Tag Archives: identity

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 photosynthesis

Sometimes life throws you curveballs.

Sometimes, it’s 4:45am on a Saturday morning and you’re crying in your room after having just finished watching Warrior (2011).

Now, not to take anything away from the film – which is great – or from the performances of Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton – which were greater – but I don’t think that the heartfelt MMA action-drama is what is causing the faucets of my eyeballs to leak onto my face.

You may have noticed that it has been a while since I have written anything on the blog. Or not. I guess that’s maybe assuming a lot. Either way, the truth remains – I haven’t. But it hasn’t been for lack of topics.

In early October I wrapped up my time with Engineers Without Borders Canada – two years of working there. My first real job, done. The end of an era. It would have been one thing to step away from this job for want of a change of scenery, but that’s not why I left. I wanted to fundamentally change what I was doing.

Ambiguity.

In late October I put on an art show with my photos and paintings. It is all hung at a place called Sadie’s Diner here in Toronto, and will be there until late December. I have never done anything like this before and doing it while unemployed has felt like a big risk, financially and otherwise.

Ambiguity.

The exciting and life-important thing in all of this is not that I put on an art show. The exciting and life-important thing in all of this is that I managed to find the self-trust to allow myself the chance to take a chance on, well, me, to put on an art show.

Then there’s the unemployment. It is only so long that the joke of #funemployment remains funny. Only so long until the daily grind and grey of unemployment sets in. The entry level jobs looking for three years’ experience, the unpaid internships, the rejection emails, the self-doubt and criticism – each one like a wave pounding the shore of your resolve and there are days where pulling yourself out of bed before 1pm seems impossible but for a small act of god. Or Santa. Or Captain Crunch. One of the three.

Ambiguity.

All of these things are ripe with ambiguity, and all of these things are ripe with content for blog posts.

But it has been a while since I have written anything on the blog.

I’ve tried. Believe me, I’ve tried. But my head has more often than not been cloudy and the thoughts hard to come by. I’ve been feeling lost. Uninspired. Deflated. It has been overwhelming, to say the least.

Sometimes it’s hard to see a reason to wake up in the morning, and sometimes, it’s 4:45am on a Saturday morning and you’re crying in your room after having just finished watching Warrior.

But I don’t think the heartfelt MMA action-drama is what has caused the faucets of my eyeballs to leak onto my face. To try and explain what (maybe) does, I have to tell you a story.

It’s early January 2012 and I’m walking home along Bloor St. in Toronto. It’s cold, and at my sides hang six or seven grocery bags, stuffed to the brim. On my back sits a backpack filled with cans, and I’m coming back from a grocery trip to No Frills.

Now, the thing about coming back from a grocery trip at No Frills, is that I don’t live anywhere near a No Frills. But I’m a student and I’m poor and I have this stubborn belief that I should do the things I’m capable of doing. It’s why I carried a mini-fridge from Canadian Tire to my dorm room in first Year University. It’s why I moved the contents of my apartment – from desk to shelves to bed – by longboard, twice. And it’s why I’m walking back from No Frills, six or seven grocery bags at my sides and a backpack filled with cans on my back. Because I can.

So I’m walking along Bloor St and it’s cold and it has probably been half an hour already, with another 10 minutes or so in front of me. I’m walking along Bloor and my hands are crying out – the weight of the bags and their thin plastic handles are digging into my fingers, punishing my stubbornness. I’m carrying all this shit, just passing the Tim Hortons near Bloor and St George, when I feel the phone vibrating in my pocket.

I had only just recently acquired a cellular communications device and so this idea of always being in reach was still new to me, and so, my first thought was: “Who the hell could that be?” As you may or may not have noticed (depending on your imagination and reading comprehension) I’m not in the most opportune position to be taking a call. But when you don’t have caller ID and you don’t have voice mail and your first thought is, “Who the hell could that be?” the question of “Did someone die?” is too real a possibility to let the call ring out.

