Just Breathe

Just Breathe

When I was younger, one of my favourite movies was a German independent film by writer-director Tom Tykwer, called “Lola rennt.” In English, it translates to “Run Lola Run,” and it centres around a 20-minute period in the life of the heroine that alters the course of her existence completely. Somehow, her strength of will allows her to rewind time for another attempt, at resolving a situation that appears impossible. It’s an amazing, inspiring movie, which holds up to this day, and that I highly recommend to young girls and boys alike. For me, it combined the things I was most consumed by at that time, running (although it isn’t technically a sports flick), love, and the yearning to control my own destiny. As a girl it made me feel strong, and unbreakable, in the face of unknown challenges in the future. While as a woman that has been tested by ups and downs in life, it inspires me to be stronger than I think I am, and to trust that though I might bend, I won’t break.

The best moment in the film occurs when the main protagonist just doesn’t know what to try anymore, having rewound these twenty minutes several times already, to no avail. So she starts running, closes her eyes, and asks her subconscious to guide her in what she ought to do next. I think the reason why this movie is often in the back of my mind, after all this time, is because the more years I’ve lived, the more I’ve found myself faced with impossible circumstances, and no clear path to get through.

I recently lost immediate family to Covid-19, and it’s the worst pain I have ever felt. To know that you will never see this person again, and that they won’t be around to enjoy the people and things they loved, is hard to bear. Families can be fractured, or go a long time without speaking, but, as long as your loved one is alive, there is still hope for things to be resolved between you. Hope that wounds might be healed, and new memories forged. But when the person passes, all that potential for change disappears along with them. Leaving you alone with your memories, which hopefully were happy ones. Because otherwise, regret and despair at knowing that they’re gone forever, and that whatever is broken will never be fixed, can make for uncomfortable bedfellows.

When this event occurred, I enacted my coping mechanism, to try not to fall apart. Immediately, I spoke with my support system, to try to make sense of things, and to also figure out what the next steps should be. If you don’t have close friends or family to turn to, or if your crisis also involves them, I would advise you to turn to a therapist or a social worker (if you have one, or can be referred to one). Or, even calling an anonymous helpline, so you can reach out to someone right away, somewhat share this burden, and at least get another perspective on things.

Ultimately, how you choose to react when you’re faced with a situation that you have no experience dealing with, is up to you. Whatever film, TV show, or literature you reference to inspire your courage, may not fully fit your circumstances or emotions. But I have to say that every bit helps. Just like with any other challenge, the gains made might be incremental, but cumulatively they can help you surmount this, and any other obstacle that you come across. In my case, I flashed back to this movie scene. Probably because, like Lola, I tend to put my faith in the unknown, and trust that my subconscious is guiding my actions, to ensure they’re the right ones.

As always, I pray that this blog post reaches someone who needs to read this, or at the very least, that it inspires new fans of Tom Tykwer’s work.

                                                         

Dealing with COVID-19

Dealing with COVID-19

**NOTE: The following is a personal blog from one of our guest writers, it is important to seek immediate medical attention should you feel any symptom of COVID-19 or are feeling unwell**

The coronavirus pandemic has been very stressful for almost everyone and has resulted in a host of negative emotions festering in people – anger, frustration, depression, anxiety, worry, stress – the list is almost endless. Countless people are terrified of contracting the disease and even overreacting to the possibility of having contracted it. On the other hand, there are an equal number of people who, for various reasons, conspiracy theories included, are in denial of the seriousness of the situation. They compare the pandemic to the flu and brush it off as a harmless phenomenon.

Whatever may be an individual’s opinion of the pandemic, the Bach Flower Remedies can help him or her face the situation with courage and cope with all the stress in a healthy manner.  The host of negative emotions people feel during the pandemic, as mentioned above, can literally weaken the immune system, making one even more vulnerable to coronavirus and other diseases, and the Bach flower remedies are invaluable in such a situation.

