I quickly pat my pockets. Then look up in horror.
No. Oh god no.
I feel a surge of adrenaline. Panic sets in.
My camera. It’s gone.
It is circa 2010. And I’ve just gotten off the skytrain in Vancouver. My friends and I are on our way to watch…..the motha fucking Olympics. And somehow. My camera was left behind. On the very train that is now making a B-line down the track. Like a bat outta hell.
Wait a minute.
This is the last stop. Which means the train I was JUST on should be heading in the other direction….mere seconds from now.
I dash over to the opposite side of the station. And what do you know. The bitch is pulling up.
I was in the very last car on the way here. Which means….fuck….what does it mean? The train hits the end of the line, then reverses.
With any luck, my camera should be….in the first car.
The train comes to a complete stop. The doors open. And I sprint into the car like a mad woman.
And there, sitting on the floor, is my camera.
I grab hold of it, not sure whether to scold it, or embrace it….like a child who’s wandered away.
Oh thank god.
What a relief.
The push towards life’s biggest milestones
It is moments like this one, that make you realize…..just how quickly you can take action, when need be.
Typically….we la-di-da our way through decisions.
But when we NEED decisiveness? It’s there for us.
And THIS? Is what plagues us during adulthood.
Because SO MUCH of our lives up until we’re “grown ups” is time sensitive. Getting a degree. Getting a job. Getting married. Having kids.
These are all things that weigh on us. Like a big ominous check-list…..with a socially prescribed “best before” date.
When you’re dating it’s…..when are you getting married?
When you’re married it’s…..when are you having kids?
And at some point, you do all the things. And then low and behold. No one is asking you any more questions.
And if I had to guess…..I’d say….THAT is the moment. The point in life, when many people become dangerously unhappy.
Hell, I became dangerously unhappy.
Because all of a sudden, we are no longer being called upon to “get ‘er done.”
You’ve “made it.”
And that feeling? Will either make you want to kick your feet up, and sink into the la-z-boy of life. OR, it will force you to dig deep, and reach for more.
Feeling “stuck” at the top of the mountain
But the tricky part is? So many of us feel backed into a corner, at this stage of life.
I can’t possibly quit my ho-hum job in order to follow my passion. I’ve got a mortgage to pay. And children to feed.
We trap ourselves in our own excuses. And we tell ourselves….this is the end game. I can’t possibly jump ship.
And so, we try to convince ourselves….I’m happy. This is happiness. I should be happy. Be. Happy.
But I think deep down, all of us desire growth.
And in order to feel fulfilled, we need to keep peeling back the layers of who we are, and take a peak at our own untapped potential.
I think we feel this sense of….obligation…..to be who we said we were….5 years ago, 1 year ago, 10 minutes ago.
And yet. That is the very thing that prevents us from evolving into ourselves.
The lies we tell ourselves…..“I can’t possibly….”
There are days when I look at my kids and wonder…..what would life be like, if I had made a different decision? What if I chose not to have kids?
Are they holding me back from my dreams? Are they tying me down?
And although, there are moments that I resent my role as a mother (oh the demands)…..I have now discovered that my kids? Are the GREATEST source of INSPIRATION for my own growth.
And any stories I have about….."I can’t possibly…..I have kids….” is an excuse. An excuse to keep playing small. And to avoid the discomfort of change.
One of the BIGGEST red flags for me, in the dating world? The guy who complains about how much he hates his job.
(That, and the guy who says he’s obsessed with “Call of Duty.” You’re 37!? Really?!?)
Because this guy? The job hater? Is playing the victim.
And if you hate your job? You shouldn’t be DOING that job. Quit. Do something else. Make a change.
I look at my kiddos, who literally jump into discomfort all the damn time (see “source of inspiration comment above”), and I wonder how adults become so…..averse to it.
My kids beat me into the water, every damn time, when we go to the beach. There I am. Slowly wading in, one inch a time, cringing at the coolness….as they run in, full tilt, creating fire-works with their careless splashing. They count me down….”come on, mom!! 5,4,3,2….”
And forget about over-committing to an identity. Last week? My daughter Clara devoured a plate full of broccoli. Literally a plate full. Today? “I don’t like broccoli.”
Life does not get better by chance
The next level of your life? Always demands a different version of you. But at some point, when it seems as though all the levels have been conquered? We need to start getting creative, and demanding more of ourselves.
We need to start inventing our own levels. And defining our own version of success.
We need to remind ourselves that life does not get better by chance. And that change is not as impossible as we make it out to be.
Uncomfortable? Yes. Impossible? No.
Even for us adults, who “have it all.”
Ding! The elevator door opens. Ground floor.
But before I move an inch, I start to wonder. Wait a second. Am I looking into a mirror?
