Journey Update: To Quit or Not to Quit

Il faut toujours viser la lune, car même en cas d’échec, on atterrit dans les étoiles.

~Oscar Wilde

(Always aim for the moon, then even if you fail, you’ll be among the stars.)

QUIT:

It’s a simple four-letter word, but when it happens, causes us an insane amount of distress, not to mention, inherent disapproval from our mothers and unspoken disappointment from our friends. It can be quite a dramatic event when we decide to quit something. “OMG! You want to leave your xyz!?!” Yet despite our guilty conscious, we’re not likely to pass up on a well-deserved quit. After some consideration, we quit schools, we quit jobs, we quit hobbies… we even quit people! Don’t like your job? Not happy in your relationship? No problem. Just quit! Toss that stress from your life! All power to you.

I’ll admit it! I’m a quitter. In fact, I’ve quit so often that it’s become kind of a past time of mine. As soon as something requires too much time or energy… *BOOM! “Peace out, mothaf*ckas” for example, I put together six memorable times I’ve quit something (or someone) and why I thought it was a great idea at the time:

  • High-school chemistry class (culprit: too difficult) *definitely had a major meltdown after this quit because at the time I wanted to become a sports doctor (I know, weird, right) and chem is a must-have.
  • Playing clarinet (culprit: stage fright) *my grade 9 teacher made us perform solo in front of the entire class for the final exam, which is basically a death sentence for an introverted-omg-my-hands-were-shaking-too-much-to-play-properly-despite-having-practiced-a-million-hours-beforehand-and-I’m-getting-anxiety-just-thinking-about-this teenager.
  • Teaching English in Japan (culprit: lack of inspiration) *there’s only so many times I can hear “see youuuuu” from students before I start to question my impact as a teacher. Haha… silly kids! o.O
  • Running/Swimming/Cycling daily (culprit: exhaustion) *I’ve always liked the idea of doing a triathlon. It’s definitely doable… it’s just so exhausting to train for. *newsflash*
  • Living at my parents’ house (culprit: not enough independence) *independently owned and operated since 2009, baby!
  • Numerous romantic relationships (culprit: all of the above… lol) *boys are weird and stupid. Duh.

Gosh! Now that I think about it, I’ve even quit this blog… it’s definitely been a year since my last post. Oops! Although, there’s nothing like a really good quit! It’s such a relief to let something (or someone) go after an intense internal struggle, and in return, focus on something/one new. I mean why continue putting your precious time and effort into something/one that starves you of energy and happiness!?! Seriously, what’s the point? If whatever you are pursuing doesn’t bring you satisfaction nor contentment, why struggle for it? Quit.

Just to recap for new readers, after I quit teaching English and left Japan in August 2015, I set out on a new adventure: to learn about the world of coffee, become the queen of baristas, and to eventually open my very own café with the aim of helping my fellow traveling souls. Simple enough, right? Hahaha, too bad that having dreams are a b*tch.

A year of wild globetrotting and hectic job searching passed by, and soon it was November 2016. After countless rejections, I finally scored a job at the French franchise: Columbus Café, finished a one-month training program in Reims, and started at the brand new café at the Marché Rungis in the suburbs of Paris. Life got crazy and I honestly couldn’t find the time to write since then. So, what has been happening?

Now it’s September 2017: two years since I parted from Japan and a year since I arrived at Columbus Café Rungis. I’ve returned to my old Canadian stomping grounds and have a little time to reflect on life in the coffee industry. To tell you the truth, I wanted to quit every day. E.V.E.R.Y.D.A.Y. Because working in France as a barista in a newly opened café is both a dream and a nightmare, and here’s why:

The Nightmare:

  • My boss: was, at times, very difficult to work with. You might have heard of the stereotype that the French are horribly cheeky, cynical, and haughty. Picture the flamboyant chef from The Little Mermaid. Obviously, this is an exaggeration, but as much as we hate to admit it some stereotypes are hidden under a blanket of truth and my boss was no exception to this stereotype français. Call it cultural differences if you must, but he thought it was perfectly normal to make jokes about my weight. If I munched on a cookie during my break, he’d chuckle and nonchalantly tell me to be careful of becoming fat because then our customers will stop coming to our café. He said it was just sarcasm after I called him out on his obnoxious humor, but still WTF, he totally overstepped our employee-employer boundaries. As for his pessimistic tendencies, he would refuse to acknowledge even our small victories; for example, one time I told him we raked in our highest revenue to date (which is a huge deal for a new business), another time I told him we sold out of our signature ice-teas, but he dismissed them with a “It’s nothing. We can do better.” I realize that keeping a business alive is astoundingly stressful, but you’ve got to have at least a sliver of optimism and positivity, or else you’re going to drown under the pressure and never feel content with your accomplishments. Above all, the hardest part of working alongside him was the shame in watching dollar signs gradually embezzle his sight. Because of his fixated concern of being financially successful, he slowly lost his love for the coffee world, shut out the joy being part of this world created, and became blind to its beauty of bringing people together. His obsession became so prominent that he kept tabs on the surrounding restaurants and would throw tantrums if he perceived them to be more successful than his cafe. Of course business is business, but when one’s happiness is fully dependent upon the amount of revenue coming in, one’s mood will inadvertently fluctuate like a middle-aged woman going through menopause.

 

  • My customers: could be critical at times. They were my ever-vigilant audience, and I their dancing marionette. Honestly, it was as if my every move was on display purely for their amusement, which undoubtedly, created an unhealthy cycle of stress, anxiety, and insecurity, which then, effected my work efficiency. Things got messy! If I changed anything about my appearance or if I looked tired or unhappy (heaven forbid), some of my customers would make a stupid comment about it. I couldn’t dress as I normally would and I dare not show my true emotions. Basically, I couldn’t be myself. So every hour on the hour, I felt the need to check and re-check my clothes, my makeup, and my smile, aiming for that delicate balance between sweet and sexy. In the end, it was rather emotionally taxing having to market myself all the time. “Dance, barista, dance.”

 

  • My experience: hadn’t always lived up to my expectations. Before I landed my first barista job, my mind swam with images of laboring in hipster-perfect cafes, alongside eager-hardworking coworkers, while making Instagram-worthy lattes, for my pleasant-considerate clientele. In reality, I worked at a café where coffee goes to die. Columbus Café is basically the “Starbucks of France”. Neither the baristas nor the customers cared how good ‘n tasty the coffee was, as long as it was served instantaneously upon ordering. So, there was no time or reason to add those pretty hearts and delicate flowers on top of our lattes. There was no time to explain the difference between brewing methods or the difference between coffee beans. “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” and frankly, no one cared. As for my coworkers, I personally watched 10 hired girls up and quit since the café’s inauguration (Nov 2016). I don’t blame them. Working as a barista can be monotonous as hell and the pay is abysmal. If you’ve ever worked in the food industry, you’ll know that we spend more of our time cleaning floors and scrubbing toilets than creating anything earth-shattering. We work afoot for more than 40 hours a week and come home with a paycheck that barely covers the rent. It’s a little disheartening. And then to top it all off, you have to deal with the ridiculous requests and expectations of our customers. “Can I have the cheese sandwich without the cheese?” “I would like an iced coffee with an ice-cube… just one!” “Oh are you closing in 5 minutes!?! Ok I’ll order a meal with a dessert and a coffee… for here.” Sometimes you have to laugh to stop yourself from crying.

