I realise most people had these posts ready to go in the first week of January, but in true slow blogger style, I wrote this in my own time and didn't put pressure on myself to get it out there within a certain timeframe, so sorry I’m late!
I'm also going to interrupt this post to mention that it might be glaringly obvious that I have a new layout! It was kind of a spontaneous thing for me but once I started playing around with a different template in Squarespace I got to a point of no return and knew that I'd have to make the switch and I'm SO, SO happy with how it turned out. I'm still in the process of going back through my older posts and making sure they all look alright with the new template, which is very time consuming, but it's worth it because of how much I love the way my blog looks now. I'd also like to ask that if you see anything that doesn't look right or that you think might be an issue I'd love it if you could let me know so I can try and fix it. Anyway, back to the actual topic of this post!
As years go, this has been a pretty big one for me. I don’t usually do posts like this, in fact I think this is the first yearly recap / goals post I’ve ever done in my ~15 years of blogging, but I figured this was good time to take stock of where I’m at and what I’m working on and share it with you guys. I’ve never really been one to set New Years resolutions because I don’t think the time of year has to have anything to do with setting goals, starting projects or breaking habits. You’ll probably notice that most of the things I talk about in this post are things I’m already working on, so there aren’t really any specific goals in here, it’s more about keeping myself on track and taking the time to reflect on the changes I made in 2017, because I think I made some really good ones.
Moving to Toronto & What's Happening Next?
So naturally moving countries was the biggest change that I experienced last year, and it’s easily been one of the best things I’ve ever done. Although winter has been absolutely brutal (and we’ve got a long way to go), my boyfriend and I both love Toronto so much and think it’s an incredible city.
We’ve made wonderful friends, I have a job that I love and we’ve had so many new experiences that we wouldn’t have been able to have if we had stayed at home in our comfortable Sydney bubble. The shine definitely still hasn’t worn off for me yet and I’m so excited for the weather to warm up again because everything in life is better in summertime.
As for 2018, where we live is definitely something that we have to think about. I really don't know what's going to happen, so I don't want to get into too much detail about the whole situation just yet. But basically we have visas that allow us to stay and work in Canada for two years, and a few months after we got here I got a 1-year maternity leave contract for work. So if that finishes up as planned, do we try to stay for the remaining 9 months, or do we move back to Sydney early? On the other hand, if the job keeps going, do we only stay for the remaining 9 months, or do we look into our options for staying in Canada permanently?
Naturally one of the biggest things that I/we have to focus on this year is figuring all of this out and planning accordingly once we've come to a decision. One thing I do know is that if/when we do move back to Sydney, because we'll probably both have to leave our jobs, we're almost certainly going to spend at least a few months travelling around Europe on the way!
While we’re on the topic, I wanted to acknowledge that once we moved I managed to get a job back in the music industry, which is the only industry I have ever wanted to work in or felt passionate about. Even if it only lasts for a year, having a job that I love and working with people who I get along with has made my experience of living in Toronto so wonderful. I don’t know what’s going to happen later this year, but I’m happy to have been given this opportunity, because I didn’t expect to be lucky enough to have a job that I actually love again after I left the music industry in Australia a few years ago. At the very least, my title and skill set are transferrable across industries so hopefully it won’t be too hard for me to find work after this, whether that’s in music or not, but to me this has definitely been a highlight for 2017 and will be in 2018 as well.
Aside from moving to Toronto, which only sort of counts as travel since moving is a lot less fun than a holiday, I did still manage to fit some incredible travel into 2017, which I’m very happy about.
My boyfriend and I went to the US in Feb/March for his cousin’s wedding and we had a great time exploring new places (New Orleans, Texas, the Grand Canyon) as well as one of my old favourites (San Francisco). We also went to Montreal in November, have lined up a trip to New York in March this year, and have some vague travel plans with my parents who are going to be visiting in June/July.
We’re a bit spoilt in Australia where everyone gets 4 weeks paid annual leave each year, and it rolls over into the following year, so you'd end up with 8 weeks in 2 years if you didn't take any of it. Most people living in North America (and a lot of places in the world) aren’t so lucky, and most companies in Canada give employees 2-3 weeks paid leave, but they may have to take all of it within a calendar year or they lose it. My boyfriend works for a US based company where they’re even more strict, so he has two weeks (or 10 days) a year, which hasn’t given us as much time to explore as we’d like.
