Author Archives: micamcc

On A Heart Broken Wide Open

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is the 6th in a series, intended as a space for the various authors and contributors of Embracing Ambiguity to reflect on the past year in each of their lives. 2014 has been a tumultuous year for each writer, from transitions and changes in the physical spaces they live in, to the internal turmoil of life changing decisions.  Each post follows the general prompt of thinking back to where we stood one year prior, and the head space we were in at the time; reflecting on what has brought us to where we are now and the change that has occurred in that 365 days of time. Happy reading and an ambiguous 2015 to you! 

My family doesn’t keep many traditions, but Christmas Eve is the exception to our otherwise fluid approach to life events and family structure. For as long as I can remember, we’ve plated cheeses in a pleasing array, baked hordes of tiny fried things, and filled wine glass after wine glass in the lead up to Christmas Eve church service. Dressed up in our winter finery, we take up a pew in church listening to the Christmas story of a baby in a manger. The pinnacle of my year though, is the moment when the church lights turn off and slowly candles are lit down the rows of standing congregants who sing Silent Night in beautiful hushed voices. In a moment of true peace, I find myself grounded at the end of each year in this moment.

Last year, on Christmas Eve, I was offered a job after five months of unemployment — marking the day as a new start, regardless of calendar definitions. I jokingly declared it a Christmas miracle, not realizing at the time how important a next step the job would be. It was the first contract, of many, working in my chosen field. It introduced me to people who are now some of my closest friends, connected me to each of the contracts that followed, and gave me a sense of self confidence that I, falsely, thought was stolen from me. In that job, I found my zen place of no fucks given and from there was able to, I think, radically transform how I work in new environments, with new people, and new ideas.

I have a tendency to pin my hopes and dreams on certain events, thinking that things will only be great if this one event happens or goes well. However, should it fail, everything comes crashing down. And so, for me, it’s easy to feel as if the more negative events carry a disproportiately meaningful weight – that they are somehow more significant. This year saw hospital visits that had me panicked and wondering what it would be like to lose someone so young. This year my bank account was never quite full enough to cover all of the bills, and there were many moments when I didn’t know where my next pay cheque would come from. This year I was rejected, and heartbreakingly so. This year, despite such a beautiful start, was still unbelievably challenging.

On Christmas Eve this year I sat next to family I hadn’t seen in many months, heart full with happiness in our reunion. Moving to a new place made coming home feel so much more important, and as the priest addressed the congregation his words grounded me once again in a year full of life lived. He encouraged those gathered to “admit our frailties”, and gently stated that “what the world needs is for us to break open our hearts.” His words pulled me away from my default assumption, and helped me see that a year is about so much more than the heavier events.

And so this year, I admit, my frailties often got the best of me. But (and this is a very large and important but) I like to think my heart, somewhere along the way, began to break wide open.

Maybe it happened in the unexpected last minute drives from Toronto to my hometown; in dancing without care at a best friend’s wedding; in stuffing ourselves with Indian food on my living room floor; or in getting on a plane to land on an island with open arms. I can’t say if the year was overwhelmingly good or bad, as both certainly existed, but I am sure that somewhere along the way I changed. I opened my self up to new people, a new place, and, once again, a new job. With a heart broken wide open, my year was shaped by vulnerability. The radical transformation I felt begin to take shape at the start of the year has carried to now, and while I find it hard to believe life is as good as it is, I’m looking forward to trying to keep this year’s Christmas Eve words in mind.

– mm


on an island in the sea

I live on an island in the sea in a used-to-be-more-vibrant pink house that from the front would not be out of place in a documentary about crack dens.

I sleep on an air mattress that deflates every two nights regardless of if I sleep on it or if I remember to put the cap back on the nozzle in a room that is painted an oddly comforting shade of olive. I don’t even like olives.

I share this apartment with two housemates, one of whom I’ve been calling the wrong name for the past three weeks. Thankfully he is kind and thinks this is amusing.

I walk to work via the same route everyday, listening to the Google Maps lady’s commands but still turn the wrong way out of the house each morning.

I went to my first hot yoga class last night and grab a corner spot in what I thought was the back of the room. My proximity to the mirrors should have given it away, but it was not the back and I was not prepared to bend my legs like that.