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Of course, it wasn’t all horrible bosses and ridiculous customers.

The Rainbows & Unicorns:

  • My boss: despite his horribleness, relied on me to keep the café running even when he wasn’t around, and within 4 months, I was promoted to assistant manager. From taking inventory to balancing the cash register, my boss took the time to teach me almost everything about owning a café. When I first arrived in France, it took 6 months of job searching and countless rejections before I was offered this job. While other café owners were afraid to hire a foreigner, my boss gave me a chance.

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  • My customers: despite their ridiculousness, taught me about true French culture, and I don’t mean haute culture and hors d’oeuvres. The French, like most Europeans, are quite social, and in fact, they look for any opportunity to gather together and talk. Working the morning shift, I witnessed their longing for community come to fruition. Every morning without fail, people come together with one or two colleagues for a coffee. They talk about their families, last night’s game, and the latest political fiasco. It lasts only 10 or 15 minutes, but nevertheless they take a moment to connect with each other before they’re engulfed with the stress of work. There’s a real sense of community among the French, and within this connectivity is where the fantasized happiness truly exists.

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  • My experience: despite its disappointments, was a culmination of lessons learned, and were nothing short of extraordinary. It’s one thing to learn a theory at school, it’s an entirely different matter experiencing that same theory in the real world. For the past year and a half, I’ve had the pleasure of jumping head first into the revolutionized world of coffee. At first, I acquired a barista certificate from the Canadian Barista and Coffee Academy in Toronto and then additional latte art training from Café Lomi in Paris, Next I was also fortunate to pass a 1-month internship at Caffe Ficini in Rome, where I received my first ever behind-the-counter experience. And finally, I was hired as a barista at Columbus Café in the Marche International Rungis, and was quickly promoted to assistant manager after 4-months of very early mornings and hard work, all the while managing my café inspired blog and social media empire: Kaeru Domicile. Now with millions of espressos pulled, thousands of lattes poured, and hundreds of pages written, I’m left to ponder how incredible and once-in-a-lifetime these experiences actually were. I mean… I was on a billboard at one point. lol

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Quicker than I thought, my roller-coasting time in France has come to an end; a year and a half of nightmares, rainbows and unicorns. And now I’m left with the question: do I delve deeper into the café world in hopes of realizing my 生き甲斐 (purpose) or do I QUIT?

I know what mon amour would say, “TOUJOUR PLUS – ALWAYS MORE!”

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Quitting will never subtract experiences from your life. This accumulation of skills and knowledge will always be a part of you.

Journey Update: Three Days. Three People. Three Hundred Boxes.

It’s 3-o’clock in the morning and you can’t sleep. You lie awake in bed and absentmindedly listen to the late-night traffic outside. You hear a garbage truck and a few transport trucks drive by. You think to yourself, “Wow! It must be difficult being a garbage man or truck driver; having to be working at this ungodly hour.” But remember that there is a badass barista out there serving those motherfuckers’ first-morning coffee.

~ Coffee Thoughts

With Paris ahead and Reims behind, it was time for Life to offer me her newest challenge. And… oh my… she never disappoints!

I arrived at Marché International de Rungis on Wednesday (Nov 2nd) morning to find a mountain of boxes in front of the newly built Direction Coffee [aka Columbus Café & Co. Rungis]. Too curious to resist, I peeked inside the café – the smell of fresh paint and sawdust still in the air – and found it completely empty. No tables. No chairs. No coffee machines. Nothing. And then, I looked back at the mountain of boxes…

And so began Jonathan’s (my boss), Émilie’s (my co-worker), and my 3-days of blood, sweat, and tears of sheer frustration and exhaustion (all of which were had a plenty). Every table and every chair was assembled and arranged. Every cupboard and every fridge was stocked and inventoried. Every machine and every gadget was placed and programmed. Little by little, Direction Coffee began to transform into a functioning coffeeshop.

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On Saturday (Nov 5th), the entire staff assembled for the first time. One chef, one barista, two vendors, and the boss. Definitely a team of misfits, but with one thing in common: we all love to smile – a killer attribute for captivating customers. (No picture of l’equipe exceptionelle because we were too busy… you know… working.)

As if life wasn’t challenging enough, she presented us with another disastrous day to challenge through. Monday, (Nov 7th) was marketing day, and so, this team of misfits trekked around Marche Rungis to hand out free merch. Seems easy enough, except that life is a b*tch and decided to send us a snowstorm. And not the cute, fluffy, first-snowfall type of snow, but the shitty, rain-mimicking, slush-making kind. Urgghhhhh… THIS IS THE REASON I LEFT CANADA! Ten hours of walking through sleet with soaked shoes and frozen fingers, while towing thousands of mini muffins, gallons of Americano, and an infinite amount of Columbus-logoed thermoses… C’etait BORDEL ! [bordel (fr.) = disaster] The other five hours were spent cleaning and preparing the café for Opening Day. Yup! We worked a 15-hour shift with only 2 hours of sleep. Life is grand.

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Today [Tuesday, Nov 8th) was our official Ouverture. Killer coffee was made by moi and served by my cutie cute coworkers. We had Columbus’ espresso blend and an Ethiopian filter on tap in addition to hundreds of muffins, paninis, bagels, sandwiches, cakes, and various other pastries. Today was only a little bordel. We were missing a few things (a float for the cash register and apple juice for the smoothies), but all in all, the day was a success.

Seeing Jonathan go through this process of opening his first coffeeshop has been an exceptional and irreplaceable experience. I only moved the boxes into the café, but he planned, ordered, and organized their arrival. And placing orders is only the tip of the iceberg. Then, he has to overlook the hiring of staff and tackle the endless pile of paperwork that goes with that – bureaucratic bullshit at its best! Not to mention dealing with building leases, electricity bills, meetings with the architects/ electricians/ painters/ plumbers, etc., and non-stop calls from the Columbus head office. Opening a café is no easy feat – not in the least.

My hands are scarred, my body is bruised, and my mind is completely exhausted, but I have a little clearer idea of what awaits me in the (hopefully, near) future when I decide to open my own cafe. But for now, I’m beyond pleased to help Jonathan realize his dream of being a café owner. And together, we will forge a new path for Columbus, allowing this 2nd wave institution to become a 3rd wave phenomenon.

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My prized possession: Pink Lady

As always, thank you for reading and following me on my journey.

There is no “try”. Do. Or do not.

Want to see me in action with my Pink Lady?

