Where Did I Go?

Hey readers. Whether you are someone who has followed my blog from the beginning, or this is your first time, I’m so glad that you decided to take five minutes out of your day to read something that a teenage (almost adult) girl wrote somewhere.

You may have noticed that I have appeared to drop off the face of the planet. For the past 6 months or so, I have stopped writing and posting anything on the Simply Smiles blog. I would like to thank my readers who have continued to put counts on my posts and keep the blog up and running. ❤ Basically the last 6 months have been a crazy time. And I feel like I owe you an explanation.

I didn’t just withdraw from this blog, but I seemed to withdraw from life. I stopped filming videos for my YouTube channel, I gave up on the things I liked to do. I stopped pushing myself to learn guitar and I begrudgingly pushed myself out of bed every morning to go to classes and work. I even pushed away a lot of my friends, and the ones I didn’t push away… well, I kept them at a distance. Needless to say, it was a pretty tough time. I went through therapy, in and out of doctors offices, counselling sessions, medication. It was a roller-coaster to say the least and it felt like I had went to the sun three times and back again.

And it’s insane, because how could someone who writes a motivational blog be so lost and need so much motivation herself? Don’t ask me. It’s so easy for me to pull out my heart and give you all my love, care, and support. But I couldn’t do that for me. I can write about 10 reasons to keep holding on, but the truth is, I couldn’t follow that advice myself.

Honestly, I’m still not through that time of life right now. I’m still not better. I still feel like crawling into bed sometimes and never coming out. I still feel like I’m worthless sometimes, a failure; I still am too hard on myself about my looks and my grades but through all of this I’m still me. I’m still the person that I was a year ago and I will continue to be that person. Because the thought that keeps me alive and strong is what I have around me. I have great friends who care about me, I have an extremely loving boyfriend by my side, and I have family to support me. I have a purpose. I will go to bed every night and gladly wake up again in the morning if it means that somewhere, somehow in the world, I have positively affected someone.

I’m not going to lie. It’s not easy. But if I can get through it, then you can too. You can get through anything that you want to, and you are never alone on anything. I was there. I’m still here, and I always will be.

So keep at your beautiful lives readers, and keep smiling. 🙂

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Why Go To University (Video)

Why Am I Going To University?: http://youtu.be/9NfgF-UvoeA

So I have recently started a YouTube channel because in about a week I will be entering first year university! Hopefully all of you will continue to read the Simply Smiles blog as well as subscribe to my YouTube channel to follow what university life is like! I will be posting and giving real advice as I experience it myself too! I’m going to use it to document my university experience for not only you and all my viewers but also myself. I can’t wait to look back and see how I’ve changed and grown as a person.

University is a scary time, but so is change in general. Perhaps you’re going into university like me, perhaps you’re starting at a new job, and perhaps you’re going into high school or even moving to a new city. All of these new changes bring about fear, excitement, anxiety, happiness, and confusion. But change is totally a great thing, think about all the amazing experiences that you had just because something changed.

Time To Say Goodbye

*Disclaimer* 

I often use writing as a way to express my thoughts and emotions, and I figured that I would share this with this month’s readers but also as a way to talk about August and what is exactly going on with this crazy month. This blog post will be talking about death, and therefore is an extremely sensitive topic. I will be sharing my experiences as well as talking about the topic in general so I’m sincerely sorry if reading this post brings up memories and emotions. If you are not comfortable reading about this chosen topic, please do not continue. Be strong readers, I know we can together. 

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Growing up, I didn’t quite accept the idea of death. I knew that life began and life ended, I knew that all things grew up, got old, and eventually died. The closest I had experienced death were my dead fish and my hamster when it passed away. Then again, I had practically no emotional connection to these animals and therefore their deaths were not very traumatic for me. I also knew growing up that sometimes things happen that cause people to die unexpectedly. Whether this be a car accident, an illness such as cancer, or the choice to take their own life, the idea of death is a far broader topic than any of us can truly comprehend. However, the idea was still totally distant, and also so terrifying that I refused to think about it. 

