I live [here]

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Today marks my 29th birthday. I’ve spent the last month or so feeling less then my normal self – mysteriously down. And I think I figured out why. I cracked the case!

A year ago I was preparing to move to San Francisco and had no idea when I’d come back to London. I lived everywhere and nowhere. When I was in Toronto this past April, it sunk in, I don’t live there anymore. (Duh Nancy.) I’m not on holiday, I’ve chosen to build a life elsewhere. There is a certain bittersweetness there. But really, today with floods of texts, Facetime calls, Facebook messages, emails rolling in for my birthday, I am struck with the thought that some people live in a place, and I live in the world – a world where I have a  home in London and friends/chosen family everywhere. A heart spread over continents, oceans and in excellently decorated kitchens all over the world.

I feel that kind of loneliness you feel when you’re far…but also a kind of universal understanding and love with my global friends that is constant and assuring. I wouldn’t trade these feelings for anything. I wouldn’t trade this wacky life for anything. I can honestly say that the adventure keeps getting better and better and I look forward to this year’s adventure.

Thank you for being a part of the magic. I think 29 will bring some incredible opportunities, challenges and triumphs and I look forward to raising a glass with you, sharing a hug or a meal with you in some great city of the world sometime soon.

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Present like a boss

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I am so my mother’s daughter. I always forget until we spend time together. Professionally, she is a marketing consultant for professional firms (the exciting folks – lawyers, accountants etc.). She has given a workshop on presentations that work countless times. While sitting in final presentations for my masters degree yesterday I thought about a few tips for business school students or anyone who’s had to present anything ever. This isn’t my mother’s angle, but I’m sure we align in our thinking.

1. Stand still – find a stop and plant yourself there. Lean into one hip and shift your weight if you want, but don’t walk around – it’s distracting, unless it’s meant for emphasis, but then walk with conviction.
2. Stop touching your hair. Just STOP. Women don’t realize how much they fuss with their hair. It looked fine before you started presenting. It’s a habit, STOP IT! Your hair looks great, leave it alone.
3. Keep your voice up. We sometimes fall into a sing-song effect when presenting where we weave in and out with our volume. Read through your material and decide on specific words or ideas you want to stress and then build to those ideas and keep your tone consistent.
4. Slow down. You’re taking your audience on a  journey. Let them take it all in. It takes time to digest information/stats and insight. Don’t speed ahead – you want to move them along with you.
5. And finally – TELL A GREAT STORY. If your presentation is data driven, find a way to create a narrative arc to the information you’re presenting. It makes it more personal, compelling and engaging. You want to inspire wonder – even with the driest of material. Find a way to draw the audience in, either through key insights/findings or a personal story of how your data affects individuals. We are not robots (I hope), tell me a story.

I have watched so many presentations this year, and without a doubt, the ones that stay with me are the ones where they achieved all of these things. The people presenting also knew their stuff and had obviously rehearsed several times. Never go in cold. You’ll be nervous and your pacing will be off. You totally got this – just go in prepared.

Lonely teardrops

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Alright! In three weeks you can all call me a Mistress in Magic (Master of International Marketing – from HULT International Business School). I’m counting down the minutes till I can revisit my stuff in storage, resort my wardrobe and repack to move back to London in the Fall. Strangely, it feels like I’m getting ready to go home when I’ve only lived there for nine months. London lingers in my heart.

I don’t know if I mentioned previously about the loneliness I’ve felt adjusting to life in new cities with virtually no close friends… I know we talked about how to build a network, but depending on how you draw strength, find community and navigate foreign dating cultures it can feel like too much. I’m a sociable person, I make friends easily (most of the time), I am rarely want for company – but there are moments when you move that can seem infinitely silent, empty…lonely.

Those moments are natural and prove that you’re not a robot. You are moving at a pace where it’s difficult to find tenderness from others, you have to create it yourself. With that in mind, I thought I’d drum up a few suggestions on how to acknowledge and live through those lonely moments and maybe find some quiet resolve in that pursuit.

First things first…some questions to ask yourself:
Is this loneliness or previously ignored unhappiness and frustration?
Unhappiness and ongoing frustration might be better dealt with talking to a professional rather than reading a blog post by a schmo like me.

Did you drink last night?
Alcohol, shockingly, is a depressant and will likely make you feel tender, sensitive and sad for no reason. If you’re feeling particularly down, try drinking less and see if it makes a difference.

