go solo.

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Two years ago, in May of 2013, I took a month-long trip to Ireland. I blogged while I was there (you can read those posts in the “Travel” section, if you haven’t already!) and the feedback I got on those posts was incredible. I had so many people, ones I knew and ones I didn’t, express lovely, heartfelt compliments towards those posts. Many of these comments were about how I had made people feel like they were there with me, how I made them feel something, how refreshingly personal I was.

The interesting thing about these compliments was that it was very unlike me to give others anything that was personal, that allowed them to share in my thoughts or emotions, or even remotely let them in. Prior to this trip I was closed off and generally down about life in some way. I didn’t enjoy speaking to strangers and half the time I didn’t feel like going out with friends, either. I was a homebody, someone who was outgoing once you endured the period of stand-offish resting bitch face.

Travelling alone changed me. I was forced to interact with people I didn’t know or else I would never have gotten anywhere. I had to figure things out for myself and if I wanted to have company going somewhere then, well, I had to make a friend. The first few days I was still fairly shy, but on my third day in Ireland I found myself in Kilkenny, walking into a cathedral I had read was spectacular. In front of me was a guy I had seen in my hostel earlier in the day so I went up to him and said, “We’re in the same hostel, right? You want to travel around the town together?”

I cannot stress enough how completely out of character this was (and still is) for me. But he said yes and we wandered around the town, enjoying another lone traveler’s company. Later that night I walked into a bar where a band was playing who also happened to be staying at my hostel. We danced and laughed and I had breakfast with one of them the next morning.

The rest of the month carried on similarly. I travelled from town to town, asking for directions and help when necessary. I made friends in my hostels, went to bars, on tours, and even to movies with them. I took fifteen kilometre bike rides with people I had met the day before. I learned Australian slang and hung off the Cliffs of Moher with two strangers from Belgium. Oh, I’m also basically terrified of heights in any other circumstance, by the way.

I’m not here to brag about all of these wonderful experiences, though. What I’m here to do is explain to you how invigorating it is to take yourself somewhere and learn something about yourself. When was the last time you really tried to get to know yourself? It might sound stupid, and it still sounds a little silly to me, but there is a lot to be said for asking yourself some questions. I didn’t like myself all that much when I left for Ireland and it was as if, somewhere inside of me, a part of me took that as a challenge. I showed myself what I had to offer and was bowled over.

I lost that for awhile, once the vacation sheen had worn off and life had settled back in. I found myself back in old habits, comfortable in the same situations I was in before I had left. Then one day I realized it had been a full year since I had my feet on Irish soil, had recently turned down a job in my field for no good reason other than being scared to do something different, and I was settling into a life of complacency. I had low self esteem and no concept of self worth.

I called that employer and I got that job back. I’m now running their baking production centre and helping the company move forward. I started eating better, exercising, and started to be open and honest about my mental health.

It’s been two years after Ireland now and while I am not strolling over cobblestones, I am just as happy. I have taken control of my life like I was forced to when I was travelling alone. I’m not sure if I ever would have known I had the capacity to do this if I hadn’t taken that trip. I proved something to myself in those thirty days and now I’m proving it again and again, day after day:

I am strong, I am worthy, and I deserve to be happy.

Take a trip by yourself. You’ll show something to yourself that you had no idea you were even capable of.

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chicago!

A few days ago Sam and I came back from a mini vacation in Chicago. We had a wedding to go to last Friday in Michigan and figured we would take the opportunity to go somewhere new while we were at it. Well, it was new for Sam, given that I had been there before but I was young and didn’t really remember much of it besides it being cold and having pizza. Other than that, my only other recollection of Chicago was trying to impersonate Catherine Zeta-Jones doing the Cellblock Tango in my parents’ basement but I suppose that’s an entirely different story.

We stayed in a great little hostel/hotel called the Freehand. They are brand new so we were able to take advantage of “preview rates” and got a pretty good deal considering it was Memorial Day weekend in the States. I would recommend this hotel to anyone – they had a full cafe, bar, and lounge in the lobby area which had a very seventies vibe to it. The rooms were slightly small but very clean and well decorated. They also give you a full-sized hairdryer, the delight of which Sam still doesn’t understand but my travelling ladies will feel me on this one, I’m sure.

