I was unsure the angle to take on this post.
For those of you who don’t know, today is my workout-iversary. Two years ago, today I committed to two workouts a week, every week. Which I understand that this doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s important to remember that prior to this is was no workouts a week.
In trying to describe year-two of this self-positioned challenge, I was unsure what to say. I feel as though last year I was quite eloquent, and I didn’t want to go about beating a dead horse.
But I wanted to still say something – even if that thing was a lot briefer.
I am incredibly proud of myself – over the last two years I kept expecting myself to give up, but I haven’t. I have kept this promise to myself. My friends and family poke fun that I have been replaced by an alien who looks a lot like me but has a strange new affinity for exercise. And I think part of this is true, I don’t think I am the same person I was two years ago. Not all of this can be accredited to working out – but some of it most definitely can be.
In light of me achieving this “impossible” task, I want to talk about a misconception I had prior to working out.
I’m a busy person. I like to keep a full, but diligently organised, schedule. I thought that there was no room to fit working out into my schedule. That I couldn’t find a couple hours a week to cram in a quick sweat every now and then.
I started working out immediately after graduating. It was May 2020 and I was unemployed and living with my parents and my mental health was falling apart at the seams. Working out was a last-ditch attempt to fill my time in the endless void of COVID-19. It was easy to find time when time was all I had.
I always assumed that I would quit this project when life got busy. I had attempted workout-kicks before – all of which were unsuccessful. I imagined that with a fulltime job, a social life, a tiny music career, and a list of hobbies, there would be no space for working out. But I would say the opposite.
The focus of my active lifestyle has always been mental health recovery
Since working out I have found more time in my life. The focus of my active lifestyle has always been mental health recovery, not physical changes. And the mental changes I seen are near immeasurable. Last night, my sister took me to a club in a foreign country, it was packed shoulder to shoulder, the music was loud, the drinks were poured, but no panic attack was had. I am 23 years old and that is the first time I have been to a club without a panic attack.
Working out has lessened my anxiety and given me back of the vital real estate in my brain. Space to think, to make more rational decisions, to enjoy time with others. With less panic attacks, and less anxiety-maintenance required, I have more time in my life. Giving 30 to 60 minutes, twice a week to working out has given me hours back every week to be a human being.
This is not a fix-all and I don’t want it to come across as preachy. I don’t live a “that girl” lifestyle full of green juice and ice water. Most of my morning runs are fueled by Oreos and leftover cheesecake. This is simply a pat on the back for myself and an acknowledgement that I was wrong. Working out is something I do have space for.
So, my sister and I just got back from a major hike and my feet are exhausted. So, I think it’s best for me to put my feet up, have a glass of wine, and celebrate two years of fitness. Happy Workout-iversary to me.
From me, with love, to you,
I’ve been talking a lot with friends and family about my mental health recovery. And in doing so I’ve had more time to think about what I did to get to where I am now. I’m not going to regale you with the whole story of my mental health journey because there are an infinite number of stories outlining bits and pieces of my journey.
All this to say, I know what it feels like to be unhappy.
Currently, that is not the case; but it’s not an overwhelming, jump for joy kind of happiness. It just exists. It’s the kind of happiness that means I only cry sometimes, have a decent handle on my mental health. It’s growth. It’s progress.
And before we go any further, I feel the need to disclaim something: I am not your therapist. What worked for me may not work for you. You have your own complex thoughts and feelings, and I am not trying to present a fix-all for depression. Let’s continue.
The pursuit of happiness is kind of a lie.
Not entirely. I’m not going as far as “Everything I’m Telling You is a Lie”
But something stinks a little like bullshit, and it’s the pursuit of happiness. People have created an industry around marketing happiness; books and TikTok accounts and – yes, I’ll say it – blogs, filled to the brim with how to “find happiness”. And some of it is beneficial and helps you reframe your ideas in a productive way. A personal favourite is from “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” in which the author says: all good things take hard work, if they were easy everyone would have them.
Which might be the perfect place to start. Happiness – like a nice ass or good teeth – is a constant work in progress. If you brush your teeth once, that does nothing; it is the cumulative act of flossing and brushing over time that allow you to maintain good teeth. Additionally, if you did 1,000 squats and deadlifts and glute bridges tomorrow (and lived to tell the tale) you may have a nice butt. However, if you stop working out, eventually you will regain your pancake-ass. Happiness is the same – you don’t wake up happy and stay there. You constantly have to engage and change and learn and adapt.
