level.

schoolife

- My nephew turned TWO YEARS OLD, and I got to announce that I was going to be an auntie for a second time. I would (2 months later) find out to a little girl. Yay :)

cd2

- On a whim, I applied for an internship position with this extremely cool adventure travel company called Beach Travellers. I went through 3 rounds of interviews, and then? I got the freaking job. They also invited me out to a retreat in Tofino, British Columbia in mid-November!

BTwelcome

November
- 2013 was the year of opportunities! I was offered the position of Music Editor with MTL Blog, one of the biggest online websites for 20-something Montrealers. I’ve spent the last two months getting more & more used to the position, and can’t wait to see what I get to do with them in 2014!

- I spent 3 days in Tofino, BC with Beach Travellers. I literally got on a plane from Montreal to meet 15 strangers, and by the end of our first night it felt like I’d known them forever. It was, hands down, one of the coolest weekends of the entire year.

wedotof

- Casa Cares hosted our last event of the month, a gala for Movember Canada! Actually, we hosted something like 7 events throughout November, but this was our biggest by far. In total for Movember, we ended up raising almost $8,000. It was such a crazy month for my entire team. Between getting our new executives settled in & continuing to plan events AND getting through finals? Man, my team is one hell of a talented bunch.

moo

December
- We had to put down my dog that we’ve had for about 15 years now. I was really quiet about the whole thing because my mom brought him to the vet on the day of one of my finals and I just wasn’t in any way prepared to deal with it. But it’s been very strange without him around, he was a great dog for a very long time!

- I got to go into an interview with two members from The Wanted. I think they get a lot of bad press (One Direction rivals, just another boy band, blah blah) but they were honestly HILARIOUS and I had a great time. Very cool guys.

thewanted

- My month-long hiatus from blogging was definitely due to the fact that there was A LOT GOING ON. Between two weeks of finals, going back to work full-time for the holidays, meeting someone that I started seeing, spending time at the MTL Blog offices, & of course the holidays, it was a crazy crazy time. But of course, I wouldn’t have had it any other way!

cd1There was no one picture that included all those things, so here’s a cute one of my nephew instead :)

2013 was definitely very good to me. I’m going to try not to be too worried going into 2014, and instead just enjoy the good times as they come. I’m turning TWENTY-FIVE in just 6 months. Time to make the rest of my early 20′s count!

Happy New Year!