Tag Archives: making choices

The Adventures of Fat-Ass Begins

It is a new day, a start of my final chapter. In 89 days, I’ll be homeless and off to live a life of adventure.

Today, though, I’m a woman who’s stiff, bloated, and sore, who’s gained back 74 of the 85 pounds she lost, and who’s also on the verge of living on a continent without a lot of elevators, where hauling a 40-pound duffel bag along cobblestone streets will be a regular activity.

I’m starting a new plan in hopes of getting a little fitter, more energy, and having less fear about the new chapter. I cycled 8.1km before work, it took me 35 minutes, and was a reality check that I’m not the cyclist I once was.

And that’s okay, because we start somewhere. I remember when it used to take me 1 hour and 14 minutes to cycle 12 kilometres (more than half uphill) to get myself home from work, back in 2008. By the time I was fit just 3-4 months later, that same ride took 37 minutes.

Luckily cycling here is not without its rewards. Dallas Road Sunset last Saturday Night.

Luckily cycling here is not without its rewards. Dallas Road Sunset last Saturday Night.

Taking stock without guilt

I can’t hate myself for the weight I’ve gained back. It’s been 6-7 years since it started coming off. I blew my back out catastrophically in that time not once, not twice, but three times. I had two knee injuries. I rode my bike into a road sign the week I moved to Victoria — stopped myself with my face hitting the metal pole straight-on, screwing up my entire right side for 6 months.

Somehow, I’ve overcome all that, all while earning more money than I could’ve dreamed. By the end of next week, July 10th or so, I will have earned more money so far this year than in any year previous to 2014. In October, I’ll likely become debt-free as I begin travelling the world.

If I’d taken my foot off that work-for-it pedal even a little bit, my trip wouldn’t be happening. If I’d eaten out less, if I’d had more fitness, if I had more friends/social time, I would NOT be leaving for five years of travel.

Every drop of effort I put into my career is resulting in a massive return on my investment.

My fat ass? Part of the price I’ve paid to take my life into a place that most people barely even get the chance to dream about, let alone do.

Today, and I suspect the day I step off that plane, I think I would pay that price again for what I will soon get to live every single day for about 1800 days.

“Journey of 1,000 miles starts with 1 step”

But today, I’ve done what I’ve needed to do and now I need to get myself into a position where a travel life can’t hurt me. I need to increase my cardio, improve my energy, take a couple inches off my ass so the plane isn’t unbearable, all while staying focused on my finances and earnings.

I think I can do this now. I hope I can.

Making this choice, though, that’s the easy part. The hard part is getting up every morning and being excited about taking an 8-10km bike ride, eating well, and not giving up. The hard part is saying it’s as important to my day as breathing or putting on pants.

But I know hard. I’ve done hard. I’ve beaten hard. “Hard” ain’t got nothing on me.

Whether I change myself here, or it happens abroad, I guarantee you — a lot more awesomeness, a lot more change, it’s on tap for me in the months ahead.

Because I work for that shit. It is a choice. It’s a choice I have made every single day. Now it’s just a new choice I need to make, that’s all.

And so it begins.


PS: There are healthy “heavy” people out there. I am not one of them. When I am “fat,” I am out of shape and it affects every part of my life. This isn’t fat-shaming of others, it’s accepting that I’ve really done a lot to upend the health and balance of my life, and it’s showing outwardly. That needs to end. I will likely never be a size 6, and I really don’t care about that. I’ll be fine being a plus-size size 14 or 16, as long as I can kick your ass on a bike.

Is Happiness a Place?

photo 1I’ve watched three episodes of Bourdain’s Parts Unknown since last night and now my thoughts are consumed by food and culture.

It surprises me how much I’ve been thinking about food, culture, and the next phase of my life — in which I sell most everything I own and take up the wanderer’s lifestyle for hopefully the next five years.

I had to write a foreword for my cookbook last week and it made me more contemplative than I expected. What did I value in life? Why? What did I want more of? And I found myself echoing in the words I was writing. I too was lost “in the whizz-whizz/whoosh-whoosh pace of city life” I’d been writing about. I work too much, live too little. But I have a goal in mind: Five years abroad, and a year to go before I want it underway. The clock is ticking. The end is in sight. The race is on. Yada, yada.

Watching Bourdain wax poetic about the timeless lifestyles of Granada, Spain, or Ecuador, or Peru, or Croatia, or… It all makes me realize how far off the mark life is here in North America, or where I’ve been living. Or how I’ve been living. Life here, though, is all about the Benjamins. Or would be, if we had American currency.

With one of the most costly lifestyles in the English-speaking world, Vancouver (and therefore Victoria, where it’s only marginally cheaper) has suddenly become a struggle to live on a budget. A lot of people I know, if they can work from home and aren’t tied down, are taking the risk of living abroad. Some have made permanent ventures of it. And why not? If one can tap into a different lifestyle in a place that, after so long hamstrung in Vancouver, where life feels like a vacation because everything feels new and shiny for a year or more — well, why not? And if it’s 30-60% cheaper? Fuck, yeah.