So far my completely out of the blue decision to move to St. John’s is working out. I have a job I love where I with people I respect, in a city that has been nothing but welcoming (despite the face locals make when I say I moved from Toronto). It’s only now just sinking in though that maybe this decision was a bit… unusual.

It’s hard to know what the “right” thing is to do when it comes to life decisions. Do I make the move? Do I take the job? Do I live with these people? Or harder yet, how can we be sure that these decisions will serve us well? Am I just running away? Will this hurt my relationships? Am I letting my family down?

I don’t know. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. But instead of an overwhelming feeling of doubt or indecision my gut has been telling me that this is right. That this change is good. Sure it’s overwhelming, strange, and difficult too, but ultimately it’s good. I don’t know how I know this, but I have a friend who reminds me that the feelings in the pit of our stomachs are real and should be listened to.

Despite my overwhelming instinct to rationalize and reason through most thoughts and feelings, I’ll admit that letting go and allowing myself space to think and feel without boundaries has led me to one of the most wonderful opportunities in my life to date. A week worth of gaffes later and my gut-brain is still staunchly in favour of it all, which is a win after a few years of feeling a little off kilter. I know it’s unusual to find this kind of comfort and resolve in a decision, and for that I’m infinitely grateful.

I’m think I’m in the right place.

– Mica

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on making livings and lifestyles

I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between making a living and making a lifestyle. As a recent university graduate I spent the first three months of my post-university life reconnecting with friends and family and reminding myself what life looks like when you don’t close down libraries at midnight. Running into (generally older) relatives at weddings and reunions usually meant that at some point (or multiple points) in an evening I would be confronted with the question of what I’m doing next. Although it’s an innocent and honest question on the surface, if asked with the proper tone it can carry a society’s worth of conditioning to imply that the only appropriate response to said question involves a clear and detailed career plan. I don’t have a career plan and although my canned response that “I’m looking for ways to use stories to inspire and educate” receives some favourable reviews, I honestly have no idea how I’m going to put a roof over my head and food on my table in the medium to long term. But, even if my liberal arts and sciences degree didn’t give me a paint by number career path it did instil me with a careful skepticism. My initial reaction to the question of shelter and food is to ask what shelter and food mean. Sleeping on couches and in basements for the majority of my summer reminded me about the beautiful side of simple living but I also aspire to one day live as part of a larger family unit (whatever that means) and those aspiration require a less transient infrastructure. What that infrastructure will be, I don’t know. But to some extent I’m treating my current travel as research into different lifestyles. There’s a balance to strike between making a living and making a lifestyle and some folks seem to have struck it.

I spent a week in mid-august wwoofing at the Harvest Moon Organic Bakery just outside of Lion’s Head on the Bruce Peninsula. I traded labour for food and lodging, stayed in a bunky on site, and assumed responsibility for the disposal of any and all broken butter tarts. The owners have run the bakery for almost 19 years, built themselves a passive solar home, carved walking trails and sculpture garden through the bush, and are socially engaged and lovely people. At one point they also operated both a large garden and bed and breakfast but they’ve scaled back in recent years. Although they work hard and long hours during the summer (theirs is after all a seasonal business) they produce good quality food, eat primarily from a garden they tend themselves, and spend the winter skiing, reading, and playing board games. After seven days, I left having met some of their neighbours, learned more about gardening, sided a treehouse, and been thoroughly entranced by a lifestyle that seemed to connect to both the physical and social space it inhabits. The folks at Harvest Moon make a living from a lifestyle that encourages active connection to their neighbours and physical surroundings. That appeals to me.

‘What next’ questions from my well-meaning relatives seem to focus only on the issue of making a living. My responses are sometimes met with disappointed and skeptical expressions but I’m trying to figure out what kind of lifestyle I want so that I know what ‘making a living’ means before I commit to a specific endeavor like law school or an oil rig contract that might fill my bank account at the cost of spiritual bankruptcy. While trying to avoid value judgements, I’m compelled to nonetheless acknowledge that no amount of money is worth doing things that would make me miserable and I say this from the middle of a 6 week contract that has me scrubbing toilets three mornings a week – although I am cleaning them in the middle of a national park in the Rocky Mountains.

