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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TABLE FOR ONE. [TRAVELING SOLO.]

How is it the airport is the only public place it seems to be socially acceptable to drink at any moment of the day without being judged? These are the somewhat alcoholic thoughts that are currently going through my head at 10am on a Thursday morning while staring out a window, wondering why I thought travelling alone was a good idea. Bar tender, more wine please.

I’ve been here since 8am. I’ve walked through every store near me, tested a whole lot of unnecessary perfumes and makeup, bought some useless junk I probably wont need and I still have SO much free time. This is about the time the bars opened and the drinking began.

Traveling on your own can be extremely exhilarating and freeing. It can also be really boring and anxious when you’re trapped at the airport, alone, 3 hours before your flight with nothing fun to do or a person to talk to.

Post breakup my life has seemed very fight or flight. I tried my best to fight my way through the emotions; to deal with the stress of this new life – finding a new job, finding a new condo, being alone. It was a lot all at once and the weight I felt on my shoulders was becoming to much to bare in silence. I felt like I was becoming a burden to my friends with my Debby-downer mood and I hated it.

So in my attempt to snap out of this self induced funk and deal with my new life – I chose to stop fighting how I felt and what I was going through and start resorting to flight mode. It may not be the most mature way to deal, or most recommended by anyone trying to help you cope with reality. But I’m tired, I’m stressed, and I am so over feeling unsatisfied with myself. So, Goodbye Life, Goodbye Responsibilities, Goodbye city and restaurants and cars and air that reminded me way to much of my past life. This lady needs a breath of fresh air from a new city, a new country, a new version of my life.

PEACE OUT.

The only problem that I saw in this new run away from life philosophy of mine was: I’ve never traveled alone, and I was terrified to start. Independence was never my strong suit. I hated sitting alone at a table for meals, waiting alone in a crowd; I always went straight to my phone so I wouldn’t have to make direct eye contact with someone else.

With this serious lack of independence and zero desire to be alone with my own thoughts – the concept of travelling alone never even crossed my mind. It wasn’t a possibility, because what would I possibly do alone in another country where I don’t know anyone or anything?

This was the problem I needed to change with myself. It’s one thing to love who you are, and I can truly say I do love the woman I am becoming everyday. But, it’s a completely different story to be so comfortable with yourself that you are actually okay being alone. I’ve never been okay being alone and this made me cling to relationships that weren’t right for me. This needed to change. Now.

So I needed a fix and I needed it quick… My cousin recently moved to Miami and she was alone with her daughter for the weekend. I figured this to be the best first step to get me in the groove of things. I’d get through the flying alone thing first – and then I had her around so I wasn’t alone the entire trip, but in increments. This way I had the freedom to explore and do my own thing, but had someone to eat those awkward meals with.

Start small. Grow from there.

By my next trip – I’d be ready to do more on my own. Maybe even try eating dinner at a bar too. Talking crazy, but I’m ambitious like that. It’s all about being brave enough to take that first step. Knowing you were capable of it.

Travel Tips.

Stay Safe!

My first rule of traveling whether alone or with someone is make sure to stay safe. When in a city you don’t know, always research ahead of time. What are the best areas to visit and to avoid? Emergency contact numbers? Itineraries and time tables.

When you’re alone you don’t have that person there to look out for you, so you need to be smart enough to pay attention to your surroundings on your own.

Don’t wear anything flashy, and try to fit in.

Distractions are key.

It’s not easy being alone all day whether traveling or staying home. Especially your first time out when you don’t know anyone in the city. Until you are comfortable making friends, keep yourself distracted so you don’t feel lonely.

When you’re out for dinners, always have a book handy, or a tablet to keep you looped into the social world you already know.

Make your itinerary before hand so you have a plan to look forward to, and always have something coming new to try and do.

Sign up for some classes, do a tour, or rent a form of transportation and do it yourself.

Make Friends.

Making friends with strangers isn’t always easy. I know first hand how awkward it can be to just go up to a group of people and start talking. My best tip is to sign yourself up for classes and tours when travelling as you’ll always meet someone with the same interests as you there. You can then go with your new friends for dinners and drinks for the remainder of your time there.

When out for meals, try sitting at the bar. You’ll meet a lot more solo travelers there who are also looking for someone to talk to.

Explore.

The best part about travelling alone, is you get to see everything you want without anyone getting in the way. You no longer have to compromise or worry about keeping up with someones time or ideas. You do things at your own speed, and see whatever you truly want to without having to cater to someone else.

Make an itinerary, figure out everything you want to see before hand, buy entrance tickets or city passes. Do things the way you want and explore as much as you can.

The point of traveling alone is to find yourself. So do it while getting lost in a beautiful new city.

 

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THE DATING GAME

Trying to jump back into dating after a long term relationship is not an easy task to take on. Especially when it feels like you’re about to dive face first into a never ending black hole full of “what the fuck’s”… It’s scary to say the least, and you never know when you’ll finally stumble upon something good, or just more darkness.