When someone passes away, everything suddenly changes. You find yourself struggling to figure out things for the funeral arrangements, pronouns suddenly shift to pass tense; he “was”, she “was”, they “were”. Whether it takes you seconds or months to realize, someday you suddenly recognize that the individual can never come back, no matter how much you and everyone else misses them. You realize that you won’t see them again in this life, you will never hear their laugh or feel their presence. This is probably the hardest thing to accept. 

I wish there was something I could say, something I could do, to make it all better. 

 

Recently someone very close to me passed away, and though the individual had been very ill for some time, it was still a shock. Just the day before, I was sitting across from them, playing my guitar and singing Edelweiss. Just like that, life can be taken away, gone. You go through all the stages. Shock, numbness, sadness, anger, confusion, and then deep sorrow. You may be angry at the world for taking away someone so important, someone so young, someone with so much potential and life left. I know I was. But shaking my fist at the universe was pointless… Nothing could bring back what I missed most. The only thing left to do was grieve by living life the way they would want me to.
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About a week ago I had the opportunity to attend a leadership conference, where I had some life changing experiences. In one session we were asked to rate the top 10 most important things in our lives. My number one was health, both mental and physical, because those are the two biggest factors to death and loss. Without that health, it doesn’t matter how much money you have, how much fame, how many memories and things to look forward to. You really have nothing. So let’s think back to May and June.. How important is mental and physical health? My second most important thing is today. What I mean is that now matter what moment you are in, today is the most important. Today is the day that you’re living in, today is right now. Today has so much potential. Of course there’s things to look forward to, there’s past events to mentally relive and reminisce about. But today is a day you’ll never ever get back. So today is important. I want to live each day to the absolute fullest. It means that every second I want to be doing something I love or I feel is benefitting me. I’m learning to look forward to everything as well as how to balance myself and my life. I want you to do the same. Take a look at all the things you want to accomplish, are you proud of how you’re living your day?

What I’ve learned from all of this is that life is fragile, and that it can be taken away from you in the blink of an eye. You never know, and that’s the scary part. Honestly the idea of death terrifies me and always has. But what I’ve learned is to not anticipate death, but to spend each moment loving and embracing life. After a very scary situation last year regarding physical health I realized that each day is precious. But we can embrace it and live it to the fullest because each is a day we shall never have back.

Mirrors

In every horror movie, there is always a scene where someone looks in a mirror and sees something that shouldn’t be there. Perhaps their reflection is distorted, perhaps their reflection moves when it shouldn’t. Or perhaps there is no reflection at all. Why is the idea of your reflection so important? Why do mirrors have the abilities to completely destroy self confidence as well as self image? image

When you look at yourself in the mirror, what do you see? Do you see your beauty? Or do you see your flaws and imperfections? Do you see something you wished weren’t there? How often do you look at yourself and flinch a little, seeing something that you wished you could change?

You probably only see yourself for less than 10 minutes every day. The rest of the time, you exist in the eyes of others. Think about all the things that you don’t see. You spend your entire life looking at everyone else, only to glimpse at yourself for a few moments when you pass by something that holds your reflection. Sure, cameras capture your image, but only for that one moment. You will never see yourself as how others see you. You won’t see the way your crooked smile lights up a room. You won’t see your eyes light up as they look at your girlfriend or boyfriend. You won’t see how delicately you dance ballet or how gracefully you swim. You won’t see your determination as you finish an essay and you won’t see the way you chew your pencil as you write your exam. You won’t get to see your tongue stick out when you ice a cake and you won’t get to see how that necklace brings out your eyes. There are so many precious things about you that you are showing to the rest of the world that you will never get the chance to see.

Let’s change gears for a second, and picture living in a world where you never see your own reflection. You live your entire life not knowing what you look like, only seeing the image of everyone else. Do you look like them, you wonder. Or do you look completely different? Would you have a greater self-confidence, never being able to point out your flaws? You would be defined by what is on the inside, not what you see on the outside. Our bodies are simply a vessel for carrying around our incredible personalities, our hopes, dreams, and interests.

