364 (or why I went blonde.)

a Pilot's Daughter - Helen Hayden - Travel Blog

There are less than 25 hours left in the year.

I’m lying on my hotel bed balancing a styrofoam box of noodles and my laptop on my belly while Sex And The City plays on loop in the background.

I eat carbs when Im nervous. I watch Sex And The City when Im nostalgic.

I write when there’s nothing left.

And with less than 25 hours, well, there’s not much left.

It’s so dimly common to say "I can’t believe it’s already New Years!", but when it comes down to it, that’s really how I feel...

Some fancy study came out talking about how we perceive time as we age; turns out the elderly weren’t lying when they say it all happened in a blink of an eye. Fact is, the older we get, the faster we perceive time. 

I don’t even want to know what New Years is going to feel like at 50.

I would imagine heartbreaking and miraculous...

It makes sense to me that we naturally reflect at this time of year. Human beings love endings; tragic or otherwise. We pretend we don’t, but we create them all the time. Often in big, dramatic ways. 

So what do I make of this ending....

Well if the Chinese and chick-flick is any indication…

It’s been quite a year.

Poking around my jet-lagged brain cells trying to figure out just what transpired these past 364 days isn’t going so well, so Im turning to my digital memory, aka my iPhoto library, for assitance.

Turns out, a lot happened. 

Like, a lot.

 Collingwood, Ontario

Collingwood, Ontario

In fact, it it turns out, I wasn’t always blonde!


Here's what seems to have gone down:


I kicked off 2016 in a snow-covered mansion fit for Chekhov and twelve of his closest companions. My bestie called it her family “cabin”. 


We apparently had different ideas of what constituted a cabin...


We frolicked in jumpsuits found in the basement and did a photo-shoot homage to the 1989 Sears catalogue they were most definitely featured in before I went “home” to New York to celebrate my 25th birthday…

 The Whitney, New York City

The Whitney, New York City

Yup, this year made it a quarter century for this little lady.

What I remember from my birthday was feeling like the luckiest, most unconditionally loved girl in the world. 

Helen Hayden - Birthday - a Pilot's Daughter



I walked the Brooklyn Bridge. I got free ice cream. I was in love.

What more could a girl ask for?

There were five people at my table that night, at a candlelit diner in Brooklyn. I barely spoke; there was no need. I laughed until my cheeks ached and tears of joy stung my eyes. I clung to each of the five in hopes that they’d feel just how deeply my adoration ran. We scampered across the street to my favorite bar; under the low ceiling I found a couple more pals, including the beautiful Parisian music producer that introduced me to the joint. We had met in an Uber pool in the fall. He was gorgeous and effortlessly cool in that Parisian-New Yorker kind of way; a hip hop sensation in the 90's. (I asked him that spring if he wanted to be one of my "New York people" - a big deal in my mind. He said yes....) 

I kept closing my eyes wishing the night would never end.


But it did. As all things do. 

I think that's the very reason we cherish those moments; their inevitable endings. 

Toronto - Travel Blog - CN Tower




After that painfully perfect day it seems I went back to Toronto and threw myself into every project and business endeavor possible. I finally gave my yoga teacher status a run, I dove headfirst into a online marketing business with a bunch of boss babes and started a charitable initiative with one of besties/business partners for Valentine’s Day. (Proud of that one.)

I built a ton of new friendships.

I neglected and nutured a lot of old ones. 



I went to the ballet, sat front row at fashion week, and partied like a shameless, boldface rockstar/fool in Vegas. (Shout out to my Dad who fed me potato chips while I lay on carpet of his hotel room floor…)




Might have partied a little too hard that go around.

Im not sure how I pulled it off, but I remember airport security confiscated two bottles of Veuve before they unlocked (no, I'm not exaggerating) the air bridge door so that I could board the plane. I made the walk of shame all the way back to row 34 while still wearing my coconut-oil-soaked bikini.

I was on my way to Washington to visit my (for lack of a better term) boyfriend…

It was his birthday. 

I don’t think I looked too hot when I showed up.

“Shower. Bed. Now. I’ll be back after rehearsal.”


God bless him…

 Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC

Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC

DC was mostly dreamy and then it was back to New York for baby showers, business meetings and more business as usual. (Which is hardly ever usual in my case.)

That brings us to late spring which trickles quickly into summer according to iPhoto; not too much to report other than some more romance and heartbreak. 

Which brings us to the blonde...

It was THE moment.

