Tag Archives: Happiness

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 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 owning that ponytail and working that up-do

***Note from Tyler: I did not write this. The author wished to be kept anonymous, so I’ve just posted it under my account***

 

A boy graduates from university. He moves to a new city and with no contacts – knowing nobody “in the biz” – manages to land his dream job. He spends three days a week gardening in a serene environment, encouraging children to learn about PLANTS. A young girl goes up to him and – I kid you not – she asks, “Can you show me the edible flowers, please?” A young boy, when asked if he’s hot because he’s wearing a black t-shirt in the sun, responds with: “Why? Does the colour black absorb heat?” I mean, for real peeps, what more could you want out of life. For the summer this graduate lives on an island near the city, out of a camper. He is mobile. He is heavily bearded. He wears a comfrey leaf as a gardening badge of honour. He is living “the life.”

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A beautiful girl beams with a smile that light and love seem to pour out of. She is graceful, intelligent, and wildly capable. She is surrounded by oh so many people who love her, and has the bravery and compassion to give space to the one she loves when he needs it most. Of course (of course!), she works full time at a job that is putting her on the right path to reach her end goal, and her co-workers seem to be total jokesters, and a pleasure to be around. As if she needed more reasons to be self-confident, she speaks three languages fluently and has hair that doesn’t quit.

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I could go on with other anecdotes that I collect in my storybook of “Why Everybody Else is Better Than I Am”. Seems petty, and melodramatic, but if I’ve ever met you, you can rest assured you’ve got your own chapter. For my entire life, comparing myself to others has made itself a central tenet, and I continually beat myself up for the countless ways in which I didn’t/don’t measure up. The seaweed truly was always greener on the other side of the sea, and it killed me. Well, it didn’t–but it did push me to a path of self-destruction that I lovingly and deceivingly labelled as motivation, drive, “an edge.”

Although I have been theoretically taking this past year to heal, I can only truthfully (and I sometimes even believe myself when I say it!) say now that I am finally on a new path. I can definitively say, on most days, that I have left my previous path behind me. Them shoes been worn for a long time, folks. I am now on a path to recovery. A path to health, well-being, happiness, and success. My old path only had one end goal–”BE THE BEST”–and scenic routes were punished. I am not sure what or where my new path is leading me toward, but I do know who I want there with me and that it sure as hell won’t be linear. I understand that on some days I may be tempted to turn back and return to the path I had walked so well, and that on other days I might only make it forward on my hands and knees or in a loved one’s arms.

But what is most important for me to understand, appreciate, and turn compassion towards, is that my path is my own and it is no one else’s. No one else can be farther ahead, even when it seems like that is so painfully obviously the case (and the only possible Capital T Truth), because they’re on their own fucking path. And that’s what makes each of our paths so beautiful dammit! Everybody walks at their own pace, in their own direction, with their own swagger, on their own path. I am not in anyone’s footsteps. I am not anyone’s runner up. I am moving in the right direction at the right pace. And it’s “right” because I said so and I am the only one who can.

In the great words of that SNL skit, I am trying my very best (and receiving all of the help along the way) to “Own that pony-tail! Work that up-do!”

Because at the end of the day, that boy – with the figured out dream-life – asked a nearly perfect stranger to hang out sometime soon. He was vulnerable and in need of a friend.

And that girl – who could not appear more content with life – struggles every day to give herself the love she so effortlessly shows others, with a voice that tells her she doesn’t deserve to eat three meals a day.

Neither of these outweigh the positive things they have going for them, not by a long shot, but it does show that there is always more depth to be discovered. Their seaweed has its own shit going on, too, even if everything else seems “perfect.”

 

I am on my own path now.

I am no one’s runner up.

 

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On music and happiness

If you’re anything like me (or most people, really), music has a constant presence in your life. As regular as your heartbeat and as unconsciously there as the breaths that keep that heart beating.

At this point you may be thinking to yourself: “Yes! That’s me. I listen to music all the time.”

If this is true, my question to you is this: you may listen to music all the time, but when was the last time that you really heard music?

Now, I know. I KNOW. I’m quite aware of how big a pretentious hipster douchebag that makes me sound.

But really! When was the last time that you heard music? When was the last time that you let yourself hear it?

