It’s all a Matter of Perspective

We live in a very fast paced, on-demand world. We pay for same day delivery and we instantly stream music and TV shows or movies. We don’t want to wait for anything anymore, and when we do have to wait, we feel miserable about it.

Unfortunately this instant-gratification generation is miserable about a lot of things, because even when we do get something, our attention span is so short that this thing quickly becomes old, like the latest iPhone version every year. We are merely children with bigger toys: as soon as we get what we want, we stop wanting it. The thing we wanted so much quickly loses its original luster and we become dissatisfied again, looking ahead to what comes next.

This state of mind is extremely unfortunate, because it causes us to miss out on the here and now. And it causes us to live in a perpetual cycle of want; to constantly be striving after what we do not have instead of being happy or satisfied with what we do have.

I am not saying that we shouldn’t want or strive after things. If we have nothing to strive for: that new job or promotion, buying a house, starting a family, whatever it may be, without these things to long for, we lose purpose. However, if we are constantly looking forward to the next thing, then we can never enjoy the moment and what we have right now. And worse, what we do have gets devalued to the point of not really mattering, because it isn’t making us happy.

In order to truly feel happy and satisfied, we need to live in the moment and accept it for what it is. Even when we have to wait for that perfect job to come along, we need to be thankful of the job we do have that is paying the bills, even if it isn’t the dream job yet. It will come. If we are waiting to move to a new place until we can actually afford it, then we need to appreciate the place that we are living in now and take it one month at a time, putting money aside for the place that we desire. If we are waiting to take that vacation because it just isn’t the right timing, or money is tight, then we need to be thankful that we have the luxury in life to even think of taking a vacation. Some things can feel like a torment to wait for, but things can always be worse.

The true key to being happy is to focus on the wonderful things that we do have in our lives as opposed to focusing on the things that we don’t have.

If You Never Ask Then You’ll Never Know

I recently started a new job; my life lately has been filled with learning new things and getting into a new rhythm and trying to steadily increase my work performance. When friends asked me if I was still planning on attending trips that we had planned before I got my job, I immediately responded by saying “I can’t, I just started work, I can’t possibly ask for time off.”

However, after some time I figured the worst thing that could happen after I ask is that they say no. Which really isn’t that bad of an outcome at all and then at least I would know for sure. And then I would actually be in the same situation as not asking. By not asking I have already resolved myself to a ‘no’.

I began to think about how many times I have let opportunities pass me by simply because I did not want to ask; whether it was because I thought that I couldn’t or I was too afraid to know the answer. Wayne Gretzky said something on this subject that has always stuck with me; he said “you miss 100% of the shots that you never take”. So in other words, in being too afraid to lose to even try…I’ve already lost.

So, I decided to ask for the time off, even though I was sure it would probably be declined, and prefaced the request with a statement that I was completely fine with it being declined but that I needed to at least ask. And yes, you guessed it, I got the time off. I just got back from a gorgeous weekend in Spain with one of my best friends and we had such a wonderful time together, and good quality time to talk, which we both needed. I can’t believe I almost gave up this opportunity that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

There are worse things than asking and hearing no; whether it is for vacation time, a raise, working from home, or asking that person you like if they feel the same way. It is better to know and it is better to try, otherwise we will never know what amazing things we could be missing out on.

Published in Fusia magazine, July 2015

Plans and Improvisation

I am a ‘Type A’ personality and a bit of a control freak, so I tend to always have to have a plan. I have come to realize, however, that planning is good, but not always practical. Or more specifically, plans don’t necessarily work out the way that we intended. It is good to be able to have a clear plan in view, but it is just as important to be able to adapt to the randomness that will inevitably creep in and throw that plan off course.

I had a clear trajectory for my life, which included 5 years of university, 6 internships, and upon graduation, 6 months to 1 year of struggling to get in at the bottom rung of a publishing company and work my way up the ladder for the next 5 years into the position of my dreams. This is all well and good, but I quickly began to realize that it is delusional and childish thinking. It’s been 3 years since graduating from my Masters program and I am no closer to that bottom rung.

