4 BOOKS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE (& YOU SHOULD READ THEM)

Reading is the ultimate form of escaping your own reality without actually running away from it.

Reading allows you to feel as though you’ve left your problems behind, when in actuality, the right book will do nothing more than reiterate the potential, strength, and beauty that you already have. Sometimes a really good book is just there to remind you of everything you already know but may need to hear someone else say.

The right book will be there to help you feel less alone in your own unconscious, your fears, and your dreams because you’ve established a connection with either a character, or the message itself.

THAT’S what a good book does.

I am an avid reader. Give me a cup of green tea or a great latte, a good book (I am SO not a fan of this whole e-reader generation), a quiet remote comfortable location, and you wont hear from me for hours. People have actually handed me books before just to shut me up and make me go away when I was being utterly annoying adorable.

Philosophies, Satires, Thrillers, Mysteries, Undeniable Love – I enjoy it all. Books are my way to escape reality for a few hours a day. They allow me the opportunity to run away from the dramas of life, from the responsibilities of the day, and just think about something else for a minute. They are my breathe of fresh air, my entertainment, and my education. They let me see the world, travel through time, and teach me new ways of being.

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

– Stephen King

There are so many books that I could sit down and discuss for hours. So many books that I would recommend to readers or any sort. But there are only a few books that I can open at anytime in life and find new meaning in based on what I have going on at that time.

There are only so many books that have taught me to think, feel and connect on new levels. The impact that these books have had on me not only continue to translate in my own emotional understanding of my life, but have enriched the way I interact with others and the relationships that this has allowed me to form.

So, what do these 4 books that changed my life all have in common?

They all create a unique sense of understanding of life, while being utterly refreshing in story line and genre. They allowed me to feel less alone and more understanding of my own life’s dynamic. Though these stories may be very far fetched from your own life – the underlying meaning is always the same. Be grateful for what you have, and accept what you don’t. Fight for what you want, but understand when you can’t always have it.

These books don’t read like your everyday self help book screaming “positive thoughts!” or “life is all butterflies and rainbows!” at your face. They actually do the complete opposite, and that’s what I adore. They show you that life can be absolute shit, but you can still come out on top; happy and thankful for what you’ve been through and what you will go through.

Here are 4 books that changed my life:

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom is one of my favorite authors by far. His work is rich, enlightened, and honest. I have so far read every book written by him and though I would recommend each and every one of them – there are only a few that truly stand out in my mind.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven was the very first book I read by Mitch Albom. It was a grade 11 philosophy class and this book was the first step that really got me thinking about life a bit differently.

It discusses the people in your life and how each and every one effects you in one way or another. Helping you understand to appreciate everyone, learn the lessons off everyone, to love, to forgive, and to live.

“ALL ENDINGS ARE ALSO BEGINNINGS. WE JUST DON’T KNOW IT AT THE TIME”.

– THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN, MITCH ALBOM

This book is written around a man who never really thought his life was anything. Once dead, it discusses the five people he meets on his way to heaven and what each teach him as a lesson he did not learn or listen to while alive. This books makes both him as a character, and you as the reader realize that people need to appreciate more when they are alive. We need to understand as people that everyone is our lives are there for a reason even if it does not feel that way in the moment.

The good we go through and the bad are what shape our lives, so we need to pay more attention to this in the moment. Open our eyes and see the world around us instead of just going through the motions until we die like most of us sadly do. I saw this was something I did with a simple trick that you should try… Next time you’re driving somewhere or taking some sort of transportation – once you get to your destination really think about how you got there? What did you see around you on your way? Was there music, or any signs for maybe a Garage Sale? The first time I did this after driving I realized the entire ride I was thinking about so much I didn’t think about driving once. I did the motions – I used my turn signal when switching lanes, I checked my blind spots, I stopped at stops signs. But I didn’t pay attention to what was around me, or even the music blaring in the car. I was so in my own head that I missed that entire ride and simply did the motions of driving.

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Tuesdays with Morrie was one of the last books I read by Mitch Albom. This book circles around the true story of Mitch going to visit his sick University Professor at home everyday on Tuesday to discuss life, and love.

The raw reality of this book had me crying and laughing for most of it. Professor Morrie was a genius, a force to be reckoned with. It felt as though he understood the secret to life and he was sharing it with the readers the entire time. He taught us as readers through Mitch that love concours all. It is an easy concept that is told time and time again, but never gets old to hear.

