25 Before 25: The Last Update

25before25

Just shy of two years ago I wrote a list of 25 goals I wanted to achieve before the age of 25 and last year I wrote an update on my progress of these goals. Now that I’m 25, I figured it’s about time I follow up on these. It’s really funny to re-read these goals, because some of the goals that I actually accomplished I really didn’t expect to. Similarly, some of the goals I thought I would easily accomplish I haven’t even started on yet. Turns out, a lot can change in two years in terms of priorities, but this was still a really fun thing to try.

1. Travel to Iceland and Greenland alone or with a partner.

2014 was supposed to be the year that I went to Iceland, but instead all 2014 has been is the year my life got flip turned upside down a-la-Fresh Prince. Iceland 2015. It’s gotta happen. I’ve wanted to go to Iceland since I was 17 and the 6 hours total layover time we spent in Reykjavik back in 2012 does not count.

2. Sew a cool quilt.

I came embarrassingly close to actually achieving this, guys. My fabric is chosen. My squares are cut. I dragged my heels for a long time, I know, but now I finally see how calming it is to sit in my studio listening to This American Life while cutting little fabric squares and it’s just lovely.

3. Take circus lessons in trapeze and aerials.

I did trapeze and aerial lessons in 2013 and learned that I lacked serious upper body strength, which actually surprised me (I like to think I’m Wonder Woman and that my strength know no bounds). I’ve since changed my focus to be being able to do an unassisted pull-up at the gym.

4. Do the colour run or a similar style race.

This race was the Most Fun Ever. Every race should be a rainbow.

5. Finally be able to do a handstand in yoga.

I think I have a fear of leaving the ground. But 2 weeks ago I actually, like, yippee’d out loud at my otherwise silent yoga class because I was so proud/surprised of being able to balance in crow and then jump straight back to chaturanga. #noregrets

6. Have a booth at a crafters fair.

Two years ago this was a thing I was super eager to do. This is one of the goals where my priorities changed and I just lost interest. I still love shopping at craft fairs though.

7. Do an overnight camping trip by bike.   

DONE! We biked to Peggy’s Cove in June of 2013 and it was so fun and perfect.

8. Travel across the country.

I made it halfway!

9. Print a scrapbook of photos from the last 10 years.

It turns out finding photos from the last 10 years is a hard thing to do. Last year while I was off work to have my wisdom teeth out I made a scrapbook for Ryan’s Christmas gift that was 60 pages of photos from the past 3 years. I feel like that counts because it was such a massive undertaking. I used blurb.com and it was really easy and awesome quality. I’m thinking of doing an Instagram book next.

10. Throw a pop-up dinner party.

This one was so hard to organize! I feel like it’s one of those things only fancy bloggers do and not real people. Still, it would be fun.

11. Bake macarons.

Every time I look at a macaron recipe I just feel discouraged and already defeated. Sticking with chocolate chip cookies.

12. Visit a vineyard.

No vineyards yet but lots of apple orchard visits happened!

13. Go to a psychic and have my fortune told.

The first time I had my tarot cards read it kind of felt inauthentic because it was only a 3 card reading for $5. This summer I made the leap and had a half an hour reading a few weeks before my 25th birthday. It was interesting, to say the least, but it was also a little bit of hogwash.

14. Take a ceramics class.

I would still really like to try this but I’m finding it difficult to commit to a time that works best for me.

15. Write and submit a grant proposal for the Web DIY Workshop.

I’m crossing this off because this goal has manifested itself as a part of my involvement with Ladies Learning Code. Being a part of a non-profit that helps close the gender gap in coding is amazing. It’s something you just can’t do on your own, but when you have a community behind you, you can achieve so much.

16. Go on an artist/yoga/inspirational retreat.

This one happened early on when I met Jeanne Beker at Oceanstone resort in 2012. I still reflect on that weekend sometimes and how it affected me and helped give me a fresh perspective.

