Goodbyes are never easy

Goodbyes are never easy. I said “goodbye” to my mum, my friends, my family and my home just over two months ago, and I remember holding my breath and telling myself everything would be okay because I knew that I was making the right decision.

My mum promised me it wouldn’t be long until I saw her again, and she wasn’t lying.

Today I said goodbye to my mum for the second time during my travels, but not for the last time.

17626161_10210390207043853_1990562606272675479_n.jpgI’m in such a privileged position that my mum works for an airline, and therefore is a) extremely well travelled and open to travelling and b) has so many opportunities to come and visit me.

She flew out to Canada from the UK five days ago to visit me, on British Mother’s Day, and to have the opportunity to see my mum on that special day was so magical. I got to chat with her and have a cup of tea and give her a gift. I got to tell her, in person, how special she is to me and how grateful I am for her- which I guess is the whole point of the day.

She hung out with me in the city that I now get to call home, and I showed her around. I took her to my favourite restaurants and bars, for brunch and lunch and drinks at the top of a sky scraper so that we could take in “The 6ix” together.

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In turn she got to tell me how proud she is of me for making the leap across the ocean to pursue my dreams and live a life that I have always dreamt of.

I’ve grown so much already in such a short space of time, and to know that my best friend who has been with me from the very beginning- before I was even a thing– is happy, well, that’s just the best feeling.

I remember a time, stood in a cobbled courtyard on a spring day in Leeds. I could smell the Moroccan restaurant my apartment faced, and feel the chill in the air even though it had been a warm day, as I watched her Fiat500 pull out of the parking lot and onto the road that would lead her home. I was only a 1 hour 30 minute drive from home and yet I felt a million miles away. My heart yearned to get into that car with her and travel up that road to Sunderland, away from the heartache that I thought surrounded me. I was so melancholy I was practically scripted for a Shakespearean drama.

But this time, things have changed.

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Every second with her was filled with joy, and felt like I hadn’t been apart from her for one minute, but at the same time, was tainted with the ominous looming cloud of the goodbye that was to come.

I was sad before she even arrived, because I knew the dreaded goodbye was always lurking in the shadows, sneering at our smiles.

But in reality, once I bid her adieu for a second time, I realised that the goodbye isn’t sad at all. It’s a joyous goodbye.

The only reason I’ve had to say farewell to her is because I’m doing something that is making all of my favourite people impressed and happy for me. I’m fulfilling my potential, and nothing worth having ever comes easy.

I don’t want to get on the plane with her and go back to that little town where I don’t think I felt real belonging, although I wish I could stay with her.

The goodbyes will never get easier, but I think that they will always be worth it.

 

 

Aimeexo

International Women’s Day: Why equality is still relevant

Today is International Women’s Day. A day that celebrates the strength, determination, struggle and rise of women worldwide. A day which reminds each and every woman that it is more than okay to be a woman.

For me, feminism is something hugely worth supporting. Not because I hate men. Hell, I love men. Feminism is equality- it is allowing women and men to exist on the same level with mutual respect and like opportunities.

As a white, middle class woman from the West, I know that my own struggles have paled in comparison to those of other women of different races, classes and areas of the world. This saddens me.

I don’t class the struggles I have faced as a woman any worse than identical struggles experienced by men, however, the inequality comes from those struggles I have faced because I am a woman.

Struggles like being called ‘bossy’ as though it’s a bad thing that I’m assertive, it’s a bad thing that I have aspirations and goals and know what I want and how to achieve it.

Struggles like being called a ‘psycho’ because I’m a girl and we woman are weak and feeble and if we show just once ounce of anger or emotion at a personal injustice, our mental stability is put into the firing line.

Struggles like being compared to other women, based on ability, or looks, or weight, and allowing those comparisons to completely absorb my own mind until I feel like I am wading through a tar-like chaotic darkness.

Struggles like going for a graduate job, and working my ass off to research everything I can about the company, to show them just how much I want the job. Working and perfecting my skills and what I’m going to say and the examples of how I can benefit their company only to sit down opposite a panel of white, middle-aged, middle-class men, and seeing that look in their eyes. Little girl- she can’t do this. I’m a good judge of character; I feel your judgement too.

Struggles like being verbally harassed on the street by men I do not know, who think its totally cool to call sexual remarks at me when I’m 15, 16, 17, 18…. I don’t know you, and even if I did, it’s not cool.