This book was one of those: “Holy crap, its 4am, I’m still reading, and I have a meeting in like 4hours? How did that happen!”. I could not put this down, it was crazy. After each page, I’d be all: “okay, just one more page and I’m done. I can’t stop here because the thought process isn’t complete and I’ll just forget what I read by tomorrow”. This went on until the book was done.

All of Mitch Albums books make you realize that life really is short. This one in particular follows the memoir of a sick man telling his life story one last time before he dies. Though Morrie was strong until the end, he did not let his pride get the best of him during his final days. Surrounded by love and wisdom, this mans story and lessons will last a lifetime through the lives of every person who reads this book.

“IT’S NOT TO LATE TO… ASK YOURSELF IF YOU REALLY ARE THE PERSON YOU WANT TO BE, AND IF NOT, WHO YOU DO WANT TO BE”.

– MORRIE SCHWARTZ, TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE

 

There is no time to be ungrateful and angry at the world. It is better to appreciate what you have, accept what you don’t, and just love. Professor Morrie had a book written after him for a reason. He was smart – he educated the lives of others because he could teach them something new. This book will truly make you look at life differently and help you understand that you need to appreciate everything now and not save it for later.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

A misery memoire that teaches strength, determination, dreaming, and perseverance. Though Jeannette Walls grew up in a unique manor, she grew into a woman of strength and love.

Her father, to say it in the kindest way was a dreamer and a drunk. Though he loved his family and wanted the world for them – it wasn’t something that was ever going to happen for him. A story many people can relate to. In many ways when reading this book I wanted to hate Jeannettes dad. After-all the story is about her, and he does not make her life easy. But instead I fell in love with the mans dreams for life. His dream of building a glass house so they could see the stars every-night. His love for dreaming, giving each kid a star for Christmas because it was a gift they could keep forever and take with them always. You can look at it as a man to drunk and poor to provide for his family – or you can see it as a man who dreamt of bigger things. Who appreciated the world around him and lived off of it.

This book will make you really think – are you a glass half full, or a glass half empty kind of reader. Do you want to be optimistic and love the man you should hate for the good qualities that stand out. Or will you be a realist; a negative-nancy and see it as a man too drunk to take care of his family despite his love for them.

“WHOEVER COINED THE PHRASE ‘A MAN’S GOT TO PLAY THE HAND THAT WAS DEALT HIM’ WAS MOST CERTAINLY ONE PISS-POOR BLUFFER”.

– JEANNETTE WALLS

When reading this, sometimes I forgot that it was a memoir and not fiction – but either way it made me see that I was so lucky growing up and need to thank my family everyday for what they gave me. This story did not make me feel bad for Jeannette in anyway. That woman grew up to be stronger than I will ever be. But it made me realize that no matter what utter shit she went through, Jeannette took her life into her own hands and made it into what it is today. She is married, loved, an accomplished writer. She did not let her upbringing determine her future and that is a concept many people need to learn. Just because your cards show your life to be going one way, never means that you can’t change your path and be better at any given moment.

My life has had its own ups and downs, and everyones own problems are a big deal to them in one way or another. That does not mean it determines our lives and what we are capable of becoming.

Let your history guide you to what you want your future to be.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

This book had me laughing from page one. Not the way you would normally begin describing a self-help book, but the title could have told you that from the start. This book is so unique in the way it talks to its readers. Keeping it funny, yet honest – this book captured my attention from the first page where we got to look at the life of a drunk man who hated himself… Interesting right?

There is no sugar coating things. There is no telling you that life is perfect and everything will be okay. This book is brutally honest, and tells you everything that you already know. That is exactly why I like it so much. There is no lying and going around the bush. The author has no problem telling his readers that they can be dense and well stupid sometimes and they need to change this way of thinking if they want to find a way to be happy with their lives. He clearly points out that as humans we all have problems in our life. A life without problems is not realistic, and it is through problems that we find happiness. We strive to find solutions to problems and without this problem solving we are not happy. Simple right? The only time we are truly miserable is when we take on too many problems. When we take on situations in life that we shouldn’t not care about enough to have to solve those problems. Choose your situations wisely and don’t waste your time.