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I used to think that if something didn’t quite work out the way that I intended, that I had failed in some way. If I didn’t get the job, I probably said or did something wrong in the interview. If I didn’t achieve the dream that I set out for myself, I must be somehow lacking in some desired skill or trait. So, even with over $30,000 of student loan debt hanging over my head, I was convinced that I just needed to take more professional development courses and go to networking events and somehow I would get the ‘big break’ I was waiting for. I kept telling myself that throwing away some of my hard earned low-income salary on courses and ‘networking events’ were an essential investment in my future and were a necessary step to sticking to the plan and keeping my career goals on track. I didn’t know how to think outside of my academic bubble and more education seemed to be the only answer to me.

The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. I spent three years insanely trying to make my career take off. I finally got to a point where I realized that my life wasn’t working out as planned and I was tired of trying the same avenues, so I made the radical decision to deviate from the plan. I decided that my career wasn’t going anywhere, but I was going to lose my mind if I didn’t break the chain. I made the radical decision to STOP focusing on my career, the one thing that consumed my thoughts day and night and made me lose sleep, and focus just on me.

After all, there was definitely more to me than my job (or lack thereof), but somehow I had lost sight of that. I had gotten to a point where I forgot who I was outside of my self-imposed title of failure ‘three years and no career in sight.’ I didn’t like this about myself and I didn’t like how much importance I was placing on my career. I was stuck in the delusional thinking that ‘everything will be better when…,’ and I was placing all of my happiness on this ‘thing’ that seemed to keep alluding me. Self-confidence and happiness is not a goal for the future with prerequisites; happiness is a personal choice in the present.

So I thought, what makes me happy? What do I enjoy the most and is something I would do with my free time that has absolutely nothing to do with work and building a career? The answer was travel. So, although it wasn’t planned, it definitely was needed. I saved up my money for a flight instead of for more courses and networking events, and I applied for my work and travel visa and came to Germany (which I have mentioned in many articles already).

The thought overwhelms me even now. Take some time to think about this. What if every time our plans don’t work out and we feel hopeless, defeated, and lost…what if we have actually succeeded at moving our life boat one step closer to the finish line that is just out of view? What if in the moments that we fail, we are really succeeding in getting to the very point that we are supposed to be heading towards?

I like this idea very much and am now thinking about ‘failure’ in a completely different way, and I think a much healthier way. Plans are good. Thinking your plan has failed, though, isn’t. So maybe, when things don’t go according to plan, think of these moments as not failures, but improvisations; necessary deviations that are directing you in the way that you should go.

In the words of the very wise John Lennon, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”

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The Fears and Pains of Transition

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It is an unavoidable truth that life is full of painful transitions. When we are born, we are ripped out of our warm, comfortable, and safe environment, the only existence that we have ever known, and are emerged into a cold, bright, and blinding world. Our first emotions experienced in this new world are fear and overwhelming anxiety.

Unfortunately, this is a natural part of life, and unfortunately every transition that we make in our lives is going to be filled with the same fear and anxiety. The first day of school is terrifying, the first day of high school, the first night in your new apartment living on your own, the first day of university; the list goes on and on. The transition is scary, but it is completely necessary, and when you think about it, the fear gives way to fantastic new experiences. Looking back on how amazing college or university was, would you have really wanted to stay in high school? Absolutely not. Well high school is perhaps a bad example, because NO ONE enjoyed high school.

If we stay in our comfortable bubble the rest of our lives, we may never experience fear, but then we won’t ever experience amazement and wonder either; all worthwhile experiences are achieved through stepping out of one’s comfort zone.

The things in life that shape us and that make us into who we are, they all come through transition and growth. Growth, however, can never be achieved without growing pains. The scariest transition for me has been transitioning from student to career professional. All of the previous transitions seemed to have an air of understanding and structure to them: you know when you graduate high school that the next 4 years of your life (or longer) will be spent at university, if that is the path that you have decided to embark on, and you just have to choose the right university. This is a stressful decision in itself, don’t get me wrong, but it is a decision with a planned out course of action.

Once you leave the beautiful, comfortable bubble of academia, however, you enter the ‘real world’ and NOTHING is planned out. There are no papers to write, no midterms, no comfortable categorizations and divisions of your time and efforts. There is just you and the world, and unfortunately for us Millennials, a job market right in the middle of an economic recession. In my university bubble I felt competent, positive, and like I would be able to do anything with my life. Now, after three years in the ‘work-force,’ I feel qualified for nothing, skeptical, and completely unsure of what to do with my life. This transition is scary and painful and I am just shutting my eyes and breathing through the pain, like when you get a foot cramp and know that there’s nothing that can alleviate the immediate discomfort and that you just have to go through it and wait for it to be over.

