Tag Archives: preparing

Mourning Christmas Before Embracing the Future

Christmas is tidied and boxed away. It’s officially over for me, and will be the last time I have a homestyle Christmas with all my inherited ornaments that belonged to my mother and my family until about 2020.

My pasta angel, one of many beloved ornaments. That’s Israeli couscous for the hair, for crying out loud. What’s not to love? I’m sentimental about these things.

I’m sure people have thought I’ve been a little heavy-handed in my ramblings about the end of Christmas on social media, where I’ve been openly sad and sentimental, but it’s been quite an emotional process for me. I don’t believe in shutting that down and going, “Oh, Steff, you’re being stupid, it’s just stuff in boxed and Christmas will be just fine with or without your ornaments.”

You may like to disregard your emotions, but I don’t. I’m living in the present. Right now, I’m sad my Christmases are over and maybe are on the verge of changing forever. I don’t know what the rest of my life entails after September of this year. Yeah, you can argue that none of us “know” what the rest of life entails, but most of us think we have a clue. I’m removing the rug from under my feet entirely and I don’t know what follows, at all. Period.

Deep down inside, you ask me what I think follows my departure from Canada in October, what those five years of travelling around the world will entail, and I will tell you two words: Amazing adventures.

I think I’ll be living the life of dreams. Not just my dreams, but a lot of people’s. I think I’ll have adventures I can’t even begin to imagine, meet people I couldn’t conjure up for a story if I tried. I think I’ll learn incredible things about the world, prove stuff to myself. I think I’ll become fearless, excited, passionate, and happier than I’ve ever been.

That’s what I think. It’s what I believe deep in my soul.

But this past weekend, I’ve been sad and in mourning, and it’s a process I need to see through. In a way, I’m burying a lot of memories and heartbreaks and joys when I put Christmas in the storeroom this weekend. I’m putting away future comfort and laziness and sentimentality that comes from having a proper Christmas in one’s own home.

Change — good or bad — can (and should) be mourned and clung to and felt deeply before the next chapter comes. I’ve had a proper “goodbye” to every place I’ve ever lived, and when I’ve moved on, it’s been with zero regrets. Always zero regrets. Some sadness for a time, but no regrets.

The thing is, I’m not unhappy here in Victoria. I’m not. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time in some ways. I’m sad that I feel I need to take such extreme measures to regain financial security in my life — to leave my home country and see places elsewhere that I can live for 40% less. My adventure is born of financial necessity as much as it is desire. I’d rather be leaving out of sheer wanderlust than as a creative retirement-savings approach after all my adversities wiped out my savings, but that’s life.

I’m glad I allowed myself to be sad and frustrated this weekend, that I gave myself the permission to be a bit weepy and get resentful over the need to leave and undertake this massive life-change. I need to get that feeling out of my system and the only way to get it to leave is by letting it enter in the first place.

Before I went to bed last night, all sad-faced that it would be my last night with MY Christmas tree until 2020, I took the time to finally look up airfares and logistics. I discovered that even including a flight from Vancouver to London, then to Croatia, plus my whole first month of lodging, and the 16 days I’d like to rent a scooter for while I’m there, I will be at about $75 more than it would cost for a month of living where I do, including utilities but not including car rentals or bus or cabs, let alone 16 days of scooter fun.

And now Christmas lives in this box. This is Steff’s Travelling Christmas show, containing just four little ornaments, and it will come with me until my time abroad is done. Including my Polar Express bell. Because I believe in Christmas.

Then I was so excited and giddy that I couldn’t fall asleep until 4am. I mourned my present, identified my future, and went to bed accepting that Christmas was now in my past, and I was only nine months from beginning world travels.

In fact, I’ve decided my last day in Victoria will be my 42nd birthday. What is the answer to life, according to Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? 42: The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. Right, well, I’ll take that.

For me, it will be. My 42nd year will be incredible. I can’t even begin to imagine how well I will adapt to living a nomadic life. I am absolutely certain I can and will do this with great style.

