paradise found

A friend just recently came out to the island to visit me–I mean, I was a stop along the way as she road-tripped with her boyfriend for a romantic mini-vacation, so it wasn’t all about me, but the point is she came to Victoria and we all hung out and drank on the beach and watched for marine wildlife and just had an awesome time.

Live footage of us having an awesome time in Vancouver

Being this happy is great, but also terrifying. It reminds me that I’ve lived a long time without ever truly feeling it–at least, not for long periods of time. Or at least, it wasn’t that happiness that manifests from within. I’ve felt joy multiple times in my life. I’ve been happy. But it’s been a reactionary happiness; it’s as a result of a trip to Hawaii or a good grade or a night out with friends. It’s not the kind that is self-sustaining, one that bubbles up and lives somewhere inside you. I imagine it’s located just underneath your sternum… close to your heart.

I thought about my journey this past year. This past year is important–not the year 2016, but the minutes and hours and days between July of last year and now. A year ago, I hit rock bottom. Emotionally and physically I was despondent–I was stressed out, I was unhealthy, I was trapped in a fake relationship… I was trapped in myself. I’d convinced myself that this was okay. That this was the best it was going to get. That this was what being an adult was about–a little bit of happiness sprinkled over a whole bunch of shit. I was convinced I was still growing and changing. And I was still growing–as people we are always growing in some way. But like a plant that needs repotted, my roots were banging against the edges of myself, curling back in towards my centre… and never going anywhere.

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Our view from the beach, featuring the Pacific Ocean and setting sun.

So, I broke up with the boyfriend. I sold my car. I moved to Victoria. I started university (again). And once I was allowed the space to expand, it seems like I broke through the self-imposed barriers and became the best version of myself. Granted, I get to go to the beach every day. Yes, I am mostly unemployed. But it’s about more than that. It’s about giving myself the permission to be, to grow bigger than myself, and to just be happy. I know, I know… happiness is an intangible thing, how do you know you have it? I think it’s like that whole love thing where you know it when you feel it. But, there’s also been changes in myself physically that embody these emotional shifts.

I don’t wear foundation anymore (unless I want to). I used to be the girl who needed to have the perfect face and the perfect hair (there was one night I was almost in tears before going to the club because I thought my hairstyle made my head look square–it was a whole thing, I’m not proud of it) but now I put less pressure on myself to adhere to what I’d previously held up as the standard for perfection. This isn’t a knock against girls who do wear makeup, I still like to beat my face every once in a while, but it’s just something I’ve personally noticed and attribute to being more comfortable in my own skin.

I’m a heck of a lot more comfortable with the physical space I take up. I used to be self-conscious about my size–my big ass seems to always be getting in the way. And now, I’ve embraced my curvy physique in a way that is healthy for me. I mean, yeah I like to work out. And yeah, if I lose a few pounds that’s fine. But if I gain a few pounds that’s also fine. What’s most important is that I’m healthy–my heart is tick-tick-ticking, my lungs are inflating and deflating at an appropriate pace, and I can do like 60 push ups (in intervals of 15), so I feel pretty good about all that. Granted, I have my hang ups–like, there’s this pair of vintage Levi’s I thrifted about a month ago that I desperately want to get into, but I’m not going to let some old denim without any give make or break me, ya feel?

Happy girl, post-dip-in-the-ocean at English Bay.

I’m not all caught up on what men think about me. This is one of the best things about being happy, to be honest. Even though I’m aware of the male gaze and all the crap that comes with it, I still couldn’t help but be effected by it. I wanted to be “hot” and I put a lot of energy into doing things I thought would achieve the desired “hotness”. Now I know the hottest thing to be… is myself. I’ve always been a total babe, now I’m just letting myself realize it.

Me eating an ice cream and living my best life in front of Munro’s in Victoria.

And my relationship with food has taken a total turn for the best. It’s one of the largest manifestations of my newly uncovered happiness. As someone who will always be in recovery from disordered eating, the way I eat is always gonna be about more than just food. It’s an emotional relationship, one based around more than energy and calories and health. I mean, this is a girl who didn’t eat anything with flour or sugar in it for over a year because I’d convinced myself those were bad foods. I still feel guilty when I eat bread sometimes. I’ve noticed a shift, though, in my thinking. Food is no longer a product of shame (at least, not all the time). Food is energy. Food is also joy. Yeah, sure, I’m still a binger (I did eat an entire Black Forest Cake not too long ago and I’ve been known to chow down a whole bag of chips in a single sitting) but it comes with a different level of guilt. It’s never like “I ate all this food and now I’m fat and no one will love me!” it’s more like “Wow, what is going on with me that I felt the need to binge?” and I examine my emotional state and I try to re-connect the pieces of myself that have fallen apart. I no longer worry as much about fitting in to last summer’s shorts; I worry about fat encasing my internal organs and shutting them down, or getting diabetes, or not being able to walk up a set of stairs.

It’s not about being thin… it’s about being happy.

Every time I make a wish, I wish for the same thing. Each time I blow out birthday candles or find an eyelash on my cheek or see the clock strike 11:11 or catch a shooting star smearing across the night sky, I make the same wish. I wish for happiness. It’s a wish I’ve been making since I was a little girl. I know, I know, you’re not supposed to spill the wish–that makes it lose its magic. But this time around, I think it’s okay. Because it might have finally come true.

One last shot of paradise. The view from the top of Mount Doug aka PKOLS in Victoria.