So I awkwardly fumble for the phone in my pocket, and still holding the three or four bags in one hand I lift it to my ear and answer, “Hello?”

I don’t recognize the woman’s voice on the other end but she identifies herself as a staff member with the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and she asks if I have a minute.

To take a step back, this call wasn’t quite as totally out of the blue as it probably seems, for myself and a group of friends had done some work in partnership with the Legal Network just a couple months prior, at the start of December 2011. Bill C-393 was going through Parliament at the time and we had organized a demonstration at Yonge and Dundas, to coincide with the Bill’s second reading and to try and put pressure on the government to make some crucial changes. As well as organizing the event, I filmed it on the day of and put out a video that we later sent to every Member of Parliament.

There’s a long and anger filled rant that I could go on about this Bill and the issues surrounding it, but I’ll spare you. The important takeaway is that it was an issue I was very passionate about and that the Legal Network – and their Executive Director, Richard Elliot – were something of an intellectual crush of mine.

So she identifies herself as a staff member with the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and she asks if I have a minute. I lie and tell her that I do, trying to play it cool so she can’t hear the strain in my voice from the three or four grocery bags that I’m still, for some reason, holding up to my ear with the phone.

She tells me that they want my help with something, but that it’s “sort of top secret” and before she says any more she asks me, “Are you in?”

Yes. This is probably the coolest thing that will ever happen to me.

Now, I have no idea what to expect or what they could possibly want from me, but I say, “Yes, of course I’m in.” Partially because I love their organisation and have an intellectual crush on their Executive Director, and partially because of the off chance that this might be my one chance…to become a super spy.

When she proceeds to explain the situation I don’t get my dream of being a super spy but what I do end up with is a pretty close second.

I’m told that one of their staff members managed to record some footage with popular artist K’NAAN (of Waving Flag fame) backstage at a recent show. In the footage K’NAAN gives his support for Bill C-393 and the Legal Network wants to use this footage to kick off a massive petition campaign, to coincide with the Bill’s final reading in the House of Commons.

The only problem, she tells me, is that the footage is in a few different takes and it isn’t that great and they need it in a finalized and shareable format by tomorrow and they didn’t know who they could get to do it and so they thought of…me.

I know.

This is probably the coolest thing that will ever happen to me.

I’m told to await an email with the footage, which will come once it’s uploaded, and so I hurry home with my six or seven bags of groceries and backpack full of cans, to wait.

And now I’m home in my shitty basement apartment and the groceries are put away and I’m at my desk in my cramped, windowless bedroom (gotta love the Toronto rental market) and I’m hitting the refresh button on my Gmail. And I’m hopped up on adrenaline and caffeine, too excited by the events of the day to do anything other than wait, so I wait. And I wait. And I wait.

A couple hours go by with no email and no word and I begin to worry, but then the phone rings, and it’s the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and the footage is almost uploaded.

Finally the email lands in my inbox and I eagerly open it and download the footage and I hit play AND

What I’m met with is a grainy, poorly framed, 7 minute clip comprised of a few different shots, in which K’NAAN (bless his heart) repeatedly makes mistakes regarding the more intricate technicalities of the bill. All the right facts are there, they’re just in different takes and so I set out on the task of stitching together something usable.

It takes most of the night to edit and the rest of it to get the video uploaded, but come morning I send it off to the folks at the Legal Network who in turn send it off to K’NAAN’s people (I know…) for approval.

It takes a couple more hours but it comes back with the a-ok, barring one minor change: K’NAAN’s name is to be written in all capitals.

I could go on forever here about the bill, but the quick summary version is that the video got 21,000+ views, the petition got 50,000+ signatures, and the bill made it through the House!

I wish I could say that this ends on a high note, but the quick summary version ends with an even quicker punch in the gut, in that the Bill was later killed on paper in the Senate, thanks to some political shenanigans from the Conservative party.

