8 observations for 8 days in LA

“Bus” is a bad word
The bus in LA is incredibly affordable. If you are fortunate to be near a major bus route (which I am) then the $1.25 USD price tag is very reasonable when you consider that this mode of transit covers a serious stretch of space. In Toronto where the Buses/Streetcars/Train is the same price ($3CAD) whether you are going 16 stops or 2 – I appreciate this.

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And yet, everybody seems to hate on the bus. The ones I have taken have not been dirty or (too) full of crazy people. As someone who has primarily lived in 3 major cities with awesome Public Transit, I’m kind of stubborn when it comes to a city that deliberately spreads itself out and doesn’t provide an easy, cheap way to get around.

It’s like you WANT me to have to drive man, and I now I have to do the opposite.

Streets to not walk down
LA is somewhere that has places you can walk, but you definitely need to drive to those places. Like the Griffith Observatory, or cute neighbourhoods. But if you are a clueless visitor like me, you might be under the impression that you can just walk where ever, from point A to point B.

Turns out, LA is a city where a nice street you are walking on, can turn into a scary street just by turning a corner or walking the wrong direction. And its not like you can google: “way home that will be murder and rape free” or “dangerous streets of LA” (Oh shit you totally can for neighbourhoods…maybe that could be an app? Like Google maps but for women just walking minding their clueless bizness?)

Neighbourhood City
Where you live in LA can say a lot of things about you…how rich you are, how cool you are, how artistic you are, if you have a family…and people can tell this simply by the way you answer the question: “So which part of LA are you in?” (By the way my answer tells people that I definitely found my place on craigslist and had no idea about this neighbourhood elitism)

Can I get that Vegan, Gluten-free, Skinny, Non-soy, Organic, Homogenous, Air-Free, Non GMO, and can you tap-it-gently-three-times-with-your-two-index-fingers and whisper “Nancy Noooo!” into the cup before you it?
Do you have a food thing? Like, you can only eat plants that come from a field planted on the west side of a mountain? Good news, LA will cater to you – no matter how ridiculous your request (you weirdo).

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The traffic is the new weather
In other major cities, the weather is a nice safe topic to chat about with strangers. Hong Kong and Sydney:  “So hot today” or “Crazy rain!”, Toronto: snow (lack there of, the crazy amount, the consistency, texture) but here in LA where the temperature remains fairly consistent (not a great conversation starter…”still perfect out there!” “yep”) the Los Angeleans talk about how busy the roads are/were and how crazy traffic is.

We get it, its bad.

And to that I say, “yeah well… maybe if more people took the bus…”

You can survive without a car
The rise of ride sharing companies Uber and Lyft make it super easy to not have a car here, so long as you have a phone with the internet and the app, and a credit card. Parking is a bitch anyway (it takes five minutes to understand the signs themselves) and although I can drive (in theory: passed my test, haven’t driven since) I honestly think having less cars on the roads will also ease traffic issues (also I am terrified of the aggressive driving, but also the noble thing). Plus with Uber Pool and Lyft Line, (carpooling) its very very economical so you can save your dollars for Gluten and Fun free beer (barf).

Everybody wants to tell you their story
Ride sharing these past 8 days have introduced me to people I would never have a ten minute conversation with. And everybody out here seems to have an interesting story. Maybe its because it is a city built on overnight fortunes and aspirational living, but no one has yet said “oh i do this one thing and i’m pretty comfortable” nope. Everyone gives you their headline “I am a song writer but I want to get into modelling” “I work at a country club but I want to get a union job at Frito-Lay” “I work for a startup that is manufacturing Hemp pain relief for Dogs and Horses” (seriously…seriously)

And Last but not least:

The Homeless Situation
I hate to get all serious at the end of this frivolous blog but with the good, sometimes you get the bad, and here it goes…

I’ve travelled all over the world and I have never seen a worse homeless situation than I have in Los Angeles. I had heard of “Skid Row” or “Tent City” but I was not mentally prepared for the reality – which is, there is a population of people living on the streets of one of America’s largest Cities, with views of the millionaires living up in the “hills”. According to this article, the population of the homeless has grown by 12%… Forty Four thousand homeless people living in the city. That figure is gobsmacking, and when I have asked people living here (immigrants and born&breaders) what the ACTUAL fuck is going on, there has been a general shrugging of shoulders, or a gentle shaking of the head and light tsk-ing. Apparently it is well known that psychiatric hospitals discharge patients with one-way bus tickets to LA/California AND there are red tape laws that prevent young homeless people from staying in shelters that house adults.

