I love this time of year. While some of us look to the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day as a time to make positive changes in our lives, I personally look to the Fall for this force of inspiration. This might be because I’m doomed to forever be in school and this marks the beginning of a new school year. This might be because my birthday is in the Fall, which pretty much explains itself in terms of transformation energies. Or, it might simply be because I live in Canada, and by the time New Year’s rolls around, the world is far gone, buried and asleep in months and months of snowfall and no one is happy with the cold anymore.
But whatever the reason, and whatever the time of year you feel renewal come your way, I would like to challenge you to ask yourself: why wait? Why wait for that one time in the year to roll around for you to take yourself and your goals seriously? You can make changes and growth happen right now! I’ve composed a list of ideas to take into consideration on how to go about doing this.
Now, granted I did say that I love this specific time of year because this is my own period of metamorphosis, and there are a lot of changes happening in my life. I’m starting my first year of university in about two weeks. My personal relationships have done a lot of shifting around, and I’ve both lost and gained friends. I’m part of a new local collective, which means new projects, new responsibilities, and a new extension for me. My body is changing as I make training a part of my life. But, all of this didn’t happen in the short turning of seasons. I realized I shouldn’t be waiting for the perfect moment, because that moment will always exist in the restless and impulsive momentum of “now”, which is the best place for it to be.
Before I get further into this, I would like to break down the concept of “now” for a second. I believe that many of us have been taught to believe that when we say “I want it now”, it is an unforgivably bad thing and a reflection of our own greed. While this may be true in some instances (ex: capitalist drive, jealousy, basically anything associated with an unsupported and irrational need encompassed by negative energy, etc.), when talking about building a better version of you, it is nothing more than an act of love and self-empowerment. And, if you find yourself a part of a minority group (relevant to most, if not all of them), this can become an especially hard thing to realize about separating “now” from societal opinions and personal growth. So, let’s embrace this opportunity for positive change. We can always make it happen, no waiting around. If you’re a student like me, the promise of a new school year leaves the door wide open. And even if you aren’t in school, there are so many opportunities waiting to be harvested. Grow for it.
- Look inside, discover, and take stock of what you seek to change.
I just recently caught up with an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in years, and when I asked her what was going on in her life, she answered that she was working on getting better. “Not necessarily in terms of being sick and getting better,” she said, “but in becoming a better version of myself”. Improving our personhood and focusing our energies internally is a perfectly acceptable place to start in building up the structure of who you want to become, in fact, it’s where I would recommend starting. Think about it as your own personal cocoon time. It’s an exciting and rewarding process to explore your internal cartography and get to know yourself in ways you might not have expected. More than likely, there are parts of you that you don’t even know exist because you haven’t gone looking for them.
- Learn from the bad parts, then let them go.
I mean two things in saying this. In terms of a negative experience that made enough of an impact on you to resonate and stay longer than welcome, and within your own personal makeup. I will try to approach this topic as delicately as possible and not make any assumptions in any direction, and I also sincerely hope that you never have to experience something extremely traumatic. And if you have, I am not claiming to know what you are going through/have gone through, and know that I am sending you love and healing. We can never entirely run from the past, it is part of what makes us who we are. What we can do, however, is choose how much weight and power it has on our lives today. A bad experience can suck out all sorts of energy that could be used in constructive ways, rather than destructive ways. But it can also teach us, make us stronger, and inspire dramatic change.
Just moments after my last relationship ended, I walked stunned back into the office of my school’s gender advocacy center. My brain was on fire and anxious electricity pulsed vivaciously as ever through my body. I was definitely not having a good time. I managed to say “my girlfriend broke up with me” when one of the executives asked what was wrong. From the corner of the room, a young woman whom I had yet to meet stood up and wrapped her arms around me. The first thing she said when she let me go was “congratulations”, which I didn’t understand, especially since I was the one who had just gotten dumped. She followed with an explanation when she picked up on my confusion, saying that I was going to grow and change so much coming out of this experience. By the time I would be over the breakup, I would be a completely new version of myself: stronger, more self-understanding, and more mature. I took those words to consideration, but didn’t believe them (breakups are, in general, hard) until months later, when I realized that she had been right. I had changed immensely in such a short period of time. I had expanded my music tastes, I became more in tune with my emotions, I was much more self-reliant and I was indeed, more mature and focused than I ever had been. I became more aware as to what I needed for myself in all aspects and even my social interactions and relationships changed immensely (as a side note, I am proud to say that the young woman who gave me this advice is a good friend of mine today). Though this is just one example out of countless unique situations, the outcome is the same. So, don’t let negative energy stay longer than it needs to. Let it teach you, let it inspire growth and change, then let it go when it has done all it can do to benefit you. It might be hard to see the upside of a bad experience, and I’m not saying that these experiences are fundamentally good. But in seeking out the ways you can grow from them, you are both fighting back and moving on. And remember: creative expression is the best catharsis!
