Can you ever be too happy?

Lifestyle Blog June 7, 2019

The strangest thing I have experienced recently is being afraid to publicly announce how happy and grateful I am for what the universe has given me. I began a gratitude journal about a year ago and I never anticipated that it would change my life the way itIMG_1842 has. The universe has given me the sweetest family to spend time with, in the happiest home with the brightest children I have ever met. Steph and Jay are colleagues and also my friends/family and their kids are the light of my life. I spend weekends with the kids and we do yoga, play games and crafts. In the evenings, I’ll have a glass of wine with Jay and Steph and chat about life.

The friends I’ve made in Newfoundland and Labrador are by far the most incredible women I have ever met. Two in particular never cease to amaze me with their genuineness, kindness and realness. I’m never afraid to be myself around Sinead Mercier and Katie Breen; I know they will always be supportive but honest with me. While being so different from one another, they are both extremely smart, strong and independent women. Surprisingly, both are uncomfortable with affection which I unleash on both without hesitation and I couldn’t care less when they cringe at my efforts to hug them. This past weekend, Sinead flew in to town and planned the most incredible 30 birthday for me and the girls; I was beyond grateful and almost felt guilty for how much she did. I didn’t think I deserved it but was so genuinely happy that she felt that I did.

I recently found my memo, and we’ve reconnected and her babies make me the happiest person on the planet. We facetime and I get to see my munchkins chubby faces and we talk about life, money, family, food and day-to-day things. Seeing her in her home with her husband and little family brings me so much joy and I am so excited to be a part of days. I tell her everything and she lets me be exactly who I want to be without judgement. She’s excited for me and I’m over the moon.

My job and my passion for medicine/healthcare forces me to want to pursue higher IMG_1758education and to be a part of the conversation that is changing the lives of patients in this province. I’m finally understanding the complicated mess that is healthcare and how it is deeply pulled and pushed by politics, the media and MONEY. I don’t want to burn out trying to making a change, I want to be the change on a smaller scale for individuals that I work with, collaborate with, the government agencies I function within, the institutions that are operated by real people and hopefully that will translate to better care for our patients. My gift has been building bridges and I know that if we build better connections between real people and their stories we can make an impact that transcends the bureaucratic processes that have been implemented centuries ago.

 I am in no way saying that my life is not without its challenges and difficulties; this practice has given me the chance to refocus my attention on the positives. I do feel guilty for how happy I am though and how wonderful my life is. I can’t seem to shake the feeling that if I post about it on my Instagram that it may be perceived as me flaunting it and that it may hurt others who may be going through rough times. But I still want to acknowledge how much my life has changed in the last few years and it all comes down to my own perceptions and actions.

I struggled for years to view myself in a positive light, and I continue to struggle with it but I am honest about where I am and who I am with myself. I know that I have poor time management skills that I promise to do more than I actually can achieve and talk about myself too much. On the flip side, I also know that most people see these as genuine personal quirks and I know that I have more good to offer than the negative qualities I possess. I don’t take myself too seriously and enjoy laughing at the silly things I’ve done and will continue to do and then I share them with everyone and hope they’ll laugh with me.


Things I’m okay with..

Lifestyle Blog April 26, 2019

I’m only a month away from being 30. Oh God, I’ll be 30! What have I learned from being on this planet for 30 years?

 That no matter what, it’s going to be okay.

The last five years have been devastating, heart-wrenching and so painful BUT have also been the most incredible, uplifting, remarkable years that can only be summed up as pure fuckery.

Another amazing thing that 30 years of being alive has gifted me with is, being content with not being liked by everyone. I so desperately wanted acceptance and unconditional love my whole life, and I always looked to receive it from others by trying to be likable. I realized over the years, that I was conditioned to look for external validation without really appreciating, respecting and loving the soul, body and life I have been offered by the universe.

I am OK with not being liked. I’m not ecstatic about it when I come to learn that someone may not like me. I know that it’s not that big of deal, and that there are a variety of reasons that have led them to feel that way and I don’t need to convince them of anything. I don’t mind if they don’t, and I don’t need to not like them. I feel neutral; at peace. No one really knows anyone; you are the only person who has been with you the entire time. You know that those times you made an inappropriate joke, you didn’t mean to be racist, but you were. It’s okay to make bad decisions and its okay for others to make mistakes too. Life moves on. So long as you accept you; all parts of you—you’ll learn that you come to be okay with yourself and everyone around you.

I feel so liberated by knowing what kind of company I’d like to keep around me. More than that, I have deliberately removed myself from social situations that don’t feel right or good. Now that I’m single, I’m navigating the dating world again and I’m in no rush to settle for the sake of being settled. Being single has given me the chance to rediscover where I want to be. I don’t feel bound to any geographic location and I’m excited at the prospect being anywhere on this planet.

The joys of the ups in this life, come with downs that you just have to try and enjoy as best as you can. And for those especially hard ones, remember that you are not alone and that if you are ever in need, the universe will give you what you ask for. So ask for whatever it is you need and it’ll happen. I keep asking for more love and more adventures; I have yet to be disappointed.


Spring in British Columbia

Lifestyle Blog April 24, 2019

As soon as I stepped outside in Vancouver, I felt myself shift; as though I had found my place. It was the perfect blend of city and outdoor wilderness. A balance between modern architecture and serene beauty of nature with salty air from the Pacific Ocean was surreal. I felt absolute bliss and a sense of ease with the lifestyle that was quickly making me want to shift my life from the East all the way to the Western end of the country.


Despite losing my wallet on the plane, being in BC for Time Series training, having connectivity issues, an inability to access both training and work items on my laptop, and no money to eat; I was happy for the most part to be in Vancouver. I also had the chance to go to Whistler and stay at the Four Seasons, which was incredible. Whistler was stunning!

The only thing that had me excited to come back home to NL was the cost of housing in BC. It was astronomical and I could not imagine living in a shoe box and paying an arm and leg for it. I just couldn’t do it. But, I would be very tempted to move to BC if the right opportunity came along.

Discipline is Power

Lifestyle Blog February 8, 2019

I always knew I was a motivated and driven person. I had clear goals that were achievable in my mind and I had a game plan for how I’d make it all come to fruition. But sadly, I wasn’t able to achieve a lot of the goals I set for myself. There are a variety of reasons why I wasn’t able to but the biggest one was my lack of discipline.

Discipline is often perceived with negative connotations and something I’ve associated with control and a lack of freedom. But it’s a skill and a value that creates the road to success in a way that is unparalleled to any other value be it accountability, innovation, hard work or perseverance. And I’ll explain why. Discipline is the difference between being in control of your future and letting your environment dictate your destiny. In a time where immediate gratification is prized, we end up seeking our immediate pleasures sacrificing the depth and happiness that comes from working toward goals.


I’ve always been someone that was excited by fleeting ideas that range from wacky or extremely unlikely. They are also the reason I feel a lot of motivation to get things STARTED. While that’s great, it doesn’t serve me in a way that allows for success and productivity. It often does the exact opposite. I’m always excited by the idea of a new project, new business idea, a book, a website, new hobby (cupcake baking, rug weaving etc). I make a lot of time for planning and envisioning the final product and how wonderful it’ll be when I complete it. BUT I hardly ever get to that point and here’s why:

  • The inspiration or spark of joy I get from starting a project is fleeting and doesn’t provide the motivation to complete the task
  • Motivation is NOT enough to complete a task, let alone be successful and productive with it
  • There wasn’t forethought into why I needed to do that project and how I would complete it with all the other demands of my life in a realistic way
  • Lastly, there wasn’t an ounce of strategy that was used and it was all for FUN, rather than it serving a PURPOSE

What I’ve found is that I haven’t worked on disciplining myself. I have ALWAYS wanted things and wanted them right when I wanted them. However, as I got older, everything I valued and wanted to achieve became less tangible and more complicated. Medical School, being a runner, practicing yoga, painting and even becoming a better cook required consistent and deliberate work. I did not have the foundation to maintain a routine and I simply didn’t feel up to it. I just HOPED things would simply work out. Here’s my reality: I am not in medical school, I’m not a runner, I don’t practice yoga daily, I’m not any better at painting since I was in high school and I only cook rice and chicken and that’s all I eat.

I’m not ashamed or putting myself down, these are the realities and this is an area I’d like to work on. I do not have discipline and it’s the reason why I have more clothes and credit card debt than what is reasonable. So, let’s figure this out. How can I cultivate discipline into my life in health moderation to advance my personal, professional and financial goals?

