The people, the music, the potato skins.

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Two smiling faces greeted us next to baggage claim, and we soon found ourselves pulled into hugs, talking about time spent apart, how the days between when we'd seen each other last and then had been. It was late, and the day of travelling had been long and fraught with delays, miscommunications, and turbulence, but it felt good to be back home. Back in Victoria.

No, you didn't read that wrong. I said Victoria, and I meant Victoria. Victoria is where home is.

Our friends, Pete and Kim, picked us up from the airport very late at night when Brad and I arrived home from our trip to Halifax for the holidays. It was so wonderful to see friendly faces after an absolutely bananas day of travelling, and comforting to be back in our city. The four of us talked of our Christmas holidays as they drove us to our home, and while some of the tales were bittersweet (my last Christmas in the house that I grew up in, Brad's grandparents not doing so fantastically health wise) it felt so good to be home.

Since I moved to Victoria two years ago, I've still thought of Halifax as home. That's where I was born and raised, that's where the majority of my family and a lot of my friends are, that's where I had a life for twenty-eight years. But after this particular trip to Halifax, I realized that it's not really my home anymore. Yes, it's still a wonderful place, yes, it's I was born and grew up, made a lot of memories with a lot of people that I care about, but it's not home.

While I was in Halifax, I missed Victoria a lot. I missed my friends here, I missed my home and bed, I missed the places that I go, I missed my life. Two weeks is a long time to basically put your life on hold. And while we were happy to do it, and happy to see friends and family and spend the holidays with them, something was nagging on me the entire time.

Brad and I didn't have a whole lot of time to ourselves. Most of our time was spent with family and a few outings with friends. And though we didn't run ourselves stupid like we did last year, we managed only one day where we went into Halifax proper to check out some of our old stomping grounds. During that time, I realized that I didn't really miss Halifax all that much. There were a lot of things about being there that bothered me - the state of the downtown core, the transit, the fact that so many of my friends are struggling to find work, or struggling in the work that they currently do. Quite frankly, being in Halifax for the holidays broke my heart a little. Had it always been like this and I'd just never realized? Had I become one of those people who went away and came back only to scoff at how different it all is? I think it's far to say, it's probably a bit of both. I never wanted to be one of those people who left and changed their attitude on the place that they grew up, but there's a reason that it happens. It would be foolish to assume that living somewhere else for a little bit wouldn't change someone's perspective. It's not necessarily a bad thing, it just shifts the way you think about your hometown - you look at it through different eyes. Sometimes you need to.

That's not to say that we didn't have fun the two weeks that we were in Halifax. My goodness, we had a blast! We spent a lot of time with our families, something that we didn't do much of last year because we were running around trying to see everyone. We took a more relaxed approach this year, and it paid off. We had nights out with some of our best friends, we went to a hockey game, we got to watch the nephew open gifts only to be more enthralled with the tissue paper, got to see some snow, and relaxed a lot. It was a wonderful holiday, and everything that I could've wanted.

Halifax had served its purpose in my life. And while I'll never say never, I don't see myself living there again anytime soon. I used to entertain the idea of it, but now I really can't see it happening. Aside from friends and family, there's not much there for me anymore. And there will soon be even less, with my parents and sister moving to PEI this coming summer.

I've felt ever since I moved to Victoria, that I fit in better here. Though I definitely feel like an East Coast girl most of the time (especially when West Coasters make fun of how I pronounce "bar"), I feel like right now in my life, Victoria is where I belong. Any place ends up being what you make of it, and almost despite myself, I've made Victoria home these past two years.

I miss the people, the music, and the potato skins, but I don't necessarily miss Halifax. I didn't cry at the airport when saying goodbye to my parents as we got in line for security. Though I chalk most of this up to the fact that I was far too stressed to be sad (the airport was an absolutely gong show that morning and we spent an hour in a line to confirm our booking after it had been changed that morning). I haven't had a massive bout of homesickness like I did this time last year, where I fell into a depressive episode and struggled to feel like myself again. I don't suspect that I will this year. The novelty of Halifax has worn off for me. And though I still miss my family and friends deeply, I am so excited for the life that I have in my new home.

