I’m trying something different, something new.
I was recently inspired by Pamela Anderson after subscribing to her reflective journal on Pamelaanderson.com. Upon reading a piece that entered my inbox on ageing about the same time I turned 31 I too was compelled to reflect.
On a 6-hour-drive from British Columbia to Alberta, surrounded by majestic mountains blanketed in snow, I entered a state of flow.
At first it was meant to be a paragraph for my monthly newsletter, then it was meant for just me, then I shared it with Michael and in the catharsis that followed I felt something within tell me it was time to share.
This reflective journal entry is titled:
I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
Last month I turned 31.
Since my mid-twenties I have been overcome by anxiety in the days leading up to my birthday. It was the night before my 26th birthday when I began crying uncontrollably over the concept of getting older. I was spiralling over how everyone around me was ageing too and the idea of losing friends and family consumed me. In the years that followed, right before my birthday, I would experience panic attacks, feelings of unworthiness and depression.
What made this time around my birthday particularly confusing was that I love the focus that society naturally delivers individuals on their birthdays, even though I am becoming increasingly aware that I don’t know how to respond to attention without being absurdly awkward about it. So why the drama? Why was I internally throwing myself into joy-jail during my solar return?
As I reflect back on these recent years and fear surrounding my birthday I am drawn to highlight the bigger picture of those years.
That first experience of panic over my birthday that I mentioned, before turning 26, was also just a handful of days before I launched Postcards from Hawaii and not only was I riddled with nerves I was in deep combat with ugly comments from family.
Thanks to a handful of influencers, content creators were receiving a nasty reputation (still do) and the idea of making money through a blog was inconceivable to the masses (still is). My Dad, after ridiculing the name on the day my blog launched, repeatedly told me I would be nothing. My Mum (through her best intentions) feared how long I would be unemployed having spent the past 8 years working. My cousin single-handedly destroyed our bond by telling me that if I’m not careful with what I say I will be the reason our teenage cousins kill themselves, whilst another cousin unfollowed me for sharing photos of myself in a swimsuit and another one sent me a DM saying “it would be nice to see you in photos with other people, or perhaps photos without you in them”. Yeah, it sucked.
In the years that followed, I lived at home where I defended my choices daily and then there was the pandemic which amongst other traumas pressed a 19-month-long pause on my move to Canada and, I know this one was deeply felt by all, years of my life seemed to disappear before my eyes in lockdown. That takes us up to last year when I turned 30.
At that time I was deeply unhappy living in Canada – not to mention restrictions paired with Michael’s positive covid test result led to upturned plans for that birthday.
Complicated doesn’t even begin to cover how I felt in the first 8 months of living in Canada.
I spent the three years since applying to move dreaming of my life in North America but in the unexpected time I spent in London right before moving to Vancouver, my desire to move was wavering.
My mental health was improving, my blog was picking up as the world slowly reintroduced travel and I was getting more clients. I was finding myself again and then the border to Canada opened and I didn’t want to go.
Mustering up the motivation to leave London was like the end of a candle, when you can see there’s wax but the wick isn’t lighting anymore.
I did it anyway because, honestly, I felt I had to (a topic my therapist paid her rent with no doubt) and by the start of 2022 I was deeply unhappy. All around me people told me I must be so happy I’m finally living my dream but I cried all the time. I wouldn’t leave the house alone and through the very worst of it I wasn’t eating unless someone was watching me. I dropped 9lbs in two months which led to being encouraged by a naturopath to reintroduce meat into my diet therefore ending my journey as a vegetarian which just added to my identity crisis after moving.
I only carried one brand partnership over from England and had one very disappointing hotel collab with Shangri-La. I didn’t know where to start rebuilding and I was in the middle of an extremely stressful and very delayed web-redesign with developers that are, quite frankly, terrible to work with and a year on I’m still clearing up the mess they made here.
My anguish over our international move and feeling like I’d lost myself in the process put a lot of strain on my relationship with Michael and despite starting the year getting engaged, we moved through the rest of it with broken lines of communication. Wedding dress adverts made me feel like the air was being sucked from my lungs and the question of which country we’d get married in made me want to fall off the planet altogether. All our energy shifted from wedding talk to rebuilding our relationship to nurture who we’re becoming and not who we were. So when we requested you “please stop asking when we’re getting married” we needed you to do that.
I threw myself into back-to-back travel to cope and thanks to multiple weddings I was given the perfect excuses to keep leaving Vancouver.
Eventually, with the help of therapy, a break in our travel schedule, self-help books, the support of my fiancé and my three best friends (from childhood, university and adulthood) and a long summer in Vancouver, I began to pull out of it. I built personal relationships by being open to everyone I met and asking for phone numbers and Instagram accounts of the ones I clicked with (I basically went on multiple first dates last year) and I started to build my work relationships from contacts I’d made in London and sharing more life photos that weren’t just related to my blog.
I wanted to be happy but more importantly, I wanted to feel like I belonged.
I worked hard, both on cultivating professional relationships and sustaining the friendships I found to be nourishing and reciprocal. I paid close attention to who I was surrounding myself with and I set boundaries where they were needed and communicated my feelings clearly.
I found joy in simple things like decorating my apartment for holidays and seasons, cooking for friends and organising events that bring my people together.
I stopped allowing myself to think I wasn’t good enough to work with certain hotels and brands and just put myself out there. If they rejected me I decided it speaks more about them and less about me. Now when I hear that I “don’t have enough followers” instead of thanking them for their time and trying to justify my talent, I thank them for letting me know that they value follower count over relationships and tell them that they aren’t a good fit for me. Most of the time though, putting myself out there is paying off. Literally, paying.
I leant into activities I love that encourage independence such as tennis, ballet and skiing and I focused on appreciating what I have in Canada rather than what I miss from England like: mountains on my doorstep, bald eagles outside my home office window, glacial lakes for summer swims and a massive wine region where I practise zero chill and restraint – apparently.
So this year, when my 31st birthday rolled around and the majority of my friends fortuitously aligned to be able to go for dinner on the same evening and I received the most thoughtful gifts and a birthday cake that spoke to who I am and what I love, I didn’t even realise until the following week that I didn’t experience any of my previous feelings of anxiety or fear. Okay, excluding my outfit but that was resolved very quickly with a trip to Dollarama and my jewellery making kit.
I am being seen for me. I am supported, I am appreciated and I am celebrated for who I am. Not just by others but by myself.
Unfortunately I know all too well that one story of someone pulling themselves out of a lonely hole isn’t going to lift you out of yours if you’re feeling the same. I do however know that it helps to know that you aren’t alone in that hole. We are often told that there’s more to a person’s life than what you see and that you don’t know their demons.
So perhaps your family don’t support your career moves, you don’t have friends around you that make you feel understood, maybe you’re going through a period of growth in your relationship, you’re struggling to adjust to a new environment or have anxiety over ageing or your identity, please know that you aren’t alone.
You are stronger than you could ever know.
Not long before my birthday I pulled an affirmation card from my deck. It read “I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.”
I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
Do more on & for the planet (and yourself), Gabriella