Tag Archives: Friends

On uncertainty

1 year ago I was a Community Animator at Engineers Without Borders Canada.

9 months ago I did a brief stint as an artist, and put on an art show in Toronto.

7 months ago I was unemployed, and not doing so well.

5 months ago I was managing a baseball website.

3 months ago I was volunteering at the Centre for Social Innovation.

1 month ago, I was a Squire at Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament.

Now, I’m living in St John’s, NL. And tomorrow, I’ll start my new job as the Communications Coordinator with the Food Security Network of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In many ways, I have spent the last year of my life learning to sit comfortable with uncertainty. For as long as I can remember, I have grappled with the idea of figuring it all out. Daily was the refrain of questions: What am I doing? Where am I going? Who will I be? What is my purpose? For a while, at EWB, I thought I had the answers to those questions. I thought that I had found my place.

But as that happiness and satisfaction dripped away, restlessness and discontent bubbled up, and I knew I needed a change.

I didn’t know what that change was, and the prospect of starting over (after having finally achieved the seemingly impossible dream of a full time role with benefits) was somewhat terrifying. But I left, because I was learning to sit comfortably in my uncertainty.

When I walked into the now defunct Sadie’s Diner, to ask about putting some art up, I can’t say that I really expected it to go anywhere. I certainly never expected that a mere three weeks later, I’d be standing amidst a crowd of friends and strangers, as my exhibit had its opening night. 6 paintings, 6 canvas prints and 12 framed photos adorning the walls. Three weeks prior, I could think of a million reasons to not go through with it – the cost, and the fear of failure, chief among them – but against my better judgements, I went ahead. I was learning to sit comfortably in my uncertainty.

When I agreed to manage the baseball website, when I agreed to volunteer with CSI, and when I accepted the job at Medieval Times, I had no idea where any of it was leading. I had no real long term objective, and no five step plan for using the opportunity in the moment to get to some position in the future (as appealing as one day becoming King was). But in all of these instances, I rolled with life as it came. I was learning to sit comfortably in my uncertainty.

There is a beauty in relinquishing control. In letting go of life’s reigns and seeing where you end up. Working as a squire was easily the biggest departure from whatever path I may have started out on when I enrolled in an Arts and Sciences program at the University of Toronto, but there was an enjoyment in accepting: horses and knights. This is my life now.

The move to St John’s has been in the back of my mind since 2011, and so came somewhat easier. Still, though, packing up your life and moving to a new place on the Eastern-most edge of the country brings with it its share of challenges. I’ve never been one to feel particularly attached to the things of where I’ve lived – the food, the attractions, or the amenities. But from my partner, to my friends, my family, and my climbing community, there were a whole host of people that I knew I would miss dearly.

Since arriving here, I’ve been working consciously on the uncertainty, but also on the idea of expectations. It feels easy to fall prey to the trap of placing unrealistic and unfair pressures on this move, on its outcomes, and on this new life on the East coast. With all that I left in Toronto, it’s easy to give into the feeling that I need to justify it. That I need some measure of success or happiness or accomplishment in order to make it worth it.

And certainly, I want to do more with my art and I want to find my stride in work and I want to climb outside and hike and maybe do a podcast, but moving here was never going to be the solution to all of these desires.

The truth is, there will be (and have been) days where I wake up and feel like shit. Days where I don’t do or accomplish anything. But that’s allowed. There would have also been those days in Toronto. Having move out here doesn’t suddenly make their existence any less acceptable. It sounds simple, but it can be easy to forget when expectation can roll in as quickly as the fog off the ocean.

So I’m trying to remember that:

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And now tomorrow, I start this new job, and it’s exciting. As I was preparing for the interview, it felt good to dive into research and reports and resources. I felt my brain activating in areas that have felt dormant since leaving EWB last Fall. I also feel nervous. Nervous to step back into a full time role. Nervous to step back into the non-profit world. Into the comms world. I’m still working on sitting comfortably in this particular uncertainty.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Unitl next time.

Ambiguously yours,

Tyler

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On people

EDITORS NOTE: This blog post is the third in a series, intended to celebrate Embracing Ambiguity reaching the 50 post milestone. If you haven’t already, you should definitely scroll down to see the first post by Jeff. Embracing Ambiguity recently received an email response to a 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 original 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 it’s reach. Happy reading.

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This story takes place in many places.

It takes place on the streets of Brooklyn, as I am sprinting down a sidewalk I’d never before been. It takes place in a back alley, as I frantically try to clean. It takes place on the bar stool, as disco lights and billiard balls flash behind me. It takes place on the perfect blue chair, as I sit, listening to a story.

It takes place on the third floor of my office building, as I sip wine to a slow realization.