Struggles like getting my ass grabbed at work by a complete fucking stranger and being told to “not make a fuss, he’s a paying customer”… I was a waitress in a pretty mainstream cocktail bar. Pretty sure it was a strawberry woo woo he paid for.

Today is an amazing day, because it allows women of all shapes, sizes, sexualities, races, religions and homelands to come together and unite and prosper. It also lets the amazing men in the world show their support for women, and to mark their place in the march towards equality.

However, even on a day filled with such positivity for everyone, there are always those people who have something negative to say. Who aren’t happy to see a positive celebration. “Fuck feminism”, “It’s sad that you need a day to celebrate your gender”, “Typical feminists”. You can imagine.

I think the key thing to remember is that, in the words of Chimamanda Ngozi, feminist is: “the person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.”

So, fuck yeah women’s day, what a rad, positive day to celebrate our gorgeous mothers, wives, girlfriends, sisters, aunts, grandma’s and friends of the world, regardless of whether you are a male or a female.

 

Aimeexo

A familiar face

Its amazing the difference a friendly face can make. I guess I should start this post with an anecdote.

Around this time five years ago, maybe minus a couple of months, I was in my first year of university in Leeds, living in residence with my friend, James. If you’d told me then that, in five years time, we’d both be the happiest version of ourselves, living in another country, and sitting opposite one another in a hole in the wall bar on Queen Street West in Toronto, well I wouldn’t have believed you.

Back then I was in a pretty dark place, struggling with a bunch of personal demons, having had my heart metaphorically doused in petrol and set on fire, and I wasn’t the most chipper of people. James was a pretty quiet guy, and although had his own stuff going on, was mostly happy to just tinker about on his guitar or make experimental music in his room. I guess though, that for me, I was so unhappy with my life that the negativity seeped out of me and diluted my aura- I wasn’t a great person to be around. My problems manifested themselves into obsessive-compulsive behaviours- from controlling my food and weight, right down to fixating on cleanliness and organisation.

Obviously, this didn’t go down well in a student apartment, with a bunch of 18 year olds having finally escaped the rules of home life and having their first taste of freedom. I guess it drove a wedge between James and I for a while.

So to think that fast forward a few years, and we’d be here, drinking cider and laughing on a chilly Canadian February night, is incredible.

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James moved to Muskoka, about two hours North of Toronto, in the summer of 2016 to work as a music technician at a Christian camp. He works long hours, five days a week, and he works hard. But he enjoys it.

It was a crazy coincidence for us both to be setting up our lives so far from home, but to have found each other once again.

James took a few days out after family weekend to come and see me, and spend some real time in the city, and it was awesome. Showing him around, taking him to see the sights he had on his list, visiting vintage stores, and vegan food stores, and eating the best sushi, and drinking ciders in the coolest bars and breweries. It finally felt like this was my city. Here I was, walking the streets, navigating the TTC, and showing someone everything. Dishing out facts as we walk by an old store or park or museum.

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A month on since I arrived in Canada, I guess at times I am starting to feel the niggle of not having my friends around, and the feeling of missing those familiar faces. So, it was perfect timing that an old familiar face showed up in the middle of this brand new life. It was grounding and exciting and such a good feeling to be able to have a conversation with someone in the same situation as me. And with someone who I’ve shared so much history with.

It’s amazing where you find true friends. And it’s amazing where they show up again.

A familiar face.

 

Aimeexo

GIRL is just a four letter word

Skateboarding is an art that I have idolised for a long time. Since I was a kid I’ve always loved everything about the scene, from the actual sport itself, to the fashion, culture and lifestyle surrounding it. I found myself gravitating towards music, movies, brands and people associated with. Yet, I never seriously tried to pursue it, mostly because I was scared- I mean, I’m a GIRL.

So, I found myself attracted to boys in the sport instead. If I couldn’t do it, I could at least watch them do it. I could feel pumped every time they landed a trick, every time their efforts were recognised, right? I couldn’t do any of that stuff myself- I’m a GIRL.

At home I made friends with a couple of decent guys on the scene. They were rad and I was permanently mesmerised every single time I saw them effortlessly drop in on a vert ramp. I wish I could do that stuff, but I couldn’t… GIRL.