We were there for most of Saturday and all of Sunday. We did this trip on a budget, a tight one, and I did some research beforehand for cheap and cheerful places to visit and eat at. The only thing we knew for sure we would be spending money on was the Art Institute of Chicago and food.

Let me tell you about the Art Institute. Let me just tell you that it was fantastic. We have been really lucky in the last year and a half to travel to places with incredibly famous pieces of art. Between New York City, Paris, and Amsterdam, our checklist of “famous art we need to see” was getting pretty close to finished. The Art Institute brought us one step closer. If you’re an art lover, you should go. Monet, Degas, Lichtenstein, Pollock, Picasso, you name it, they probably have it. I fell in love with a series of pastel Monet paintings, they nearly brought me to tears they were so beautiful.20150523_14324920150523_143959

After leaving the Art Institute we wandered around Millennium Park for awhile. One of the main differences I noticed between Chicago and Toronto was the huge amount of green space in Chicago. We have trees and gardens and parks, it’s true, but we certainly don’t have ones like this. Being outside and having natural surroundings seemed important to the city and I liked that. Saturday was also a gorgeous day so the park wandering was at an optimal pleasing level.

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We also went to Navy Pier which was underwhelming, to be honest. It could possibly be due to the fact that it was under renovations and that I am absolutely terrified of ferris wheels, but nevertheless not on my list of recommended things to do in Chicago if you have a short amount of time.

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After wandering around the city for awhile afterwards, exploring and Sam discovering the wonderful world of Whole Foods, we set out to find dinner. Now, you see, the problem with looking up on the internet, “cheap good places to eat in Chicago” is that everyone else and their mother finds the same places. And therefore the lineups are one thousand people long. While we walked around we found Firecakes Donuts where we stopped for a snack to tide of over. Sam had the jelly-filled donut and I had the chocolate peanut butter donut. It was great but anything filled with peanut butter has to be. After a bit more walking we stumbled upon a great barbecue bar called Jake Melnick’s and listened to the Blackhawks fans enjoy the hockey game while we had classic barbecue bar food. It wasn’t what we had planned but it was fantastic and I would go back.

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Sunday we spent most of the day at Lincoln Park, specifically at the zoo. If you love animals, or if you have children, go here. It’s free and it has tons of animals. There is also a farm where you can feed cows so basically there’s no reason not to go. On our walk up there we wandered through the Gold Coast neighbourhood, where people are rich and their houses show it, and it was beautiful. So many beautifully manicured gardens and stunning facades. We also made a stop at Glazed and Infused Doughnuts where I had the greatest sprinkle doughnut of my life. Of. My. Life. And I am a sprinkle connoisseur. On the way back we walked through Old Town and I snagged myself a latte from Intelligentsia, as a coffee lover must do.

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Honestly, Sunday was a great day. And it cost us very little until we stopped at Lou Malnati’s for deep dish pizza. Sam thought the pizza tasted frozen and I have to admit that the crust seemed a little odd, but it was still enjoyable. Their garlic bread was amazing, so order that too.

Besides the greenery I would say that what struck me most about Chicago was the desire they have to preserve their architecture and history. Toronto doesn’t seem to care much about its beautiful old architecture as they often favour the new high-rise to anything of historical value. This is unfortunate but it does make visiting other cities so much more interesting. I must have said, “Wow, look at that building” one thousand times while we were in Chicago.

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Seriously, go for the buildings. I kid you not.

We had a great weekend. I would recommend Chicago to basically everyone. It’s one of those cities that has a great mix of culture, architecture, history, and fun. It has something for everyone and if we are any indication, it can be done on a budget if you research and plan well enough.

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Okay, now go book your trip!

What Am I So Afraid Of?