Remember that people are not the same, and they react to the same situation in myriad different ways. No single Bach remedy can address everyone’s situation, so it is essential that one is mindful about how they are feeling and select the appropriate remedies that address their specific individual needs. That being said, the below list of Bach flower remedies may be quite helpful in neutralizing negative emotions and stress, giving you courage and offering you a sense of hope:

Star of Bethlehem – The great remedy for shock and trauma. It is useful for anyone who is traumatized or in shock that they have contracted Covid-19 or know someone close who has.

Rock Rose – Very helpful for people who are terrified of themselves or their loved ones getting sick, or of having to close their business due to the pandemic.

Mimulus – The ideal phobia remedy to help you get over your fears and worries of getting infected or closing their business. Mimulus gives courage and confidence.

Crab Apple –  For those who have become overly hygienic and germaphobic. For ‘clean freaks’ who wash their hands more often than is necessary, which can cause unnecessary harm to the skin.

Agrimony – A useful remedy for those who suppress their emotions, which can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety.

White Chestnut –  Very helpful for those with a hyperactive mind. For people who constantly think and worry about the epidemic to the point where they suffer from insomnia and the resultant lack of energy the next day.

Aspen – Is very effective on people who get very anxious, which causes increased stress and trepidation.

Red Chestnut – The remedy for those who are consumed by fear and worry about a loved one’s health or well-being

Elm – Useful when one feels overwhelmed by the ‘new’ life one has to live due to the pandemic – having to always wear a mask, washing hands constantly, constantly keeping a safe distance from others, and then ensuring that family members and loved ones do so at all times as well, etc.

Gentian – People who are suffering from sadness and despondency due to a specific reason – having contracted the virus, knowing a loved one who has, having had to close down their business due to the pandemic, etc.

Gorse –  The remedy for people who are feeling overly hopeless and depressed about their situation in life and can’t see any way out of it.

Hornbeam –  Very useful for those lacking mental energy / vitality that occurs after being stressed out by the pandemic and the many new responsibilities that come with it.

Water Violet – This is a helpful remedy for people who feel terribly lonely due to the lack of socializing and the shutdown of bars, pubs, nightclubs, etc.

Cherry Plum –  The go-to remedy for people who are having a difficulty in staying calm and composed during the pandemic. Frustration over the pandemic has led to a lot of fights breaking out between people in recent days, and this remedy can greatly help in keeping one composed.

Impatiens –  A useful remedy that can help with irritability that is all the more common in people during the pandemic.

Walnut – A great remedy to help people adapt to change and a new lifestyle, brought on by the pandemic. It helps one to adjust to social distancing and quarantines.

Hiking at Parc Regional de la Chute

Hiking at Parc Regional de la Chute

Every year for the past 8 years, I have made it a point to go hiking with one of my friends for my birthday. This tradition started when I became 17. Before that day, I had never invited any one of my friends to celebrate with me before. However, in July of 2013, I finally got my chance. That day, we walked around Mount Royal together (which worried my mother immensely as we did not have cellphones at that time) and then finished the day with some lovely food at a restaurant in China Town. I had a lot of fun sharing this day with my friend, brother, and mother. Since then, I’ve had my traditional birthday celebration at Mont Tremblant, Mont Saint-Sauveur, Mont Rigaud, Mount Saint-Hilaire, and Morin-Heights. There was even a year we went ziplining. Spending time with my friend in nature each year has been a delightful tradition that I cherish very much. I think sharing these moments together over so many years has brought us closer together as friends. We even exchange birthday cards, and I’ve kept all of them in a container. It’s nice to have a collection of items that mark the passage of time, and within each item contains kind thoughtful words from a friend.

