Things I Love About October

October

It’s October 1st and I can’t believe how much October love I’ve seen today. Autumn is by far my favourite season and September and October are by far my favourite months. Here are some of the things I love about October:

  • Leaves changing colour: When I lived in Australia, I didn’t get to see the same colour change in the leaves in the Autumn (plus, October isn’t Autumn in Oz). I love the colours of autumn, especially the oranges and reds of October.
  • Cooler temperatures: I love sweater and scarf weather, and while I’m not a huge fan of the frigid winter temperatures, I love the cooler, cozier weather of October.
  • Saturday trips to the country: Nothing beats a trip to the farm markets, apple orchards or pumpkin patches in October. I love buying harvest produce, going apple picking or choosing the perfect pumpkin. As a kid, my parents would take us out for walks in the fields, tractor rides and to play in hay bale mazes. Not going to lie, I still love doing all of those things.
  • Thanksgiving: Canadian Thanksgiving falls in October. It’s one of my favourite holidays, because it’s not as chaotic as Christmas, not as busy as Easter and is the first long weekend after things go ‘back to normal’ after summer. When my brothers and I were in college and uni, it was also the first weekend when we’d all be home from school. Oh, and there’s always pie.
  • Halloween: I love the fun of Halloween; decorating, carving pumpkins, going to Halloween parties and handing out candy to trick-o-treaters. Not to mention scary movie marathons and the Simpsons’ Tree House of Horror specials.

Do you love October? What are your favourite things about this time of year?

Survival Tips for Freelancers

It’s kinda been my worst kept secret: for the last few years, I’ve been freelancing full-time.  I’ve done freelance work on and off since I graduated university, but was shoved into it on a more full-time basis when I was laid off from my job when we lost a major funder (The joys and excitement of working for non-profits!). At first it was pretty scary. Let’s be honest. It’s still pretty scary. But it’s also been heaps of fun and I have learned and continue to learn a lot about surviving as a freelancer.

Whether you’re thinking of dipping a toe into the freelance pool or diving straight in, here’s a few things I’ve learned about working as a freelancer:

Put yourself out there: Freelancing isn’t generally an ‘if you build it, they will come’ type deal.  You’ve got to get out there and tell people what you’re doing. I’m not saying you have to commission a sandwich board to wear around the city or to family functions, but having an elevator speech in mind when the ‘What do you do?’ question comes up is handy. There’s a slew of tools that can help you do this, too. Business cards, a website and social media accounts are also a good way to start putting yourself out there.

Be honest & realistic: Especially when you’re getting started as a freelancer, it’s easy to want to promise your clients the moon in order to secure new business. But you absolutely must be honest and realistic with your clients and with yourself. You want to be sure you’re making promises you can deliver on. You don’t want to risk breaking your back and hurting your reputation by not meeting expectations. Be honest and realistic about what you can do and the timelines you need to get the work done.

Be available & accessible: This probably goes without saying, but when you’re starting out freelancing, you want to be as flexible with your availability as possible. I’m not saying stress yourself out like one of Miranda Priestly’s assistants, but you are going to want to put in some extra time and energy. When I started out, I had some pretty strange hours. I’d be working away on a Sunday until well after midnight. I’d take meetings with potential clients whenever, wherever, you might as well have called me Shakira. You also want to make sure you’re accessible, so provide clients with a reliable way to be in touch with you, whether it’s email, text, mobile phone number– or all of the above.

Build your network: Start growing your networks! And I’m not talking your social media networks, but those apply, too. While it’s one of the biggest  clichés out there, there’s a reason why it’s cliché; it is kind of a thing. Building your network, both on and offline, is a great way to build a list of potential clients and let them get to know you. You’ll want to build a network with other freelancers, too. Don’t look at them as competition; other freelancers are a great resource and can open you up to the opportunities of collaborative projects.

Grow some balls: While it’s super fun working for yourself (Though honestly, you’re working for your clients, but ANYWAY), there are some parts of the job that can be awkward, unpleasant and just plain hard (That’s what she said). Sometimes you’re going to have to have some awkward conversations, sometimes you’re going to have to push back when a client is being difficult or not paying on time. You’ve got to be prepared to tackle these things head on in order to be a successful freelancer.

Be patient: Just like anything that takes hard work, establishing yourself as a freelancer is going to take some time. Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t happen over night. Keep at it, put in the hard work and you’ll see results.

 

Remembering a friend on WSPD

Green balloon

In high school, I didn’t have a specific clique that I belonged to. I was on the athletic council, had geek friends, art kid friends, drama and music friends. But I felt most at home with the outcasts.  The group of friends that were self-proclaimed misfits, the ones that didn’t really fit into any of the stereotypical boxes our high school hierarchy tried to fit them into.

These people were odd, but they were genuine, kind, smart and creative. There was always someone around to talk to, and we had gotten pretty good at being supportive, while trying to leave out any form of judgement. It was easy to just be yourself around them and that was a safe, comforting thing when someone was fighting through the ups and downs of high school.