It sounds dramatic and totally self-indulgent, but I swear; there was pre-blonde. And then there was blonde.

It really was the beginning (or perhaps the end) of everything. 

For better or worse.

It was the post-"breakup" morning. I had stayed at my best friends. I had thought about having luscious golden locks for years and there was no time like the heartbroken present.

I walked across the street into the tiny hole-in-the-wall hair salon that had lived there for years. There was one, young, Japanese stylist who spoke very little English. 

“I need to be blonde.”

He didn’t actually say a word but rather made one of those very Japanese sounds, that meant something like “reallllly?!”

“Very blonde.”


6 hours and more bleach and cigarettes than I care to admit later, I was, indeed, very blonde.

I called my actor-turned photographer friend.

“I need new headshots.”


“How’s right now?”

“Put some makeup on and see if there’s a rooftop.”

And well, the rest is history.

 Boom. (Yadin Photography - https://yadin.smugmug.com/)

Boom. (Yadin Photography - https://yadin.smugmug.com/)

My agent loved it. My ex hated it. I could care less.

It was a chance to start over. 






Pretty soon after that peroxide-filled day, I starred in my first short film (as the Goddess of the universe no less) and learned what a real day in a makeup chair is...

I'm still finding body paint in places I didn't even know existed.


One of my commercials went viral and GQ called me a “hot blonde”. 

I will now die happy. 


I booked my first feature and got paid to eat cotton candy and corn dogs as a sexually-empowered, hysterical bad-bitch, alongside delightful female co-stars.

I brunched a lot, became an auntie to the most handsome little puff, and got in as much pool-time as possible.

I ran lines 'til the wee hours and hung out on the sets and in the studios of crazy talented friends.


We wrung out summer with a girls trip to the cottage. Nothing but cider and smores on the dock while alllllll the shameless details were divulged.

 Lake Simcoe, Ontario

Lake Simcoe, Ontario

It was bliss.


After that it was more some New York-ing, acting classes & auditions up the ying-yang, with some tonsillitis to round things out. 

And then something magical happened.

I said goodbye to my charming chinatown fixer-up and traded up to (if I dare say so myself) my gorgeous King St condo. 

It was everything I had orginally resisted; as new and bougie as they come. But I figured if I was going to be in the 6ix, I might as well do it right.

 My new home...

My new home...

I still wake up every morning to a wall of glass at my feet and the first thing that comes to mind is "God, I love my home."

It’s a haven in a city that was never mine, and I cherish it so. (The pools pretty sweet too…)

 Lily Gao & I on our first "date". 

Lily Gao & I on our first "date". 


Fall came and TIFF fell upon us. 

It was celebrity-drizzled mayhem.

My feet bled into my stilettos, I made way too many pouty faces on carpets I probably had no business being on, and I marveled at how gorgeous all my friends were. 

Come October I had three stripper auditions in one week, (tell me type-casting ain’t a thing), had three thanksgiving dinners, and took the most idyllic solo getaway to Montreal.

 Vieux-Monteal, Quebec

Vieux-Monteal, Quebec




Montreal is just perfection.


I ate. I shopped. I reveled in all. By far my favorite Canadian city thus far. I don't know what took me so long. 

I met Beyonce’s hat designer and taught him and his celebrity-chef friend how to properly downward dog in the city’s bougiest cocktail bar. The bouncer directed foot traffic around us. (Namaste.)

It wasn’t all tequila-fuelled fairy tales though.

Winter crept in and some family matters took center stage.

My therapist and Ben & Jerry’s took on much bigger roles in my life...

But that's how it goes.

Tough stuff.




And, eventually as it usually does, a little bravery gave way to new abundance. 



I’d end the year meeting some truly incredible humans and learning from one of the great motivational teachers of our time.

I played Home Alone at the Park Hyatt with a handsome counterpart before dashing back home to Vancouver just in time for the holidays.

It was a Hayden Family Christmas this year; just like the old days.

And with the roller coaster of experiences these past 364 days delivered, it’s no wonder it felt a little strange to finally slow down… 

It might seem silly or shameful to you, but I couldn’t help but feel a brief sense of disappointment when I first came to reflect on the year gone by.

I didn't feel like I'd accomplished enough.

But what's enough?

A matter of perspective really.

And if there's anything I really got this year, it's that perspective is everything, and it's up to you to change the lens. 

Blonde or brunette, you've gotta be grateful for every single one of the 364.

Here's to another.

Happy New Year, friends. x

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