But due to the usefulness of following some form of chronological order I shall start with the chair.

I’m at home, a few weeks out. I swivel slowly on a chair left here by my sister. It’s blue, feels a little like corduroy, and is possibly the most comfortable thing you’ll ever sit on. I’m listening to a few friends tell stories we had written, and I am suddenly hit with a feeling that I can’t quite place.

I’m on the third floor of the building, in meeting room three. It’s still a mess, shirts scattered, paper still stuck to the desks, large now empty cardboard boxes sit to the side of the room. My plan was always to do this, and really, it was for the most part working. But I hadn’t truly anticipated the scope, and there were holes. I’d already patched a few thanks to the help of enterprising participants watching the doors and guiding people, but the biggest was out on the cement of the back alley. I trapped someone in the room with the promise I’d return and near sprinted to find that my anxiety was for nothing. They had done everything already, I could return to the mess. That night, as I sat sleeplessly staring out the bus window, I came back to the feeling I’d had on the chair.

I’m on the twelfth floor of a commercial complex in Koreatown, Manhattan. I sip my just larger than a shot glass of apple-sour soju. The laser based lighting system, and thumping pop music colour what would otherwise be a relatively expensive billiards club. I’m with four friends, three of whom I’ve been friends with for over six years and none of whom I’ve seen five times this year. But that doesn’t matter.

I’m on Felton Avenue, Brooklyn, demanding if my phone can see someone who’s running like a fucking maniac. Shortly before this moment, I had sworn at him. Shortly before that I had took off, away from the buses that had now become the ticking clock to something I just didn’t want to believe I would have to deal with. He could have been stubborn, he could have taken offense to my tone, but when he heard the panic in my voice when I told my phone that it needed to run, he ran. As we sit side by side in silence, the rain pattering against the bus windows, I think of how rare this relationship is.

I’m on an old zebra pattern chair in an office well above my pay grade. I pick the wine off the carpet to poor myself a second glass of the cheapest red the closest store sells. I’ve come here for practice after a day of working from home. I had arrived unsettled but as conversation flowed I sat back, and thought of advice a friend had once relayed to me: “Find the things in that make the world make sense”.

And I found myself, disagreeing.

For me at least, there was nothing I could do that would make the world make sense.

Rather, I had found the people that made the world make sense. If I had accomplished nothing else, I had done this, and I realized then and there, that I think this would be enough. I would never be making a choice that would impact everything. I could never have a failure too great. I could never be so wrong that I couldn’t be right again.

During the march, between the laser billiards and Brooklyn sprints, there were four men in costume and a sign.

“Butterflies against the end of the world”.

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on friendship

If I have been blessed with one thing in my short life thus far, it is the abundant presence of wonderful people. From my family of 10 (if they ask, I never said that…and yes, 10. 7 siblings and 2 parents) to a number of acquaintances, friends and surrogate family members. At times, these people have been the glue that has held my often haggard and confused 24 year old frame together. They have been my encouragement, my inspiration, my push toward new and exciting challenges.

I can say without question that I would not be half the person I am today without the presence of these people in my life (#nurturevsnature). Alongside them, I have found the courage and strength to go from a relatively silent, mullet rocking vested youngster to a semi competent adultish human, comfortable exploring the concept of leaving my mark on the world around me. It was through great friends that I got into videography. That I pursued art. That I found Oxfam, co-founded Canadians for CAMR, came to EWB. It was alongside friends that I organized protests, fundraisers, concerts, and more. Friends have been there for birthdays, shark movie nights (If Brooke Hogan isn’t the scientist in your shark movie, you’re doing it wrong), #justpalletthings, and all else in between.

When life has gotten overwhelming, I’ve been able to turn to friends for advice, and they’ve kindly been a sounding board for my (sometimes) irrational panic and anxiety. With the calm of an experienced sailor, they’ve been able to tie my head to the mast that is my scrawny frame, correcting course and setting me off in the right direction, wind at my sails.

I’ve been lucky enough to watch friends approach and ultimately cross that line between friendship and family. When your shared experiences and realities link you like individual brush strokes, coming together to paint a beautiful whole. When sitting together in silence is not feared but revered, and in that vacuum of sound an affirmation: we’ve something great here.

And yet. At the same time, I’ve watched the opposite. I’ve seen friends grow apart with age or distance. I’ve seen the Skype calls and email updates dwindle, fade in and out like shitty signal strength until relationship are, at most, the occasional Facebook like, and at least, a happy memory of something once great. Despite the (most often) unintentional nature of these drifts, I’ve felt the pangs of guilt that accompany them. The subconscious and constant nagging that “if only I’d done a little more” we’d still be the best of buds.