Today, I’m thinking about one of my friends from this group in particular. He was thin and lanky in high school. I remember noticing him because I thought his taste in music was odd. Techno. Techno of all kinds, but he had a certain love for French techno. He always wore these huge headphones and was happy to share them with anyone that would give his favourite music a try. He was a fringe art kid in high school. Creative, artistic and he had an excellent eye for photography. His sense of humour offbeat, he was a bit goofy.  He was a kind soul, even though people weren’t always kind to him, because he was different.

I last saw him in person a few years ago at a friend’s wedding.  Still thin and lanky, but it suited him. He looked comfortable in his skin. He seemed happy and was just as kind and genuine as I’d remembered.

A few weeks ago, when I read the message that he’d gone missing, I felt an ache in my heart. When I heard he’d passed away, my heart broke.

It was once again a reminder that so many people suffer in silence.  Even if someone seems happy and comfortable and settled, that doesn’t mean they’re not suffering. It doesn’t mean that they’re okay.

My heart breaks that someone who seemed so happy and was kind and such a great friend was hurting so intensely. That he felt he had no one to go to, that he felt it wasn’t going to get better.

I wish I’d told him that it does get better, that he is loved and even if he didn’t believe it, there were people who would’ve dropped anything to help him fight. I  would’ve, even though we hadn’t been as close as we used to be. That no matter what, he was never alone.

I tried writing about this sooner, but to be honest, the emotions were too raw. I needed some time to get my head around it. To work through the guilt and anger and frustration that the world has once again lost a beautiful human being to the epidemic that is depression and suicide.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Suicide is never easy to talk about, there is still a huge stigma attached to it. But the World Health Organization says that more than 800,000 people commit suicide each year. That’s about one person every 40 seconds. It’s an epidemic. So we need to keep talking about it.

 

 Suicide Prevention Resources:

Canadian Association for the Prevention of Suicide
National Council for Suicide Prevention
The Trevor Project
International Association for Suicide Prevention

 
photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

When you live in the suburbs…

The Hell MouthLast summer, a hell mouth opened up in our dining room. To get the problem fixed, we had to coordinate our condo corporation and our insurance company, so it took an entire year to get the problem dealt with. In order to close the hell mouth, the contractor had to pull the kitchen, rip up all of the floors on the main level, set up abatement machines and tents to manage the asbestos tiles in some of the floor, and use some pretty intense mould killers (Buffy wasn’t available). So, we moved to a cute little rental house in the suburbs.

And man, has it been weird.

Like… When you live in the suburbs, your neighbours knock on your door.  A lot. At first, I thought it was because they were nosy. But after observing them for four weeks, I’ve come to discover it’s because they’re kind of a community. So they want to be sure you’re not an axe murderer.

When you live in the suburbs, you own a lot of cars. Sometimes, there seems to be more cars than people attached to a house.  And you drive absolutely everywhere, because you’re living a good twenty-five minute walk to any form of public transit.

There is no such thing as a quick walk with the dog or a quiet afternoon on your porch reading a book. Because your neighbours will interrupt you. They will stop you on the street for small talk, or lean over their fence and ask you what you’re reading.

SuburbiaWhen you live in the suburbs, you’re a million miles away from things like coffee shops, pubs, restaurants and going out at night means you’re either leaving early or paying a lot of money for a cab ride home.

People don’t seem to be as territorial about their space as they are in the city.  Neighbours have no trouble invading your space, borrowing your driveway to park their cars or enjoying a cigarette in your garden.

People feel completely safe leaving their doors open. I don’t mean unlocked, I mean wide open. All day and even at night.

It’s really quiet at night. Like, it’s practically silent. And on weekends, people disappear to cottages and the neighbourhood becomes a ghost town.

I guess I can see how suburbia would be appealing to someone.  But me? I cannot wait to get back to my own home, in my own neighbourhood, where neighbours just wave or nod at each other, the sound of sirens, traffic and loud parties lull you to sleep at night, and you lock your door even when you’re running to the mailbox or putting out the rubbish.

 

 

 

How to Survive a Toxic Boss

I’ve been pretty lucky thus far in my career to work for some pretty amazing people.  Most of my experiences with managers and bosses have been positive, many of them remained mentors long after I was no longer their employee.  But not all bosses are fantastic.  Some are odd.  Some are in the wrong profession.  And some are just absolute assholes.  They’re the kind of boss that doesn’t understand what leadership is about, have no clue how to foster a healthy and cohesive working environment, are unpredictable and unstable, and use bullying and fear tactics to keep control over their staff.  If you happen to be one of the many people that have to face working for a terrible boss, I have good news; you don’t have to let your bad boss invade your whole life.  I know this, because I am a Toxic Boss Survivor.  Here are some of my own personal survival tips for dealing with a toxic boss. (more…)

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