2020 ‘buy-nothing’ year update

In the hours before sitting down to write this blog post in November, I bought sweaters and dresses from Asos, an outfit from Aritzia and two dresses from Grass-fields. Did I mention this was supposed to be my ‘buy-nothing’ year?

I don’t need to tell you how challenging 2020 was: like me, you lived it. Every month presented new twists and turns, ups and downs, mask mandates and widespread closures. Not all of it has been bad (more about that later), but it hasn’t been easy. A few months ago, I shared an update on my buy-nothing journey with Brette Ehalt of The Women We Know, an Instagram page chronicling the everyday lives of everyday women. I began this journey inspired by another journalist who’d declared 2020 a ‘buy-nothing’ year. The rules were that you identified specific days—I chose my birthday in May and Black Friday—where I’d splurge on anything wardrobe-related. I unsubscribed from mailing lists, got rid of sales notifications and tried to shift my attention away from retail. Seemed easy enough, right?

When the pandemic hit, I was still ok. I didn’t fall off the wagon in March or April. As my birthday drew near, I began to plan for the things I wanted to buy. Then, the week of my birthday, George Floyd was killed and my life was turned upside down. His death is still having a profound impact on the work I do for the Canadian Association of Black Journalists: it was the catalyst for long overdue conservations about race and racism in journalism. Those conversations are still ongoing. I’m proud of the work the CABJ is doing and humbled by the folks I get to work alongside (like, CJOC) as we lead these important conversations.

For me, so-called retail therapy has always been my version of self-care and stress management. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised that, when things got crazy, I returned to what I’d always known. Much of what I purchased still has the tags on it now (because where am I actually going? Where are we going?? smh). I fell off the wagon in July and August. As for September and October…I mean…what wagon? Who said anything about a wagon?

The past ten months made me realize this attachment is about more than sales and the solace I find in them. This is as much a spiritual transformation as it is a physical one, so I’ve been praying into this fervently over the last several weeks. There is, after all, grace for those who try and refuse to give up.

So, that brings me to where I’m at now. Before declaring 2021 ‘buy-nothing’ year 2.0, I wanted to reflect on what this is actually about: buying less or becoming more? What I’ve learned is that if I just focus on buying less, then I won’t actually overcome this. After all, the buying is a symptom of something deeper; not a deeper problem but a deeper, unmet need. So, this year, instead of relying on willpower, I’m praying for the grace to simply overcome.

When retail therapy just doesn’t cut it anymore

I’m not buying anything in 2020. This isn’t a new year’s resolution (resolutions are just a waste of time, imho). This is about a lifestyle change and something I’ve been reflecting on over the last several months.

If shopping was a sport, then I’d be a professional athlete. I’m actually really good at finding deals online (too good, as far as my husband is concerned) and I’m even better at adding them to cart. It all started back in 2005 with eBay. I fell in love with the ease of shopping on that platform: it’s a global shopping mall, where I racked up 775 stars on their user rating system. From there I branched out to individual retailers, buying online all of the things I didn’t want to line up in-store for. Again, it was easy.

But it was also a big stress reliever. There are no shortage of rough days in my line of work. Browsing online quickly became a way to shift my thoughts away from the mess of the day to something providing instant gratification and comfort. I’ve often told myself that, after the day I’ve had, I deserve this–heck, I’ve earned this (you’d tell yourself the same thing too if you were me sis, trust!). Eventually, easing my stress and rewarding myself became the top defenses if anyone questioned my penchant for retail therapy.

However, as trivial as ‘retail therapy’ seems on the surface, it is medicating something: meeting some deep, unmet need within. According to a Harvard professor, 95 per cent of our purchasing decisions occur in the subconscious mind. Essentially, our purchases are driven by our emotions.

This is important. For me, this is not about a lack of self-control: I’m not a shopaholic who’s drowning in debt and can’t seem to reign in her spending habit (also, if you are that person and you’re reading this, no judgment sis–we all struggle with something). Reflecting on my ‘why’ prompts me to examine where the disconnect is occurring. As I shared with some of my colleagues a few days ago, I speak so much about what my faith in God through Christ means to me…and yet I still *need* more stuff. Why do I still need more stuff? If God is good then this sale can’t be better.