Another thing that’s been getting in our way is the fact that flying domestically within Canada is FAR more expensive than it is in Australia, Europe or even the US. They don’t seem to have a budget airline so even a 1-2 hour flight to Montreal or New York is still several hundred dollars per person.
All of this just means we have to take advantage of public holidays and take one day off work here and there, and try and do little weekend trips to places that are more local. We had a lovely little trip up north with friends over New Years (unfortunately it happened to be -30°C at the time), and another to the same area a few weeks after that, and we're going on another weekend away over a public holiday we have in Feb, so all of that has been helping to keep our spirits up throughout winter so far. But as I mentioned earlier, whenever we end up moving back to Sydney we’re hopefully going to take a few months off and go travelling to make up for it.
I’m not really going to say too much about this because any kind of conversation about food, body image, exercise, weight loss, etc. is a very sensitive issue for me and has been for my entire life. I barely feel comfortable talking to my boyfriend and a few of my closest friends about it, so I’m not going to put much out there on the internet. Although my boyfriend and I are good at cooking dinners most evenings, we like to eat out a lot on the weekends and for the first few months at my job I was buying lunch each day. I don’t own a set of scales (and probably wouldn’t weigh myself if I did), but my boyfriend and I are both trying to make healthier choices, watch our portion sizes, cook things in advance, and I’m bringing my lunches into work (Mark works from home and cooks his lunches anyway).
We did this for a few weeks in Nov/Dec and were both feeling really good about it, but when Mark’s parents came to visit for two weeks, combined with Christmas, naturally we went right off the rails. But we knew it was coming, and November isn't the best time to start that kind of thing, but we're both keen to get back on track with it all and have been doing really well so far this year. Doing it with someone you live with so you can talk to them about it and support each other is incredibly helpful, and isn't something I've experienced before. I'm not interested in tying timelines, numbers or goals to any of this because that's not helpful for me, but I just wanted to make a note of it because it would be a pretty big omission if I didn't.
Living With Less
2017 was the year I really took decluttering seriously. In mid-2016 I moved into my apartment in Sydney, and in early 2017 I moved out again in preparation for the move overseas. There was 9 months between those two moves, and I realised I had an entire carload of stuff that I hadn't touched or needed, so it all got donated. Naturally, when we moved overseas my boyfriend and I could only bring so much stuff with us (2 suitcases each, to be specific) so I took my decluttering to a whole new level.
While I didn't have the time/capacity to thoroughly declutter my books and records during that second move because I knew I wasn't bringing them with me, I really focused on decluttering my clothes and makeup. I figured if I didn't love something enough to bring it with me, then I could live without it, so I downsized massively.
One of the biggest things we have both noticed since moving to Toronto is how easy it is to live with less. When you pick up a new hobby and start collecting things related to that hobby, it just kind of stays in your life, and especially if you’ve been living in the same place for a long time, there’s no real push to get rid of anything, so it all just piles up. There are so many clothes we keep because we paid a lot for them, or because we think we might need them one day, and there are books we keep even though we know we have 30 others we would rather read first.
Of course it's not feasible for everyone, but preparing to leave most of your stuff behind is a really good way to figure out what you actually need and what you don't. At the moment we live in a very small, one-bedroom apartment, so we simply don't have the room for a bunch of stuff to pile up - we have one little set of shelves where we keep books, candles and some sentimental display items, and I have a dressing table for my makeup. We have a built-in wardrobe each, Ikea Alex 5-drawers as our bedside tables, and my boyfriend has a desk for work - but that's all the storage we have! There's a kitchen of course, but in terms of storing our personal items we are very limited, which very much helps with the following point.
With My Purchases
Although I was very restricted in terms of the amount of clothing I could bring with me in the move, naturally I've bought quite a few things since then because not only was my wardrobe severely lacking in seasonally-appropriate clothing, but I was also trying to work my way out of a style rut that I felt like I'd been stuck in for the past two years. I made a really big point of addressing my rut because not only do I not want to be in it anymore, but I want to make sure that the clothes I'm buying are things that I'll actually wear. I didn't go through all of that decluttering just to waste my money and wardrobe space on clothes I don't love or that don't suit my lifestyle.