One year ago today I was packing my bag for what was likely the fifth of sixth time. Analyzing the number of t-shirts, pants, and pairs of underwear I had rolled up into little balls, always hovering between too many and not enough. Attempting to figure out the most economic and convenient way to place these items into the large, purple backpack had become a welcome puzzle to me – a distraction for my mind from the bigger picture.

Over the last few months, when my mind wasn’t hovering between too many and not enough, it was hovering between too insane or too afraid. The farthest I’d ever been away from home alone was Edmonton, Alberta, a cute four hour flight from Toronto to the near-end of the prairies of Canada. It was nothing compared to crossing an ocean and forcing yourself to spend a month alone, figuring out a country you’ve only known in photographs and guidebooks, and figuring out yourself.

By the time the next day rolled around and I was boarding my first of two flights that would land me in Dublin my mind was calm. There was no more packing I could do, no more preparing. I would get there in the morning and I would have to just do it, that was that. To say I wasn’t anxious would be a lie but I realized very quickly, as I wandered up and down Grafton Street looking for my hostel (not realizing that I was still a good few blocks away from Temple Bar) that what I didn’t know I would have to ask – whether I liked it or not. As soon as I asked for help I was in the hostel’s lobby within ten minutes.

I look back on that month now with a heavy mixture of nostalgia, pride, and wonder. I think of the girl I was there and she doesn’t seem to be the one here. She was fearless – unafraid to approach strangers, make fast friends, dance in public without any alcohol in her system. She was content with doing nothing, she was content with doing everything, she was intensely content. She wrote so much the callous she had back in grade school on her right hand’s middle finger started to redevelop. She shared her feelings, her fears, and her plans with absolute strangers who felt like family. She jay-walked and wandered and didn’t become overwhelmingly worried when she was lost. She constantly believed that everything would work out.

It is, perhaps, because I forced myself to do something that otherwise I never would have done: live for a month without the people I have always known. I had contact with them, but not physical, and as much as I could try to relay how I was feeling it could never be the same as feeling it yourself. One year later I feel like I’ve lost that girl – the girl who would try new adventures, do things alone, ask for help, and openly talk about herself. I feel like I lost her quickly and instead of moving forward I snuggled right back in to the life I always had, jobs included.

The only thing I feel she helped me out with was heading for that first date with Sam – the one I was so nervous for I was forty-five minutes early and had to wander down Bloor Street wasting time and reassessing my makeup choice every time I saw a mirror. The girl in Ireland never reassessed her makeup choice (likely because she brought very little with her and didn’t care) and if she was early, she wandered in delight. However, some part of that bravery was still there because I met him and allowed myself to love him almost instantly.

I wonder now about the path I’ve chosen, work-wise, and whether I’ve decided to choose a path that I enjoyed or simply one that is easy. I have these romantic ideas about being a writer, to get paid to write, which perhaps isn’t so romantic but my idea of how it works is – as if it requires sitting down all day, drinking tea, and going for walks as you desire. Maybe if you are Nora Roberts that is how it works, but only maybe, and it’s like my brain refuses to remind me of everything else that goes into it: research, time, emotion, editing, criticism, rewriting, frustration, hope. My brain likes to see the good side to most things and when the bad sides rear their ugly heads I become stopped in my tracks, afraid of this sudden surprise that should never have been a surprise at all. Do I hate baking as a job because I hate it, or because it ended up being more than big chocolate chip cookies and frilly aprons? Do I love working at the bookstore because I love books, or does it also have something to do with the fact that not much exertion is required from me?

Have I turned down or failed to show up at, for many reasons, various baking jobs because the universe was against me or because I was just plain scared?

I am learning to get that girl back. I’ve started writing in my little journal every day again, even if it’s a little snippet of an idea that I don’t want to forget. Half of the things I wrote down in Ireland are useless but at the time they needed to make their way from my brain to the page. I am trying to delve in to what I really want and to accept that life requires work and no matter what I want to do be it baking, writing, or traveling (and getting paid to write about traveling, I hope), it will always require effort on my part.