This sounds all so depressing and jaded, but I assure you that it is not. And here is why. When we are in a moment of growth and transition, we tend to look behind at the comfort that we have lost and focus on the immediate discomfort of having no frickin’ clue what we are doing and where we go from here, but we don’t often acknowledge what we have gained. I have been stressing myself out over trying to figure out my life and where to go from here, but I haven’t stop to acknowledge the beauty in my fear. I am staring at a blank wall with absolutely no plan, no answers, and again…no frickin’ clue, but why is that such a scary thing? Why do I need to know where I am going? And what is more, why haven’t I noticed the potential of this blank wall? In school I thought that I could do anything with my degree, so why has the ‘real world’ stripped that assurance from me? Maybe a blank wall with no answers is actually a blank canvas with infinite possibilities. Maybe the fact that I don’t only have one answer or one possibility means that I can do anything that I want to do. Maybe having no frickin’ clue means having the freedom to create the most beautiful painting on this blank canvas.

The fact that I have no idea where to go from here really means that I can go anywhere and do anything. Who doesn’t want that kind of freedom? Who doesn’t want that ability to make their life absolutely everything that they have ever wanted it to be? As Millennials, we sometimes tend to get overwhelmed by too many options that it becomes a daunting task to pick the right one. However, generations before us did not have the luxury of options, especially women, so we should remember what a blessing it is to have no clue, but still have the liberty to figure it out.

Instead of complaining in my sometimes overwhelming confusion at the cross-road of “what the heck do I do now” and “where on earth do I go,” I have decided to pause and realize the beauty in this moment of transition; I plan to acknowledge the complete freedom to create absolutely anything.

 

“Complaining is passive and powerless. Creating is proactive and powerful”

Paul Angone, 101 Secrets for your Twenties

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Published in Fusia magazine, May 2015

Life of Luxury Above 30,000 Feet

 

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For the economically challenged people out there, like myself, whose biggest desire in life is to travel, this is the biggest tip and best information you will ever get in your life. Are you ready for it? Befriend a flight attendant or a pilot!

I cannot stress enough to you how this will change your life. Obviously, I am not advocating that you go out and try to befriend someone in the field merely to use them, because that is clearly not friendship. However, if a friend does come along in this profession…..hold on for dear life!!!!!!

I recently got a glimpse into the alluring life of flight crews when I had the privilege of accompanying a friend (who is a flight attendant) on a trip to Namibia. I got to see the other side of the flight experience which is, in my opinion, a very intriguing lifestyle, and these are the three insights I have gained.

  1. First things first, when you are a pilot or flight attendant, your friends and family can travel with you at an incredibly discounted price and get spoiled rotten!

When you are traveling with the flight crew, everything is different. I was given a ‘jump seat’ ticket, which really is just permission to come along on the flight and grab whatever seat is open. On the flight to Namibia, however, I was extremely privileged to get a business class seat and was spoiled rotten! White sparkling wine before takeoff and all that I desired to drink and eat throughout the entire 10 hour flight. Not to mention an extremely comfortable seat that completely reclined. I enjoyed it thoroughly and even though I can never usually sleep on planes, in business class I was able to sleep for the majority of the flight. The crew actually made fun of me when I woke up, saying they had to keep checking on me to see if I was still alive.

And the food!!!! I cannot emphasize enough how good the food was. The food in economy is normally just edible and you eat it simply because your body requires some sort of sustenance. However, the food in business class was real food that I could actually enjoy. Good enough actually that I would order it in an actual restaurant out of choice as opposed to accepting it out of necessity. The only downside to this experience is that now I will never feel satisfied in economy again. Oh first world issues.

Finally, there is an air of freedom involved when you aren’t just another passenger. I could move through the cabin with ease, lingering in the kitchen to talk to my new flight attendant friends without someone asking “can I help you.” I even got chocolate and candy brought to my seat, and a whole bunch of other preferential treatment. Yes, I realize that this makes me a shallow child, reveling in the fact that I got a whole bunch of extras and perks, but honestly, tell me you wouldn’t feel good about that too?

