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Down the Rabbit Hole. And How I Got Out.

By Kaylyn Valdez-Scott, Artistic Associate 

Who clicked fast forward and took us into 2022? 

Time feels like a weird vortex right now. A place where I can see the me I left behind in 2019, but at the same time, I’m waving to the me I am now. I’m in the middle, yet I don’t know which direction I’m supposed to be heading in. 

This is a list of things that helped me feel like me again. A list of things that motivate me and make me excited to see the changes I can make the next day. But to be completely honest, motivation still ebbs and flows for me. These aren’t quick or permanent fixes, but I hope they make you smile a little more than you did before you tried them. 

Life Change #1:  Creating and sticking to a morning routine

Routine is the bane of my existence, but also what keeps me going?! That was a fun one to figure out. 

Creating and sticking to a tangible morning routine makes the day seem more manageable. Exercising as soon as I wake up gives me the kick of energy in the morning that I need, but the biggest change has been learning to trust my body. Take a break on days you need it, and push yourself when you feel you can. I try my best to wake up at the same time every day and take the morning by storm. I feel most motivated in the morning when I have plenty of time, but feel free to find the time of day when you feel the most calm! 

Life Change #2: Afternoon walks 

Go for a walk with no conditions that have to relate to exercise. Go outside and breathe the good air that we’re privileged to have. Get your pants a little dirty from dragging them through the snow. Walking with a family member or friend has also given me another outlet to speak what is clouding my mind, while simultaneously being able to release it from myself and into nature. Get that vitamin D!

Waterfront in downtown Burlington (2021) - I went on a walk with a best friend I hadn’t seen in-person for over a year

Waterfront in downtown Burlington (2021) – I went on a walk with a best friend I hadn’t seen in-person for over a year.

Niagara Christmas Light Show (2021) - my sister, mom and I freezing but enjoying life.

Niagara Christmas Light Show (2021) – my sister, mom and I freezing but enjoying life.

Life Change #3: Pick-me-up reads

salt. by Selina Thompson

salt. by Selina Thompson

Super Important Filipina Thoughts by Alia Ceniza Rasul

Super Important Filipina Thoughts by Alia Ceniza Rasul

Just read them. Read them now and thank me later. 

If you’re finding it hard to breathe, these may soothe your soul. They can be challenging at some points, and also make you want to celebrate yourself at other times. 

Life Change #4: Learning a new skill

Some of the lowest parts of the last two years have come from equating my value with productivity. I know, I know, we all hear the message on social media and from some loving peers. They do not equal each other at all! Now to remember that. 

Moving back in with family in the middle of the pandemic has had its ups and downs, but I have never felt closer to my ancestors than now. I’ve learned new songs that my mom grew up with, made my own version of recipes that were passed down through generations, and learned to speak a little bit of my mom’s mother tongue. I am by no means fluent, but even learning a little bit has made me understand how she navigates the world a bit more. I feel more grounded, like I can experience a small part of the world a little differently now. 

Learning a new skill can mean anything. For me, one of them was learning a new language. But other ones include learning how to be by myself, producing, and learning how to fuel my body with the right things. Celebrate the small skills and experiences that you earn everyday.

Life Change #5: Having a good ol’ cry

I’ve decided it’s okay for me to mourn the person I was two years ago. She was bright and happy, but she was also mourning a past version of herself. How do we let go of traits that once felt so comfortable to us? As we experience life, can we bring back parts of ourselves that we thought we said goodbye to long ago? Ahhh the thoughts that say hello to me as I’m trying to turn my brain off at night. 

I’ve learned that a period of mourning is perfectly fine. It’s the process of pulling ourselves out of that period that is beautiful. Stop. Rewind. A ‘painful, scary, beautiful process’ is what I meant to say. So motivation is hitting the low point of the flow, what do I do? Cry of course. I’ve learned not to be ashamed of needing to release that energy with a good crying session. I don’t time myself either; whether it’s 10:00am or midnight, I deserve to express how I’m feeling. I’m extremely grateful to have friends and family that will pick up their phones whenever, and not let me hold onto the pain by myself. Find your trustworthy people, they are out there despite what your anxiety tells you. 

Feeling sad and overwhelmed? Same. So a few months ago I went to the AGO, and took a trip to Montreal (when it was safe). 

Kaylyn Valdez-Scott at AGO

A jellyfish at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

A painting I saw in Montreal.

Closing thoughts

It took me a long trial and error period to get to know these things about myself. In the end, I came to realize this process has no timeline. I said earlier that this is all still in a state of ebb and flow for myself, and I think that’s kind of the point. Be there for yourself, and try to give yourself a hug before you do the same for others. If you’re still in the mourning phase, then that’s incredible and I am sending all of my warm energy! Everyone has their own timeline. Everyone has a different access point to resources. There is no right or wrong, but these are what brought smiles to my face when I thought I would be in my anxiety brain forever. Take what you want from this list, and leave what doesn’t resonate for others. Thank you for taking the time to read. See you outside!