You can only start with the question of making a living if you’ve already assumed the answer to what it means to make a life. It’s the same as asking how you’re going to get enough lumber to build your fence before you’ve figured out the height you want and the perimeter of your yard. Switching your thinking changes the question from ‘how am I going to provide for my needs’ to ‘what needs do I need to provide for and how can I meet them’. I’m still trying to figure what my needs are or could be but a week at Harvest Moon reminded me that yearly income doesn’t have to be earned over50 weeks a year at a 9-5 job and that work in something like a garden and kitchen can circumvent the need for some expenditures. Who doesn’t like homemade preserves?

I’ve got a few relatives who enthusiastically raise lifetime earning statistics to point out that I really should be starting my career as soon as possible. They’re measuring success by earnings; I’m not. And while I acknowledge that wealth affords opportunities, I’m inclined to view money as a means to an end rather than the end in itself. This perspective is the result of a certain amount of privilege. I didn’t need to work for a few months following university because I had friends and family who could put me up and enough money in the bank to move between them. And I’ve had the time to think about these things because I spent four years at an expensive post-secondary institution. Not to mention that as an articulate white male, the odds of me finding lucrative employment are good no matter where I look. Not everyone is this lucky and my thinking would probably be different if I had dependants and bills to pay. But I think that the question of lifestyle needs to come first in any case. It doesn’t matter how much you can afford to pay if you haven’t figured out what you want to buy. It doesn’t matter how you make a living if you don’t know how you want to live.

Jon Farmer

on cocoons of sameness

EDITORS NOTE: This blog post is the fifth in a series intended to celebrate Embracing Ambiguity reaching the 50 post milestone. Embracing Ambiguity received an email in response to a recent post, that asked a lot of great and challenging questions. In celebration of Embracing Ambiguity’s milestone, various authors will be responding to these questions over the next week. In general, the theme is (roughly) “making the decisions that will impact EVERYTHING” and “the narratives we tell ourselves about what we’re doing, why and how we feel about it.” It is left to each author to choose how closely they reference / stick to these (and other) prompts. We’re excited to see what they come up with. If you like what you read, share it on Facebook and Twitter and help #EmbAmb increase its reach. Happy reading.

Right now I’m sitting in a coffee shop window in Burlington, Vermont listening to beans grind and people chatter. Fall is here and I’m surrounded by people who look like me. Birkenstocks and socks. Plaid. Reusable shopping bags and to go mugs. It’s amazingly comforting to feel instantly at home in place I haven’t actually called “home” for the past six years. Here I have a sense of who I am and am surrounded by people who reflect that back to me, both aesthetically and because we’ve known each other since we were twelve. In this cocoon of sameness, my identity isn’t in question, it’s strengthened.

Almost three years ago I started an internship, my first job out of school, and vowed I would put my need to constantly future plan to rest in favour of living in the moment. When I started I knew that with such a short amount of time to work (four months!) I would feel the need to keep applying to jobs, to plan my next steps, to figure out every day what the “right” thing to work on next would be. I threw myself in to my internship, made amazing friends, and lived completely in that community. And so in a way, not making any future plans was a decision in itself and I, surprisingly, ended up being hired full time by the same organization. No searching, no planning, no big decisions necessary.  Instead of taking time to sift through what I dreamed for my future I accepted a job and from there followed the path to where I am today.

There are days, like today or when I read the big questions in the editor’s note, when I wonder if I made the right decision that summer. Since taking that job I haven’t really sat down to think about what I want to do and where I want to go next, and more recently it’s felt like I’m stuck in a pattern of survival. Instead of a more intentional approach to my career I’ve said yes to everything that comes my way first because it was easy, and then because I didn’t have a choice (unemployment does funny things to a person). What started off as a deep breath of  indecision has turned in to survival mode of no decisions and as a result I’ve gone a bit decision making gun shy. Though all of the infinite possibilities of the world seem so shiny and bright and nice it is terrifying to think of everything changing, or worse, deciding wrong.

So now I sit here, feeling all warm and fuzzy for fall foliage, and wonder who I’ve become and what exactly I’ve done if I’ve not made many intentional choices over the past few years. Who am I if I stumble around from job to job, thing to thing, without really taking a moment to pause? Is this the person I want to be? And if so, what decisions am I going to start making to intentionally maintain that? But if not, who? what? how?

I am confused. I am unsettled. I am learning. I am resilient. But most of all, I am scared.