So, this is how 2020 came to be my buy-nothing year. There are some rules:

  • I can’t buy anything new for myself
  • I can only replace items that run out (i.e. coconut oil a.k.a. my makeup remover, mousse)
  • I can still buy gifts for friends/family
  • I can still purchase new (or used) textbooks for school

Some folks who’ve done this before do make exceptions for their birthday, Black Friday and Boxing Day. At this point, I’m leaving those three days open to see how I feel by the time they roll around. My appetite for shopping might be completely gone by then.

For me, this journey is about a deeper exploration of myself and my faith…but if you just want to shop less feel free to join me, sis! We can do this together. I’ll be journaling throughout this journey and I encourage you to do the same. I’ll probably blog about this again closer to my birthday.

Stay tuned…

The last ten years

The end of 2019 marks the end of a year and a decade…which is kind of a big deal when you stop to think about it. I began reminiscing over the last decade: where I was when it started and where I am now. So much has changed…

I started working for the CBC in 2010, marking my first on-air gig for one of the major Canadian broadcasters. I was both timid and terrified, having just relocated from Toronto to St. John’s for the job. Fast forward ten years and I’m amazed at how much my confidence has grown. I’m not an extrovert (I just play one on TV), so believe me when I say my confidence has never been this high…though, if history is any indication, it can only increase.

Of course, this kind of reflection leads to a narrowing down of the key lessons that have carried me through these past ten years. I’m sharing them now because I’ll need them for the journey ahead.

Don’t give up. It’s impossible to navigate the ups and downs of life a quitter. Race and gender aside, this industry isn’t an easy one to survive. I’ve been laid off, had to move across the country for work and had to volunteer or work freelance for five years before I could land my first casual gig. I don’t know where I’d be now had I given up (or had people given up on me…but that’s for another post).

Sacrifice is part of the journey. I’ve had to move away from my Toronto family and I’ve worked nearly every weekend for the past ten years. For anything we want to achieve that’s worth pursuing it always means we have to give something up in the short-term. It’s always worth it in the end, I’ve learned.

Have work, will travel. I still meet a lot of interns who say they don’t want to leave their home city to pursue opportunities. Leaving Toronto was tough, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. In fact, I’d probably have done it sooner if I knew how much good leaving the city would have done for my career. I still encourage young journalists to explore opportunities outside of their home cities. Be warned: it will be tough. Leaving Toronto meant my first real encounter with racism. However, the trade-off was personal and professional growth. The transformation came when I stepped outside of my comfort zone.

Be consistent. Over the course of this decade, I was consistently inconsistent. I started blogging but didn’t always do it monthly, I took up running but still don’t do it regularly. Consistency is key to success. Think of any great person and there’s something in their life they do consistently: be it training, sticking to their values, delivering on time, praying–regardless of what it is, they do it well because they’re consistent. I think consistency is about a personal commitment we make to ourselves without compromise, with an eye to the kind of personal betterment that impacts the lives of others.

The best-laid plans

A few years ago, I remember going to speak at a school and the teacher telling me her students were stressed out. They were in grade 10 and many of them were already dealing with the pressure of what to do and where to go next: what university to apply to (university, not college. Never college), what program to study, their career path. Their teacher told me the pressure they were feeling was driven by both external and internal forces.

I’m grateful for parents who were always supportive of my decision to pursue a job in journalism–which is kind of a big deal when you consider I was raised by two hard-working immigrant parents. They were both willing to look beyond the popular options of accountant, doctor and lawyer to see there was a storyteller in me. However, that didn’t stop me from applying unnecessary pressure on myself to perform. I had my one, three, five and ten year plans all worked out…

…but those plans never seem to take into account one oft-overlooked fact: life happens. My plan didn’t factor in multiple moves across the country or layoffs or delays–the unforeseen things that *seemed* to slow me down. Eventually, I learned I didn’t have to have it all figured out–no one does. Anyone who says they do have it all figured out is lying to you (and themselves, for that matter).