For now, though, when times of fear come, I will accept them, process them, and move past them. When sadness strikes, I will let it linger until I’m ready to move past it.

There aren’t a lot of people on this planet who’ve gone and said, “All right, this fixed-life thing isn’t working. I’m going to travel the world.” What, less than 1% of people have ever boxed their life up to travel for over a year, let alone five years? It’s not a common practice, to be sure.

How can anyone tell me the “right” way to properly prepare for walking away from everything and embracing the whole world? Who is anyone to tell me what the right mindset is in leading up to that big day when I pack up just a few items of clothes, forsake much of what I own, and bail on my home?

No one can tell me how to move through this phase of my journey. I know what I’ve been through, what I’m leaving behind, and why I’m moving on. I know what I’m dreaming of. And I think I know how I need to emotionally prepare for my time abroad.

Yesterday I was sad about my tree. Today I’m literally tingling with excitement that the tree is down, about to go away, and now I have only 9 months to experience all the “last time” moments living here, in this amazing city, in this amazing apartment, as I stare down the advent of the journey of a lifetime.

Out With The Old Year, In With The Year of Lasts

On Facebook, my friend Jason posted that it’s “The first day. 364 to go.”

I have been so very conscious of this day coming, for so long, like it’d be a countdown clock ticking in the background.

My New Year’s is weird and very anti-climatic. I’m doing as little as I can. Decidedly so. I’ve left the house once in over two days, and that was only so I could walk around the block at midnight with an empty suitcase.

Weird, right? It’s actually a South American New Year’s superstition. Take the empty-case stroll at the stroke of 12 and your upcoming year will feature abundant travel. What the heck, right? So there I was, 11:59, taking a walk around the block with a carry-on case. Maybe I should’ve taken my largest suitcase. I was trying not to be penis-y about it, though.

But in those other 60 or so hours, I haven’t been case-marching around the block; I haven’t even been outdoors.

Now that six days of sun have bled into a week of forecasted rain, I’m feeling a spot of regret I’ve not been out in the world much. You know what, though? I’m having EXACTLY the holiday I wanted when I asked my boss at the start of November if I could have 16 days off. EXACTLY.

Do nothing often? Check. Do something sometimes? Check. Set a new world record for pajama-wearing? You betcha. Watch whole series on Netflix? Yup. Sleep as late as 10? Yep. Get up and then go back to bed for the hell of it EVERY SINGLE DAY? YUP.

I have the luxury of knowing that I’ll very likely not be around for, well, five years. I’ve deliberately chosen to stay longer than I want before I leave for my world travels because I decided to savour The Last of Everything. Every season, every holiday, every weather, everything. I wanted to live knowing that this would be The Last Time I have any of these specific experiences for a very long time, maybe ever. Like, seeing the leaves fall in the park. Maybe I’ll never live here again, right?

After all, the only thing I can tell you with any certainty is that I have about nine months left in Victoria. Then, where? I don’t know. I don’t know where I want to start my adventure. I’m not committing to anything.

Except, that is, I’m committing to selling half of what I own, blowing this town, and becoming a citizen of the planet. Hopefully I’ll have it in me to experience five years of rootlessness. If not, so be it.

But when I’m done, my expectation is that I might find a new place on the planet to live. A new tribe. A new culture. A new thing. Newness. My eyes are wide open and my future’s whatever I want it to be — when I know what I want it to be, that is.

Nine months and then all my future is an unknown. Period. Blank slate.

It intimidates the shit out of me. It makes my heart go pitter-patter. And makes me smile a little too.

That’s what awaits me this year. Up to 10 months of redundant routines, and then POW, the complete opposite.

So these days, I don’t want to have any new experiences, or at least I’m not chasing them down. I kind of want to enjoy my life of routine and comforts, because for maybe five years I’ll never have a home longer than maybe two months, but often not even for that long.