It has taken months to realize this. It’s taken months to realize that I need the space and time to regroup. To articulate, however vaguely, the person I’m trying to be. To feel stable and map out my hopes and dreams and ambition. That’s the key though — the space to tap back in to that ambition. AC Newman sings, “I don’t mean to weigh things down / with fortune telling, let’s just see / when it all comes true, we’ll see” in the song “Not Talking” and I’ve had it on repeat trying to divine what I should do next. While the strokes of his guitar the trumpet notes sound so sure, his lyrics mirror the question marks I’ve been so deftly swatting aside the past few years. It’s nice to think that maybe this all doesn’t matter, that the decisions we make are not as earth shattering as we give them credit for. It would be nice to just wait and see.

I’m not that person though. I’m a planner and an organizer and a mover and I have been holding back on those things now for far too long. I imagined, briefly, of cancelling my flight back to Toronto and fully embracing the comfort of my Vermont identity cocoon. What a bold and beautiful decision that would be! But just as indecision has me feeling lost and confused, I think running away from that confusion without a map would do much the same. And so I sit here and stew, thinking about what regrouping will be. As usual, I don’t have any answers. Though for a change, I’m going to take some time and decide what I intend to do next.

– Mica

on learning about, and from, failure

The other day I caught myself saying, “when I left my job” instead of “when I was laid off”. This week marks the one year anniversary of that event, and it’s remarkable how much my narrative about it has changed.

For a long time shame held me back from candidly talking about my unemployment; a shame born out of a fear that I had somehow failed. After all of those long hours, sleepless nights, heart and soul conversations about money and change and potential and better worlds, why was I let go? It must have been because I was too critical. I didn’t deliver. I wasn’t good enough. For a long time I waded through neck deep amounts of internalized failure shit, and I thought awful things about what it meant to be laid off (but really what it meant to be a person).

In January I started working on a conference about failure, in particular how to build a productive relationship with failure. I took on the social media role and spent near every day reading other people’s 140 character insights on what it meant to fail forward, scoured blogs for content, and tried to  sell people on why they should attend a day long event on failure. While I in no way planned for this to help me out of my internal failure funk, it did, because there is something powerful in surrounding yourself in the thing you want to avoid the most.

I found myself in the midst of a community of admitted failures who were brave enough to move beyond their emotional response to failure (shame, and all of the baggage that it brings) to pinpoint what went wrong, and how they were involved. A decisive resolve to own your failure helps to shed some of the negative hangers on of it – like assuming the whole thing is your fault, or taking it personally when it’s not intended to be.

At the same time a coworker noted how few things seemed to ruffle my feathers and I joked that being laid off helped me find my zen place, but really I had begun to differentiate between small f and big F failure, or as I think of them, oops and oh shit moments. An oops is forgetting a sign at the office on your way to an event, or not putting the toilet seat down in the communal bathroom. They are mistakes that maybe it would be best not make again. An oh shit is sending out an e-mail from your boss’ personal account to the VIP mailing list without clearing it with her first. Here there’s an opportunity for a revised external communications process, with room for a certain someone (me) to ask better clarifying questions about work tasks. My zen developed from being able to shrug off the oops’, and try to learn from the oh shits (though at the time, nothing else hurt more than the layoff, so to some extent I was still shrugging off the oh shits).

Two weeks ago we hosted the failure conference and I was blown away by how excited the participants were to talk about failure. Personal, professional, it didn’t matter – they dove in to conversations about failure like they had found an oasis in the desert. They wanted to take on the challenge of learning both about and from failure. They wanted to move forward, fully recognizing what had gone wrong, with the intention to do it differently the next time. They inspired me.

One year out from my layoff and I’ve had 5 contracts, planned, or helped to plan, 14 events for 20 to 700 people, but the failure conference has by far been the most rewarding. Today if you were to ask me about failure I would proudly share all the things I’ve learned from that work. Today I say “when I left” because it doesn’t matter now that I was laid off. That’s not what defines who I am, or the work I do. Losing that job remains one of the more painful things that has happened to me, but like any other failure (either mine or someone else’s) what matters most is how I learn from it.

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On Water, Soil, and Sun

When I was born my parents planted a tree in our front yard. They don’t live at that house anymore, though on occasion I walk by it to wallow in nostalgia and to see how my leafy counterpart is doing.