I don’t actually have a plan at the moment but something I’m working on is keeping my word to myself and establishing a routine that I don’t compromise. Fighting again the comfort and instant pleasures because my body and mind will resist the change and growth. Feeling lazy is inherently being human, we want to find the easiest and quickest way to achieve all our goals. Saving energy and time is important, but not at the cost of undermining my own abilities. Shifting the focus to the process and the smaller steps rather than the outcome and the bigger steps. Success is all about persistence and discipline is the road to that success. It’s also not completely about success, because with discipline you see personal growth, results that came about directly from the work you put in and setting goals provides meaning to every day in a way that can’t be reduced to a word (ie success).

This Year…

Lifestyle Blog January 17, 2019

I look back with so much gratitude for 2018, I still can’t believe that I could ever say that about any other year in my life. It was the most transformative months of my life and I owe a lot of it to someone I let go in that year. In 2018, I was given the opportunity to be in complete control of every aspect of my life and through the many mistakes, I learned more about who I really want to be.

Love: When I met Tyler, I kept him as my little secret for a while fearing that it may not work out. Now that we’ve separated amicably, I can’t say there’s been a single person in my life that I valued more. He set the bar so high and not in the traditional way for all future relationships. He is the most sensible man I have ever met, who supports and loves without condition. I felt cushioned in his embrace, I knew that he would never let me delude myself into believing I was always right. He helped me see myself with clarity and kindness, something I struggled with for years. We are still friends and his family continues to be a very important part of my life. They represent love in every sense of the word and I will never forget it.

Friends: Following my move to St. John’s, I made a deliberate effort to make many new friends with anyone who wanted to. Through the many adventures and misadventures, I found strong, caring and compassionate women who became my tribe. I also met numerous women, who were wonderful but that I had to choose to distance myself from. It was liberating to say to myself, that I did not need a certain type of energy or personality in my life and that I was okay with not being friends with everyone or have the need to be liked by everyone I met.

Work: My job has been the biggest gift of 2018. I can’t stress this enough and can’t stop from feeling an immense amount of gratitude that the universe handed me this incredible opportunity. I don’t feel I deserve it, but I wake up every day wanting to prove that I am worthy of it and worthy of being in the company of some of the smartest folks in NL. I can’t wait to contribute more to both PHAC and NL, because they have both given me more than I could have ever dreamed of.

Health: In 2017, I took part in every community event in Labrador. I wanted to be outside and enjoying the wilderness and taking in every bit of it. I feel extremely lucky that I was able to hike a few of the trails of the ECT. It’s something I want to continue to do every chance I get and take in the scenic beauty of this Island. In my new apartment I have a yoga studio, and it’s my favorite room. I love being able to do yoga in the comfort of my home but still have the option to do hot yoga in town.

Family: I miss them so deeply but I am grateful for what this year gave me. A chance to build new bridges with respectful boundaries. I can safely say, that shame and guilt are experiences I can recognize and respond to appropriately. I feel a complete self of freedom knowing that I no longer hide anything and feel at peace.

2019: This year, I’d like to work on being early because I struggle with being late to everything. I also want to bite off smaller things and not add too much to my plate. I know that I’ll be busy volunteering lots with Let’s Talk Science, RIAC teaching English and training folks on how to administer Naloxone with the Take Home Naloxone program. I’d like to be able to save for a house this year and also complete my Yoga Teacher Training this year. Getting a solid MCAT score is definitely high on my priority list. Spending quality time with friends, building my relationship with family and working out consistently are part of my daily priorities that I’d like to achieve some consistency with. Aside from that, I just want to spend every day with deliberation and to fill them with all that’s good so that when those inevitable bad ones come, I have the skills and mechanisms to see through the darkness.


My Mary Austin

Lifestyle Blog November 13, 2018

Two years ago at exactly this time, I met Tyler. It was also the time that I was facing extremely difficult life circumstances. I was completely crippled. At a time when life was so complicated, I found simplicity in Labrador with Tyler. He became my escape. I was able to start regaining a sense of clarity by embedding myself deeply into his world. His family became mine, and they took me in like their own. Knitting, tea-nights, ice-fishing, skidooing, camping, hikes and long walks were all I lived for. His love and support was unconditional and I felt completely safe for the first time. I lost all contact with everyone outside Labrador, hoping to numb the feeling of complete humiliation and abandonment.

Despite the happiness I felt for finding a family that loved me, I knew it wasn’t enough. The facade was hard some days to keep up, and he’d hold me while I cried hysterically. My career was at standstill, I had plateaued as Labrador’s epidemiologist. I was under-utilized for my skill set, but was overworked and undervalued. On November 11th, 2017 I moved to St. John’s as an opioid response epidemiologist. I was one of 12 epis who were deployed throughout the country. In that one year, my career went from being stagnant to the most thrilling experiences I have ever had in a professional setting. But I left behind the comfort of the family I found.

Throughout that one year, I was alone, completely alone. I was constantly reminded that I wasn’t a real Newfoundlander or even a real Canadian at every turn. It was as if, everyone could see the shame I felt for running from own roots. But in the time that I spent apart from Tyler, I learned more about what I wanted in a partner and what I needed in my life. And for the first time in my life, I began to explore the reasons why I felt the need to distance myself from my own identity.

As I began to work on accepting myself, I began to see that he wasn’t invested in that aspect of my life. I don’t think it was intentional, it was easier if we were exactly the same; no deep rooted insecurities about our histories, identities and families. Regardless of how badly he wanted to be there for me, he just couldn’t understand the layers of how a culture and religion can deeply impact families, societies and individuals on multiple levels. The pain I experienced was foreign and I felt like I couldn’t share it anymore. I needed someone who wanted to dive deep into the complicated mess, to push me intellectually, physically and more importantly hold my hand as slipped because I wanted to do the same for him. He didn’t feel an urgency to grow, to explore and find new passions, we just wanted different things from our lives. And I just couldn’t wait for him anymore.

As I walk away, I know that we will both always love each other. We parted so respectfully and lovingly. There was absolute no ill feelings on either side. We knew that we had to walk away while we are still holding each other in high regards. His family raised him to be a complete gentlemen, he is a man with a heart bigger than anyone I have ever come across and just an absolute gem of a human. After the last horrible relationship, I couldn’t imagine being treated as well as I was. He’ll always be the guy that I loved but couldn’t be with because we just weren’t meant for each other. He’s my Mary Austin.

The Memories we Dream of

Lifestyle Blog October 1, 2018

I wonder often if I could ever get used to this feeling and I fear that I’m okay with where things are with the people who were once my everything.

I go to sleep and wake up every morning with so much gratitude and peace for the life I have, the career path I’ve been privileged to embark on, the kitty who cuddles into me every night I sleep, the house I am lucky to live in and the amazing friends who have entered my life.

But only when I close my eyes, I travel back to the roots I tore away from. I no longer feel the things I did once, there is no sign of shame, guilt, honour or cultural impositions. Instead, it is the familiar scent of a BBQ that my dad is cooking up in the yard, the sound of my sisters chattering happily in the background, while I sit in our beloved deck that my dad built. It is always a preparation of my departure, I am always getting prepared to leave on a journey and my mom is quickly packing up spices and Afghan bread for me to stuff into my suitcase. The feeling of excitement of an adventure is mixed with a sense of comfort that I have my families support. It is not a foreign experience; it feels as if I have always felt this way.

I wake up feeling confused every morning, wondering if it was real. It’s an itch that never really fades with a simple scratch. I realize it’s the wounds beneath the surface that are healing and I mustn’t play with the sutures of my injury. I hide them under the urgent layers of my daily routine and run them off daily at the gym to subdue the question marks. I occupy my evenings with activities that provide fuel to my busy hands and my chattering mind to sleep the thoughts that may unravel in a moment’s notice.

Through it all, I feel a light inside, a sense of clarity I  previously didn’t possess. I have accepted all that has come my way with open arms in a way that makes me feel whole and complete. The path I’m on feels right and I know that so long as I am honest with myself, I will never again betray myself into walking a direction that doesn’t fit my mold. We are all masters of our own universes and so long as I cherish and commit to those little things, the big things will always fall back the way they should. And the thing I hope for, will figure itself out.

The Recipe for All things Good

Lifestyle Blog August 29, 2018

There’s a positive correlation between desirable outcomes in life and happiness; marriage, comfortable income and friends. There’s also a positive correlation between success and attractive people; attractive people tend to get more opportunities, more free things and so conceivably are more happy (because they get more).  There’s also the possibility of reverse causality; happy people are more prone to better life outcomes.