The world is scary if you let it be. Okay, there are places that are just generally intimidating and there are some scary people in it, let’s not all get our heads in the clouds here, but it doesn’t mean that you (I) have to be scared to live your life. I lived my life in Ireland and was happy to do it, every day, minus the two days in Cork during which I was terribly homesick and miserable but still made my way out to explore the city, but I have realized one important thing since I came home from that trip: it was work. It required planning, research, learning, socialization, and to be ready to move, listen, and absorb every single day. That was one whole month without a day off for my body or mind and I hardly even realized it.

Because I forced myself to do it and understood how much I loved it.

And maybe it’s time that I force myself to do the same now.

new york, i now know why everyone loves you.

I spent the last weekend hanging out in New York City with my boyfriend, Sam. It has been on my travel to do list for about twenty years now, give or take a couple, due to my love of Balto and the discovered knowledge of a statue erected of him that existed in Central Park. My reasons for wanting to travel there have multiplied over time, of course, but the desire to go has never lessened.

As someone who somehow simultaneously had high expectations yet had no idea what to expect, I was beyond excited.

New York didn’t do me wrong.

I could list the things I did in New york, day by day. I could list the buildings I saw or the people I passed. I could list the moments of uncomfortable amusement (ranting man on the subway, I’m looking at you) or sheer joy I experienced. I could do these things one by one, describing each and every moment, but I don’t think that is the right way to speak about a city like New York. When a place gives you an all-encompassing feeling of so many things all at once, you can only describe your experience as a whole.

The streets of New York are exciting, energized. The constant honking of horns and bustle of people, tourists and locals alike, account for the overwhelming hum in the air. The buildings are tall but somehow not domineering yet perhaps this is due more to the fact that I come from a city myself. The only place I felt that the buildings were unnecessary powerful, almost too tall and too close and too much, was Wall Street. What a surprise. But that didn’t take away from its architecture – the columns, the stone, the marble, the statues, the engraving and pride in every block.

The buildings held history, not just on Wall Street but everywhere, that the buildings in Toronto lack. Here in Toronto we have a tendency to tear down to build up, replace the old with the new and turn buildings into unused heritage sites that do little more than sit there, rather forgotten. In New York there is pride in the history of their architecture, of their city, that I am envious of. Even the facade of the H&M is stunning, preserved over time no matter what currently occupies it. The only place I felt as if I were truly in a city like mine was in Times Square, where shine and dazzle and new prevails.

Otherwise, it was brownstones and history and awe.

I saw Balto. I nearly cried tears of joy. This isn’t even remotely a joke. Have you ever had a dream that you’ve held since childhood come true? It may sound silly, but it’s not: seeing that statue has been in my mind since I was a very young girl and this past weekend I not only saw it but stood beside it, touched it, have photographic evidence of it. There aren’t many times in your life you can feel that way.

Sam and I saw two amazing jazz shows at the Blue Note after wandering our way through Greenwich Village and Soho. Record shops and bakeries and fashion (Ted Baker, why do you have to swell my heart with beauty then break it with prices?) and wonder, followed by saxophones and organs and guitars and harmonicas – it doesn’t get much better. Stop by the Strand Bookstore on the way home and pick up some books (of course) and your day has never been more wonderful.

Laduree and Bouchon and Empire and Milk and Cookies and Levain: thank you for making amazing pastries that I could hardly forget about if I tried. I don’t know about you but walking down Madison Avenue with a pistachio macaron from Laduree among the fur-coated and chauffer-driven is something I would never trade in.

I came home from New York last night with new jeans, a new sweater, new shoes, new books on my shelf, plenty of photos, somehow even more in love with my boyfriend and with an utterly grateful heart. It pains me to say but after months of bickering with Sam about my love for Toronto, pitted against his complete indifference, I can see why he feels the way he does after seeing a city like New York (and London): last night was one of the first times I wasn’t fully elated to see my city’s skyline upon coming home from a trip.

There is something about New York. Something you don’t understand until you’ve been there. I could have sat on a bench for half the trip in the same park and I would have felt something. But instead there was the High Line, Chelsea Market, World Trade Center Memorial, Staten Island Ferry, the skyline in the distance, the subways, the Met (Van Gogh! Lichentenstein! Mummies!), the library and everything else in between.

