Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Go for the Adventure

The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.”
Oprah Winfrey

The one who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. 
The one who walks alone, is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been.”
~ Albert Einstein

I like travelling on my own. I like having the freedom of not needing to consider another person in my plans (though I also enjoy meeting up with old or new friends and swapping stories). And mostly I like the space to read, write, or watch a movie while in transit on a bus, train, or plane. So when the couple next to me on my flight home last week offered a friendly greeting, I was a little wary. They asked about my travel plans, and I politely returned the question. I don't fully remember how the conversation went after that, but at some point they asked me what my profession was.

[I want to interject here that this was actually the first time that I gave my response without qualifying it with comments like “completed my MA earlier this year; just starting out; exploring my options; working at a restaurant to pay the bills.” I kept waiting for them to call my bluff (which speaks more about my perception of myself than anything else, I know)... but they didn't... and it felt pretty cool to be accepted as a counsellor! However, from the response they did give, I can see a day when I may not want to admit my intended profession so freely...]

The couple responded with affirmation for the work I do, how needed it is, etc., and shared part of their story supporting a child who struggles with addictions. Everybody has a story to share...

The woman then gave me some advice about living my life to the fullest and following the adventure. Their knowing only the briefest moment of my story, this seemed slightly humorous to me. What if she had known that I have followed adventure in various solo and group travel excursions; with multiple moves, sometimes away from family and friends; by going back to school to pursue a Master's degree; and deciding years ago to no longer live my life in the “shoulds”? I maybe have not followed every adventure, or always and completely lived my life to the fullest. But I have tried.

I suspect these were good, warmhearted people with wisdom from life's experience to share. Perhaps in another time and place I would have pursued the pleasant conversation further, after all I really do enjoy hearing others' stories. But this time I simply smiled and thanked her. If only in the hopes that the conversation would be over so I could enjoy my movie for the remainder of the flight...

As we left the plane – they to catch another flight, me to find my luggage – I wished them well. They smiled, waved, and the woman called out “Remember: Go for the adventure!”

Ok, I thought to myself, there is a reason for this intersecting of stories. There is a message in this meeting, this conversation, this advice that I am to heed. So I put those final words together with their trust in my profession as they know it. It is true that I have had adventures in my past. But pursuing this career is also an adventure. And it will serve me well, I think, to look at it as such. An adventure sure to be full of lessons, growth, failure, and success. Go for it, I will!

Thursday, 19 September 2013


“It was like coming home... only to no home I'd ever known...”

Few places during my past travels and transient living held the comfortable feeling of home. Few people have evoked that soul-felt level of comfort and familiarity.

I found one of the spaces last week; with one of those few people.

Perhaps it was that we have lived together before, the routines developed then returned so quickly. Perhaps it is a testament to the kind of friendship we have, the kind of connection we share. Time passes, and yet each visit seems as though we just said good-bye a day, an hour, a minute before.

During this visit the silences became as comfortable as the conversations. The shared stories and experiences separated by miles that led to similar realizations, similar lessons, similar growths – without our knowing then – brought questions and challenges full of understanding and desire for something better; something truer. Something more real and honest.

I once heard a definition of soul mate that likened it to a mirror that reflects back the truest parts of the self – beauty and faults alike – inspiring deeper levels of self-awareness and self-betterment. Funny how we seem to find one – or find our way back to one – when we didn't even realize we needed it most!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Spectacular Northwest Territories – Life Lessons on The Ingraham Trail

I used to bug an ex of mine that he was missing out on truly seeing and experiencing the beauty around him while hiding behind his camera lens. The other day I realized that I was living my current experience based on what I could write about it for my blog – beginning to compose it in my mind right then and there, during the experience. I suppose in some ways this may help to notice details and/or gain insight that I may have otherwise missed... but what else might I be missing about the experience by hiding behind my pen?

Submerge yourself in the beauty of life this week -”
my friend's well wishes for this trip west have been running through my mind,
“- pretty sure you'll find answers there...”


It's amazing sometimes, the things you can learn, experience, find... when you open yourself up to the possibility. I've had some interesting conversations and experiences since thinking about, writing and posting last week's blog. Including pretty quickly discovering a hidden secret along The Ingraham Trail.


Heading north out of Yellowknife, the scenery along the Ingraham Trail is pretty much the same from beginning to end. Lots of rocks on either side of the road; lots of green and – at least at this time of year – yellow, with a few splashes of red. 

 Moments of beauty are interspersed, some of the lakes more so than others. 

And after a time even some of these can start to become part of the “same” scenery... with seemingly fewer moments of beauty further on. Or maybe I just stopped less to appreciate them properly.

Sometimes you need to stop, pull off the main road and walk in a little deeper to find the beauty.

Sometimes you have to decide not to.

