Saturday, 11 February 2017

As you grow older, you become more and more aware of all the layers. There are too many of them. Some layers feel so comfortable at one moment, but so horrid the next. Sometimes, the most difficult person to understand is yourself; you have a hard time remembering who you are underneath those layers.  You look in the mirror and you don't recognize yourself.

There are those days when I'm just not strong enough to not let those layers affect my actions. They are read back to me and I can't recall myself. I feel ashamed and undeserving.  I can't lie that I'm terrified of being judged for what I've done. I can't help but ask, is this too good to be true; will I be left the next day with a mess of empty?

...but then there are those tomorrows, where you wake up and set your goals, subside those fears, reason with yourself that those feelings are nothing but old triggers, hide those layers and work hard on living in the moment, being happy and accepting things for what they are. Stay strong and be the free-spirit you've always been...


Friday, 30 December 2016

It's time for an annual look-back!

I started this blog in 2008. It was a year of exploring, and many first times. We lived and breathed fire. I was me, and I was invincible and free. I jumped into 2009 the way a child dives into orange leaves; headfirst, with no consequences of pain. It was a year of mistakes, anger, hurt, and waking up at dusk. Then came 2010, a year of honesty, withdrawal, apologies and blistering heat. I tried to let go in 2011, I made compromises and I made a conscious effort to love someone. Then there was 2012, the year I pursued my dreams and set foot in nearly 15 countries. It was a year of struggle between freedom and obligations. I call 2013 my favorite year. It was a year of revisiting, closure, faith and new beginnings. It was the year I decided to never settle for less than what I believed in. Then came 2014, a year of learning, unlearning and overall year of disappointment and confusion. Then there was 2015, a big year of adventures, a battle against the comfortable norm and a year of unbecoming the person I'm not...

I want to describe 2016 as a joyful year. It was rather calm and simple, it was a year where everything makes sense and fits like a puzzle...

2016 was a year of career breakthrough. I was without a job for months, I was disappointed and frustrated...until I started working for my own, and became convinced that I never wanted that 9-5 lifestyle ever again. I feel truly blessed because I didn't have to take a "leap of faith", I did not quit my job, it wasn't full of was just meant to be. When God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window. 

2016 was a year of freedom, a year of little things and curiosities.I used to not be able to enjoy a single moments without my mind wandering onto the next thing, unless it was adrenaline-packed. I haven't traveled to any exotic lands this year and do not have any grand adventurous stories to tell. I miss it sure, but I also feel content. Being my own boss means I did not have to wait for weekends or my next vacations. I don't feel as time-constrained as I used to anymore, and it makes me more appreciative of every moment.

2016 was a year-long vow of celibacy. It wasn't anything difficult. It just felt right. I recognized that I am enough just as I am and loving yourself is meant to be enough. It was a year without postscripts. I still don't believe in endings, but I also don't believe in prolonging stories. Self-respect is hard, but it is what I have to do. I just have a tremendous amount of faith that everything will work out the way it's supposed to.

In 2016, I start to recognize the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is fleeting and common, but integrity, honesty, community, self-expression and joy aren't. Joy is what you feel after you've told a hurtful truth, after finding out what might upset you, it is knowing you have been yourself, you've followed your heart, you have not compromised and that you've lived up to a standard you're proud of. It takes time to cultivate joy, and 2016 has borne fruits.

Last year, my resolutions were to learn to be more open-minded, to not let pride get in the way of life's most beautiful things, and be patient enough to not settle for less, and I think I did a pretty good job.

2017 won't be anything less!


Wednesday, 19 October 2016

I always wanted to hike Maine's highest mountain, Katahdin. It's not even the highest mountain I've climbed, but it is a quite difficult hike because it's remote and very rocky. You need good knees to climb that mountain. Why I haven't been yet? Because it takes 7 hours to drive there, which is pretty damn far.

When we climbed Trap Dike, we met 2 ladies who have been to Katahdin and said it was beautiful, especially Knife Edge, which links Pamola and Katahdin, and it's so narrow and steep that you don't want to attempt this in bad weather. I've heard about how beautiful it was so many times already, but I thought that we will probably not go there any time soon....maybe next year during a long weekend or something!

