Five things for the week of February 11.

So now that the snow has fallen, we’re all getting back into the swing of things, yes? Kingston got a good amount of snow and the piles along my walk to school are making for some challenging walking. But, that’s okay – it’s pretty to look at, and sometimes you stumble around the ghetto and see things like this:


Here’s 5 things to get you off to a good start this week.

1. Paperman. This short animation is up for an Oscar and is just the cutest thing. Take a look.

2. I may not have a lot of time to read books for fun lately, but Katie turned me on to this site last week, and I think it’s a great way to get ideas and remember what you’ve personally read. Check it out!

3. Life in Five Seconds. Here’s a neat visual art project / book. Key stories told in the most simplistic way.

4. Toronto time lapse. Another beautiful shot by Sam Javanrouh. Also of note, the interactive version of this photo.


5. Molson Canadian Commercial. Score 1 for the beer company. Awesome spot.

The Month of Love: Learning to love yourself.

A few years ago, I got sick with mono and gallstones at the same time I was trying to finish my undergrad degree, recruit for a job and figure out what  I was going to do with my life after graduation. It was a deathly combination all at once. Although it wasn’t fun,  I did deal with it all and move on. One upside: I have some hilarious stories of attempting to stay awake during inopportune moments to fall asleep!

More than a year later, after moving to Toronto for a job opportunity, I began suffering from homesickness and job-related stress. I wasn’t happy, but, thanks to a few good friends and the support of my family, within the year I found a solution and relocated to Nova Scotia to be closer to family and to seek out a new career path.

We all have unique periods of ups and downs in our lives – stress, family issues, deaths, births, moving, job changes, personal relationships. And, we all deal with these different stresses differently.

While we all deal differently, one commonality is that the most fundamental relationship we each have throughout our lives is the relationship we have with ourselves.

So, if you ain’t happy, you’d better fix it. I believe the solution always starts with you.

When I was in Toronto, trying to figure out how to fix the situation I was in, I had a conversation with a near and dear friend of mine. We no longer live close by each other, so we stay in touch on the phone. She’s in social work, a far cry from the business world I live in day to day and one day on the phone she mentioned the concept of “self care.”  I didn’t really know what she meant, but after we hashed it out on the phone (à la therapist) it was much more clear to me that each of us owes it to ourselves to care well for ourselves.

So figure out what gets you up when you’re down! For me, I’ve come to know it’s a mix of yoga classes, massage, or downtime with the people that matter. Sometimes I just need a night in on the couch with a bag of chips and a chick flick. Other people need different things; we all have different ways of taking care of ourselves and feeling good.

And in this month of luuuuve we not only need to care for ourselves, but we need to learn to love ourselves more.

Somewhere between mono/gallstones/Toronto I slowly learned what it means to care for yourself, and most importantly, how to love yourself. Once I chose to move, change careers and cared more about what I wanted and needed, I became a much happier person.

So for better or worse, Generation-y shows signs of understanding why it’s important to be cautiously self-centered, some of the time. We all should know our own pain points, our strengths and weaknesses, and most of all we need to understand how to love ourselves.

Loving yourself doesn’t mean becoming a narcissist. It means knowing who you are, and being both proud and comfortable with who you are.

Because if you don’t love yourself, you can’t and wont love another person with the real love you both deserve.

My Summit 2010: The protests

This post was originally featured at The Next Great Generation.

I was privileged to be one of the 150 Millennials from around the world invited to the My Summit 2010 event. Each delegate was invited to participate and talk about their ideas for the future and challenge the G8 and G20 leaders to devise solutions that will benefit not only our generation, but also the generations yet to come.

Leading up to the G20 Summit proceedings, the downtown core of Toronto drastically transformed. Stores closed, businesses shut down and security tightened up. Police were on hand to re-route traffic, keep the peace and encourage people to stay out of trouble. On Saturday June 26, 2010, the first day of the G20 Summit, the youth delegates happened to be on a coach bus in downtown Toronto as the day’s events for the My Summit 2010 were taking place outside of the G20 lockdown zone. As we tried to move around the city, we were forced to experience what it was like to be in the midst of a protest.

For upwards of two hours the youth delegates were trapped amidst the commotion. Besides the disappointment we felt for the destruction and chaos that was ongoing, the general feeling in the air was that we were unaware of the message that anyone involved in the protests were trying to convey. It was beyond frustrating to be stuck in the frustrating confines of the bus, locked in for safety as we tried to get where we were going, impeded and delayed by the activity in the streets.