I won’t have a favourite blanket. I won’t get to spend a week sitting on my ass watching Netflix because I’ll have too much guilt that (Portugal’s wine country awaits / nearby French markets bustle / Croatia’s seashore entices me / Istanbul lurks beyond the door / Prague beckons…) and that’s only where I might go in the first six months or year.

For five years, I’ll have to be social and rely on the goodness of strangers to get me where I want to be. Recluse? Not a chance. I’ll have to talk a lot, be interested and plugged in. I’ll have to be constantly creative and engaged. I’ll need to write every single day. I’ll never get to have a favourite comfort food because I’ll never be around long enough to get comfortable. I won’t get to have favourite anythings because I’ll always be days or a couple weeks away from somewhere new with more millions of things to experience — which is the whole point of travel.

It’s okay to mourn the end of my mundanity and comfort. Mundane comfort is a beautiful, glorious, wonderful thing. Do-nothing days can be magical.

This, my wonderful spread of boredom, wine-drinking, TV-watching, slack-ass relaxation is possibly the last time I’ll get to do THIS without pressure and anxiety about all the things I should be doing before I leave, let alone for the five years which follow.

That constant whirlwind of stimulation that is proper travel, it daunts me a little because I love the end-of-travel flop-on-my-own-bed feeling, and I won’t even own a bed while I’m abroad. I mean… zoinks. Serious commitment to the cause, that — selling everything before I go.

So this Christmas holiday, I’m overdosing on domestic bliss. I’ll always be able to remember when I wasn’t sick or injured yet chose not to leave my house for over 72 hours. Except that walk around the block to summon the coming year of travel, of course. And tomorrow I’m only ending the isolation because I’m being bought a fancy meal and get to wear fancy pants (or at least my new jeans).

I like that I’m “mourning” Christmas as much as I’m celebrating it. I’ll miss this apartment and the simplicity of Christmas here. I like that I’m aware of so many “lasts” as I go through this final year. It’s a year of bittersweet savouring. It makes smaller moments seem very poignant.

Because I’m also excited to know my life will be me not knowing what’s next yet believing EVERYTHING is possible. I like knowing I’ll have week after week after week of amazing new experiences in mind-blowing places. I like that I’ll meet new people everywhere I go. I love that I’ll probably never see a sunset in the same place more than two or three times for five years.

It’s so completely opposite of the life I have chosen to live here in Victoria.

That’s the beauty of life. We can be whatever we want, live whatever life we choose. Most people just don’t get creative or risk-taking enough about it. Victoria was always going to be my jumping-off point. For awhile, I was trapped by life as one of those folks who couldn’t take a risk, then I decided to stop all that, and Victoria was step one. This around the world thing was a dream I didn’t have the guts to share, at first, but now I’m confident that I’ll make it happen. Somehow.

Today, I have three quotes I’m trying to live my life by. One of them is relevant to my five-years-around-the-world dream:

“It’s not who you are that holds you back. It’s who you think you’re not,” attributed most often to Denis Waitley.

Waitley Quote

Right now, I’m a reclusive writer girl trying to resurrect her mojo (and succeeding at it). I’m still trying to decide what Next Phase Steff’s catchy tagline is. I’ll know it when I see it.

So for nine months, give or take, my life’s all about the Last Time. Comfort food, quiet nights at home, old casual lounging clothes, favourite blankets, sunsets in the boring same places, creature comforts of all kinds — that’s my year ahead.

Until one day it’ll be the complete opposite. Poof! All new! All firsts! All the time! ALL THE PLACES.

When I’m not daydreaming about my future, I’m completely stuck in the moment. It’s a nice, weird dichotomy, and I know what to love and appreciate about both. (And there’s not much to dislike about each of ‘em, either!)

I’m excited about 2015, minions. I’m really stoked.

I hope you are, too. Happy new year, you.

My last sunset of 2014, from one of my "boring old" sunset spots.

