Self care can sometimes be taking a step that may not seem rational like quitting your job, walking away from friendships and relationships, or literally standing up and walking away from a situation whether it be an event, a conversation, or a space you don’t feel safe in. Self care can be realizing the stressors in your life and doing a mass removal of them. That is what I have been focusing on lately.
I’ve been choosing myself and my well being over everything else. I’ve walked away from people and things that bring negativity and stress in my life and instead started putting myself first again. I’ve gone to yoga class instead of obligations because it was what I needed more for my health. I’ve spent a weekend saying goodbye to things that weighed me down and spent my days going out in nature and taking photos and videos for the joy of the art.
I made a decision I had had enough of the toxic atmosphere I was in, of the ridicule there. So I stood up and walked out, turned my phone off and felt the weight of the stress melt off my shoulders with the warm sun. I had forgot how much I missed the sun and I went out to trails I use to know well. I watched the sun stream across the open fields of grass and smiled as I approached a trail marker and realized it was part of the Trans Canada Trail – something that is on my bucket list.
I didn’t spend long here but it put me into a state of existential contemplation. I thought of all the things on my bucket list and what they would look like. I thought of how my life is bigger than these stressful times. I thought of future adventures but I also wondered what these places would look like twenty years from now. I wondered how much of our Earth will still be this wild and beautiful and how much of it will be gone.
I finished my night of breaking away from negativity at a hot yoga class. Standing in tree pose (Vrikshasana) looking out the window at the mountains in the distance and the hue of pink blanketing the landscape with the setting sun. I knew 100% that I had made the right decision even if it meant consistent money wasn’t coming into my bank account anymore.
It was breaking away from that atmosphere that inspired me to go out and enjoy my freedom. When I woke up I was graced with another great sunny day and set out to new trails I had never been to before with my cameras. I wanted to go out and enjoy nature while also just taking photographs for me again, for the love of the art, not for anything else. It brought back that childlike joy of discovering a new place, exploring, and being in awe of the beauty.
I watched the rapids of a waterfall mesmerized by the patterns and continued along the trail to see what awaited me. I found a perfect juxtaposition between peaceful green trails and thrills as I stood beside three waterfalls all interconnecting. There were many different waterfalls I got to capture that day. I later sat at the top of one and as the water fell I looked down the canyon in front of me wondering how I could get down there to get photographs. It inspired a future adventure I knew I could accomplish to come up river into the canyon to get the photographs of the waterfalls from the perspective of the water below.
I haven’t had that much fun in a long time. As I walked back to my car I thought to myself how wonderful it felt to just go out with no time constraints, no expectations, not knowing what I would find but just enjoying it all. It’s what I miss most about travelling solo consistently – zero compromise. But it also reminded me the joy of discovering new things and just exploring for however long I wanted to so I could discover the area.
The next day I had to compromise to attend an event I didn’t want to be at. But it was a celebration because it was the last event volunteering for an NGO who had lost it’s way and gave me no appreciation for my huge contributions and dedication. As soon as the event finished I felt that same sense of freedom I had two days earlier with the weight of stress lifting off my shoulders. I was free from another constraint and knew that it opened me up to be able to seek out greater environmental opportunities.
I brought all that I needed to explore the area after the event if I still had energy. And luckily I not only had energy but the sun was still shining so I set off again out onto the trail to chase waterfalls. I rediscovered an area I hadn’t seen in 5 years and I worked hard to get the angles I wanted of the waterfalls despite fences or tourists everywhere. Despite the obstruction it was because of the fences that I was lead to a beach below where the water was so clear and beautiful I knew I had to come back on the next sunny day to swim. I looked out from the beach and saw rocks in the area that would be perfect for self portraits and I knew I had to return to capture the vision I had in my head (the feature photograph for this article is one of those).
I didn’t want to retire from my adventures completely so I spent my last bit of daylight sitting in the forest with my watercolours. It was the first time in a long time I have remembered to bring them with me on an adventure to capture my inspiration with my words and paints instead of just my camera. I forgot how much fun it was to plein air paint. Eventually the mosquitos came out so I headed home to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day in a relaxed way with my mom.
I did my research, checked out the weather and knew that I only really had one day where it was guaranteed sun to return back to the same spot for my swim and photographs. So a few days later I set off to get the portraits I had imagined in my head and to have my second polar swim of the year. I decided to again try to integrate video into my adventure, offering me the opportunity to experiment with a different artistic medium. It gave me so much joy creating something new and sharing my adventures with others from my days of freedom.
While drying off in the sun from my swim and packing up my gear I met someone from Spain visiting the area. I didn’t know at the time but he later told me that he was walking on the trail above while I swam and a guy made a comment to him about how crazy it was someone was swimming down there. He told me he had to come down to meet someone who would dare to swim in those waters.
This lead to one of my last adventures in my domino series of outdoor discovery. The next day was his last day in Vancouver and he had asked if I would meet him. While it wasn’t what I had planned I thought back to all the times I’ve been in a new city and a new friend I had met offered to take me on an adventure. It’s those spontaneous trips and memories that are the best I’ve had so I knew I wanted to pay it forward. I gave him a list of adventure ideas and he chose to do his first winter hike with me.
Despite a cloudy day we persevered out into the snow filled back country for a small hike hoping for the chance to catch a view through the clouds. Although that didn’t happen I still got to show him how to interact with the wild birds on their terms. I laughed to myself thinking “what a Canadian experience – in the snowy mountains having Canada’s national birds land on your hand”. As we headed down from the mountain we even had a deer cross the road near us. I was happy despite the lack of view it was a rich experience in wildlife.
It had been a great way to celebrate the Spring Equinox and as we returned to the city so did the sun. I got to enjoy the last little bit of sun we would have for awhile by the sea, excited to see blossoms in bloom on the trees. It was a great segue from winter to spring and into the next chapter of adventures to come.
It was because of that break out moment that I returned to the things that feel most rewarding in my life and bring me joy. I haven’t felt more inspired and free and joyous in a long time. Standing up for myself against people that don’t appreciate me and putting my mental health and joy first created a huge ripple effect through my life. It has significantly changed my level of happiness and creativity and productivity. I have created more in those 5 days than I have in months.
Never forget the power of putting what is best for you first. Never forget the power of walking away from things that are negative and no longer serve you (and knowing you don’t need to explain yourself if it’s going to fall on lost ears). Never forget the power of going after what you love and bringing joy into your days. I was grateful for the much needed reminder I ended up giving myself.