A little while ago my Mum stayed with me, and my housemates, for a week. She’s in her fifties and doing a master’s degree. Each spring her program offers an intensive, week long in person course and as her school is just a few blocks from my house it’s a convenient, and rare, opportunity for us to spend time together, to share in each other’s lives in an intimate way

I moved out of my parent’s house when I was eighteen to a different country for school. Since then I’ve spent one summer with them, but otherwise our close relationship is sustained by a few phone calls each week, holidays, and one-off weekends either here in Toronto or at their home.

You could say I’ve spent my formative years with them, but I’d argue that my “growing up”, my most painful and most important learning, has happened without them. Which makes week long living situations particularly interesting, because the versions of ourselves we think we know today, right now, in this moment, aren’t necessarily the ones others hold on to.

I’ve recently started a garden. It’s the first one that’s all mine (there were a few years as kids I think we “shared” a garden with Dad) and it is unbelievably satisfying. My tomatos are well on their way to yielding what I hope is endless jars of sauce, the lavender I planted from a shop around the corner is so aromatic you can smell it from across the room, and my bean plants look so much like the picture perfect bean plant I wish there was a fair I could enter them in.

The satisfaction though comes from tracking their growth – they follow a pretty straightforward pattern, and with some research, a just as straightforward plan for care. There are enough variables to keep things interesting (motherfucking raccoons), but at least I know the kind of growth that’s going to happen. Water, soil, sun and one day in a few weeks a tiny little bean, or the beginning of a tomato.

People are less predictable (surprise!). If you had mentioned to my Mum ten years ago that she might think of doing a master’s she would have laughed before you could finish your thought. If you said that being laid off from my first job would shatter my innate sense of confidence, I would have stared at you in confident disbelief. We’ve come a very long way from who we were yesterday, and the day before, and the year before that.

Spending a week with my Mum reminded me of this. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking of her in a very specific way – as the her I knew when I was nine, or eighteen, and not taking the time to see her as she is now. We are different people and that’s made clear when looking at career trajectories or even our gardening habits (she grows flowers, and I veg). With so many shared moments between us, I couldn’t pinpoint the most important transitions in her life or even map what I think her career trajectory has been. It’s the little things in between our Christmases and week of visiting that may have had the most impact. It’s that time that boy said no, or that sweaty drunken dance party to old eighties anthems. But she doesn’t know those things, and I don’t know those things, and instead what we have is just who we are.

Maybe what’s most surprising to me is that personal growth doesn’t stop. Maybe we only notice it in fits and starts. Maybe we don’t know we’ve grown until years and years have passed and we look in the mirror one day and see someone else, someone new, looking back. Maybe we turn fifty, go back to school, spend a week with our adult daughter and get to grow with her by learning new ways to relate to one another. Maybe it’s all of this and nothing at all.

A lot has happened since my parents planted that tree twenty-four years ago, and I imagine in another twenty-four years I’ll have just as inconclusive reflections on change and growth. While my plants are growing, and my Mum is studying, and I am figuring out what I’m doing right (and wrong), I will forever wish there was a clearer plan.

Then again, maybe the answer for people, as for plants, is just some water, soil, and sun. Summer is here in Toronto and we’re all likely to grow as it turns to fall. It’s surprising how much can happen when it’s happening.

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On The Love That Does Justice

Surprisingly, this is not a post about sadness.

I read a a blog post a while ago about the versions of our selves we present to the world, and near the end of the post the author says, “What endures is a resistance to, and fascination with, the notion of the authentic self. Like most people, I don’t know what the authentic self could possibly be; authentic compared to what?”

Shortly thereafter the latest Sun Kil Moon album, Benji, was released. It’s full of love – the artists Mom is described as his best friend, former lovers are thanked, and one track is just called “I Love My Dad”. As I listened to it couldn’t help but look at the strangers around me a with a new light of appreciation.

On Valentine’s Day I came home from work and found a package in my mailbox addressed to me, but with no return address. When I opened it, origami paper hearts spilled out along with a mix CD and a note that read “Hope you’re feeling better friend.” I opened it and felt loved.