When I did stop, I never stayed in that space as long as I could have or perhaps would have liked. I was conscious of getting back to my “home base” (and cell service range) before dark so no one would worry where I was; wanting to keep moving to see what else was along the road, to see what was waiting at the end.

The road itself is far from smooth. The path curves along at 70km/hr, slowed by the bumps and potholes caused by bitter cold winters, constant construction, and pavement changing to gravel at the mid point.


 If only all construction came with warning signs and polite conclusions...

There are other things that stand out along the way as well, perhaps what and why speaking more about the observer than the actual things themselves:

Items that seem so out of place, you can't help but notice with discomfort or a chuckle.



The markings of those who have been before. Looking for a witness to their presence in that moment, in that space; a witness to their existence. 


The people sharing the road in this moment. The bus of tourists taking pictures. The parents with their unappreciative children. The cute guy with the slobbery dog. The group of girls wearing shoes completely unsuitable for the hike into the deeper beautiful spaces. And that couple who seem to be following you, or you them, to every stop; who sit and enjoy the scenery on their blanket, reminding you that sometimes the journey is better shared... until I remembered that at least I can stop and start whenever I want – and control the radio station - without considering someone else's enjoyment of the trip.

And then, at some point, the road just ends.

If only life had the option of turning around and driving back the way you came, to re-appreciate the beauty of the road.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Building on Grebel's C-Word

*Figured the first day of school was a pretty good day to come back from that summer hiatus of minimal posting... hoping to get back to once a week posts. To everyone who is coming back, or checking this out for the first time: Thanks for reading!!*

What should young people do with their lives today?
Many things, obviously.
But the most daring thing is to create stable communities
in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”
~ Kurt Vonnegut, 1974

Every person is defined by the communities she belongs to and the ones she doesn't belong to.
I am this and this and this, but definitely not that and that and that...
But a person who really believes she doesn't belong to any community at all invariably kills herself, either by killing her body or by giving up her identity and going mad."
~ Orson Scott Card, Speaker for the Dead.

Recently I attended the 50th Anniversary Reunion for Conrad Grebel University College, the space I called “home” for the first 2 years of my University career. During the celebration service, a recent alumnus reflected on the oft-heard buzz word that invoked cringes and eye-rolls from herself and her peers and I smiled thinking, “so some things never change!”

That buzz word:

From the singing-walk to Dairy Queen and square-dance during Frosh Week, to the weekly Community Suppers; the encouraged open door policy, to less formal rituals like “de-traying” at the round tables during meals (in order to fit more people in!): Community was a vital concept of Grebel life. And as I nodded in understanding at stories from earlier alumni representing this buzz word, without actually speaking it, I realized this aspect of Grebel has stood the test of time in connecting individuals from across many different spaces – including generational – with a unique shared experience.

The funny thing about this community experience at Grebel though, as that recent alumnus went on to share, is that you... or rather to speak only for myself, I didn't realize quite how valuable it was until I moved out of it. When someone asked me that weekend, while sharing the stories of where we are now: “Do you have a community that you have connected with up there?” ...that point hit home once again.

I have lost regular touch with most of the people I shared community with at Grebel. But the lingering lesson I hold on to is that community can be built anywhere, with anyone, for any length of time. A shared experience, a common interest, or even just an open heart are all that is needed.

The transient-ness of my life these past many years has resulted in a “community” that is spread out across southern-Ontario; really across the world. There are times when this feels lonely and isolating, needing extra effort to reach out to those I may consider part of my inner community circle. Other times I feel blessed to have been a part of so many varied communities, with lingering connections. But what of a community here, where I am now; where I have chosen to stay for a time?

Starting out in a new city, and moving towards a career that can easily be isolating without intentional professional community building, has made this difficult for sure. Yet I have found a great community with my co-workers at the restaurant. Supportive, fun-loving people. A few closer friends, but many to share the experience and a drink with at our own round tables after work!

Still, reconnecting with a community from my past the other weekend I realized that as much as I value and will continue to connect with my community of co-workers, it is not currently fulfilling an aspect of myself that I wish to be exploring more again: my spirituality. I grew up in Christian church community. Grebel provided a safe space to explore that faith further and deeper; moving towards a spiritual exploration that continued to grow and change in the early years of leaving that space. Though my spiritual journey may look quite different than that of some of my peers from those earlier communities, it is still a journey I wish to develop and connect with. Without the intentional communities of my childhood church and the university residence to provide context, I'm left to find it on my own. In a new city. And feeling less comfortable seeking the connections of a Christian church. This continues to be somewhat difficult.

I am so grateful for the lessons in community building that Grebel provided all those years ago, and for the reminder and re-connection through reunion recently. My hope is that if I open myself up to the possibility of broadening my community here – of incorporating support for spiritual exploration into existing or new communities – that they will develop with a little bit of intention and a little bit of nature taking it's course!