The Weekly Coastal

IMG_1313.JPGSo many things have happened this week.

Found a roommate, who will be moving in at the beginning of August. Got some exciting work-related news that I’ll be sharing soon. Met with some great community builders out here on the coast, and getting to learn the lay of the land a bit more. And I got through my first week of #30seadays. A few days were challenging, especially the overcast ones, but it has actually been so incredibly nice to make it a priority to go in the ocean. I love it. It’s also been a great excuse to get pals together at the sea most days. “Have you done your dip yet?” When pals know that you’re going to the ocean every day, they start to come with you.

I posted about this on my insta, but my true goal in this challenge is not just to get into the ocean, but to build up the bravery to REALLY spend time in the sea. I love the water. I love floating. I love swimming. But the sad truth is that when I get out into deeper waters, I’m still pretty overcome with fear that something in the water is going to “get me”. What if an orca attacks me? What if a seal sneaks up on me and bites my leg? What if there’s an octopus? What if there’s a sea monster? What if?

My dream self is a woman who wakes up early, runs to the sea, and then does solo lengths when everything is still quiet and peaceful. Preferably, these solo lengths will not be accompanied by near-crippling panic that something from deep in the ocean will attack me, amiright?!

I’m hoping that this habit of going into the ocean every day will slowly eat away at that irrational sense of panic, and that I’ll be one step closer to being that woman.

Friday night, Jenn McRae and I tried to “go out” and learned some lessons about going out past 8pm on the Coast. All the brewery food trucks are closed by this time, so we went “downtown” to grab sushi and take it to Gibsons Tapworks with us. It might not be the norm, but this Friday night Gibsons Tapworks was the place to be for 20 year olds. We ended the quiet-ish “night out” getting nachos at the Black Fish, and were home probably by 10:30. NEXT TIME – go out earlier, ladies! Persephone seems to generally be the place to be if you want to hit up somewhere lively. Though we’re told that when there’s an event on at the Roberts Creek Legion, that that’s a good choice too. And I’ve also since been told that Smitty’s stays open later on Friday nights as well.

I wish that I’d taken a photo of my makeup/outfit for the evening but didn’t get around to it. Getting dressed was also a serious battle of city vibes vs coast vibes. I had to take my outfit down a notch a few times before heading out the door, and it was still sooooooooo city. I couldn’t help myself! I haven’t yet built up my collection of casual linen tunics, so city vibes it is!

Some pals were visiting Clayton and J’s this weekend, so there was another big pal dinner, and some v good friend dips Saturday night.

Finished off the week having some beers with Ryan Griffiths at Persephone and getting advice on buying old cars. There’s a chance that an old Mercedes wagon might be in my future, but we’ll see what the mechanic says. It’s just so pretttyyyyyyyyyy.

Other things:

I need to add some structure to my physical activity. A new crossfit gym opened in Gibsons that I’m going to check out this week, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I love it.

Adding more run partners into the mix, because I need all the motivation that I can get. If I want to make this 100k a reality next year, it’s time to get on it.

I have to say, as much as I am loving life on the coast, freelance hustle has been getting to me HARD this week. While I love the freedom and flexibility, and so many things, sometimes it would be so nice to just have a job that I go to and get a paycheque from regularly. Freelancing is exciting, and exhilarating and challenging and wonderful, but let’s be real, sometimes it is also so anxiety-inducing and exhausting. Just thought that I should throw that out there along with all of my “OMGGGGG BEST LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIFE” posts about long table dinners and ocean swims.

That’s all for now, friends. More updates next week on The Weekly Coastal.

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The Weekly Coastal

IMG_1213Two-monthaversaryyyyyyyyy. I can’t believe that I’ve already been on the Sunshine Coast for two months. In some ways it feels like it’s been forever, and in others it feels like it could not possibly have been that long already.

Week in review! Once again, I did not take as many photos as I should have. It’s just something that I’m not in the habit of doing, that I need to get over feeling awkward about. Get over iiiiiit. Also, tbh when I’m cycling somewhere, sometimes I can’t be bothered to stop on the side of the road/path to grab my camera out of my bag.