What if I was to tell you that you could be happy, successful and beautiful all at the same time? Would you believe me? Is there really a recipe to achieve this? Why hasn’t anyone else told you this? And why on earth should you believe someone on the internet. I don’t have any credentials, I’m not famous or rich and I am definitely not on billboards for my beauty but I still think I have tapped into something amazing yet so simple that I thought I’d share it.

So here it goes:

To be happy: say yes to things you love and commit to them and say no to things that hurt you or don’t serve you. That friend that is always saying lets go to India on an adventure and it’s been your dream to go with her since you were a kid. Well, go do it. Saying no has always been hard for me and letting people down is so hard for me to bare, so instead I say I’d love that but we’ll see or I’m not sure, let me get back to you. Choosing what you occupy your time and energy with, to me the most important aspect of achieving happiness. For me it’s being outside with my boys and being active.

To be successful: do what you love.

If you don’t wake up every (most) morning not excited to start your day, then that’s an indication that you are not excited about your daily life. Waiting for those fun vacations is great, but it’s sort-lived and usually expensive. For many people, the realities of life require them to work jobs they don’t love to survive, but it also means they lead lifestyles that do n’t promote their well-being. Finding what ignites your passion for life is the first step to being successful. Doing what you love may also not always require you to quit the job that pays your bills, but finding the thing that turns every day into a mundane routine into an adventure will ultimately lead you to a place of success.


Beauty: Take care of you both on the outside and inside.

We’ve all heard it before, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’ right? be the beholder of yourself by loving and accepting yourself wholeheartedly. It doesn’t come naturally to anyone considering we are in an environment that is constantly bombarding us with products and gimmicks to enhance or alter our physical appearances. But to wholehearted acceptance is when you acknowledge the things you don’t like but choosing to love yourself anyway. Because if you can’t love yourself, how will you ever love someone else.

Lastly, I want to leave you with this:

Feeling low is okay, just as feeling high is okay too. If we were constantly at a high in life, we would have a hard time dealing with the realities of this world. Life is messy and that is why it is beautiful. Make peace with your internal enemies and demons, befriend them and love them because they are you and you deserve to be loved wholly and completely and that starts with you.


Nighttime Routine

Lifestyle Blog August 1, 2018

As soon as I get home from the gym (after work), I change into my PJs which is usually a pair of comfy bottoms and a t-shirt. Taking off my make-up is perhaps my single most favourite part of the day. I love putting it on and love how it looks, but after wearing it all day at work and then sweating at the gym, I am more than excited to get it off my face, ASAP.

I wash my face with water just to start moving some of that product off my face and then I go in with two cotton swabs and make-up remover. I use my MIA 2 Clarisonic with Olehenriksen face wash to really get right into the pores and do a complete deep clean. Often times, I’ll go in with my favourite scrub the Olehenriksen facial sauna scrub. I moisturize with Hope in a Jar night cream and eye cream and if I have active break-down (which I usually do), I’ll go in with a spot treatment using EradiKate. I’ve tried a lot of different products over the years and I would hands down recommend both the Clarisonic and EradiKate to anyone looking for acne prone skin remedies. I use them both on a daily basis for make-up removal and spot treatment.



Flossing, brushing and mouth wash are obvious ones but Tyler and I recently invested in the Philips Sonicare electric toothbrush. It’s been about 3 months and I can feel a few differences. My gums are healthier, my teeth are whiter and I can get into the very back of my mouth with the brush. So overall, I’d recommend it to anyone who is looking for a new toothbrush. PS- We bought ours at Costco for a fraction of the price!

I’ve been listening to audio books through my Audible app every day while I’ve washed my face and brushed my teeth. It’s usually at least 15mins which is enough time for one chapter. I’m currently listening to “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg.

Now that the obvious parts of my night are done with, I want to get into why I actually wanted to write this blog post. There are two things I do every night that have had an incredible impact on both my mental health as well as how I respond to stressful situations.  We’ve been really lucky that everywhere we’ve lived so far, I’ve been able to have a yoga room. In this new house, I’ve made my yoga room both my space for peace but also as a guest bedroom when needed. A 15mins yoga practice is all that I feel I need most nights, because I usually always get a workout during the day either at the gym or at soccer twice a week. I usually practice yoga with videos on Youtube and ‘Yoga with Adriene’ is by far the best one. I’ll always light up a candle or turn on my diffuser from Saje with oils like ‘Yoga” or “Eucalyptus.” Often times Oreo will come in with me and try and figure out what I’m doing. This very short practice helps me forget the day and lets me live with my breath. It’s an escape from my head and a chance to live freely in the moment with complete awareness. A lot of us go through the day without getting out of our heads and it can get extremely fatiguing. Both prayer and yoga have helped me do that when I do it with the right intention.


When I finally get into bed, I’ll usually write in my notebook. It’s not a diary, it’s my gratitude notebook which is different. I write down at least three gratitudes  for the day and on days I have a hard time thinking of any, it’ll usually be about Oreo. My frame of mind has slowly shifted with this practice. I feel as though, no matter how bad or difficult a situation is, this practice has forced me to acknowledge the good in every day. I’ll admit, I’ve skipped days when I just couldn’t possibly bring myself to do it but the more I make it a habit, the easier it’s been to see that there’s always so much we can be grateful for.

My nighttime routine is one I have perfected over the years, there’s still a few things I’d like to incorporate but life is always a work in progress and half the fun is the process to get there.

My Morning Routine at Work

Lifestyle Blog July 30, 2018

Living on my own and doing everything for myself hasn’t always been a walk in the park but over the years, I found ways to make everything efficient and enjoyable.

I’m slightly OCD and like to have everything planned out. I usually meal plan, and make food for my work lunches as well as my dinners. They’re always easy but delicious. I throw in a granola bar, some cheese, fruits and a yogurt.

We’re very fortunate at NLCHI and have freshly brewed coffee each morning with milk and sugar provided. I take full advantage of that by making a cup of coffee first thing in the morning after I get to work. As I make my coffee, I also prepare my water which consists of a slice of lemon and fresh mint leaves that I grow at home. I take my vitamins with my water and have my yogurt with granola. As I sip my coffee, I write out my To Do list in my Day Designer. I absolutely LOVE my Day Designer; it’s literally the perfect agenda for someone like myself. Each page allows you to write you 3 top To Dos, other key items like due dates, money you owe, dinner plans and ‘don’t forgets’ right at the top under a motivational quote. It provides hourly task boxes to chunk activities and meetings in a realistic way. And at the bottom, it has a little box for notes and ‘gratitude’ which helps you start the day on a really positive note.

I always feel really sure of what I’m going to be tackling that day when I have everything laid out for me. Often times, I have the same project I’m working on several days or weeks in a row. I still continue to write it down, it helps re-establish it’s importance but also is a great way to assess your productivity when you look back.

Now that I work full-time, I really treasure this morning time that I’ve made for myself and feel as though I personally benefit from it greatly. The simple pleasures in life are truly what make every day fulfilling for me because I do extremely well when I have a consistent routine. Throughout the day, I listen to either podcasts or music (I’m really boring, I listen to one instrumental song on repeat and have been for years now called “Intro” by The XX).

I have a very laid back work environment and my productivity is largely dependent on my personal ability to stay concentrated throughout the day. My goal now is to be up earlier for work and to reduce my time on my phone during work hours. I’ve been watching videos on how to be an early riser, but it’s definitely still a major hurdle for me!

If you have other ways that help you start your day off right, let me know 🙂

Freedom – Autonomy – Independence

Lifestyle Blog July 11, 2018

This past week was a week from heaven. I know life is never perfect, but that entire week was just a series of moments I will cherish and hold close.

Canada Day weekend we drove out to Gros Morne National Park in western Newfoundland and met up with several of my friends. We hiked lots, ate a lot of junk food, explored the tiny towns and ate at some of the cutest restaurants. Every night, we slept like rocks because our eyes and bellies were saturated with so much goodness. It was nothing short of wonderful, until the very last evening when I received a very hurtful text. I cried, went to bed early, mauled it over in my head and wondered if I should continue to tolerate the verbal abuse I’ve been receiving for the last two years. It dawned on me that regardless of my intentions and I seem to always hurt people as I try to live my life with complete sincerity and honesty and to the fullest possible extent. It was just ironic.


