When I was young I recall my mother telling me that she remembered where she was the day that JFK was shot. That she could still clearly see the teacher telling the class while tears streamed down her face. I can remember thinking that I will never have those memories, because our world was better now than the one in which she was raised.
I am here to tell you that I was wrong.
I remember where I was during 9-11.
I remember what I was doing during the Eaton Centre shooting in Toronto. I know how I heard the news about Parkland and so many other atrocities that have become commonplace occurred in the USA.
I have signed petitions and voted for politicians that promise to increase gun laws and take automatic and semi-automatic weapons out of the hands of people outside the military. I have studied and written about the benefits of equity and diversity, but I haven’t worked hard enough to speak out against hate. In our modern world not speaking out has become way too similar to condoning these behaviours.
My ego told me that everyone was safe in NZ. That things like that just don’t happen here. I had moved to a place so kind and welcoming this former Torontonian couldn’t handle all the strangers that say hello as you walk down the street. Immigrants were welcome here.
When the news broke about the Christchurch/Ōtautahi shooting I was giving a lecture on the legal history of discrimination & employment equity legislation and the importance of speaking out against hate, bias and stereotypes to a group of university students from a variety of backgrounds. I spoke about how each of us has the chance to act as an advocate and help our world celebrate how our differences make our countries and world better and had talented students engaged in crafting a better world.
In a strange twist of fate I was attempting to teach others why we must not be silent when confronted with wrongdoing.
Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding a deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.
Martin Luther King Jr.
We cannot combat hate with more hate. We must fight with love. My chosen home has welcomed me and I must now pay that forward and welcome others.
I realised today when it happened. Ageing that is. It happened when I finally started living a life that made me happy. Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those people who appears to coast through life in a state of ease and joy. I’ve had more than my share of hard times as have most of us. But now, acknowledging the times that have come before makes me more grateful for today that I think I have ever been in the days leading up to today.
What strikes me most clearly is that as soon as I got genuinely happy and stopped being what other people wanted (or what I thought other people wanted) everything started to move as though on fast forward. The days, adventures, laughs, even tears sped up with an enthusiasm that would make roller coasters look like the lazy river.
Equally notable, is the snail’s pace that the hard times seemed to take, even in my memories. I’m amazed by how absorbed I was with how other people perceived me and how I wanted them to perceive me in my twenties. It seemed to last forever. It certainly felt like a millennium of repeated bad days.
The gaps between should be and perceived by cost me hours (weeks and months in some cases) of trauma that not only moved slowly, they seemed to trap me in neutral. Even when I reflect on them the scars still seem fresh. Normal, I suppose, but when contrasted with the laughs that happened just yesterday already fading away, it seems cruel.
That is the thing about the good times, they fly quickly and without the internet reminding us of fun moments we had back when we can easily forget they existed. Strangely, the moments of turbulence seem etched in my memory in a high definition familiarity I wish I had with today’s breakfast.
So that is what I am going to talk about. Questing for good times every damn day. I know that my life is flying past and that each second is fleeting and precious. Time is not on my side (Sorry Mick) and soon enough my almost forty will become one of the things in my not so recent history so I better get started.
I asked myself this too. One answer is that I have the confidence to put my words in the universe because I don’t care if you like them. The alternate is that I am old enough to have experiences worth sharing to those who follow in my footsteps.
Both are bullshit.
Maybe you are asking why you decided to give moments of your precious time for this garbage. My ego tells me that you did because this tome is only going to be read by people who know me and most never made it far enough into this post to see these words.
That being said, if you are someone who gave money to travel the internet and somehow arrived here for my words: Thank you. Send me your postal address and I will mail you a card saying something clever about how you help me to be myself. I will probably need to write it out a few times, edit, and rewrite before I feel good enough to tell you such things, but that is the power of the voices in our heads.
In the fourth grade I wanted to be a writer, but… I soon realised that writers don’t often make a great living and so decided to go a different way.
Fuck You pragmatic ten-year old self.
Sidebar: I think I was actually 6 in this photo and the fat lip is courtesy of my older sister and the teeter-totter.