17. Spend at least one full month living in a new city.

I have to say, if there was one goal on this list I didn’t think I’d achieve by 25, it was this one. I did it, though. Living in Toronto from January – May of this year was one of the hardest things I’ve done but also one of the best things I could have done for myself at the time.

18. Learn a secret talent.

But how to choose a talent to learn? What’s a good party trick these days?

19. Donate blood (I can’t believe I’ve never done this!).

I’m so ashamed I haven’t done this.

20. Create a budget that works for me and stick to it.

So mint.com is amazing, if you’re not already using it. Also, being a freelancer has really helped me understand money now!

21. Make pasta from scratch.

This time last year I rarely ate pasta or much of any grain at all. I’d like to re-open this goal and maybe on a lazy winter weekend I can actually do this.

22. Watch all of the Star Wars movies.

To be honest, I just forgot about this. It’s actually more interesting to be the person who’s never seen Star Wars, though.

23. Write an e-book about something awesome.

I’ve got all kinds of ideas for this. This is totally just in the cooker right now.

24. Throw one really elaborately themed party.

Did I mention that for my 25th birthday we had a “Frosh Week” themed party? Turns out, Frosh parties when you’re 25 are way more fun because all your friends are sensible enough to not get black out drunk but kegs and jello shots are still fun. There was also a pretty elaborate murder mystery party about a year ago that was one for the books. We spent the whole evening in character, even during dinner.

25. Do something I thought I would never do.

I never thought I’d become a runner and be able to run half marathons. I’ve done two half marathons and a bunch of 10k races since I started this list. I never thought I’d become a web developer, now it’s my jam. I never thought I’d move to Toronto. I never thought I would actually like Toronto. I never expected to be working with some of the awesome and exciting clients that I’m working with right now. I’ve been surprised a lot.

25 Things I’ve Learned at 25

25 things I've learned by 25

It’s no secret that I love birthdays. Especially my own birthday. Every year I set super high expectations that this is going to be “BEST BIRTHDAY EVER”. Some years, I surpass those expectations and have a really memorable and amazing birthday (22 was the last “exceeds expectations” birthday, FYI. My mom sent me 22 cupcakes from Sweet Jane’s and we played party games in my apartment). Other years, my birthday is a crapshoot and I just have to hope the next year will be better (My 18th birthday was my first day of university and I had a broken femur and no friends in my new city – total bust).

No matter what, every year I feel like my birthday is a major life turning point and I like to take this time to be a little be more reflective. Turning 25 is kind-of-a-big-friggin-deal, so here’s a round-up things I’ve learning in these 25 years.

1. Your whole life can change drastically within a really short period of time.

This point has really been driven home for me over the last year. There are a lot of aspects of my life that are in no way the same as they were as this time last year. There are moments in life that challenge you and shake up everything you thought you once knew, but at the end of the day, you don’t have much other choice but to just deal with it and figure it out.

2. Being afraid of screwing things up will hold you back.

Sometimes I don’t do something because I’m afraid of “Wreck-it-Gab” syndrome, where I colossally fuck-up something beyond repair. But you know what, it’s really unlikely that I’ll ever screw something up to the point of  “beyond repair”, so why not try, right?

3. “Say yes and figure it out later”

I once wrote a blog post on this and it’s probably my favourite quote in the world since I discovered it. Logistics and inconvenience shouldn’t be the things that hold you back.

4. There’s a lot more out there than what’s in your own city.

Moving to Toronto earlier this year to attend HackerYou was one of the most life-shifting things I’ve ever done. And I was *thisss clossseeee* to not doing it.

5. Your job isn’t everything.

Work/Life balance is a real thing and it’s an achievable thing. Learning to say “no” when it comes to bringing home work from the office and not answering emails after work hours unless it’s super-urgent is not something you should feel guilty about.

6. Actually listen when people are talking to you.

Active listening and engaging in what someone else is saying is noticeable: people can tell when you actually care about what they’re saying. Also, when you get busted when you’re not actually listening, it sucks.