I understand that we have it pretty good in Canada, and that’s where our money goes, but I also think it’s pretty ethnocentric to make bold claims like “best place on Earth.” After all, there’s a lifestyle in places like Spain and Ecuador and other fantastic places where they do have long vacations every year, and they focus on life first/work last, and they celebrate real food and wine and nature, and they do it all for cheaper than we do here, while still having a nice social safety net for the citizens.

We don’t have a monopoly on lifestyles. In many places, living really is pretty good, and they’re honestly too busy living life to bother trying to sell an image of it. Here, it feels like it’s so fast-paced and distracted that we’re constantly being reminded of just how GREAT everything is and how WOW SPIFFY our world is so we don’t start questioning how ridiculous it is that we have among the least amount of vacation time in the world, with the longest hours.

It’s like that time a friend read The Secret and told me what a powerful thing it was, and I should read it, blah blah blah. And I said, “Dude. You’re not happy with your job, where you live, and your relationship is in tatters. Prove to me that The Secret works by fixing your fucked-up life and oozing happy-happy/joy-joy, and then maybe I’ll buy the book.”

If life here was so sensational and happiness was the natural byproduct of it, do you think we’d be selling Xanax and Prozac like it was going out of style? Do you think self-help books would be so endemic? If life’s so amazing here, why do we need to keep being reminded about it?

When I was living in Vancouver, I kept telling people I wasn’t happy there anymore. Everyone said I was nuts, it’s the best place on the planet. Well, I can tell you wholeheartedly that selling the dream ain’t the same as delivering the dream, and for me, Lotusland just wasn’t delivering.

photo 2But maybe I’ve just got a restless heart. This time and place, it’s not right for me. I don’t know where is, but it ain’t here, not now. Not today. I think, for me, the joy will come from looking. From going to one place and being blown away and thinking “Nothing can ever top this,” and then, boom, next town, next country — “Nothing can ever top this.”

What if there is no place better than where I am today? What if, for the rest of my life I remember about the magical two years I lived in a magical neighbourhood?

Well, that could happen. Sure. But it’s a pretty big planet packed with a lot of wow, and I’m pretty sure things get amazing anywhere there’s mountains, trees, ocean, good wine, beautiful food, and kind people.

Happiness, for me, is a state of being. Having the time to be in the moment, not distracted, not paying a ton of money for an experience. A quiet place, a few kind people, the ability to speak my mind (or stay silent), a great glass of wine or a tall lemonade or strong coffee, some nature near me or surrounding me. Usually many of these criteria get met when I get to feel “happy”. It’s the recipe for happiness we hear so much about. Or my recipe, anyhow.

But to get there, to have that, I need to spend another year working like a dog to set my plan in play. Taking moments like this to think about the what-ifs of living abroad, the potential that life might hold, it makes knowing I’m working through another Saturday and Sunday all worthwhile.

That balance will come. For a little while, it means I have to prove how much I want it. And so I shall. With that, it’s time to do some work.

The Deeper Reasoning Behind My Going

I wrote 1,300 words earlier but they don’t feel right after coffee. So, let’s try this again. [deep breath] Om…

***

My Friday post about leaving Vancouver is inspiring a lot of discussion, and I’m thrilled for the comments. So much is being said. I plan to mine the comments for posts in the coming weeks, because I think what’s going on in Vancouver, how the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” has become an anthem for a select class of Vancouverites, deserves a lot of discussion.

[If you’ve discovered my blog by way of others, hiya, and thanks for visiting.]

I’ve grumbled for a while that the cost of living is just ridiculous in Vancouver. Through an unfortunate series of events — bad vehicular accidents, stupid injuries, illnesses, victim of industry slowdown, over eight years — I’ve had one financial hit after another in recent years, like a boxer who keeps taking blows when he’s struggling to his feet. Well, when you’re down so long, it’s hard to see what way’s up.

I was an early financial canary in the recessionary coalmine and I’ve been hurtin’ in the bank for a long time comin’ now. The question of “how much is too much” when you’re throwing money at a way of life that leaves you an observer always on the flipside of the action starts to get a little old after two, three years of serious cutbacks and struggle.

There comes a day when there’s a line in the financial sand you can’t get over anymore, and if you don’t get gone, you just might get swallowed up. I have worried that if I stay in Vancouver much longer, that line in the sand will be crossed and I’ll no longer be able to get myself out of this situation. I’m not planning to stick around and find out.

I’ve said before about life that sometimes we just need to be uninvited from the party. Well, after so long of just getting by, and seeing my ability to afford even the meagre indulgences in life dwindle, I’ve taken the hint.