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I always figured that everyone would look at me and say I was a poser. I was just doing it for attention, or for guys. That part sucks the most. The fact I formed a relationship with a guy who skated, and skated fucking brilliantly, didn’t help either. I wanted to do it for myself, but of course if I want to participate in a male dominated sport then of course; it must be for the male attention. It must be to wow the boys, for a boyfriend, for a partner. Why? Oh, yeah, because I’m a GIRL.

The burning desire to nail skating for myself just grew stronger though, and no amount of anxiety about what other people thought could put it out. Moving to Canada was the biggest step for me. I’d already done something super scary- the scariest thing I’ve ever done actually- and I’d succeeded. So here I am, in Canada, and who cares what people think? This GIRL is going to be herself.

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Prior to my arrival in the country, my amazing pal Ben had taken me out a few times on a shitty £30 penny board that I bought, mostly because I was too scared of the judgement I would get for buying a real board. And he was super supportive. He saw how much I genuinely wanted it, and he continuously pushed me to practise, and eat shit, and get back up again. And he promised me that it didn’t matter if I was a girl or not- it just mattered that I was trying.

In Toronto I found an awesome group of girls who go by the name of the Babes Brigade. Formed in 2015 for the sole purpose of finding ladies with a shared interest in skating, they meet twice a week and welcome all abilities.

Arriving in the winter probably wasn’t the best time for me to practise, but luckily the girls meet once a week at an indoor park not too far from where I live called The Skate Loft. And Monday night is GIRLS ONLY night (5-7pm).

Going along and being welcomed by a mix of women who had been skating from 10 years right down to six weeks really motivated me. Everyone was super friendly and supportive and no matter how many times I fell on my ass- or anyone did for that matter- it was all about getting back up and doing it again.

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So the next day I dashed between skate stores in the city, pricing up and subsequently buying my perfect first board. I picked a shop complete from So Hip It Hurts– Toronto’s first and oldest skate store. And I’m obsessed.

I’ve likened the feeling to falling in love. Wanting something so desperately that you just want to keep trying. It’s exciting and scary and exhilarating. Hitting the ground and getting back up with more determination. It leaves my legs shaking and my heart racing.

My desire to progress has truly been ignited, and now I don’t think the flame will go out for a very long time. And I don’t care what anyone says, I am a GIRL and I like skateboarding- and I’m fucking proud of that too.

 

AimeeXO

Winter

Today I realised, for the first time, that I am a winter person. I’ve never been someone who is particularly keen on winter. For me winter, once the holiday season was over, was always grey, miserable and a little depressing.

Winter in the North East of England was about gale force winds and drizzle. It was walking home from school at 4:00pm in the dark, so drenched in rain that your tights clung to your red raw legs. It was having no money after Christmas, but wanting to get drunk in the same club you’ve been frequenting since you were a teenager, because anything to speed up (or blackout) those months was a bonus. And the rare occasion that it did snow, the wet flakes would fall to the ground and turn into a brown mush within hours, for the most part anyway. Those rare days of pure white snow seem more like a distant childhood memory than anything.

I guess the grey weather, partially to blame on living by the sea, is why I always kind of hated winter and why I self-diagnosed with SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

But since arriving here, everything has changed.

Winter is so magnificent here. I mean, yeah, there are those days with freezing ice rain, which clings to the wires overhead, creating a deathly tightrope for the birds brave enough to come out this time of year. The days when the TTC are thrown into a state of disarray and angry commuters are forced to try and make it home by foot, if a trusty subway line cannot rescue them.

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But then there are days like today, when the snow begins to float down and blanket the world in white. Everything looks better when it’s covered in snow. Like all of the blemishes and imperfections of the city vanish and everything becomes surreal.

It turns me into a child again: my feet searching for some fresh, not yet trodden in snow, just so I can hear that satisfying crunch, crunch, crunch.

And everything is so peaceful that it’s hard to believe that you’re in one of the biggest cities in the world. I don’t know if there is some kind of scientific explanation as to why the sound becomes dulled (there probably is), but everything is just so serene.

It isn’t difficult to get around, and as long as you bundle up, you are pretty free to walk wherever you want and take in the beauty.

Back in England, if the temperature dropped below 5 degrees, I wasn’t impressed.

Now I can run for miles on a -11 day and feel nothing but satisfaction.