I always worried that anywhere I lived other than Halifax would never quite feel right, or feel like home. But now I realize that any place is what you make of it, and I've made Victoria my home, so that's how it feels. It feels right here. It feels like home.

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Holding My Breath.

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Working in schools has taught me of a fear that previous to seven years ago, I hadn't really given much in the way of thought to.

It doesn't happen as much in Canada as it does in the States (you know what I'm talking about), but I am always acutely aware of the dangers of working in academia. It doesn't matter that it "doesn't happen here," there could be a day when it does, and it's something that is always in the back of my mind, and ingrained in the way I handle situations or view things happening in my vicinity. What a world we live in where I feel the need to constantly be on alert for one reason or another.

My office traps me. I love the space I'm creating in it for myself (I'm still personalizing it after almost six months of working in it), but I am blocked in by a large desk that wraps around me at both sides, with the door more than five feet away. The window behind me doesn't open all of the way. I'm slim, but I don't think I can fit through it. I wonder if the space under my desk will protect me from bullets.

The other day, the professor that sits across the hall from me had an angry parent who wanted to speak with them. Voices were never raised, and it didn't escalate to a point where I ever truly felt that anyone was in danger, but the parent wouldn't leave, campus security was called, and the entire time I wondered "what if." The entire time I wondered what I should do. I opted for keeping my door open, and observing and listening to all that I could, just in case something happened so that I would be ready, so that if someone asked me for some reason at a later date what happened that I would be able to answer assuredly.

More than hour after the man was escorted off campus, and there was still a strange knot in my stomach, and lump in my throat, and a heartbeat that wouldn't settle.

I've been to training sessions and meetings since I began working on this campus shortly after I moved to Victoria almost two years ago. What to do in the event of an earthquake (new to me, as it's not something that happens on the East Coast), how to interact with students who are agitated, what to do when you feel threatened by a student, staff member, or a member of the public, what to do when a situation escalates and becomes violent.

I am glad that I've had this training, though I am loathe to think that it's deemed necessary this day and age.

With the recent attacks in France, Lebanon, Egypt, and Bangladesh, the world feels a little less safe. While out with Brad and a friend the other day, wandering through parts of populated tourist spots of downtown Victoria, I couldn't help but wonder "what if," even further. Canada is not immune to these attacks, and it's a wonder that it hasn't happened in my country yet on a grander scale than it already has (let us not forget of Nathan Cirillo and the ultimate sacrifice that he made). My heart breaks for the victims in these recent attacks and their families. I can't even put into words the sadness that I feel, but my heart physically aches.

I don't let it consume me, but every once in a while I feel frightened of the world that I live in. When I was younger, I used to believe that we were closer to peace than we ever have been. And perhaps we are, and that is mired in what a select few would sooner do to innocent people. There is a certain amount of "alertness" that one needs to possess as a woman, so often when we "dare" to venture out alone we're made to feel unsafe, but sometimes it all just feels like too much. I'm not immune to feeling a little bit on edge. I feel I've spent far too many moments of my life holding my breath, waiting for the moment to pass.

Sometimes, all I want is to breathe a little easier.

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"I'll stop making faces at you when you stop laughing!"

A few weeks ago, Brad and I had a mini photo session with local photographer, Lara Eichhorn! Over the summer, she is offering sessions to couples on the cheap, making her gorgeous and professional photos accessible to those who may not want to shell out hundreds of dollars for photographs, which I think is wonderful!

Aside from a number of "selfies" and pictures taking on ours and others' phones, Brad and I don't have a whole lot of pictures. After almost two years together. we decided that we should probably fix this. Despite the less than stellar weather, and the beginnings of a cold for Brad, the session was fantastic! Lara was so wonderful, and after a few minutes my nerves definitely began to calm.

Here are some of my favourites!

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If you live in Victoria, and want some stellar and professional photos of you and your person, Lara still has plenty spots open for her mini sessions over the next month! Check her out!

Blue skies are coming.