On the other side of the threshold, I see a single-mom. Two kids. A boy and a girl. She’s towing a wagon. And it is FULL of beach paraphernalia. Towels. Pool noodles. Pails. Snacks. She looks exhausted.
I’ve seen this woman before. And although I’ve only ever given a polite smile, or a quick “hello,” I wonder. How do you feel about being a single-mom? Are you resentful? Angry? At peace? Relieved?
Were you blindsided? Or did you cut it off?
Was it hard to break it to your parents? Or did they rejoice in finally ridding themselves of that dirtbag?
It never seems like the right time to make friends. But I fantasize about asking her all these questions.
Because everyone is SO keen to talk about falling IN love. And yet….when it comes to falling OUT of love, people tend to sweep it under the rug. It’s messy. And uncomfortable. And there is so much…..”oh you poor thing….” and an underlying sense of “thank god it’s not me.”
But being someone who has experienced it myself….falling out of love, that is….I can tell you. The realization is scary as fuck.
But what’s scarier? Is the WORRY you subject yourself to over the repercussions of that realization. How will I tell people? What will my friends think? Will my children be ok? What if I end it, and he turns into a monster? How will I support myself? Will I regret it? Will I get stuck with the shitty Ford Focus?
This fear is enough to keep MANY people in relationships that they KNOW they shouldn’t be in anymore.
Which….in the end….is it’s own variation of hell.
How to take the leap despite fear
And so how do you find the balls to DO the thing that scares the shit out of you? How do you grab your worry by the shoulders and yell, “get a hold of yourself!”??
Whatever thing you are on the precipice of doing. Whether it’s getting a divorce. Quitting your job. Starting a business. Growing your family. Booking a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Or deciding...YES. Fuck it. I am going skydiving.
The key to making yourself ACTUALLY do it? Is to visualize what it is you want. And to realize that doing this thing will get you there.
It is that simple.
Because at that point? The decision just becomes….logical.
And worrying about it? Becomes….a waste of time.
You start to see.
Worrying is like going to the beach in the middle of August, wearing a snowsuit….because you have a sneaking suspicion….there’s going to be a blizzard.
It’s ridiculous. VERY unlikely. And extremely uncomfortable. For everyone.
Worrying takes away your peace. It destroys “now.” And it is a ruthless dream killer.
It’s like the creepy guy from the movie Halloween. You know who I mean. White mask. Walks really slow. But somehow….he always manages to come out from behind the shadows, just when you think you’ve outrun him.
How to face the ghosts in the room
Just the other day, Liam was having trouble falling asleep….scared out of his mind at every little sound.
“Mom? I think there’s a ghost in here.”
“Don’t be silly. Ghosts aren’t real, sweetheart.”
“But I heard….like a…..mmmmmm sound.”
“Do you KNOW there’s a ghost in here? Like, are you 100% sure?”
“No. I just think there MIGHT be.”
“Do you want to feel sleepy, and warm, and safe?”
“Then let’s go with what you KNOW. And choose to think about what you WANT to happen. Rather than what you DON’T want to happen. Think about yourself, fast asleep. Safe as can be.”
This kind of thing? Doesn’t work all the time. But when you start to realize that your reality is a creation of your mind, you start to be able to control it.
We give so much power to negative possibilities. Yet spend precious little time obsessing over the positive possibilities. So why not choose the positive?
The importance of trusting yourself
I was SO scared to get a divorce. And yet, I was crystal clear on what I wanted. And my marriage was not it.
Going through with it was tough. But having the vision of WHO I WAS on the other side of it? Gave me the courage to do it.
It feels like a bit of a gamble…..betting on your ability to bring your vision to life. But if you want it bad enough, and you know exactly WHY you want it….you make it happen. No matter what.
Don’t get me wrong. Worry still tackles me to the ground sometimes. But the more I remind myself to stop thinking about what could go WRONG, and to start thinking about what could go RIGHT…..the calmer, and more confident I am.
Yes. I did get stuck with the shitty Ford Focus. But even still? I’m happier than ever, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
My parents are obsessed with 3 things:
They call each other to the kitchen window, like it’s a real-life santa claus siting.
Every single day. It’s “would you look at that?!” Binoculars in hand. Amazed. Bewildered.
In the winter? It is a vendetta against the squirrels who squander the birdseed.
In the spring? It is a race to see the first robin.
And in the summer? Particularly THIS summer? It is a non-stop “awwwww” fest over 3 wild kittens.
I’ll give it to them. These kittens? Are adorable AF.
So adorable? That just yesterday, my tough-as-nails dad hung a ball from a string, on one of the pine trees.
“Batting practice,” he said.
But what amazes me about these cats, is their skill at surviving….and thriving…on nothing but their own scrappiness.
I can just envision Darwin high-five-ing these cats. Survival of the fittest, baby. “You’re nailing it!”
