The Year of Me

Year-of-Me

Apologies as I have not posted in a while, life has been crazy and I have moved to this fancy new website! I don’t usually do personal posts but I felt the urge to share recently. I feel like talking about the quality of life and how each individual has the choice of making the most out of life.

This post might lean more towards the cliché so if you aren’t about that, now is your cue to exit. Now you’re asking what can I, a 25 year-old woman, tell you about living and life? Truth is I can’t tell you anything for sure, I’m still figuring it out for myself. But what I can tell you is that the last few years have been hard.

I have struggled with anxiety and insecurity but in this last year I have overcome so many obstacles and proven my strength, to myself and others. I have become healthier, both physically and emotionally and I’m back to my overly optimistic self. My favourite thing to say over the last year has been, “I’m just being Miley”, from the Miley Cyrus song “See You Again” (I’m not even really a fan but the saying somehow suits how I’ve been living for the last year).

Looking back I realize for a period of time I wasn’t myself. Letting people into your life is a risk, a risk we make almost every day. It’s a risk that can change you for better or worse. For about two years after I graduated high school I felt like I needed a boyfriend, I craved that kind of affection. I became obsessed with finding someone to fill the void and I did something very unlike myself; I found someone and became so dependent on them that I forgot who I was.

After taking some time to put that behind me I started to find me again. The clock struck midnight and I have turned back into my confident, independent and wonderfully optimistic self and I could not be happier. So you want to know my trick? I have been single for about a year and a half now, it hasn’t exactly been by choice but I think it has been for the best. Basically, I am writing this to tell you what I have learned in the past year and a bit of being with my true soulmate, me (and maybe my sister).

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The Year of Me

Fierce Females: Nicole

Nicole

What is it that empowers you most?
I love feeling like a capable, independent woman. Sure, I still live at home (I’ve been in university for 5.5 years, and I have 3.5 to go!), but I was raised to take care of myself. It was never my goal to meet a rich man who can also lift heavy things for me! I am instead empowered by my education and future career which will allow me to be independent; I am empowered by my physical strength and endurance; I am empowered by my integrity.

What is it that you love most about yourself?
As someone who has spent most of her life on self-improvement, this is a tough question! However, I guess I can say that is exactly what I do love about myself–I work hard to do well at the things that I love, because I love them.

What makes you feel most beautiful?
This is a tricky question for me, as it is for most women. As someone who struggled for too many years with disordered eating and self-image, I am all too aware of my love-hate relationship with my body. But it is honest of me to say that I feel most beautiful when I am dirty and makeup-less–after a hard run, ideally in a bit of mud too! It is then that I feel physically capable, and valued for it, rather than valued for my body and makeup.

Who is your biggest role model and why?
I always struggle with “role model” questions. Not that there aren’t great female role models out there, but I suppose I would simply rather not completely identify myself with someone else. We’re all unique, and we’re also all flawed. Perhaps it would be fairer to say I find role models for individual aspects of my life; for example, when I ran track, my role models were my teammates. Some of them had such a hardworking drive to excel, but also knew when to listen to their bodies and take a break (this is extremely challenging for distance runners!). They had the right perspective about competing amongst school and friends, which was refreshing to be around.

Who are your favourite cultural heroines and why?
Cleopatra! Margaret George, one of my favourite authors, wrote an amazing autobiography finally depicting Cleopatra as someone more than Rome’s mistress. She is instead described as a woman of fierce integrity and sophistication, a hallmark female in an age of patriarchy.

“You were valued by others long before grades, times or appearances mattered.”

If you could pick one fictional female character to be for a day who would it be and why?
This is a toughie! But I think I have to say that if not Cleopatra, Pocahontas (the fictional, Disney version). Who wouldn’t want to run around in the woods singing great songs all day with your pals, with some John Smith action to boot?

What is your biggest life goal?
My life goal is to find ways to incorporate all the loves of my life: music, sports, medicine and, of course, my friends and family. I find that as I am slowly forced out of the pseudo-adulthood I call university, I am being pushed to concentrate my life in one area–my career. But physician burnout is all too real, and I strongly believe I’ll be a better doctor (and better person) if I am able to continue doing other things I love. How can I preach health, yet not be healthy myself?