Last week, I FINALLY went on a run to the ocean, and I wished that I’d worn something appropriate for swimming because the water was so nice when I dipped my feet in. This was a good reminder that a big part of why I moved here was to spend more time in the sea, and I haven’t really taken proper advantage of that yet. Soooo… to make it a habit to spend more time in the water, I’m doing a little 30 day ocean challenge for myself – just meaning that every day for the next 30 days, I have to go into the water. The exception being if I am in the city for the whole day. Ocean tiiiiimes. To help facilitate this, I bought some bikini bottoms that are appropriate for running in so that the run home post-dip isn’t the worst ever.

Social life wise, it was time for another Sunday Cider Summer Sizzler, which is always a great time with great pals (and their adorable children).

I had a one too many afternoon ciders in the sun, and crashed hard around 10pm. Thanks to Meagan, Ayma, and Amy for hosting me in their lovely home in Strathcona! Again, no photos. Whyyyyy. Had such a nice catch up with these ladies, and their house is a dream. Had a really wonderful bfast hang in the morning, before biking to North Van for a lunch date with Nico at Budha-Full.

My original intention had been to take transit there, but when I looked it up on Google Maps, it took the same amount of time as biking and in that case, I’ll choose cycling almost every time. And the bikeride there was actually so pleasant. The entire way was on a bike route, and even going over the bridge I did not really have to deal with car traffic for even a minute. I forget sometimes how amazing the bike infrastructure is in Vancouver – even if it’s not separated bike lanes, there is always a convenient route off of the car path mapped out for bikes. It’s so nice.

Had a great lunch, and as we were wrapping up, Jess Robson walked in. Paaals.

J-Rob and I had a shoot planned at The Distrikt for our upcoming writing + yoga workshop (details to come!!), and apparently we were on the same vibe that day lunchwise, but also we showed up wearing matching outfits without prior discussion, so way to go us. Cannot wait to run a workshop with this lady.

Finished just in time to get dropped off for the 4:30 ferry home (thanks Jess and John!)

The next day, I had some more errands and meetings and things in the city, so went in early and mostly did some running around for the first couple of hours. In the afternoon, toured BrainStation’s new Vancouver space, and had a chance to chat with the Vancouver GM.

Again, quick trip home but not before grabbing an Oyster Burger from the takeout window at Olive and Anchor’s take-out window. I’ve been missing the abundance of Buck-a-Shuck places that I’d become used to in Toronto, and discovered the O&A does these M-F from 3-5, which is good knowledge to squirrel away for future Horseshoe Bay ferry waits.

Not a ton else to report this week. The roommate hunt is a little slower than expected, but I’m not too worried about it.

The Coast, and freelance life, continue to be a slew of lessons learned every day, but they’re good lessons. Trying my best to be present for all of it.

 

Hello, from your friendly neighbourhood writing coach

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It’s interesting the way that life evolves when you start out freelancing. You think that you’re going to be offering one set of services, and then it slowly evolves into something slightly different. I knew that I would be working as a writer, or mostly long-form work for clients (whether articles, blog posts, internal communication docs, or proposals), and I knew that I would be doing some research, but the branch of work that’s evolving that I didn’t anticipate was writing coaching.

I’ve been running these writing workshops to help people get their writing off the ground, and doing writing on behalf of other people, and along the way people started asking if I could help walk them through writing that they absolutely need to do themselves. Not everyone wants to hire a writer (or ghost-writer), and not everyone should. While I don’t think that everyone should try to write professionally, I do believe that writing is something that everyone can do.

I think that one of the biggest hang-ups when people first start writing, even just for themselves, is that they worry too much about perfection. They worry about voice, and sounding smart; they have all of the voices of other writers in their heads, and they are comparing their very new writing practice to the writing of all of their favourite professionals, and wondering how they stack up. The best advice that I can give anyone just starting out is to just start writing. Brain dump. Don’t think about it. Don’t think about your voice. Don’t think about grammar. Don’t think about your use of similes and metaphors. Don’t think about sounding interesting. Just write whatever comes into your brain without judgement. Write until you think that you’ve gotten everything that you need to get out of your head onto the page, and then stop.