Let it be the thing that you are doing in a given moment or chunk of time

Let it wash over your senses like a sonic baptism

Let it empty your mind save for chords and words strung together by human heart

When was the last time that listening to music was an event – something that you blocked out a space in your day calendar for: “An hour with Dan Mangan” or “Lunch with The Killers”?

Because yes, sometimes music is a background nicety. Sometimes it’s a distraction from the noise of a busy coffeeshop. Sometimes it’s an excuse to throw your body around with a primal fury; an excuse to sweat like it’s your day job and to throw the definition of personal space out the window.

But if you’re anything like me, it’s very easy to let music be that and only that: a background, a distraction, an excuse.

Sometimes, though, I think it should be more than that – it should be an event. You should devote yourself to it like a sculptor to his stone, take it in your arms and let it whisper its secrets into your ear.

I had forgotten that.

Forgotten it until just now – 20 minutes outside of Kingston – on a hot bus with 15 or so people, some of whom I know, many of whom I don’t. Forgotten it until just now when I put my headphones in, folded my legs, closed my eyes and let myself remember why The Gaslight Anthem’s “59 Sound” is my favourite album. Forgotten it until I had sat there through all 12 tracks, eyes closed and coffee cooling, locked in a state of musical meditation.

And it was wonderful. I really heard songs that for so long now I’d only listened to. Picked out the bass line and followed it as it weaved its way in and around the drums and guitar. Tracked the tiny variations in vocal range. But it was only because I let myself – only because I made the conscious decision to let music be the thing that I was doing in that moment. Nothing else.

It was in this moment that I connected a dot. Not a big one, mind you, but a dot nonetheless. In part, it was inspired by Stefan’s recent post, and this quote from it:

“What if I work not because I want or need to, but because I have to. What if I work to escape? Work keeps me company when no one else is available. Work allows me to tune out the rest of my life’s concerns because there are more important things to do. Work doesn’t flake out or run late. Work is reliably there, just waiting to give me the momentary validation of checking something new off my to do list”

And, in part, it was inspired by something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately: happiness and work.

It started on a bus. We were coming home late one evening when she asked it: “Are you happy at your work?” The driver behind the wheel of her question was nothing more than innocent curiosity, but it landed with a thud in the space before us, shaking the suspension and rousing heads from cell phone screens. “I…” Pause. Uncertainty. Play it off: “Define happy,” I joked. Seeing through the cracks in my playful façade, she backpedals. “We…don’t have to talk about it now, or ever! I just…I’m here, if you want to.” “I know, love. Maybe some time not on a bus?”

Since then I have been lot more conscious of the question. Am I happy in my work? It’s a difficult thing to wrap your head around, for a number of reasons. Though my response of “define happy” was in jest, there is also some merit in it.

Does doing the work make me happy?

What if the work doesn’t, but the people do?

What if it’s neither, but instead the knowledge that I’m “making a difference” (whatever THAT means)

What if only parts of the job make me happy? Is there a threshold? Some minimum happiness level I should be aiming for?

Is happy the same as fulfilled?

I’m often stressed, tired, overworked. But happy isn’t mutually exclusive to those things, is it?

I could add a million more questions to this list, but there are other problems, as well. With the question of “are you happy at your job?” comes an unspoken but understood question of “would you be happier elsewhere?” And really, how do you know? How the HELL do you know?

And, besides, do you have to be happy? Society seems to tell us so. If you went out into the street and asked 100 people “What’s the meaning of life?” I’d be willing to bet that happiness, or some variation thereof, would be the most common answer.

Then there are the articles: “7 Steps to Happiness” ; “3 Changes you can make RIGHT NOW to be Happier” ; “GURL, WHY YOU SO GOD-DAMNED MOPEY ALL THE TIME?”

Most recently, it has been the “find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” trend. These ideas are often presented as if happiness is a tender fruit to be plucked from a tree.

In truth, it’s hard to find. Hard to define. Hard to know when you’ve got it, and all too easy to recognize when you’ve lost it.

But that’s ok. It’s just as ok as it is for music to be a background, a distraction, or an excuse.

For a long while after that question landed on the bus, I beat myself up about it. “How can you not know?! What if you’re settling? You’re not unhappy, you’re just afraid of failure and so are trying to run away. You’re wasting your artistic talent and creativity – you could be doing so much more somewhere else.”