But this post is not about politics and the problems with it in this country. Instead, I share this story for a couple reasons:

  • It is a pretty cool moment in my life that I don’t often get the chance to share
  • Because lately, I’ve been feeling as though I’ve lost something

When I first picked up the phone on Bloor St. that cold January day, and when I was asked if “I was in”, I was prepared to say yes, no questions asked. I would have done literally anything they asked of me in that moment.

At the time I was in University and working part-time and struggling with course loads and probably a bit of depression (or at least, Seasonal Affective Disorder – the shitty basement apartment with the windowless bedroom will do that to you), but despite all that I was completely and thoroughly wrapped up in this issue. It became my primary focus that semester, so much so that I can still – nearly three years later – rhyme off all of the details surrounding the bill and its journey through Parliament. I can’t tell you a damned thing about what I learned in class that semester. Hell, I don’t think I can even tell you what classes I had that semester.

And I don’t know why this was the case. I say that not because Bill C-393 and access to medicine is not an important issue, but because it’s one that I had no real connection to. I didn’t know anyone who had suffered from HIV/AIDS, I just saw something that, to me, seemed painfully and glaringly obviously unjust, and felt compelled to try and do something about it.

There was no pausing to reflect and no thought about whether I could handle this extra time commitment. Just action. Just fire and passion.

I tell you all of this, dear reader, because at the beginning of October I wrapped up my time with Engineers Without Borders Canada. In late October I put on an art show. And as we sit here at mid-November the joke of #funemployment has lost its humour. The days have become grappling contests between the often harsh self-criticisms of “you need to be more productive” that wail like bomb sirens, and the simultaneous and unshakeable desire to do nothing at all.

There was a time when then-me would have relished in this free time, would’ve taken it as the opportunity to do what I wanted when I wanted. Time to photograph, to video, to write, to volunteer, to protest. In these long weeks it seems that all I can motivate myself to do, however, is rock climb and drink gin and tonics while playing Batman: Arkham City.

And so it feels like I’ve lost something.

And somewhere deep down I have this horrible fear that this – this complacency and loss of fire – and not the full time job with benefits and a desk – is the marker of my transition to “adult life” that I’ve thought so much about these last couple years. A fear of some unavoidable dividing line cutting through my life, where on one side there is youthful optimism and spirit and on the other side there’s a tame and docile curmudgeon stocking up on for-sale toilet paper and toothpaste.

Case in point, the other day my roommate asked me to come with him to a march happening at the University of Toronto, in support of fossil fuel divestment, and I couldn’t drag myself out of bed to do it (for context, the march was happening at 12:30. This wasn’t a 7am affair). There was a time when then-me would have said “Of course I’m in!” There was a time when I would’ve been out filming, running alongside the march and climbing on top of newsstands to get a better angle. A time when I would have stayed up all night editing the footage to be able to put a video out by the next morning.

And so I worry that I’ve lost something.

For a long time my “anthem” was Frank Turner’s Photosynthesis. There’s a part of the song that goes:

“All your friends and peers and family solemnly tell you you will, have to grow up be an adult yeah be bored and unfulfilled. Oh but no ones yet explained to me exactly what’s so great, about slaving 50 years away on something that you hate, about meekly shuffling down the road of mediocrity, well if that’s your road then take it but it’s not the road for me. I won’t sit down, I won’t shut up, but most of all I will not grow up.”

This was my jam. This was my quote on my staff page of the EWB website. This is still a quote on my “About” section of Facebook.

And last week, I couldn’t pull myself out of bed to take part in the divestment march.

And so I worry that I’ve lost something. And I’m left wondering what it is I stand for and where it is I’m going and whether any of this actually means anything or matters, or whether I’m just a self-absorbed 20-something millennial obsessed with a bullshit notion of “finding myself” and “making a difference.”