Monday to Friday 3am to 9:30am

Direction Coffee [Columbus Café & Co. Rungis]

Halle  Bio – 3 Avenue des Savoies, 94150

Marché International de Rungis

Île-de-France, France

Journey Update: Doing Life the Hard Way et On S’en Bats Les Couilles

Tell them that this is the way it works, and I know better than them.

~Peggy: Mad Men S2E8

Panini poulet parmesan, s’il vous plait,” requested a customer. Being in job training for the past month, I knew exactly what I needed to do when a customer places this order – Into the Merrychef oven, the panini goes for 1 minute 5 seconds – the perfect amount of time to melt the cheese, warm the fillings, and lightly toast the bread.

On this day unlike any other, someone left the 15-tier cooling rack of muffins in front of the oven; not directly in front, but enough to create a slight inconvenience when opening the oven door. Feeling a little under pressure to serve the sandwich within a reasonable time frame, I quickly analyzed the situation remembering my co-worker’s infamous (at least to me) quote, “There are no problems. Only solutions.” Aha! Voila! It’s possible to fandangle myself in between the cooling rack and the oven with juuuuuussssst enough space to open the oven door and pop the pre-toasted panini inside. And so I executed the first solution that came to mind. A quick inhale of the stomach, a few awkward flailing of the arms, and an impromptu game of limbo later – slam! beep! beep! boop! – the deed was done!

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The scene of the crime: 15-tier cooling rack inconveniently in front the Merrychef oven

Feeling like the queen of the world, I began my victory dance only to be met by a wholly entertained chuckle from my fellow barista & trainer, Charlemagne who just so happened to be watching this whole fiasco go down. “You always do life the hard way, don’t you?” Then with the littlest of effort, he rolled the cooling rack away from the oven, leaving a large margin of space to manoeuver around freely; no limbo required.

And this, my friends, is how I approach life – attacking problems with solutions that seem convenient at the time, but require the most effort in the long run, not because I’m incapable of considering more convenient solutions, but because challenge & curiosity have been my dear companions for many years. That’s probably how I ended up where I am today – on an epic café journey around the world with very limited funds and resources… because why not!?! Why not take the road less traveled despite the gargantuan potholes? Call me crazy, but it’s the best opportunity to test your survival skills, and if you fall… just get up, dust yourself off, and look for other possibilities. What’s the worst that could happen?

And you? How do you approach life’s daily challenges? I have a feeling you take the road less traveled, too. 😉

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Columbus Cafe & Co in Reims

Just a quick update about what’s been going on in coffeeland chez Nicole.

 

As I mentioned in my last post, I found a job as a barista at Direction Coffee – a 3rd wave establishment (think hipster style café) – the brainchild of 2nd wave institution (think Starbucks)– Columbus Café & Co. This soon-to-be-opened coffeeshop is located in Paris’ Marché International de Rungis– the largest wholesale food market in the world.

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Columbus Cafe’s trademark muffins

However since the Rungis location doesn’t open its doors until Nov 7th, my job training was held at another Columbus Café franchise in champagne city, Reims (1.5 hour drive from Paris) from Sept 26th to Oct 29th. To say the training was an amazing experience would be an understatement. I mean…. just look at how cute my coworkers are!

AND Look at these 15 essential life lessons I’ve learned:

  1. A boss who micromanages is like getting popcorn kernels stuck in your teeth. They’re horribly annoying and it left unattended can cause major problems down the road.
  2. If you are stressed, I will be stressed. Bref.
  3. Sex jokes are the same in EVERY language. No subtitles required.
  4. Anyone can work a coffee machine, but not everyone can make a good cup of coffee.
  5. I can give quality work or quantity of work, but never both. I prefer to give the former.
  6. People are not always rainbow-pooping unicorns. Some people take advantage of your open trust policy, even to the point where they steal your stuff. Respect for people and their property is a lost virtue.
  7. For the first time in my life, I UNLOCKED MY BEAST MODE in public!!!! I used direct communication instead of passive aggressiveness in the face of a confrontation. It wasn’t so scary after all even in a second language. Take that, shy & awkward Nicole! Booya!
  8. I thought all French people were slim, fashionable, well-reserved, eloquent demi-gods… and then, I left Paris… o.O
  9. Customers are so weird and wonderful and the best part of my job.
  10. If you smile genuinely, 98% of customers will return your smile. The other 2% are those rainbow-less pooping non-unicorns.
  11. Being told “Your English is pretty good” by tourists is the most undeserving compliment I’ve ever received. But thank you, it comes naturally to me.
  12. There is nothing funnier than a customer tripping on a step and spilling a large hot chocolate and a large chocolate milkshake all over the wall and down the stairs… especially when the house is packed and the queue is out the door. Right, Charlemagne!?!?! 😉
  13. All of my coworkers can successfully serve non-French customers in English despite taking only a few English classes during their early school years. It’s kind of impressive.
  14. My coworkers at Columbus Café Reims are definitely the coolest cats in coffeeland. My heart shattered into a thousand pieces and I cried like a baby when I had to say goodbye to them… Ok… I was also a little tipsy at the time… but golly wow, it’s not every day that you work with lovely ladies & gents who start Disney singalongs at work et nous nous en bats les couilles!
  15. No one in France knows what a barista is.

So often when I tell people that I’m a barista, they have no idea what that means.I’m sure you already know, but just so you know…

 

What is a barista?

A barista is an artist and a scientist who just so happens to specialize in serving coffee. We create coffee (and non-coffee) based beverages, invent new recipes, design pretty latte art, and entertain customers (sometimes in multiple languages). At the same time, we taste, roast, grind, and weigh the coffee beans to precise measurements in order to create a formula for the perfect espresso. Yes, there is a formula. Then, we have to foam the milk to the perfect degree and texture. Throughout the day, we religiously check the temperature of the water/milk/pitchers/cups, the flow rate of water/espresso, and the grind/colour/taste of the espresso. If something is off, we must find the cause and change it. We aim for consistency and quality – A great cup of coffee. Every. Single. Shot.

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Moi in my barista uniform ready to make some killer coffee

What skills and knowledge are necessary?

Just a love of coffee and an eagerness to explore the world of coffee. As well, having a soft spot for people is always a nice touch because you kind of have to deal with them a lot.

 

Next Steps:

The leaves are changing colour and beginning to fall. Time to pack my bags and move on. I moved back to Paris on Sunday (Oct 30th) and start the next part of the journey at Direction Coffee tomorrow (Nov 2nd). Allez-y!

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN from everyone at Columbus Cafe

“Whatever makes coffee grow, I’m into that.”

~Karlos

Journey Update: Armand, Motherf***ers, & Nazi Panty Jokes

The greatest risk of all is to risk nothing at all

September 16, 2015

Japan adventures behind me; European adventures ahead.

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September 16, 2016

European adventures behind me; Paris Café adventures ahead.

What a crazy amazing fantastic phenomenal year it’s been!