New York, if I saw you again tomorrow I would have waited too long.

my year.

Sometimes we are wrong about things. That is hard for me to admit, given the streak of stubbornness that inhabits my entire body, but, yes, sometimes even I am wrong. It is so easy for us to assert that we know everything when we have been given only the smallest bit of the information but I think it is part of us as humans in a way – make connections in all situations no matter what.

A few months ago I said this would be my year. Or, that it very well already was my year. I was still running on a high from my trip to Ireland, had just quit my job in management and was moving out on my own for the first time. It is easy to see how I thought it would be the best year of my life.

I learned quickly that post-vacation highs rarely last longer than the trip itself, that sometimes jobs you thought you wanted were not even close to what was in your heart, and moving out on your own involved a lot more than paying rent. They were not necessarily hard lessons to learn but all together they took a toll on me and I felt a little lost. I scoffed at the girl who ever thought this year was going to go well.

Except then I found myself a job in a bookstore and fell in love with working with books (what a surprise). I went back to the cafe I managed as a regular old employee. I went back through my postings and pictures from Ireland and once in awhile, even now, I will be standing somewhere in Toronto and have a flash of some area of Ireland, usually Dublin, go across my mind and it will settle me.

Sometimes things may not work out the way you thought they were going to but I am learning that this is okay.

Soon I was writing blog posts about the annoyances of online dating and less than a week later found myself talking to a guy who immediately stole my heart. I will not say it to him but I will say it here (which I suppose is a little cowardly given that he will read this) but… he is a bit of an asshole. Not in a mean way, just in the way in which he sat down at a piano and sang on one of our first dates and overdressed in case I underdressed so that I could be warm and brought me flowers at work and told me from the beginning that his intentions were me. I had no choice in the matter, really, the heart wants what it wants and all that other cliche love stuff, but really… Ah, I guess I am beyond elated that he is an asshole in that sense. I will admit it.

And now we are moving in together and the world has taken a turn for the better that I never, ever would have saw coming at any other point this year. Except for maybe when he was sitting at that piano.

My nieces are growing, crawling, standing, talking in their baby noises. My best friend is engaged (!!!). My parents are finally getting to redo their children’s rooms to no longer accommodate children.

And now I am renting out my apartment after breaking my lease early to a girl named Caitlin who is a librarian for the CBC and has to move out of her other apartment because she is breaking up with her boyfriend. They are moments like that when you cannot help but believe the universe is doing a little work, and a little smiling, for you.

There is a lot to be said for things coming together. There is a lot to be said for finding your lobster (if you don’t watch friends, you won’t understand that) when you never expected to. There is a lot to be said for having the greatest friend in the world. For having the greatest family in the world. For being a lot of confused about what you want to do for the rest of your life but a little okay with waiting to find out.

This may very well be my year. And I am so happy that it is not in the way I thought it would be.

pantyhose, expired yogurt, and life.

Growing up is hard.

There’s a reason Peter Pan is such a popular story to this day: everyone can relate to it. While we’re sitting here in our cubicles or pantyhose or trying to figure out rent money or looking at the expired yogurt in the fridge and wondering why our moms aren’t here to throw it out, there’s always going to be a part of us that just goes, “Fuck this.”

But somehow, for the most part, we don’t because we’ve grown up and we realize that desks and pantyhose and giving other people money and maybe just eating things before they expire is part of the whole deal. We get independence in return.

For someone like me, trying to focus your mind on one single goal is quite possibly the most difficult thing in the world. I’m lucky my parents allowed me to be free and ultimately weren’t as concerned as other parents about their daughter’s attention span – no Ritalin for this girl in her life. Sure, I find the little things hard to focus on – watch me try to clean the bathroom and you’ll find me five minutes later in the living room organizing books by title because while I was scrubbing the vanity it occurred to me that it would be a better system. It goes without saying, then, that the larger things are hard to focus on, as well.

What do I want in life? Other than everything, you mean, yes?