  1. Although they may work hard on the plane, they get to play hard on the ground.

When we arrived at our destination we were shuttled to our hotel, one of the most gorgeous hotels that I have ever stayed at, and it was of course free of cost since layover accommodations are covered by the airline. The crew assured me that it isn’t always this nice, but I choose to believe that their life is an endless string of exotic locations and fancy hotels. Which, let’s be honest, it mostly is.

I spent the next 3 days in one of the most beautiful and exotic countries I have ever been to, essentially just playing, like grown up children. Our time was filled with wild safari and sand dune adventures, exceptionally good meals, and a lot of hanging out, talking, eating, drinking, and laughing. It was the most fun that I’ve had in a very long time…and with complete strangers! There is a sort of comradery within a flight crew that is very compelling. Of course, again, I was assured by the flight crew that this is not always the case, but again I choose to believe it is always a fantastic experience full of fun and making new friends. Please don’t tell me differently, I prefer to keep this blissful bubble alive and not let it burst!

  1. Hard work comes with its own perks.

Now this is the part that I was very shocked and excited about. Cockpit access! Perhaps the biggest perk, and this is not allowed on all airlines, but I was allowed into the cockpit to talk with the pilots and get a feeling of what the job entails – most pilots seem to enjoy the interest and intrigue others show in their work and relish the ability to show you exactly what it’s all about. And why not? We all feel that way about our passions.

On the flight over I merely joined the cockpit crew for an hour or so, since I was so comfortable in my business class seat and spent many hours sleeping like a rock. On the way back, though, I was privileged to be able to be in the cockpit for takeoff and landing, and could stay and hangout for as long as I wanted. Experiencing the flight from the cockpit is an incredibly unique and educational experience. There is really nothing like seeing a plane take off or land, essentially right from the driver’s seat. And again, to be honest and a little childish, it was just seriously cool! Not that I was ever a nervous flier before, but I actually feel even more secure flying now knowing what I know about the whole procedure.

I am very thankful that I got this little glimpse into the working life of a flight crew. Although I know I experienced the best of it, not the worst, I still think that for the most part it is a very compelling lifestyle and I am very thankful for all of the work that goes into making our flights safe and comfortable.

 

Published in Fusia magazine, April 2015

Colouring Outside the Lines

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Right from the beginning, we are taught to think within confines. We need to colour within the lines, we need to go to school and get a degree or multiple degrees, and we need to get a good job. We are told that these are the things that are meaningful and lead to a happy and fulfilled life. However, for me, I have never been happier than when I am colouring outside of the lines and treading off of the beaten, traditional path.

As much of a free spirit as I’ve always felt I could be, I have tended to play things quite safe and practical throughout most of my life; always putting things off until later when it was more sensible. So when I decided to uproot my life and move halfway across the world with no certainties in hand, my friends who know me best were all shocked; they said “that’s so unlike you,” to which I replied “that’s the point.”

I realized that the old adage is true: “If you want something that you’ve never had before, you have to do something that you’ve never done before.” I’ve made all of the right steps practically speaking; I got all of the appropriate degrees, I’ve done all of the internships, and I’m advancing in my career, however slowly that may be. However, I realized that there is more to life and being happy than advancing in one’s career or chosen profession and there’s more to life than getting your ducks in a row and working towards the ‘married with kids, blissful little white picket fence life,’ as nice as that may be. There is something about flying free and going off of the ‘responsible’ path that is exhilarating and worthwhile. There are certain interludes or detours that you never regret taking in your life; indeed, some of these moments are the moments when you are actually living your life to the fullest.

So, I decided that this year I would continue to ‘seize the day’ by saying yes to all new and exciting opportunities, which includes doing the things that I’ve never done before. As a result, I have made some of the most worthwhile experiences in just a few months…all from saying yes to the unknown. I said yes to moving to Europe, I said yes to going on a trip to Prague with complete strangers, I said yes to flying to Namibia and going on a Safari with my brother’s sister-in-law – even though I don’t really know her all that well either. But in each circumstance, I’ve made amazing memories and experienced things that I otherwise never would have.