I left Japan with this crazy idea to open a café for expats who love breakfast & coffee as much as I do, and decided to start my pursuit of knowledge in Europe. With help from my new-found friends and support from my friends back home (i.e., Canada & Japan), I explored most of Western Europe for 3 months, returned to Canada for a little bit, wandered around Paris for a few more months,  visited my family in Germany for awhile, and worked in Italy for another while. Each place I visited and each person I met taught me a little more about this awesome world and the beautiful people who live within it.

This past year, I had incredible once-in-a-lifetime experiences. I’ve wandered the streets alone at night, slept on couches of locals, drove with strangers, danced until the sun came up, fell in love, broke a few hearts, started a social media empire, learned a little more about myself, overcame my fear of being alone, witnessed institutionalized racism, benefited from white privilege, started some bad habits, started some more positive habits, ate sheep guts, became vegetarian (well… pescetarian because… sushi), took barista courses, received numerous job rejections, packed & repacked my bags, and seen some f*cked-up things, which I can only tell you about in person (and you must swear that you won’t tell my mother). #ZeroRegrets As of now, I have negative funds, but you know, money will come and go, but experiences last forever.

Fast forward one year, I’m back in Paris and ready to start a new chapter in my life; a chapter that is a little more stable. I will still be living out of a suitcase (because a traveler is always ready to move on without much notice), but this time I can hang up a few of my shirts and leave my toothbrush near the sink for more than just a few days. After 6 months of searching around [& running away from] Paris, I finally found a job as a barista & roaster at Café Columbus. Training starts tomorrow (Sept 26)…

行きましょう!!!

As always, thank you for reading and taking this journey with me.

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Original poem below.

Life is what happens while we’re waiting for life to happen.

Traveler

We come.

We go.

We wave hello.

We kiss goodbye.

Our lives are always in transition.

We climb.

We fall.

We explore paths untread.

We discover places unknown.

Our feet are always in motion.

We plan.

We get lost.

We miss trains

We get lost again.

Our hearts are always up for adventure.

We meet.

We share.

We sleep on couches.

We hitchhike with strangers.

Our bodies are always ready for a challenge.

We inspire.

We aspire.

We discuss together.

We ponder alone.

Our minds are always open to possibilities.

We dream.

We wanderlust.

We face uncertainty.

We overcome our fears.

Our souls are always yearning to know more.

“Don’t you miss your home?

Don’t you miss your family?”

“No,” we say

We travel the world, but we are never alone

And we are never lonely.

The world is our home.

Everyone we meet is our family.

With passport in hand and bags always packed,

We whisper into the wind,

“See you in the world.”

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Bringing the World Together, One Breakfast at a Time

I give you the light of Eärendil, our most beloved star. May it be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out.

Last Monday, I experienced a sensation I’ve never felt before. This feeling was so satisfying and at the same time enticing. No, it wasn’t physical or sexual; it was purely emotional; one that could only derive from a moment of reminiscence brought on by an act of kindness.

Every Monday, a man in his early-50s comes to my family’s house in Lübeck, Germany to do some gardening and landscaping. From his tanned skin and accented German, it’s not hard to tell that he’s not a local. In fact, he’s originally from Chile, but moved to Germany when he was a young man.

As is tradition when craftspeople (e.g., carpenters, landscapers, plumbers, etc.) work on your house from morning till evening, I prepared lunch for the gardener as a gesture of appreciation. Mama said to make him a sandwich, and curiosity had me researching “Sandwiches from Chile”, which brought me to a recipe for chacarero: thinly-sliced steak/pork, tomatoes, green beans, and chili peppers on a bun.

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He accepted the food offering with a simple smile and several moments later, he returned the empty plate with a simple “Danke”. Did he enjoy it? Did he recognize it? I wanted to ask him these questions, but I didn’t know enough German or Spanish to relay them.

Later that evening, he called the house, something he rarely does because he doesn’t have a mobile, and Mama translated to me, “He wanted to thank you for the lunch you made today. It reminded him of his mother’s cooking.” He hasn’t seen his mother for many, many years.”

I didn’t know whether to smile or cry.

The expat life might seem like a wondrous adventure to some, and it is… to some extent. However, we also have to assimilate into an entirely new culture (i.e., new language, new social etiquette, new living standards, new food, etc.), and this process can be quite stressful at times. Simple things like going to the supermarket or making a doctor’s appointment become 10 times harder. So, you can imagine the immense joy and comfort an expatriate feels when they come across something that reminds them of home.

THIS.

This is the feeling I want to share with weary travelers who are away from home.

How?

Let’s talk about my favorite meal of the day: BREAKFAST.

I. LOVE. Breakfast. Nothing makes me happier than waking up and stuffing my face with scrumptious goodies and washing it down with a freshly brewed coffee. Cereal, oatmeal, fruit, eggs ‘n toast; doesn’t matter. I love it all. Honestly, there are times when I go to bed with a smile because I’m looking forward to what awaits my tummy in the morning.

For me, breakfast is a yummy meal, as well as a symbol of new beginnings & connection. Every morning as a child, I would gather around the dining room table with my family, munching on bowls of cereal if it was a school day (i.e., Rice Krispies, Cornflakes or Cheerios because they are the cheapest and we didn’t have a lot of money, or Fruit Loops on VERY special occasions) or indulging in eggs, bacon, and toast if it was the weekend. Some mornings, one of us would be stressing about an upcoming school assignment; other days, we’d laugh nonstop until we lost track of time. No matter the traumas and tribulations that awaited us, we were gathered together as the sun rose to greet us; and once the last bite of breakfast was enjoyed, we would have the strength to take on the day’s challenges.

Away from home, my cereal bowl lays before me and the chairs around me remain empty, and as I pour the cereal and hear the melodic tap of each grain hitting the ceramic, I remember. I remember my family and the many breakfasts we shared together.

My café, 帰る [kaeru] Domicile will serve damn good coffee as well as damn good breakfast. And not just breakfast the way I remember it, but breakfast from around the world; so that every traveling soul has a chance to reminisce about home. This would be a dream come true.

I have a pretty good idea of breakfast & café culture in Canada, Japan, and most of Western Europe, but I still have much more to discover. At the moment, I’m wanderlusting fiercely for Jamaica, Brazil, Chile, Peru, the southern States, Albania, Morocco, Chad, Nigeria, Iran, India, Australia, New Zealand… just to name a few. It’s killing me to know what they eat for breakfast. And their coffee culture, is that even a thing there!?!

Stay tuned.

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Returning to the End of the Beginning

July 13, 2016: Arrived in Rome, Italy.

This is where I ended my 3-month European tour last year. It was the end of a grand voyage, but the start of a new journey. My bag is still packed and the journey continues. So, I pause in remembrance of that crazy adventure.

December 15, 2015

90 days. 11 countries. $5,000. 15 host families. 10 youth hostels. 2 fancy hotels. 1 night on the streets. Countless life lessons.