Seriously. Growing up in a world where struggling to make ends meet and “broke” stole a dream and traded it for self sufficiency is just plain old shitty. For the record: we need to do more to support the working poor.
Well here is the thing about being a grown up: You can change your mind if you want to so that is what I have done. I am now self-sufficient, I have gathered up some confidence in my words, and today I am going to share them even if it doesn’t make me rich, because satisfaction cannot be purchased at any price.
Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing-Benjamin Franklin
In the last couple of years I was inspired to start writing in a way I have always secretly hoped to. My friend Anna makes me feel good about the ideas in my head and the words I assemble onto uhm paper? Digital documents? Whatever. You get the idea. She said nice stuff, I gained confidence, I wrote more stuff. Now you are reading said type of stuff.
Why we face complicated ideas such as what and who we should be so early in life and follow that decision made in the midst of hormone fuelled chaos for decades is beyond me. Shouldn’t we be happy? Shouldn’t success be defined with experiences instead of things you can buy at a store?
So hey there ten-year old Erin, better late than never right?
Onto things of more value: My next steps
When I was young I used to think that I knew the path I was supposed to take. I was supposed to find a good guy, get a job that pays the bills, buy a house, live the life. Happily. Ever. After.
I did those things. I hated my life.
My entire existence was muscle memory the way you continue to read the instructions on a bottle of shampoo as you go through the motions in the shower each morning. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.
That is decidedly notliving.
Birthdays have been something that I have spent most of my life ignoring and just let them slip by. I don’t know exactly when, but at some point in my late teens I decided that they shouldn’t be such a big deal and that making yourself the centre of attention just brought on criticism.
Since then both the big and little numbers have skated quietly by for almost two decades.
20 came and went to an unhealthy relationship and what I remember being a pretty massive fight. I recall coming up on 30 and after a friend made an absolute spectacle of their big day all I could think was how I didn’t want to be like that. Because of him that milestone went all but unmarked with a partner who forgot.
When I turned 30 I made the decision to redefine what I wanted my life to look like. What I wanted it to look like was not the life I had spent time building. It wasn’t a collection of pretty things or looking the part. It was experiences. It was people I loved that made me laugh so hard tears stream down my face. It was adventures and unexpected items around corners I got to explore because I was busy living life.
It was certainly not life on autopilot.
That being said, 35 was sucked into the vacuum of days at the start of my MBA and a new job, though there was a particularly fantastic meal at Jacob’s …..mmmm steak.
That’s what makes this year important to me to mark in some way. I’ve decided that it is not about the particular day, but rather how you fill the ones that aren’t as discernible. I am now a distance that can be counted in hours away from my next milestone and am doing everything I can to relish the moments that are passing in memorable ways. I’ve spent the last few months working to capture mental pictures of flashes that make up who I am today and who I am yet to be.
To start this next batch of ~3600 days I thought I would reflect a little on the growth that got me through the last decade.
Physically: I have challenged my body by training, running, hiking, and endurance cycling. Even better, I haven’t once died or failed to find the finish line.
Mentally: Yup, all it takes is three post graduate efforts and a little collection of letters after my name in order to remind me that I am smart enough.
Professionally: by having a chance to expand my skills across countries and continents with people from different cultures and experiences, I am a different and more balanced person.
Emotionally: learning to overcome the voice in my head that said I couldn’t as well as through pushing my own limits to discover empathy and human capacity that had long since been tucked away.
This type of stretching matters because we naturally become comfortable doing what we know, with people we know. Committing your life to remaining flexible means more than just being able to touch your toes.
It means that you are willing to try, to fail, and sometimes to flounder in uncertainty while figuring it out as you go.
Today we are faced with ever lengthening life spans and I don’t want the next sixty plus years to look the same. I refuse to allow myself to get too comfortable.
My promises to myself and you.
More languages and more cultural explorations
The goal for now is German, French, and Te Reo (Māori), after that maybe Japanese and sign language… we will see. I can’t guarantee what is coming up around the next corners and am prepared to adapt my plans on the fly as I go.