When I was in grade 10, I wore hand-me-downs, had bushy eyebrows, a hint of a mustache, hijab and no friends. I blamed the cultural restrictions imposed on me had me trapped in an external body that I did not identify with. They wouldn’t let me be who I wanted to be. In a Civics and Careers class where we were asked to fill out one of those quizzes about what we valued most in our lives, most people got 1. Family, 2. Friends, 3. Careers. My scores were very different, I got: 1. Freedom, 2. Autonomy and 3. Independence! It was very telling of what I desperately wanted then and very true of what I value greatly now.

Those three things became the defining values that I strived for but they came with surprising virtues and life lessons.

The desire to live with complete freedom gave me the chance to set my own boundaries and my own rules. I learned the difference between being obedient to others versus being conscientious of life and decisions. My love for complete anonymity hit me in the face when I moved to Goose Bay, where everyone always knew everything about everyone. It taught me to check my internal compass whenever I did something that made me question if I would regret it later. I became completely honest with myself about my intentions and actions. My obsession for independence taught me my most treasured lesson in life, which was to ask for help when I needed it. I didn’t want others to control me but I learned that asking for help means you can also get many options and you can take the direction that accounts for a variety of solutions for different outcomes.

My relationship with myself has improved as a result of facing challenges on my own. I’ve learned to forgive myself for my shortcomings and to stop dwelling on the past and to instead to try and work toward a better future one tiny step at a time. I have so much more to learn and experience and I’m excited to see what the future holds.

Last week was the first time in a VERY long time I felt absolute bliss. We took an entire week off, made a massive spread every morning, packed our bags for the park and read our books in a hammock. Every evening we made supper and on the weekend we got together with friends. I couldn’t believe how I felt. The defining moment was when I brought out my praying rug and the abaya my mother made me for when I prayed and showed Ty how I pray. I was so happy that I felt so proud of my religious identity. It almost shocked me.

No matter what has happened in the last few years of my life that made me question everything, now is the first time in the entirety of it that I don’t feel ashamed of who I am. I own every part of my story and live and breath it because it’s where my strength and drive comes from.

Freedom – Autonomy – Independence

Belonging to Myself

Lifestyle Blog June 25, 2018

I moved into a brand new apartment. It is everything I could have hoped for; big windows, beautiful kitchen, and lots of space. In many ways, my childhood dream of having a home that felt like my own became a reality.

Tyler came to town to help me move and put together the remainder of the furniture items I’d need in a home. He and I couldn’t be more different, from our religious backgrounds, our family upbringing, motivations in life to our relationships with our families and selves. His world is one I always dreamed of having; unconditional love, support from parents, and a strong network of friends and extended family members. They all respect and support each other, even in the most difficult of times. There was so much integrity and honesty in the way that all his family are, they didn’t pretend to be anything they weren’t. Everything was on the table and they had openness with their kids in ways that I had never experienced.

I on the other hand come from a completely different world, one I just didn’t fit in to and one I resisted. I had the love and support of parents when I was obedient and following a clearly outlined path that I could not stray from. My future was decided for me and I was to play my role within the borders of my social role. My religion and cultural identity defined every aspect of my life and I resented it. Our societies originate from a world of tribal competition and a history of war and poverty, those very real experiences directly played a role in my life. But I always feel extremely blessed and humbled by the life I’ve lived and the family I belong to. It’s brought a richness that I can only describe as compassionate empathy and a deep appreciation that social connectedness is profoundly complicated.

There’s a strange paradox to my life in that people may not realize I come from an extremely complicated background and have had experiences that are beyond their realm of understanding but any attempt I make to elaborate on my background is often met with dismay and a confirmation of stereotypical beliefs about immigrants. Conversations about ethnic minorities is often followed with heated political debates. A brief look into the histories of all societies will tell you that humans have had the propensity to cause great damage and have had a disregard for the human toll all around the world for thousands of years all for silly things like land and money. If someone is looking to fight a battle, they aren’t willing to listen to the other side of the line because if they did, they’d realize they were on the same side but just speaking different languages.

Although my world is complicated, it is only like that because the worldview is at odds with the dominant rhetoric. There is little elasticity when two cultures operate under fundamentally different terms. It boils down to the fact that collectivist societies thrive on social obligation and connection, whereas individualistic societies consider social obligation as a hindrance to individual freedom. Collectivist societies are tribal, the rules are in place to ensure that everyone fulfills their preassigned duties, social harmony is maintained through group decision-making and those who stray are often ostracized from the group to avoid chaos and instability. Individualistic societies however, only function under the assumption that every person is for themselves; you fight your own battles and win your own trophies. Take these two worldviews and you can’t really mesh them well if both sides believe they are the only path to success in life. However, children of immigrant parents have successfully been able to build their own versions of these worldviews by taking the best of both and creating a hybrid worldview that is focused on a self of belonging but with the tenacity and drive as a free agent. I’ve struggled with that balance and often teeter-totter from one side to the other battling with which way is better before collapsing to one side exclusively.

My only hope is that with time, I can blend these two world in a way that is whole and single. Right now, it’s fragmented and distorted and there’s a lot of misunderstanding on both sides. If I wasn’t emotionally vetted on both sides, I would be able to open the doors to the world I ran from but the thought of it turns my stomach into knots and I feel myself freezing. It’s hard to be objective in a situation when you are what is debated. The middle ground is hard to reach when you aren’t willing to sacrifice what you’ve built on your own without the help of any other person. I can’t part with any of it, not the good or the bad but as a result, I am not willing to compromise without acknowledgement that I’ve had it harder than most other people. I need a little bit before I give in, I need to be welcomed before I go and even if I never belong, it’ll be that way because I chose to belong to myself and nothing else.


Invisible Rules for Women

Lifestyle Blog June 18, 2018

Something I often struggled with as a teen and then as an adult in an Afghan community was this massive fear of judgement and public scrutiny. As a result, I sensed that most people lived two lives. The first being the one they projected outwardly to the world and the person they wanted to be perceived as and then in a small way the person they actually wanted to be but lived internally or shared with a small group of people. This double life seemed to be more real for women and less so for men, men could get away with so much more and women often had to live up to standards and ideals that were practiced in Afghanistan but were still expected to maintain a certain level of modernity in their lives. It was an expectation that was placed arbitrarily and monitored closely. There was always talk of so and so’s daughter who strayed from the path and “ruined her life.” Public humiliation was the ultimate fear and the biggest deterrent that prevented women from being free agents. They were the ones burdened with the weight of the families honor at the cost of their own freedoms and choices.

Up until the time that I moved away, and began living in other parts of the country and in communities that were not Muslim, I began to see this pattern re-emerge in different ways. Living a life in fear of what others may think replayed itself in both Goose Bay, Labrador and then even surprisingly in St. John’s. As interconnectedness increased and community size decreased, there was a jump in the amount of fear that existed in being judged. The invisible rules reappeared and the gender roles I was exposed to as a child seemed to be alive and thriving in Labrador. Women had to live up to expectations that men seemingly could pass on voluntarily, albeit to a lesser extent than among Afghan/Muslim men who basically have a free pass on almost all things.

The most intriguing part of this experience was that I began to shape my behavior to meet the social expectations that were again imposed on women. Afraid of being judged for going out too much or being categorized in a negative light. What stopped me from going down another rabbit hole, was seeing mirrors of myself in older women. The fears they had and the judgement they internalized as a result of socially imposed rules that only applied to women. Like my friend who was in her 50’s, who felt the need to hide her bottle of wine when her mother came by. I doubt for a second that any man would have felt similar pressures to hide something as trivial as a bottle of wine. Instead, they men merely laugh off the idiocy of religious restrictions and bend and shape ‘rules’ whenever it suits them.

When I questioned these confinements, I was often told it was just the way things were. Just as I was told when I was at home. I can almost hear members of my family saying, “but you’re a Muslim and Muslims can’t do this or that.. what will people think?” It comes from a place of concern but it also ensures that we maintain a cultural order that is based on control. Gossip and rumors are the checks and balances of our societies and we ensure that we punish those who haven’t followed the moral order that we all somehow signed on to. The worst part about it, is men don’t do it to each other. Women do it to women and then men do it to women. We all have called a girl a bitch, and we all know plenty of guys who’ve called other women bitches.

It requires deliberate effort to recognize that these behaviors are in our control. That they manifest themselves because we have allowed them to and because they speak to insecurities and deeply unsettling belief systems that we forget we don’t have to adhere to. Our daily lives should not simply be a reflection of centuries worth of disturbing gender norms but rather a keen awareness of our troubled existence as a race and an effort to move in a direction of self-love and acceptance of others. I don’t want it to be a distant future that we imagine will be brighter and better, because starting this moment we can all choose not to hate on our fellow female friends.