               This year, we decided to hike at Parc régional de la Chute-à-Bull. It is a 1hr and 30min drive from Montreal and requires a $7 entry fee (if anyone is interested in visiting). I would recommend it! My mother, aunt, friend and I hiked through two routes, first the ‘sentier de la chute’ and then the ‘sentier du belvédère’. We walked along the sentier de la chute, which was next to a stream with many boulders within it. My friend and I enjoyed climbing on the rocks and bounding from one boulder to another. We saw some people lying on the rocks and even picnicking in the middle of the stream. The sentier de la chute itself was beautiful. The route had different sections including narrow ones surrounded by trees and nature, some wooden platforms and stairs, and some open areas where you can see the other mountains that were further away. The route ended at a set of stairs that brought us to a waterfall: the regional park’s main attraction. My friend and I decided to sit on a rock near the pool of water that surrounded the falls. There were some people swimming in the water while others were just dipping their feet in it. The sun was warm and rayed down on all of us. The sky was clear and the trees, rocks, water, leaves, and branches that surrounded us were lovely. At one point, my friend suggested that I stand at the shallow edge of the pool with the others, and so I agreed. After taking off my shoes and socks, I made my way to the water. Stepping in, the water was cool. I felt the hard slippery rocks under my feet. Excitedly, I walked further and further into the water until it came up above my knees. I wanted to get to the waterfall, but the water was getting too deep, and so I slowly walked back. It was at this moment that I slipped and fell straight into the water face first. I got all wet, my shorts and t-shirt were drenched! I almost hit my face on a rock, which was scary. Thankfully, I just swam to shore unscathed.

               The rest of the hike fortunately dried my clothes. After the waterfall route, we took the belvédère route to the top of the mountain, where we had a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. A sea of various shades of green was displayed before us. I loved being there with my friend, aunt, and mom. It was mostly very calming and relaxing. Walking through the mountain and being with nature helped ground me and keep me in the present. However, during the belvédère route, there were some steep and difficult sections with many rocks and roots in the way. We had to be careful not to trip and fall (which we almost did on multiple occasions). The last few kilometers of this section took a lot out of us; it was quite strenuous exercise. In the end, the hike took us a total of 3 hours, which amounted to 11,000 steps.

               I’m glad I had this day to walk, climb, and swim surrounded by nature and with my family and friend. I had an amazing birthday that I will remember for the rest of my life. I’d definitely recommend hiking here if any of you get the chance! I wonder where I will be hiking next year?

Growing Up

Growing Up

In a few weeks from now, I will turn 25-years-old. And throughout these past 25 years, I’ve seen myself grow as a person, learn many new things, and have a lot of interesting experiences.

When I was 18-years-old, I thought life was pretty boring. It all seemed quite predictable. In general, older adults told me that I should go to university, get an important job, get married, have children, get a house, and then I guess that’s it. It all sounded quite generic. Nothing seemed important or meaningful.

But the truth was, I couldn’t actually predict the future. Instead, I was bored because I was too scared to leave my comfort zone and try new things. I wasn’t open to new experiences or even to changing my values or ideals. So, I was bored. Because I was scared to change.

If you put yourself in completely new situations where you cannot possibly predict the outcome, then life becomes much more interesting. For example, in September 2016 I tried to join the McGill Anime Club. I sat and watched a screening of Princess Mononoke and spoke to no one. I went home and thought, well that was no fun at all. And so, from September 2016 until December 2019 I read the anime club weekly e-mail (from the comfort of my own home) describing their activities and thought that was enough. But it wasn’t enough. In December 2019, I finally decided to give the anime club another chance. I tried speaking to others, and slowly, over the next few months, I started making new friends who were different from me in some ways, and life started to become more interesting. These friends challenged me to see things from new perspectives and to become a better person in general. I should have tried speaking to people earlier!

Other experiences like this one have taught me a lot. I would like to go back in time and tell my 18-year-old self all of the new lessons I learned, which would make her life so much easier. Unfortunately, a time-traveling machine does not exist for the moment. Instead, I wrote down 10 lessons that I would have liked to tell my younger self. Additionally, I hope other people can learn from my mistakes.

  1. Be honest.

Ever since I was young, I’ve always strove to be a nice person. To me, that sometimes included putting other people’s needs above my own. Even for the simplest things. For example, if a friend would ask, is it okay if we do ‘X’? I would always respond with, nope, I don’t mind (even if sometimes I would mind). Amber, stop that. Tell people how you actually feel. They won’t be hurt. They won’t get sad. Instead, they’ll be happy that you were honest with them and that they now understand you on a more personal level. They’ll also have the appropriate information to make a decision on what we should do together.