What is your biggest accomplishment?
Some would say my biggest accomplishment so far is getting into medical school, but I would have to disagree. I think my biggest accomplishments are to be found in running. As a slightly chubby kid, I loved reading, singing and acting–I was the least bit an athlete, especially compared to my superstar siblings. However, in junior high I discovered I loved running and cross country skiing. Although hardly a natural, I worked terribly hard (to the point of several stress fractures, which are not recommended!) to achieve my goals. No, I never won CIS nationals, but I won my own personal championship by pushing myself to reach my potential.

What is your favourite quote?
I guess this isn’t necessarily a real quotation, but I always liked the phrase “don’t limit yourself”. When I was in high school and a competitive cross country skier, my coaches asked us to all find a mantra or phrase to use when we were really bagged mid-race. I chose: “don’t limit yourself”. I find it still applies to my life, as it’s always tempting to self-limit and give up, but I’ve always been amazed by what I have achieved every time I kept going. This also requires getting over the fear of failure, a difficult task for most of us! Who knew I would run that time? Who knew I would be in medical school? Who knew I would still find ways to sing regularly? If I had limited myself back then, I certainly wouldn’t know it either.

If you could tell your 12 year old self one thing what would it be?
You were valued by others long before grades, times or appearances mattered. You are still valuable now, to the core, and now it is up to you to value yourself, always, as the dressings of grades, times and appearances will fade away.

What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism means forging your own path towards your ideal destination. Other people can come along for the ride and help you along the way, but they are not to steer you away from your own path.

Fierce Females: Nicole

Fierce Females: Pamela

Pamela

What is it that empowers you most?
Confidence. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t claim to have a lot of it by any means but I have learned after a lot of years of not feeling confident, that you truly can fake it till you make it. If I’m feeling negative about myself of my abilities, I make a conscious effort to tell myself that I can, I am good enough and I will.

What is it that you love most about yourself?
I love that I can make people feel good. I pride myself on being a good friend and a good hostess. There’s nothing better than having a friend over when she’s having a bad day and being able to make her feel better with a glass of wine and a few snacks. I love making people laugh and smile and I love that I can do that, even if it might just be because I’m a goof and people seem to like it.

What makes you feel most beautiful?
I feel the most beautiful when I feel healthy. Exercising and eating healthy and just taking care of myself overall just makes me feel good and in turn, makes me feel beautiful!

Who is your biggest role model and why?
Definitely my mom. I am watching my mom go through the hardest time in her life right now and every day I am amazed by her. Her positivity, and her ability to be joyful continue to inspire me every day. She’s an amazingly strong woman and always has been. Aside from the fact that she has had a successful career working for IBM, MLCC and now HP, she has always put her kids first. I only hope to be the kind of mother and person she is some day.

Who are your favourite cultural heroines and why?
I think Mindy Kaling is pretty damn heroic. She has broken so many barriers and done it all with humour and by staying true to herself. Not only is she a part of an underrepresented minority in entertainment but she’s a real, live woman and she owns it. I encourage everyone to read her book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). It’s funny and so wonderfully Mindy.

I also really, really love Taylor Swift more than I like to admit. As someone who works in social media especially, I’m fascinated by her use of the social platforms to interact with her fans. Social media truly allows us to communicate in a way we never have; before social media, celebrities could have NEVER communicated directly with their fans like she does. She’s so nice, humble and truly appreciative of her fans – the people who got her to where she is now. Check out what Taylor Swift did for a few of her fans for Christmas or as it was called, “Swiftmas”.

 

“My biggest life goal is to look back on my life and know that I did all the things I wanted to do”

 

If you could pick one fictional female character to be for a day who would it be and why?
Does Kim Kardashian count as a fictional female character? I’d just like to get a glimpse into what it’s like to be famous for being famous. Plus, I want access to her wardrobe and I want to see what it’s like to be part of that crazy family, Bruce Jenner aside.