I want a bakery which might also be a cafe which might also be a bar. I want a bookshelf full of books and then another bookshelf full of books and then a room full of books and to have all the time to read them all but still somehow working so that I can manage to afford them all. I want to see the world and work to travel but also start a career. I want to listen to all the music I possibly can. I want to write a book or possibly be a journalist or maybe go into publishing. But wait, what about that cafe? Maybe be a world-traveling, cafe-owning, book writing/publishing/owning guru with time to make delicious meals and own a large, curly-haired dog.

Maybe even get married one day but not so married that I can’t do everything I want. Half married. That’s a thing, yes?

See what I mean?

I know for a fact that I’m not alone in this swampy, muddled mess of goals and dreams and real life. It makes me feel better knowing that every time I pull a shirt out of my closet that needs to be ironed and I basically stare at it with disdain before thinking, “But why can’t it just be wrinkle-free to start with?”, that I’m not the only one who feels that way. Because is there anything more grown up than ironing?

No. There’s really not.

I’ve started to make a list of things I want in life and prioritizing them. With prioritizing comes honesty, with myself and the life that I’m creating. What am I more okay with – working a whatever job so that I can finally see Eastern Europe and the west coast of the States, or starting a career and building a name for myself and gaining experience with what I love to do? Is going back to school for something writing-related the best path for me or am I just looking for something new because I’m bored? Can I really wait until my parents come over to try to coerce my mom into throwing out that yogurt? (That one is a no, I’m aware, but don’t think I haven’t considered).

I feel like the older you get the harder growing up gets. When you’re sixteen and you’re getting older and learning new things and discovering things about yourself, it’s still fairly fun. Even when you get your heart broken for the first time, there’s an odd element of excitement to it because it’s new. Even when you have to figure out what you’re going to do in university but actually have no clue because you’re seventeen and you’re not fully cooked yet, it’s fun because it’s new. Even when your mom asks you to throw out the slimy lettuce for the first time and you try not to gag because it’s disgusting, it’s… no, that one was never fun but at one point it was new. As you get older, these things are no longer experiences – they are rote. So fast forward ten years and you’re still trying to figure out what to do when you grow up and how to cure heartbreak and why all those tips on Pinterest for keeping produce fresh don’t work – it’s not so fun anymore.

I just want to embrace the not knowing, the excitement that goes along with having no fucking clue about your life because I did that for a month in Ireland and it was one of the best months of my life. And Girls has taught me that’s what your twenties are all about, yes?

Growing up is hard. But I’m just going to find the fun in it.

And try not to worry my parents too much while I’m at it.

on starting your life.

This may very well be my year.

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions and I definitely didn’t make any this year. I had no set plans or goals. I had nothing that was weighing on my shoulders that I felt I needed to change. I remember being told once that the way you spend New Years will be the way you spend your year. I spent mine hanging out with my family, my best friend, my yet-to-be-born nieces and not losing my mind partying. I spent New Year’s Day working at 6 a.m., scrubbing the kitchen at work clean and listing off things that were wrong with how my work was being run to a new friend and yet-to-be Manager to my yet-to-be Assistant Manager role.

Fast forward a month and I was promoted, that friend was promoted, and we were still working at 6 a.m., scrubbing work kitchen cleans but making progress on how things were being run. I also happened to have two nieces now and a desire to spend as much time with the people that I called family as possible.

I guess whoever said that was right.

To a point.

I turned twenty-four in a haze of scotch eggs, Guinness, and whiskey, surrounded by people I adored. I had a new tattoo on my arm to honour the passed family members I was still, often, very sad over. I was leaving for Ireland in just over a month.

When I had originally made the decision to travel, I made it purely on the basis of having always wanted to go to Ireland. I hadn’t planned it to be life-changing, soul-searching, or in any way a discovery journey. I wanted to see green hills and drink Guinness in its home and learn some history. That was it.

I think the thing about not planning for something, not searching for something, is that, if you need it, it searches you out. I spent that month in Ireland finding out exactly who I was and exactly who I wanted to be.

