Tag Archives: black holes

On Becoming An Adult

April 1st was a bit of a milestone for me, though it likely wasn’t obvious to anyone. I woke up, showered, skipped breakfast and hopped on my bike for the incredibly short ride to work. The elevators don’t become fully operational until 9am, but work starts at 8:30 so I need to exit out the rear elevator doors and swing around to enter the Centre for Social Innovation lounge and greet my team for the day. Outwardly, it will be like every other day I’ve had for the past three months here, but something will be different.

On April 1st, at age 26, I qualify as an adult for the first time.

This of course is based on highly scientific criteria that I created in my mind years ago as to what makes an adult.

  • You own alcohol you do not drink. (Bonus points if you have some sort of hutch where you keep it).
  • You have a dental plan.

I’ve fostered this theory for years, waiting to finally shout my achievement from the rooftops and as I left the unopened bottle of red wine and assortment of random liquor sitting on my counter and headed to work on the fateful Wednesday, I had made it. I started my first consistent full-time job in January and my dental plan kicks in after three months, unknowingly anointing me as a fully- fledged adult. But to be honest, for those of you who haven’t hit this stage in your life yet, it doesn’t feel that different.

Is it handy to have something on hand to offer an unexpected guest upon their arrival? Of course. Is it great to know that if half of my teeth fall out of my mouth I’ll only have to personally cover some of the expenses? Yes, definitely. But despite the years of thought, discussion and refinement that has gone into this anointment, it will pass with little fan fair, for one main reason.

  • It’s bullshit.

As a child, we have all of these perceptions of adulthood and what it consists of. We see these ‘grown-ups’ doing grown-up things and build our perception around the things we see them doing. Adults have fulltime jobs. Adults do their taxes. Adulthood becomes about doing things and therefore we come into our formative years with the belief that once we do these things we’ll feel this magical transition and suddenly it will be upon us.

But then it doesn’t happen and you start hear voices rise up stating that their biggest surprise was that no one knows what they are doing. You begin to see the world as the patchwork of people just like you, and it’s incredibly frightening. You realize that what makes an adult has nothing to do with what the person is doing but rather why they are doing it.

Adulthood is nothing more, and nothing less than reacting to responsibility. I’ve spent the last three years trying to find my way after graduating university, slowly building myself into some semblance of what I thought I saw as a child when I looked up. And I’ve made progress. But the secret that‘s only a secret because it never really soaks in is that even if you have dental, and alcohol you don’t drink, you’re still able to be fucking terrified in the face of something you don’t feel prepared for. Which is a problem, because life is going to keep giving you the responsibility to do these things and the only way to be prepared for something is to do it.

In an adult life you’re scared again and again and slowly, if you’re lucky, you learn to feel this fear, listen to its concerns and carry on. Knowing at the very least, that if life punches you in the teeth, you’re an adult.

Which means you have dental.

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The Summary Post – New Years

Over the last month, eight of Embracing Ambiguity’s authors took the time to reflect on the past year in each of their lives. 2014 seemed to offer hills and valleys for each writer – from transitions and changes in the physical spaces they lived in, to the internal turmoil of life changing decisions. Throughout the month, each author reflected on the question of “Where were you one year prior?”

The resulting blog posts are filled with a variety of emotions, but all take an honest and challenging look at the 365 days that made up 2014. In case you missed any of the posts, we’ve compiled them all here.

Happy reading!


ON MILESTONES | Author: Jon Farmer

“2014 was a year of transition and learning, and looking back, some of the best parts of the year were things that I couldn’t have predicted on January 1st. That realization calms me down and gives me hope. A year ago I didn’t know how many friends I would make, places I would travel, or things I would learn. I had no idea how the projects I was working on would turn out or how much fun graduating would be. I didn’t know my sister would get engaged or that we would spend Thanksgiving together in her home in Alberta. I had no idea that I would work beside a glacial lake in the shadow of Rocky Mountains or that I would find a new sense of calm somewhere in the 3 months of travel that followed. I entered 2014 with things to do but some of my greatest growth appeared in the unplanned spaces.”

