Even writing those words feels simultaneously cathartic and strange. I think over the course of the pandemic and the past few years, I have been forced to stop and slow down in some capacities. I’ve made so many changes in the past year, let alone eight years, that I guess you could say that I’m kind of reeling from it all. In an effort to remind myself of my beauty and strength, as opposed to how I can often look at myself through a critical lens, I thought I would share thirty-eight reasons I’ll be smiling on my thirty-eighth birthday this year.
In no particular order, here are my 38 reasons to smile as I inch my way to my birthday.
1. I am gainfully employed and have made great things happen in my short time in the role so far. I have learned many lessons about myself, my strengths, and my areas of opportunity. I am very proud of myself for moving away from husband for this opportunity and for working so hard to start our family via adoption as quickly as we can.
2. I continue to blog and share my adventures with you all on social media, which genuinely feeds my creative spirit in a way nothing else can. I could never have known nine years ago that I would become so successful as a content creator. While it makes it so that I am at times working two full time jobs, I wouldn’t miss the chance to continue to do this for anything.
3. 2021 has allowed me the opportunity to reconnect with my family in ways I didn’t realize I needed. As I have gotten older, and especially after living in Toronto for ten years, I have come to understand they are such an important part to my life. Working towards starting our family, it’s important for me to spend time with the kids and brush up on those skills before we have our own!
4. I’ve been re-learning who I am and what I enjoy doing on my own, which is a bit of a scary one. While the distance from Julio is chosen, it’s still not easy after everything we’ve been through. That being said, rediscovering spinning, enjoying meals in Ottawa with new friends, and focusing on self-love and acceptance has been quite refreshing.
5. My physical fitness journey is slowly getting to be a constant in my day to day. Though I find it very challenging to keep up with things I once could do with ease, and the changes I once could get are seemingly twice as hard to achieve, the road back to where I want to be is one that has reminded me to be a bit more kind to myself. And to celebrate the small victories.
6. I am lucky enough to say I contracted COVID-19 and survived it with Julio. That one may seem quite dramatic to some of you, but having so much damage to my lungs, I was really scared where we got diagnosed and the social stigma around accepting and sharing it was quite jarring psychologically. For those of you affected by this personally, just know that you’re not alone.
7. I’ve become more comfortable in exploring my queerness and expressing myself. I love to buy and wear wigs, and though I am not a drag queen, the idea of trying drag is something that still very much intrigues me. Maybe I’ll try to follow that inspiration this year. I’m just grateful to love myself enough and accept myself to think that I want to share this more expressive part of me that I wasn’t comfortable sharing in the past.
8. I have embraced a new role in Ottawa as a Carleton University Alumni Mentor for the first time ever. I was just matched with my first mentee and I look forward to the chance to bring my experience and life lessons to them to help them on their journey to their career goals. It feels like a full circle moment but one that I am very proud of. Next up, I’d LOVE to do a TedX talk if anyone know who I should speak to about that one! Seriously. Let’s chat if you have a contact or work for that organization because it would be a dream come true.
9. I’ve been asked to be an official judge for The Beauty Awards 2022 edition with Chatelaine, Châtelaine and Fashion Canada. It’s kind of a big deal for me because normally Julio is asked to be a judge for such prestigious things. I look forward to testing some of the best products in the country and sharing in the excitement as we lead to the awards and winners together!
10. For many years I thought I would never work with a management company as a blogger. This year I realized that I don’t know what I would do without my team and their support in the current life I live. Being on a roster of talent this impressive makes me feel proud, and I genuinely adore what Derek and Sophie do for me every day. ❤️
11. I sometimes go back to the first blog post I wrote almost nine years ago. I cringe at how rough around the edges I was back then, but I also realize that I have accomplished so much right here with you all. I’ve travelled the world, worked with almost every brand you can imagine, and I still love it to this day. There are a few times that I almost walked away for good, but you genuinely bring me so much joy just by reading and supporting me all these years later. So you – yes, YOU – get your own number in this list. Thank you for being the reason why I write and continue to create all these years later.