It is all kinds of fucked up that I’ve seen gold bentley’s cruising down the streets and walked past homes that look like they are bigger than every house I’ve ever lived in put together ever (aka OBSCENE wealth), and then walked past people with wheelie bags and trolleys living under a tarp on a street corner.

Maybe, maybe I could ignore it if I was in any other foreign country. But I can’t because this is America. This is the “land of the free and the home of the brave”. This is (traditionally) the country that everybody looks at, to get a piece of that “American dream”.

And the reality is stark. It is in your face aggressively there. And it isn’t easy for me to understand how anyone can get to the point in their mind where this is normal.

There are so many wonderful things about LA, and I am having such a great time in California, but the Homeless situation is something that you may never know about unless you come here and see it with your own eyes. It is very, very distressing, I don’t know how it can be addressed or fixed in a country that seems to be so angrily against the “socialist ideas” of somewhere like: Canada or Australia say.

Being new to a place gives you a unique perspective – things that become every day, or things that you don’t notice after a while are still very obvious, and funny or sad to me.

LA is like no where I have ever been before – it is a city of 18.5 MILLION PEOPLE, 270,000 Millionaires and 44,000 homeless people.

So far, I’m not too sure what to think – it seems like the kind of place you might fall in love with passionately, or hate with a vengeance.

Time will tell.

 

My Lighthouse

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Are you a human adult?

Do you find yourself unable to sleep some nights (even when you are utterly exhausted) because the great whirring globule inside your skull has chosen this exact moment to throw all of the personal challenges you have ever considered or thought about- into your face?

Maybe you trip down the rabbit hole of “what the fuck am I doing with my life?”

You wouldn’t be alone with that – almost everybody I know, childless or childful (is that a word…?) Teenagers, Twenties, Thirties, Forties, Fifties, Sixties… everybody is trying to figure out what they’re doing, why they did what they did, and what they are going to do next. All the while maintaing an immaculately maintained and crafted image of themselves on Social Media.

You think its just you?

I will be the first to admit that the last ten years have been a colliding merry-go-round of lucky breaks, happenstance and the ability to fall upwards.
From the University I attended, to the country I now live in, to the jobs that I have had – it’s all been one big “OKAY SURE!?” + tears.

I’ve had my goals and dreams, but while they remain a lighthouse on the coast, I’ve happily gone down into employment mermaid lairs and boarded pirate ships that have been more than diverting. (Are you staying comfortable with all the Metaphors?)

 

It is really hard to sail directly for the lighthouse when there is an unpredictable ocean (life) you are riding on. I am far from easy-going, but to avoid sinking, I’ve tried to take the waves as they come – and yet I see the lighthouse on the shore and it gives me pangs to see that some days it feels like I am further away from it than I was yesterday. That drives me crazy – especially when you feel like you’ve rowed as hard as you possibly could and it doesn’t make a difference – the lighthouse feels like an impossible target.

Still following?

For a long time now I’ve struggled to be honest about what it is I’m even sailing towards – because for a long time, floating at all seemed like the greatest achievement (hey look at me I’m on a boat and I haven’t crashed into the rocks!)

At 2am, for whatever reason, my brain finally decided to admit to itself what it is we’re aiming for and here it is:

I want to be a writer.

I’ve spent the last month funemployed and in that time (amongst the watching of numerous fail and cat videos) I buckled down and wrote a screenplay that has haunted me for four years. A story that I started and abandoned with no real deadline.

On Friday last week, I finished the first complete draft, 83 pages. And while my bank account reminds me that I need to get a real job again ASAP, I’m prouder of myself for those garbage 83 pages than I have been in anything for a long time.