Then walk away. Get up, shake out your hands and feet, and go for a walk around the block; go for coffee with a friend; run an errand. Then, when you’re feeling refreshed again, come back to your desk and read over what you just wrote, WITHOUT JUDGEMENT. I know that this is hard. Especially if you’re not used to writing, you’ll probably have some pretty negative self-talk going on when you read over your first few pieces. “This is so repetitive” “Ugh. I used ‘very’ 7 times in that paragraph” “This is so boring” “What was I thinking when I wrote this?”

I urge you to try your very best not to listen to these thoughts. You wouldn’t expect to run a marathon your first time out for a run, and you shouldn’t expect your first attempt at writing to be a Pulitzer winner.

When you sit down for the second time, think about the things that you’re really trying to communicate with this piece of writing, and start to edit out the parts that aren’t in line with that. You might have to cut some sentences or paragraphs that you really like, and that’s fine. Keeping a sentence in that sounds pretty but doesn’t really add to your mission is kind of like putting on a beautiful wool coat in the middle of summer. It might look nice with your winter outfits, but in this context, it’s out of place and anyone looking at you can see that.

With each consecutive re-read, you’ll get a better sense of your piece, and structure will start to fall into place. Don’t be afraid to edit.

Finally, you’ve probably heard the phrase “Perfect is the enemy of good”. This is very true in writing. The ability to edit is essential, but it can also be your worst enemy. At some point, it’s important for a piece to just be done. Decide that it’s finished. And then put it out into the universe. I know that sharing is scary, but it’s how you’ll get better. And eventually, it will be less scary.

The more you practice, the better you your writing will be, and the closer you will get to finding your own voice. Eventually, your fear and apprehension will lessen, and you just might find that writing is something that you relish.

But getting back to where this post started. Writing coaching. You need it? I offer it. Let’s get writing together.

(www.altairanorthe.com)

 

An update

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There’s been a lot of change in my life in the past few months, and there’s going to be even more in the months to come. I wanted to make an update post to keep people that I know in the loop about what the heck I’m up to these days.

  1. I’ve had an injury. The week after I made my post about how active I was and how much I love being active, I got a stress fracture. I was told to immediately stop any activities that had a high impact on my foot (ie: running). I tried yoga, but the upward to downward dog transition hurt my foot. I tried swimming, but the foot paddling associated with anything but the breast stroke also caused foot pain. I tried to walk less, but I’m such a big walker, and honestly it’s been a crazy struggle. 4 weeks later, I’m not feeling that much better, and I’m wondering if the end will ever be in sight.
    I’m going to try to get back to going to the gym, but with no box jumps, skipping, steps ups, etc etc etc, and see how it goes.
    I’ve seen so many runners that I know deal with injury, and it’s so fucking difficult. On the plus side, it has made me MISS running so much. I constantly think about how much I love it and how much I want to get back out there. Distance is definitely making the heart grow fonder in this case. So much fonder.
    I’m trying to remember to see the long game (patience!). In the big scheme of things, one month off (or two…) is so short when you compare it to a lifetime of physical activity.
    This injury was also a good reminder for me. I knew that it was time to replace my shoes. I could tell that they were worn. But I put it off. And with the level of physical activity that I was putting in, that was a fucking stupid decision. I will never do it again.
  2. I’ve started freelancing full-time. This decision came about in late 2016 after a series of personal breakdowns and revelations, and I finally realized, “I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT” and went for it. I spent the next few months taking every meeting and coffee that I could get, and now things are starting to come together. I’m so god-damn excited about the year ahead. I’m excited for the variation in projects and clients, and the feeling that I never have to be stuck in a specific job if I don’t want to ever again. BUT WHAT DO YOU DO, ALTAIRA? Well, I’m still kind of figuring that out.
    For now it mostly falls into a few buckets:

a. Writing. I love writing, and I’m good at it, and I can pretty much write about anything. I’m hoping to do more health care communications work, some work related to environmental and social issues, and also some work making online resources on various topics. This will be balanced with a healthy dose of blog posts on things like running and mental health and creativity. Writing all the time.