Happiness is elusive. There are days where it shows up to work and days where it decides to be a degenerate and leave you high and dry. And you don’t always get to pick which days are which. You can’t force happiness to show up to the round-table-meeting in your brain when it has other plans. More importantly, you can’t fight the days that suck. Sometimes you just need to let them pass and accept that bad days are part of the package.
But I think despite it being hard work and elusive there is one thing that I learned throughout becoming “happy” that I wish I could get written in the sky.
Happiness is a process.
You don’t wake up one day and flip a switch. You don’t roll over in bed and realise you’re finally on the right side. It is not sudden, and it is not immediate.
I’m going to tell you the story of my 19th birthday. I barely celebrated it, instead I had a panic attack and sat with my sister on my couch We ate poutine while I cried. And at the end she made a joke and I laughed. And in that laugh, there was levity, a moment where things were okay. A few weeks from then I played my first show in a bar, and again levity. And levity showed up in bursts and flashes. It appeared at study dates with my friends and watching The Avengers. However, the levity in contrast to the depression was exhausting. Every moment of happiness dropped me so hard back to rock bottom that it hurt.
I was chasing these moments. These breaks in the clouds, and I was so fixated on them. On finding more, collecting more, saving more moments like a chipmunk getting ready for winter. And I would cry to my sisters on the phone because I got so anxious that I couldn’t finish an exam, or I couldn’t attend a party, or I had to leave an event early because I was anxious. And my sisters would tell me:
“You used to hand in blank exams, but you finished most of this one”
“You used to decline party invitations, but you accepted this one”
“You used to not make it out the door of your apartment, but you made it to the bar”
Because that’s the final lesson I have about happiness: you don’t see it until you do. I said earlier you don’t wake up one day and a switch has flipped, which is partially true. You don’t flip a switch from unhappy to happy. But you do wake up one day and realise you're happy. It’s just when you least expect it.
There just comes a point where you realise you're happy
There just comes a point where you realise you're happy. A moment where you’re so caught up in life, where you haven’t thought about chasing down those elusive moments of levity. Where you realise that you’re no longer drowning in fear, panic, anxiety, and sadness.
I cannot tell you when I realised I was happy. When I realised that those “elusive moments” turned into common occurrence, but I at one point I realised that I was happy. I just was. At some point, between then and now I re-learned to be happy and I don’t entirely know how it happened.
This does not mean I’m happy all the time. This does not mean I know what I’m doing. This does not mean that I don’t work constantly and tirelessly on managing my mental health. I don’t get to stop working at it. I have a forever-illness and I know that, but I am happy.
I don’t want to give you advice on how to be happy, that would be hypocritical, and I am many things but (hopefully) not a hypocrite. But for me it has been such a long trek to happiness, I thought maybe sharing this might make sense to someone. It might bring you some peace of mind. It might bring you a second to breath. It might even bring you a moment of levity.
From me, with love, to you,
If you watch my TikTok (which you should... @victoria_staff) you may have seen that I am taking a break from dating. This all was sparked by a desire to delete my dating apps. In all honesty, deleting the dating apps was less about the men and more about me.
I love myself, I think I’m really funny and smart and I make fantastic food. I’m a damn treat. But I also know a lot of that is “self-love” rhetoric and in reality there is nothing about me that makes me better than anyone else. I think I’m amazing, but I also want to paint myself with an accurate brush. If we expand that honest opinion about myself, we’re going to talk about how I look.
I think I am a decent looking person. I would never make a child cry and scream “OGRE” in the street, but I don’t think I’ll ever be in a Calvin Klein ad (or any ad for that matter). I think there are days where I look pretty and days where I definitely do not. My mom once told me (in a very endearing way), “It’s amazing how you can be so cute but make yourself look so…not cute”. To be fair, I was eating Nutella on the floor of my kitchen in ripped sweatpants and one French braid instead of two (my arms got tired before the second one, so I was eating the Nutella to refuel).
However, I would never describe myself as ugly.
First and foremost, I don’t think anyone should describe themselves as ugly. It’s a gross word that should be reserved for cartoon witches and gargoyles. It’s unkind to call yourself ugly, and you should always be kind to yourself. Secondly, I don’t think anyone is truly ugly. I’ve never come across a person in my life and thought “wow, that person is really ugly”.