7. Speak up when you’re not into something.

This goes for a ton of things and is generally applicable everywhere. If you feel like something you have to do is unethical, dangerous, or just plain dumb you can be like, “Hey, nope. Not doin’ this”  and yeah, people might get mad but at least you still have your dignity/integrity/well-being.

8. Decide if you want to your hair to have bangs or not.

Half grown out bangs are annoying.

9. Exercise makes you happy.

I’ve known this for years but I only realize it after I turn into a major grumpypants after missing a few days of workouts.

10. If you don’t work at friendships, they kind of just fade away

This is a scary one. As I’ve gotten older it’s been harder to keep in touch with friends: having different work schedules and living in different places has a way of doing that. Even if you don’t keep in touch ALL THE TIME, you still have to check in with your buddies.

11. Don’t let people make you feel embarrassed about something you shouldn’t be embarrassed about.

Embarrassment is the weirdest emotion ever because it’s not about how you feel. It’s about how other people feel concerning you. Which sucks, because peeing your pants in a room by yourself isn’t embarrassing. But for some reason peeing your pants in a room full of people is super embarrassing.

12. Fake it til you make it.

I actually hate this phrase. But it’s totally true so I’m just going to deal with it.

13. Nobody else knows what they’re doing.

Everyone else has “imposter syndrome” just like you and is waiting to be busted. This is why “fake it til you make it” works.

14. Weigh the risk before you take the risk.

I lean more towards the impulsive side when it comes to making decisions. If my gut tells me it’s good, then I’m on board. This has worked out occasionally, and sometimes its bit me in the butt. You learn.

15. Don’t treat your body like a garbage can.

You only get one body and it has to last like 90 years! Don’t mess it up more than necessary!

16. Remember where you came from.

It’s part of who you are and trying to be something else just won’t work out.

17. If you know exactly what you want to be doing with your life, start doing that thing now.

Even if you’re only doing that thing that makes you happy as a side gig or a hobby, there’s no sense in waiting.

18. Love is hard work.

But, duh, so worth that effort.

19. Making friends is harder when you’re not in school.

Still trying to figure this one out. How do you do it? Become best buddies with your colleagues because you see each other every day anyways? Make friends at the gym without being creepy while someone is just trying to do few squats and forget about their day? Someone help me.

20. Spend your money on what makes you happy.

Buy cheap versions of stuff you don’t care about, spend on the stuff you enjoy. Hence, why all my “professional clothes” are from Joe Fresh and cost under $30 and why all my running gear is putting me in the poorhouse.

21. Always have a question when you’re on a job interview and someone says, “Do you have any questions?”

Because they’re always going to ask it and if you don’t ask a question it’s like, “why are you even here?”

22. Don’t be afraid of the phone.

Living in a texting/email world means that the phone is secondary. Which is great because phone calls can be really awkward, especially when you have to leave the dreaded voicemail message (UGH!). BUT, phone calls get shit done. Get a person on the phone and you’ll save way more time than emailing back and forth.

23. Reading for pleasure instead of self-improvement is one of the best de-stressors.

I started re-reading Anne of Green Gables last weekend while we were on the ferry to PEI and it was the most chilled out I’ve been in a long time. Malcolm Gladwell is great, but there’s nothing like a nice piece of fiction before bed.

24. Most of your assumptions are wrong.

Whenever I make an assumption, I don’t even think I’m making an assumption because I’m assuming that I’m absolutely spot on about something. Nope, everything is probably wrong.

25. The lists get longer as you get older.

This list took forever to write. I hope I’m not still making these when I’m 50.

What to Do When You’re Leading a Double-Work Life

doubleworklife

For the past two years I’ve always been doing some sort of moonlighting work as a freelancer.