b. Research. I’m good at digging for things online, I know how to identify legit sources, and I’m basically a professional lurker. If you need something from the Internet, I can find it. I love going down knowledge rabbit holes and digging forever until every bit of useful information has been found. Whether it be for an environmental scan, or a policy paper, research holds a special place in my heart. It is a good partner to writing.

c. Other consulting. This third basket is a mixed bag of other things that I like doing. This includes some consulting about events (how should it run, what issues might you come up against, what are your goals), some strategy, and I’m hoping in the future to help teams develop online courses/workshops etc to supplement their own consulting work. I’ve helped to shape countless workshops and online education modules in the academic world, and I’m ready to take those skills and apply them to creative projects.

d. Workshops. I’m also running a series of workshops here in Toronto called Just Write. The purpose of which is to give participants the tools that they need to turn off the part of their brain that tells them that they can’t, and to just start the writing project that they have been thinking about, because that is the first and most difficult step. The next one is THIS SATURDAY. If this sounds interesting to you, I encourage you to register. This month’s workshop is only 45 bucks and will include a really great yoga session by City Yogis.

  1. I’m (mostly) moving back to BC. You heard me. May 2017, I will be packing up my Toronto life and moving it back across the country to Gibsons, BC. I’ve known for a few years that I would be planning a move to BC’s Sunshine Coast, and now the stars have finally aligned and it’s time to go home. I. CANNOT. WAIT. If we’ve ever spoken about my homeland in real life, you will have noticed how my eyes light up when I talk about the smell of the forest, and the damp air coming off the sea. I’m ready for bonfires and vegetable gardens, for trail runs and swims in the ocean on my lunch break, for easy west coast hangs that blend from morning into night, for long table dinners in apple orchards and afternoons spent holding baby sheep. READY. FOR. IT. In large part, this readiness has been facilitated by my decision to freelance. I was always hesitant to move back, because even though my heart ached for the West Coast, the thought of leaving my Toronto life completely behind, and visiting a week or two a year was just too much to bear. So at the moment I’m building up my Toronto clients, with the plan to have a home base in Gibsons but to come back and live in TO 2-3 months a year. The Sunshine Coast has so much possibility, and I cannot fucking wait for the projects, events, community building that I have started brainstorming for the year ahead.
  1. I’ve met so many wonderful people. WEST COAST HIPPIE MOMENT. When I finally gave in to what I really want from my life, I started to meet even more of the best people. I already have some truly wonderful, supportive, funny, generous friends in my life. But the connections that I’m making have just started to explode off the fucking charts in recent months. It’s blowing my mind a little.
  1. Everything is always working out for me. My fam, Jacqueline Jennings Pierrot has started using the term, “coming out of the spiritual closet” for people connecting with their purpose, and generally getting into new age spiritual practices like tarot readings, crystals, positive vibrations with the universe etc. One morning, on my most recent trip to BC, she was like, “I’m listening to this positive thinking podcast, I know you think that it’s stupid, but whatever, it’s totally working”. One of the things that she said from the podcast as a positive mantra was, “everything is always working out for me”. And my immediate reaction was *EYE ROLL* *FUCKING GAG ME* and J was like WHATEVER. And then I started saying it as a joke, because it was too self help, new agey for me, but then actually everything started just working out for me in exactly the way that I hoped it would. Soooooooooooooo… EVERYTHING IS ALWAYS WORKING OUT FOR ME.

Update COMPLETE. Big thanks to everyone who keeps reading my blog, and sending kind words or letting me know in person that a post that I wrote really resonated with them. You’ve helped me to write more consistently and honestly in the year that’s passed, and encouraged me to dig more deeply in the year ahead.

 

Physical activity and personal fortitude

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At the core of every change in my life, there has always been physical activity.