So, when some of my new Berlin friends asked me to partake in a Spartan Race in June, I naturally said yes. I have NEVER done anything like this before. It is going to push me to my absolute limit, both physically and mentally, but that is exactly why I want to do it. In agreeing to this I’ve said yes to running through mud, climbing over walls, crawling under barbed wire, and pushing myself to the brink of exhaustion and past it; all of it simply for the experience. I don’t care about winning or losing, I just care about actually doing it. And I know that it is going to be an incredible experience and I am extremely excited about it.

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Believe it or not, I have never been happier or more excited about things than in these past few months, and this is all from simply by saying yes. We tend to say no to too much in our lives, I think, but there should be a time for saying yes. Even something as simple as agreeing to go and play indoor volleyball and actually playing, regardless of how bad I am at volleyball, instead of sitting on the side lines has been liberating for me. It is small, but it is a big achievement for me, because I am actively participating in every aspect of my life instead of passively waiting for things to turn around. At a certain point, you need to stop playing it safe and you need to stop sitting on the sidelines of your own life. You need to make active decisions and you need to get in the game! Not every risk pays off, but some of the most rewarding experiences come from taking a chance, taking a leap of faith, and going outside of your comfort zone.

There is a time for responsibility and practicality, but sometimes you just need to think outside of the box and colour outside of the lines.

 

Published in Fusia magazine, April 2015

Passion over Practicality

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So, it’s tax time again, and that means going over everything from last year; all of your old transit receipts, charitable donations, etc. It has a similar effect for me as New Year’s day does: you relive the past year in a flurry of papers.

I looked back on this past year and saw a lot of ritual and routine. I spent this much on transit to get to work, this much on rent, so on and so forth. It looked….well….pretty boring. And you know what….it FELT boring. I am never one to discount any blessing or privilege in my life. I know that I had a relatively good job, meaning it was steady, dependable work, it was easy, and I was working with people who were all really nice and that I really liked. Yet, something felt like it was missing.

I’ve always been a bit of a restless person. Perhaps it’s because I am still growing constantly as a person, but when I am caged down in one thing for too long, I always tend to want to spread my wings and fly away. The fever for flight came to me again last year around this time. I had to fly to Germany because my twin brother was having a very serious brain surgery and I wasn’t about to let him go through that alone. The trip was great, the surgery was a huge success, and then I headed back home feeling thankful that everything went so well. But then, I began to be plagued by the realization that I had just used a week of my vacation time (which by the way wasn’t anything close to a vacation) and that I only had one week left. The year had barely started! And I knew that that last week should be reserved for spending time with family around Christmas time.

I know I know, first world problems, but I felt completely trapped. I suddenly began to feel the weight of the drudgery of my life – every single day the same – and I became exhausted and very unhappy. Logically I knew that I didn’t really have a right to feel so upset, too many people have it so much worse, but I couldn’t change the way I felt. I felt stuck in a point of my life where it didn’t seem like anything was going to change any time soon. And day-in-day-out I took the bus and train with miserable people heading to a job they hate, spending the greater part of their lives unhappy, because they have to pay bills and they have to meet other responsibilities.

So, I decided to make a plan. I decided that I wasn’t going to allow myself to end up like that. I decided that I needed to be the change that I wanted to see in my own life. I began to save as much from each paycheck as I could, applied for a German work and travel VISA, and by the end of the year I had quit my job and was flying off to spend the next year in Europe….or at least for however long I could until my money ran out.

Trust me. This decision was not arrived at easily. I spent a long time thinking “I can’t quit my job and flit off to Europe…that’s irresponsible, I still have a huge amount of student loans to pay back.” I gave myself a million reasons to stay in my prison, including the fact that I couldn’t afford it. But one day it sort of just hit me: I don’t have to get up and go to work today if I don’t want to. I don’t have to keep maintaining this same routine if I don’t want to. All of the “responsibilities” that tether us to a life that we really don’t want to live are merely excuses that we tell ourselves which ultimately keep us sheltered in a little secure (but miserable) bubble and keep us for achieving our dreams.

I wanted to head to Germany, not only because my brother and his family are here, but because all of my life I have wanted to travel. While in school I kept on putting it off, saying after this I will go or after that I will go. Then when I started working, the same thing. But the “after that” never really comes. I knew that the job I was in last year was always meant to be temporary, but I realized that if I did get into that permanent, career starting job (which starts at 2 weeks of vacation a year) then I was never going to be able to travel or live abroad.