More physical challenges
Despite what the voice in my head might say I am strong and capable. Our bodies are something that with care can last the hundred or so years I plan to be on the planet, so if I treat this almost forty year-old body well, it will continue to serve me for the rest of my time. A couple of weeks ago I climbed to the top of a volcano in Indonesia. A few weeks from now I will tramp Old Ghost Road in New Zealand. I haven’t made too many plans for 2018 yet, but I promise there will be time spent exploring both new and familiar mountains, forests, and beaches.
I love learning and my academic endeavors are far from over. I really do want to be a polymath.
I abandoned writing in my teens and have rediscovered a passion for sharing my thoughts and ideas in both formal and informal forums. That is going to continue for sure, you don’t have to read them, but I know that I do have to write them.
It’s not a secret that I am not a big people person. However, I love the way working together can create amplification and multiplication of ideas as smart humans build from one another. The world is full of complex problems and to start solving them we need people with broadly different paradigms to tackle them together.
More failures and confusion
Failing and stumbling are critical parts of learning and growth. Confusion is simply our brain finding ways to connect knowledge we have with new ideas or things we are being exposed to. Instead of considering confusion as something that shows us as less than, consider it watching your brain creating new pathways between what it knows about and what it is discovering in real time. (You want to try it right now, don’t you? It’s ok. I will wait…).
Growth as a feminist and advocate for personhood
No, I am not being cheeky. This is not about one thing. Feminism provides a foundation for humanity. It sparks the flame of true equality for so much more than just gender. Our world is not binary and nor should policies be. People need to be kind to one another regardless of things as defined by hashtags as gender or sexual orientation and as complex as socio-economic status. We are now responsible for embracing the realisation that most of us are becoming citizens without a base as we begin to face life as a global community.
There is more on my list to be sure, but these are the road markers that will remind me that I am progressing when I feel insecure and less than. Goals are complicated things that should be written down and reviewed regularly. I keep a list of them with me and while many items stay until I can tick them off the list, others get removed as I evolve.
So.. that’s it. Happy almost birthday to me.
May we all spend our moments creating sparks for the fires that will warm us tomorrow.
When I was a kid my dad used to tell me a story about how when he was my age he had to “walk uphill both ways to school”. Occasionally this was combined with an aggressive slamming of his baseball mitt sized hand to his chest with a sidebar of “..and the snow was this high! You don’t know how good you’ve got it.”
As an adult I know that he meant this as a story that would motivate me. What I’ve since realised is that often the way we interpret things can be dark and scary OR overwhelmingly motivating. It is all about how we chose to take it.
The words he was saying were about how life could be hard and that likely someone nearby had it worse than I did. In hindsight this isn’t a bad lesson, though I wish he had placed a little focus on what I could be doing to make that other person’s life a little bit better, but he wasn’t that type of guy. Most of his stories roll up to being about looking out for number one.
What troubles me is what the kid in me heard when he told that story.I heard that life is always going to be a struggle. I heard that nobody was going to help you find a shorter, easier way. I heard that you should not complain and just trudge through.
This lesson served to damage a little seed inside me that was trying to grow into something soft and kind and it has taken a long time for me to release that outlook. Today I hear a very different message from his words and this is the one I want to share with you.
If the road in front of you is hard, do not be afraid, be brave and optimistic. The laws of physics are on your side. No route should be uphill both ways. That is not to say that your path will be an easy one to travel. Life is only as hard as you make it. If the track you are on says that you should suffer, stop and question everything about it.
Ask yourself if there is a different way over, under, around, or through. Ask yourself if this was the way you wanted to go in the first place because sometimes a left turn takes you to where you should have been heading all along.
Do not accept the status quo. Learn from things that do not go your way and choose not to allow things not going in your favour to stop you on your journey to greatness.
Make the decision that you are the only one who can change the rules for you and those who come after you.