Now, in terms of dealing with the bad parts of personhood, the answer is more or less simple. Any personality traits we may have that we dislike about ourselves or that get in the way of what we seek to accomplish we must learn to acknowledge and accept. They, like anything else mapping our personalities or who we are as people, are a part of us, but they don’t have to take charge if you don’t want them to. In fact, in many cases, they can probably be channelled into another more constructive outlet, or at least be dealt with accordingly. Myself, for example, I am constantly late. All the time. It became a bit of a trademark in my CEGEP years (how my profs managed to be so understanding, I’ll never know). How I deal with this is simply by understanding that I need more time to get ready, and get from point A to point B. In fact, I’m a pretty slow person in general, so this same sense of understanding can be applied in structuring work time, study time, practise time, etc. By my understanding that I need more time to accomplish tasks and travel, I have a better sense of what I need, and can plan accordingly. So, whatever it is, be it a strong temper, a stubborn nature, perfectionism, forgetfulness, chronic lateness, even sensitivity and nervousness, there is always a way to not let these things get in the way of running your life for you. And, as I had said above, there can even be some positive aspects about the traits that you favour the least (anger, for example, is an extremely energizing emotion, which you can then channel into something constructive). When you understand and accept the things you don’t like about yourself, you can work on making them better, and in turn, making yourself better on your own terms.
- Similarly to #2, learn to let things in your life go in order to make room for who you will become.
Be it an old pair of jeans you’ve worn to threads, an item in your room you don’t connect with anymore, books that are irrellevant to where you are in life (I’m looking at you, Twilight movie companion), or even friendships that aren’t working anymore, hanging on to this extra clutter is exhausting. It is perfectly natural for us to evolve and shed our old selves, that’s one way in which we can constantly grow and become better people. However, it is also perfectly natural to be scared of change, and to hold tightly to things that we know no longer have a place in our lives. Put it into context: what did you want to be when you were five years old? How about when you were eleven? And how about now? Most of us will find that our goals and ambitions have completely changed as we matured and grew. We begin to recognize our strengths and weaknesses, and we pick up on our talents and are driven into the arms of our passions. It’s all just a part of self-development.
So, if we can change our minds so quickly in regards to our ambitions, we can apply the same thing to other aspects in our lives. Relationships are a good thing we can grow from. Picture, if you can, what you want your future to look like. Not “where do you see yourself in five years”, I want you to dream a little. What do YOU want for your future? What kind of people are there? If they are anything to contrast from the friendships you keep in your life now, maybe it’s best to do a little bit of cleaning up. This is especially true if the people in your life are doing nothing to lift you up. If your friends make you feel hurt, angry or upset more so than they inspire you and make you light up with joy, you need to find some better people to share your life with. It’s a hard thing to let go of weighty friendships, but in the end, it leaves room for better people to enter your life, even if it may not happen right away. Just listen to yourself, trust yourself, and trust that this is the right thing to do in order for you to take on a reincarnated and overall better version of the person you are now. Always, always, always look after yourself first and foremost. And if you are really worried about casting people out of your life so quickly, just think about it like this: maybe this will give them the space and opportunity to grow too, and maybe you will find each other again, some years later. And maybe you won’t. But either way, it will be for the best. So, what are you waiting for? throw out those old jeans, ditch that old lamp and movie guide, and make some room for things that you will actually like having around.
- Find new inspiration in the things you already love, and delve into it.
No matter what it may be, new sources of inspiration can come from the things that already make you the happiest. Do you love flowers so much that you would cover yourself in them if given the chance? Do it! Does listening to Ella Fitzgerald make you wish you could play the trumpet? Well, why not? Does that certain shade of red make you want to explore French cuisine? How about Portuguese? Go for it! Be it in the form of an ideology, thought or attitude, in creativity or even just in style, you’d be surprised at how many kinds of inspiration that can stem from one thing. I’ve always had a deep love for the Art Rock genre, and in reinventing my wardrobe to match my state of mind, I’m seeking to personify the moods and aesthetics I get whenever I listen to artists like St. Vincent (Annie Clark herself is a huge inspiration for me in so many ways) or SUUNS or Talking Heads or Joy Division and put them in my clothes. The same concept can be applied in a multitude of ways, not just in the practise of fashion. In the personal example of Art Rock, I love how strengthening it is for my mind and confidence, especially when combined with my love of fashion. This weird, cold, experimental genre dares to go places that others don’t, and it empowers me to do the same.
- Educate yourself on something you’ve always wanted to know about.