Read more here.

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ON SAYING YES | Author: Stefan Hostetter

“If anything, what changed was how I saw myself and how I understood the nature of work. In 2014, I began to see employment not only as something you can go out and find, but also as something you can build given the right opportunities. I spent the year saying yes to nearly every request made of me, rarely knowing if it would end with me being paid for anything. Often it results in a bunch of work and not much else, leading to a friend stating that ‘Stefan works for free’. But in the end, it proved to be a surprisingly effective tactic if your goal was to only get by…Saying yes to work showed me that I could create value in this world and gave me the opportunity to prove it to others.”

Read more here.

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ON BLANK CANVASES | Author: Jeff Ku

“From entering 2014, furiously wiping clean of what remained from the year before, I had produced a blank canvas, and I had started putting pencil to paper; sketching and outlining what I wanted to start seeing my life to look like.  The image isn’t totally clear yet, but there are shapes taking form.  It is just a matter of adding colour and seeing if looks right.  Let’s be honest, I’ll probably have to paint over some parts, and redraw lines and maybe even change up the medium.  But it’s a start, and that blank space doesn’t seem as daunting as it once did.”

Read more here.

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ON SAYING SO LONG | Author: Maya Fromstein

“2014 was a hard year. It brought many of my demons to the surface, despite my best efforts to have kept them hidden for the past 13 years. I learned, and am still learning, to differentiate between myself and these demons. To call them out when they act up, and to distance the blame, shame, and guilt that they bring with them…The struggle, tears, and relief all tangled together in one terrifying and new and strange and comforting bundle. I learned that vulnerability is distinct from weakness. That self care is different from selfishness. That depression is not only sadness, and anxiety not only stress. I learned that I am worth fighting for.”

Read more here.

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ON WAITING | Author: Molly Grove

” I am waiting for some big change that will alter my not only my day to day life but also my future…Not idle waiting, though I do watch more than my fair share of Netflix. Not inaction. It is a lack of control over outcomes. It is doing all that you can and putting that out to the universe and waiting to see what returns to you. You can do the best you can to bring things into your life, but in most cases, we cannot control what is coming for us, and that is scary. So you do everything you can, and then you wait.”

Read more here.

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ON A HEART BROKEN WIDE OPEN | Author: Mica McCurdey

“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.”

Read more here.

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ON THE ROAD TO EL DORADO | Author: Tyler Blacquiere

“For the last few years I’ve raced along the Road to El Dorado and after this mythical concept ofadulthood; something I naively assumed I’d see glimmering in the distance, a golden city on the horizon line, once I had figured it out, once I knew what I was doing. But I think the most adult thing I’ve been able to do these last few years, specifically, in the darkness of these last few months, is admit and accept that I have no fucking clue. Accept that my El Dorado is filled with fool’s gold.”

Read more here.

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ON MY 4-STEP PROGRAM TO FINDING MYSELF | Author: Michelle Reeves

“But that newfound solitude lead to more introspection than I had ever experienced. I feel like I know myself much better than I did last year and I am more confident in my independence now. In that sense, the Year of Michelle successfully reached its initial objective. My personal growth curve has been getting steeper and steeper every year and I hope that trend keeps up for a long time.”

Read more here.

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on the road to el dorado

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is the 7th 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! 


I have started and restarted this blog post countless times now. The thoughts and sentences and paragraphs – ones that usually come with relative ease – have either felt stilted, incomplete or insincere.

Part of this is, I’m sure, due to the very nature of this series of posts. How, exactly, does one choose the 1000 or so words that encapsulate an entire years’ worth of lessons, hardships, learnings and experiences?

A much bigger part of my difficulty, however, has come from the intrusive and overwhelming pressure of these last few months.

Since leaving my job at the end of September life has been…tumultuous. October passed by in a flurry of brush strokes, as I frantically prepared for an art show I’d host at Sadie’s Diner at the end of that month. “I’ll take this month to really pursue my art, and then I’ll get to serious job searching next month,” I told myself.