Protesters are often typified as young and reckless. They get lots of media attention because they are loud, proud and, in this particular case, ironically destructive. While there is lots of excitement around what happens at a protest of such magnitude, all of this commotion detracts from the main event and the real reason that so many people have gathered together.

While on the bus, we had limited access to the news, so our Blackberries became our fuel for updates via Twitter and news sites. We were enraged, excited, dismayed, shocked and awed at what was going on directly around us. Things changed by the second and, as we were potentially a target, the feeling in the pit of my stomach worsened. It was similar to the feeling of wearing a blindfold and having someone be your guide. Our blindfold was our lack of knowledge, creating fear of the unknown and our only guide was our ever present connection to the digital world.

I’ve lived and worked in Toronto and I’ve called Toronto my home. But on that day in Toronto, the city looked and felt nothing like the Toronto that I knew. Where there should have been tourists, there were protesters – everywhere.

Everyone can have an opinion, but it’s what you do with that opinion that matters.

I respect the right to an opinion and the rights of others to have their own. I don’t, however, respect unlawful destruction and the absence of a cohesive voice or substantiated opinion. Finding purpose in your voice is what will ultimately create change, so why not put your effort into something constructive that will get your voice heard and make a difference?

Seizing the opportunity to wreak havoc on a city simply because they have bulked up security is not effective. It is a harmful, frustrating, ineffective, complete waste of time, energy and resources.

There are probably a few parallels between those involved in the protests and those involved in the My Summit 2010 delegation. Both groups are young, on average, and are extremely passionate about specific issues. However, one group chose violence and destruction, while the other chose a forum that gave their cause a constructive and actionable voice. And on Saturday, June 26, 2010, the group that chose violence won the battle to get the best media coverage, simply by making a spectacle.

The delegates are people that are passionate about their future and want to make sure that the issues that are important to them are heard. I believe that our generation is willing to take risks, speak up and speak out on what they believe in.

My hope for the future is that events like the G8 and G20 will happen without protest. We need forums where our world leaders can talk about what issues face us. As Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in his closing address, “we no longer have a national economy, we have a global economy.”

We persevered through the protests and by night’s end the noise, commotion, and destruction had died down. The broken Starbucks windows will be fixed quickly, and soon enough Toronto will be back to normal, without protesters, extra police and steel barricades. Many people will reflect back on the G20 Summit of 2010 and think of what happened in the streets of Toronto.

I will look back and remember the decisions that were made, the subjects that were talked about and that the voice of our generation was heard.

My Summit 2010: Gen Y and World Leaders

This post was originally featured at The Next Great Generation.

Between June 23 and June 27, 2010, G8 youth delegates negotiated a youth communique that was presented to the G8 leaders and outlined their collective stance on four key issues:Nuclear non-proliferation and terrorism, food security, maternal and child health, and climate change. G20 youth delegates were privy to the G20 family photo, press conferences, inspiring speakers, and a program that allowed the G20 nations to understand just how powerful our generation is.

Last week I was in one of the most powerful rooms in the world, I’m sure of it. I was privy to a once-in-a-lifetime experience as a Canadian delegate taking part in the G8 and G20 Summits. It was awe-inspiring, incredibly empowering, and just too darn cool. 150 Millennials, all with incredible insight, well-formed opinions, and a collective vivacious spirit, were given the opportunity to draft a communique to represent the voice of a generation on the issues that are currently facing the G8 nations.

We all know that Millennials like to share their voices. We are confident with our words, passionate in the way we use them, and better yet, we’re not all talk; we take action, too. We’re committed to channeling our collective voice in way that constructively changes our own future for the better. And that’s exactly what we were doing at My Summit 2010.

Part of the awe that was omnipresent was the fact that we could joke, laugh and have fun, all while dreaming big for the future of our respective homes and native countries. Best of all, we shared our own strong, passionate, and lively viewpoints with the powers that be. In Canada, that meant having the opportunity to speak with the Governor General – Canada’s representative of The Queen.

Her Excellency The Right Honorable Michaelle Jean, more easily referred to as “the GG,” spent upwards of two hours listening to us. That’s right, listening to us.

She talked too, that’s for certain, but 80% of her time with us was spent listening to what we wanted to tell her about our future, our role in that future, and what changes we know are necessary for our generation to take on the burdens of the generations before us.

“Your reflections – every word counts,” were the words that greeted us as the GG began to address the delegation, saying also that, Our “presence here is vital” and that we must “seize the opportunity to make a difference.”

