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The BIG 30 Project #16: Go Backwoods Camping

I grew up as a fat kid and worse, as far as society was concerned, a fat girl.

Knowing this is important because I feel it adds significance to what I’m about to say: I’ve always wanted to go proper camping with friends but been terrified to do so.

I love nature. I find it grounding and relaxing. So you’d think that camping would be right up my ally. Weeeeeeeell, yes and no. Camping always seemed like a thing for people in better shape.

Camping seemed the realm of fit people. Not meant for me. There were too many opportunities for a kid, constantly concerned that everyone was thinking about how fat she was, to embarrass herself.

It’s a defeatist frame of mind I’ve been battling for a long time and honestly, doing things on this Big 30 project has really helped.

I know it’s helped because when friends offered to let me join them on a backwoods camping trip that I was totally terrified I would be a drag on, I said yes.

Not only did I say yes, I fucking WENT.

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I know I don’t look thrilled there, but that’s mostly because the first night was freezing and I was nervous about our first day of proper hiking.

Not only were we hiking, we were hiking with heavy packs on our backs that included our tents, food, and evvvvvvvvvvvverything.

It wasn’t exactly easy hiking either, but damn was it beautiful.

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It was honestly a super challenging but super fun weekend.

We cooked meals by campfire, we swam in frigid lake, we hiked across a beaver dam, I used one of those plastic thingys so that I could pee standing up like a man…it was great.

Hiking with a heavy pack was something I was really nervous about and although I was slow, I was mostly able to keep a fairly good pace. One of my friends who was with us had a concussion and while I wouldn’t wish that on her, I appreciated having someone else who went the same pace as I did.

Going on this trip really pushed my boundaries and it made me realize that sometimes I say no because I’m afraid I can’t do the thing I want to do and saying no is easier than trying and failing. It also made me realize that I resent the hell out of myself when I do that.

When we set up camp day 2, the other two ladies in the group and myself decided to go jump in the lake.

I’ve swam in lakes before, so you wouldn’t THINK that’s a big deal for me, but I’ve almost always swam in familiar waters or at least in places where I can wade in and sort of see what I’m going into.

Here’s a recreation of what I was thinking before I jumped in the water:

“I saw a snake in the water not far from here earlier, what if there are more snakes in the water? What if a snake is in the rocks and I freak it out when I jump in the water and it bites me? Are there poisonous water snakes in Ontario, I thought we only had Rattlesnakes that are poisonous, I should learn more about snakes and indigenous species in general.

These rocks are slippy, if I jump in the water I might not be very able to get out again and then it’s this big thing and I’ll look like and idiot and I’ll feel like and idiot and can I even get into the water in the first place? What if I slip on the rock on my way into the water and crack my head open? What if I jump in the water and there’s a rock I can’t see and I cut myself?

I don’t like not being able to see the bottom of the lake, it’s cool if I can’t touch the bottom but what if there’s something in there that bites me or touches my feet?!”

As much worrying as there is above, I didn’t dither too long before I jumped in and once I was in, I was really happy. Not just happy because I did the thing, but happy because I felt all gross and sticky and no longer did. That and I just genuinely love swimming.

Not that long ago, I would have begged out of the swimming and either sat on the side feeling like a loser or gone back to my tent feeling left out. I didn’t do any of that, though. Instead, I just did the thing I wanted to do and felt amazing for having done it. That’s pretty much how I felt about the entire weekend, really.

It was stuff I wanted to do but wasn’t sure if I could and I didn’t want to be a drag on anyone if I couldn’t, but I did it anyway. Not only did I try, I succeeded!

I learned a lot that weekend and I can’t thank my friends and their friends enough for letting me tag along and for being so freaking supportive.

I’d backwoods camp with you kids any day…although not right now because it’s winter.

Freezing my ass off is not on my bucket list.

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Roots & Connections & Stuff

It occurred to me the other day that I think I’m starting to grow roots.

Not literally, I’m not becoming an Ent, but figuratively. For the first time in my adult life, I actually know some of my neighbours. I don’t necessarily know all their names, but I know most of their pet’s names and I know their faces.

There are shops, not many but some, where the sales staff and I recognize each other and transactions are peppered with legitimate questions of well being or good wishes for the day.

Having lived in this city most of my adult life, I finally kind of know where most stuff is and in what direction.

I have a routine.

I have the spare keys to a friend’s place.

I have a daily social circle, which is completely comprised of people and dogs I know at the dog park, but I am totally ok with that.

Most of these changes largely have to do with my dog. He’s forced me to become a part of my community, which is probably really good for me and has made me realize what an hermit I can actually be.

While I’m kind of pleasantly surprised about these new tendrils of what may be roots, I also want to rip them up and run away?

To quote Walt Whitman really loosely, I’m a bundle of contradictions.

I’ve moved so many times since the first time I moved away from home, I don’t really want to go through the packing and unpacking part again, but I’d be lying if I said the idea of picking up and moving far away didn’t appeal.

I don’t know if this is a comment on my mental health or a very natural desire to go seek out newness because it’s exciting, but it is what it is.