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. 

I used to feel like I needed to be perfect. I had to do well in school and be nice to everyone. I used to think, if I even made one mistake, everyone would be disappointed in me. They’d think less of me. If I wasn’t able to meet everyone’s expectations of me, I was a failure, and they’d point it out. Well, I’m happy to report to my past self that this isn’t actually the case. It only feels true, but this kind of thinking doesn’t actually reflect reality. It is a kind of black and white thinking, with some catastrophizing mixed in. No one expects you to be perfect, that is an expectation that you are placing on yourself. Instead, your peers and family members are proud of you for trying your best, even if you may sometimes fail to meet their expectations.

  • No one decision is final.

You can always pivot towards another direction. Decisions are scary, especially if they affect a big part of your life, but even if the decision you make turns out to be the wrong one, that is ok. For example, when I was in CEGEP, I was deathly afraid of choosing a university major. I felt like I was locking myself into a particular future and losing out on a lot of other possible opportunities. I never had a job at that point, so how was I expected to choose which one I wanted to pursue? I ended up choosing to study Mechanical Engineering, which I later found out, was not for me. I would cry every day on my way to class dreading my future as an engineer. And so, I decided to switch to a psychology major, which stressed me out even more. Which future was better for me?, I thought. Engineering? Psychology? Something else entirely? Truth is you don’t know what choice is best until you try. Thinking about it forever won’t help you find the answer you are looking for. Thankfully, I actually enjoyed my psychology degree and made lots of wonderful friends. It was a decision I am very grateful that I made.

  • Learn to let go of things you cannot control.

I would like to tell my past self that you cannot control if people like you or not. This is simply not up to you. Yes, you might really love someone but you cannot force them to love you back. And holding onto things you cannot control is just painful for everyone involved. Some people will like you while others will not. And that’s okay. Continue to hang out with people who actually want to be your friends and you will have a much better time.

You cannot control the future. You cannot control what other people think of you. And to some degree, you cannot control your own thoughts and feelings. So, stop trying to control things that you cannot control and let them go.

  • Don’t hurt yourself.

For some reason, when you don’t meet your own expectations, for example on an exam or in a social situation, you punish yourself. You tell yourself how you are a useless piece of garbage that shouldn’t be allowed to live. You get really sad for no reason. You wish a car would just hit you. Why you like this bro? Hurting yourself doesn’t solve anything. You don’t need to punish yourself for doing something wrong. Instead, accept that you made mistakes and learn from them. Mistakes help us grow, and punishing yourself limits that growth.

  • Liking yourself takes time and hard work.

At 18-years-old, I didn’t particularly like myself, and as I grew up, I liked myself even less. I went through a negative spiral of self-hatred, which resulted in a pretty low sense of self-worth. As I went down this spiral, I thought I had broken myself permanently, and that I’d never gain my happiness back. Thankfully, I was wrong. If you dislike yourself, you can’t expect to change your self-perception overnight. However, through participating in activities you enjoy, interacting with positive people, speaking to others about your problems, and lots of self-reflection you can get better. One thing that can definitely help you like yourself is trying to live life authentically. If you follow your heart and do what you really want to do, then you will feel so much better.

  • Don’t be afraid of criticism.

When someone criticizes you, they aren’t attacking you. While it may seem that way, they are usually trying to help you improve. Truthfully, I’m still trying to work on this. When someone tells me that I’ve done or said something wrong, I usually feel personally attacked, which then makes me defensive. Next time someone tells you a way to improve, try to understand where they are coming from. It’s for your own benefit! 

  • Getting close to people is scary, but also worth it.

I am still very scared of getting close to people, and I know my younger self was too. I’m scared that other people will hurt me or that I will hurt them. Consequently, I used to speak to few people, and of the people I spoke to, I never let anyone get too close to me. I would like to tell my younger self that despite the possibility of hurting others or being hurt or acting awkwardly, getting closer to people is a wonderful experience. It is worth the risk. You never know who you’re going to meet!

  • We are all going to die.