What is your biggest life goal?
I want to live a completely and totally fulfilled life. I want to travel, become accomplished in my career and become a mother someday. My biggest life goal is to look back on my life and know that I did all the things I wanted to do, know that I took chances and pushed myself out of my comfort zone.

What is your biggest accomplishment?
I would have to say finishing CreComm (Creative Communications program at Red River College), working really hard for a few years and then landing my dream job at Great-West Life. Anyone who’s been through the program knows that before you start CreComm, former students and instructors tell you about all the things you’ll be doing. Things like, completing a project that is so huge, it takes almost a year to complete, performing stand-up comedy and doing a live-hit on camera. These are things that I said, no way, there’s no WAY I’m doing any of that. And yet, here I am. I did them and they helped me get to where I am today.

What is your favourite quote?
I love Dr. Suess quotes and it’s hard to pick just one but if I had to, I’d pick this one:

“Be who you are and say what you feel. Because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind” – Dr. Suess

If you could tell your 12 year old self one thing what would it be?
I would tell myself the same thing I tell myself every day now. I would tell myself, you are good. You can do anything and you don’t ever have to compare yourself to others. I struggled a lot with confidence and self-worth growing up and I think it held me back from realizing my full potential, especially in school.

What does feminism mean to you?
The understanding that gender inequality is deeply rooted in our society – recognizing this inequality and fighting against it is what feminism means to me. Almost every stigma, societal norm and media message we consume are deeply rooted in gender inequality or marginalizing of women and minorities. I’m a feminist because I believe it’s NECESSARY to recognize, acknowledge and then teach our children that that’s all it is, that these messages and understandings aren’t TRUTHS, but simply constructs created by the oppressors.

Pamela is a Senior Communications Specialist in Winnipeg, Canada
Connect with Pamela: Twitter

Fierce Females: Pamela

Fierce Females: Breanna

Breanna

What is it that empowers you most?
I feel most empowered when collaborating with people in creative settings. I love hovering over a roll of trace and madly scribbling ideas with a design team— teaching international students how to dougie whilst repping the “stank face”— painting murals with inner city children and watching their faces light up with each brushstroke— I live to ignite that spark in others. Architecture, dance and art have been my favourite catalysts

What do you love most about yourself?
I love my ability to discover latent potential in anything, from abandoned objects to dilapidated cities. I refuse to look at the world as a static, impervious place. With imagination, there is always room for positive change.

What makes you feel most beautiful?
Dancing. Any place, any style. There is nothing quite like getting lost in a song and trusting your body to explore the extents of the rhythm.

Who is your biggest role model?
My biggest role model is my nana. She has experienced loss at unfathomable levels her whole life, and remains the most selfless person I know. Her patience is unwavering, and her faith and love for her family, indestructible. She is also fluent in six languages [self-taught]. Oh, and she is by far the best cook ever.

In addition to my nana, I want to take this moment to celebrate all of the incredible people in my life:

Here’s to my dad, who taught me how to hold a hammer, and the value of hard work. He never fails to remind me of my strength when I feel down.

Here’s to my mom. Words cannot describe the extent of her love. I am proud to have inherited her passion, emotional dynamism and zest for life.

Here’s to my siblings, for enduring all of my [continually] weird phases, and having my back no matter what… even provinces apart.

Here’s to my grandparents, for spoiling me with food, stories and warm hugs.

Here’s to my best friends, for the dance parties, hysterical antics, and heart-to-hearts over bottles of wine.

Here’s to my brilliant, goofy boyfriend, who supports my wildest ambitions and loves me unconditionally.

Thank you all for making me who I am.

Who are your favourite cultural heroines and why?
I want to address all the female STARchitects out there… not the “Zaha” types per se, but the women who juggle stellar careers, raise families, and simultaneously make time for themselves. You are living evidence that we do not have to choose one or the other to accomplish great things. In my eyes, you are true heroines.

 

“my biggest life goal is to make a positive difference in the world.”