It feels totally normal to have a 9-5 gig and then always be working on projects on the side. There are times of the year when I take on less projects than others (during the summer for example, when I want to be able to come home from work and immediately sit on a patio with a glass of wine for hours), but I’m almost always doing some form of design, development, updating, or just general consulting on the side.

It definitely helps that I absolutely love the work I do, and I’m always pretty eager to take on a new challenge.

But, occasionally I forget that my side gig is more than just a hobby – it’s real work. This happens when I come face-to-face with a side-project deadline in the wake of an extra long day at my day job. Or when I end up in a 2 hour client meeting right after work and I’m so hungry I could eat a horse and my brain is already fried from the rest of the day’s work. How do you keep enjoying your side projects when you essentially have two jobs that you’re trying to balance? It’s taken me two years to figure out some real answers to this question and especially since stepping up my freelance skills with web development and taking on more side projects than I used to. Since I can’t be the only person in this particular double-work pickle, I thought I’d share some tips that I’ve learned from managing a work-life balancing act:

 1. Choose your projects carefully.

There’s nothing worse than coming home after a long day and having to do more work that you don’t enjoy, or are tired of doing. When I worked in print/logo design I used to hate coming home after work only to log 3 more hours of print or logo work that evening. It just makes the day SO long. I’m finding it much easier to balance working in digital marketing during the day and coming home where I can sink my teeth into more creative projects. My creative brain is way less drained and I feel much more motivated. I’ve also been fortunate enough thus far in my career to say that all my clients were/are awesome, understanding, and generally amazing to be around. When you work with clients like that, it doesn’t feel like work.

2. Set clear project objectives and scope.

Ahhh, scope creep: when the client asks you, “Hey what do you think about this, do you think we can add this in?” and you’re like, “sure!” because it means more work, which = more money. This can also mean your project gets dragged out by a few months and never really seems to end. This might be okay if they’re a great client and easy to get along with, but it can be draining and frustrating as well.

3. Keep your timelines realistic

If freelancing is your side gig, having 2 weeks to pump out a website probably won’t work for you. Set realistic timelines based on how many hours you think you can actually work during the week. This leads into the next thing:

4. Track your time

Because freelancing is your side gig, this is your free time. Track your time to know how much time your spending with each client and really consider what that time is worth. For a long time my freelance rate was really low and I justified it to myself because I had limited daytime availability and had a long turn-around time to clients. But when I looked at how much time I was spending on projects, I felt really silly. It’s my time that I’m choosing to work, and obviously, that’s still worth the same as if this was my full-time job.

5. Don’t forget to have fun.

When you’re moonlighting on the side, maintaining a good sense of work-life balance becomes crucial. I try not to answer freelance emails while I’m at work and I try not to answer work emails when I’m freelancing. Some days I might work late on a freelance project, but I usually try to limit myself and not spend the entire weekend working.

Most importantly, only freelance on the side if it’s something you like doing and you want to do.

If you’d be happier doing something else with your time and you feel like your time would be better spent doing something else, then by all means, go do that thing! Freelancing only works when you find satisfaction and joy in the work you do.

Reasons Why it’s Hard to be Productive in the Summer

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Being productive and tackling side projects, or starting brand new projects, or writing blog posts is tough in the summertime – especially if you’ve just gotten an invite to the beach. This summer, instead of feeling guilty about neglecting my blog and not working on any personal projects, I am all about embracing it. Instead, I am telling myself that I am incubating a bunch of cool side project/personal project ideas for the fall and winter when it’s too miserable to leave the house.

Here’s what’s been happening instead:

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1. Shovelling a bunch of dirt on the weekend.

My partner is building a shed in our backyard, but first we had to get rid of a raised garden that was in the way. I had planned to clean up my office (right now it’s pretty much my bike storage space) last Sunday and instead I ended up helping the demo and getting covered in mud while I was at it. If you’ve never shovelled dirt from one big pile to another for a few hours on a weekend, you don’t know how satisfying it feels. Seriously. You can channel any frustration and aggression into a shovel.