The following week, my friend who came to Trap Dike with me suggested that we go to Katahdin on the weekend. It was the perfect weekend, with minimal wind and no rain forecasted. The weather will only get worst from that point on, so it was pretty much now or next year.

"Are we going to spend the night there?" I ask.

"No, we will drive there friday night, and start hiking in the morning, then drive back...we'll be a few to share the driving!"


So friday night, we left. We were 4 crazy people to drive 7 hours to Katahdin, hike 9 hours and drive another 7 hours back.

During the night, we saw a fox, coyotes, cats, deer and even 2 moose. One of the moose was running in the opposite direction on the road. It was all twisty mountain roads in the dark for the most parts. It was kind of dangerous...lucky that some people in the car stayed awake.

We got there at 6am, the sky was still pitch black, but there was already a line up at the Baxter State Park entrance. I asked the car in front to check if it's the right spot, and made my friend ask another car just to confirm and make sure it's the right place to wait. I really didn't want to drive 7 hours to wait at the wrong spot. Finally, the gate opened, and we got the last parking spot! Thank god!

We went up via Cathedral, which is the hardest and most direct route to the summit. We definitely did not drive 7 hours for a normal hike, ha. Cathedral is 5000 ft rock pile with boulders at the bottom and loose rocks and gravel at the top, so you need upper body strength to pull yourself up and careful consideration before committing because it's exposed. It was definitely a really beautiful, rugged and wild route. It's easier than Trap Dike however.

After reaching the summit of Katahdin, we continued on Knife Edge to hike towards Pamola Peak. Some parts of the edge is not more than a few feet wide. You also need to do some acrobatics before reaching Pamola. That area is known for accidents, some fatal. Luckily for us, it was a good day. We even saw a bear far away on the slopes. It was my first time seeing a bear in the wild!

Since I was the only one who didn't drive Friday night, I took the wheel. But I was also very tired, because it's not like I slept deeply in the car. My friend was like..."Elaine, I can drive after if you're tired. Let me know!" Nonetheless, I tried to stay awake...until 5 hours later, I got too tired, but nobody was willing to drive anymore, even the one who offered!


Katahdin was magical and almost surreal and the long drive was definitely worth it!

Tête-à-tête with Jackie: The different types

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

"Do you know sometimes you can like a person, but other times, you like the idea of a person, or like the idea to be with that person, or like the feeling of liking that person without actually liking that person, or even like to be that person and want to be with them to be introduced to their world, so you can become them and in turn project that same lifestyle and image to others? It's fucking crazy, but it gets blurry as you age...if you don't question it, you will become a prisoner of false ideals and common thoughts."

The story about a deadbeat client

Friday, 7 October 2016

I really need to rant about this deadbeat client of mine, that I will not name if he pays my last invoice by next week.

It started fine, I got along with most people, but the company itself is a mess. The accounting is a mess, the last three months were not touched at all. The company existed for four years but barely made any money and pretty much lives off tax credits, loans and investors' money. I had some hope for them, but now...they are really pissing me off.

What pissed me off the most was the HR lady that was supposed to help me. I'm not sure where she graduated from, but she is so fake and she does it so poorly. She would always act like she's so helpful, but it's all an act. I had 3 months of accounting to do within 2 weeks, and she was leaving on vacation. I asked her to pull out some stuff before she left. Right before she left, she asked me if I needed anything else. I said no. Then she said "If you need me for anything, please do not hesitate to call me. Really, don't hesitate." After she left, I realize that she didn't do anything. I called her, but no answer of course.

So, needless to say that I didn't trust her.

Later, the government requested some information regarding their R&D. The government could refuse the R&D if they didn't not provide the information needed so it was very crucial. I asked her to pull out the HR portion of the stuff needed. Everytime, I ask her what the status is, she either cuts me off or says that she will definitely do it soon. I figured, fine, she must not like me repeating myself, she's autonomous and she knows what she's doing. However, I told her the date of the deadline is a few days before the real deadline. That way, I can ensure that it's done on time. Finally the day arrived, and it's obviously not done.

Don't you hate people that complain that you repeat too much but when you don't repeat, things are not done?!

I had to talk to the client/her boss, because I think it's difficult working with her and I think they should be aware of the issue. I told him that I will include him in every e-mail I send her, because it looks like it's the only way to make her work.