Although we’ve probably all heard about these tips before, I’m going to restate them because they are entirely important and necessary. To feel better about your body and your self-image you need to start by changing your actions and lifestyle to allow yourself to feel better about your physical appearance.

  1. Exercise more. Exercise can not only be used to tone body fat, build muscle, and help with strength and endurance, but exercise can make you feel amazing as well. Exercising for thirty minutes can release endorphins in your brain; which are positive feel-good chemicals that will give you a greater sense of well-being. Exercise can also help bring you to your ideal body and physical appearance. It doesn’t always mean doing sit-ups and jogging, but it’s about finding exercise that is fun and suitable for you. This could mean doing weight lifting, swimming, rock climbing, yoga, dance, or tossing a frisbee with your friends.
  2. Eat healthy. We all know that certain foods are fattening and unhealthy for us. However, these foods also weigh us down and build additional bulk. The chemicals in some foods can show down neurotransmitters in our brains, meaning our physiological thought process is actually slower. Again, it doesn’t mean you have to munch on raw celery for the rest of your life. Eating healthy is also about finding foods that you enjoy eating and eating a balanced diet of many nutrients.
  3. Surround yourself with positive people. I can’t stress how important this is. We all have those people in our lives that seem to be negative all of the time; all they do is complain or stress and it brings you down to be around them as well. These are people that you should spend less time with. Be around positive people that make you feel good about yourself, your image, and the kind of person you are. Being around positive people that make you smile will make you a more happy and positive person as well. Also, being around people who have a positive body image will pass onto this as well. The human mind is easily impressionable, and the opinions and mindsets of others can easily be transferred to you.

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So next time you look at yourself in the mirror, smile. Because you are an incredible, beautiful, fantastic person and I 100% believe in you. Find your positives, maybe you can see ten million, or maybe you can only see one. However big or small it is, focus on that the next time you think about yourself and your self-image. Instead of saying “my feet are too big”, tell yourself “I love my green eyes”. Instead of saying “I wish I were taller”, tell yourself “I love the way my hair looks.” Focus on the positive readers. And always… keep smiling. 🙂

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Different reflection photo from http://www.npr.org.

Halfway Hump

Canada just celebrated its birthday, and with it, a load of red and white and fireworks and Canadian pride! For those of you who aren’t Canadian I apologize for the irrelevancy of the last sentence.

Some explanations regarding project courage. First of all, we have passed the halfway hump. It was quite the incredible process making it this far, and I am so proud of my readers as well as Team Courage for sticking through to the halfway mark. Unfortunately there are some things we should discuss… By discuss I mean I am going to continue to type out what I have to say and you can choose whether or nor to read it. July marks the beginning of the second half of Project Courage 2014, but it also marks the end of Team Courage’s role in this project. Kyndra, Hannah, Jeremiah, and Nathan have all had an incredible experience writing to all of you and they wish you their sincerest regrets that they have to leave the blog. A year is quite the commitment and unfortunately with changing lifestyles, not everyone has the time and effort to commit to the blog.

Well, 2014 is half over. 6 months come and gone in the blink of an eye. A lot has changed, that’s for sure. Sadly, one of the things that is changing is this Project. I sincerely thank you, the readers, for all your support and love. It’s been a heck of a ride, and I have you to thank for that. I will be sad to leave you all, but alas, the world works in mysterious ways, and sometimes things turn out differently than we expect them to. Who am I kidding, things never work out the way you expect them to! Anyways, thanks again, and I bid you all farewell. And as always, keep your stick on the ice. -Nathan

There is no way I could have envisioned this becoming as big as it did. The support and enthusiasm from you guys was unreal, it made every week exciting and worth it to write the reflections. Remember the most important thing though; just because this part is over doesn’t mean anything we stand for is over. All we’ve been saying is still relevant, we’ve been reminding you for 6 months and now it’s time for you to remind yourself and each other, you do matter. You are your most important person, and you should judge yourself not on what you’ve done, but what you do. No matter who you are, you are an awesome creation, an amazing person and can get through whatever it is you have to to make it out okay. Adios comrades, keep it real. -Jeremiah