 

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2. Long bike rides into the suburbs

Some more successful than not. A few weeks ago I busted a tire when I was 12 km away from home and I had to get rescued. Still, it was a great adventure and I’m so glad I invested in a road bike. It’s taken a little bit of getting used to, but I finally feel ready to start seriously considering doing a triathalon next year.

 

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3. Day hikes into the woods

Standing on the top of this hill on the Musquodoboit Trail reminded me of why I love Nova Scotia. Look at those trees! The fact that you can drive for 40 minutes, hike for an hour and then see this is something special.

 

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4. Impromptu Beach Trips

There is no such thing as a productive day at the beach, which is what makes it the most wonderful and luxurious summer treat. I feel silly for saying this, but I almost felt guilty for going to the beach because I felt like I wasn’t getting enough done and I was wasting my weekend. Then I was like, “Wait a second, when was the last time I was at the beach? When was the last time I let myself just hang out in the sand and salt water?” I couldn’t remember. So I went to the beach.

 

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5. Cold evenings on the patio.

Halifax has been surprisingly chilly at times this summer. There’s been a few night where I’ve worn a fleece sweater and slippers outside on the deck for a summer barbecue.

 

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6. Ladies Learning Code/Girls Learning Code planning in full swing!

Ok, so I definitely haven’t been totally unproductive this summer. Back in June was my first Ladies Learning Code event as a Chapter Lead! The photo above is of Jeff teaching us how to photoshop Ryan Gosling on a sea turtle. Right now preparations are underway for Learn to Code Day (September 27th, be there Halifax!) and our first ever Girls Learning Code workshop (details coming soon!). Last week I mentored at an all-girls Computer Science camp  at Dalhousie where I taught 9-12 year old girls some HTML and CSS for an afternoon and it was SO MUCH FUN.

If you’re feeling unproductive this summer just remember: the days are long but the years are short.

The days are especially long in the summer when the sun stays out well past dinner time. Remember that winter is coming and if you’re one of those people whose mood is particularly affected by the level of sunlight you get (like me!), then get out there and shovel some dirt for a few hours and then feel inspired later on.

A Super Simple way to pull yourself out of a funk

nevergiveup

 

We all go through times when we feel like our job is the pits. We’re uninspired, going through a dry spell, or a project that we worked on didn’t live up to our expectations. While hopefully these down times are few and far between, sometimes it can really come out of nowhere and leave you feeling a little lost.

After getting back to working full-time since I was freelancing all spring, I was feeling a little scatter-brained and mildly unproductive with my personal goals over the past couple weeks (I think I went to the gym a grand total of 3 days out of 14 and I haven’t written a blog post in 2 weeks). Then I remembered a small ritual I had started doing before I left Toronto (that I learned from Sarah of Yes and Yes fame) and I hadn’t really picked up again since returning to Halifax. This is where my notebook, pictured above with my favourite Winston Churchill quote, comes in.

At the end of each day, I find a few minutes to take out this notebook and open to a new spread. On the left side, I write a list of all the things that made me happy that day including, but not at all limited to:

– What my favourite part of the day was

– A conversation that was meaningful

– Something I ate that was amazing

– Something new that I learned, or that I taught myself

– A thing that I accomplished

– An act of kindness that made me smile

– Something funny that happened

– An opportunity that came up

– Anything that I am grateful for

This list recharges my brain if I find myself drowning in a pool of negativity at the end of a long day. Some days the list is longer than others, but it’s still uplifting, no matter how short. Finding the goodness in every single day can be tricky, but it’s so valuable.

On the right side of the book, I write a list of goals that I’d like to accomplish the next day. This list really varies in length, some days there’s only one goal in mind, other days I like to break down every single task I want to achieve the next day and use it as a sort of checklist to guide me through the day.

It’s an astonishingly simple act, yet reflective, and still productive which makes it a perfect end-of-day task to make sure I’m going to bed with my head in the right place.