This, dear reader, is where technology is very much on our side. There are so many tools available to us to feed our craving for knowledge and stimulate our brain power. You can pretty much find information on any subject or skill just by googling it or watching a YouTube video. Or, alternatively, there are always libraries to visit. I, personally, love my library, and I visit it at least once a week. Since the birth of the internet, libraries have lost a lot of their importance, especially amongst younger generations. But they really are an oasis of resource and knowledge. And, in the summer heat, most likely a source of air conditioning.
But, other than libraries, I thought I’d list a few of my favourite internet spots to visit when I want to learn something new (and they’re all totally free):
–Duolingo if you want to finally pick up that language you’ve been admiring (it helped me learn German).
–Coursera for access to high education courses given for free by professors from around the world.
–Ultimate Guitar, the biggest online community of guitarists to share skills, knowledge and music. If you play guitar, you are probably already well aware of the existence of this site, but it kept me playing and learning when I was out of lessons.
–Psychology Today has a great online presence, where they post a lot of their articles from current and old issues all for free, and all reader-friendly. Provided that psychology is your cup of tea, of course.
-Vegan cooking blogs like The Minimalist Baker and Oh She Glows have kept me exploring different cooking methods and trying new things in the kitchen, as well as understanding what I’m eating and where it came from.
- Similarly to #5, try the things you’ve always wanted to try! The necessary resources are more within your means than what you may think.
Often times, when I’m discussing music or guitar with someone (which is quite often, because I am a giant dork), something that I hear a lot of is: “oh, I’d love to be able to play such and such an instrument, but I can’t”. Or, similarly, when I’m discussing a poem or a book with someone I hear things like: “I wish I could write” or “I wish I could read more, but I can’t”. This is discouraging for me to hear, because I see fully capable people who are fostering new passions that they are excited about, but yet they are standing in their own way of going after what it is that they love. They fall too easily victim to obstacles in their path, so much so that they cut themselves off entirely from something they want to pursue and just dream about it instead.
I used to be this way, and it was a very frustrating time for me. I would allow insignificant things like money, time, responsibilities, and the opinions of others stop me from growing in the ways I wanted to most. Music, as I’m sure you can tell if you’ve read my other articles, is one of the absolute most important things in my life. From the time I was a baby, I was surrounded by music, and it was very natural for me to fall in love with it. About eight and a half years ago, I started playing guitar. My mother signed me up for lessons, and I quickly loved my new instrument. But, lessons were getting too expensive, so I stopped going, but I didn’t stop playing. Even if it took me months to learn a barre chord and I mostly played Best Coast songs, I loved guitar too much to not have it in my life. I wanted to learn more, but I was content with what I had, and was focused on other things in my life at the time. Then, as fast as lightning, my goals and aspirations completely shifted from pursuing professional journalism, something that would compliment my writing skills but that I was losing interest in, to following my heart and pursuing music instead. It was emotionally challenging for me to find the courage to allow guitar to take up a much more present role in my life, because I preoccupied with the people who thought I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t talented enough, I didn’t have enough passion or drive, my strengths didn’t lie in music, I had started learning too late, and I wouldn’t be able to understand music because my brain was meant for different skills (my favourite!). But, after I found my backbone, I realized that none of that is true, and it has made me a better musician as a result, because I know that I’m doing the right thing for myself. And I know this because I’m happiest when I’m playing. So, here I am today, back in lessons (for a lesser cost and a better teacher) and learning music theory from the basics. I will be nineteen in September, and I may not be in the same level of proficiency as some other musicians my age, but I know I can get there. And one day, I’ll have a masters degree in Music.
So, my anecdote serves to say that it is never too late to do something you’ve always wanted to do, and you are more than capable. You just need to believe in yourself (which can be hard to do, I know) and find your inner strength to push you forward. If you are worried about not having enough time and/or money, you can find a way to make it happen. In terms of learning an instrument, lessons can get expensive, but you can easily find a teacher for a reasonable fee. Even if you can’t afford lessons, you can easily teach yourself through the power of the internet and the library. And even if you don’t have access to your instrument, you can at least start with theory (this is a free website), or if you have another instrument available to you, start learning that one until you can access the one you want to learn.
The same concept exists beyond the realm of music as well, and there are always ample opportunities to get involved with local communities who share the same passion as you. To the would-be writers out there: start reading! Go to poetry slams! Keep writing, even if you hate how it sounds. You’ll find your community and start growing collectively.
Get creative, and you’ll start to like those obstacles in your path, because they’re challenges that you know you can ultimately beat!
- Change up your living space.