And so as heart-wrenching as Tom Hardy’s turn as “Tommy” in Warrior was, I don’t think it’s what had the faucets of my eyeballs leaking onto my face at 4:45 on a Saturday morning.

Instead, it was likely this unshakable feeling that I no longer know which way is up. It was likely the knowledge that the moments in my life that stand out as the most meaningful were driven by action and not pondering thought, and the simultaneous fear that I don’t know how to “just act” anymore.

And so I worry that I’ve lost something. But I also don’t believe that it’s gone. This notion of the line of adulthood, from which there is no return once you cross, is silly. I know that. There’s no reason that the higher level of responsibility that comes with being an adult has to be mutually exclusive from being the idealistic, energy ridden millennial from early January 2012.

And so I don’t believe that it’s gone. That said, I’m finishing up this post in a coffee shop in Guelph and I can barely bring myself to fire up the computer to add in these last minute additions – the Grey of today has long set in and the grappling match is well underway. So it’s hard.

But I won’t sit down. And I won’t shut up. And most of all I will not grow up (but also, I will. Cause that’s ok).

And so while I feel as though I’ve lost something, I’m working on getting it back.

 

Until next time.

Ambiguously yours,

-t

 

 

 

 

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On Changing Course and Being Happy

I’ve been trying to write this for a while. And by trying to write, I mean it’s been running in my head over and and over again. Words fly by in a whiz of anxiety, sometimes excitement, but always overwhelming. The central themes revolve around satisfaction in my life so far, trying to be optimistic in the future, confirming and reconfirming (and re-reconfirming) that “I am no one’s runner up”, and realizing that I have come so bloody far in the past year, no matter how deja vu this all “september 1st is rolling around” feels.

When I was still a little girl, and my mom would come lie with me to help me go to sleep, she’d often have to help me quell my anxiety. What is hilarious to me now is that even as a 10, 11, 12 year old kid, I cried at night with the question “What am I going to be?! What am i going to do?!” ringing in my head (and the walls of our house). I didn’t take well to the standard responses: we’ll cross that bridge when we get there, everything is going to be OK, YOU’RE ONLY 10 FOO’, and anything else anyone would tell me. And so my mom, ever the patient saint, would lie with me naming occupation after occupation, stopping to explain the words that were still foreign to me. Starting with the A’s like archeologist to occupational therapist (I still can’t understand what they do) to social worker,  my mom would move through the alphabet as I was near hysterical about what the future would hold. I can’t say now if it was truly just my anxieties starting to take form, or if even then I had begun to feel the responsibility of the world on my shoulders. I know that the feeling of not being enough, of needing to be more, had already rooted itself in me. It’s almost palpable through the memories how much more faith I had in my peers (what, from their handball skills?) than I had in myself.

Despite all the question marks, some things were certain. I was brought up with my two role models having completed both undergrad and graduate school (my dad’s favourite line, after ones in Hebrew for “that’s how you learn” and “life’s hard, kid” being “I spent 11 years in university!”), and so before I even understood what they were I knew that that’s what my path was too. I thought that’s just what people did, end of story. It honestly didn’t occur to me that there were alternatives, nor did I think to look. I guess my anxieties were gripping with white knuckles the certainty in that path, even if I’d have to fill in all the other blanks as I went along.

But, of course, ha!, try as I might, that wasn’t to be my path. I took a year off before even starting my undergrad, and I hardly finished it in one piece. I literally crumbled a few months after graduating, and after dedicating myself to my GPA so that I could get into any grad school I wanted (although I had no fucking clue what that was), I decided, to hell with it! that wasn’t for me! I met really lovely people who were making it work without a master’s degree (say what?!), and that was powerful.

That didn’t pan out so well, if only (and definitely not only) because I was too sick to even watch  movies for much of this past year. I can break the year down into a few distinct phases, or states of mind, but the most important of which being the two I currently capriciously rotate between.