It’s only now, after hearing music for the first time in a long while, that I have a bit of clarity. It doesn’t matter (mostly). You don’t have to be happy all the time. You don’t. We’re often sold the idea that we do – told that eating a salad alone is a hilarious, uplifting activity, told we need to pursue happiness like a chorus follows a verse. And sure, it’s an important part of life – but that’s not all there is. The beauty of being human is experiencing a complex range of emotions, and no one is inherently good or bad – or better or worse – than the next.

What’s important, I think, is that it’s conscious. That there’s a decision. See, what bothered me about my musical revelation on the bus is not the pure fact that for some time now, I’ve only engaged with music as a passive listening experience. What bothered me was that it wasn’t a choice. It was just happening. In my rush-rush driven attempt to finish all of the things, I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed getting lost in a good album. Forgotten how much I enjoy letting music become an event. I was letting my default state take over.

And (I think) it’s the same for happiness. It’s okay to not be totally happy in your work. Or at least, uncertain of what it means to be. But, I think it needs to be a choice. I think it’s a problem if it’s not – if it’s just your default state that switches on with the lights in the office on those early Monday mornings. If there’s a choice, if there’s a conscious decision to prioritize something else – impact, fulfillment, money, whatever – I think that’s okay.

That’s why Stefan’s post from the other day struck me. It was this one line: “What if I work not because I want or need to, but because I have to”. Specifically, it was the “not because I want or need to”. It reminded me of times in my life when I burnt myself out because I was unconsciously acting on my default state of working myself to exhaustion. Not because I wanted to or was choosing to, but because that’s just what I did.

So the real question, then, is not “are you happy at your work?” It’s whether or not the answer to that question is the product of conscious choice.

But that, my friends, is a question for another day.

 

Until next time.

Ambiguously yours,

-t

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On Working and Staying Sane

It’s just past midnight and my roommate and I are rebuffing traditional seating options on opposite sides of our living room. I sit on the floor with my laptop infront of what is best titled our love seat, a removable middle section of seats from the 1990 Plymoth Voyager that dominated my childhood driving experiences, with my back resting against it. Tyler is perched on the arm of our sofa, leg outstretched, scrolling through his phone. He is chiding me for my work habits.

“You need to work less for more money”

He’s right, but he’s also not exactly one to talk. Sure he get’s dental but the cost appears to be sleepless nights working and then ridiculous naps that stretch from late afternoon to the very early morning. I’m not sure I could count the number of times I’ve presumed he was simply out, only to have him stumble bleary eyed out of his room at 1am and begin to make coffee for the night ahead. Those are my turns to chide him.

“What are you doing? Go back to sleep!”

We both understand that our concerns are falling on deaf ears, as in many ways we are cut from the same cloth. So we simply throw each other pieces of advice that we ourselves do not adhere to and move on. For as much as we speak, what is left unsaid is where the real story is.

“What would you have me do instead?”

For the past four years work has played a peculiar role in my life. I have never had a traditional 9-5 and I haven’t had weekends since my first year of university. It should be stressed that this is all by choice, this post isn’t about me complaining that I feel overworked or that I am burning out, rather it’s about what happens when the concept of a work-life balance simply makes no sense because the lines are so blurred.

I imagine this is a common phenomenon with those working on social ventures, non-profits, charities, or really anywhere that values and work overlap. When I say that I am an environmentalist first and foremost I really do mean that, I don’t have many other ways to define myself, and so I work.

I work because there is always work to be done. I work because I believe in what I am doing. I work because it is important and time is of the essence. I work because I want to.

Or at least that is what I tell myself and It’s certainly what I believe most of the time. But occasionally a second thought sneaks into my consciousness. What if I work, not because I want to or need to, but because I have to. What if I work to escape?

Work keeps me company when no one else is available. Work allows me to tune out the rest of my life’s concerns because ‘there are more important things to do’. Work doesn’t flake out or run late. Work is reliably there, just waiting to give me the momentary validation of checking something new off my to do list.

And to be honest, I don’t really know which of these options are true. What I do know is that at least for now, I am happy with my life and those in it, so what else can I do?

“Alright, I need to go to bed”

Tyler has looked up from his phone, and is now walking past me towards the bathroom to brush his teeth. I’m three-quarters through the only thing that I’ve worked on today that actually pays. It’s probably only another forty-five minutes, not too bad at all. I’ve been up since 7, so sleep should come easy tonight. Tye-dye reappears from the bathroom and passes me on his way to bed.

“Stop working and go to sleep.”

I smile.

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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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