And how we often confuse this with love.

My high school boyfriend was… complicated. I was fifteen, quiet, and studious; he was seventeen, popular, and barely passing his classes. I was smitten from the moment I met him, but he barely noticed me.

I spent half a year trying to get him to come around, which at that age felt like forever. I figured if I could only showcase my determination, I could convince him we’d make a good couple. If I stuck around long enough, he’d know I was the most deserving of his attention. I had to stand out among all the other girls who wanted…


Sometimes you’re drowning, other times you’re swept away.

The first time I experienced gut-wrenching grief was after suddenly losing my dad in 2018. His death was much worse than I ever could’ve imagined. It hollowed me out. Somehow I survived it — which is the one thing I never thought I’d be able to do. Losing a loved one was among the most common things I worried about as a kid, and yet no amount of morbid ruminating could’ve prepared me for the reality of loss.

Something else I hadn’t anticipated about grief was that it’s more than just one great loss, it was a cluster of scattered…


A true story about a time when an entire family of mice moved into my car.

It was the summer of 2020, at the height of the pandemic, and I was working from home. As such, I was only using my vehicle sporadically to do grocery pickups or pharmacy runs.

I drive a Subaru Crosstrek and if there’s something you should know about Subaru owners, it’s that we tend to be obsessed with our cars/SUVs and generally take good care of them.

I’m certainly no exception to this.

My black leather interior gets cleaned and conditioned often. I vacuum the carpets meticulously, then cover them with Weathertech mats to ward off sand and salt. I get…


Parallels I’ve drawn between my physical and mental health.

Earlier this year, my husband and I sought out to purchase a new treadmill. We waited until the one we wanted was on sale, but by the time we went to buy it, it had sold out. So we got a raincheck and it took a few months for the store to re-stock. It wasn’t until mid-pandemic that we finally brought the treadmill home and set it up in our basement.

Now to preface this, I’ve absolutely never enjoyed running. I was an avid soccer player in high school, which means I had to run, but I approached it like…


Positivity at the expense of reality is destructive.

Suffice it to say I’ve had quite an eventful couple of years. Since 2018, I suffered a series of losses, each challenging on their own, but all arduous as a whole. I’ve been dealing with trauma and the chronic physical pain that often accompanies it.

I’ve tried meditating, exercising, stretching, talking, crying, and yelling the pain out of me. I’ve seen a psychotherapist specializing in grief, a psychotherapist specializing in somatic therapy, my medical doctor on multiple occasions, a chiropractor, a physiotherapist specializing in vertigo, a physiotherapist trained in dry needling, and a massage therapist.

And while a lot of…


When someone competes with a pet, they’re already losing.

At twenty-two, I moved into a tiny overpriced apartment in eastern Toronto with my then-boyfriend. It was my first time living with a significant other, and though we’d only been dating a few months, we’d known each other for years, so we took the plunge and signed a one-year lease.

We quickly settled into a routine, becoming regulars at the pub across the street, and visiting friends on the weekend. Our relationship wasn’t great, but it was still relatively new, so we rode that high for the first few months. …


When helping others comes at my own expense.

Among friends, I’m often known as someone who gives good advice — the first person you go to for solutions, someone who researches for the fun of it. I both revere and resent this.

Sure, being able to help a friend fix a problem feels good. It implies that I have my life together, or at least significantly so in that particular realm. Procuring good advice also makes me feel useful when someone I care for is going through a crisis. While I can’t take their pain away, I can help them deal with it.

But being a good advice-giver…


This pandemic challenges the belief we ever had control in the first place.

Striving for control, when boiled down, is no more than a fear-based coping mechanism for the chaos or uncertainty of life. Humans are hardwired to seek safety, and we crave a sense of predictability. Apart from meeting our basic physical needs, Maslow argued in 1943 that humans have a fundamental need to feel safe. We don’t like getting caught off-guard, and we struggle with tolerating ambiguity. We want to live in an environment we can trust and depend on.

The illusion of control is that it allows us to believe we can anticipate, and thus prepare for, what happens next…


These five quotes have profoundly impacted my life.

Have you ever been asked how you prefer to learn? I remember my elementary school teachers talking about visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learners, with the assumption being that each of us learns differently, and that by tailoring their approach to a student’s individual style, teachers could enhance retention efforts.

Limited to those three options, I identified most as being a visual learner. But truthfully, I’ve always learned best through reading books and consuming other people’s words.

For instance, in university, I hoarded quotes. There was a sticky notes app on my old MacBook that would often crash upon launching as…


The first step in letting go is admitting to yourself it’s over.

It’s always worse in the morning, right before you open your eyes. For a moment, caught between sleep and wakefulness, you forget. It’s a blissful state of ignorance, where all is right in the world — if only for a few seconds. Then, as soon as your eyes open, that drowsy amnesia starts to wane, and you get the sensation that something important was left behind.

Suddenly, everything comes flooding back, clinging to you like a weighted blanket. Your stomach drops as you remember details the night enabled you to escape. How you spent the evening crying yourself to sleep…

Shannon Leigh

I’m basically a house cat with a penchant for introspection | IG: @shannonleighwrites

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