I think maybe it’s just a sign that there are still things I’m looking for, things I feel are missing. It’s probably also kind of a sign of frustration, this year has been the biggest struggle I’ve had with my mental health since I was unemployed. I have been and I am getting help, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still kind of butt nugget sometimes.

I’m trying to figure out what it is that I feel like I’m missing, but that isn’t easy either. It’s kind of like when you’re trying to choose a movie to watch but you can’t decide what you’re in the mood for so you just end up watching YouTube videos until you end up in that weird part of the internet again. (I really hope it’s not just me who does that)

I think part of why I’m so restless is that I haven’t had much for vacation yet this year. I took a week to go to the cottage, but I’ve been saving half of my vacation days so I can go to my friend’s wedding in Georgia.

I’m super excited. I’ve never been further south than New York City, so going to Georgia is a big deal for me. Not only that, I get to hang out with awesome people and meet people from my online community that I’ve never gotten to see in person before. THERE WILL BE MANY AWKWARD HUGS!

Man, speaking of roots, I have quite a few strong ones in that community. These are a group of virtual friends who have been there for me from when I worked fast food and hated my life to my first big-girl job, unemployment, and my current life. They are the most supportive bunch of delightful weirdos you could ever want to meet and I get to meet some of them in person in a few weeks and I AM SO EXCITED! CAPS LOCKS IS ON, MUTHA TRUCKERS, BECAUSE I AM YELLING WITH JOY….FIGURATIVELY. I DO HAVE NEIGHBOURS, YOU KNOW. IT WOULD BE AWKWARD TO LITERALLY YELL.

You know what? I don’t have much else to say this week, so I’m going to end it on this high note.

To my friend, Amanda, I am so excited to see you again and to help out with whatever I can for your wedding. In fact, I will probably look even more excited than I did last time we hung out.

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EXCITED!

P.S. In retrospect, I realize this is kind of creepy but whatever. THIS IS OUR FRIENDSHIP.

The BIG 30 Project: #13 Adopt a Dog

Ever since I was a kid, I had a dog around.

Growing up, our dog Cindy was everything to my from my first word to my protector. Uncommonly intelligent for a dog, she was my parents furry baby before they had me- their slightly less furry baby.

My life until I moved to university, was never without a dog and I always knew that some day, I would want a dog of my own.

I never envisioned my life as an adult without a dog and then, as I became and adult, I wasn’t sure how one would factor in.

Last year, I had decided I would keep watch for an elderly dog sometime in the next five years and adopt them. Give them a few last good years of life.

Of course, very little ever goes as planned.

This year has been hard for me. I’ve struggled more than is usual with my depression and taking care of myself became a gargantuan task. I was also lonely. Now, it’s important to note that these are not good reasons to get a dog, and they are not the reasons I got a dog, but they are reasons I factored into deciding to get one.

I’m self aware enough to know that I will take care of others before myself, animals included. I had no concerns about taking care of a pet, I knew that I could fiscally afford it, the only question was did I want to?

I’m slightly ahead of myself. See, when I first saw my dog he was nothing more than a picture on a friend’s Facebook post.

A puppy, he belonged to the co-worker of a friend of mine. He was half Pug and half Japonese Chin (which I had not heard of), and he needed a good home. I fell in love at first sight. On impulse (which as a non-impulsive person for the most part is rare) I sent a message.

The rest of the details don’t matter to me as much as the end result which is that I got the best puppy in the world.

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This is Dougal when I first got him. Originally named Link, he was just  five months old when I got him. I fell in love with him and his temperament the moment I met him.

He didn’t respond to the name Link at all, so I renamed him Dougal after Father Dougal from Father Ted. I feel they bear a striking resemblance

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Now, as much as I knew what I was getting into, getting Dougal was overwhelming at first. I felt guilty for not being around as much as I felt I should, I wondered if I’d been selfish in adopting him when he could have gone to a home that might have given him more freedom, and he was in fully crazy puppy mode and I just wasn’t quite sure if I was going to be good enough to handle it.

But bit by bit, it got easier every day. Having Dougal to take care of, forced me to take care of myself in times when I wouldn’t have otherwise. He made and still makes me feel less alone, and he introduced me into a community of great dog-owners who I’m glad to count among my friends.

A lot has changed since the day I got him in March.

It’s been a hard year and I’m not sure I could have gotten through it without Doogs (which is one of his many nicknames. Dad calls him the Dooginator). He’s my cuddle buddy, my reason to get up in the morning instead of sleeping in, my foot warmer as I’m writing this, and my best friend.

Dougal is the friendliest little dog in the world. He greets everyone he meets with enthusiastic love, he has the swaggering confidence of a big dog, and he loves nothing more than to leap into your lap and accept lavish affection no matter who you are. There just aren’t enough words to express how much joy he spreads around.

Now, originally I was going to post this last Thursday but I figured I’d wait till today because today Dougal turned 1 year old. He’s come a long way since I got him. He’s no longer crated, he’s WAY better at coming when he’s called, and he hasn’t chewed anything I own in I don’t know how long. I’m very proud of him.

Happy Birthday, Dougal. You’re  a good  the best boy.

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