The craziest part is that I was dating quite successfully. I was having great conversations, I was getting those sweet, sweet words of affirmation (my love language people get this), and I was going on dates. But all of this validation wasn’t enough to compete with the odd conversation that dropped or the person I didn’t match with.
In the spring, I had downloaded the trilogy from hell to get me out of my apartment and back into the game, and I was very successful in achieving my goal. But this healthy exercise of meeting new people and dating became kind of obsessive. I was able to settle down a bit in the fall, but those fucking notifications kept reminding me that a) I was still on the market when I didn’t want to be and b) that I was being judged on my looks and not everyone was happy with what they were seeing.
AND IT WAS SO HYPOCRITICAL. Sorry, I shouldn’t yell. It was so hypocritical because I was doing it too. I was engaging in swiping like the biggest bullshit game of Candy Crush to ever exist. It’s not that I regret having those apps; I don’t regret it at all. I met some incredible people, got some great stories, and wrote some killer songs. The experiences via the apps? Pretty good. The apps themselves? I’m pretty sure Satan birthed those out his asshole. So, in November I deleted them. I did not want to bring this negative energy into my 23rd birthday so I scrapped the battery draining dumpster fire and celebrated the holidays in peace.
However. I’m 23. I’m single. And a girl’s got to eat.
I like dating and I like talking to people, and if you read some of my content from the fall, I’m looking for a “Right Now Person”.
But these apps. The unholy trinity. It’s like someone poured a frat boy and a computer algorithm into cauldron and mixed it with bright primary colours and advertised it to people in their 20’s (I swear to Jesus, if I get one more TikTok ad for Bumble or Hinge I’m going to fly to China to have a word with Bytedance). I want to get back out there, I want to put a hiatus to my dating hiatus and I kind of want to redownload the apps, just in a healthy, more productive manner.
I don’t think that they should be someone’s only method of dating, but they’re helpful, a useful tool in your back pocket. It’s hard to meet people during a pandemonium and I want to give myself every leg up should I decide to venture down this road. But I don’t want to go back to feeling unattractive.
I don’t know, maybe there’s no winning. Maybe I just reintroduce that chaos into my life for a couple months just to delete the whole lot in August and start the cycle again. Maybe I’ll actually have a healthy relationship with technology. Maybe this time it will be super fun and I’ll meet my Right Now Person (probably not this one). Maybe I’ll enter my villain phase.
No matter what happens, I’ll probably keep you all up to date here or on TikTok or on Instagram. So, keep your eyes and ears open, because it will either be a wild success, or this is the year I decide to become a nun. Who knows.
From me, with love, to you,
A couple months ago I called my friend from university. She had recently scored a new brand deal and I was feeling down on my luck. Her platform felt bigger than mine, her TikTok’s were performing better, and I felt like I was drowning in a sea of inadequacy. We talked on the phone for a couple minutes before she revealed to me that she felt like she didn’t know what she was doing. Social media was fast and changing everyday. Trends were created as quickly as they ended. Some of her content flopped and some took off, and she couldn’t find a pattern.
And I laughed.
Not at her, that would be rude. I have my character flaws but I’m not a bitch. I laughed because I had been working in social media for four years, and I got conned by the oldest trick in the book: Fake it ‘til you make it. And it truly is faking it. It’s not “trying your hardest” or “putting in the effort”, it’s all about lies and facades and masquerades. Even though I work in the field, I got tricked by someone I know. I forgot the cardinal rule of the internet: Everything you see is a lie.
And I am the same.
This is not to say that it isn’t based in reality. My name is Victoria, I am from Toronto, I have a myriad of mental illnesses, and I am a musician. The framework that you see and the stories that I tell are true. But I have painted all the details of my life from one point of view. I have spun a web and shown you only my side of the story. I have timed my relay of information for my benefit and that is because you are living in my fantasy. You are witnessing my life in the way I choose to play it out in front of you.
I edit my photos so the sky looks bluer and the lighting looks flawless. I tell you I’m spending my rainy day at a coffee shop in downtown Toronto, when in reality I was there three days ago. Currently, I’m sitting hair awry, trying to understand the intricacies of Google Analytics for work. Everything I’m telling you is a lie.
I tell you about my mental illnesses, but you don’t get to know all the details. All the dirty secrets and the diagnoses. You don’t get to watch the panic attacks and hear the thoughts that rattle around in my head. You don’t get to watch the self-destructive behaviour or get invites to the pity party because those are my secrets, and you only get to see slightly behind the curtain because that is all I want you to see.