The spirit in the room was spell-binding. The energy at the summit was infectious. We clapped, we hooted and hollered. We cheered on our fellow delegates as we each took a turn at the microphone. Millennials have a high appetite for knowledge, and ideas, but also for change. The mantra in the room that day seemed to be “dream big.” Simple words; ones that we often don’t give enough credence to, but it was clear that these Millennials are definitely dreamers.

Canadian delegate Thomas Dehod pointed out that perhaps the right way to reflect President John F. Kennedy’s famous words is with a slight modification: “Ask not what the world can do for you, but what you can do for the world.”

So we proposed solutions – changes to involve more young people in government, support for economic development in ways that allow us to go into stable and rewarding jobs, ways to bridge the gap between the financially stable countries and the financially suffering. We had ideas for it all. Because, as Stephen Cheung, a delegate from the U.K. said, “There is no one issue more important to young people, all issues are important.”

What do 150 youth do with these kinds of words, interactions, and inspirations? We take them home to our own countries and we find ways to make change. We’re dedicated, inspired and ready to help out our generation. We’re no longer just the next generation; we’re the generation of today.

We’re connected, we’re relentlessly daring, and we’re ready to take action.

Canadian youth will have their say at the G8 and G20 Summit.

I believe in the voice of young Canadians.

After all, I am a young Canadian, and I’ve been afforded great opportunities in the past to demonstrate why young Canadians are in touch with issues facing our country and, more specifically, our generation.

The G8 and G20 Summits are fast approaching, and this year, a small and elite group of young Canadians will be bringing forward the voice of their generation at MY SUMMIT 2010, a youth conference that is being held in conjunction with the upcoming G8 and G20 meetings.

Not only will many young Canadians be exposed to the activities of the summit, but they will play a defining role in preparing a communiqué on behalf of the MY SUMMIT 2010 for presentation to the G8 leaders.

I am thrilled to say that I will be accompanying 40 Canadian students to the Summit as a team leader.

In total the youth delegation will involve 140 youth participants from around the world.

This event is the first of its kind in the history of the G8 summits, uniting young leaders to discuss and debate the same global themes being considered by senior officials, Ministers, and other dignitaries.

Talk about an amazing opportunity.

Canada is co-hosting MY SUMMIT 2010 with Global Vision, a national not-for profit organization engaging young Canadians through education and hands on experience to help create brighter futures for themselves, their communities, the country and the global community. I have travelled as a team member with Global Vision twice before, and now as a team leader I get to give back a little bit of wisdom and experience to those that are ready to take on the world with their enthusiasm, insights and passion for the future of our nation.

I’ll be checking in throughout the week of activity, and hopefully I’ll be able to capture some of the excitement here.

No doubt there will be a lot to share!

Halifax, the city I call “home”.

Over at The Next Great Generation, they’ve been profiling cities this past week; from Boston to Buffalo and Tel Avi to LA.

Reading some of these posts and reviewing some of the reasons why we choose a certain place to be a home-base made me begin to evaluate what it’s like to leave the nest and make a mark on the world as an individual. For those that are young and have just completed the first move to University or college – it’s a big step. You bring favoured treasures from home and decorate your dorm room or apartment in way that screams “you”. For instance, my very own dorm room in Ontario was not complete until I had hunt my provincial Nova Scotia flag, proudly, on the wall above my bed. Among other decor items I had a neon green shag rug, pink paper lanterns strung above my window, and from Christmas time onwards, mini-lights floating from the ceiling. As I look back on these decorating choices, I realize it’s not my proudest moment, but at the time, these choices symbolized who I was in a place that I created as a “home away from home” for myself.

Living in a dorm is the first time that many of us millennials claim space as our own, away from our parent’s house. Some of us find our dorms to become homey and others find that their affectionate use of the word “home” is reserved for the place they have come from, and still return to on holidays and school breaks. None the less, this is our first crack at creating a home for ourselves, as individuals.

I never felt that University was permanent, but all of my dorm rooms and apartments throughout the four years I lived in Kingston were definitely “home” to me. They had not only my possessions, but my memories, experiences and my living space was always a safe, snugly place for me and me alone. The cooking spatter on the oven backsplash, the scratch marks on the keyhole from coming in at all hours, the rough paint job in my bedroom; all of the little things left marks of the time I spent making my space my place. It’s the same sort of breaking in that happens to any home that is truly “home”.