And all the noise and splashing and the disquieted seas feel calmer now than they have in years because I don’t feel like an idiot for saying I want to be something – I AM something. I used to feel ashamed to admit that I wanted to be a writer because outside of this blog and the witty Facebook statuses I craft – I hadn’t written anything. I felt like a fraud with my Masters Degree in Creative Writing. I’d never in a million years have answered “What do you do?” with “I am a writer” because what a fucking fraud!

Now that I can admit what my goal is, all of the jobs and the career I’ve been carving – make sense. Because silly me – you don’t sail towards a lighthouse, that isn’t what a lighthouse is for. A lighthouse is a navigational tool. It helps guide you through the rocky sea and warns you of danger.

 

Thats what my brain was thinking about at 2am – that maybe you don’t ever reach your lighthouse – but knowing what it is and how it affects your decisions, is enough to see the path. Isn’t that we’re always looking for? Patterns and paths that make us feel like our lives aren’t haphazardly thrown together?

Find your lighthouse and then sit back and enjoy the boat ride.

13 things I have learned over 13 flights in 5 weeks

  1. Push the bounds of Hand Luggage
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    Everyone has these mini wheelie dealie bags these days. They are massive and some are so crammed there is no way they fit in the overhead bins or under the seat in front of you (they will check it for free at the gate if they are anticipating too much hand luggage in the cabin). I feel like an idiot with just my handbag/laptop bag especially when Air Asia wants to charge me $20Aud per extra kilo in my suitcase. Excuse me for having a reasonable amount of hand luggage and an unreasonable amount of regular luggage.

 

  1. If you’re not first – you’re last aka Queue up to get on the plane
    Passengers line up and wait for a security check during morning rush hour at Tiantongyuan North Station in Beijing
    No hear me out – I used to hate those idiots who would line up to get on the plane they would be trapped in for 5 or 11 or 16 hours FIRST. And then I noticed that the above (massive amounts of hang luggage being brought into the cabin) began to happen. Now if I want to defend my leg room and not put my bag in an overhead bin way over on the other side of the plane – you’re damn right I’m in line – me and all the other sheeple.

 

  1. Neck pillows do not work
    Seriously – who invented this garbage? Designed to make you look like a Knob and as comfortable as having a ring of foam around your neck – it looks comfortable – more so than your head slumping forward and jerking up as you drool on your lapel like an oozing starfish – but news flash – it isn’t.

 

  1. People LOVE THEM some tomato juice
    Ew – hey guys – wtf is going on with that. They’ve got your apple and orange juice there, a wide selection of free alcohol and all the soft drink your heart could desire, good old H20 in spades – and you’re all guzzling away at the spicy blood of the most confused fruit I’ve ever met (and you should meet my family). No. Please stop. You are revolting.

 

  1. No but seriously drink water
    After Dad’s Deep Vein Thrombosis last year and the reflection looking back at me in the mirror, that of a yellow skinned harpy – I have realized that if drinking water means my blood wont clot in my limbs with the threat of breaking off and murdering me, than yah. H20 me up son. Water is one of those things that everyone could drink more of and its freeeeee (unless you’re in Bali or Asia where you have to buy bottled lest you tempt the wrath of the Bali Belly)

 

  1. Possession is 9/10s
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    If you get so lucky as to fly a less busy flight and there is a seat/multiple seats around you available, you have to think fast. Long haul – the difference of having a little extra space versus keeping your arms and legs inside a couple of arm rests is a game changer. So everyone is on the look out for more territory to invade. Sit in the middle seat and put your stinky feet on the outside chair – nonchalantly reading a book and signaling by your possession that these SEATS ARE MINE BITCH.

 

  1. Turbulence makes you realize how small you are
    Especially with nothing to grip except a moveable arm rest and a seat belt the only thing holding you down, to a chair connected to an aircraft that as far as I can see is working by engineering and magic.
  1. 16 hours is 16 hours
    Whether you sleep, read, watch a movie or stare out the window – there is no way to escape the waiting on an aircraft. People always try to give you advice like – oh take some Nyquil and have a rum and coke and boom you’ll be flying over Asia before you know it. Incorrect. Even if you fall asleep or watch two movies back to back you’ll think – oh man we must be almost there you’ll somehow check the flight tracker and realize your little plane hasn’t even left the continent. GRRRRR!!!!!