When my 18-year-old self realized that she was going to die she became absolutely petrified for months on end. Not only her, but she realized that one day all her friends and family would be gone as well, never to return on earth. I am still scared of this to this day. However, I would like to tell my past self two things regarding this particular subject. One: tell other people how you feel. Everyone feels scared of something, it is nothing to be ashamed of. By speaking up, you can gain the support you need to deal with your fears, and other people can share their own views and perspectives on the subject. And two: just because your life is going to end, doesn’t mean your actions on Earth don’t matter. On the contrary, it makes your actions more important.

  1. Love you.

If I got the opportunity to speak to my younger self, I would have wanted to tell her that I love her and that everything will be okay.

These would be the main 10 points I would tell my younger self if given the chance. While I do not have the opportunity to tell her all of these things, I hope you readers get something out of it. These are many of the lessons I learned from the first 25 years of my life. I wonder what else I will learn in the years to come? 

The Joys of Cinema

The Joys of Cinema

There are many things in life that you only value once they have been taken away from you. Out of the million things that have been affected by these prolonged months of isolation, I’ve felt the emptiness created by the closed movie theatres a lot. I have a soft spot for movie theatres for many reasons and it breaks my heart how I wasn’t able to enjoy the big screen in over a year. Now, as all the bad things in life come to a halt and we are slowly trying to return back to “normal”, cinemas have once again opened their doors to us. 

After more than a year, I’ve finally had the joy and privilege to go see a movie on the big screen instead of watching something on Netflix through my little phone or laptop. While the movie I saw is nothing to write home about, the experience that I had was nothing short of surreal. You know how people always talk about having a home theatre to watch movies in peace, without noisy people around them? Well, I experienced something very similar while watching Cruella on a Friday night, sitting in an almost empty movie hall with a mere 4 people (including me). It was weird, cool and a little heartbreaking, all at the same time.

Come to think of it, I’ve always wanted to enjoy a movie in an almost empty theatre with my popcorn and coca-cola but this experience was more or less just imposed on me (and others) by circumstances completely out of my control. It sucked that one of the most popular movies right now was almost empty on a Friday night. To make things a little worse, there wasn’t even popcorn that one could eat; though I’m sure by the time this thing goes up, we’ll have popcorn back again.

I wonder why it was that empty. Do people not know that theatres are open? Do they care enough to check if they are open again? Are they enjoying Netflix more now? Maybe, just maybe people don’t care about going to the cinemas as much? I really want to be proved wrong here.

I know people have come to enjoy many aspects of being alone and consuming entertainment in solitude but cinemas, of all things, deserve our love and our presence.

While there is always a time to watch a movie at home, not much can beat the joy of spontaneously going to a movie during the middle of the day or late night to zone out from the real world for a few hours. It is de-stressing, no doubt about that, but it can also be very empowering. I vividly remember the first time I went to see a movie alone. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to watch something without worrying what my friends were thinking about it or if I was the only one liking it. To be able to go sit in a crowded hall alone with a bunch of strangers actually does wonders to your confidence. Plus, I also didn’t have to share my popcorn with anyone, you see. Oh and yes, the comfortable seats. All that forms part of the experience.

But hold on, I’m not pushing you to go see a movie alone (though it will be very cool, believe me), you can always enjoy the company of your friends and family and experience something new with them if they are down for it. In the end, what matters is that we make time out of our very scheduled lives to go enjoy somebody’s work and have it impact the rest of our day(s). Cinemas have the charm to snatch us away into this space even if for a limited time. I also firmly believe that watching a movie on the big screen will always affect you differently than watching it on your laptop.

So, please stay safe and go watch a movie. Try to take in the allure of the red chairs and the faint scent of popcorn lurking everywhere because this experience is only exclusive to one place.  

Click on the image to go to our store!
What Studying In A Pandemic Taught Me

What Studying In A Pandemic Taught Me

As I have finally accomplished one of the biggest goals in life i.e. graduating from university, I believe that a little essay to acknowledge it is obligatory. You see, my whole journey culminating to this hasn’t been easy and has been very unpredictable to say the least.