Are you hanging out with sad people?
My brother (who has some tremendous wisdom sometimes) says that you become who you’re hanging out with. If your friends are particularly negative, maybe try cultivating some friendships with more positive people.

Okay, once you’ve asked these questions, the next step is acknowledge how you’re feeling and let it go (as best you can). I have a few suggestions on how to cope in those moments that work for me. I encourage you to find what works for you though.

1. Be kind to yourself – don’t beat yourself up about bullshit that doesn’t matter. Chill out. Recognize you need some down time.
2. Be indulgent (within reason) – I buy myself nice flowers, or a modest but delicious meal.
3. Say affirmations or set intentions for a day/week/month – this may feel weird to some, but I find it tremendously helpful.
4. Identify your restorative friends – the ones who require no effort and are uplifting to be around. Call them and see if they are free for dinner or a chat.
5. If someone gives you a nice note or sends you a nice email – keep it, print it, whatever – read it if you’re feeling down. I find those notes grounding.

Take care of yourself and I hope to see you in some great city of the world soon. Until then, here’s some Jackie Wilson. Enjoy.

Saying ‘yes’ to adventure

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I had a great conversation with a friend about saying ‘yes’ a few weeks ago. I’m not talking about ‘yes’ to a specific person for something, I’m talking about ‘yes’ to an experience – be it a good time, or an experience that scares you.

If you were to take an improv class, they would teach you to say yes. If an actor says to you “here, hold my pineapple,” your response would be “sure, but this isn’t a pineapple it’s a bowl of sea urchins.” Or something like that. When you say no, you stop the action. You stop the flow. In my opinion, you stop the awesome.

Some of the best nights/experiences of my life came from moments of ‘yes’. Be at the back door of the Cameron House in 15 minutes to see Feist perform a light and puppet show – YES.

I bring this up because it’s another tactic to meet interested and like minded people in a new city. I am lucky to have lindy hop, cabaret and classic music as hobbies (sometimes they are more all consuming than a normal hobby, but you know what I mean). These activities give me instant community. You still need to work at it and work at your friendships, as I previously mentioned, but it definitely makes the quest for great people easier.

I know the lure of your couch is tempting. All I’m saying is, it’s better to regret the things you’ve done then the ones you didn’t. Or to put it differently, it’s better to sneak into that abandoned building to hear an amazing band play then to sit at home and watch CSI.

Looking for new hobbies in London? Timeout obviously helps you there and did you know that they keep those new year’s resolution guides up for most of the year?! You can find all sorts of fun stuff there. Here’s my obligatory shout out for swing dancing and lindy hop – I rarely have a bad night dancing and have met incredible people all over the world. I highly recommend it. I’ll go on about this another time, but there is my plug.

And a little Tegan and Sara for you on a Friday…

Playing for keeps – moving abroad and other musings

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I’ve been thinking about community a lot lately. How you build a life? Friendship requirements. Worthiness. I moved to London with a motley crew of acquaintances and find myself feeling more and more settled. I keep asking myself, “what’s changed?”

I’ve had a couple of friends ask for some tips on moving continents so here are a couple that seem relevant this week:

1. You’re never ready. You’ll repack your bag at least four times and you’ll forget at least five things. “Man, if only I had that *insert item of clothing/or piece of loved junk here*.” It’s ok. It’s just stuff, you can buy/sell/replace stuff. Or friends can bring it with them on follow up trips.
2. Take people up on their offers of friendship. If your cousin, friend, colleague, casual acquaintance, barista or dry cleaner offer to connect you with a friend or relative of theirs – TAKE IT! You never know. So and so’s bff from when they were 12 could turn out to be your fav brunch buddy in a new place. It’s like when you see someone knows people you know on Facebook. They are vetted and are less likely to be cray cray.
3. I know you hate ‘cold calling’ people, but get over it. Email those weak tie potential friends. Go to a Meetup and then judge whether or not you want to join from a corner in the bar. If the meetup is lame, make friends with the bartender (strategic friendship).
4. Put some work in. Friendships and business relationships take effort. You need to put some time and love into fostering that connection. Check in to see how people are doing by email, text or phone. Whether or not you can get together, it shows you’re thinking of them.

That’s my poetic waxing on a Friday friend. Be indulgent. Be kind to yourself take some risks. Here’s some ukulele music for you.