The funny thing about humans (our ego gets in the way!)
Every species on the planet reaches for it’s fullest potential.
And yet humans? Only sometimes do.
Sometimes? We’re all Steve Jobs. And we blow everyone’s mind.
But sometimes? We shrink back into the shadows. “I’m fine. No really. You go ahead.”
We’ve all been given MASSIVE gifts to share with the world. And yet only some of us cultivate them.
Because it is SCARY to put yourself out there.
Fear of rejection
And for some? It is scary to leave that comfortable, familiar, safe rock….in order to leap to the next one (which COULD be covered in moss, or bird shit, or….mossy bird-shit).
Many people worm their way into the least threatening crevice of life. Then defend their territory to the death. Change is the enemy.
The other side of the coin? Those who change partners, homes, and careers almost as often as they change their toilet paper roll.
Just the other day, I bought a new couch, and the salesman laughed when I asked about ware and tear. “Just replace it in a few years. Who cares.” I should note that said salesman also tried to peak my interest in a throw pillow that he’d “gladly deliver to my apartment….personally” (gag). So….likely not the best salesman to begin with.
Nonetheless. It is the Tinder effect. The….. “don’t worry, if this doesn’t work out, I’ve got 3 other options lined up.”
BUT! What’s fascinating, is this over-willingness to jump ship? It is JUST as much a reflection of a FEAR OF REJECTION, as is cowering AWAY from change.
For many, this throw-away mentality is simply a way of avoiding discomfort.
At the first sign of an injured ego, they bail. “Can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread man!”
The greatest breach of your own human contract (gasp!)
But what many of us are missing the mark on (whether you’re a trench digger, or a fence hopper), is that NOT sharing your gifts with the world? NOT leaning into your own unique potential? Not seeking your BEST life? Is the GREATEST breach of your own human contract.
It’s like saying F-U to the universe.
And it is a massive disservice to you and the people around you.
Pablo Picasso once said, “the meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
And for those who are unwilling to reach for their fullest potential?
The world needs what you’ve got! Choose to be your true self. Everywhere you go. And stop trying to CONVINCE other people that you have value. Believe that you have value. And then let those who see it, bask in it.
The world is filled with people who, no matter what the hell you do, will not like you. Just as there are people in the world who will love you savagely.
And it is those people who love you savagely (and have yet to love you savagely) who are relying on you to do your thang.
We are told that to chase money, to chase success…..it is greedy. And there are many Audi driving assholes who give the “high life” a bad wrap.
A new perspective on raking in the dough
But what if wealth and abundance were simply a reflection of your willingness to go after your gifts?
What if money was simply a return on the investment you made on yourself?
What if affluence was simply a measure of the value you were willing to share with the world?
What if your bank account was was simply a reflection of how much you love yourself?
Like ferrel cats, we have it in us to stalk our best lives. And yet, so many of us choose to play small. Because we’d rather avoid pain.
But rather than thinking about the cost of chasing that crazy dream of yours…..think about the cost of NOT chasing that crazy dream.
The lives you will NOT impact.
The change you will NOT affect.
The inspiration you will NOT create.
How grateful are we to JK Rowling, Michael Jordan, Beyonce, Jerry Seinfeld….that they chose to live a life true to themselves, and their own talents….DESPITE criticism?
They are some of the richest people in the world. And some of the most impactful.
Dare to envision a rich life
“Ya, but I'm me. I'm nothing special.”
Pfffffft. I call bullshit.
You’ve got a crazy concoction of you-ness that no one else has. And NOT digging into that? Is the equivalent of avoiding an overseas flight to the destination of your dreams…..simply because, well, you get really uncomfortable with turbulence, you never seem to be able to fall asleep sitting up, and you hate when someone else steals your armrest.
You can choose to focus on the pain, and avoid doing the AMAZING thing. Or you can suck it up, and trust that the shitty part won’t last forever (and actually….probably isn’t THAT shitty).
And like…..REALLY…..do you.
Then dare to envision a RICH life. Because if you are willing to cultivate your own potential (despite the discomfort), you will see the payoff.
We walk in the front doors of the apartment building. And as always, I am carrying 10,000 things at once. A bag of groceries. A Starbucks coffee. An iPad. A sparkly pink ball-cap. A basketball. And two stuffed animals under each arm.
My sunglasses are slipping off my nose. And as we pass the mailbox, I get my daughter Clara to dig the keys out of my pocket so she can open it up.
She slips the key in the lock, just as my son Liam turns around to see the horror.
“Noooooo!!!!!!!” he yells. Tears instantly start pouring down his face.
“It was MY turn to get the mail!”
I roll my eyes.
“Come on, Liam,” I say. “It’s not THAT exciting to open a mailbox!?!”