Being in a relationship for nearly six years really threw off my game.  Never knowing the right thing to do or say with these complete strangers. Was I supposed to be my dorky, sarcastic self, or pretend to be all polite and shy? It’s as if we don’t have enough going on in our lives to stress us out that now we have to worry about this too.

Am I dressed right? Is this shirt too revealing? Do I have something in my teeth? Why isn’t he looking me in the eye!? My shirt is definitely too revealing. All questions that never seem to stop.

Jumping back into the game of it all was not easy. I call it a game because that is exactly what it is. Dating has become an utter joke. Between all these stupid apps that literally have the EXACT same people on them; the new texting etiquette of not replying for hours but never actually calling each other; and talking to like 10 people at once because nobody is exclusive anymore which just ends in ghosting (what the fuck is that by the way?) if done wrong. Ugh, it’s exhausting.

People stopped just going out and meeting strangers, exchanging numbers or emails and going from there. It is all done online now. If you’re not on an App and getting random dick pics, are you really in a relationship? Think about how sad that is. 

A week after moving back home, an old friend had found out I was newly single and asked me out for dinner. What could go wrong? I already knew him and didn’t have to resort to online Apps to meet him… He’s been into me for a while, and actually made the effort to stalk me enough to ask me out 4 days post breakup.  It was an easy way to get back into dating and I really needed the distraction.

Getting out of my disgusting over warn PJs felt great, and I was finally feeling something other than sadness. Looking good really does make you feel good. Having a man’s mouth drop when he sees you feels even better. Single life was starting to look good, and I was ready to enjoy myself.

The date went as well as it could have. He was watching sports on the TV behind me, and I accidentally finished a bottle of wine on my own and found absolutely EVERYTHING he said while looking past me to be hilarious. This is when the game had begun. It was no longer easy – I had to work for his attention, and a few weeks later found out I had competition in the game too.

When we finally drove up to my house he leaned in and kissed me. Big, wet, juicy, moan filled (from him not me) kiss. That was the exact second I knew I jumped back into the game way to soon. Not only was I wasted and thinking about my ex, comparing everything to my first kiss with him, I actually let out a laugh… In the poor mans mouth. Not one of my finest moments…

You can imagine, a week later he told me he was seeing someone else this whole time and wanted to see where things were going to go with her. I don’t blame him – I laughed at him and lost to the competition but I didn’t mind it at all. I was a player in a much bigger game and I really needed to learn the rules now.

Key advice to anyone going through a break up. Don’t rush into dating again until you are ready for it. The game is brutal – and though you can meet the perfect guy within an hour of your breakup, a lot of the time you will need to kiss a few toads first.
Take your time and enjoy working on yourself first – you WONT regret it.

It was after my brutal fail of a date that I realized I needed to step back a bit. I wasn’t ready for the game and really needed to focus on myself for once. Do what made me happy- on my own and with my girls. Boys were my last priority, at least for a bit.

It wasn’t until another drunken night a few months later at a family weddingwhere I found myself up against a glass wall in a parking-lot making out with an old friend (not thinking of my ex this time at all! #winning) that I knew I was ready to start kissing some toads again until I found my prince charming.

Hooking up with a total stranger (or in my case an old friend) will do one of two things. 1. Make you realize you’re ready to date again because A. you are no longer totally pinning over your ex, or B. having someone that all over you is beyond empowering and you miss it! Or 2. Make you realize you need to stop getting drunk and kissing people.

Today marks the six months of my newly single life. It’s true what they say – time heals all. Though I’m still not completely over my past; I do know that I need to move on – and I am slowly becoming ready to. I think that’s the key to playing this whole game… Being ready for it all and what it actually means. 

I’ve met some really interesting guys throughout all of this. Some dates fun, some so awful they make for the best breakfast stories with the girls. Dating is definitely an on-going game, but I’m enjoying the ride of it – no pun intended.

Mr. Right, where are you?

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MOVING OUT… AGAIN.

Since moving back home, I’ve been contemplating the idea of moving out all over again, except this time doing it solo.

After my last experience living with someone – I was hesitant with the thought. I’d be doing it on my own and the thought of failing again plagued me.

I can’t say the first time I had to move back home was completely my fault, but I still saw it as a failure. I couldn’t keep my relationship from falling apart for even a year since moving out, so who says I’ll be able to succeed my second time out the door?

Having to pack your bags and drive home to your parents house at midnight because you no longer feel at home in your home is awful. It’s even worse to have to do it because you over estimated what you were capable of and now owe your soul to the banks since your paychecks just aren’t cutting it.  This is especially scary when living in Toronto, and living expenses seem to cost a fortune based on salary.

However ignoring the very important factor that is affordability – everyone has a goal, and mine is to own my own space.