And to give some credit, I did start November with a flurry of job activity. Cover letters and tailored resumes filled my days, but ultimately, so did a lot of rejection emails. As the weeks wore on it became harder and harder to stay motivated and energized, and eventually, to even pull myself out of bed before 1pm.

Crippling anxiety and frustration began to take over, and I ceased doing much of anything at all, save for rock climbing…and playing Batman Arkham Asylum.

So the last few months have been hard, and in the context of my year, it’s even harder to look past them. They feel a bit like a black hole, sucking in any shreds of light from the previous eight months, and masking much of the year in a shroud of crushing blackness.

But as I sit on the second floor of a local pub, beer in hand, Florence and the Machine’s “Shake it Out” begins to pound in my ears, and as I sit listening to the chorus, I notice that it is an eerily appropriate anthem for this moment in time:

And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back

So shake him off, oh whoa

The song is actually written about being hung over, says lead singer Florence Welch, but swap out “a devil” with my black hole, and the message is fitting.

This past week I’ve been trying to re-establish some sense of routine. Wake up early, go for a run/work out, eat breakfast and make coffee. On Monday I woke up at 1pm and went for a run at 3pm. But I did make coffee. “Breakfast” may have been a scoop of protein powder in milk, but it was something. On Tuesday, I was out the door and pounding the pavement by 12:30pm. Baby steps.

I am on my way to feeling better, but I’m simultaneously realizing that if I’m really going to move past this most recent period of my life, I’m going to need to shake it off…

Oh whoa.

At first, I attempted to do this by starting from the beginning of 2014 and listing out all of the things I was proud of having accomplished:

  • I started my first full-time, real-person job
  • I created and regularized a number of communications processes at my workplace
  • The Embracing Ambiguity blog had it’s 1 year anniversary
  • I lead a storytelling workshop at an Oxfam Canada conference
  • I took up rock climbing
  • I set up a photo website, and put on an art show
  • I started running again, recreationally

At first, this seemed like an ok way of going about this whole process. But as I looked at my list, and as I thought about it more and more, I started to think back to a book that I had been reading, called The Rock Warrior’s Way, by Arno Ilgner. The book is about climbing, but its applicability goes far beyond.

In one of the early chapters, Ilgner talks about how we’ve been raised in a cultural system where worth and value are determined by achievement, and where the toxic idea that “accomplishments somehow make us more valuable,” is commonplace. In this setup, it also means that our sense of self-worth is removed from the self, and placed in the hands of the external factors and people that judge, measure and celebrate our accomplishments.

Ilgner goes on to say that:

“Looked at objectively, your self-worth is essentially static: you are worth the same as anyone else. No more, and no less. You may be glad to have accomplished [x, y, z]…but they have not increased your worth as a person.”

So looking at my year in this way seemed off. This lens also took those moments I had laid out, and placed them in opposition to those that were less shiny, only further defining and highlighting my black hole as a giant, all-consuming failure.

Now, failure is fine. It’s a very human thing, and everyone experiences it. But, in my previous model of thinking, I wasn’t gaining anything from the recognition of failure. It was success and failure. Good and bad. Static descriptors, and nothing more.

#RookieMistake

So with all this in mind, I took another stab at my list. This time, however, I applied a different lens – as suggested by Ilgner – one of learning, and growth:

  • I learned how to navigate working on a team as a full-time staff member, in a small but ambitious organization
  • I learned how to balance different working styles and preferences in an office environment
  • I learned more about communications in the non-profit sector than I ever thought possible
  • I simultaneously learned that, maybe, communications in the non-profit sector wasn’t for me
  • I learned that I love presenting in front of people, despite what my shy, 10-19 year old self might say
  • I learned that rock climbing is the shit, and that it is incredibly beneficial for my mental and physical well-being
  • I learned that when I trust myself, pretty great things can happen. Like art show’s at Sadie’s Diner
  • And, from my black hole, I learned that I’m not yet at the place where I can be making decisions about who I am and what I’m doing and where I’m going

When I started my full-time job in January 2014, I thought that “this was it”; the thing I’d worried about all 4th year of University, and then fervently pursued in the year and a half following, had finally been “got”. I had won young adulthood.