 

  1. There is always, always, a screaming baby

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    I’m thinking that like the drink carts the Flight attendants stock, and the cross checks of doors they do before we take off, one of the crew, maybe the head flight attendant is like “now hold on a second, who has got the screaming child? And have we given it coffee? Oh okay good, because we wouldn’t want there to be one moment of peace on this over night flight.” I realize as a childless person, and a former screaming, internationally travel baby myself that I have very little wiggle room here for criticism… but 13 flights later and EVERY SINGLE time, I’m not crazy. There is a conspiracy. Pass me my tinfoil hat.

 

  1. There is also always, always, a farty/wheezy/coughing old man
    And he perfumes the air around him with his natural fragrance. 10 points if he is in the seat directly in front or beside you and you fear for your nose/health. *Shudder*
  1. I don’t know what I am eating right now
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    The most memorable meal on a plane that I ever had was the Hong Kong to Seoul Korea flight I took as I tried to make my way down to Australia for University. I flew Korean Airlines and dinner was a boiling hot bowl of noodle soup (ohkay I can have a bowl of hot water but I can’t have my nail file – but of course) and a shrink wrapped boiled egg… Memorable because the food was so immaculately presented and also because I couldn’t help thinking that the boiling hot water was kind of crazy.

    But at least I knew what I was eating! Over the last few Air Nippon (Japanese airline) flights I have taken, I have been given little packages of things I cannot identify or things pretending to be other things. Oh cool, this is clearly some sort of dessertOHMYGODNOW it is a creamy mayonnaise infested potato salad with fish eggs. Barf.

  1. So much of the planet is uninhibited
    I love to fly in daylight hours and look over the patchwork of the farmlands and see in layout of the world below. But travelling by night is something special too as you reach a cluster of lights that mark a city, the highways, the homes, and then you come upon nothing again. The vast blackness of the empty, and even in the strong moonlight you cannot tell if the spreading darkness is Ocean or Land.
  1. It is never enough
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    Whether you go for 5 days, 5 weeks or 5 months – the travel is never enough. In the moment on that beach in Thailand, or in the Mountains in Utah – you are taking for grated the beauty around you. You become immune to things when you travel, take things for granted – and it isn’t until you are on the way home that you realize it will never be enough, those moments with faraway family or drinking cocktails on a steamy rooftop.

    If home is where the heart is – then my home is on an airplane – travelling to my next adventure.

    Follow me on instagram: @ohparisimo for adventures

The “I like dating this person but we’re not quite ready to get married so please don’t deport me” Visa

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After 4 years of living in Toronto, 13 months of Visa limbo hell, $3500 Canadian Dollars, 16 forms, 7 tearful calls to a Lawyer, 2 police checks, an Expensive english test, a medical (and a partridge in a pear tree… no… wait…) I became a Permanent Resident of Canada on July 4th, 2015 (thank fuck).

It was a touch and go race against time, a tricky maze of paperwork, and bureaucratic hoops to jump through.

The immigration laws in Canada for Australians used to be super relaxed. There was such a thing as a “Working Holiday” visa, open to all Australians between 18 and 30, who met the criteria (no criminal background and with at least $3500CAD in the bank) and the visa was good for 2 years at a time, renewable until you no longer met the criteria.

Until this year.

The Canadian government, notorious for it’s open arms approach to Immigration has begun cracking down and changing policy. Laws have begun changing and I luckily slid in just before these changes had the opportunity to affect me.

At the time of applying and back and forth with the Canadian Immigration Centre, I was (understandably) nervous that if my application was rejected, I would have had to leave Canada.

That was a shitty situation considering I have a pretty built up life in Canada with friends I love, an Industry I am heavily involved in, a family member who also lives here, and oh yeah – a Canadian boyfriend.

At the time my Visa application began to look a bit dicey, my boyfriend and I had been dating for about 3 months. We were at the shy “I love you” stage, but we were definitely not at the, “lets get married so you can stay in the country with me” stage (although this was suggested to us as the last last option).

I felt pretty awful about the whole situation and lost a lot of sleep over it (and gave myself an ulcer I think). At the time, things were starting to get serious with Jason, and it just really fucking sucked that it seemed like our only options were, breakup, get married, or leave Canada.