These events, while relatively unrelated, remind me of a speech Michael Edwards gave on “the love that does justice” where he says,

“Great inner strength is required to confront the structures of power in the world unselfishly, without demonizing one’s enemies, alienating potential allies, or holding on too tightly to a particular vision of ends and means that can eventually become a prison. In the “love that does justice”, remember, personal and structural change are self- reinforcing. Only by operating from the space where we are joined together in some deep sense are we likely to find true common ground in facing up to the collective problems that confront us.”

So what is at stake, should we strive to live the love that does justice? The more we continue to discount others over quibbles about their approach, their method, their leadership, the more we exclude people from joining us in action toward a better world. The more we develop and use language specific to our understanding of social justice, and use knowledge of that language as a prerequisite for joining the movement, the more language is a tool of repression. The more we other the members of our broader social justice community, the more we stray from our values and reinforce the system we struggle against.

The events above are random, subjective, experiences but I think they note something important to remember: love, in small and unassuming ways, surrounds us. This is certainly easy to lose sight of in the face of Facebook flame wars, Twitter hashtag offences, and seemingly daunting organizational culture. Those struggles are real, and hurtful, and take a kind of energy that I’m not sure our emotional reserves are built for.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m quick to judge, and hate, and disagree. The little critical voice in my head carries around a bullhorn, and if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of my sense of “humour” you’re well aware commentary from said bullhorn does not come from place of love. It would be so easy to write that off as academic social justice conditioning – that somehow school and being involved in the movements that I have been or currently am have moulded me in to a hyper-critical unloving asshole.

The reality is that I take this practice of critical thinking and, instead of applying it to things I have control over (my self, my work, my way of being), I use it against others and demand of them a perfection to a standard I’m not sure I can even ascribe to. If I were truly being critical I would examine why I demand something of others that I’m not willing to do myself. However, here lies an opportunity  to slowly transform a critical pursuit of justice from one that attacks, to one that leads with love. We have a responsibility to show one another love because, really, we are fragile beings, and I rather be the kind of fragile that creates and perpetuates good will toward others than the kind of fragile that shatters under the pressure of trying to be all of the critical.

In small, beautiful ways I think Frederik, Mark, and Mystery Friend have created, and are continuing to create, the kind of love Edwards is talking about. Their self-awareness but consideration for others allow for true connection to their ideas, or to their presented authentic selves. These are powerful tools for change, as connection can lead to understanding, and understanding to collective action.

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On Toast

I was at a diner with my Dad a few weeks ago, and in ordering breakfast, he requested that his toast be burnt. The owner paused for a moment, but nodded, and went back to the kitchen. When our breakfasts arrived, sure enough, the toast was well done.

My Dad is so specific about his toast that this year he bought a new toaster, in the hopes of achieving toasting perfection. He knows the difference between dry toast, burnt toast, crunchy toast, and any other modifier you can think of. I have never thought this much about toast in my life, nor used the word so much in a sentence.

I grew up thinking my Dad liked burnt things — when he would accidentally burn a batch of cookies, or leave a hamburger on the grill for too long, he would laugh it off and eat it anyway. He ate his mistakes, moved on, and somewhere in the process developed a very specific attitude toward toast.

This year has been my year of burnt toast. I had something of a high school reunion at a funeral. A family member I cherished, respected, and rooted a piece of my personal story in, passed away after a long and beautiful life. I spent half the year unhappy beyond belief in a job that asked me to be something I was not, and I wasn’t even able to admit how unhappy I was. I was then laid off from said job, and spent the other half of the year unemployed and staring down a black hole of personal crisis (not that you would have guessed that, my posts on here are nothing but sunshine and rainbows).

I messed up a lot. I neglected relationships, and ran broken hearted from others. I wallowed, selfishly, in circumstance. I forgot what was most important to me, and let that confusion build a barrier between myself and others. I wasn’t honest with myself, and let friends and family down numerous times. I didn’t show up this year.

This is my burnt toast, my blackened cookies, my charred burger. Hindsight lets me see that while this year was bad, I also wasn’t at my best, and that is something to learn from.

Chatting with Dad the other night, he said “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”, almost as if in passing. Never has Kelly Clarkson (she said it first, right?) been so right and has it been so clear why he prefers darker toast than most. In learning how to feed a family, switch careers, move countries, and raise children he might have ruined his fair share of food, but he also figured out exactly how he likes his toast (among other things).