My last year, which I expected to be the most fun-filled and defining moments of my university experience, involved watching mostly pre-recorded lectures, in my mismatched pyjamas with little to no social contact with my other classmates (or the world in general). It definitely sucked that I wasn’t able to get ready for class, meet new people at the beginning of each new semester and engage with them at a more personal level, eat out after a class and so on. 

I’m not going to sugar-coat it because it would be utterly dishonest and disrespectful to all the other students who struggled with the same issue this year, so I am going to make it official. I definitely had the worst experience while studying at home alone.

I am very tempted to write more about all that has been bad and horrible but what’s the point when all that could be understood with the few sentences above. Life definitely threw curveballs, not that I wasn’t expecting any but a PANDEMIC? Oof. Anyway, what has happened has happened and I suppose I have earned some bragging rights, right?

I suppose I should enlighten people with some very obligatory “Don’t do this, cause I did and it sucked.” I have done some mental gymnastics to work out a little list of the things I wish I knew better about and some mistakes that I saw my friends make so here it goes:

  1. Dress up everyday even if you have nothing to do.

I never turned on my Zoom camera because I didn’t have to and I definitely felt no need to dress up. In retrospect, I was dumb. One of the biggest joys that I had came when I was getting ready for my in-person classes. The little ritual everyday was the biggest boost to the quality of my day and my confidence. The past year or so, I just found myself more and more disconnected from the person I was and I 100% agree that not keeping up my ritual made me more sad and unproductive. Now that I think back on it, I should have turned on the camera more often because, when I did, I had the most fun and fulfilling experiences, similar to my in-class experiences. I wish I could have gotten that push from somewhere but it’s okay. At least now I know.

2)   Talk to your classmates/professors more whenever you get the opportunity. 

Now this is something that I saw a lot of people struggle with pre-COVID, and post-COVID times gave them a safe haven for not communicating. This is one of the most damaging aspects of having online classes. Many people are okay with studying alone and passing, but I think that they often lack or risk losing the confidence that is crucial in the real-world. Something that they will have to do once everybody gets to see each other in-person.

Be active in your class’s Zoom group chat and get to know other people. Type out your questions or responses and most probably the whole class will read it and try to help you out. What’s even more interesting is that you will actually make a bigger impact on your friends and professors because they will see your name every time you speak up and will probably end up recognizing you more. This is something that I found to happen very rarely in-person. Many students end up being scared of speaking up because they feel the whole class’s eyes on them and get scared that they will make a fool of themselves. So if you have your camera off, go ahead and ask away all your questions because NOBODY knows what you look like and the probability that all your classmates will see you in-person one day and recognize you are slim. Might as well make some use of that “anonymity.”

3)   Attend Live Lectures

Having pre-recorded lectures has been extremely helpful to me and many, many other students. There is absolutely no denying that being able to go back to certain topics that you were unable to understand and rewatch them without anyone counting is very helpful in building a better foundation of that subject. I certainly did that many times but now that I look back at it, I should have been present for the live lectures whenever possible.

Nothing can beat the experience of being in the same boat as your other classmates at 8 in the morning. Sure you will need to learn to be punctual and dedicated but you will also feel much less lonely. I have seen a lot of friends complain about feeling alone or left-out of the class and most of the time it’s because they miss the live lectures and the group discussions. Don’t be lazy and miss out because all these little things are supposed to make you feel better about studying at home and this is why you should take the opportunity.  

4)   DO NOT STUDY IN BED

Yes, this needed to be capitalized. I have been guilty of it and many, many others are. Studying in bed is counter-productive and very unhealthy in the long run. You basically become a slob and unknowingly channel all slob-like tendencies in your work and personal life. Make yourself a designated work-station and force yourself, if you have to, to go sit there. Make your bed the sacred place to watch Netflix and sleep but please don’t be writing your biology papers there at 3 a.m. when you actually should be sleeping in it.

As I conclude, writing this made me feel a little better because at least I learnt what I should never do in the future. Lessons learnt one way or another are lessors learnt. So hopefully you will take some of my advice and have a much better and fulfilling time at on-line school.

Click on the image to go to our store!