My faith also helps me cope with the ups and downs, valleys and peaks. Knowing God’s plans for me are–and have always been–good means I don’t have to worry (Jer. 29:11). The delays and disappointments become opportunities to grow and gain perspective. It’s what I tell students now when we talk about life after school: it’s about the journey, not the destination. So, I’m rejecting perfectionism for processing, because this process I’m going through is a beautiful thing, and choosing faith over fear so I don’t succumb to the pressure of thinking I need to have every step all figured out.

Learning to listen

Just because we hear doesn’t mean we listen. You’d think as a journalist, I’d know this, but it’s a lesson I didn’t really learn until I got married.

We are just two months away from our one year anniversary and it’s been quite the adventure so far! Marriage is wonderful, but it isn’t always easy. The most beautiful part has been the personal growth and transformation. Over the last 10 months, hububs has grown…and so have I.

Marriage made me realise how much I need to grow as a leader and communicator: I hear, but I don’t always listen. I’m really taking this one to heart. I do this for a living, after all–I should be better at this! During our pre-marital counselling with our church, we talked about active listening and we practiced it. I’ve also discussed active listening in my leadership courses. But active listening is one of those things you don’t realise you’re not doing until you realise you’re not getting anywhere.

I began to examine my listening skills in other areas of my life, specifically work. The growing demands on reporters means we’re doing more in a day, with the same amount of time we’ve always had (i.e. not enough). When I would shoot my own stories, I heard many interviews, but there was no time to listen to them, digest them, analyze them–there was simply no time, fam. The pace was frenetic. My work situation is much better now, but all signs point towards the pace not letting up: I fight against the current drawing me into a sea of content producers.

Truth is if I’m not a good listener, I’m not a good storyteller. Listening takes time; it requires commitment…and humility. When you’re the loudest person in the room, you can’t hear–and you certainly aren’t listening. We treat eachother better, appreciate one another more, when we listen.

Building Team Nadia

“You need a coaching team.”

These words from one of my mentors echoes in my mind. I’ve always had a mentor, someone I could turn to in different seasons of life. However, I’d only replace them if one of us moved (I don’t do long distance relationships). The idea of a team–an entire group of people nurturing my success–is relatively new to me.

We all have cheerleaders in our corner: the friends and family who support us with unwavering love. While they might help us deal with personal challenges, they aren’t always equipped to help us climb our professional mountains, fulfilling our purpose.

I’m now embarking on a journey of building Team Nadia. It begins with two questions:

1. Who do I have now?

2. Based on where I’m going, who do I need?

Every team should be built strategically. Haphazardly assembled teams might get the job done, but their success is limited because they lack a sense of purpose. Much of this leadership journey has been about connecting with a deep sense of purpose. I’m now ready to run with it, but, honestly, I don’t know how: I’m brimming with ideas, but need help honing them.

I truly believe there is wisdom in the counsel of many (Prov. 15:22), which is why I’m excited about building Team Nadia. It’ll be one of my projects over the next six months.

So, what about you: who’s on your team?

Time well spent

When was the last time you mentored someone?

I believe very much in mentoring: it’s essential for personal, professional and spiritual growth.

I’ve learned making time for the people in my life means I have to be intentional about it: not focusing so much on me and my needs, but being intentional about helping to meet the needs of others.

For the past six years, I’ve devoted time regularly to causes involving youth. I love serving in capacities where I can help a young person fulfill their dream, achieve a goal, learn how to do a budget or navigate social media–if there’s anything I can do to help, I’m there. Primarily, that’s been with Junior Achievement (an amazing organization helping young people get a good start in their finances, career and post-secondary education), but recently, I also signed up with Inner Hope, a Vancouver-based nonprofit doing tremendous work in helping youth grow spiritually and emotionally through mentoring. Lately, with so little free time on my hands, it’s been a struggle to fit both of these causes into my schedule.

Yet, whenever I spend time serving at either one, I’m reminded time is the greatest gift I have to give: time spent listening to them, time spent having fun, time spent nurturing, laughing, painting, sharing. Isn’t that what we all want: for someone to spend quality time with us?