Totoro’s and my 3-month European journey has come to an end. I landed in Toronto last night, and the first words out of my mouth were, “F*ck, it’s cold!” I immediately met up with Alison, and she did what all best friends should do: gave me a hug, bought me a beer, and later on, got me piss drunk on Pinot Grigio. It’s good to be back.

It’s indisputable to say that this solo expedition was life-changing. Solo traveling does that. It challenges your physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual self. It teaches you to trust your instincts, to expect (and look forward to) the unexpected, to be open-minded to new experiences, and to re-evaluate your personal values and beliefs. And in return, you’ll learn to appreciate time, people, and purpose to a much greater degree:

1) Quality Time: I had so much free time; something I wasn’t used to. I spent hours upon hours alone and undistracted at cafes, restaurants, beaches, museums, and parks, and I LOVED it, and looked forward to this personal time. I actually had the time to taste my food, to enjoy my wine, to be hypnotized by art, music, and to meditate in nature. I did some serious soul searching; I thought about the meaning of life, analyzed how and why our society functions the way it does, and explored my favorite topic: the mind. When was the last time you had a chance to do that? Unfortunately, our society has many (clever) distractions to keep our minds occupied (e.g., consumer culture, entertainment, social media, over working, social pressures, etc.), and consequently, we lose the ability to reflect on life; we lose the ability to know ourselves; we lose the ability to feel and think genuine emotions and thoughts. We’re moving, but we’re not going anywhere. This trip will always remind me to use my time wisely. Don’t waste a second.

2) Genuine People: As much as I liked seeing the Eiffel Tower and the Coliseum, the best part of our journey was interacting with the locals as well as fellow travelers. I was fortunate to meet many incredible people. They weren’t incredible because of their jobs, skills, possessions, or physical appearance. They were incredible because of their approach to life despite their circumstances (e.g., heartbreaks, abuse, homelessness, poverty, terminal cancer, physical impediments, imminent death, etc.). They’ve been through hell and back, and yet, they are the most positive and compassionate people I’ve ever met. They are strong. They are brave. They are honest. They are full of life. Of course, they have their insecurities and worries, but that doesn’t stop them from learning about the world, making new goals and fulfilling their dreams. But more importantly, they never hesitate to give back to the world, and show love to others. I want to surround myself by these people. They are the light when you are in a dark place.

3) Purpose Driven: Of course, solo traveling allows you the time to recreate your perception of self and to meet new people, but then, you need to DO something. After reflection comes purpose. I still want to open a café in Japan. I want it to be a sanctuary for the traveling soul; for those who are curious about life. I want to listen to their stories and share in their experiences, and so, I’m going to learn more languages. Japanese, French, German, and Italian are at the top of the list, and I’m going to learn them through immersion. Seems impossible, but as my host in Berlin told me, “The easiest way to learn a language is to sit down and learn the damn language.” This is my 生き甲斐.

So in the meantime, I’m keeping my bag packed.

See you in the world.

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Journey Update: Sprinting Through a Marathon

Once I was 20 years old… I only see my goals. I don’t believe in failure. Cause I know the smallest voices can make it major… Once I was 20 years old.

They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade – But what if you’d rather make coffee? Chasing your dreams is kind of like that. You finally find that one thing that fills your soul and lifts your spirit. It’s your purpose, drive, destiny, higher calling, or whatever you want to call it. So inevitably, you pursue it like a dog chases a stick. Then Life, like the sick freak she is, sends you lemons when you’ve already invested in milk, sugar, and a coffee cup.

FIRST, LE DRAMA

At the end of June, life was finally playing in my favor. I scored a rendez-vous at a well-known Parisian café (talk about sweet deals), aced the interview, and was invited to return for a trial-run. (In France, new employees are given a trial run, which can last anywhere from one day to 3 months, wherein the employer can observe your work ethic, but can also fire you at anytime.) “Super! I’m set for my year in Paris,” I thought, “Just have to impress the socks off them at the trial-run.” In preparation, I went back to the café a few times to watch the baristas work, taking note of all the important service phrases and coffee lingo they used. In my mind, I was ready!

Then the day before the trial-run,…

They cancelled.

Just my luck, they hired someone else with more café experience, and I’m sure their lemonade tasted real good that day. Needless to say, I was devastated, and frustrated, and exhausted. (Siiiiiigh…. having dreams suck! *grumble)

So, I packed my bags, wrote a small (?) tantrum on FB, and ran away from soul-crushing Paris to my family in Lübeck, Germany.

I know. So melodramatic!

There I spent 12 glorious days recharging from and re-evaluating my 生き甲斐. (Siiiigh… damn dreams! *grumble) Spending 12 days with this awesome sista-from-another-mista also helped with recuperation. For the purposes of this article, I will call her Katniss [but with a C because of my tendency to match the first letters of the real & fictional names] because although she hasn’t killed anyone (that I know of), Catniss has the same level of badassery as the HG character; she isn’t afraid of anything. Only 11 years old, and yet she participates in triathlons just for fun; loves paddle-boarding, skateboarding, climbing trees, and unicycling; she’s also killer with a bow-and-arrow, speaks 3 languages, has traveled all over Scandinavia & Germany, cooks like a boss, and quit the Scouts because they weren’t badass enough. Oh yea, and she loves dragons. This chicka is fierce! Honestly, where was she when I was a kid!?!?!

Needless to say after a week and a half of romping around town/the German wilderness with Catniss, I’m feeling relaxed, motivated, and ready to take on the world. But first, some heartfelt appreciation.

THANK YOUs

After my slight (?) FB outburst of failed dreams and general disdain for having dreams in the first place (Siiiiigh… those mf dreams! *grumble), I was moved by your steady outpour of pure empathy, generous assistance, and wildly good advice. From someone who battles with depression and who thinks traveling alone for a long period of time is a good idea (I honestly don’t know where i get these smart (?) ideas), your words are the light when I’m in a dark place and the hand that reaches out when I’ve fallen down. I’m truly thankful.

Of course, I won’t name any names because you know who you are. Well…, I will name one name for the sake of his future success. My dearest friend, Reginald, who for some reason wouldn’t let me refer to him as Renly ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (Why? I don’t know.), gave my resume a proper makeover. Honestly, it’s gleaming! Ergo, to all of his future employers and clients who are google stalking him atm, you can rest easy knowing your resume/your trust is in the right hands. He’s DA MAN!

NEXT STEPS TOWARDS WORLD DOMINATION

So, about my dream/purpose/whatever. (Siiigh… stupid dreams *grumble). What to do!?!