Thankfully, my Permanent Residency worked out and our relationship was allowed to progress at a normal pace without making any make or break decisions.

But my story is not unique, and the struggles faced by International couples are very real.

On our recent trip to Vietnam we met Taylor and Richie, a fantastic duo who had been travelling the world together for 3 years after they met in New Zealand. Taylor is American and Richie is a Scotsman. When we asked them where they would be heading when their globetrotting adventure ended (shortly after Vietnam) they told us: Richie was headed back to Scotland and Taylor was going back to the States. There was no working visa for either of them to live and work in each others country (I have since read Taylor’s awesome article for Verge magazine which tells us that she is in Scotland with Richie for 3 months on a tourist visa… yay love!).

The same deal with my two friends Conor (Irish) and Amanda (American) who met in Toronto and who need to figure out where they can exist as a couple in the same place at the same time.

These couples are everywhere, and are constantly trying to make love work across international borders. But it’s not easy. Many people I know simply cannot make it work without a clear concrete destination where they can both live normal, unmarried lives, and still figure out if their relationship is headed down a more serious track.

So.

What is my point?

Aren’t countries always looking for a way to continue fostering great relationships with other nations?

What better way to do that than to encourage couples from different continents to continue loving each other, fostering ties at the most basic level?

This is from the internet... I do not know these people but they add to this blog and prove a point so thereeeee, yay internet

This is from the internet… I do not know these people but they add to this blog and prove a point so thereeeee, yay internet

The traditional notion of belonging and “home” is evolving as globalization and international nomadry (not a word) become more and more prevalent. Doesn’t it make sense for governments to reconsider booting someone out of a country if they have a life, a loved one, a family? It seems even my married friends are struggling with Visa constraints on their partners. It doesn’t make sense and this issue needs to be readdressed.

Hashtag ParisforPresident.

Please stop touching me

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Dear weird guy at the event,

I’m talking to you because I’m nice and I am volunteering here. You seem like you’re not with any one and you approached me, and I have to stand here…. You are wasted and you smell like rotten grapes and I am working, so I feel like I kind of have to be polite to you. It is loud in here so you are getting reaaaalllll close to my face – which is an absolutely hideous experience for me because I think actually might have just spat into my mouth and again, you smell.

Please take your hand off my back. I do not know you and yuck, you are gross. Please do not think you can move that hand down towards my ass. I took a step back to try and give you a physical hint that I am not interested in you, because apparently telling you I have a boyfriend wasn’t enough. You asked why I don’t dump him and go out with you? I’ll give you five reasons, and they are attached to the thing which is attached to your shoulder which is trying to rest itself on the small of my back… for now. Please stop touching me.

No thanks, I don’t drink while I’m working, and we’ve already established that I am not into you. That is faaahhhascinating that you believe a man should be dominant in a relationship. And great to know that you make over 6 figures and that you could take me out to some of the “best spots in Toronto” because you know “everyone”. I think I’m going to try and throw my friend into your path now so I can run away. Sorry Ashlea.

Your flirtation game is ON POINT Weird Guy. Whichever pick up manual told you to touch a female as much as possible to assert your interest was TOTALLY right. Panty dropper ovah heeeereeee. I’m just avoiding you because you are TOO much of a man for me.

Yours truly

Not interested.

I am not cool enough for Brooklyn

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A few weeks ago I turned 26 and officially said goodbye to pretending I’m still close to being twenty and not closer to being thirty (whatever… the alcohol intake is the same, just fancier) and to celebrate I took myself down to New York for the weekend (yay for Toronto for being close to stuff!)

I went to New York in July with my Dad and we did all the touristy stuff (that he paid for… thanks Papa!) so my plan for my birthday weekend in New York was to chill, walk around, and eat as much delicious food as I could find, and yes, probably consume a lot of alcohol.

Luckily for me, a good friend from Middle School lives in New York and offered for me to come and crash at her place in Brooklyn. THANKyoufreeaccomodation!