I’m not making any resolutions this year. Instead, I recognize what the past year has helped me reap, and I’m going to ensure that stays constant. Never before have I been so sure of my close friendships, and I’m slowly circling in on how to prioritize those people over all other things. I get to practice that at one of my oldest and dearest friends wedding this year, and hold it as a beacon of hope and goodness in the months to come. My career is moving in a surprising, but wonderful, direction and I’m excited to build it upward and onward. More than anything though, I’m working hard. I know that I’m going to burn a lot of food, I’m going to eat it, and while I might not like it, I’m just going to keep toasting.

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On Teeter-Totters

Since being let go I’ve started volunteering at a breakfast program for community members in need and taken up singing in a choir. In doing so, I’m trying to balance The Struggle, and I teeter-totter between knowing if I’m living up to my potential or not.

E.B. White says, “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” I sing because I need to do something that makes me happy, but to really feel like I’m contributing to the world I awkwardly hand out bananas at a drop-in breakfast. Maybe an oversimplification, but its the most recent in a string of examples of what a challenge navigating this tension between so-called “improving” the world and “enjoying” is.

When I was working, and working at something I thought was more aligned with improving the world, I told myself that it was just as important to enjoy the day to day. In this framing, working justified enjoying, and I would never give up working, but I certainly could (and did) give up enjoying.

Maybe the time I have now is meant for me to dedicate my more creative side — Cook and bake to my hearts content; Write and blog and tweet with intentionality; Paint and create to shame the best of pinterest boards; Read all of the things. I have so called free time, and I am lucky enough to live in a city with thriving arts communities, so why not dedicate it to artistic pleasures?

And yet I can’t but help to feel guilty when I do nothing with my day other than read interesting articles and make homemade chicken pot pie. Working is fulfilling and busy, and because its something of a necessity (EI only lasts for so long) it addresses White’s described tension for me – you must strive to improve the world, that struggle is most important, and then sometimes there are things to enjoy.

Of course balance would be the ideal, where I would do something I love and live a life where I can push for change and feel just as good about that as singing in a choir. I want it all – I want to embrace this tension in the fullest and then clasp my hands in triumph when I can stand in the middle of the teeter-totter without falling. Aren’t we all working toward that moment? Is it so hard to do?

I don’t know how I’m going to get there, though I have a feeling this is a life long pursuit and my first step might be in getting off my couch, and back on that teeter-totter.

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on being left behind

I have a really awkwardly located bike burn from a combination of wet shorts and a hard seat. I eat a lot of pulled pork burritos (no spice, no dairy). I read and reblog articles about gender issues in pop culture on tumblr. You can no longer count the number of freckles on my elbows as a result of afternoons in parks. I find it easier to talk to people who are close enough to touch, and I’ve been using more “I feel” statements… much to my own embarrassment.

You’ll notice that none of this has to do with social justice.

My life was previously a whirlwind of planning, organizing, and coordinating people for money, all for the purpose of eradicating poverty (because you know, “SMART” goals) and today it exists in very singular specific details with no SMART intention in the least.

I was let go just over a month ago. For a while there I could tell you the number of days it had been, but time is much more fluid now and the sharpness of hurt and anger have softened to more of a dull ache. These are potentially indicators that I’m moving on, however the reality is that it is the others, previously my colleagues, who work in social justice who have moved on. Their work hasn’t stopped, their purpose remains the same, and their lives remain stable with income and community.

As I get more and more wrapped up in the minutiae of my every day, I’ve lost touch with the forward motion that is being a part of a social justice organization. I’m not “in it” right now, and with my termination comes the feeling that part of my identity has been stripped from me. Who would have known that this was something to keep up with? That you have to actively work to be a part of this movement each and every day or else you lose touch, and you get left behind?

It’s strange to think of joining a new community of equally as passionate planners, organizers, and coordinators. Strange to think that I have to seek that out, and discover for myself a new way of being “in it”. I question now if its worth running to catch up, or taking some time to enjoy a much slower pace. I don’t know what is going to make me happy, but I do know that there is happiness for me in the details of the day to day. There are worse things to do than apply lotion, eat burritos, read articles, sit in the sun, and talk about my feelings (though I’m still hesitant on that last one) and soon enough there will be even better things to do.

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