I had six homes in four years of studying, and I loved them all in different ways. And then I left school for my second foray into the world as independent individual,only this time I became a working professional and independence never felt so real. As a student, I had hand-me-down furniture, chipped dishes and avoided cleaning when I didn’t absolutely haaaaaaave to do it. By moving to Toronto, I had to find another home, and this time, it felt much more grown-up. As a true independent individual, it was time to do things like buy real furniture* and upgrade to the “real world” of paying bills and doing the dishes right after you eat. That’s what mom and dad taught you to do, right?

Now in my eighth home, I think I know what it’s like to pick a place to live. And I don’t just mean a location within a city, I mean a location within the country, too. Truth be told, I tried to make a home in Toronto, but every time I came home, it felt empty, no matter how many possessions I had in it. Home number seven as a grown-up in Toronto left a lot to be desired. Not only did my apartment not feel like home, I didn’t attempt to make it the city feel like home, either.

In Halifax, I have a small bachelor apartment, which is well-organized (it has to be; it’s small), a mix of old and new furniture, and a huge window that let’s me sample the weather as soon as I wake up and push aside the curtains. Often I admire the massive maple tree that tells me when the seasons change and every time I walk through the front door, the neighbors cat mews against my leg, affectionately. In Halifax I have a home that is “home” in a city that is also “home”. The two pieces go hand in hand, I think.

So it’s not just about the city and it’s not just about the locations within the city. It’s a mix of person, place, and things that make a home “home” and it’s up to the individual to make the most of a location and find the “home” within the home.

So here’s to feeling at home within your home, wherever it might be. The rest is just icing on the proverbial cake.

* Sidenote: In an informal 2008 poll of a sampling of my graduating BCom class, overwhelming the guys said that their first “real” purchase would be a big TV, and the girls said their first purchase would be a couch. Interesting to know what we value in creating a “home”…. I purchased a couch.

People can do better than this, I’m sure of it.

Yesterday, a friend passed along two news articles that sadly solidify what I have feared to be true about (the lack of) kindness and helpfulness in today’s world.

The first article describes a recent situation in New York city, where a homeless man was left to die after he saved a woman from a male attacker. The victim, a 31-year old homeless man, was stabbed and then left to die on the sidewalk where no fewer than 20 pedestrians passed by and did not stop to help as the man died.

The second article describes a situation where a 79-year old man on a Toronto subway car was robbed while in the wide-open presence of others.

These articles aside, I am constantly wondering why people (including myself) shy away from helping others out in situations of need. Even the simplest situation of giving directions on the street is largely avoided if someone looks even mildly suspicious. Unless the stranger is obviously a tourist, or an elderly individual (read: low risk) , most innocent people passing by naturally assume both parties are better off by not stopping to help out.

Why is it that in the year 2010 we fear simple acts of kindness, like giving directions or picking up a fallen parcel? And, when someone does help someone out, like the homeless man in New York, why is the reward so detrimental?

Perhaps I have a slightly romanticized vision of the 1950’s in my head, where I dress like a character from Mad Men and nice gentlemen in suits buy me lunch and always open doors for me, but I still think that somewhere between the past and the now we’ve lost the ability to trust one another and do what should be natural, kind, behavior.

My gut tells me that in the year 2010, we have an unadulterated feeling of absolutely no responsibility.

We have no responsibility to anyone except ourselves.

People feel that instead of owing a debt to society, they are in fact the one that is owed by society.

We also fear any risk. Any of the passengers on the subway car could have helped out by challenging those that were harming the 79-year old man. After all, strength in numbers, right? But, it seems that it was easier for everyone else to feel uncomfortable for a short period of time while witnessing someone else’s pain, rather than inflicting any pain or harm upon themselves.

Ask yourself this: Would you have stopped for the homeless man who was on the sidewalk?

Probably not.

If you were walking down that street and no one was around, you don’t need to stop because there are no repercussions on you, the individual. You can walk away from the man who is suffering, turn the corner, and forget that he was even there. No witnesses to see you move past him, as quick as you came.

I relish the small human interactions where I pass the creamer to the next person in line at the Starbucks counter or pass my parking stub to someone else as I leave a parking lot. I like the smile I see on the recipients face, especially when they are least expecting it. I could have just replaced the creamer on the counter; I could have just drove away from the lot.

Repetitive behaviors are habit forming, and I want my behavior in a situation of need  – a situation that is greater than holding the door or returning someone’s lost wallet – to be the behavior of action, rather than passive ignorance.