There was the sick, unable, hopeless Maya that when answered what I was up to I would sheepishly answer anything from I don’t know, Nothing, or sometimes in moments of hysterical honesty I would own the list of diagnoses that had become my shadow. I became almost comfortable, although maybe complacent is a more accurate but also unfair descriptor, in these diagnoses, in the “what was wrong with me”. It was my self-perceived identifier. My new Path, illuminating where I had been and where my feet were to be planted next. Instead of these conditions being something I had, I let them become something I was. The running dialogue in my head was overrun with “I am Maya and I am tainted.” This occupied a lot of space, a lot of time, and a whole lot of energy. And still, in my weakest moments, it roars its ugly ass head once more.

But a powerful thing happened the other day. I can’t remember what the context was, or who it was with, or even what I had just eaten. I was probably talking to myself, to be honest. Something provoked me to describe myself, in my head or out loud, and my first response was no longer “I am Maya and I am trying (and rarely succeeding) to get better” but instead “I am Maya and look at this bright future and all the baller things I’m going to do!” That’s right, there was a fucking exclamation mark. There are baller things that I am going to do. ME. My path had yet again changed course. This time, though, it didn’t have a predetermined destination or mapped out route. It. Just. Was. Inhale. Exhale.

Ten year old Maya would still be unsatisfied–I haven’t answered any of her questions. I don’t know what I am going to do or how I am going to get there. I still have to reckon with the fact that I have spent my whole life following the equation I wanted so badly to exist for how to live a happy life. I still have a long ways to go before my physical and mental health are up to par. But for tonight, for right now, I can be OK with not knowing what I am doing and if my current path is the capital R Right one, or if the Right one even exists. In this moment, I am not seeking perfection. I finally (sometimes) have optimism for the future and a hope that things will get better. That all the work I’ve put into this year will realize its rewards eventually, in time. And, fittingly enough, the ability to see that is the result of all the personal work I’ve done this year.

 

Someone recently told me, “I’m busy enjoying being happy”.

So maybe this new grad school won’t be the answer, and maybe it won’t land me my dream job or make me feel like I am the morning and the evening star.

But maybe, hopefully, I can be busy being happy (with my deepest sympathies to ten year old Maya’s frustration and anguish)

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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 giving a f*ck(?)

If you’ve read most of my posts on this site so far, you’ll probably notice that my focus has been more on the personal side of things and I’ve only briefly talked about social justice issues or my role in them.  There is a reasonable explanation for this, and that comes as a question: Do I actually care about international development, social justice, and social change?

I’ve spent the greater part of the past 4 years of my life (my graduate degree and the last 2 years of my undergrad) getting involved and increasing my involvement with a non-profit organization (what can I say, I was a late bloomer), starting at the student chapter and slowly making my way up to national level work.  What got me started on it? Simple, a couple of very amazing friends in my engineering classes invited me to take part in the local student chapter of the NGO.  At first, it was addicting!  All I wanted to do was learn more, and my curiosity became a great fuel for discussions as I was trying harder and harder to understand everything that was being thrown at my face and how little I truly knew about worldly matters.  What made me stay though, ultimately, were the people that were also heavily involved.  I have never met so many engaging, critically thinking, intelligent, and passionate people before.  Basically, I wanted to be more like these people, because I genuinely wanted to be a better person and individual.

To clarify quickly, the work I have done has mostly been here in Canada, and not overseas.  I’ve recognized from an early point in my involvement that my greatest impact would be here in my own community or country and not internationally.  Because of this, I have always felt a sort of disconnect with the issues of poverty and social injustice abroad, but I know and acknowledge their existence. My friends have witnessed these injustices first hand and have retold those stories to me, yet I still feel disconnected to the entire thing.