6 months in with 6 months left. This year has actually just zoomed by. I must admit when I joined I didn’t expect this project to grow as large as it did. I knew it was a commitment and that it would take lots of time and effort, but it was the part where you guys came in that really caught me off guard. I didn’t realize that my words could help you or change you, not a single clue. So when they started to, I was blown away, just baffled. I would personally like to thank you all for this amazing journey, it was filled with smiles and laughter, as well as pain and tears, but I’m glad I endured every part of it. I’m sad to have to go, but I know I must move forward. I hope you guys continue to fight, to make yourselves better people because you’re worth it, you most truly deserve it. -Kyndra

Project Courage is going to shift a little bit, changing up the format of challenge and reflections. I feel like its too much of a pattern (though I know we find safety in repetition). What’s in store? A total surprise.. But I hope that as loyal readers, you stay tuned for your weekly dose of motivation, inspiration, laughter, or just a way to pass the time. When I was younger, my friend and I used to write this email newsletter called Fantabulous. I’m pretty sure that word is trademarked but we felt super original coming up with that name. We were so popular at one time that we had over 50 monthly subscribers! Although that pales in comparison to the Project Courage reader base, it was quite the daunting task for thirteen year olds! The newsletter had random debates, weird facts, quizzes, contests, and articles about the weirdest possible things we could think of. But in the end, it was always a lot of fun to write, and we both now run blogs (for separate reasons of course). My point is, I want Simply Smiles to be like that. I want to be able to write and put a smile on your face, and I want you to look forward to every new post.

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Some riddles because why not? (Highlight for the answer)

I can run but not walk. Wherever I go, thought follows close behind. What am I?

A nose.

What can you catch but never throw?

A cold. 

What goes around the world but stays in a corner? 

A stamp.

The man who invented it doesn’t want it. The man who bought it doesn’t need it. The man who needs it doesn’t know it. What is it?

A coffin. 

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Let’s talk about July. This is the month of self-image. 

Throughout this month the posts will revolve around how to have a positive self image and see your image and your body in a positive light. I thought that this theme was suitable for July because it is currently summer in Canada, which means it is the height of bathing suit season. The hot weather and sunny days means more layers of clothing to be shed as well as more beach days. Gone are the thick sweaters and layers of fall and winter and out come summer dresses, “short-shorts”, flip-flops and crop tops.

It makes me sad to hear about how much a pain that people can have going bathing suit shopping, or even shopping for summer clothes, and it’s not just girls either. Of course, I believe that girls have a tendency to be more directly affected by the media’s take on body image, but boys and men are affected as well. We live in a world where self-hatred seems to be forced upon us. We are starting to realize that the media has a twisted sense of beauty, and as we rise into our teenage years we are faced with the need to fit in, the need to be attractive, the need to be wanted. 

I see beautiful girls complain that their thighs are too large. I see boys become consumed with the idea of gaining muscle because otherwise they are not “manly” enough. I see the media and advertising digitally recreate photos so that the model is slimmer, so their skin is smoother and lighter. I watch as girls try on clothes and then cringe at themselves in the mirror. I see boys who are too self-conscious about being shirtless and swimming. I see ten and eleven year olds complain about their weight and their clothing size. I see a world where the term “beautiful” and “healthy” do not seem to coincide. But I also see a revolution.

I see a wave of positivity, of beauty, of acceptance. I see more and more people take stands against what societal norms tell us. I see girls of all shapes and sizes embracing their bodies, their curves and their edges. I see celebrities acting as positive role models and changing the lives of young children. I see companies campaigning for true beauty and bodily acceptance. I see YouTube videos and channels dedicated to self-acceptance and a better self-image. The revolution has started, the spark is ignited, and Project Courage is joining along to catch fire. This month readers we will focus on your self-image, because we have all had times where we have looked at ourselves and hated something about it. Perhaps our hair is too frizzy, perhaps we have too much acne. Perhaps our thighs jiggle, our feet are too big, muscles too small, skin too pale. But all of that is beautiful, all of it is handsome, is gorgeous, is noteworthy, is acceptable. There’s a wave of acceptance coming; so where will you begin? 