Much has been said about the next generation: they’re entitled, spoiled and out of touch. But Jesus calls them beloved (Matt. 18:10-11) and warns not to despise them. Whenever I leave one of these meetings or sessions with the kids, I always go in a bit tired and come out energized. It happens every time.

And every time, I’m reminded why time spent serving a young person is time well spent.

What you don’t know…

Over the last few days, I’ve had a few reporting firsts.

Among them: I flew in a float plane.

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My cameraman and I flew over the Pacific Coastal Ranges, for an assignment in the Great Bear Rainforest. Our stories focused on Eco-Tourism and the controversial grizzly bear hunt.

Another first: I spent two nights on a floating lodge.

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An exciting experience, no doubt…but (at least until this post went up) this whole trip was also a closely guarded secret. While I told my friends and sisters about the trip, I purposely left Mom off the ‘need-to-know’ list.

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Let me explain…

While I don’t worry much about the places this job takes me, Mom does–as any mother would. Being the only child living outside the GTA (and doing some not-so-everyday things in the name of news), I am the focus of much maternal worry: about my vitamin intake, my diet, my water consumption and whether or not the front door is *actually* locked (HINT: it isn’t locked until, while on the phone with your mother, you get out of bed and check the door).

So, I can only imagine how a conversation about me in riding in a 3-seater float plane to go check out some grizzly bears in the middle of God’s country would have gone over.

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I opt instead to tell my older sister, who usually agrees it’s probably wise not to tell Mom about the trips…or about the time I repelled down the side of that 30-storey building…

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While chatting with our guide at the floating lodge, I confessed to this strategic secret-keeping. A father himself, he offered no judgement: he tells his adult daughter it’s probably best she doesn’t tell him about the all things she gets up to either.

Thankfully, Mom isn’t savvy on the internets so this post-Mother’s Day confession will fly under her radar. What she doesn’t know about my day-to-day adventures won’t cause her any more worry than any child wants to inflict on a loving parent.

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A reporter’s love/hate relationship with fast food.

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It has been a while since I’ve been on here blogging! Didn’t realize how demanding this latest move was going to be: finding an apartment, packing, unpacking, buying new furniture, replacing the items the movers damaged/lost. I’ve moved so many times, I felt like this wouldn’t be any different. In many ways it wasn’t, but in other ways it has been. That said, five months later, I’m all settled in to life in Vancouver.  🙂

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Last Sunday ended up being a very busy news day.

I started out the day chasing a story in Mission, B.C. (a 90 minute drive from Vancouver), but was reassigned to cover breaking news in Squamish (a 2 hour drive from Mission). The story in Squamish was a big one: there’d been a rockslide on Stawamus Chief Mountain and I was part of the team covering it. After a live hit, a press conference, filing my report for the 6pm news and doing one more live update, I was a *little* hungry…and the snacks I’d packed that morning just weren’t enough. So, I stopped at McDonald’s and bought my two favourite items off the menu: a cheeseburger and fries.

They tasted so good. So, so, so good.

Fast food is like forbidden fruit: I know I shouldn’t eat it, but I just can’t resist sometimes.

When I first working in broadcast, the demands of the job exceeded my expectations. I knew it would be hard work, but the long hours–sometimes 2 or 3 days a week–caught me off guard. When I moved to Newfoundland, a demanding job, combined with not having my familial network, meant I was eating out. A lot. It wasn’t until I’d traveled around the province covering the elections–eating out twice a day–did I realize I couldn’t continue like that for any length of time. So, I joined the gym, changed my diet and took up running. Years later (4, to be exact), these habits are still very much with me.

But, some habits die hard.

I do still find that after long (LONG) days, I don’t want my couscous and bean salad. I don’t want a tangerine or an apple. I don’t want a granola bar (God, do I ever NOT want that granola bar). I just want a cheeseburger. That patty, dressed up with a squirt of ketchup and perfectly chopped onions, sandwiched between a lightly toasted bun with a side of over-salted fries, cooked to perfection?

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And so, the love/hate relationship continues…