 

If you could pick one fictional character to be for a day who would it be and why?
Arya Stark from Game of Thrones. She is tiny, clever, and fiercely independent. AND she has her own sword. So badass.

What is your biggest life goal?
In the cheesiest sense, my biggest life goal is to make a positive difference in the world. I want to find what I am most passionate about, push it to the extreme and share it with others. I want to make a hefty dent in the development of my hometown, Winnipeg, Manitoba. I want to inspire at least one person who is experiencing self-doubt to realize their own strength. I want to share my life with loved ones. I want to travel the world and design spiritual spaces and places of healing. Lastly, when my time comes, I want to know that I lived my life to the fullest for the good of my community, without regret.

What is your biggest accomplishment?
Graduating from my Bachelor of Environmental Design studies in architecture… or perhaps more importantly, recovering from 4 consecutive years without sleep, living out of the trunk of my mercury sable and the inevitable downward spirals from critique after critique.

I am proud of myself for taking time to work, for rediscovering favourite past times, moving to a new city and pursuing my masters degree. I am proud of myself for taking risks, maintaining important relationships, and forming new ones.

What is your favourite quote?

“What if?” – Jae Sung Chon

“Love wins. Love always wins.” – Morrie Schwartz

“Sometimes it’s the people no one expects anything from who do the things no one expects.” (The Imitation Game)

And because I am a Harry Potter fanatic:

“Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.” – Albus Dumbledore

“Nothing like a nighttime stroll to give you ideas.” – Alastor Moody

If you could tell your 12 year old self one thing what would it be?
Stay weird. Wear artsy hats and sweatpants. Dance your heart out. Do not waste your energy on those who do not respect you in return. Four years of braces will be worth it, I promise. Find inspiration in something small every day. Trust yourself and always push the limits.

What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism is the destruction of the stigma that women are lesser, demanding equal opportunities and respect for all.

Breanna is a Habitat Visionary and Space Planner in Vancouver, Canada

Fierce Females: Breanna

Fierce Females: Crystal Lee

Crystal-Lee

What is it that empowers you most?
I am a grounded person because of my spirituality. It connects me in a meaningful way to people, events and myself. Through that connection I feel a call to action to live responsibly, speak my truth and follow my heart.

What is it that you love most about yourself?
Living with my heart open is what I love most about myself. It’s a challenge that I make consciously everyday. It takes a lot of strength to knowingly choose the higher road in situations that could easily turn into anger, fear or a number of other negative emotions. Staying open hearted always brings me through my life situations in a beautiful way and enhances my life.

What makes you feel most beautiful?
Big comfortable blankets make me feel beautiful. When I am comfortable, warm and happy it is the best feeling in the world. When I am happy I feel like my smile is 10,000 miles long and it’s beautiful.

Who is your biggest role model and why?
Gandhi had a huge influence over me as a young adult. I feel that his teachings and more so the way he lived his life promoted courage, an intense amount of resilience, and selflessness for the purpose of a cause. Seeing what he and others have accomplished with a minimal amount of resources shows the power of the human spirit.

Who are your favourite cultural heroines and why?
Coco Chanel. I saw a film on her and she rocked my world. She created the pants look for women. She bent to no one. She took risks. I loved her for this.

 

“My biggest life goal is to impact individuals in a powerful way with my songs.”

 

If you could pick one fictional female character to be for a day who would it be and why?
If I could be a fictional female character for a day it would be Alice from Alice in Wonderland. I have always loved that story and would love to see what wonderland is like. It’s pure imagination. It would be impossibly fun to take on the Jabberwocky or to play croquet with the Red Queen.

What is your biggest life goal?
My biggest life goal is to impact individuals in a powerful way with my songs. To be a voice that reaches someone at the right time, in the right way to give them a feeling or an inspiration that improves their moment. Eventually my goal is to work full time writing a recording my music and spending time working with other artists around the world with the craft of songwriting.