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I had thought that February was unkind to me, March turned out to be even worse.

I shall spare you the details, as they are extremely private and painful (though things have, in the end, worked out and steps are being taken in the healing process, and to ensure that it never happens again), though I suspect the small handful of people that read my blog know what happened. It wasn't just me that it affected - there were other people involved directly besides myself, and the weight of what happened was felt by all that are close to us. I feel like I would be doing everyone a disservice to everyone who this touched to mention exactly what happened in a public forum.

But it happened, and it was easily the worst two weeks of my life - and I do not say that lightly. There were many days spent crying, many nights spent sleepless ... and also crying. Some mornings I couldn't get out of bed, and every morning I woke up in the midst of a panic attack. I was the lowest that I've ever been, and considering my recent depression diagnosis, I felt everything that much harder. There were days that I didn't want to be alive. Not that I would have done anything, and I promised those close to me if I had the slightest inclination of wanting to hurt myself that I would get help, and it thankfully never came to that. But it didn't stop me from wishing on occasion that I simply didn't exist.

As difficult as those two weeks were, I learned so much.

I learned in the kindness and love of those closest to me - not that I didn't already know that, but for the first time in my life my parents weren't easily accessible when all I wanted was to go home and get hugs from them. We made do with phone calls, but it certainly wasn't the same as having hugs from two of the people I love most in the world. Two of my friends basically adopted me for two weeks, let me into their home, one of whom fussed over me on a daily basis akin to the fussing of a mother, and dragged me all over town with her, and let me cry and talk her ear off late into the night. She's a saint, and one of the most wonderful people I've had the pleasure of knowing.

Everyone who I encountered in those two weeks who knew of the pain I was going through was there for me in some capacity. No one handled me with kid gloves, and everyone had their own brand of "being there" for me - even people I didn't know that well. One offered her spare room in the event that I wanted a change of scenery from my friends' home. People offered their time when I knew that they were so very busy. I received a lot of hugs, tea, and candy.

I learned that I am truly a strong person.

People have always told me how strong I am, and I like to think that most times I am in agreement with them. There are very few things that I can't get through, can't do. But I certainly didn't feel it for a while. However, after three days of wallowing in sadness, I found my resolve, and I began to fight. I am just that - a fighter. I can't back down from something without knowing first that I didn't at least give it my all. I don't quit. I knew that if I just walked away from what was happening that I would never forgive myself. So when I felt a little stronger, I fought. I laid out everything on the table, made my thoughts and feelings known. In the end, it worked out in my favour, but it easily could not have as well. But after I did that, I felt so much better about the situation. I did what I could, and it was out of my hands, but knowing that I simply didn't walk away helped me so much. And while I'm so incredibly glad that things turned out the way that they did, even if they hadn't, at least I knew that I did what I could.

I'm credited with saving what I almost lost. Were it not for my strength, my desire and willingness to fight for something worth fighting for, I easily could have lost it, let it slip through my fingers. I could've let the hurt and betrayal consume me, and done little else. It would have been so easy to just lie down and die, as it were. But that's not for me. That's not my style. Few things that are expected of most people are. I was never one for conformity.

The pain, resolve, happiness, love, and gratitude that I have experienced in the past three weeks have been a stark and eye opening reminder. Though my depression is nowhere near to being gone (and I have made peace with the fact that it may be part of me always), the sadness, the panic attacks, and the restlessness have begun to ebb away. I have never felt more alive than I do right now. Though there are things and feelings that I feel like I am seemingly having to relearn because they were a a little damaged, it's a work in progress, and I've always felt my best when I am working toward something.

Through the hardest of times in our lives, even if things don't work out in the end, we get through it. We come out on the other side seeing the world in a whole different way - new sights, new sounds, new smells. I'd like to think that I would've come to this conclusion even if I wasn't in the position that I'm currently in, and I know that I would have, it just may have taken a little longer.

But no amount of words can express how wonderfully happy I am that I don't have to.

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The art of relaxation.

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Once upon a time, I used to excel in relaxation.