  1. At this very moment, I’m on my way to la bella Roma (34 hours via bus & train from Lübeck because I have no money) where my dear friend Sebastien graciously set up a-can’t-miss opportunity for me. I will spend the next two weeks learning to make Italian coffee in an Italian café in the traditional Italian way. Thanks for the coffee beans, Life! By the way, I can’t stress how awesome Couchsurfing is. I met Sebastien through CS. So if you want to globalize your network for free, CS = international connections.
  2. After a short jaunt in Rome, I will stop in Basel to visit my dear friend Pascal & his family, and to celebrate National Switzerland Day. I also met Pascal through CS.
  3. Then, back to Lübeck for the rest of the summer to help my famjam with landscaping & gardening whilst admiring Catniss’ badassery and learning Spanish from their Chilean employee. (I never realized how little Spanish I knew up to this point. Little as in two words – I’m sorry Spanish speaking friends. I should have made more of an effort to learn from you.) I’m also thinking about asking the owner of ONE Fairtrade, Aykut, if I can volunteer in his café for a few hours here and there. Italian coffee. Check. German coffee. Check.
  4. At the risk of wasting a 1-year visa, I’ll head back to France before the end of the summer. Either I could return to Paris and give it another shot or my dear friend Katriona has a friend who lives in the south of France and might be able to introduce me to a cafe there. Small town living or big city dreaming. Who knows? We’ll see.

Either way, I need to learn to take life as it comes with its highlights and lowlights, enjoying each day for what it is. Nothing more; nothing less. Pure contentment. No point in sprinting through a marathon.

Now back to my duoLingo studies (i.e., French, German, and Italian for logistical reasons, and Portuguese <– this one is all my Brazilian friend’s fault; obrigada, Brazil [his nickname – long story]). I’m still waiting for Japanese to become available, but either way, I will shamelessly advertise for duoLingo when learning une autre langue. First introduced to me by Dante, it’s free and fantastic; great for vocab acquisition & review, listening & speaking practice, and translating to & from English. And when you want to learn every Portuguese swear word, I’ll hook you up with Brazil.

Manda ver! [Bring it on!]

Challenge? Yes, please.

~Nicole Snobelen (owner of clothing brand, Evelyn by Nicole Snobelen, founder of The Abby Fund & one of my greatest cheerleaders)

A SHORT BUNNY TRAIL WITH LONG CONSEQUENCES

BLM vs ALM

As much as I like to poke fun of the #AllLivesMatter & #BlackLivesMatter dribble that I see on my FB Newsfeed, this racial war is deep-down not about the labels. [I talk about the dangers of label use in more detail in another post here] Whether you call it #ALM or #BLM, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that the people whom #BlackLivesMatter are representing are suffering because they’ve been mistreated by our blindly oppressive society for far too long. Therefore, contrary to its name, BLM is not about a division or supremacy of race. It’s an outcry for help, and we, people of privilege, need to do something about it because we are the ones with the blind power.

Don’t believe me? Today, I went through the national border between Germany and Switzerland, and even though I didn’t show my passport to the guard (because I absentmindedly left it in my luggage under the bus), he let me cross with a simple, “Oh, no problem!” No one else was offered the same leniency. THAT, my friends, is #whiteprivilege.

Ergo, please don’t get distracted by the labels when you are forming/expressing your opinion about BLM or ALM. It’s not about you and your self-pity of being unfairly perceived of as racist oppressors (even though we unknowingly are). So please don’t pretend that you are the victim.

If someone fell in front of you, you wouldn’t dismiss them because you don’t like the brand of their shirt. Would you!?! You would help them because they are hurt. It’s not about you and your perceived taste in shirts. Simple.

Thus the next time I see ALM or BLM hashtags followed by some pathetic whining about the unfair judgement against the privileged party or undeserved justice of the marginalized party, I WILL cross the nearest ocean, find you, and I WILL hug you…

…and hug you

…and hug you

…so tight

…until you swear to be more empathetic and less of a self-seeking victim (I would use another word, but I promised my father I wouldn’t swear as much in my blog).Yes, I just threatened you with hugs.

That, or I will team up with my culturally diverse & representative social media hounds and hunt you down. *cough Chris & Larisa *cough [Oh wait! You need cool GoT names.] *cough Sandor Clegane & Lyanna Mormont *cough

As always, thank you for reading.

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What’s in a Name? Living Life Without Labels

That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
~William Shakespeare

PART ONE: WHAT’S IN A LABEL?

Take a look at this picture.

What comes to mind?

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credit to Ben Hoffman

Like me, you probably came up with a bunch of labels for him (e.g., man, young, Caucasian, dark blonde, attractive, punk/alternative, etc.). We put him in a little box, slap on the appropriate labels, and tie it with a nice little ribbon. Done.

We. Love. Labels.

Yes, the fashion kind, and also the people kind.

It goes without saying that labels make life so much easier.

Of course, some labels are necessary for our survival. For example, “My brain has recognized this piece of sushi as food, which will nourish my body so, I shall eat it” or “my brain has determined that the approaching object is a car, which can injure me so, I shall not cross the street at this moment.” But for the purpose of this article, I will only discuss labels that we associate with people.

Of course, people labels have a purpose.

They give us identity:

  • I am a vegetarian.
  • You are a Catholic.
  • He is a homeless person.
  • We are Canadian.

They tell us how to (and how not to) behave:

  • Vegetarians never eat meat.
  • Christians always go to church.
  • Homeless people will happily accept any donations.
  • Canadians are always polite.

Labels help us to comprehend complex concepts by simplifying them into easy-to-follow check boxes of attributes, and subsequently, depositing them into an appropriate mental category (e.g., vegetarian, Catholic, feminist, Canadian, etc.). Ergo, we can efficiently and effectively make decisions about any external stimuli (i.e., people) according to how many check-boxes it crosses off and which label we’ve subsequently thrust on it.

Easy-peasy-nice-and-easy.

 

PART TWO: JUDGEMENT PASSED

Within a split second, we observe the behaviour and physical features displayed by the person in question, and then, we assess when they deserve (or don’t deserve) a particular label. Of course, being our own worse critics, we use the same method to judge our own inclusion to a group. In return, people labels dictate how we think of, feel about, and behave towards others.

Don’t believe me? How would you react to the following people?

  • Even though I identify as vegetarian, I ate some chicken.
  • Even though you identify as Christian, you don’t attend church.
  • Even though he identifies as homeless, he rejected your donation.
  • Even though we identify as true blooded Canadian, we can’t stand the cold.

In the above cases, we would probably judge them as hypocrites, undeserving of their labels. Most of us would just laugh off these situations, but some of us might even act a ittle negatively towards them. I know because I’ve experienced all of them.

But…

What if I told you that…

  • the vegetarian ate the chicken because their friend, with their limited funds and unknowing of the friend’s dietary preferences, prepared a meal for them in honor of their newly formed friendship?
  • the Christian feels unwelcomed when they attend church because their beliefs don’t seamlessly coincide with the beliefs of the congregation?
  • the homeless person didn’t accept the food because they have an allergy to an ingredient in the food offering?
  • the Canadian has a physical condition that makes it difficult to regulate their internal body temperature?