One choice, one decision, one mistake, one obstacle will not make or break you, but sitting down and letting the world crush the seeds of awesome inside you will. Sometimes plans don’t go our way. Sometimes we need a better plan, or better yet we need to collaborate with awesome people to create a new way forward all together.
My dad told me a story that was supposed to lift me up and it crushed me for a while. That is a reality of how each of us interprets the things we hear and see. It took longer than it otherwise might have for my little seed to push past these obstacles and bloom.
I consider myself lucky that I was able to hear it differently today because so many hopes and dreams are lost in these situations of misinterpretation.
In light of our global political climate, I want to remind everyone that this single setback should not serve to crush the seeds of hope that have been planted. It may delay the blooms the way a late frost might, but I am here to remind you that summer is coming and together we can make a more beautiful world.
We have had a good run you and I. There have been some fun times, but it’s just not working anymore.
I read somewhere that sarcasm is the lowest form of discourse (literature scholars please offer a source for this truth). I had always thought that sarcasm was a gift. I didn’t realise that it was one of those gifts that might be best left behind for another to use.
For a long-time I took pride in my fast responses and enjoyed the impact of a well placed disdainful comment. I didn’t fully value the impact that these remarks might have on perceptions.
As a professional I do my best to keep my terminology crisp and clear as so much can be lost in the space between words read quickly on a screen. This has come from some tough lessons of items that have been misconstrued due to language or context being undeclared in the content.
Sarcasm can be a great tool in the right circumstance. When combined with wit or humour a sarcastic retort can be impactful. It can make a story land in a way that makes a listener remember it. Over time I have learned that unlike sarcasm both wit and humour can be used to great impact on their own. Sarcasm can too, but without humour or wit to soften the blow it tends to just sound bitchy.
You will notice in great literature sarcasm is a tool for the supporting characters. Rarely is it used by the hero of the story. Heroes are known to put the villains back in their places without the need for this crutch. So why does this matter?
If you want to be the hero instead of the sidekick, you better get some more effective weapons for your arsenal.
Not too long ago I submitted some writing that I had done for a grad school assignment. One of the items had what I considered a cheeky dig at the opponent’s approach. While my work received a great grade, the point received a negative comment from my professor. At the time I thought that she was attacking my point which was well researched and valid. I was offended that she didn’t get me.
This weekend I went for a hike in the woods and was struck with an epiphany that she wasn’t actually attacking me. She was warning me that I might lose my argument because of the sarcastic delivery.
My work might not win the debate even though I had the better argument because my sarcasm would serve to make the reader stop listening.
People don’t hear your message when you attack them before you share it.
Persuasive arguments are fought on good data and sound logic. Sometimes they may include a witty or funny analogy in order to make the reader engage on a deeper level, but they have no need for bitchy digs.
It’s because of this realisation that over the next few months I am weaning myself off sarcastic comments. I work hard to build credible connections between different data points and should not serve to reduce their impact or risk losing the game by throwing foul balls at the batter.
I realise that it can be hard to change something that I used to take pride in. While I may mourn for the retorts never getting a chance to hit their mark, I will celebrate my ability to articulate an argument and win the debate as the hero of my story.
Yeah, I said it. I’m sick of you coming into my life and bullying people I love.
You don’t seem to get it. We don’t want you here.
All my life you have managed to surface just when I thought we were beating you. I understand you playing tough when I was small and weak. You thought you could overpower my life and steal people I love. But I’m not weak anymore. My family, friends, and I are all fighters and we want you gone for good.
Yes, you have stolen people who were magical like Patricia, Finn, Adam, Megan, and Marissa. But they taught us how to fight harder. Everyday people are beating you. My mom beat you, awesome friends like Taylor, Megan and Josh have outwitted you, and I promise that Auntie Anne is going to kick your ass too.
So today I am giving you notice. The odds are never going to be in your favour.
This is not some small issue where the bully steals your lunch money. You are stealing memories of moments that haven’t happened yet and photographs that can never be taken. These items are not replaceable and their value is unmatched.
You may not have noticed, but we are now stronger that you are. The statistics show it. More than 80% of kids are beating you and in the adult community the numbers are getting even better.