As mentioned in previous posts, I’m graduating soon (seriously, I’m really excited, and will take every opportunity to tell people this because at one point I wasn’t sure if I’d be stuck for another 3 years trying to do this thing).  Once again that question of what I am going to do afterwards comes up.  And whenever this question is asked of me, I always ask myself, whether or not I give enough of a fuck to try and keep doing this social justice thing instead of engineering, and if so, am I doing it for the right reasons?  Do I care enough about the issues at hand anymore like I used to?  Or, fuck it, let’s be honest here, I want to work with these amazing people I’ve grown to love and care for dearly.  And if I find myself in a situation where I do work in that environment, but my friends have chosen to leave, will I have the drive to stay put, or would I see myself leaving soon after?

So am I a bad person if I’ve figured out that I’ve been giving my time in this sector of work, not primarily for those that are suffering, but for the people who have chosen to work in this line of work themselves?  Is investing in those around me, and caring about their work because it is important to them, a good enough reason for my involvement in the social justice community?

This time I don’t have an answer, and I don’t know if I’m going to like it when I actually figure it out.

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on facebook pages

Hello folks!

Just wanted to make a short note to let you know that in addition to operating this here WordPress Blog, we’ll also be running an EmbAmb Facebook page from here on out! Our aim in doing this is two-fold:

1) Increase the audience of the blog

(but more importantly)

2) Increase the amount of conversation and discussion that is happening. We really want people to engage and chat with us about the ambiguity in their own lives, so we hope that Facebook will let that happen in easier fashion. It’ll also allow us to post shorter updates, interesting links from elsewhere, and all manner of other things!

So if you follow the blog, join us at: https://www.facebook.com/embracingambiguity

 

And be sure to check out our latest post, “On Thunderstorms and Optimism”

 

Until next time.

Ambiguously yours,

-t

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On struggling with identities

In the midst of dealing with being in graduate school, I also had an identity crisis.  Seriously, it wasn’t something I needed on top of being stressed out about research.  Basically, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. This stemmed from the constant day dreaming of finishing up my master’s degree and finally leaving the safety net of school…and a future where I didn’t have to ever hold a pipette again, deal with ass mud, or wait for science to defrost.  Through my time as a graduate student, a co-op student working in the engineering field, and my time in Engineers Without Borders, I simply didn’t know what I wanted to do.

Now, I want to explain quickly that graduate school has a funny way of undermining your self-confidence; making you realize how little you truly know and how easy it is to stumble into failures.  And in the middle of this identity crisis, this lack of self-confidence filled me with doubt at what I could succeed in doing for the rest of my life, and more importantly be happy and content in doing.

So. What should I do? What should I be?  Should I be Jeff the Environmental Engineer?  Should I be Jeff the researcher?  Should I be Jeff the social change leader?  Should I be Jeff the youth advocate?  Should I be Jeff the educator?  Or should I be Jeff the coach and enabler?

All I wanted was a niche.  I just wanted to fit in.  It was junior high all over again!  OH MY GOODNESS!  My worst nightmares that I thought I were over were coming back into my life!

And then it dawned on me.  And I don’t even remember how this thought finally came into my exhausted mind, but I realized I was thinking about this completely backwards.

Reality is, I am Jeff.  I am multi-faceted.  I am not any one particular thing or role.  Instead of being shoved into a tiny cubby hole in society, it is completely the opposite.  I realized I was actually the cubby hole, and that different roles fit me (Please… I’m trying to be serious here, must you think of the innuendos?).  I can be, and I AM, an environmental engineer (in-training I guess), an environmentalist, a youth advocate, a researcher, an educator, a coach, a social change agent and so many more things rolled into one.  I don’t know how I came to the idea that I needed to fit into society in some way, but I’m glad I realized that was bullshit, and that I am more dynamic and abstract than any one identity.

I’m still not perfect at this, and I never will be.  But, I’m learning that at different points of my life, bits and pieces will be thrown out, and new roles and identities will be thrown in the mix to make me who I am. After all, Life is about creating, learning, discovering and growth, not about finding, fitting in and being complacent.

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