Don’t… LEAVE ME THIS WAAAAAAAAY!

Jenny,

You were my first friend in Canada.

You were the person who helped me to realise that I could make a foreign country my home. I arrived fresh off the plane, anxious and excited, at an apartment which I had only seen in iPhone photos and you were there, keys and “Congratulations on Your New Home!” card in hand. That meant – means – more to me than you will ever know. You taught me that the people are always more important than the place and that is something I will always remember.

You were never just a colleague, never just someone I worked with. You were always more and you will always be more; it’s simply in your nature to be more, to give more.

You were fair, you were kind, and you were there – through everything.

You know how to motivate people to be better; how to inspire them to improve and achieve what they thought they couldn’t.

Perhaps more importantly, you know how to chug a superhuman amount of cocktails, tequila and vodka without hitting a whitey (until the next morning, anyway).

I will miss hearing you sing one line of every terrible ‘80s song in existence from your desk in our office and I will miss Friday evening cocktails that turn into Friday night shots that turn into Saturday morning hangovers and “OH MY GOD” texts accompanied by lines upon lines of “there are no words for this” emojis.

Jenny is wise and knows what is important in life.
Jenny is wise and knows what is important in life.

I will miss your support, your guidance and your advice even though I know that you being in a different country will not change how generous you are in offering it. I will miss you constantly reminding me that I am valuable, that I am worthwhile and that I deserve good things.

I will miss you.

But I’m not sad (although I did spend the entire evening after you left sitting on my balcony eating chocolate ice cream, drinking whisky and sobbing while staring dolefully at the sunset).

I’m not sad because I know that whatever you do next will be just as brilliant and just as wonderful as you.

Thank you for everything.

Lots of love,

Caitlin

How to be Happy

How to be Happy

1. Keep your family close.

Keep them in your mind and keep them in your heart. But most importantly, keep them in your contacts list so you can call them at 2.30am sobbing uncontrollably because your favourite character died in that TV show you’ve been obsessing over for the past few months (sorry, Mum). How-Am-I-Supposed-To-Live

2. Do nice things for other people.

Hold a door open for a stranger. Buy a sandwich for a homeless person. Surprise your colleagues with Monday morning coffee from that little place down the street. Doing things that make other people happy makes you happy.

3. See the funny side.

When something humiliating happens, it’s a lot easier to deal with if you can just get on board and laugh at yourself. For example:

  1. I failed my cycling proficiency test in Primary 7 because I was concentrating too hard on riding in a straight line and I ended up running the examiner over.
  2. While formatting a document with my new manager looking over my shoulder, I was leaning my elbow on my desk and resting my chin on my knuckles. My elbow/hand/entire arm slipped from underneath me and my face ended up having a very unfortunate and unexpected meeting with my laptop.
  3. One lovely May morning, I was woken by the doorbell ringing. I peeked through the curtains to see who it was. It was the postman and he had a box in his hands which, I realised, was probably the birthday present I had ordered for my friend a few days earlier. I scrambled to put my dressing gown on, holding it closed with my crossed arms as I rushed to get to the door before he left. I got there on time and all was going well until I stupidly reached out to take the clipboard from him to sign for the parcel and my dressing gown fell open. It is at this point I should inform you that I had been sleeping naked.

Though embarrassing at the time, moments like these are insignificant drops in the wonderfully strange ocean of life. You’ll tell people about them and they will laugh, and you will laugh too – eventually. (Or you will smile proudly, feeling content in the knowledge that you have made an elderly postman’s day.) Herbert4. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

It’s easy to be overly critical of your work, your choices or your body.

Everyone has woken up after a night out and thought, “I wish I hadn’t done/said/drunk that.” Everyone has left an important task until the last minute then scrambled through it, knowing that it could have been so much better if they had started it earlier instead of wasting time swiping through stories and updates senselessly. Everyone has looked in the mirror and wished that part of them was smaller or bigger or thinner or taller.

People are imperfect and prone to mistakes by nature. Our quirks, habits and eccentricities make us who we are; embrace yours and those of the people around you.

5. Stop letting the little things trip you up and drag you down.

Bad day at work? Move on. Silly fight with a friend? Forget about it. Don’t carry the weight of problems passed with you; they will bruise your heart and cloud your head.

Tomorrow is a new day and with it will come new opportunities to be better, to be kinder – to be happy.

To Andrew

To Andrew

To Nando’s and Buddy’s and rum on the beach;
To passing it on and taking turns each.

To street parties and house parties and the mess that comes with them;
To eating 4am burgers on the floor of my kitchen.

To accidental cock-blocks and stolen life rings;
To tipsy walks home and spicy chicken wings.

To “How High” and “Scrubs” and hangover cures.
To making fun of my laugh; to the sound of yours.

To having a smile that makes my dad want to kiss you;
To having a tattoo that makes your mum want to hit you.

To crashing on your sofa and crying on your shoulder;
To never getting wiser even though we’re getting older.

To “going in” for one another and growing up together;
To being there for one another and getting drunk together.

To basketball and cider and always staying ’til the end.

Above all, to you; for being my friend.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, YA FANNY!

11 Things I Miss About Childhood

11 Things I Miss About Childhood

1. Racing home from school so that you could go out with your friends to play hidey or rounders or hang about outside Safeway on your micro-scooter because you were BADASS.

2. Asking your parents if you could stay out a bit later because “everyone else” was, knowing full well that “everyone else” was asking their parents the same thing.