But in the hustle and bustle of day to day life (especially this life, this non-profit life EmbAmb centers around), in the rush of projects and the fear of looming deadlines, you slip. Skype dates get moved and emails remain in draft. Tomorrow becomes next week as next week does next month, and winter dissolves into summer like snow into rain. Friendships fade like an old Polaroid, the dim remainder of a once vibrant scene.

As is perhaps obvious, I have given this a lot of thought lately. It has caused me to fret and self-criticize, the familiar chorus of “if only I’d…” This is, in part, because two very good friends of mine are about to set off on a cross country adventure, from the busy streets of Toronto to the gorgeous cliffs of St John’s NL, which they will call home for the foreseeable future.

As I contemplate their imminent departure, I find myself met with a mixture of emotions. On the one hand, I’m incredibly happy for them. Really and truly, I am. Happy that they’re pursuing their desires, excited for this next stage of their lives, eager to see what magic they will bring to the Eastern shores of this giant place we all call home (Canada. The answer is Canada).

At the same time, however, I can’t help but also feel a mixture sadness and worry. Now, I know. In this modern age of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Skype, etc., ad nauseam, I know this isn’t “goodbye”. I know. And yet…

To say that these two have played an important part in my life these last few years would be a dramatic understatement. I can’t begin to calculate the number of times these two have – separately, and at times, in power couple tag team fashion – secured my spiraling emotions and helped me plant my feet firmly beneath me.

I was lucky enough to share a place of employment with them for some time, and in that time they helped me wade my way through the complicated muck that is early adulthood employment. Helped me navigate everything from the hectic environment of a small but growing charity, to a small but growing sense of self as I slowly but surely morphed into a real human adult person. Together, they have helped me discover confidence in places I didn’t know I had (metaphorically) and have helped me see the image behind the stereogram.

They have crossed that friend/family line, there alongside me during the struggles and joys of real life as much as work life, encouraging me in my interests, sharing in adventures and opening their hearts and homes. There was also the time I woke up incredibly drunk on their couch but, conveniently, I don’t remember most of that episode.

So in the context of all of this wonderful, why the worry? The easy option is that I just can’t help but worry about losing these wonderful parts of my life. Or, at least, having them shrink to a once a year visit, or to Facebook and Twitter updates. The harder option points to the irrationality of that fear. Says sure, there’ll be less backyard, or rooftop, or living room…or patio, sangria, or famjam dinners, but friends and fam they’ll remain.

I want to believe that the second of those options is the one that will ring true. And to be clear, I do. But…there’s that inch of worry that sees the “what if?” In grappling with this “what if”, I think I’ve come to a realization.

I spend so much time worrying about failing to keep up with people – or, regretting having failed to do so – that I’m unable to see how easy it would be to rectify. And, hopefully, how willing others would be to have it happen.

In the past week I’ve been thinking about the people I’ve more or less lost contact with. People in different part of the country and world who’ve gone from being integral parts of my life, to names and smiling faces I see on social media, reminders of the lives I’m no longer part of.

And yet, I know – at least, I hope – that if, for instance, I’m ever in Calgary, I could call up a certain former Oxfam Co-President and we could hang out like nothing had changed. Like we were still in the heyday rush of planning a Hunger Banquet, hanging back after club meetings to pound our chests like gorillas (but actually), ranting to one another to let go of stresses and anxieties.

In the same way, I know that I’ll always have a home in St John’s. I’ll always be able to make a call out East and find two attentive ears – well, two sets…four ears – and open hearts.

Because friends are never gone. Friendship is not something with packaged on or best before dates. There’s no start and end point. Instead, I’ve come to see friendship as a mobile home that trails behind you your entire life. Over mountains and across countries it’s there, faithfully following. Inside, the sum of life experiences, memories, learnings, laughs and tears. The Perkins tent of the road (mad bonus points for catching that reference). It’s there for you to go back to at different times, and at different stages in life, for an instant and familiar sense of comfort and warmth.

What I’ve come to realize is that I shouldn’t fret change, but treasure the addition of another room, another guest in my mobile home. There are few things in life that remain as accessible and ultimately constant as good friends. And that’s pretty damn special.

So travel safely, my friends. Here’s to good times and new adventures.

Until next time.

Ambiguously yours,

-t

 

***Addendum***

After showing this post to a good friend of mine, and fellow EmbAmb author, she raised some good questions. I’ve decided not to tackle them in this post (perhaps in On Friendship Part II?), but for your consideration:

– What’s so important about friends being in the same city? What changes when they leave?

– You mention that it would be easy to reach out, and that friends who have drifted would be open to it. Why don’t we make that happen? What holds us back from reaching out?

If you have any thoughts on the above, I’d love to hear em!

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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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