12. I have made some incredibly talented friends over the years and have grown quite close to many of them outside of the world of blogging and content creation. From @graciecarroll to @missrebeccaj, @liqculture to @whiskybeth, @thisrenegadelove to @dominique.baker, and so many more. You all inspire me and keep me smiling on days when I don’t think I would without you. I look up to each of you and truly love our friendship.
13. I love our home in Ottawa. It’s gorgeous and the neighborhood is bordered by the Ottawa river and forest. I find myself taking Canela on extra long walks just to be close to nature. I try my best to leave my phone at home when we do to listen to the sound of the trees and watch the sun set on her dinner time walk. It’s quite magical if I’m being honest and it’s something I crave during my hectic days.
14. Our baby budget has allowed me to pay off and close one credit card and one loan I have accumulated over the years running the blog and carrying the debt of running it like a business. We have money in our savings account and we plan towards travel and things we want for our lives. I don’t live paycheck to paycheck anymore and I’m very proud of that because it took a long time to get out from under my financial mistakes.
15. I’ve really fallen in love with cooking again and have come to recognize that I cook when I’m happy. Toronto is a city that is easy to get seduced into convenient cooking and eating habits and I’m really trying to make an effort to cook for myself in Ottawa and moving forward.
16. I’ve gotten to be the age where I can own my mistakes and my strengths with equal importance. I haven’t always had the self-restraint one should have at certain points in my personal and professional lives, but I don’t carry the weight of that with me anymore. I am who I am, both good and bad. And if you don’t like me, that’s your loss.
17. I’ve got a short trip to Vancouver paid for with Julio for our wedding anniversary in December. Similar to our trip a few years ago, this time around we hope to make it to Whistler and see the coast a little more. There’s a certain calming energy there that we both love and it’ll be much needed after a disruptive and busy year.
18. I’ve decided to take a few courses to brush up on some skills in the coming years. Nothing crazy and I’m certainly not going back to school part time, but I do believe that one should always be learning and willing to grow. Plus who doesn’t need a refresher every now and again?
19. I love that I’m resourceful and in many cases where I don’t have the answer or the solution, I will find one. Many times over the years I haven’t know what to do or how to do it, and I taught myself and find a way through the unknowing. I love that quality about me and appreciate that a challenge doesn’t scare me.
20. Canela makes me smile because she’s my first dog ever, and I think I lucked out big time. When I’m sad, she’s right by my side and when she is happy I am happy that we were able to rescue her from a hard life and give her a better one. She’s a huge part of my life and every day we have with her is special.
21. Catherine. Honestly, I don’t know if I would be here today without your love and support. And I mean that. I’ve lived and endured a lot of darkness in my life, and you are the brightest light of them all, standing steadfast at my side unconditionally. I love you and thank the universe for you every day.
22. Despite that click baity title, I’m actually looking forward to 40. I’ll be honest that I haven’t live a typical life and my early thirties were HARD. I’m looking forward to years ahead that find a bit more balance, a bit more financial success, a bit more love of self and of course being a Dad. It’s something I think about almost every day. and 40 feels like a sexy Dad age to me. So that’s the goal!
23. I find myself putting a lot of manifestations into the universe these days. Maybe that’s just my way of trying to bring dreams to life, but I know that over the last few years I got lost in the fog of depression a few more times than I would have liked. I’d like to feel more stable, secure and able to shine. So I’m telling the universe I’m ready for that all nice and loudly.
24. I think I’m ready to pick up writing my book again after putting it down for some time. There is always going to be an emotional weight to it, but I think I could really try to get it published by forty, or at least finish the project after this off and on for the last decade. Fingers crossed, but the thought makes me excited!
25. I’m really excited for my Mom and her newly renovated home to be finished this year. She’s had a long road to this moment and I’m really proud of her. Living with my mom while the renos were going on wasn’t always easy, but I’m glad I could be here for her. And this next chapter of her life is going to be amazing.