It took but a few months for me to learn that maybe, I wasn’t actually where I wanted to be.

As I explored my art in the fall, I learned that I love too many things, and care about too many more, to make a decision about THE THING that I want to do.

For the last few years I’ve raced along the Road to El Dorado and after this mythical concept of adulthood; something I naively assumed I’d see glimmering in the distance, a golden city on the horizon line, once I had figured it out, once I knew what I was doing.

But I think the most adult thing I’ve been able to do these last few years, specifically, in the darkness of these last few months, is admit and accept that I have no fucking clue. Accept that my El Dorado is filled with fool’s gold.

So here’s to 2015. Here’s to not knowing but not caring. Here’s to stumbling along and to trying new things and to keeping an open mind. Fuck figuring it out, that shit is so 2013.

Cause I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t

So here’s to drinks in the dark at the end of my road

And I’m ready to suffer and I’m ready to hope

It’s a shot in the dark aimed right at my throat

Cause looking for heaven found the devil in me

Looking for heaven found the devil in me

Well what the hell I’m gonna let it happen to me

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on black holes and “success”

If you were to look at my resume, and look at my trajectory from high school through university to now, I did it “right”. I did what everyone tells you to do about school to get a job.

I volunteered. A lot. I did a degree that was equal parts job applicable and artsy. I had summer jobs that were fun, terrible, and sector relevant. I got an internship at an NGO when I graduated, and three months in got offered a full time job.

The thing about university is that its a huge fucking black hole. You have no idea where you are, or who you are, or whats going on. Some days it might be all blue skies and answers (hooray for A’s on papers!), and then next you’re wallowing in a bottle of wine wondering if development should even be allowed. But the great secret to university is that this, the black hole, is expected.

I remember the first time I was told that we, as political science students, must “speak truth to power” and how that blew my mind. I remember a lecture given by a woman who was part of a polyamorous group and how it completely opened my eyes to a world I didn’t know existed. I remember hearing Jane Doe speak and asking why men weren’t told not to rape, instead of telling women not to walk alone at night, and how that both enraged and empowered me. These were moments of pure learning – I was hearing things for the first time that changed how I viewed and interacted with my world and despite that world being confusing and frustrating, I kept being told that it was expected.

I left university thinking that I knew a lot, and because I was following the pre-determined success plot line so carefully, I felt confident in my ability to join the workforce as a “real person”. Finding the internship I did was mainly luck. I interviewed well, but had friends working at the organization who could vouch for me being competent. Getting offered a full time job was the result of working 60+ hours a week for 3 months, and a need to fill a couple of roles fairly quickly.

When I started as full time staff in September I was so excited to have found something that aligned with my values, something that challenged me, and all in an environment that was supportive and community oriented. All of this continues to be true, and wonderful, and what makes coming to work every day so beautiful.

However, it turns out working for an NGO is a fucking black hole too, but no one talks about it. That narrative that leads to success? It stops at “got a job!”, and then starts up again with “get a boyfriend, get engaged, have babies!” etc, (which is a conversation for another time). I didn’t do all of the learning I needed in university, and was blindsided by the every day challenges of being a “real person” with a job.

I have no idea how to resolve conflict with a coworker. I don’t know how to balance paying a huge student loan, with rent, with a work lifestyle that dictates I eat out 5 nights a week. I don’t know what I’m even suppose to know to do my job well. A lot of this has to do with my own naiveté, and believe me I ask myself everyday how I could have been so silly.

OF COURSE IT DOESN’T GET EASIER. It just continues to be hard, but in a different way.

So to cope, I’ve started redefining my own success. Last night I had a PB&J with barbeque chips for dinner and watched the first episode of Glee. I felt like I was 8 and it was awesome. I’ve started buying books to teach myself the things I think I need to know – the most recent one of which is on “emotional intelligence” (who knew that was a thing?!). I make playlists by month to chronicle my emotions through song.

And now, I write blog posts about having no fucking clue what I’m doing with my life, and I’m being ok with it.

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