That worked out for a while, and I really don't mind her fake ass as long as things are done. Then, there was another problem. Their cash flow was running tight and they never seem to answer my questions, so I didn't bother chasing them. I'm not there to babysit. They ask me to pay stuff and then wonder where the money went, when he just spent 40K$ just travelling in one month. Why is the cash flow not working? You tell me. Until one day, he barely had enough money for the payroll, but he promised me to pay me right away.

I made him an invoice for the past 2 weeks, and got him the second disbursement of R&D...however, he didn't pay me, which I thought was unacceptable. I know that he's probably waiting for the money to come in, but I'm not paid on commission. If he doesn't have money, he shouldn't even be calling me in the first place.

Not only he didn't pay me, he asked me to do more stuff. So I responded that.

He simply responded that we will talk about that in person. I didn't respond after that.

The day after, there was a meeting that they wanted me to attend, but I didn't show up, since I haven't received my payment. I will definitely not make time for them. The HR lady texted me and asked if everything was alright. I said things will be alright if they pay me. "I thought you would come in today and figure out the cash flow so we can pay you..."

" pay me first, then I will figure out the cash flow so you can pay everybody else."

Makes sense?

Of course they had to pay me, because they still needed me to get another loan. Right after she paid me, she sent me this:

I seriously don't know what to say. That message is so stupid. They are saying that they are paying my past invoice on condition of something that's unrelated. It's so dumb!

This is my response:

I seriously cannot stand that lady. Last time, she found a parking ticket on the floor and asked if it was mine. I said no because I parked somewhere else since there were no more space in the usual parking lot. She replied like she was surprised and said she will call them to let me in next time. I was don't even know which car I drive and the people there don't know my are you going to tell them? If you are not going to do anything, then why do you even talk?

It wouldn't have been such a big deal if they were not as sketchy, and not so difficult. But they never keep their words and they always have to be calling me on the weekends, and after business hours to bother me for last minute requests. Also, if they can't do something, then they should just say they can't and that will earn them more respect for their words. Unfortunately, everybody in that company are good sellers, but very bad doers.

Honestly, if I could wait and be optimistic like the rest of the consultants, this wouldn't happen. But I'm a realistic person, and I don't want them to think it's okay to not pay me. Also, I'm really not a difficult person; if they paid me, they can call me to talk about their life if they want and I will always make time for them. If they don't pay me, then they earn a trip to the bottom of my priority list. And if you're not nice, it will definitely not go unnoticed.

And I'm thick-skinned enough to do really fucked up shit if you owe me money!!!

Trap Dike

Thursday, 6 October 2016

I haven't had the chance to write here for a while, but today I'm going to write about Trap Dike.

I wanted to climb this route for a while, but was a little intimidated, and I do have slight vertigo in some situations although it doesn't paralyze me or anything. Some people say everybody has vertigo, unless you feel totally neutral. If you like the sensation, it's because you have vertigo.

Trap Dike is an unofficial route up mount Colden. In 2011, Hurricane Irene caused a huge landslide by tearing a huge strip of vegetated scrub off the upper flanks of the mountain, which slid down into Avalanche Lake. Nature is so powerful, and I was pretty excited to see and climb that slide.

The dike should not be climbed if it rained within the past 3 days. That weekend was perfect because it was dry, and my cousin joined us which reassured me a little. I didn't sleep so well because of stress. I was a bit worried about the possibility of an accident. We arrived around 9am at the Adirondack Loj to start our hike. About an hour or two later, it brought us to Avalanche lake.

We had to take a herd path and hop over some rocks to get to the entrance of the dike, where my cousin almost fell in the lake. The lower dike was easy; it basically consisted of class 3 climbs. Right before the class 4 climb, it was so slippery that I almost couldn't stand still. I got a bit scared, because I know that one stupid mistake could end terribly. When we got to the crux, which was a class 4 climb, there were several people waiting there; two ladies from Quebec, an american couple, and a group that hired a guide and equipment.

The reason why there are so many rescues and even deaths in this area is because it's that kind of place where it would be better to have equipment, but it is still doable without, even if some areas are sketchy.

We heard the guide screaming on top, and helping his group through. Some people were panicking, which made me worry. The american couple turned back. One of the Quebecers turned to us and said, "Now we're all scared because of the group in front of us. All we need is really somebody to show us the way, show us how easily it can be done and reassure us."