Without even realizing it, people labels have influenced our perception of self (thought), limited our empathy (emotions), and allowed us to excuse our and other’s douchebaggery (behaviour). Herein lies the problem of using a simple method of categorizing on more complex situations.

 

PART THREE: OBSESSED WITH PUNISHMENT

We also LOVE to punish people for their labels. We point our fingers and do the victim dance, “He did it! He did it! He did it! PUNISH HIIIIIIIIM”

Recently, social media has been inundated with labels, used to condition the public’s reaction (i.e., the Stanford rape and the Orlando massacre).

  • Stanford all-star male swimmer raped unconscious girl
  • Islamic sympathizer assassinated LGBT party-goers

Like trained seals, the internet ate up these labels and went wild; some cheered their behavior while others condemned it. But most of these judgements were based solely on the labels associated with the culprits.

For Turner: He’s a young, celebrated Stanford swimmer

Against T: Great! Another white male overstepping the system.

For Omar: Damn those homos! They deserved it.

Against O: He’s a homophobic, ISIS sympathizer. Nuff said.

However, T & O’s only crime was getting caught in the label war. What about all the other acts of hatred that go unpunished? What about seeing people as simply people? We’ve become so preoccupied with dancing the victim dance and dealing out just consequences that we’ve forgotten to step back and apply some empathy.

 

PART FOUR: WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH EMPATHY

What is empathy? Check out this video [here] if you’re unsure.

Empathy requires a conscious intention to:

  1. Take another’s perspective
  2. Stay out of judgement
  3. Recognize their emotions
  4. Communicate your recognition

We refuse to empathise with T & O because we’re afraid it will come across as accepting their behavior and devaluing the victims. I think we are confusing sympathy and empathy. Please note that expressing empathy does not in any way excuse people from the consequences of their behaviour. After all, we live in a civilized society: you do the crime, you pay the time. As well, it does not shift empathy away from the victims. I, like most of us, spent days crying, reflecting, and empathizing for the victims of Stanford and Pulse. Some of us have even been in similar situations.

Empathy is simply a method of thinking, separate from emotions & behavior. T & O did not exhibit any empathy before, during, or after their crime, but why?

When you choose to elicit empathy, you put your own emotions, judgements, and agendas on hold and consider the situation from all possible perspectives. When you practice this thought process more and more, you’ll become a bit more objective, and a little less punishment obsessed. Perhaps you will even discover the underlying reason that the unwanted behavior occurred in the first place.

Let’s practice!

Turner:

  • He lives in a society that coddles young, white males
  • 20-year olds think they are invincible
  • Media is saturated with oversexualized, submissive images of women
  • Sexual consent is not taken seriously
  • The victim should be able to drink in a safe, respected place without fear of being taken advantage of
  • He believed that his own enjoyment was more important than showing compassion
  • His sentence was considered unfair, yet thousands of marginalized youth are disproportionally incarcerated by this “fair” justice system
  • We want his sentence to be longer, but that’s like putting a band-aid on a stab wound; it won’t put a stop to ALL future occurrences of sexual assault
  • He’s insecure and was taught by society to find one’s value in external sources and prove that value to the world

Omar:

  • He was a closeted homosexual
  • His father has publically admitted homophobic views
  • Homophobia is a real issue
  • The victims should be able to socialize in a safe, respected place without fear of being taken advantage of
  • He believed that his own opinions were more important than showing compassion
  • Americans can purchase and wield a weapon without a licence, training or background check, yet cars (road weapons) are a different story
  • The common factor in all socially unstable individuals is a lack of emotional support
  • Males are encouraged to express aggressiveness and repress their emotions
  • He’s insecure and was taught by society to find one’s value in external sources and prove that value to the world

As much as we want to believe we are the innocent victims with the rightful culprit in handcuffs, we’re forgetting who created the environment for these crimes to happen. We are in fact the culprit, too. Shouldn’t we dole out punishment to ourselves? We created this label war; this method of appraising each other’s value; this system of intolerance, superiority, disconnection, anti-socialism; this unspoken doctrine that says “My views are more important than yours”. And then, we act so damn surprised when someone plays along and forcibly act out their opinions.

Imagine if T & O had one person to turn to about their insecurities and that one person simply reached out to them and said, “I’m glad you talked with me. I know how you’re feeling. You might feel like you’re not enough, but you ARE enough. You are valued for being you.”

“Love with your whole heart even if there is no guarantee. Practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror. Believe that you are enough because then, you will stop screaming and start listening. Once we believe that we’ll be kinder and gentler to those around us and to ourselves.”

~Brene Brown

 

PART FIVE: LIVING LABELLESS

Now.

Consider people for the sole fact that they are people, and look at what happens when you take away their labels.

  • The vegetarian [The person] ate the chicken because their friend, with their limited funds and unknowing of the friend’s dietary preferences, prepared a meal for them in honor of their newly formed friendship
  • The Christian [The person] feels unwelcomed when they attend church because their beliefs don’t seamlessly coincide with the beliefs of the congregation.
  • The homeless person didn’t accept the food because they have an allergy to an ingredient in the food offering.
  • The Canadian [The person] has a physical condition that makes it difficult to regulate their internal body temperature.
  • The Stanford all-star male swimmer [The person] raped unconscious girl [another person].
  • Islamic sympathizer & closeted gay man [The person] assassinated LGBT party-goers [other people].

Look beyond the labels. Search for the person of value within; a person worthy of empathy; a person responsible for the effects of their behaviour.

From now on, when people ask, “Are you x, y, or z?” I will say “No, I am labelless, and still a valuable member of the human race, deserving of your empathy, and unexcused for my own douchebaggery.”

It’s as simple as that.

帰る [kaeru] Domicile Café welcomes the labelless.

Searching for Value & Contentment

*Before you begin reading, be aware that this isn’t a story to entice sympathy. My only wish is to pass on knowledge.

Value [‘vɶl yu]: worth, merit, importance (n)

Part l: Searching for Value

*NEWSFLASH*

I have imperfections. Real, debilitating imperfections.

I’m a chronic avoider, and not only do I avoid people and situations that make me uncomfortable, I’ve used my poor ability to communicate as a crutch for continuing this bad habit.

Naturally, it’s a “genetic” condition. I come from a long line of avoiders and poor communicators, stemming from years and years of religious fanaticism, unhealthy relationships, abuse, and unstable perceptions of self-esteem.

Don’t worry! I wasn’t abused nor neglected during my upbringing. Not at all. I know my parents love me and each of my siblings, and they did their very best to raise us to be kind, respectful, caring individuals.

We were just deprived of something we desperately wanted: verbal validation of our self-worth. We wanted to hear “you are important”, “you matter”, “we’re proud of you”, “we love you”, but these verbal confirmations of efficacy were few and far between.

I mean, it makes sense why this happened. Despite my father being the quiet breathing soul of our family, using his wisdom and intellect to keep us grounded, and my mother being the compassion beating heart of our family, using emotions to keep us together, they both came from families of avoiders and poor communicators, and being exposed to this type of upbringing, they unintentionally continued the vicious cycle of avoiders and poor communicators.