What is your biggest accomplishment?
My biggest accomplishment with my career, is releasing my first EP “Drive” with Grey’s Fool. It was a songwriting project that I started with a friend that grew into an amazing year of studio work, travel and performing. The record features Grammy nominated musicians and sound engineering. I could not be prouder.

What is your favourite quote?
“You already have everything you need to succeed”. I heard this quote from a spiritual teacher and it haunts me. Every time I think that I need this or that to accomplish a goal, that quote is whispered in my ear then I find another way of accomplishing the goal.

If you could tell your 12 year old self one thing what would it be?
I would tell my 12 year old self “You are okay and you are loved”.

What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism to me means that as a species human beings are allowing the barriers to fall and the blocks that our minds put up based on physical identifiers are moving into a thing of the past. Men and Women are capable of so much greatness. Equal means equal. Equally capable of succeeding and equally capable of failing. I think it is amazing that we have a word to define the command for equality. I see everyone as equal.

Crystal Lee Morgan is a Singer/Songwriter from California and Hawaii.
Connect with Crystal Lee: Website / Facebook / Twitter / YouTube

Fierce Females: Crystal Lee

Quote: Common

Common

“The spirit of this bridge transcends race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and social status. The spirit of this bridge connects the kid from the South Side of Chicago, dreaming of a better life, to those in France standing up for their freedom of expression, to the people in Hong Kong, protesting for democracy. This bridge was built on hope, welded with compassion and elevated by love for all human beings.”

Quote

Fierce Females: Greta, Stella & Sunniva Bondesson

Baskery

 

What is it that empowers you most?
We’ve been around the world making no distance too long, no stage too big, and no crowd too small. Experience in itself is empowering, and watching the results of what you or other independent artists have accomplished without much compromising gives a lot of positive energy and the urge to move forward. And to be honest, a too smooth of a ride could hold you back, so some obstacles in different forms and shapes are things that push and strengthen you. Provocation can sometimes be a trigger too, just like encouragement, so it’s all a matter of the right measurements really. (Greta)

What is it that you love most about yourself?
As cliché as it may sound, but to be able to follow your heart and instincts, not compromising and letting money and too much sense rule you. It’s not something everyone manages to do, so it’s something to be proud of. We also love our talent, but even though we had it from birth, we had to nurse it to develop the skills playing your instruments. Just recently we became aware of the fact that we’re actually professional musicians, all due to our hard work and relentless touring. (Greta)

What makes you feel most beautiful?
Unconditional love from lovers, family and friends is what makes you shine, from the inside out. (Greta)

Who is your biggest role model and why?
There’s no real role model present, but in general, people who’ve chosen their own way instead of following the crowd are always inspiring. Be your own role model if you can, that will make you connect directly with your own actions and deeds. (Greta)

Who are your favourite cultural heroines and why?
There are heroines everywhere, people who burn for something and dedicate their whole beings to that specific thing no matter the costs. We admire Joni Mitchell for what she has done musically and for her independence as a woman in a business that for a long time has been, and still is, male dominated. She’s always done her thing and that’s admirable. (Stella)

 

“to remain true to ourselves, be playful and always break new ground.”

 

If you could pick one fictional female character to be for a day who would it be and why?
Catwoman, because we love cats and always wanted to be able to move like one. Three times Catwoman though, that’d be one busy day for Gotham City! (Stella)

What is your biggest life goal?
To keep from screwing up completely haha. Nah I guess to remain true to ourselves, be playful and always break new ground. You wanna develop as a person and in your profession without pulling away from your own believes. Keep your independence, but don’t say no to a good helping hand just because you’re scared of losing control. It’s a fine line and we’re facing tricky decisions everyday. But the most important thing of all is to be healthy and do what you can to keep your loved ones happy. (Stella)

What is your biggest accomplishment?
To keep this band going, to be self-sufficient. It takes a lot of discipline to manage your career, make crucial decisions and to keep the motivation up. To wake up every day and say “go get them” isn’t that easy. Over time though, you learn what you need to prioritize and what signs to look for out there. It’s an amazing feeling to see the fruits of your labor, knowing that you made it all happen. (Sunniva)