Then he lays aaalllll his 7-year old wisdom on me. And it makes me stop dead in my tracks (and feel horrible).
“Maybe not to you!”
Huh. He’s right.
There is absolutely zero thrill in opening a mailbox. To me. But to this little boy, it is like opening a pirate’s treasure.
I see the potential for flyers. Bills. And a picture of some lame-ass real-estate agent with way too much hair gel.
He sees the potential for scratch cards. Envelopes with money in them. Mysterious packages.
Happiness is a choice
Ah yes. Perception.
It truly defines reality. One man’s treasure, another man’s trash (after all).
And THIS is how I feel about happiness.
Happiness is a choice.
And ultimately? It is a choice in perception.
And maybe that’s a bit of a loaded statement. But I believe it to be 100% true. And here’s why.
When I was in the depths of despair….hating my 9-5 job….wanting out….I knew that in order to be happy, I needed to quit.
But quitting required effort. A change of routine. Risk.
And it was sooooo much easier to just….be unhappy (and complain about it), than to somehow find the energy to create a new path. And risk failure.
But like souring milk, unhappiness has a way of intensifying over time. And the more you tell yourself (and everyone else) you hate your job, the more you find reasons to prove it to be true.
“Did you see that snicker?!? Pam from HR is totally talking behind my back!!”
“Paper jam?!? I told you! This printer is out to get me!”
“Seriously Jon? Tuna for lunch?! Again?!”
The danger of letting your own unhappiness simmer
But the moment we start to swim in our own woe….and get angry that life has handed us this god-awful lemon….is the moment we give up our own power. AND our own happiness. For the long haul.
When I leapt from the cliff of my life-sucking job, I did so, with a hell of a lot of fear. But the discomfort of that fear was only outweighed by the discomfort of my unhappiness.
It was that bad.
But need we let it get to that point?
Sometimes, I think we let unhappiness simmer for while. Just to make sure it’s turning into a true unhappiness stew.
And sure, it’s probably a good thing to give shitty things a chance to de-shit (the last thing you wanna be is that person who continually chases shiny objects).
But “weighing your options” often happens for waaaayyyy too long. And we just linger there. In misery.
We question ourselves….am I really unhappy? Or did I just have a bad day? Am I really unhappy? Or did I just not get enough sleep last night? Am I really unhappy? Or did I eat one too many bean burritos?
Flip. Flop. Flip. Flop.
Then OK. We call it. We decide. Yes, I’m unhappy.
At which point…..we need a bull-shit exit strategy. A transition plan. A guaranteed safe landing. Before we can jump ship.
And the unhappiness? Continues.
The plus-side of unhappiness
In the meantime….you get all kinds of sympathy for being “stuck” in a job you hate. Your mom drops by with cookies to cheer you up. Your best friend checks in with you to see how you “survived” your week. And you get to ditch that house warming party you were ho-hum about attending anyways, because you’re “just not feeling up to it.”
And admittedly….it feels kinda good.
Until we realize. Damn. This unhappiness ain’t going away. And these band-aid solutions? Aren’t cutting it.
Sometimes it takes a wake-up call to snap us into awareness of our own power.
Other times (like it was for me)? It is a gradual awakening to the simple, yet profound truth. We can absolutely choose our own happiness.
Just like we can choose to see opening a mailbox as the most magical thing on the planet.
We have the power to take on a different perspective. A different reality.
And it starts with making different decisions.
You must be willing to stop at nothing to cultivate your own happiness
Sometimes, we sit around, waiting for happiness to somehow come to us. Like a ship in the night. But happiness is not something that is bestowed upon us. It is not something that happens to us. And it is definitely not something that is on the other side of the bridge.
Happiness is a choice. An active choice. The alternative path to unhappiness.
And if you are truly in pursuit of it, you will stop at nothing to cultivate it.
And that’s the kicker.
You have to be dedicated. And willing to…..talk to a therapist, journal your heart out, get active, eat healthy, go to bed early, give up complaining, have the difficult conversation….or whatever it looks like for you to DO THE WORK.
You have to be willing to prioritize your needs, your wants, your passions, your desires. And you need to be willing to sacrifice the predictable path. Which (yep, I get it) takes a hell of a lot of trust in yourself….and the universe.
Happiness is the scarier path. Because it is the one that demands more of you.
But it is also the more fulfilling path. The one that will leave you looking back at your life, thinking, “Holy shit! I did that!”
Bring the magic
For the longest time, I was the person counting down the hours to the weekend. Agonizing over my boring job. Living for Friday night.
Until I wasn’t anymore.
Because I chose not to be.
Also? I am now embracing the mailbox magic.
I have turned myself into the mailbox fairy. And have started leaving little trinkets for the kids to find.
Because why not?
It is waayyyy more exciting than real-estate.