3. Thinking that there was no pain that couldn’t be fixed with a plaster and a warm smile.

4. Frubes.

5. Swapping crisps with your friends at “playtime” while you compared lunch-boxes. Hearing some absolute chancer say, “I’ll give you my apple for your Twix,” as if that were a perfectly legitimate trade off then giving that bitch some SERIOUS nine-year-old side eye.

6. Climbing trees, grazing your knees and never being afraid of falling.

7. The heart-wrenching, soul-splitting dilemma caused by the question, “who’s your best friend?” If you gave two names, your interrogator would furrow her brow and narrow her eyes, ruthlessly indifferent to the battle raging within you. Then she’d say: “Yeah, but who’s your BEST best friend?”

PLEASE DO NOT MAKE ME CHOOSE, I WILL GIVE YOU ALL OF MY POKÉMON CARDS AND ALL OF MY FRUIT WINDERS FOR THE REST OF ETERNITY.

8. Sleeping over at your friend’s house because that was a huge event in itself and not because you took too many shots and she didn’t trust you to make it home.

This was even more exciting if it was a group sleepover where you all brought your sleeping bags and piled onto someone’s bedroom floor and watched terrible movies all night. There was always one person who couldn’t stop laughing even though everyone else was finally drifting off. If you’re struggling to remember who that person was, it was probably you.

8. Paper chains, hopscotch, “sticky willies,” frog-shaped bins, homework jotters, books with pictures and everything else about school that was so safe; so familiar.

9. Feeling like the smallest and simplest achievements were huge, important accomplishments.

10. Needing very little to make you truly happy.

11. Believing that no matter how down you felt or how hurt you were or how bad things seemed, tomorrow would always be better.

In the Corners of a Backpack

In the Corners of a Backpack

In early September last year, I squeezed my life into a suitcase, dragged it to Glasgow International Airport and boarded a plane to Toronto. Now, I’ve been in Canada for over five months and I still feel like I did the first day I stepped off of the plane and into a new home, a new job – a new life.

On paper, Canada and the UK have a lot in common. We speak the same language, share the same Head of State (props to my homegirl, Lizzy, for keepin’ it real in Buckingham Palace) and with the legal drinking age being 19 in most of Canada, it would appear that, legally speaking, we share a similar attitude towards alcohol. This was one of the first things I checked before deciding to come here and I am not proud of what that says about my priorities but beer is an important part of my life. Okay? Okay.

Like two peas in a highly dysfunctional and horribly incompetent pod.
Like two peas in a highly dysfunctional and horribly incompetent pod.

Along with a mutual appreciation of alcohol, Canada and the UK also enjoy their fair share of eccentric politicians. If Rob Ford – the crack-smoking, (allegedly) colleague-groping Mayor of Toronto – hasn’t met Boris Johnson yet, then someone needs to make this happen IMMEDIATELY.

Despite these similarities, the reality is that Canada is very different from the UK. You pick up on these differences when you least expect to; when you’re wandering through the city or ordering dinner in a restaurant or riding your moose through Toronto and rubbing maple syrup all over yourself while bellowing, “CANADA, EH?!” at the top of your lungs (because that’s what we do here – swiftly followed by profuse apologies and a friendly game of ice hockey, of course).

Once you notice them, these trivial little differences have a habit of wriggling deep into the darkest corners of your backpack and burrowing in with the ticket stubs and travel cards you’ve collected along the way. They remind you that neither your growing closeness with your new friends, the sense of comfort you feel in your new home nor the dwindling number of times you get lost each week will change the fact that you are not from here.

Crunchie knows the ins and outs of long-distance relationships
I highly recommend FaceTiming your dog.

That somewhere, thousands of miles away, you have a mother, a father and a brother; uncles and aunts and cousins; best friends and good friends and old friends and new friends, all of whom are living their lives without you, just like you’re living yours without them – as if this was what you had always done.

Yes, there’s Skype. And there’s Facebook. Not to mention WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram and email. But sometimes these things – the ones that are designed to bring people together – are the very things that make you feel even further away from home.

People don’t stop asking where you’re from. It takes you a while to adjust to the idea that you have the foreign accent, not them – or maybe you never quite adjust to that idea at all.

You lifted yourself away from everything you knew and planted your raw roots in this strange area. You tethered yourself to it with things you could not help but carry with you. You were uncertain and incongruous – you were new. You were so close to the roads and the people and the places that formed this city’s landscape; so close to becoming part of that, but you weren’t quite sure where to start.

Gradually, the tenuous ties that keep your roots just beneath the surface begin to strengthen and push through soil. The familiar sight of your apartment door after a long day at work becomes a source of pleasant relief. You start to notice if the homeless man who sleeps in the doorway of your favourite coffee shop isn’t there when you walk by in the morning. You learn how to miss the rush of commuters on the subway and you never allow yourself to travel to work without a book.

Occasionally, just when you think you’ve got the hang of it all, you mistake a quarter for a nickel or you ask for chips and are handed a bag of crisps. Perhaps you even try to pay a co-worker a compliment on her trousers and end up feeling embarrassed because you have just said, “I love your pants!” out loud to someone and you can’t quite distract yourself from thinking about the implications such a statement would have at home.

That feeling of being far away – of being “from somewhere else” – it doesn’t dissipate over time.

But it’s that same feeling that drives you to do things you would never do at home; to go places you have never seen before and to forget what you think you have and focus on the opportunity and possibility of what you could find.

And the most exciting, enticing part of it all?

The bacon is really good here.