Tag Archives: New Year

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 blank canvases

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is the 3rd in a series, intended as a space for the various authors and contributors of Embracing Ambiguity to reflect on the past year in each of their lives. 2014 has been a tumultuous year for each writer, from transitions and changes in the physical spaces they live in, to the internal turmoil of life changing decisions.  Each post follows the general prompt of thinking back to where we stood one year prior, and the head space we were in at the time; reflecting on what has brought us to where we are now and the change that has occurred in that 365 days of time. Happy reading and an ambiguous 2015 to you!


A couple days after the 2014 New Years, I found myself at my rented basement suite.  I was pissed.

I had left a couple small items to move out still, back to my parents’ home, but the place was still a disaster, with no sign that my former roommate had come back to help with anything and I wouldn’t be getting my deposit back unless I stayed to finish the job.  It took me a total of 6.5 hours, and even the landlady felt bad and came to check on me to make sure I hadn’t passed out from the fumes from the cleaning products (which was most appreciated).

The immense cleaning session, however, gave me a lot of time to think and reflect.  The majority of which was dedicated to figuring out what my next steps were in the next few weeks; and life in general.

That morning I had received an email from the University telling me that my thesis was accepted, so that was one less thing to worry about, but it also meant I had one less thing to work on, and one more end to school and the regularity and familiarity that had come with it.

This meant that I was moving into a completely new blank space, one that encompassed all aspects of my life.  In some ways, I was moving on and forward with life, but I was also moving back home, so at the same time, it felt like I was taking steps backward. Well now what? I was unemployed, and I hadn’t heard back from the engineering firms and the non-profits that I had sent resumes and cover letters in to.  What about relationships? HA! That is one area that has never worked out either, so no good news there, but nothing that I haven’t been through before.  I literally went into the New Year a complete blank slate, with no direction, no plans, and no clue.

In the end, 2014 has been a year of practicing patience, mostly towards myself.  It was a year of learning, about limits and what I want in my life and of myself.  It was a year of finding direction and forming goals.

I was fortunate enough to get a job, and it was even in the field of my undergraduate education (note: not my graduate program however).  Most days I feel stupid at what I do, and have constantly learned through mistakes, asking lots of questions and listening to the perspectives of coworkers on what they would do.  I am still not 100% confident that my career path is one which I will stick to for the rest of my life, but it is one that I am enjoying presently, and I know if I want to stay in this industry, what directions I want to take or where I want to see myself in the future.  I started saving up my money, and I have been actively looking for a condo to buy and call home to start my adult life anew.  I made wonderful friends this year, and I’ve lost touch with some, but have tried harder to strengthen relationships with others, understanding more that I need these kinds of relationships in my life.  I started realizing how much time I put to work, but not on all these goals and hobbies I had wanted to pursue in years past. Even with actual vacation time to my name for once in my life, I decided not to use them and learned how much I can burn out, and should probably take some time off from time to time and go on adventures and invest back into myself.

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.

-Jeff

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on saying yes

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is the 2nd in a series, intended as a space for the various authors and contributors of Embracing Ambiguity to reflect on the past year in each of their lives. 2014 has been a tumultuous year for each writer, from transitions and changes in the physical spaces they live in, to the internal turmoil of life changing decisions.  Each post follows the general prompt of thinking back to where we stood one year prior, and the head space we were in at the time; reflecting on what has brought us to where we are now and the change that has occurred in that 365 days of time. Happy reading and an ambiguous 2015 to you!


A year ago, I lay on my back staring at the ceiling of my old apartment feeling totally lost. About a month before that I had found myself pacing for days through my apartment, a 6 foot ball of anxiety. I had interviewed for a job, while scaling up a few projects, and found myself on the precipice of a new life, terrified.

I was scared that I would get the job and therefore not have time for all of these new things I was doing. I was scared that I wouldn’t get the job and simply wouldn’t have money for useful things like food or rent or Netflix. I decided that if I didn’t get the job, I would give up looking, commit to these other projects and find a way to make it work. And in 2014 that’s exactly what I did.

Today, I sit legs outstretched staring at the wall of my new apartment, just beginning to allow myself to feel a sense of place. A few weeks ago I found myself living a flashback of 2013. I had interviewed for a job, while scaling up a few projects, and found myself on the precipice of a new life, oddly calm.

I went back and read last years review to fully appreciate where I sat then and found documentation of just how lost I had felt. I began 2014 with almost no attachments, and to borrow the metaphor I used then, just the urge to chase a few subway cars to see how long their platforms could be. As I paced, waiting to hear how I would begin my 2015, I tried to understand what I had done this year to change my outlook.

The simple answer it seems, is that I lived it. I made less money in 2014 than I had since I left home for university, but it never felt like hardship. I was lucky enough to find small contracts through a number of sources to get me through each month. And to have some savings to drain when I needed a bit extra for whatever reason, which helped with the anxiety of starting each month unsure about where income to pay that months rent cheque might come from.

If January 2015 started the same way that December 2014 did, I would have completed the final piece of the slow build of consistent projects to reach my goal of earning $1000 a month. The figure I had deemed as enough to sustain my life on. This fact alone could be said to be enough of a reason for my shift from terror to calm in the wake of an incoming job prospect, but I don’t think it tells all, or actually even that much, of the story itself.