#OccupyWallStreet really amped up my thinking about what quality of life means, and what I’m willing to accept in life.

I don’t need a lot, you know. A good computer, a nice apartment, some comfortable belongings. I love the stuff  I own. I want to replace very little of it, actually. And I’m grateful for what I own, too. Then there’s cooking — like the ability to use good ingredients for cooking, that’s important, and is something I can’t always do these days. Wine two or three nights a week, also important. I’d like some more kitchen gadgets and a whole enameled cast-iron cooking set, but that’s a whole ‘nother matter. Aside from that? Pretty content on the possessions front.

So, there’s not a lot I really “want” in life. It’s not about that, and never was.

I don’t feel entitled. I don’t feel ripped off. I feel occasionally bitter that simple things I used to enjoy — dining out, concerts, games — are out of my means now, because life keeps getting more and more expensive but my salary stays the same, a common theme I hear from others. But, then, I don’t think often about restaurants, games, or concerts anymore, so they’re not really a factor any longer, either.

So, if I’ve made my peace with the idea that I don’t go out, and that’s sort of my level of expectation in life, and I’ve lowered my standard of living and simplified my expenses, and I’ve caught up with all my bills, and I’m on top of my finances that way, and I still can’t live “up” to my now-adjusted-and-simpler standard of living, well… something has to change.

Other people don’t have the same connection to place. I understand this. Some thrive to pick up and go. But I’m a sticker. I love my home. I’ve lived in 5 places in 38 years, with two of them alone compile more than 30 years of my life — my first home and my most recent apartment. I don’t like being in places for a short period of time. I want to know people, haunts, secrets, and more.

But it’s really hard to look around this place — a rainforest with world-class mountains, the Pacific Ocean, culture, great food, rivers, and more — and think “Yeah, I can do better than this.” Leaving doesn’t exactly sound like a step up when looking at everything around me here in Vancouver.

Then I remember it’s all dragging me down ‘cos that awesome comes at a price, a price too high for the payin’, and leaving’s the only thing I can do to break my  downward spiral.

So, it’s a really heavy heart that has made these choices.

But now that the choices have been made, I’m excited about the change. This is gonna rock, you know?

I love “learning by experiencing” in a new place, just like getting to know a lover. Every day it seems there’s some new thing to discover, and that’s just a fantastic way to live.

As a writer, I’ve long since lost my fire within. There’s something missing inside me, and I think being able to get up and see Difference around me every morning might be the thing to fire me up again.

Besides all that, it’s a monumental time in my life, and I’ve known that  as I’ve waded through the deciding of late. It’s the fork in the road — do I choose a city career or do I roll the dice on my writing dreams?

By choosing to get out of Vancouver, I’m telling myself I deserve more, I’m asserting that I won’t settle for less. I’m putting a value on my time, what I’m willing to waste on a commute, versus giving back to myself via writing and other passion-based endeavours.

I’m proving that I’m meant to live a slower life. I’m living up to my ethics and finally making the switch to a lifestyle where I can mostly walk and cycle, and stop leaving a big-ass carbon footprint.

I get to continue being surrounded by arts, culture, and open-minded people. I’m affirming that a life spent pursuing greater creativity, and living closer to people who inspire it within me, is something that’s critical to my nature.

I know, down deep, that acting on all those values in this way is something that will resonate and ripple for me, and for a long time to come.

I’m being forced to move by today’s economies, but that doesn’t make me a victim. It makes me someone with my eyes wide open, who’s choosing to turn it into a opportunity for positive change.

I might still be on a tight budget as I make my way to where I’m going, since most of the costs of living are somewhat similar to hear, save for rental and the ridiculous commutes, but it’s a really exciting time to be running down a new dream, whatever the price.

And so it begins.

***

Yes, I plan to continue blogging in Victoria. Yes, I will write about the experience of moving toward the big day. Yes, some will be panicky and insane. Yes, I will address some of your great comments in postings to come. Yes, my head may explode before Christmas at this rate. And, yes, it’s kinda fun. Stay tuned for more. Thanks for reading.

Filler

We use words like “empty” and “full” to judge qualities of life —

“Oh, he’s amazing, he leads such a full life!”
“Wow. I feel so sorry for her when she leaves to go home, she looks so sad, like her night and life are so empty.”

…But how much of those “full” lives is filler? And how much is just arbitrary because of choices made earlier? Who or what is the standard for measuring weightiness or completeness of existence?

What’s St. Peter gonna say at the gate? “Oh, sorry, another 3.7 activities per annum and you might’ve led a “full” life, but, no, you don’t squeak through, even. I’m afraid we’re filing you under “adequate” life. Better luck next tim– Oh, ha, yeah. That’s our little joke here. Too bad you weren’t Buddhist, eh?” Continue reading