Lessons from Tuberculosis in Labrador

Lifestyle Blog April 12, 2018

With the tragic news of 14 year-old Gussie Bennett’s death in Nain, Labrador I am reminded of the work I was involved at Labrador-Grenfell Health in Happy Valley-Goose Bay (HVGB) most of which dealt with Tuberculosis (TB). Now that I’m removed, I’m able to reflect on how little I knew about our Indigenous Peoples, health inequity, the colonial nature of research/health all topped with my naïve approach to epidemiology within the sphere of northern, remote and rural health.

My role was a collaborative one with the public health nurse who managed TB clinics for a physician that lead TB treatment for all patients in HVGB and those from coastal communities. I collected patient level information for each outbreak, including laboratory results, treatment plans, contacts, transmission, and adherence to treatment. TB is rampant in some of Labrador’s remote coastal communities where resources are scarce, health facilities and their staff are spread thin and access to a primary care physician requires a chartered flight to HVGB. Everyone, from doctors and nurses to janitors and receptionists worked well beyond their means. That was what struck me most about Labrador, everyone always did more than just their part. As you can imagine, when you are involved in an area of health care that has so very many ties to the social determinants of health, you naturally become personally invested in the cause and the patients that are affected. I can remember countless nights thinking about what I could do as an epidemiologist that could potentially help reduce the burden of the workload for my colleagues. Tracking treatments more effectively, identifying gaps by conducting a needs assessment, evaluating current services and operations, learning about transmission patterns using software like pajek, all in an effort to be of some use to the staff on the ground. With it, however, came a sense of entitlement and ownership of the work I did, I wanted to be able to share it with the research and academic world to potentially have some positive impact. There was no malice or ill-intention in wanting to share my findings within the realm of academia; it was what I knew best. Publications, academic conferences, reports and presentations were the fruit of the endless hours of researching.

When we’re young, we are sold on the idea that we could be the next revolutionaries. We worship stars, world movers and shakers and are bent up on wanting to have the same positive impact on the world. For me, I dreamt of being with Doctors without Borders, being a sort of Dr. James Orbinski. While this is a noble thought and very well intentioned, it’s not needed or right. Someone else’s world is not mine to provide suggestions for and I most definitely cannot under any circumstances solely choose to present on any findings that I happen to stumble upon thinking I have the solution.  These startling realizations came during the opening remarks at the Northern Remote & Rural Health Conference in Labrador (October 2017) by Natan Obed (President of ITK). I remember sitting in the audience with the feeling of a spotlight shining above my head, my face flushed and fists clenched in disbelief because all I had ever wanted was to help be part of the solution. But it was clearly indicated that I was on the side that was part of the problem. I felt ashamed, a feeling I never associated with wanting to help, which led me to feel defensive.

As the day wore on, I reflected on the underlying root of my anger. I identified with, stood in solidarity with and supported the rights and freedoms of our Indigenous Peoples. I appreciated that there were long-lasting impacts due to colonization, trauma and discrimination that I could never understand, feel or experience. There is a shared sentiment amongst both refugees and immigrants with the Indigenous Peoples of Canada. We share histories of being colonized, brutalized and told our way was the wrong way. It’s as if I could say, I understand your pain because it’s in some sorts, it’s a pain I recognize and feel quite frequently. Yet, I failed to recognize that I, despite my personal will to understand, could never undo the damage of the past that Indigenous Peoples experience no more than anyone could undo the damage the Russians and Americans did in Afghanistan. I was ironically in a position that represented the oppressive system that collected, analyzed and made decisions for the Indigenous Peoples of Canada. I came in the form of those researchers that took first and never asked. I wanted to be a solution when in fact, I was part of the problem within the system that created injustices in not just healthcare but also in civil, judicial, social and cultural arenas.

The biggest pitfall of our system is that its an institution that was built on the principles of routine and hierarchy: do as you are told and do not question the legitimacy, intent and ethical code of our institutions practice because that’s how it’s always been and that’s how everyone else does it. Change isn’t easy and for large institutions and long-standing practices, it’s daunting to consider where one might begin. I don’t claim to have answers for our governments, our institutions and our research practices but there is a dialogue now with expressions of deep pain, suffering and a need for acknowledgement for the endless suffering of our Indigenous Peoples. This dialogue helped me realize how erroneous my own practices were and how much I needed to learn and grow. I hope it’s a conversation I continue to hear, learn from and implement.


North West River, Labrador  Sunset

Morocco in 5 Days

Lifestyle Blog March 22, 2018

I travelled to Morocco in February 2018 for 5 days with Rhonda M, a math teacher from the States. She planned and paid for the trip but wanted someone who spoke Arabic to accompany her. I don’t speak Darija, which is the Arabic that is spoken in Morocco with words in Spanish and French due to it’s history of being colonized. Locals did speak and understand traditional Arabic, which was helpful! We travelled to Casablanca, Rabat, Tangier, Chefchaouen and Fez by car with designated Moroccan driver who spoke Arabic, Spanish, French and English.

I did not feel unsafe or uncomfortable in any part of Morocco, in fact I felt extremely at ease chatting with locals and walking around alone. An important thing we made sure of was to dress modestly and to respect local customs as advised by our driver/tour guide. The expectations for tourists are minimal, however visiting Mosques and more traditional areas required us to dress in long pants and longer sleeves (and sometimes covering our head with a hijab). It was fairly cold while we were there (10-16 degrees C) and wearing long pants and longer sleeves was actually a necessity for the most part.

For anyone looking to travel to Morocco, I would encourage you to plan it in advance because there is a lot to see and experience! It was well worth every penny to have a tour guide that was knowledgeable about the history and to help with navigating the Old Medinas (old streets) because they are very intricate and confusing. Morocco has the kindest people, there aren’t many strays (they are community cats and dogs), the streets are clean and the food is amazing. I don’t have anything negative to say about Morocco and would encourage anyone who wants to travel to visit Morocco!

Here are some pictures from the trip!



Essential Travel Tips

Adventure, Lifestyle Blog February 27, 2018

We rely on google for almost everything from medical symptoms to research on foreign countries and religions. But just as symptoms of a common cold are fetal conditions on the internet, the same is advertised for foreign countries and their people. Fear is usually the immediate response because according to google, you’re likely going to die in both circumstances. In order to avoid panic, you must always tone down the results of your google search by at least 50%. So, just like the cramping pain in your belly is not pancreatic cancer; assume that you will not be kidnapped and die in a foreign country. BUT in both scenarios take caution and be vigil; always!

I may have a slightly different set of tips for travelling than the majority of blogs out there. As second generation Canadian, I am always identified both in the Canadian context as well as foreign context that I am different. In Canada, I am always asked where I am from and then “where I am really from?” When I travel abroad, I am again asked where I am from and then “whats your ethnic origin?” As someone who has never belonged anywhere where ever I go, I have a lot of experience in constantly bridging cultures together and really understanding how to belong even when you don’t. Being the odd one out has provided to be helpful when travelling because I am exceptionally experienced at the art of “trying to blend in.” Blending in will help you not get kidnapped in a foreign country and  ensure that you are not pissing locals off, travelling under the radar and making friends.

Whenever you’re travelling to a new country I suggest following TWO rules. The first is to respect the law and customs of the land. Do your research and follow the rules that locals follow without disrupting or disrespecting the foreign nation. Despite the common belief that as a Canadian or American (or whatever else), that you are exempt from respecting local traditions, you are wrong. Although there may not be explicit rules that need to be followed in North America for traveller, it is important to recognize that other nations operate differently. Be respectful, be humble and ask what is expected of locals.

The second, uphold the values, virtues and integrity that you would maintain in your own home country. For example, if you are not a cheater in your home country, it is not okay to cheat in a foreign country. That’s extreme but more subtle values must be upheld that are often disregarded when people travel to foreign countries. For example, if you don’t normally pose with children on the street and take their pictures without their parents consent, why is it okay to do it there? If your country does not give you special treatment for your race, class or gender; you must uphold those values elsewhere. You are not above any other person in a foreign country and you are not exempt from human decency.

Now, yes sounds like I’m being a bit harsh but in all honesty, it has to be said. I see it and also feel the awful feeling of being around someone who acts on their privilege. Please put yourself in the other persons shoes and just be a RESPECTFUL human, that’s all.