26. I get a lot of slack from coworkers and friends, but I am really happy I’m carrying around this nonsense size bottle of water to drink more water during the day. In the past, it has helped me with everything from sleep to skin and I have noticed my body seems to be responding well to it. A healthy habit I am making after many years of bad ones is a nice change of pace.
27. I’m sorting out the idea of Do The Daniel merch which is kinda fun. Still TBD on a few levels, it feels like a fun project I can start amid a few new ideas I’ve got going.
28. I made a list (which needs some work still) of me in the press lately and accomplishments of mine as a reminder of some cool programs and things I have done. You can check it out here. I think it’s important to make lists like that one and this one to remind yourself how incredible you are.
29. I’ve found joy in urban gardening over the years and have just recently taken down our summer plants. I think little things that bring you joy are important to make room for, and I hope that next spring Julio and I can plant new vegetables and flowers together and are reunited to enjoy the fruits of our labour.
30. I can make the best out of a bad situation, and there’s been a few of those in the past few years. It’s not a skill I see often in others, but I will always try to see both sides of a situation. And if I can’t change it, I will find the silver lining. Life is far too short to be miserable all day long.
31. I love my new tattoo that I am working on with my new tattoo artist. It’s 1/3 of the way complete and will take longer than expected because of the cost and time I need to dedicate to it, but I know it’ll be perfect when it’s complete. I guess the whole “work in progress” energy I carry isn’t going anywhere any time soon with that project, but it’s kind of apropos right now, so I find some poetic beauty in it all.
32. I’m on TikTok. And yes that makes me smile. I’m not good, and I probably have no right to be there in the slightest, but it’s fun and it’s stupid and it makes me laugh every day. I will make a sidebar that haters are on a whole other level of mean, but I don’t read the comments anymore. I focus on the fun and silly it can add to my day to day and I’m grateful for it. Just don’t expect me to be making viral content any time soon because I juggle enough social media accounts as it is!
33. Toronto always makes me smile, and especially on my birthday, I am very much looking forward to being there with Julio. The city has an energy that feeds my soul in a way that nothing else can and it gets me excited. Staying at (you guessed it) The Fairmont Royal York with Canela, I can’t wait to do some of my favourite things in the big city.
34. I am in the best place I have been mentally in a long time and that is in large part thanks to my mental health practitioner Ingrid. We’ve been working together for years now, and she originally was our couples counselor. I try to make time every few weeks for a reset and to talk through my big stuff. Mental health is so important these days and I’m glad I am working on mine actively and growing through the good and tough parts of the process.
35. I feel good about the way I am looking physically and presenting myself online for the first time in a while. My body and I have had a complicated relationship for a long time, and I am happy to be happy with it and myself a little more each day. Self-love is not just a switch I can flip, but I’m learning to be easier on myself.
36. I am proud of myself for finding a bit more balance in my eating and drinking habits lately. During the pandemic I turned to food as a comfort and have learned over the years that I CANNOT eat the same way Julio does. It affects me very differently and though I wish I could have McDonald’s every day, I have to be mindful and be balanced. Same comes to my drinking, especially when I am stressed. I don’t drink every day at this time, but I know that when I do it’s important that I don’t over do it anymore. How very Libra of me to be in constant search of balance.
37. I’ve realized that writing a list this long is not something I found easy, but it is something that I will reread later and realize how blessed I truly am. How hard I have worked to get here. How much I have earned 38 reasons to smile. It’s easy to focus on what we don’t have or haven’t done in culture that glamorizes over worked over achievers. So this was a nice exercise in self-awareness and patience with myself.
38. And of course, my beautiful husband. Though we have a lot of baggage and history, I wouldn’t want to celebrate my birthday with anyone else at my side. I am excited to start our family. To find a way back to one another physically in the same city. And to spend an amazing weekend with you in Toronto.
So that is that my friends. If nothing else, I hope that my list of reminders to be happy inspires you to make one of your very own. The world can be a really hard place to live at times, but look at how much you have and how far you have come. And know that you’re magical for achieving all of that in your life too.
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Photos: Daniel Reyes & All Social Media accounts listed above
Don’t forget to be kind & laugh a little more this year
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