Want to know what happens to a family that lacks expressiveness!?! Despite being deep down loving & caring people, they develop weird quirks:

 

  1. My older sister has the tendency to be a domineering competition-seeker, challenging those in opposition of her.
  2. My older brother, at times, is an introverted recluse, speaking only when spoken to.
  3. My other older brother tends to be a homebody, constantly needing mother’s approval.
  4. I am “forth and forgotten” absentmindedly moving to the beat of my own drum and using travel to further avoid problematic people and situations, but labeling it as “seeking simplicity”.
  5. My younger sister is a confrontation-adverse artist, lacking the gumption to go after success.

Yet, my family is in no way unique. Who doesn’t have “The Domineering One”, “The Recluse”, or “The Mama’s Boy” in their family?

Me: “Our family is weird and we suck at expressing our true feelings.”

My father: “Congratulations! You just described every family in the world.”

Here’s the problem: We are searching for validation in the wrong places, and so, our weird quirks (i.e., our behaviour) are overcompensating for our lack of self-worth.

Of course, it’s natural to seek affirmation of one’s worth from one’s parents. Everyone does it intentionally or unintentionally. Yet if we don’t get enough from them, we seek validation in our other relationships (romantic & platonic). Subsequently, if we still don’t feel adequately valued from our personal relationships, we look for confirmation from our circumstances (i.e., our status, physical appearance, possessions).

This dependency is very dangerous. In extreme cases, this dependency is used to control marginalized groups.

We will never find our value in an extrinsic source.

Answer honestly:

  1. Do you have less value because your parents don’t affirm your self-worth? [No, you don’t.]
  2. Do you have more value because you’re in a romantic relationship? [No, you don’t.]
  3. Do you have more value because you have children? [No, you don’t.]
  4. Do you have less value because you don’t get along with your coworkers? [No, you don’t.]
  5. Do you have more value because you believe in a deity? [No, you don’t.]

Our value is not defined by our relationships.

Here we go again:

  1. Do you have more value because you travel? [No, you don’t.]
  2. Do you have less value because you don’t look like a model? [No, you don’t.]
  3. Do you have more value because you’re the CEO of a multi-millionaire company? [No, you don’t.]
  4. Do you have less value because you don’t have the latest iPhone? [No, you don’t.]
  5. Do you have less value because you failed that math test in 6th grade? [No, you don’t.]

Our value is not defined by our circumstances.

We have value, simply because we are.

Contentment [kən’tɛnt mənt]: modest satisfaction; the ease of mind (n)

Part ll: Searching for Contentment

So, we’ve determined that our value is intrinsic.

We repeat to ourselves “I’m awesome sauce” and we go on living without insecurities.

Ha. Easier said then, done. Amirite.

We’re feeling awesome sauce until someone prettier, smarter, richer, cooler, funnier, [insert insecurity-causing quality] walks by.

Oh dear. We need to reel in our high expectations and put them in check.

Society has a prescribed recipe for success, and until you achieve this ideal, you will never experience true happiness. Hands up if you’ve thought any of the following: “I will be happier when I’m 10 pounds thinner”, “I will be happier when I make more money”, “I will be happier when I’m in a relationship”, “I will be happier when I’m more outgoing”, “I will be happier if I look more like (insert idolized person).”

Prepare for a sh*t storm of dissatisfaction, my friend.

Here are the problems:

  • Comparing ourselves to society’s ideal is bullsh*t. Even if we get closer to this ideal, it will always change, making it an impossible goal to achieve.
  • Pursuing happiness is bullsh*t. You will never be happy simply because you think you don’t deserve to be happy. You haven’t earned it yet. You devalue yourself for not having the prescribed attributes. And thus, your circumstances will always disrupt your emotional balance, creating an endless cycle of unhappiness.

Recently, I wrote down a list of “What I Want in a Relationship”, which should be rightfully renamed a list of “Unrealistic Expectations that [I Think] Will Validate My Association with a Romantic Partner”.

I had 10 seemingly well-thought out items on this list, ranging from “someone who I can create common goals with” to “someone who is hot AF with Class A style and eyebrows on fleek” (half kidding about the latter (。•̀ᴗ-)✧ ).

OMG. Don’t. Ever. Do. This. It ruins relationships. Trust me.

I created my own recipe for happiness. I thought, “Until all 10 items are checked off my list, I will not be truly happy in my romantic relationship.”

I’m an idiot.

So if I meet someone who only ticks off 9/10 items, oh too bad! They will NEVER make me happy. *pushes them off a cliff.

See the danger of putting your happiness in the hands of others!?! It puts extraordinary pressure on your [potential] significant other, and will surely leave you in a hysterical mess.

Now, take a moment and ask yourself, “Am I content?”

Wait. Isn’t contentment a synonym of happiness!?!

The difference: Happiness is a fleeting feeling that ebbs and flows like the tide.

Contentment, on the other hand, is constant state of being.

Seeking contentment requires the simple act of admitting you’re satisfied. Your fundamental (physical, emotional, psychological) needs are being met, your expectations are in check, you deal with problems calmly & fairly, you love others simply for who they are, and you do not feel compelled to desire more. Life is good. Just as it is.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue your goals, have new experiences or try to be a better person. Not at all. It just means when new opportunities come around, remember that they won’t add or lessen your value, but instead, just be grateful for their occurrence. Likewise if new opportunities don’t come around.

 

Moral of the story: seek a constant state of contentment in yourself rather than happiness.

And don’t forget: You’re a person of value simply because YOU ARE.

Bisous.

 Kaeru Domicile Café: A place of comfort. A place of contentment.

 

Journey Update: Proud & Panicking

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

John Lennon

Last week, life turned a little brighter. I had a series of job interviews with a host of cafes in Paris, thanks to hospo.jobs and coffeepeoplefrance, and there was one barista possibility that particularly caught my eye.

But here’s the catch: I need to renew my visa before they give me a job offer.

So now, the panic ensues. It’s me versus the French government, and time is not on my side. In fact, I have 22 days to renew it before it expires.

I have most of the paperwork in order:

  1. passport
  2. visa
  3. residence card
  4. photo id
  5. birth certificate (sent by my ma via xpress post. Merci, mama!)
  6. health insurance
  7. bank statement
  8. CV & lettre de motivation

[By the way, I’ve never been so thankful of being Canadian as I am now. When applying for a French visa, all documents need to be officially translated into French. Newsflash: Canada is a bilingual country, which means documents are automatically written in English & French, saving me a ton of time and money.]

The last thing that is creating the most panic is securing an appointment with the Prefecture de Police (i.e., immigration office) to give them my paperwork. My housemate and I tried calling and emailing, but haven’t received a response. I guess the last resort is to show up without an appointment and see what happens.

Fingers crossed.