If you run a blog, or have ever ran a blog before, did you ever try to change your theme? That old one didn’t really match who you are now, and was starting to really look awkward, wasn’t it? So, even though it might have taken you four hours to customize your HTML, find the right cursor, rewrite your bio and choose your colour scheme, you felt much more at home in your internet presence, didn’t you? Well, try applying the same concept to your actual personal surroundings if you find that the outside isn’t matching the inside anymore. You wouldn’t leave your blog half-renovated, would you? So, attack that space, and make your new surroundings happen! My room, right now, is a complete mess, and to be honest I’m dreading cleaning it up, but I know that I will feel so much better once it’s the way I want it. If you’re having trouble stay motivated, invite a friend over who’s willing to help you (but not distract you!). It will be fun, and the work will get done twice as quickly. The end results will not only leave you feeling more comfortable in your surroundings, but inspire you on the rest of your journey of renewal as well.
- Switch up your look, if you’re feeling up to an external change.
Of course, there are many ways that you can go about doing this. By changing up your hairstyle, your wardrobe, your frames, wearing makeup, not wearing makeup, piercing something, whatever it may be, surface change can have just as profound of an impact as internal change. If looking your best helps you to feel your best, go for it!
You may want to make a change in your body that requires more effort and upkeep, but lasts longer. I’m talking about adopting a more active lifestyle to build a stronger body. While I don’t subscribe to the notion that there is only one type of “healthy” body, and I don’t support body shaming in any way, I do believe in making changes in your own body based on how you want to look (paired with understanding your own unique body structure), not how society wants you to look. And, along with this, I would strongly recommend that if you want to change your body, you do so in a healthy and empowering way, and I would discourage any destructive behaviours, which includes any negative feelings you may be harbouring towards your body. It can be a hard thing to conquer for some of us (myself included), but you have to remember that your body is your home and it will change at its own pace, a pace that will ultimately suit you best.
Gym memberships can get expensive, but that doesn’t have to stop you from obtaining the results you want. Again, YouTube is your best friend for effective and free fitness classes. Just last month, I started doing pilates following Cassey Ho, a personal trainer based in California. She founded the Blogilates community, which now has its own free app and access to a positive and supportive community of people looking to get fitter and stronger together. There’s a free training calendar that Cassey releases every month that you can follow. I’m already noticing changes in my own body after a little over a month of following her workouts, and it’s empowering to see myself grow stronger.
If pilates isn’t your thing, I would also recommend the Pump Up app, which personalizes workouts for you based on what you want the results to be and how much time and access to equipment you have.
Of course, you by no means have to work out if that isn’t something you want to do. I’m just taking the opportunity to share resources with you if you have wanted to start your own fitness journey but weren’t sure how to go about doing it.
- In accordance to changing your look, get inspiration from your favourite pop culture moments and books if you seek to reinvent your wardrobe.
I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. I just recently finished American Horror Story: Coven, and let me tell you, Misty Day is pretty much everything I want to dress like.
Well, that and The Juicy Fruits from Phantom of the Paradise, specifically in the scene when they open the Paradise.
Ugh! Hello, German Expressionism!
- Let music inspire you. Explore new sounds and return to old ones.
Again, pretty self-explanatory. I would recommend you venture out of your comfort zone. Be curious about genres you think sound interesting. You might love it, you might hate it, but either way you’ll have expanded your musical knowledge, so there’s no way to fail. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Art Rock (what else is new?), Blues, a little bit of Jazz, a little bit of Experimental, and some Acoustic Singer-Songwriter kind of stuff. In terms of artists, as usual, I’ve been listening to a lot of The Magnetic Fields, Foxygen and St. Vincent, but I’m also getting more into artists like Ezra Furman, Leon Bridges, Badly Drawn Boy, MGMT, Alabama Shakes, SUUNS, and Flo Morrissey. I’ve also rediscovered my love for Fleetwood Mac (thanks to American Horror Story) and Feist’s album The Reminder.
I also can’t get enough of the guitar textures on Thickfreakness by The Black Keys. Plus, it’s a great album in general, and helps keep me on track when I need to get work done.
- Find something that acts as a reminder of what you seek to accomplish.
This will be extremely beneficial if you find yourself in a time of major change in your life. You may come across some impasses where you may doubt yourself or lose motivation to keep going forward. The opinions of others may get in the way, or you might simply start to feel incapable. But please, don’t give up. I believe in you. You should believe in you, too. And for extra guidance, return to that one particular thing that made you choose this particular path at this particular time in your life in the first place. Remember what you felt. Remember that force of longing that drove you forward at the start of it all. It will also help to look at all of the progress you’ve made so far, and to know that you aren’t in the same place as you were when you first started this journey. Take a breath and keep going onwards.
- Get excited about this time of transition in your life, reap the rewards and personal victories along the way, and enjoy this time of new beginnings. You deserve them.
Photos taken from the following:
fridakahlo.org and pinimg.com