Take this post as a warning. Your reign of cruelty is almost over and we are going to move you from the front page to the history books very soon. You think because you come with complicated names like acute lymphoblastic leukemia, papillary carcinoma in situ, and cerebral lymphomas we don’t see you lurking behind them, but we do. You can’t hide from us anymore.
I understand that some of you may take offence to this post and I am sorry if you do, but when we let bullies into our lives we give them permission to take things from us. I’m afraid the costs to this are just too high to sit quietly.
To make a donation to the Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation click here
As I began to write the list of acknowledgements for my graduate project I realised that most of my thanks need to go to many who will never read such a document. Gratitude this large and passionate deserves broadcast to an audience wider than just that of a paper filed neatly in a folder somewhere.
My life has changed a lot over the last few years. I have a new partner, friends, company, job and now a new country. The person many of you met was going through a massive change and I credit my success this far to each and every one of you.
I’ve finally started to become a version of myself that I respect, on my way to being the person I want to be when I grow up. Certainly, not the version someone else wants, but one I was seeing in my head and heart not so long ago. I jumped into a hurricane and ended up on a quest to this new life by walking the yellow brick road and meeting all of you along the way.
There have been scary times during this adventure I promise. I have made choices that are not at all popular and certainly unconventional but I have grown and evolved. Today I feel that it is time that I offer credit to all of you who helped me get here.
To my partner: you are my everything, my future and I am (literally) willing to follow you to the end of the world.
To my family: yes, I am different than what you thought I would be. No less flawed, but it is with the knowledge that you will love me anyway that I have had the courage to make the leaps I have so far and those I am merely plotting for the future.
To my support system and chosen families: you know who you are. You cheered me on, heard me cry, told me I WAS good enough, strong enough and smart enough. You pushed me up hills that I never would have challenged both physically and emotionally. You offered honest and sometimes hard feedback to help me grow and change and I am forever in your debt.
To my team, company and customers: it has been the act of working for you that has made me willing to forget about myself. Thank you for helping me to see the big picture.
To my scholastic colleagues and leaders: each day I spend with you in my life I become stronger and more capable to face what the future brings. I am lucky to know each of you and credit you among my nearest and dearest.
So, with a little love and honesty I need to offer credit to each of you for the massive dent that my bucket list has taken over the past few years. I credit your support for the fact that it has also more than doubled despite the long list of items marked happily with a strike through. You are helping to push me forward and for that I am eternally grateful.
The other day I was chatting with a friend about road trips. I love them. Assembling meals from the gas station, scenery, random giant landmarks, debates over the best choice of radio station.
I used to struggle with long trips as I viewed my destination as the goal and the drive to the destination as the cost rather than a part of the experience. Today that is not the case.
A few years ago I went on a road trip in an RV and surrounded by some of my best friends I experienced the journey. I discovered that the trip including late night coffee stops, peeing roadside and trash talking one another for their choice in music, snacks, apparel, etc. was as much a part of the vacation as the things that we stopped to see or do. I have more pictures and fond memories of us in that RV than at any other location and would go on the same adventure again tomorrow (SNCKR’14?).
Along the way I learned things about myself and that somewhere in between here and there is when I truly realized that memories do not require destinations to be made. They happen with every kilometre you cover, so no…. we aren’t there yet, settle in and just enjoy being here right now.
My grandmother kept a jar full of buttons and so do I. I know that most of the buttons will never find their way back onto a garment, but I find it impossible to just throw them away.
Growing up during the depression, my Grams was never one to waste anything that had a purpose. Before a garment moved on to it’s next life as a patchwork quilt or cleaning rag it was carefully stripped of buttons and trim that could be of use somewhere else. All of the recovered buttons were placed in a canning jar that she kept on the shelf of the linen closet, ready to be put back on at a moment’s notice.
As a little girl I found this jar of buttons saved from the garbage bin to be fascinating. There was always such an assortment of shape, sizes and colours that I could spend hours categorizing them only to discover that on my next visit they had been returned to their home in the jar.