Once I made the decision I noticed two things: 1. I was happier and I felt less miserable with my situation and less trapped. 2. The majority of people I told all said “that’s amazing, I’m so jealous, I wish I could have done the same thing.”

This response made me think of a very important concept that I want to live my life by: I never want to let “I want to” turn into “I wish I had.” I want my life to be extraordinary, not ordinary, and I want to live it with passion, not just with practicality. The safe road is safe for a reason, but anything worthwhile in life comes with a little bit of a risk.

 

Published in Fusia magazine, March 2015

Happiness is not Dependent on Happily Ever After

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When I was asked to take on the responsibility of writing for the Fusia Lifestyle section, I was excited about the challenge, but I wasn’t exactly too sure on what I would write about. Our former lifestyle writer wrote a lot about family and raising children, but as a single woman I cannot relate to any of those things at all. I was stumped.

So I logically did what any other self-respecting writer would do, and I did a little research. The majority of newspapers, magazines, even the Lifestyle section of the local Chapters, seem to centre on love, marriage, relationships, raising children, and the like. Things which I don’t know about. So I was even more stumped. Then I began to wonder…why don’t I come across many articles or books that celebrate single life? What is worse, the majority of material out there discussing singleness is mostly stuff that you would find under the umbrella of self-help.

I refuse to accept that the single woman’s life is not Lifestyle material. This article is about being single, but it is NOT an article about finding happily ever after with a man and therefore graduating from single to couple as if singleness is merely a prerequisite to the next step. Too often we singles are bombarded with the notion that “single” is undesirable; it is equated with incomplete, lonely, and a whole bunch of negative notions that simply aren’t true.

Although trying to reclaim the word “single” is too tall of an order for a short article, I will speak to some of the negative conceptions behind the cliché advice that is constantly offered to me as a single woman.

  1. Oh don’t worry, your Prince Charming is just around the corner!

First and foremost, life is not a fairytale. And I am not saying that in a sad Taylor Swift “I’m not a princess, this ain’t a fairytale, I’m not the one you sweep off her feet, lead her out the stairwell” sort of way. I’m saying this in a very positive way. As a single woman, I am NOT waiting for my Prince Charming to show up. I’m not lying around with a piece of poisoned apple in my mouth waiting for life’s saving kiss. I’m not pining for love. Period. And I most definitely do NOT need to be rescued. So please save your piece of consolation…just because I’m single doesn’t mean that I’m in need of “encouragement” from you. I’m not worried, and you telling me not to worry actually means you think there is something to worry about.

In response to this inane piece of reassurance, I refer you to the Single Law #1 Happiness is not dependent on Happily Ever After. Happiness comes from within. If you place the responsibility of your happiness on anyone else but yourself, you will always be disappointed.

  1. A friend of a friend’s cousin’s friend knows someone who is also STILL single! Do you want me to see if I can set you up?

Hmmm…..let me think about that…..NO! Single people can’t stand when you treat singleness like it’s a disease that you need to cure. Offering to set me up means you think there is something wrong with being alone. Which also means that you pity me. Please stop pitying me. I don’t care that I’m sitting at the “single’s table” at your wedding and everyone else at the table is at least 10 years younger than me. If it doesn’t bother me, why does it bother you? Don’t tell me that I’m being too picky, that I’m not putting myself out there, don’t tell me that I’ll find him once I stop looking (which totally negates the ‘putting myself out there’ bit of advice by the way)…don’t say anything to me. Being a part of a couple does not automatically also make you a single’s counselor. I’m not damaged and you don’t have to fix me, and my singleness is not a riddle that you need to solve.

In response to this well-meaning but infuriating consolation, I refer you to the Single Law #2 Alone does NOT mean Lonely.

Of course there are a million more clichés that I hear, but these are two that I find particularly annoying and offensive. However,  such is the life in the Single Woman’s shoes. I find the lives of my married friends and family absolutely wonderful, don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t come from a place of jaded cynicism. But my life – my pick up and move to another country just because I feel like it, freedom to do exactly what I want to do when I want to do it life – is equally wonderful….no….it’s fabulous!

Published in Fusia magazine March 2015