Putting my feet up after a long day of work, complete with comfortable clothes, a cup of tea, a book, movie, or TV show, used to be one of my favourite things to do. I'd usually be productive during this time as well, tidying up in some manner, folding clothes, sweeping the floor, giving the bathroom a quick wipe down, tackling an army of dust bunnies, or working on my writing. Yes sir, relaxing was something that I was really good at. And while most people don't find chores relaxing, I tend do. It gives me an outlet, with the result being maximum cleanliness!

But as of late, relaxing is something that I actually seem to fear. It forces me to do nothing, it forces me to be one with my thoughts. And if you've been keeping up, my thoughts are not something that I want to spend too much time with. Even if I am just sitting on the couch, watching something on Netflix, I'm also on my phone, playing games, refreshing Twitter and Facebook, trying to keep my mind from stopping.

The other night, while Brad and I sat on the couch, him playing a video game and me trying to keep my mind from wandering, I began to feel anxious. This sort of "you need to get up and go" kind of feeling. These feelings seem to manifest once in a while, though it was especially bad before I began taking my medication. I would need to go out every night for a walk to keep my heart from feeling like it was going to burst out of my chest. And last night was the first time in about a week or so I'd had that feeling. I always ask Brad if he wants to come on walks with me, and he always does, so I'm glad to have the company, and for the first few minutes we usually talk about how I'm feeling, what I'm going to do to feel better. Soon afterward, I'm laughing and joking and talking like I used to before all of this nonsense started taking place. Like someone who didn't always feel like Eeyore.

I know it's not true, but I can't help but feel that lately I am becoming boring. Which is one of my greatest fears. I worry that I am boring, that my friends and loved ones are bored of me, that I am unexciting and not fun to be around. I haven't done much lately, spending most evenings on the couch, trying to will myself to want to do something. It feels like there's nothing going on in the city, when really I just haven't looked hard enough. (Although conferring with Brad has revealed that it isn't just me, that the city has seemed to be void of things to do the past two months) But, didn't I used to be interesting? And lately I feel like I'm not. I feel like I simply exist. Which is excellent, but up until recently I felt like so much more. I feel like everyone else is doing something, which I know is not true. Most nights I'm sitting on the couch, the majority of my friends and family are also sitting on their couches. It's still winter, people are still hibernating (even if it doesn't really get cold or snowy here). Thing is, they can relax, and I can't.

So, I feel like I must always be doing something. Even when trying to relax. Relaxing isn't anything - it's nothing.

Relaxation used to be my reward after a hard day's work. But I feel that over the past few months I haven't done enough hard work to warrant relaxing. Taking it easy makes me feel guilty, anxious, like I'm wasting my time. Shouldn't I be doing something? My mind wanders to places where I'm an older version of myself, wishing I'd done something instead of sitting around doing nothing on an arbitrary Thursday night. Which is completely illogical, I know. There is very little chance that when I am older I will look back on my life with any sort of regret about the things that I didn't do. But it doesn't stop me from going there, from wanting to make the most of every possible second that I'm awake. And that's fine, but it's hindering my ability to wind down most days and nights. Because I feel like I've already spent the majority of my day winding down, so surely my afternoons and evenings should be spent doing anything else but taking it easy.

I've enrolled in a couple of courses that will give me something to do in the evenings after work. I'm doing Zumba on Saturday mornings. I've reached out to someone for counselling who I'm going to meet with next week. I've signed up to volunteer at the local Humane Society. I'm trying to get over this notion that I have in my head that seeing friends and doing things are for weekends only - they're for during the week too. I'm trying to fill more of my free time with stuff and things that are rewarding so that when I do relax, I don't feel so guilty. I'm trying to reclaim my passion for things that I used to do - reading, writing, creating. Our last apartment was not at all conducive to being creative, and our new place is, and yet I feel that I've not embraced things that I used to take pride and pleasure in. I am an interesting person, and lately I don't feel like I am. I really want to change that.

But, as wonderful as hobbies, courses, volunteer work, exercise, and filling my time with meaningful things all are ... I would love more than anything to simply be able to put up my feet and relax.

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