Though living at home with my amazing family is a blessing, in my new mission for independence and self realization, I know deep inside that I need to take this step.

My search for the perfect condo started a few months ago. I put together a budget, planned out all my expenses, based it all on my salary and found that I can definitely afford to live on my own. I may have to give up the luxuries of eating – but everything has its pros and cons right?… Second and third job here I come!

When moving out on your own there are certain steps you really should follow.

MORTGAGE PRE – APPROVAL 

The second you start thinking about moving out, the first thing you should be doing is going to a few different Bank Branches and finding out their mortgage rates. You’d be so surprised what you can learn about payments and how little of a monthly payment difference there is between what you may think you can afford, and what you really can afford. 

You can always do a quick pre-approval so you can see what you are budgeting against for when you start your condo hunting.

BUDGETING

Excel has created some AMAZING layout for when it comes to budgeting. They have already pre-set lists of what most people pay for so all you have to do is just fill in the blanks month to month. This is a great way to budget your expenses versus your monthly salary so you don’t get in over your head. 

Of course you can’t budget your monthly grocery costs or gas but at least you will get an idea of whether or not you’ll still be eating or not. 

PICKING YOUR IDEAL LOCATION

Location isn’t always a big deal for people – but having a radius of where you want to live will help your hunt a lot. 

My whole life I was dead set on living close to my family. That was until I lived in an area about 30 minutes from home that if you told me a few years ago I’d be living there I would have argued until I lost my voice… The same area I am now planning to move back to. 

I’d highly recommend checking out one or two places in locations other than your ideal spot just to see if you are willing to branch out or not. Doing this alone I very quickly narrowed down where I wanted to live to practically a set street. 

DO YOUR RESEARCH & MAKE A LIST – IDEAL LAYOUT, SQ. FT, FURNITURE COSTS, etc.

I love lists. I love making lists about lists I need to make. There is nothing better than lists.

Making a list about what you want in your future home is a great way to stay organized. You can even color coordinate if you want to be as extra as me. 

Jot down what form of layout you’d prefer, what furniture you’d like to have so you know if it will fit or not. Do you want dark floors or light floors? Balcony or no Balcony? High floor or low floor? Even if you over specify, knowing what you want will save you from looking at things you hate. 

I went and looked at 3 of the exact same condos hoping that I’d magically change my mind about liking it and of course I hated it more and more each time. No point wasting your time and your realtors if you already know what you want. Sure it may take longer, but if you’re spending that much money already you have to have it feel like home. 

FIND A REALTOR & VIEW SOME OPTIONS

Before I reached out to the agent I am currently using, I spent weeks sitting on realtor.ca and looking at all the options available in my price point. I then did the same thing out of my price point which I highly do not recommend doing. It was so important to me to continue doing my research at all times so I knew what was out there and what it was exactly that I wanted before I jumped into buying anything.

Your realtor will greatly thank you for this as you are making their job that much easier by being prepared. Know your budget and stick to it.

Once I signed a contract with my agent, we began looking at condos weekly. Viewing options can get annoying as everything starts to look the same and you start loosing hope. Its not a one week process like you originally hoped for and will take a lot more work.

On the bright side – once you do find something you like, you will instantly feel at home there.

START PUTTING IN OFFERS

Putting in offers is intimidating. You spend so much time hoping to find something that you love, so when you do, if you’re anything like me you start fearing that the second you sign those papers you lose out on finding something better.

Buyers remorse is real. 

Signing my first offer was an experience like no other. The night before I knew the papers were coming, I was tossing and turning anxious about the thought of leaving home again. I don’t think it matters how many times you move out – the unknown of it all never gets less scary. But the second I sent the offer in, I felt relieved. It was real and it was going to be my home. To bad an offer isn’t the last step and it can and very often does get rejected.

On the bright side – the hunt continues and there is always something better to be found. Everything happens for a reason right? 

Everyone around me keeps telling me I should spend my money on travelling, going out with friends, or shopping (I will one day live in my shoes at this point). But the practical, stubborn person I am sees every one of those options as not good enough.

I have this image in my head of me opening my very own door everyday after work and entering a beautifully decorated one bedroom (plus den if I’m lucky) condo, with grey and white furniture. Decorated with pops of pastel colours all over the place and beautiful fake flowers because the real ones just keep dying. Picture frames of my family and friends everywhere, and a little fishy who I will very originally name fishy swimming around in his tiny tank. I walk in and just feel at complete peace, pouring myself a very large glass of wine to drink away the thought that my fridge is empty and I really do need a second job… Its utter heaven.

People don’t seem to understand the dream especially since I keep pointing out just how broke moving out can make you. Its a huge commitment that you can’t just turn away from once you’re in. Why would I ever want put myself in a position where I’m living from paycheck to paycheck?

If you would have told me this a year ago I’d say its crazy too… But its the first dream I’ve had about a new future for myself since the breakup and it just feels so right to be on a path towards something again.

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