Live on Purpose

Lifestyle Blog February 11, 2018

As I make my journey through this life, I am forced to reflect deeply on the past and how it shapes me, my life and my worldview presently. Acknowledging the invisible scars, accepting trauma and forgiving myself and others for decisions and actions that can’t be undone. Reflecting on the past has helped me appreciate the present, the people who made it with me and the difficult lessons I can now carry with ease. I’ve learned to shed the weight of societal pressure, religious obligation, parental approval and the need to fit in and the fear of missing out. I am free and on some days, I feel like I can almost float.

When I look to the future, I am excited to live it with complete sincerity and honesty. To be unapologetically myself and upholding the values I cherish and to have integrity in all aspects of my life. My desire to live fully is fuelled by the works of incredible women who challenge me, inspire me and force me to be better each day. I remind myself of them, their work and lives when I feel uninspired, unmotivated or just lazy.

Maya Angelou’s is a woman whose never needed an introduction; she is nothing short of inspirational, moving, profound and incredibly courageous. Here’s a list of a few of her suggestions to live a life of purpose.

  • Always do RIGHT
    • Right by you, right by your internal compass, right by your morals. Do what feels right
  • Be courageous
    • Courage is the most valuable virtue, without courage you will never be able to achieve other virtues consistently
  • Love
    • Spread love
  • Laugh
    • Just have fun, enjoy your life and learn to laugh at yourself
  • Be a blessing to somebody
    • If you can be the rainbow in someone’s cloud, do it! Simple
  • Turn struggles into trumps
    • Find the silver lining; it’s always there
  • You are talented
    • Believe it, own it and never let someone else tell you otherwise
  • Learn to say no
    • Stop putting yourself second and stand-up for yourself and just say ‘no, thanks’
  • Always do your best
    • If you don’t give it your all, you won’t get it all
  • Keep rising
    • If someone puts you down, rise above it (also don’t internalize it)

And get a pet, they just make you smile every day and remind you that they need you and love you unconditionally every day and forever!

2018: Planning for the Past

Lifestyle Blog January 11, 2018

It’s the New Year and everyone is excited to plan the change they anticipate will transform their lives. The key difference about the start of the year verses any other time, is that the drive for change is often motivated to experience a personal re-birth; it’s often very personal and self-directed. That idea is wonderful and it’s truly the starting point of life changing experiences but the problem is that at the start of every year we imagine that in the future we will be better than the past and the future ‘us’ will be thinner, more successful and happier. That somehow, what the future holds is significantly better and that we need to be ready for the amazing future that awaits us. This is the equivalent of dreaming of building an amazing sand castle at the start of every year, imagining it to be spectacular when we finish but not realizing that waves will undoubtedly wash into your castle. Against the magnitude of a large or even small waves, the foundation of your sand castle will be compromised. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t dream of building castles, it’s realizing that life is fragile, unpredictable and unsustainable without a strong, consistent, resilient and thought-out plan for your castle. So does this mean you put your future plans of amazing transformation on hold in fear of storms and waves?


CastleInstead, we should start every year by looking backward and really assessing, compiling and evaluating our lives in order to build new blocks on the existing information from our own lives. Taking the first step to look back will help you decide when, where and how to build your castle if you decide to build one. And most importantly, who you want around when those inevitable waves will hit your castle.

This takes significantly more energy and time, and it is exceptionally difficult to critique your life with yourself. I was able to do that for the first time in the most unexpected way and in the most unlikely of places; Labrador. Labrador was the best opportunity for me to hit pause on my life for two years. I reflected on what I wanted and reflected on the years that ran past me. Now, at the start of this New Year, I have started a new job, in a new city and a renewed sense of self-worth. I’ve made a deliberate effort to remove all that does not serve me in a positive and healthy way and plan for the future with a keen focus on the lessons I learned from life.

So, as you start planning for the future, look back at how you started the year before and the year before that and determine how you want to start the year based on the people, lessons and experiences that you lived through to make the best of the new ones that are to come! The best indicator of the future, is the past. So plan for your past, because the future will never come and the past is all that will remain!


Being my own Hero

life, Lifestyle Blog December 18, 2017

When I was younger, I used to think I had all the answers; whether it was how to end world poverty or how to fix a broken printer. I was fixated on being able to provide a solution to any problem. And so my dream of being a physician would then allow me to provide everyone with helpful advice and allow me to be a hero.

It took a bachelors, two master’s degrees and two years of working as an epidemiologist to firmly say, I know very little about how anything works or how to fix anything. What I learned instead was the exact things I needed to do for myself; find my own answers, fix the broken pieces and be my own hero.

I spent so long being a “helper” of other people’s stories, to make “helpful” suggestions and provide unsolicited advice to anyone I deemed needed it. How often was I helpful? Probably not as often as I would have liked to believe. The reality I needed to embrace about being helpful was that I first needed to help myself. To understand, detangle and appreciate the soul which lived within the borders of my body. But how does one go about learning about their soul and about life?


I used to think that I would learn more by doing more things, which is why I never took a break and never said no. I pursued my education relentlessly, no breaks between any degrees and also completed two graduate degrees simultaneously. Before I finished my degrees, I was already employed as a full-time epidemiologist working in a health care authority that was grappling desperately with a multitude of communicable diseases. I joined every sport, community event and every social event. I wanted to have answers and the way to get answers, was to do a lot of things.

Two years later, I was burned out, frustrated and at my wits end. Beneath the exterior was a girl who faced early life trauma and a women who ran from the realities of deceit, humiliation and alienation. I put on a brave face and said, no one can see the inside so I will be successful on the outside. I didn’t give myself a chance to succeed the way I envisioned. I wasn’t happier or felt better about anything. I was successful in one small aspect of my life. The rest, I ignored and when it would come up, I would bury myself in “productive” tasks (like studying for my mcat).

When I moved to St. John’s, everything somehow came to a standstill in my world. I stopped making the same kind of effort to do things, I didn’t spend the same kind of hours coordinating what academic, volunteer, extracurricular, sports and social activities to occupy my time and mind with. I often just sit in my cozy, warm and safe apartment with my cat of 5 years every night reflecting while I crochet and drink tea. I do everything alone from shopping to eating out at a restaurant. It is so liberating to be able to sit with myself and my thoughts. I miss friends and family, but I don’t feel alone or lonely. I feel at peace with where I am and I am detangling myself mentally from some difficult experiences from my past so I no longer feel the need to carry them with me in the future.


It’s not always easy or comfortable, but I am guided through it by my mentor and guide who is always there when I need her. She simply catches me when I use words that are self-sabotaging and helps me re-tell my own story so that I am able to make peace with it. Every detail, every excoriating detail is sometimes discussed multiple times. We’ve been doing this for three years, but now I am better equipped to understand my emotions and particular events. And beginning to let them go.

In attempting to understand my own story, I have become more understanding of other people and learning not to make a judgement on someone’s character. We are all capable of great damage when we impose our own interpretation of how we think others should behave. Instead, refocusing that lost energy into ourselves is so much more fulfilling, enlightening and comforting. There’s no use in helping others, if you can’t help yourself first. Because if you feel good on the inside, you will always be good on the outside.

(Re)-Defining Gender Roles

Lifestyle Blog December 5, 2017

I was raised with clearly defined gender roles of leaders and followers; decision-maker and obedient subservient; the man and the woman, respectively. They were clear directions of what my role was to be within the society I belonged to. To nod, agree, be pleasant, supportive, understanding, helpful, and most importantly, not ruffle feathers.

When we think of this, we think of societies and countries where women are monitored and controlled as commodities or objects. Yet to a lesser degree this is evident in Western societies as well when women are not generally leaders in the political world, used as sexual objects and are shamed for things that men are not. These things are embedded deeply in our histories because it wasn’t long ago that women couldn’t vote (1915) and an even scarier fact that it was nearly 150 years ago when women were considered a man’s property. The Married Women’s Property Act of 1870 allowed married women to be legal owners of money and inherit property for the first time.

These are remnants of the old world that still impact our lives today. The gender pay gap is evident in all parts of the western world, where women systematically are paid at least 20 cents less on the dollar in academia and corporate settings. Women are expected to do it all, be a mother, a friend, an expert and still be fashionable yet respectable. This expectation is only for the women, men are not mandated by society to take a leave from work when they become fathers, their relationships depend greatly on who they are (whereas women need to be nice to everyone) and there is no requirement to dress a certain way whereas women’s dress codes are moralized in a public setting.

This behavior is literally costing women in the professional world and I’d argue in a greater sense in their own lives. For example, agreeable women are seen as more likeable in the workplace whereas agreeable men are seen as weak as reported in numerous studies. The research in this area is astonishing when considering the gender divide in a professional setting but also in a public and social setting. Women are expected to be demur to be liked, otherwise they are called bitchy.