I think for the most part I've done a pretty good job of really considering what I'm buying before pulling the trigger (or not returning something) and I've built up a wardrobe I'm quite happy with, and it's much, much smaller than what I had at home. I really want to continue on this path of only buying things that I know I'll love, and returning (or not buying) anything that's not perfect for me. I've made a mistake here and there along the way, but overall I can honestly look at my winter clothes and say that every piece is in rotation right now and there's nothing in there that I don't like wearing.
Of course, being intentional doesn't just stop with clothes. Back home I have a collection of a few hundred books, and sometimes I would feel so overwhelmed by choice that I didn't know what to read next. But over here I've been buying a few books at a time and reading them before buying more. It feels really satisfying to actually make use of what I'm buying instead of having a collection of books that'll take me years to get through. When it comes to makeup, these days I'm really good at knowing what will and won't work for me, and not getting sucked into the hype of every new release. I'm working on a whole post about this kind of thing so I won't go into too much detail except to say that I'm far more satisfied and happy with what I own now than I was when I owned twice as much.
I really feel like 2017 is the year I hit my stride with blogging, and I can honestly say I’m far happier with my online space than I think I ever have been. I spoke in great detail in my Slow Blogging post about feeling lost and unsure of myself when blogging was first transitioning into a monetised industry a few years ago, but after coming to the realisation that I only ever want to be a hobby blogger who does this for fun, it was like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
Blogging went back to being something that only brought me joy instead of unnecessary stress and pressure – I no longer feel like I have to keep up with anyone, or do things the way other people do them. I blog for myself, when I want, about what I want, and if that means 2-3 posts a month that I’m proud of instead of posting daily, then that’s what I’m going to do.
Having this realisation and putting it into practice, both in the way I blog and the way I consume other blogs has made all the difference to me. Not only do I feel like I’ve reclaimed my space and feel confident about the path I’m on, but it also means I don’t feel the need to compare what I’m doing to anyone else, because I don’t want to be doing things any other way. I now enjoy the whole process of blogging, as well as connecting with readers and other bloggers so much more because I have a clear idea of what my blog is and what I want it to be, and that has brought me a lot of happiness in the past year, and I can only imagine that I’m going to love blogging even more in 2018.
Stay Positive About
Although I’ve never been diagnosed, I definitely believe I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) because every year in Sydney, winter would always bring me down, and I’ve spent my entire life longing for warm, sunny days. So over here where the weather is a lot more extreme and we get fewer hours of sunlight everyday has been a challenge. I know that it’s partly a state of mind thing, so I’ve been trying my hardest to think positively, and I have to admit all the snow is quite pretty when it’s not something you normally experience.
I got through autumn just fine because I figured out how to layer properly so that the roughly 0-6°C weather didn’t phase me. But now that we’re getting regular Extreme Cold Weather warnings and experience days as low as -10° or -20° (and with wind-chill you can safely subtract another 10° from that) it’s an entirely different story. I’m never going to be someone who loves winter, or who even likes it, but my aim is to try and stay positive and not let it get me down too much even though it’s far more severe than I’ve ever experienced before.
Get Back Into Yoga
This is the only thing in this post that I haven’t really made any progress with yet. But this is what I mean about not setting goals or resolutions - I started thinking about this post back in September because I don’t think the time of year needs to have anything to do with making changes to your life, it just so happens that the new year is a good time for me to talk about what’s happened and what I’m working towards in the future. In any case, back in 2015-2016 I was in a great routine of going to yoga twice a week, but when I moved out of home to a different area of Sydney I no longer had classes to go to and it just fell by the wayside. I really enjoyed it while I was doing it, not in a fitness/weight loss sense, but just because I enjoyed the stretching, the strengthening and the centring aspect of it. I’d really like to get back into doing it again, hopefully on a regular basis, so this is the only real goal I have that may or may not happen. I really need to be in a regular routine to keep the ball rolling with things like this, so even if I do start this may get disrupted towards the end of the year if we end up moving home, but let’s just see what life has in store.