I’m moving!

I called my mom from the car.

“I just looked at an apartment. It’s exactly the type of quirky place I was looking for, but…”

When I got home my housemates asked what I thought of the place.

“It’s adorable, I love it! But…”

I began to notice a pattern. The joy I was feeling in my gut, that sense of “home” I had felt when I walked through the door wasn’t translating into words. I could see myself being happy in the “efficiency” apartment, but I couldn’t picture my friends feeling the same way. I turned defensive, babbling about why I was over the moon about the tiny space, then quickly negating each claim with a “but…”.

My anxiety had unleashed the levy of negative thoughts. They think you’re an idiot for signing a lease on such a small space! You’ll never be able to have anyone over. You’re going to become a crazy cat lady. You will die alone.

Despite my brain’s best efforts to send me into an anxious tailspin, my gut held true. I’m prone to nightmares, especially when I’m on the cusp of a big change. Whatever I’m stressed about manifests into distorted, dream versions of reality until I can’t remember which is real.

A quick example: In one of my brain’s go-to moving-themed nightmares, I find myself inside my new house. It’s dark and no matter how many switches I try the lights won’t turn on. There’s always a sense of being chased as I run from room to room frantically flipping switches. Then I wake up in a pool of sweat and ask myself how I could be so dumb as to move into a house with no electricity.

I had versions of this nightmare while I was house hunting but the night after I applied to my new, micro flat I slept like a baby. I woke up the next morning awash in relief that I found my perfect bungalow. That is until my brain caught up and reminded me I need to worry because *GASP* what will your friends think?

Whenever I describe my new place I immediately bring up the square footage. Again, a defense mechanism to protect myself against what others may think. Yes, I’m aware that 300ft2 is very small, I’m not signing this lease sight-unseen. And the question I’ve been hearing most frequently: How will you fit all of your stuff?

Answer: I won’t.

I’ve been dabbling with minimalism ever since I returned from Cambodia. Something about lugging two bags stuffed with stuff only to realize my room at home was filled with even more stuff, didn’t sit well with me. Everything that had been in my closet during the two years I lived abroad was immediately sent to Goodwill. If I didn’t miss it while I was away, I won’t miss it ever.

My current home, a roughly 2,000ft2 townhouse, feels like a sprawling estate. I do share the space with two other girls but I barely scratch the “usage” surface. My housemates each have walk-in closets packed with clothing while I’ve made an effort to pare down my belongings so that my standard-sized closet feels like more than enough space. My dresser, while containing some clothing, also doubles as linen storage. Sorting through my things has become an almost weekly ritual in which I ask myself, what am I willing to let go of? And of the things I am not: why?

Don’t get me wrong, I still have A LOT of stuff. Every surface in my room displays knick knacks and trinkets I’ve collected from my travels. This is where I branch from stereotypical minimalism. My bookshelves are stuffed with novels I’ve already read AND have digital versions of. I’ve purchased physical books even though I’d already read it on my Kindle because flipping actual pages makes me happy.

The trick, though? I am ok with letting go of it all. When possible I will rework sentimental items into something useful, like turning T-shirts I will never wear into quilts, shells I collected into jewelry, fabric and scarves from foreign markets into pillows, etc. But I’m not afraid to say, “You know what, I don’t really need to hold onto the “tribe totem” (a.k.a. a skull shaped eraser) from my university’s anthropology department.”

During the week and a half leading up to my big move, I’ll be taking a serious look at the things I own and whether they jive my values. I’m also going to stop giving a damn about what other people may or may not think because if you’re going to let go of anything, it should be that measuring stick you use to see if you’re living up to society’s standards.

I am thrilled AF about my teeny home and excited about the new challenges I’m going to experience during the next year.

Ch-ch-ch Changes

“Change” should be my word of the year. Emotionally, physically, spiritually – you name it – I’ve been hard at work examining what I value and making the necessary steps to make my life reflect that, including on this site!

When I was but a wee babe of 21 I created a blog called, “One Wandering Soul”. I had recently returned from a month-long European adventure and was determined to write about my travels. I dabbled with it a bit throughout my college career but was never happy with anything I wrote, so the blog sat dormant until I moved to Cambodia in 2013. Dusting off the ol’ URL I described my new life for friends and family back home. While I only wrote sporadically I enjoyed sharing my experiences.

A couple years later I decided to give illustrating a go. I’d been playing around with the idea for a while so when a stranger told me, “Based on your style I would have guessed you were an illustrator!” I took it as a sign from the universe. Thus, Awkward & Aware was born. Like with most of my creative pursuits my motivation gave way to overwhelm as I tried to keep ideas flowing for both spaces while working and attempting to have a social life.