I often think about whether others like me, if I sound friendly enough and worry if I have offended others, did they think my outfit was too scandalous. As a result, I am always saying “sorry,” almost as if it’s a reflex to ensure that those around me know that I am willing to make amends for anything I may have done.

Why can’t I just be okay with the reality that not everyone is going to like me, no matter how nice or friendly I am. Why can’t I just be okay with saying exactly what I think and feel without the worry of “people pleasing.”

We diminish our own value with “just.”

Just wanted to see if I can take the afternoon off? Just wondering how you were doing today? Just asking if it’s okay to use your lawnmower?

Just phrases are the epitome of submissiveness and they diminish the competence, confidence and value we have. When we use just we are asking for permission, instead of stating a need or request. I’m very guilty of this, and I still have trouble with it.

I will be taking the afternoon off, How are you? Is your lawnmower available ?

The words we use define us subconsciously. Let’s instead, consciously use every word and action to build ourselves in an assertive, self-entitled and self-assured way. It takes practice and reminders to be gentle and kind to yourself first.

Why legalizing drugs is right

Lifestyle Blog November 30, 2017

As I start my new position for the opioid crisis as one of 10 public health officer – epidemiologists for Canada, stationed in Newfoundland & Labrador, I am exposed to the world of drug addiction that once fascinated me during my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto. There, I looked at the neural underpinnings associated with a drugs ability to “hijack” the brain and eventually assume control of an addicts executive functioning abilities, namely an inability to make sound decision in the face of immediate gratification. I studied clinical addiction in rodents, who were given the option to lever press for water & food pellets versus cocaine. In almost all instances, rodents in testing scenarios chose to self-administer cocaine over food and water until they died. Studies like this, illustrated to me that drugs of abuse are capable of assuming complete control of all individuals who take them leading to a destruction of their lives. Therefore, prohibition of its use and penalization seemed logical measures of control.

My position on this topic has changed dramatically since following my move to Labrador several years following my undergrad. Labrador was the first instance in my life, where I knew individuals who abused drugs either in the past or were presently abusing them. The narrative of drug abuse became human and I began to question the moral stance I took on drugs which simplistically put was that “drugs are bad, therefore only bad people would use them.”

Let’s sidetrack and go to the history of drug use. From the earliest records, drugs have been for a variety of reasons, which include spiritual enlightenment and transcendence, relaxation with the advent of wine as well as medical practices. In its essence, drugs were created to heal people in a medical setting for physical ailments or to help them experience a part of life that was evidently important (and I’d argue recreational drug use is also an important life experience for some and maybe not others). Time and time again, drugs went through various bans and prohibitions all which were ineffective in preventing people from its use. For example, Tabaco use was banned following its introduction to Europe by Christopher Columbus and the same has been true for alcohol in many areas of the world. Yet, people still use it and now both have become normalized and accepted in many societies. The ban on other more addictive and potent drugs seem to be well accepted around the world, but they continue to be used vastly. The lack of a centralized system for monitoring its creation and consumptions has resulted in two things: one, we don’t know how much is being used and by how many people & two, because of a lack of monitoring/control the drugs are being created with extremely toxic substances that result in overdose related deaths and other medical complications. If a legalized control system was in place with limitations on dispensation, education for users of drug interactions and dose recommendations, this would:

  • Reduce overdose related death as drug dispensing would be controlled
  • Clean drugs may result in a reduction in healthcare costs associated with bi-products in street drugs
  • The government would be able to profit from sales, monitor rates of consumption and identify the proportion of drug use among adults
  • Reduce the stigma associated with drug addiction, lending to an increase in people seeking support for their addiction
  • Reduce costs associated with criminalized petty drug use (police force, courts, lawyer fees etc)

Despite the radical change in dialogue regarding de-stigmatization of mental health in the medical world, there is a great deal of stigma toward those who are addicted to drugs. We see drug addicts as failed individuals in our societies and they are shamed, penalized, reprimanded and given a track record that prevents them opportunities that are available to others. An important note to keep in mind is that, not all people who abuse drugs, become addicts. The pathway from drug use/abuse to full blown addictions is very dependent on the individual and their predispositions, personal anecdotes for using the drug and duration and extent of use. The exact reason why some people turn to drugs versus others varies, but something that since captured my attention was one specific subset of drug users. The one’s who use drugs to numb trauma/pain and those who use to feel loved.

The brain is hardwired to gravitate toward acceptance, love and companionship; and these areas are the reward centres of the brain which drugs act on. This is why humans are so vastly different from other species, we are inherently social and depend greatly on others for support, a sense of belonging and acceptance. It’s the reason why the concept of family is so deeply rooted in all human societies which is not seen in the animal kingdom nearly to the same degree. And it’s also why solitary confinement is the worst possible punishment we give to individuals who have crossed social boundaries like committing first-degree murder. Individuals who use drugs to initially numb trauma or those who have experienced neglect and social isolation, may be desperately trying to fulfill the very human need to feel love, acceptance and to forget the memories that prevent them from feeling “normal.” The underlying issues the individual is facing may be the trigger that causes their addiction, as they must rely on drugs.

The stigma surrounding drug addiction needs to be re-examined and the use of coercion, penalization and legal labels that follow addicts for the rest of their lives should be removed. Drug addiction shouldn’t be a legal issue, I don’t think police officers are trained to react with empathy and understanding of the social, economic, personal and neurobiological underpinnings associated with drug addiction. Let’s penalize the suppliers and enforce control measures that prevent smuggled substances that destroy lives. But the funding used to arrest petty drug use should come to a halt. Instead, that funding should go directly to specialized mental health worker, counsellors and therapists who treat addicts with empathy and respect.

On a much larger scale, we as a society must stop the need to judge or belittle the living conditions, circumstances and decisions of other people whose shoes we do not walk in. Listening to the stories of those who have suffered systemically, like our Indigenous communities, or those who face social, economic and cultural struggles that are not apparent will allow us all to see the truths that are often forgotten or unheard. The only way to move forward is to know the realities of the past and everyone has a past.

Ek Balam Cenote Experience

Lifestyle Blog August 10, 2017

So far the most memorable experience I have ever had has been in Mexico. It was the first time I didn’t hesitate to spend money on experiences rather than things. These are the only set of pictures I have but aside from ziplining in a cenote, I went snorkling with sea turtles, ATV-ing through the jungle, cave diving, ziplining above a jungle, seeing the Mayan ruins and eating the most delicious food ever! Here are some photos of ziplining into a cenote 🙂



Let it all go

Lifestyle Blog August 7, 2017

What is the one memory you cherish most? It will tell you more about who you are and what drives your soul.

My most cherished memory of all time is waking up early for school, and walking down my street in my safe and familiar neighborhood. The crispness of the air, the brand new school supplies in my bag, the sheer excitement to go back to school. It wasn’t because I was excited to see my friends or teachers, it was the sheer glory and joy of being able to be go learn.

I constantly craved knowledge and  answers. It wasn’t to understand how things worked nor was it to fix things; it was a desire to understand how and why things went wrong. I didn’t want to be the hero who solved the problem with the bandage, I wanted to be the revolutionary that would help prevent the problem from ever happening. I wanted everyone to feel the feeling I felt when I could explain things and then fix them.

I’ve learned over the years, that answers are hard to come by. Sometimes answers are half truths, sometimes they distort reality and sometimes they depended on perspective and bias. There were short, and long answers, complex and complicated answers and sometimes there were silent answers. Ultimately, answers didn’t seem to be enough to understand things which became exhausting and they didn’t solve problems.

Difficult experiences often beg for answers and understanding, like why someone you love has gone to tremendous lengths to hurt you or belittle you, when in reality their role in your life was that of a primary care-giver, protector and guardian. Sometimes, we don’t have the chance to understand others actions, but we have every opportunity to understand our own actions, reactions and experiences. And to also make peace with them by learning to let them go. What we hold closest also has the potential to hurt us the most.

Meditation is an extremely challenging task when you’re feeling heavy with emotional baggage. But it’s also the most liberating experience when you learn to acknowledge those uneasy feelings, accept them and release them from your thoughts. How do you do this? Well, Headspace creator, Andy Puddicombe says to convince yourself that your thoughts are the clouds in the sky, and that when they are gloomy, they are dark, stormy clouds and that happy experiences are fluffy ones that we see on a warm sunny day. When negative thoughts come to the surface, you acknowledge them, you know they are there (so you don’t ignore them), but you simply allow them to pass by you as you are looking up at the sky.