“OUR VALUES DETERMINE THE NATURE OF OUR PROBLEMS, AND THE NATURE OF OUR PROBLEMS DETERMINES THE QUALITY OF OUR LIVES”.

-MARK MANSON, THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F*CK

This book more than once will make you go: “hmm, well this is obvious, but why haven’t I ever thought of it like this before?”.

Most of the time, people aren’t stupid. Though they act it sometimes – we all understand the fundamentals in life. Don’t take everything so seriously. If it won’t affect your life in 5 minutes, 5 months, 5 years, let it go. Blah, Blah, Blah… Unfortunately, understanding it isn’t always enough and sometimes we need that information thrown in our face like a giant creamy pie for it to really sink in. People need to be told over and over again in order for the information to really sink it. We for some reason don’t always believe our own brains because we’ve been told we are wrong so many times before, and this is exactly why the self-help book phenomenon took off so well.

And there you have it… 4 books that truly made me look at life a little differently. Each unique in its own way. Either making me look at how lucky I am in my own circumstances, or making me look at what I should be improving on.

What are some of your favorite, life-changing books and how did they help you? I would love some recommendations to add to my reading list. Reading is growth after-all and I’m only 5’2 (*baa dumm chee*).

To all of my Canadian friends – Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your day off today, be thankful for all the good in your life and find some time to read and relax!

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THE ART OF SELF AWARENESS

My first steps as a solo woman were messy. After the pathetic pity parties (yes there were more than one), were over I decided to branch out and keep myself distracted.

I figured the best thing to do was to just meet someone new and enjoy another persons company because being alone sucked and I didn’t want to deal with my own sad emotions anymore.

Who would have thought that SO MUCH could change in 6 years? What happened to meeting people in person, and why are there so many dating apps available with all the same people on each?

In less than a week I learnt that chivalry was indeed dead and I was so over it.

Since I was now in the mind set that all current single men were disgusting I needed a new plan and It was starting to look like I was going to be my own company for a while.

Having to learn to be completely alone with myself is one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn. Just when I think I’m finally getting the hang of it, I fall back into feeling completely awkward sitting alone at the coffee shop avoiding eye contact with anyone around me and staring deep into my computer screen… Seems to be one of those on-going lessons at this point. 

I figured that I needed to start fresh and rediscover who I was from scratch. I’ve changed so much since I last actually thought about what makes me tick and I wanted to learn it all again. What foods I liked (not having to compromise on food is amazing by the way!), movie & show genres, hobbies, etc. It was a whole journey full of experiments and to do lists.

You know what I’ve learnt so far? I’m a freaking catch.

I’m funny, an incredibly horrible chef, a major foodie, and a pretty good salsa dancer with enough tequila in me.

I let go of the wall I built, always needing someone else around and I’m learning to just have fun. Anxiety can’t hold me back no more! Taking that first step at falling in love with myself wasn’t easy. It took some time to let myself even believe that I was worth loving. That I was interesting enough, or fun enough. But at the end the day, nobody will love you if you can’t love yourself first – so start working on it.

Here are the Top Five Actions I took while learning to have more fun and getting to know who I was.

GO OUT & EXPLORE

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I was never much of a city girl. Going out and partying wasn’t my scene, and commuting the half hour drive downtown just didn’t feel worth it. I never learnt to use our very pathetic Toronto Subway Line and driving wasn’t always an option so me and downtown never really got to have that great love affair everyone deserves to go through at least once.

Living in the suburbs there wen’t to many places to go, and this turned me into a total home body. Don’t get me wrong – staying home is great, but it wasn’t what I needed right now. Going out more and more not only gave me the opportunity to meet new people, try new foods and activities, it also helped me with my fears and anxieties of being there in general.

In my mission to start fresh – my minor anxiety was the first thing that just had to go. I no longer had time or effort to deal with it, and I was determined to change my life for the better. For many people, moving anxiety to the back of their minds is an incredibly hard task to accomplish and it is something that must be worked on every singly day.

With this in mind, I forced myself to go out a little more each week, try out new places I’ve never been, and force myself to remember that I was safe and okay until I was no longer scared of it.

Now, go out, explore the city, be a tourist in your own home and let yourself have fun without any questions or concerns. Try that hole in the wall restaurant, get lost and explore new areas. You’ll never learn what you like and don’t like if you don’t at least try.