 

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You are beautiful image from http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/7-steps-to-positive-self-talk. Fireworks photo from http://www.blogto.com/city/2011/06/canada_day_2011_fireworks_in_toronto. Dove poster courtesy of http://www.girlsleadership.co.za/gll/dove-movement-for-self-esteem.

Reflection #2: Tips

So Team Courage recently participated in relay for life which was quite an incredible event! Through Zumba, karaoke, and fundraising we had an amazing time throughout the night. Not sleeping that night was probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in a while, but honestly it was too cold to sleep anyway! Haha, I would like to thank all of you for your incredible support. It means so much to all of us, and we couldn’t have done it without knowing our readers were behind us.

Relay for life acted as a reminder that life is extremely fragile, and that physical health is so important to have. Without it, we have nothing really. We need to take care of our health and take care of our bodies because its really the only thing we have carrying us around on this planet.

I am thinking of filling this blog post with a few cheesy inspirational quotes because we all need a few of these every once in a while. I have a whole album on my phone with just motivational and honestly it’s pretty bad. But exams start tomorrow and I think we are all desperately in need of some quick motivation. With exams coming up it was even more important to follow the three little tips to staying physically active. I made sure to get a good sleep every night, and to drink water and eat healthy. Drinking water actually helps your brain better function and make connections. Also… Sleeping allows your brain to solidify everything that you learned and encountered during the day. So getting a good nights rest is important, especially during exam time.

A cool tip for sleep to allow you to get an amazing nigEwajc2eXZr0How to wake up feeling great: The 90 minute rule: http://youtu.be/Ewajc2eXZr0
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Hannah: The most important challenge for me was the water. I mean, I know how important it is to drink water but I definitely do not drink enough on a daily basis. I like to think of water as a “miracle drug.” Do you ever wake up in the night with huge headaches? I do sometimes and it usually goes away after I drink a glass of water. But in terms of physical health I think that the exercise is the most important. It’s really important to get moving! A little bit of exercise can make your body feel great! Another thing that I think is really good for physical health is to walk. Not even just for exercise purposes. If you can get places with your feet, do it. I walk to my school most every day. I have even been known to walk an hour and a half to get places I need to go in my city. Walking is great. It gets your body in motion and helps you get the fresh air your body needs!

Jeremiah: For me, I know I already exercise frequently and sleep deprivation doesn’t seem to bother me too much, so the water drinking was the most important. I find I often realize at given times in the day that I haven’t been drinking any water and am super parched, so I have to drink like 3-4 cups all at once. Staying hydrated honestly makes me feel more awake and all around healthier. I think its easier to eat food after drinking lots of water too, otherwise your esophagus can get all clogged and that’s no fun at all. Honestly… Eating healthy really makes things better. If you try to cut as much unhealthy food from your diet as you can, you start feeling more awake, alert and all around have more energy and are happier and more satisfied with yourself. It feels so good, the temptation definitely dwindles after the first couple weeks too because it just doesn’t seem as appetizing anymore to eat unhealthy food. Eating healthy takes some discipline but is so so so worth it. I dare y’all to try it.

Kyndra: I know for me personally, the idea of sleep is really important. I’m not the best at making sure that I get the appropriate amount of sleep, so forcing myself too sleep and sleep in a multiple of 90 minutes really made a difference. You feel more energized and prepared for your day. I felt less fatigued and sick as per usual, I even felt less stressed, which for me is a pretty big deal. I think sleep is essential to your physical health as without it you can’t move forward, you can’t make any other progress toward being physically healthy. It is also important that you deal with your emotions in order to have a healthy body. Healthy mind equals a healthy body. If you have a negative mind set it will affect your body and how it feels. So if anything remember that everything is intertwined and aim for balance!