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 improv classes lead to working on a set with Chris Hadfield.

Saying yes to running environmental networking events lead to bringing five buses of Torontonians to the Peoples Climate March in NYC.

Saying yes to a writing club lead to story telling events that now cherish.

Saying yes to making a last second video lead to what may well be the Green Majority’s big break.

Saying yes to work showed me that I could create value in this world and gave me the opportunity to prove it to others. There are thousands of people, places, and communities that make up the reasons why 2014 ended up the way it did. Hundreds of privileges that I took into the year, some small, some huge, that made it all possible.

But I’ll remember 2014 as the year I said yes, started walking, and didn’t look back.

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On Toast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On 2013

I am not generally one for New Year’s resolutions. Not because I don’t think you should strive to change or improve, but because I’ve always found it sort of weird to try and use the start of a year as the impetus for doing so. If it’s actually something you’re interested in doing, shouldn’t the date be irrelevant? Anyway, not the point.

THE POINT IS. I AM one for doing some yearend reflection. And what a year it has been, both for me and for the people in my life. I’ve seen relationships end and folks take new jobs. Friends have moved continents and love has grown. There has been loss, challenges, huge successes, and lots of fun.

Part of 2013 will, for me, always be “the year that injury stopped me from running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon” (I’m saying this now – and you can quote me – I’m going to fucking crush that shit next year). From an Embracing Ambiguity point of view, my year has been a bit of a rollercoaster. I’ve tried to map the major changes out. See the highly scientific, super rigorous graph below:

amb

So clearly, things have (mostly) gotten less ambiguous as the year has progressed.

I started the year finishing up an internship at a Canadian charity and am ending the year working for that same charity. The one difference is that instead of interning I’m now (mostly) managing our major yearend fundraising campaign, and have an offer of an “actual” (non-contract) job on the table.

It’s quite a leap.

I’ve gone through a hell of a lot to get to this point: from multiple short term contracts to a sudden fulltime (contract) role, long nights and early mornings of proving that I had something to offer and offered something worth keeping.

And now, so close to the thing I’ve been aiming for since the day I graduated university (a job-job), it feels…different than I was expecting (maybe?).

In truth I guess I don’t know what I was expecting. I think*, however, that I thought I’d just feel like “me”. And in a sense, I do. But I also don’t…ya dig?

More so now than at any other time in my life, I feel certain in my uncertainty. I don’t have all of my shit worked out, and the way forward is still unclear, but there’s a greater…awareness? Like I’m no longer “faking it till I make it” – which, don’t get me wrong, isn’t to say that I’ve necessarily “made it” – but I definitely know some shit. And I’m definitely willing to fight for the chance to prove it.

The successes in my place of employment have also come coupled with a failure, of sorts, in my extracurricular pursuits. Those of you who read this blog somewhat regularly may know what I’m referring to: The Storytelling Project. Since early in the year, I’ve kept this quote above my computer:

“When I get to the end of this year, I want The Storytelling Project to be at a place where people and organizations are approaching me to have their story told, because they see value in what it is I’m doing”

Whoops.

The quote above is from a work retreat we had last January, where we were asked to think about our lives one year into the future. With one story produced and a few more stuck in development, I can’t exactly say I achieved my goal. There was a time when I would’ve beat myself up about that. A lot.

A time when I would’ve questioned what it was I had spent my time doing. Questioned if it was “enough”.

Now? I’m definitely a little bummed, but I’m also recognizing that I have done a lot this year. A lot I should be happy about and proud of.

I’m also recognizing that making a “splash” in the way I had hoped, is hard.

Like, really fucking hard. It’s uncertain, exhausting, time consuming (time you don’t have when focusing on the thing(s) that pay the bills) and can often feel like you’re trying to walk up a down escalator.

I’m recognizing that it’s okay it didn’t happen this year. All it means is that I get to regroup and try again in 2014.

I guess what I’m really saying, folks, are these two things:

1)      Embrace the ambiguity. It will never go away completely, but you will start to get a handle on it. You will. Even when it looks like that’s impossible. You will because you’re bright and passionate and driven and a fucking baller. And don’t tell me you’re not because you are. And if it doesn’t feel that way now, it will. You just need to find your place. Everyone has one. When you do find it, embrace it, too. Fucking own it. Don’t spend your time comparing it to someone else’s. You are your own unique snowflake. Remember that it’s not where you’re at; it’s what you do with where you’re at.

2)      Take it easy on yourself. It’s okay to stumble. It’s okay to fail. It happens. But you know what else happens? Recovery. Ass kicking. Take a second and think to yourself: what’ll be your Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2014? Let’s crush it together.

I know these things aren’t “new” or even very insightful. But they are important. And they are things we can forget as we rush through the day to day, head down and feet moving furiously towards our next test. So take a minute to remember them.

All this said, I think part of what I’m saying is that (maybe) I’m growing up.

Just a tad.

Eek.

Until next time. And next year. (Haaaaaa! Yes, I went there.)

Ambiguously yours,

-t

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