My last sunset of 2014, from one of my “boring old” sunset spots.

The Christmas Myth of Time Management

There was a moment sheer heart-plunging terror as I added the line “bring up Christmas decorations and get started” to my to-do list for the week.

What with the what, WHEN?

Oh, lord.

It’s That Time Again.

So now, on top of the list of 26 things I need to do, I gotta work out more because the season’s full of food, clean more to entertain more (and because there’s more crap filling the house), plus all the baking for the Christmas gifts I’ll make this year, oh, right, and go to a zillion social events.

“Christmas”,
The Holiday Brought to You in Part
by FACEPALM™,
that universal sentiment surpassed only
by HEAD-DESK™.

And, like, three months ago, I started this little project of organizing my music CDs and putting them into binders.

Except… there’s, like, 300 CDs in piles, in the corner of the living room, where the Christmas tree soon needs to go.

Not only do I need to organize those fuckers and put them in the binders, but it turns out the binder sleeves are only pre-cut, they haven’t pulled the little piece of plastic out where I have to slide the CD in. Do you KNOW how much such things annoy me?

No. You don’t. I glower at this pile. I loathe this pile. I suppose the time has come.

A friend posted a great list today, the seven steps to “grow the action habit”, and the second one is: Be a doer.

I was a Girl Guide. I can be a doer. I know I can!

I shall be a CD-organizer doer-girl sometime this week.

It’s on my list.

(Found on a variety of blogs, always uncredited.)

Ironically, also on my list is to “make a list every day. ”

On the rare occasions of my life where I’ve made a list (I’ve seen more blue moons than I’ve made lists), I’ve been killer productive. If I remember to write on the list that I have to cross things off the list, that is.

On the upside, all those rare list-making occasions have been within the last six months. Nowhere near habit-forming, but at least I’ve had some positive results in the “I’ll try that for a dollar, Alex” category.

Let’s face it, life’s all about time.

It’s about getting things done —  a race to save time so we don’t waste time, but without enjoying the time we have. Or something.

Even when we do save time and knock obligations out of the park, we’re still left with fractured time, since no one turns off cellphones or does Just One Thing at length anymore. The proverbial ADD society, sure, but who actually lives in the moment anymore?

I’m still trying to find that balance of Getting Shit Done and Doing Nothing. Of course, I keep vascillating to extremes. I’m the ping-pong ball that ricochets from one wall to the other, never landing in the middle.

Still, I keep bouncing, keep trying, and sooner or later gravity’ll pull me to a stop — and I’m okay with that.

December’s kind of like my “new-year’s-resolutions-practice month”. I’ll fail dismally, likely, with all the socializing and all that, but at least I’ll be working on life more or thinking about how I can improve it (and want to), often.

Besides, it’s not about being perfect tomorrow, it’s about being better tomorrow and better the week after that.

When I can get traction with the time management, it’ll help me on all levels — I’ll eat healthier at home, live in a cleaner environment, process stress better because I’ll have an accomplishments system in place, and I’ll generally be less of who I’ve been frustrated in being, and more of the task-oriented person I’d like to be.

It’s an uphill battle for the next five weeks, though. It’s that annual time when we’re so inundated by responsibilities and the directions we’re pulled in that we’re more likely to overindulge in all our flaws — fall behind on bills, eat too much junk, drink too often, exercise too little, rest too little, and so on.

There’s a reason they’re called the “January blues”.

It’s why we’re all so compelled to visit change upon ourselves when the new year rolls around — Christmas brings out the best in us but also exploits all our daily failings. It’s inevitable. We have great fun and we pay the price in every way, usually.

Being prepared for that by taking little steps to try and avoid the severity of my Descent into Calendar Madness could be one thing that separates me from my recent years’ “Chaos Called Christmas” experiences.

And it starts with one little list aimed at getting me from here to November 30th with a lot of organizational success and a big game plan.

Item 27: Make a new list on December 1st.