I use Headspace every day after I workout at the gym and either sit in the sauna, do a headstand or in downward dog pose. I find that being in an active pose, helps my brain not to wander and to stay present. I usually leave the sauna feeling extremely grateful and happy.
Read More

The Big Secret to Happiness

Lifestyle Blog August 1, 2017

I’ve decided to do a few things, here is my list:

  1. Devote my energy to what I love

This one bullet is a hundred bullets of what I love. I love yoga, meditation, painting, spending time with loved ones, eating, watching movies, research, science, medicine, hiking, running, sports, crochet and knitting, travelling and learning new languages. Instead, I’ve been dividing my energy to what I love with a constant worry of not achieving everything else I want in the meantime and constantly worrying about failing. I am constantly worrying about how much more there is that I want to do and the panic that sets in disrupts the harmony of my thoughts, actions and words. I want to achieve so much, but I am not investing in me the way I would like to. I want to invest in everything I love at 100%.  To soak up every ray of sunshine when it’s out, to dance in the rain, to love the chair I sit in when I study for my MCAT every day, to drink that cup of coffee with gratitude for it’s warmth and present the work I do in epidemiology with the passion I have for it. Instead of focusing on why I don’t feel happy about where I am, I’m going to redirect that energy back into fueling my inner drive and focusing on ME.

For months, I was excited every day to write my goals of the day in my calendar. I wrote down my supper plans, notes, to do lists, and finally my daily gratitude. This was the most exciting part of my morning. There was a sense of accomplishment when I could check off each item throughout the day. But, I also wrote what I was grateful for in that moment. Often times, I had to write more than one and not have enough space in that tiny box I was allotted.

I watched a TED talk by Shawn Achor several years ago and it changed the way I thought about happiness, productivity and life in general. He said the answer to happiness, productivity and life fulfillment was in gratitude; being thankful for the little things. But not passively grateful, physically writing down three things we were grateful every day. I heard this advice echoed again and again in other TED talks, self-help books and by my therapist. A month ago, I stopped writing in my calendar and I attributed my lack of productivity to that (as well as other personal turmoil)  but it was that I stopped writing down something I was grateful for each day.


So how will I do everything? Simple. I am just going to do it because I can and because I want to do it for me and because it makes me happy. I’ll do it with every ounce of my being, with dedication, love, acceptance and awareness, and with purpose and on purpose. AND being grateful for all the wonderful surprises that come along the way.

Let’s start!

Adventures in my own Backyard

Adventure, Lifestyle Blog April 11, 2017

I went on my first adventure into the wilderness of Labrador. With great enthusiasm we decided to have a weekend trip in a cabin outside Birch Brook Nordic Ski Club. On the morning of the trip we learned that we had to snowshoe 7 Km to the cabin and our overnight bags would be delivered via a snowmobile by one of the chalet employees. Upon arrival to the chalet, we learned from the map and chalet workers that the snowshoe walk was actually 12-14 Km of hiking/snowshoeing with many steep uphill inclines. It’s safe to say that none of us were really well prepared to take on the challenges or dangers that potentially awaited us as we ventured out into the remote landscape. Luckily for us we were rescued 8 Km in; which was just as it was getting colder and we were all complaining of blisters from snowshoeing.

Snow Shoe trails

The night was filled with long chats and laughter but with recent spotting of wolves, the potential for bears waking from hibernation and the lack of cell reception we were definitely sleeping with one eye open.Perhaps that was one of the reasons we didn’t sleep well, the other was that we overheated the tiny cabin by overfilling the wood stove.

Nonetheless, it was of the most exciting things I have done in Labrador and I look forward to many more adventures! Check out our pictures below!

The power of ‘word of mouth’

Uncategorized April 11, 2017

What happens when someone you trust cautions you about a product they purchased? Naturally, you would heed the warnings of the friend who you trust and avoid the product. The same holds true for opinions and beliefs regarding people; we want to avoid the crazies and the the trouble makers. These two scenarioWord of Mouth 2s both revolve around trust which is the reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing. We trust those we love and those who have built it over time. The value we place on the recommendations from a trusted individual depends on the value we place on the subject being discussed. The cost of a product is numerical and the value we place on it is based on the price tag. Depending on the value of the product and price tag, we may be willing to take a chance. By the same token, the value we place on the information provided is directly proportional to the chance we are willing to take to see if our trusted source was right.

Now what happens, when the rules of reviewing products and people weren’t part of life? And what if there were so many products and options, that it would be exhausting to review each one or ever possible know about each one. And if you wanted to review the product, you had to give the product a chance. And regardless of your review, the decision you made regarding the product had very little impact on the overall reception of the product.

That’s what it’s like living in a city. Being the new girl in town meant very little to me considering I was from Toronto where the lack of social cohesiveness was part of daily life. You had your close friends, family and possibly colleagues who knew who you were as a person. The rest did not impact your life because they were not part of it. In a small town, everyone somehow knows you and where you work and where you came from.

When you’ve had anonymity in the public sector your whole life, you assume that it’s translatable everywhere that you go. The combination of assumed anonymity and the need for escape would prove to be a deadly combination in a town double the size of my high school. I re-experienced high school as the girl who, despite her efforts, was constantly publicly shamed.

The content of these rumors was hurtful and confusing, but what struck me more was the speed at which they traveled and the impact they had on my personal well-being. I internalized the gossip and began to doubt my self worth and value. I became paranoid about what others thought and tried to fix the problem by reminding people that I deserved a chance before being judged. What I didn’t realize was the potential for gossip and rumors is always there; as it is anywhere, I had to learn to devalue it.

The major difference I found was that in a city when gossip starts, it starts inside your circle (because acquaintances do not have any real impact on your life). Through constant contact and resolutions is easier because you can address misinformation within your personal circle of friends, family or colleagues. It is not however easy to address it when rumors circulate without a source or an informant. Then there is no resolution when everyone you know is an acquaintance. So how do you do about confronting and dealing with rumors and gossip?

Here are my tips:

  1. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. How you choose to react to opinions is entirely up to you. Devaluing the act of gossiping and detaching from it is the first step.
  2. Gossip and rumors stem from curiosity and fear of the unknown. They will dissipate over time, just be patient.
  3.  Finding things your niche and things to occupy your time and mind will do wonders because it will redirect your focus to productive and healthy things.
  4. Have a positive self-image and remind yourself of it daily. Self-care and honoring who you are in difficult times will build character and resilience.
  5. Don’t try to change anyone’s mind, it won’t work. Just let it go.
  6. And lastly, live for you and no one else.


Perfecting the Art of Escapism: Labrador

life, Uncategorized April 10, 2017

My move to Labrador was haphazardly handed to me in the form of a public health and epidemiology internship on tuberculosis. Without a steady supervisor or income, consistent accommodations, rides to work and some heavy personal baggage, I felt rather bewildered at my fortune which, in recent times had proven to be rather bleak. But to my surprise, sometimes the worst times help remind you that better times are just around the corner all it took was to redirect my attention from the negative experiences I felt I needed to carry around with me.

Labrador was and continues to be the biggest blessing of my life. It did so many things solely because of its geographic location. First, it removed me far from the vicinity of all things familiar and threatening. This helped give me the opportunity to escape feelings of rejection, disappointment and gave me the chance to process the events of my life without added pressures. Second, it placed me in the center of my own universe, where everything I did was for me. I no longer had to live up to anyone else’s expectation and did things I wanted to do without fear or repercussions. And lastly, I was given the luxury of endless adventure in the outdoors which has been the biggest therapy and timeout.

I think it’s worthwhile to reflect on the life lessons I was afforded through action. I learned from Ghana that experiences that surpass the boundaries of ethical treatment, all those that are involved realize the immorality of the action how one chooses to respond then speaks volumes about the person involved. From my break-up, I learned that certain actions are unforgivable and hard to digest. From the M debacle, I learned that actions do not happen in a vacuum and therefore their consequences often have rippling and long-lasting impacts.  The consequence can be felt by all those emotionally attached.

I’d like to write and reflect on the experiences I had and also detangle them and learn to make peace with them. It’s different when you just talk about the events; the implications of actions and the dire consequences I’ve had to endure as a result of actions now requires me to learn to untangle these tight knots. And once they are untangled, I must learn to part with them in a healthy way. One thing I know deep down to my core is that every difficult experience has a silver lining and that we can always make a fortune from out misfortunes. All it takes is patience, time and a commitment to ourselves.

life December 17, 2013

“There is no insurmountable solitude. All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song – but in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human and of believing in a common destiny.”

Pablo Neruda