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Comfort Zone

Comfort Zone: Gabriel Cabrera

by Sabrina Smelko

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That comforting — and sometimes cathartic — feeling that the word “home” conjures may be one of the few experiences shared by all (or most). That place you go to in your mind when you imagine the comforts of home can look so different among us, but yet how it feels is something many can relate to, no matter your age, or where you live in the world.

For Gabriel Cabrera, comfort and security are two different things. As someone who up and moved from his home town in Mexico to Vancouver, BC to seek his happy place, Gabriel had to learn not only a new language as an adult, but an entirely new lifestyle — all while trying to discover himself and pinpoint what exactly he wanted to do in his career. You might think thrusting yourself out of your comfort zone would be terrifying and debilitating, but Gabriel rose to the challenge. He viewed the opportunity as a chance to take responsibility for his own happiness in his career and in life, knowing that at the end of each day, he could escape to and enjoy his “sanctuary”: this cozy living room. The safety and security that this very personal space offers him continues to empower Gabriel to take risks and put himself out there, and today, he’s doing just that and sharing his thoughts, feelings and fears, all from the comfort of his sofa. –Sabrina

Photography by Mark Yammine

Tell us about yourself.

I am a stylist and photographer working and living in Vancouver, Canada. I am originally from Mexico, but moved up north over a decade ago (yikes! Time goes flying). The main reason I moved from Mexico was because, at the time, the town I was living in just didn’t fit. I felt like I was the outcast and was simply bored out of my mind. I am lucky enough to have very creative and supportive parents that helped me figure out what the heck to do with myself, and they said “hey, why don’t you go study in Canada?” and so it began! Soon after I was done [with] Culinary College here in Vancouver, I felt lost again — I loved food, but I just couldn’t bear being in the kitchen. The professional environment in many restaurants is simply not my personal cup of tea. So I took it upon myself to change paths. I got immersed in social media, started a blog, got a job managing social media channels for various brands, and finally rekindled my love for food via food styling. Fast forward a few years and here I am, styling and photographing food full-time. I couldn’t be happier!

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What does home and your living room mean to you?

In one word, I would say sanctuary. We are surrounded by so many distractions nowadays that we barely make any time for ourselves — and by that I don’t mean hanging out with someone; I mean being alone, having your own “this is all about me” time. I think it’s very important to have a little piece of sanctuary to call your own, even if it’s just a reading nook in your home. To be able to disconnect and to give yourself some love and some alone time is important. A good indicator that you have one of these sanctuaries is when you think about it on a crappy day or at the end of a long day, when you just can’t wait to get home and go to (insert favorite room here).

For me, it’s all about my living room. This space has seen it all: it’s hosted my struggles and successes. It has seen me fall in love, and then cry when I got my heart broken, it has seen me laugh hysterically with friends, and it witnessed me putting up my very first Christmas tree (which happened only this year! Yup, it only took me 10 years to get my holiday act together, haha). It almost feels as if this room [is] the equivalent of a written journal, but instead of pages, it has a comfy couch and a warm blanky that know more about me than most of my friends (I bet if the blanket was able to speak it would scream, asking for therapy, haha)!

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What makes it so comfortable?

First of all, it fits my style. I think the golden rule of creating a comfortable room is to make sure the room fits you, both within the physical space and in the “vibe” it sets. We sometimes go for the trendy look, and that doesn’t always work because it may not be you. In my case, I made it cozy-modern. Cozy with the right amount of fluffy pillows which also look cool, and cozy with accents like wood-scented candles (love the forest!) and good mood lighting by way of two side lamps. I also injected some of my styling/work aesthetic with a few vintage trinkets here and there — but just a touch, so it remains modern and not junky. One thing’s for sure, I try to keep clutter and foreign objects (e.g. coins, random receipts, etc.) out of the way! No thing shall disturb my sanctuary.

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What makes you uncomfortable? What is your biggest fear?

Invasion of privacy makes me so uncomfortable and irritated. I cannot stand people you don’t know asking intrusive questions trying to figure out what you’re up to, either in your personal life or business. It’s one thing to be legitimately interested in what you do, and it’s another to be nosy. We all can tell the difference based on the questions people ask.

My biggest fear has always been feeling “average;” being a conformist. As soon as I feel that I’m static — either in my career or personal life — I seek a challenge and change my environment. I have learned so much this way, but it’s also quite stressful because I fear when the next “uh oh…you are static” feeling is going to come. Either way, I always like a good challenge!

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Have you ever thrown caution to the wind and departed from your comfort zone? What happened as a result?

Yes! It happens all the time. The biggest example would be leaving my country of birth and moving to another where I had to speak a different language and learn an entirely new culture. It was nerve-wracking and stressful, but absolutely amazing! As a result I am doing what I love in a country that I love.

Departing your comfort zone is never easy, no matter how experienced you are, but as long as your gut feeling is positive, then go for it! We all have this little voice inside us telling us what feels right, and unfortunately we sometimes choose to ignore it due to fear or other external factors like family or friends — but when you do take the leap, the rewards will follow. Trust me, no one can take away the wonderful feeling of reaching your own personal achievements.

What would you do if you had a day, a week and a month all to yourself?

A day to myself: I would get a spa treatment from head to toe. So original, eh? Haha.

A week to myself: I would go on a small trip around Vancouver, probably to the islands to relax and take some photos of the beautiful nature out there.

A month: I know I’d be bored after a week of pampering, so I would probably plan the year ahead: make adjustments to my business plan; book a vacation with friends; look for the next challenge — whether it be learning a new skill or completing a personal project.

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What have you learned as an adult that you wish you knew when you were younger?

Do not waste your time with people that don’t add value to your life. Simple. This applies to professional and personal relationships. If someone is hurting your life, it’s time to cut ties. I mean, you’ve got to work, go to school, cook, clean, give attention to your friends and loved ones … so, who has time for assholes?!

How do you unplug, recharge and unwind?

It’s usually something related to food. It can be cooking for myself, testing a new recipe, reading a foodie magazine, or trying a new cocktail, and — of course — a lot of snacking on my couch. So bad, but so good!

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Have you ever experienced burnout? How do you get back on your feet and stay inspired?

Oh yes, and it seems I never learn from it, haha. Just a few weeks back I had a mini panic attack (haven’t had one since I was in college)! As soon as it started happening I was like, “Whoa! Buddy, time to calm down.” I had to cancel a few projects, which sucked, but I had to recover or I would burn not just my batteries, but also professional relationships (by way of producing crappy content because I was so exhausted).

To feel inspired and reenergized I didn’t do anything dramatic. All it took was indulging in the simple little things that bring me joy: going to the coffee shop to read, going out for dinner with my friends, spending time in my living room with no technology around me (no phones, no iPads, nothing). For me, it’s missing out on all of these little moments for too long that stresses me out and throws me off balance.

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What do you think the world could use less of, and more of?

Less gorging on tragedy, more feasting on brilliant, creative ideas — that, and tolerance.

What’s one question you wish you had the answer to?

Am I ever going to move to Paris?

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