My cousin took the lead and climbed over that rock. One of my friend tried to climbed through the waterfall, but it was too slippery. I climbed it fairly easily after because I'm more flexible and was able to reach higher with my leg.

After the crux, the dike became less steep...until reaching the slide. It was wide, smooth and clean...and very steep. Luckily, the rocks were covered of little tiny sharp dents, which hurt my hands a little. Climbing that slide was really all about grip and trust. That's how magical nature is. You really had to trust. My thighs were burning but I had to keep going.

One of the Quebecers had a vertigo panic attack, so my friend stayed with her for a bit. We were on a steep exposed slab, so you can't really do much other than staying with her and wait until she recomposed herself. When she finally made it to the top, she cried tears of joy. I'm so happy for her :)

The whole hike took us 9 hours.


Saturday, 9 July 2016

A few months ago, I was offered a controller position at a well-known clothing company that I will not name. Although it had it's brighter days, the company actually went bankrupt two years ago. Without going into details, the environment was just not for me. It was very old-school and slow. Despite signs of recovery, today's economy remains uncertain. I'm not going to lie, it's hard finding a job. So, I accepted the offer even though it was very far from meeting my expectations salary-wise. I figured I could do it for the experience.

One week later, I left. Yes, I did. I made them an invoice and asked them to write me a check before I go. I was so frustrated. Again, I will not go into details, but basically, they promised me to give me the salary I expected in three months, which I know they will not because I have more money in my bank account than they do. So needless to say that they will not be able to pay me later.

...but that gave me an idea. Why don't I work for myself? Why don't I go find clients, and help them with their finances and accounting?

I actually considered this while I was still employed, but I didn't really think I had enough experience. Luckily, I worked in audit and have seen different industries, met all kinds of people and have learned to be versatile...which is one of the most important qualities for someone who wants to work for their own. Someone once said to me, the winner of a triathlon is not the swimming expert, the cycling expert or the running's the one that is not an expert but knows a bit of everything.

At the beginning of my venture, my plan was to look for a normal full-time job while I try to find clients on the side. A few weeks later, a firm where I used to work at saw my website and contacted me. They needed someone to help them out with a mandate. Without hesitation, I accepted of course. I worked there a few days a week while I kept on looking. From there, the ball just started rolling...

After a few weeks, I was still working on the mandate at the accounting firm, and found a new client. That client had 2 companies and needed someone to be take over the accounting department. The person that was there before me left on bad terms and they needed someone to put the pieces back together. It was challenging, but because I was an auditor, I was able to easily find the missing pieces of information. I came up with new ideas and new tools to save time and money for the company, and it really motivated me and I loved it. Also, financially, I will never be able to make this salary if I were a regular employee. I wondered, why don't I just do this instead of looking for a real job?

I used to like structure, until I realized that structure is a false sense of security...because you can get fired at anytime anyways. Now, I do different things everyday, and it forces me out of my bubble, because I have to go out and meet people. I've had one client who made me do 20 push-ups once, no joke. I get to choose my schedule, I don't ask for permission, and I feel valued. There are also many disadvantages, like risks...which I don't really consider it as a disadvantage.

A few months of self-employment thought me some things...It's very important to maintain a good network, but not necessarily a large one. I was able to make it because there were great people that wanted to help me, and I'm so thankful for that. Those people referred clients to me because they trusted me. It's also very important to always be yourself. There are tons of other people who do the same thing, but you are not those people. You are you, and you have to be the best of yourself, and people can sense that and they will remember you. Your business is based on you and only you.

So, this is what I've been doing. Sometimes, I can work up to 7 days a week. Even when I'm not working, I'm looking for clients. I cannot go on vacation, I don't know when I will be able to find my next client, I don't know if I can do this long-term, I don't know if I will give this up for a big-name company's offer. I really don't know. There's still a debate in my head but for now, I'm just going with the flow.

It's really hard to jump into this when you have a stable job and a stable life, but I had nothing. I just feel like this was meant to be. Like I always said, I'm someone who believes in all things that are meant to be. Sometimes, life will send you signs but if you're too obsessed over something else, you will miss it and you will wonder, why you're so unhappy. Overall...I feel so lucky and blessed, and I don't know what I've done to deserve this! 
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