LEAVING TOWN

121516_best_road_trip_ideas_slide_0_fs.max-784x410As bad as it may sound – there is no better temporary cure for a broken heart than running as far away from the problem as possible. Leaving town at every chance I got saved me from myself. It was my way of literally running away from my own thoughts.

From road trips to the cottage, to road trips all the way to New York City – I took every opportunity I could get to leave, and it worked. Windows down, music blasting, screaming the lyrics to Bitch by Meredith Brooks on constant repeat.

Running away from your problems isn’t always the answer. But I did whatever I could to protect my own mental health and I highly recommend others do the same.

On these short and long trips I was able to just let lose. Pull over whenever I wanted to explore my surroundings, sing until my voice gave out, and just let my thoughts run wild. It was the only time I wasn’t thinking about the past but focusing on the future and what I was going to do when I arrived at my destination.

Open your windows, stick your arm out and let the wind blow through your fingers… That’s what I imagine flying would feel like – complete freedom.

I learnt that it’s in those moments when your mind is completely free that you see things so much more clearly. Maybe the breakup was a smart move after all. That new super last minute, walked into the shop and sat down without thinking tattoo actually looks great! Hooking up with a stranger – well 50/50 on that one still…

Leave town – take a mental holiday and just focus on what makes you smile again.

SHAKE YOUR BOOTY

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Dancing and music were always my safe haven. It is how I let myself go, stopped thinking, and just completely focused on the beat I was hearing in the moment. No matter the song – angry, sad, happy, or completely crazy – there was always a way to express my emotions by flailing my arms and jumping around.

Being shy, most of my sick dance moves were saved for dancing around the house in my underwear – until recent.

If you would have told me a year ago that I’d be going to clubs, or dancing on the beach with people watching all around I’d probably laugh in your face. But here I am – making changes and shaking my ass barefoot to the sunset.

Change isn’t always a bad thing. Stepping out of your shell can be terrifying, but also life altering. If you aren’t willing to risk your pride, you won’t ever have the chance to learn what makes you smile. Plus the memories at the end of the day are totally worth it – especially if you make a complete fool of yourself.

YOGA & MEDITATION 

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Unfortunately I am not someone who enjoys working out. I hate it. I’ve tried to stick to it – I get gym passes yearly, and cancel them just the same. I’ve done Pole Dancing and Pilates which are both incredible and highly recommend – but even with those I would take a break and never go back.

I always talked about taking up Yoga and with just the same motivation that plagued my life, I never did. I guess it was the lazy ass in me that didn’t wanted to try something new, but I’ve forced myself to change (typing this while perfecting my swan pose) and I love it.

For a few months kept searching for ways to clear my mind that didn’t involve going out every single night or pretending to be sick so I could take off work and drive as far away from home as I could… Then someone suggested Yoga and since I’ve been trying to get myself to start for so long I figured now was the perfect opportunity.

I found an event to do Yoga in the Park close to home and after a very wine filled evening with friends the night before, I decided we had to do Yoga outside in 40 degree weather. Though it was hot, and I was hungover, I never felt better. In that hour outside stretching, I was so focused on staying centred and listening to the sound of birds that I forgot about everything else going on in my head. Giggling with my also hungover best friend because we kept falling out of our poses really helped too.

Learning to clear your thoughts and just be present is tough. It is a practice and it takes a lot of work – but it is worth it. And until I perfect it – I’m okay giggling through my stretches. Yoga is the perfect way to stretch the stress out of my life and just enjoy the moment.

PHOTOGRAPHY

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For as long as I can remember I have adored taking pictures. Being on my phone, or a digital camera, it was how I saved every good moment I was having.

I would also always take it one step further and go print every digital copy of a picture I had so I could store the real versions in one of the hundred albums I currently have sitting on my self.

Last year my incredible sister blessed me with the most beautiful Rolleiflex Twin Lens Camera I have ever seen. She was the start to my film camera collection, growing a hobby I didn’t even know I’d love so much. I am now never seen without a camera near by clicking away at it all. I am no longer willing to lose sight of my life and will always focus on the good around me.

Next step – learning to develop the film on my own!

Finding what makes you happy is a process. You have to be willing to try new things and open yourself up to new possibilities which can be really scary for a lot of people. But take it from me – it is worth it. You can learn so much about yourself and what makes you  happy if you just stop and listen.

 

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