What is your favourite quote?
“There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.” – Aristotle (Sunniva)

If you could tell your 12 year old self one thing what would it be?
Stay true to your nature and follow your impulses, but don’t ignore advice from others. Be aware of which choices you make, they will influence your whole life. (Sunniva)

What does feminism mean to you?
The word feminism is to me mainly the name of the movement that started in the 60’s. It served its purpose for decades, but I don’t think feminism is a word we need in Sweden today. I would even be radical and say that it creates pity and somewhat undermines the development of gender equality since it is suggesting that women are different from men. Nobody should feel the need to hide behind that word to make themselves heard and stand for an opinion. Women in Sweden today don’t necessary need to regroup to stand up for their rights. There are new groups of the society that suffer from injustices that need to be highlighted but gender equality, which I use instead of feminism, is already a priority in Sweden’s political structures. (Sunniva)

Greta, Stella & Sunniva Bondesson make up the folk rock band Baskery from Stockholm, Sweden
Connect with Baskery: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Fierce Females: Greta, Stella & Sunniva Bondesson

Fierce Females: Albertine

Albertine

What is it that empowers you most?
Knowledge. I’m lucky to live in a part of the world where I have access to an enormous amount of information and can afford to attend a post-secondary educational institution. I don’t take that privilege lightly. I feel there is an overwhelming importance in empowering ourselves by learning as much as we can about our world. By learning, we can better understand others and endeavor to help them by whatever means possible.

What is it that you love most about yourself?
I appreciate my ability to empathize with others. The world tends to be a harsh place for even the toughest of us, and I think we could all use a little kindness now and then.

What makes you feel most beautiful?
Being there for those who need me makes me feel beautiful.

Who is your biggest role model and why?
My parents share an equal space within my heart as my role models. When I was a teenager, I joked that I never wanted to be like my parents (I thought I was such a special snowflake). Now, I’ve realized I share the very qualities I seemed to despise back then and, shocker, I love it. As I grow older, my mother and father teach me humility by osmosis. They are incredibly strong, giving, and thoughtful people who rarely bother looking after themselves. The well-being of their family, friends, and environment is their top priority. Self importance never comes into play. That’s very inspiring. I feel that I have a lot to learn from them.

Who are your favourite cultural heroines and why?
Last year I learned about the amazing women who worked in Bletchley Park during the Second World War to crack codes transmitted by the Axis powers. It is believed that their service shortened the war by two to four years. In an era where women were often seen as second-class citizens solely allowed to rear children and manage a home, these women used their incredible skills to aid their country. That is very impressive to me and very inspiring.

 

“This has been my career goal for as long as I can recall”

 

If you could pick one fictional female character to be for a day who would it be and why?
I think I would go with Emmy Altava, a character in the Professor Layton series of games. She starts out as the detective’s assistant, helping him solve puzzles and taking photographs of their adventure. I think it would be fun to solve mysteries and crimes in her shoes and get a better sense of her individual story.

What is your biggest life goal?
To always be learning.

What is your biggest accomplishment?
I feel equally proud and grateful to be working in the video game industry. This has been my career goal for as long as I can recall, and this made me the subject of a great deal of bullying in my younger years. The insults that came my way only spurred me to work harder. At 25, I’ve managed to enter the industry and I’m enjoying it very much. I look forward to setting new, larger goals as I grow older.

What is your favourite quote?
“If you can love someone with your whole heart, even one person, then there’s salvation in life.” – Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

If you could tell your 12 year old self one thing what would it be?
Keep being a big nerd and read as much as you can. Go to the library and read every book and never apologize for your curiosity and thirst to learn. Be gentle with yourself and others. You don’t have to be brash; you can be quietly powerful if you want to be.

What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism is compassion toward every person and their right to unapologetically be who they are or want to be without fear of violence, discrimination, and the systematic withdrawal of opportunity and fairness.

Albertine is a social media and public relations strategist in Winnipeg, Canada.
Connect with Albertine: Twitter

Fierce Females: Albertine