I laughed, I sang, I danced, I cried, I learned.

I can’t begin to explain to you the way I felt throughout that month, the way my chest felt increasingly fuller as the days passed and my heart swelled. I can’t explain to you every thought that occurred to me, every moment of self-discovery that I encountered. I can’t even explain to myself what happened over there. All I know is that I came back a better person for it.

I remember the last night I went out in Dublin and its perfection. The bar was full, the music live and loud, the people dancing. A woman from where my grandfather was from (one of the reasons for aforementioned tattoo) befriended me and gave me a hug when she left. When I walked home, the sun was setting and it was one of the most brilliant skies I’d ever seen. It was as if the entire world had aligned itself for me over Ireland to give me exactly what I needed.

The next day I went back to Trinity College where I had first felt that chest swelling sensation to say my thanks. I sat on the steps of one of the buildings near the green, my legs stretched out, feet resting on cobbles. I held back tears as my mind told me, repeated to me, “Remember this feeling, remember what this has done for you.”

I came across a picture of my feet on those cobbles a couple of weeks ago that I had taken on that last day and recalled those tears, those repeated, inspiring thoughts. I felt it all come back to me and I let myself sit and daydream for awhile, leading myself through the streets of Dublin, down its alleyways and over the River Liffey. I remembered that who I was there was exactly who I am here, and I can be just as fulfilled and inspired without the cobbles.

After all, you never forget your first love and Toronto is mine. So what else was I to do but to find that love again, move out of the suburbs, and plant myself directly where I’ve always wanted to be?

Within three days of searching I found an apartment exactly on my budget, exactly where I wanted to be in the city, with everything I could have asked for. And again I thanked the world for aligning for me and wondered how I ever deserved to be so lucky.

At this point in my year I had met two new babies, missed my family and friends so terribly that when I got back I never wanted to leave them again, took myself on an unintentional self-discovery mission across an ocean, and left home. I had also cut all of my hair off. It may not seem like a big deal but if there is anything more telling of someone who has just had or is about to have some sort of life change, it’s a drastic altering of appearance.

Then I did what I thought was unthinkable before I left for Ireland. I found another job. On top of that, I found another job in the baking world, a world that I was convinced that I had left for a very, very long time. A world that I was partly sure I never wanted to enter again.

And I never felt more sure about a decision than I did about this one.

It is the perfect job, practically made for me. I thought for awhile that when my grandma died, my love of baking died with her. It was an odd thing – to suddenly realize how intertwined the two things were for me. People asked me to make them cakes and my revulsion at the idea made me want to vomit. People asked me when I was going to start baking again and I just wanted to cry. I could have said something but what could anyone have said when I told them that the thing was, was that even though they’re asking me for cakes, one of the most important women in my life wasn’t anymore? How do you battle that?

You don’t, and that was the problem. I needed to battle it myself.

I’m not sure how it happened but I eventually found that love again. Well, I guess if I’m going to hazard a guess I would say that the whole month alone with nothing but my own thoughts was probably a pretty big player in the situation. Without consciously thinking it I realized that by denying myself the one thing that has always made me, and other people in my life, so happy was a disservice not only to myself, but also to my grandmother. To somehow blame her for my lost direction was unfair and ultimately a false accusation.

I just realized that sometimes people get lost. And sometimes they get found. Sometimes, they find other things.

I thought for awhile that I has just found something else – a life in the hospitality industry in a management role. I thought that was my new thing and that I was happier with it than I was with baking. Then one day I saw my parents, my sister, my rock-solid best friend, and my two nieces and remembered how loved I was. Then I cut off my hair and found an apartment and walked down the street into a bakery I used to work at and caught a glimpse of those ovens.

Those ones in particular weren’t calling to me but I suddenly knew others ones were.

Thank you to everyone who has ever sent me words of kindness, hugs of strength, and stood by me through every single decision I’ve ever made in regards to my life. Your patience has been enviable and your belief in me has been more than I ever asked for.

I thought I had come home when I got off that plane in Toronto.

I hadn’t yet. Not fully.

But I have now.