Nathan: To me, drinking the right amount of water daily is super important. I have always tried to drink above and beyond that 8 glasses a day recommendation, probably drinking closer to 12 or so (not to brag or anything). I just feel it’s really important. Simply drinking water can help you be and feel healthier in so many ways. It’s the basis of your life, it really is. You can’t go exercising if you aren’t drinking water to replace it. Eating healthy doesn’t mean much if you’re dehydrated. So yes, drink water. Looking for another health tip? Then have a good laugh. Ever heard the saying “Laughter is the best medicine”? Well, it’s on to something. Laughter has an insane amount of health benefits that you probably didn’t even know could be a health benefit. I wondered why the ball kept getting bigger, then it hit me!
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Challenge #2: Taking Care

Relay for life is past approaching which means we have been working like crazy with last minute fundraising and organizing and everything going on. For those of you who don’t know, Relay for Life is a 12 hour event dedicated to cancer and fighting the destructive disease that affects so many people. It begins with a survivors lap to celebrate the fight that those individuals have gone through and won. Luminaries will shine in the night, showing those we fight for, and those we fight in memory of. All the money fundraised goes to the Canadian Cancer Society, and every year millions of dollars are raised across Canada.

My mom always told me that no matter who you are, no matter how much money you make or how happy you are, you are nothing without physical health. That taking caring of ourselves and our bodies is important. So let’s look at physical health in another perspective.

We’ve all heard of that baby analogy right? If you haven’t, you’re going to hear it again. Pretend your body is a baby. You have to take care of it, you have to clean it, but you also have to love and treasure it even though you know it is flawed. You would never hurt a baby. You would never tell the baby it is ugly or too fat or too thin. You would never starve your baby, and you would never shove more food in your baby’s mouth than it can consume. You would never neglect the baby of medicine or a doctors visit if it were feeling ill, and you would never simply brush sickness off. You wouldn’t give your baby addictive drugs or alcohol, and you wouldn’t make your baby smoke cigarettes. You would love the baby, because it is the only one you have and the only one you will ever have.
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So now think back to your body. Think back to your physical health. What I’m basically trying to say is that it is important to take care of yourself and your body. Don’t abuse yourself, physically or verbally. Don’t beat yourself up over what you can’t change. But learn to look at yourself in the mirror and love what you see. There’s a reason Project Courage did mental health month before physical health. It takes a mentally healthy person to be able to love yourself and your image as well as understanding physical limits.
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CHALLENGE #2

This week I want you to focus on taking care of yourself. Continue to eat healthy as I know you all have been trying to, but also give yourself enough sleep, water, and exercise.

Here are a few little challenges, one for each upcoming day.

Day 1: Drink 8 glasses of water throughout the day. A tip would be to keep a tally of every glass you drink. It has to be water, not juice or pop or coffee or any other beverage. Water.
Day 2: Get 9 hours of sleep. Did you know that you get the most restful sleep when you sleep in 90 minute intervals? Our body is programmed to go through a sleep cycle every 90 minutes where we transition from light to deep sleep and back again. That’s why I said 9 hours instead of the typical 8. I want you to wake up and finish a sleep cycle.
Day 3: Exercise for an hour. We all know that exercise is extremely important, but honestly, most of us feel like we don’t have enough time to exercise. Go on a walk with a friend, go on a bike ride, go swimming, run the treadmill even. Do yoga or even play Wii Fit. Just get moving and get active.
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Baby photo from… https://www.google.ca/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&docid=r0-qdPHgKOzdNM&tbnid=5APlgRt2uJSjYM:&ved=0CAQQjB0&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.hdwallpapers.in%2Fblue_eyes_cute_baby-wallpapers.html&ei=v8SXU42TC4GBqgbv6IGgCQ&psig=AFQjCNEPXfcdy5aR7Ti5w1EON5xGfLSSjA&ust=1402541619844921 and sleeping photo from.. archive.indianexpress.com.