I gave up. My mind was (and is) bursting with ideas but I kept listening to that anxious part of my brain, telling me that no one cares what I have to say and if I can’t make something perfect, why even bother trying?

Well, if no one really cares then why does it need to be perfect? I can write and draw what I want, whenever I want!

My therapy is going swimmingly if you can’t already tell.

So to make life easier for me I decided to combine both my creative outlets (it’s also cheaper). One Wandering Soul, meet Awkward & Aware. I imported most of my old blog posts here and will continue writing and illustrating my awkward life. I had planned on reworking blog posts and illustrations to reflect my current branding style, but that’s a lot of work. I still may update my favorite illustrations… I haven’t decided yet…

If you’ve been following this site, that’s what’s going on. If you’re new, that was a bunch of useless information. You’re welcome.

How to Torture a Traveler, Part 3

Because my luck is that bad.

I used to love traveling, like the specific act of travel. The thrill you get driving to the airport, successfully passing through security, watching people and trying to match them to their destination.

Well, no more!

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Super flattering, post-travel photo courtesy of my dad…

To be fair, I wasn’t as emotionally stable during this last leg between Siem Reap and Orlando as I normally am. I was lugging literally all of my belongings in two HUGE bags and had just said farewell to my best-est friends without knowing when I’d see them again. After checking in and finding a seat in Siem Reap’s ever changing international airport I opened up the farewell trinkets and letters my friends sent me off with. I was simultaneously laughing out loud and blubbering like a baby and boarded my first of many flights thoroughly emotionally drained.

On the bright side, I’ve traveled this route so frequently I am very familiar with all of the airports and know exactly where to go for food and the best nap locations. In Shanghai, I took up residence on a familiar row of seats, set an alarm and waited for the transit desk to open. Oh yea, it was 4 a.m.

Everything started out so well and I dared to dream that I may make it out of this travel experience sans extra (emotional) baggage. I was first in line through security and found an ideal napping space next to my gate and a handy water cooler, which I swear was clearly labeled “Drinking Water”. So I filled up my Nalgene, drank half of it, and settled in for sleep.

An hour or so later I woke up feeling, well, not so great. I was so tired from the previous red-eye plus having not actually slept the night before I departed, that I could hardly keep my eyes open. But I knew I had to wake up, something did not feel right.

My stomach rumbled. I located Starbucks and crossed my fingers that a hot cup of coffee and a blueberry muffin was all my wishy-washy belly wanted. I nibbled as much as I could handle and decided to try and sleep it off.

Barely able to rouse myself for my flight I zombie-trudged to the gate all the while willing myself to keep down the bits of blueberry I’d managed to consume. Nausea came in waves but I held it together like a master of mystery illness until I was all buckled in, ready as I ever would be for this 14+ hour flight.

Just as I began to believe I’d won my intestinal battle another wave washed over me.

“Nope!” I said to myself, less quietly than I had hoped, and reached for the sick bag.

My mind flashed back to the judging looks I had given the passengers on my previous hell-flight as they had emptied their stomachs all around me. Was this karma? Why does karma always pay me back for the bad things? What about the good things, Karma? Karma, why are you such a bitch?

Three bags later the flight attendants were getting a bit tired of my pleas for more ginger ale, especially since I kept getting weaker and had resorted to using the call button.

“Can I get some more sick bags?” I asked to blank expressions.

I mimed vomiting.

“Yes, here.” The attendant handed me a stack.

Eventually, the poison water (it had to have been the water) worked its way through my system and left me even more exhausted, but able to sleep/listen to Harry Potter for the rest of the flight.

Given my recent penance, I thought surely karma would leave me alone now.

While trudging through the Toronto airport, all of my belongings stacked precariously on one of those wheelie carts, I heard an ominous flap flop flap flop. I pulled out of pedestrian traffic as best I could and examined my shoes: my favorite, pseudo-Doc Martens purchased for $8 at a store selling second-hand clothing shipped from Japan, which had seen me through many a bartending shift and been a protective barrier against cockroaches and spiders alike. The sole of my left shoe hung limply away from where it was intended to be. I looked at my sock, visible through the gaping hole and tried to remember where I had packed my other shoes.

After rummaging through all of my bags I located a pair of moccasins (also purchased at the Japanese second-hand store) and lovingly placed my boots in the nearest bin.

“So long, my loves…” I whispered as I walked away.

Stripped down to my last layer after working up a sweat during Operation: Shoe Location, I lugged my bags towards my last customs check.

“You must be going somewhere warm, eh?” The agent asked, eyeing my tank top, which was obviously not suitable for the outside Toronto winter.

“Yes sir, I’m going home.”