In high school, it was every single sport. When I first moved to Vancouver as a teen, it was long solo bike rides, and intramural basketball. When I went through a rough breakup in my 20s, I turned to yoga. When I moved to Toronto 3 years ago, I took up running again. And recently, I’ve been working more and more on strength training.

Exercise is always there in one form or another, but when I’m seeking real change in other areas of my life, I usually undertake some kind of measurable physical challenge.
The past year has been filled with a lot of uncertainty. I left my job, and spent a lot of time hopping back and forth between Toronto and the West Coast, wondering what to do next. And because I needed something in my life that I felt sure of, I trained for my first ultramarathon. With all of the things in my life that were beyond my control, or that seemed nebulous and unsure, this was one major challenge that I could diligently work towards, that wasn’t entangled with the same complications as all of the other decisions in my life. I could just run. And in running a great distance, I could prove to myself that I had the fortitude, strength, and discipline to accomplish this one big thing, even if I was feeling a little lost about where to direct my energies in my career, and in daily life.

Then the fall hit, and I spent a lot of time travelling, and I fell a little out of my routine. I took a break from running because of injury, and took a break from the gym because I was mostly out of town. And that’s fine. Sometimes our bodies need rest, and sometimes as people, we just need a break from commitments and routine. But a month in, I was getting antsy. And I finally made some decisions about my life. For years, I’ve been saying, “I want to live in Toronto AND in BC! I want to work on all of these side projects! I want variety in my life!”, but instead of doing anything about it, I kind of just put the idea that I could make that happen on a shelf, and kept looking for a full-time job that I knew that I would never be fully satisfied with. Why? Because trying to do things differently is scary. TBH, every week I waffle back and forth between feeling like this is a great idea, and everything is going to be amazing, and thinking that it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, and I’m going to be broke as fuck, and actually just fucked in general if I keep thinking that full-time freelance is going to be a thing that I can do without just completely burning out while at the same time not getting anywhere. And by the way, who do I even think I am anyways? JUST GET A JOB, DUMMY.

But there is one important thing that I can do that always makes me feel better and stronger and more capable; that let’s me know deep in my bones that I’ve made the right decision; and that I know what I’m doing. And that thing is physical activity. Yes, there is also maintaining relationships with friends, and informational interviews, and hustle, and eating right, and other forms of self care. But nothing makes me feel so completely in control of my own destiny, and empowered and sure of my own strength, as overcoming physical goals. So I’m back at the gym, five days a week. I’m back running three times a week. I’m rowing, and lifting weights, and sprinting up hills. I’m pushing myself until my muscles shake and my lungs burn. And it’s not because I want to fit into a dress, or lose weight, or get my body beach ready. It’s because physical activity gives me a clarity of mind that I just can’t get anywhere else. And somehow, the more I build physical strength, the more this strength of body somehow spills over into strength in every other aspect of my life as well. It’s like I’m physically building myself a well that I can draw on for the energy that I need in other parts of my life.

I know that if physical activity isn’t a part of your every day life, that it can be really hard to get started. Maybe you’ve never been active; maybe you were teased as a kid and you hated sports; maybe you recently had a baby and you feel estranged from your own body; maybe you just think that exercise is stupid and it doesn’t fit in with your personal narrative about yourself.

I’m going to make you a promise though – if you find one physical thing that you think you could possibly like, and just try it for a while, let’s say once a week for three months to start, you will start to notice a change. Not necessarily in the way you look. You might not lose weight, or get swole, or have a thigh gap. But you will feel differently. Slowly that thing that you were dreading will become something that you look forward to. The thing that was so hard will become easy. And over time, your body will surprise you. Rather than being a fleshy vessel that you inhabit, it will become a source of personal fortitude.

So this blog post is part personal essay, part challenge. If it’s been a while since you’ve been active, or you’ve never been active at all, give yourself the space to just give it a try. Not to “get fit”, or fast, or slim, or whatever, but to build your well. I know that getting started sucks, but I promise that one day down the road you will wake up and realize that physical activity has changed your life. All you have to do is keep showing up.