My brother and I went to Brooklyn one evening to meet with said friend one night in July. My brother is a 6”, dreadlocked, stocky dude with a scruffy face and a heart of gold. If I was walking alone on a street at night – I would cross to avoid him (sorry brah… but I don’t trust beards). We got off the subway at a cross section of Brooklyn which I’m told is up and coming and extremely trendy.

My brother thought we were about to get mugged.

Cue group of gangstery latino dudes chilling on a corner. Cue child with no shoes on empty street across from industrial lot kicking broken soccer ball against a wall. Cue dark and stormy night. Cue broken fire hydrant.

It’s okay, we survived and were taken to one of the most delicious all meat restaurants I have ever been to. We were not mugged, but we did get lost on the train system on the way home (No No you’re right New York, your train system is the best in the world and makes perfect sense! Why WOULD the Q run on Sundays after 3pm?! Ludicrous!)

There’s no denying that there is something about Brooklyn.

Throw all the creative, eccentric, wonderful people you know into a place and wonderful things are bound to happen. If New York is the big apple, then Brooklyn is the Japanese fusion, apple infused vegan mushroom brisket.

And I am not cool enough to belong there.

Maybe it’s because I’m a tourist or maybe because I’ve just never been very bohemian, but my outfits seemed to be lacking in feathers and tassels (I wore black leggings and some kind of top and boots most days – I looked like a fucking IDIOT!) and I couldn’t keep up with the slang. I am sarcastic and blunt and while Americans can be both of those things, people in Brooklyn seemed to take everything literally – which made me sound like more of a moron.

My friend has just moved to the East Village – a neighbourhood I spent a lot of time in, drifting out of cheese cake and antique shops. With it’s wrought iron fire escapes, tree lined streets and “stoops” it is VERY sex and the city, and much more where I picture myself.

It’s okay Brooklyn… you’re that hot guy at a party which is way out of my league, but the East Village is the guy that HAS too go out with me because our friends set us up and you’re to polite to leave.

 

Do battle, be brave.

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Every new day poses a question to each of us: how are you going to live today?

Though the internet has moved on to its obsession with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, I still find myself unable to quite process the “old news” of Robin Williams death a few weeks ago.

I did not wade into the fray of online grief and tributary at the time, I did not want to add my voice to the collective cacophony. His death brought back some pretty frightening reminders of a time when the Black Dog stalked in the shadows of my family and the outcome that could have been.

I see Robin Williams death as a very real and present reminder that you never truly know the daily struggles of the person standing next to you. To the world, this very talented and hysterical comedian was Robin FUCKING Williams. If you have ever seen the man do stand up or speak in interviews, you know that he is an incredible performer and improvisor, one who is vibrating on a different frequency than the rest of us.

And yet the man took his own life.

It just stands as a reminder that we are each doing battle daily with our own demons.

From the girl I know, who is Cancer free a year later, who has been quietly fighting since her diagnosis, to the friends who have JUST moved to Toronto to start a new life – leaving their old ones behind and struggling to figure out where they belong in this jigsaw puzzle. To those fighting heartbreak over lost love, and still others bravely facing the frustration over unemployment, financial difficulties, and family trauma – everybody has their something.

Sometimes I need the gentle reminder to be kinder to those around me, because as the quote reads, everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about, and it is all too easy to point the finger and say “they don’t have it as bad as…(fill in the blank).”

Every day we are faced with challenges, be they big or small, and it is the way that we navigate them that makes us who we are. Sometimes there are days when getting out of bed is the hardest thing we have to overcome, and to do that requires immense strength and the flexing of determination and will. There is no way to say that achieving one foot in front of the other on a given day is any less important or incredible than fighting a dragon or climbing Mount everest.

I try to be as open as possible. There are few things you could ask me that I wouldn’t be brutally honest about.

Why is that?

Too much of life is airbrushed and photoshopped out into the perfect image of what we think our lives should look like.

When I have struggled in the past, I would look around and think “everybody has it all worked out, but me” and I would feel like a failure.

And we all know that is not true, we’re all just winging it daily, fighting our battles the best we can, and going on.

Because the only other option than to continue on is to stop.

I wish someone had helped Robin see that wasn’t his only option.

Not all battles have to be fought alone.

http://www.beyondblue.org.au/