You hear my songs, but you don’t get to see all the dates and the quiet moments. You don’t get to hear all the salacious details I share over cocktails with my friends as we play out a Sex in the City knockoff. You don’t get to watch me smile and laugh over texts and bad jokes and you don’t get to watch me cry when it ends. Because I don’t want you to see all that, I just want you to see the shiny, funny, and public moments.
And maybe this wrecks the magic for you. Maybe it’s like a child learning Santa Claus isn’t real, but I think in your heart of hearts you knew this. You knew that social media was one large con created by Mark Zuckerberg and his lizard-people-friends. You knew that for every good photo I take there were 200 of me looking weird and stupid. You knew all these things, but you let yourself believe that it was all true. You forgot that everything I’m telling you is a lie.
You knew all these things, but you let yourself believe that is was all true. You forgot that everything I'm telling you is a lie.
If you find yourself screaming at me or the sky or some other individual, thinking “why, why have you done this?” the answer you’re looking for is not simple. First and foremost, it’s the market. People want to seem flawed but not too flawed. They want to know you’re relatable and a human, but they don’t want to know all the dirty details. They don’t want to see messy or unkept. They only want to colour slightly outside the lines. I’m simply meeting the demands of a market. All in all, social media is a business and I’m the product.
Secondly, to maintain some sanity. If I create this divide between my real life and the life you see online, then I can’t get caught up in the part that might destroy my self-esteem. If the person you saw on your Instagram was truly me, then I could get personally offended by hateful comments or messages. I could be scared when men say the terrible things in my dm’s. But the separation of church and state provides a buffer between my well-being and my work.
Finally, it’s because frankly, it’s my life. My life is truly in technicolour. It is full of laughs and people I love and adventure. And I get to choose what gets shared. Yes, I take lots of photos and share lots of moments. But there are private moments that are mine. There are moments I keep memorialised, the stain-glass windows to the church that is my brain. I think sometimes there are moments that don’t need to be shared.
So yes, I’ve been lying to you. I’ve been showing you a single side of reality, which the truth is that my life is a 20-sided die. I’m telling you this because it means the next time you’re scrolling through Instagram or TikTok you might remember: Everything everyone is telling you is a lie. But then again why would you believe me? I’m a liar.
From me, with love, to you,
I believe we’re past the point of lying to each other, so let’s be honest. I had a really shitty day today. I felt ugly and stupid and anxious. I felt like I was bad at my job and a bad friend and a bad musician. I felt like no part of my life was a place to land. I was overtired, which made me nauseous and gave me a headache, and nothing was really working for me.
I tried working out, listening to loud music, talking to friends, just hunkering down and getting through the day, and I couldn’t shake the feeling of mediocrity. But it was more than that, the feeling that I was subpar. And those days are awful, the days where everything feels bad but you can’t attach the feeling to anything in particular. There is no problem to solve, no answer to find, nothing. You just feel awful.
On days like today, I find myself really caught up in my mental health recovery. I start thinking that I’m not as far along as I want to be or should be. I start second guessing myself, and I start to use the phrase “what if”, which is an anxious person’s least favourite phrase.
So, in the name of being honest, this post is not for you. It’s for me. It has been written entirely to make myself feel better.
I've always been anxious. It's just kind of written into my brain
I have always been anxious. It’s just kind of written into my brain. For me, like many people, anxiety presents itself as catastrophes. The worst possibility to every situation – no matter how unlikely. Every person hates me, every exam I will fail, every song I write is awful, and I am ultimately stuck in a state of paralysis as my brain tries to figure out a safe route.
And when everything is scary, sometimes you just stop doing things. There are things you cut out of your life altogether out of fear. Things you write off as “Impossible”. Throughout my recovery, I have slowly been able to incorporate those things back into my life. Not all of them successfully – there are still panic attacks and breakdowns because I am far, far from perfect. But I have begun to move things off my “Impossible List”.
So, in an attempt to show myself I am not a massive failure, let’s take a look at what’s been scratched off my “Impossible List”:
And I understand it seems silly to some of you. It seems ridiculous to me that at one point in my life I was unable to take cabs. I was unable to drive on the highway. I was unable to go to class (as a university student I might add). So yes, today sucked, but I’ve had worse days. I’ve had days of complete panic and paralysis and fear, and this was not one of those days. Despite what my brain has decided to latch onto today, I am getting better. I am recovering. And there is not nearly as much on my “Impossible List”.
From me, with love, to you,