Back home winter was something to dread and despise, but here, finally, I want to apologize to winter. I guess you aren’t so bad after all.

 

Aimeexo

Friendship.

Friendship. It’s a weird thing, and often something we take for granted. It’s only in situations when things become extreme that you realise what friendship truly is. Whether that situation is a time of hardship or a time of immense joy, whether it is distance or time difference.

When I left the UK my best friend wrote me a letter- one which I’ve avoided reading since I arrived in Canada because I knew it would make me become so aware of just how much distance was between us. And between me and all of my friends. And everyone back home.

In the letter she wrote a quote from a book that I had bought her for Christmas.

When I bought the book, although I saw the quote as I flicked through its pages, I didn’t realise quite how poignant that quote would become.

“The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.”

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Granted, I have only been away from home for two weeks right now, but it honestly feels a lifetime. Perhaps because so many aspects of my daily life have changed. I have picked up a new routine and found new familiar faces, and so that old life has become so very far away.

One thing I have become increasingly aware of is how difficult it is to make new friends as an adult.

When you’re a kid, you are thrown into constructed social situations, which almost force you to make friends- kindergarten, nursery, school, playgroup, after school programmes, dance classes, college, and university. Everything is laid out in front of you like a puzzle, all you need to do is put the pieces together.

Things get a little more tricky when, as an adult with no set job offer, you decide to move thousands of miles from home.

I’m super lucky to be living with my family here. However, my cousin and best friend, J, my soul sista and twin, has moved from Toronto to Vancouver. And being here without her makes me a little lost. We share the same interests, from music to fashion, books to bars. I get on with her friends and she gets on with mine.

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Without her here, it’s feeling hard to find my people, and forge my own path. Though we’ve both agreed that it is best for us both. I’m finding my own feet.

I think the key thing to take away is the importance of friendship. It really is something we take for granted day-to-day as humans, when life gets a little hectic or boring or you just need some entertainment, it’s easy to forget how blessed you can be just to have a friend who is always there.

Missing home

So I’ve successfully hit the one-week milestone. It feels a little weird to think that I’ve been living here for a week. On the one hand, it has completely flown by, and on the other hand, the day I left the UK feels like a lifetime ago.

I suppose I haven’t had the time to be homesick, and missing home won’t really sink in for a while. I’m in a constant state of contentment, and think that once I find a job and get myself into a routine, this will continue. But I’m also anticipating the day when it does sink in. Everything feels a little too good to be true. I’m trying to live my life with a positive mantra right now, always looking at the best in things and trying to keep any negativity out of my mind. Over the years I have suffered a lot of anxiety, and I guess that this kind of thinking helps to keep that at bay, but I am still waiting. Waiting for that grey fog to transcend and engulf me…. what if it doesn’t though?

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Although I loved my friends and family and home in the UK, I was never truly happy. While I was at home, I never really felt like I was at home. I wasn’t where I was meant to be.

I see so many people so content with their life at home. They’re happy with the job they have now, going to work, coming home. They will probably be happy with that job for many years if not for the rest of their lives. They have partners and houses and a routine that they are quite comfortable in. I just never was.

From being a kid I’ve always felt like there was so much more out there, way more to see and do than what we were confined to in that small northern city where everyone knew what everyone was up to. Who was dating who and working where. Who was friends with who, and who wasn’t.

I think I’m finding my feet and finding out who I really am. I can escape negative influences and really carve out the life I have always dreamt I would have.

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That’s not saying I won’t miss home. I miss the little things. The smell of my bedding at my mum’s house when it is freshly washed, walks along the beach and the smell of fish and chips, even the constant notifications telling you that “the metro is sorry for your delay”. I miss my best friends and my mum and forcing my dog to snuggle in bed with me. And I think this feeling will only get stronger the longer that I am here. But it’s worth it.

I had my first real dose of homesickness the other day after facetiming with my mum. I was telling her how happy I am to be here, and she looked like she might cry. Not because she was sad, but because she was happy and proud. And that’s all I could ever want- to make my parents proud.

The leap I have taken in relocating almost 4,000 miles away from home has been huge. It’s a little scary at times, but I know I’ve done the best thing for myself at this time in my life. In your early twenties, it is important to be a little selfish, in order to pursue the life you want. I know how I want my future to be and I truly hope that this will shape that.

I’ll never stop missing home though.