When I got a bit older the buttons became lessons in sewing. As I tried my hand at the craft I would lose hours at the kitchen table carefully sewing patterns of buttons onto tea towels. As always upon my return my buttons had found their home in the jar and the tea towels had lost their splendor and returned to being merely functional towels folded neatly in the kitchen drawer.
It always seemed like magic that everything always returned to its correct place and original state. Looking back I suppose that when we left my Grams must have picked out my sloppy little girl stitches so that I had a clean slate to begin again the next time I came.
It was only a few days ago that I realized where the desire to keep these potentially useful bits of plastic, fabric and glass came from. I suppose that you never realize the legacy you are leaving behind while it is happening.
It’s funny, when I started writing each new paper I kept hitting a wall when I wanted to credit my sources. When I was attempting to follow the formal rules for citing a source, I was also breaking apart the framework that made my argument solid with a clumsy transition from my interpretation of the idea into the actual source of the idea itself.
It just occurred to me that the easiest papers to read were written as though the writer had just had a chat with the original idea guy or gal. They were discussing a concept and using evidence from other peoples work seamlessly because of the level of familiarity that they had with the raw concept and the source writer.
In many cases the research papers and journal articles that I am reading are written by some of the greatest minds in the business community. These writers are prolific and have produced books, articles, case studies and even have YouTube channels all about their concepts. What I discovered is that I too, am getting to know these brilliant minds. I now understand and can use examples from the different works because I am getting familiar with their theories.
I will be referring to these gifted academics in papers (respectfully and with the correct CMOS footnotes) as though I know them. The risk of not giving sources credit is too high to not work as hard as I can at finding a way to do this well. I am going to try this approach for my next two papers. Kaplan, Miles, Kotter et al are now my friends and trusted inner circle. Starting today I will be crediting them the same way I would credit an idea from a call with my mom or lunch with a friend.
My goal from this test is to see if it helps my writing become fluid again and see if it helps me to take some of the crispy tone out of the sentences supported by a citation. From what I understand this is a skill that needs practice and will someday become something I no longer have to work at. Until such time as I can integrate credit with the best of them, these celebrities of academia are my peeps.
I find it funny that my very favourite month of the year in Ontario (September) has become my month away from home. For the last three years my September’s have been filled with life changing adventures, loaded with new ideas, given me new friends and sent me home to Ontario with fresh perspectives on life, work, and who I am.
It all began in 2010 when I decided to ride my bike across Canada as a member of the Sears National Kids Cancer Ride (SNKCR). I joined a group of strangers in Vancouver for a bike ride to raise funds for paediatric cancer causes and to drive awareness. I had no idea that I would get so much back for my effort. The group of volunteers and riders (approximately 100 people) come together for an amazing cause and became my family.
In my quest to pay forward all that I experienced from the 2010 ride, I hopped on the bandwagon as a member of the support crew for SNKCR 2011. Armed with the knowledge of what the riders were going through and the feeling of how much my volunteers gave to me, I headed across Canada again. This time it was a different experience. Many of the people there started as my family and each of the new riders and crew were a welcome addition to our world.
Motivated by the last two years of giving back to my community I made the choice to give back to myself. Enrolling in the Royal Roads MBA program was a big step for me in helping to move forward as a professional and as a person. What I was not expecting was that this was another huge adventure. School has been something I have thought about for quite some time, but not something that I was prepared to commit to. I was sure that I would learn a lot, but I had no idea I would change as a person. The program includes two residencies and a bunch of online learning and programs along the way.
I spent the last three weeks in Victoria BC on my first residency engaged in team projects, outstanding classes and absorbing as much content as I possibly could. During all of this academic learning came a great deal of personal growth. Being in a safe place to ask the question “how does my action effect another person?” was incredibly empowering. It helped me to better understand my own choices and to listen before making a judgement about another person.
Each year I have taken a number of personal lessons away from my experiences. These lessons were not easily earned and in many cases came with many obstacles that I had to overcome before I could get to the lesson at all.
In 2010 I learned how to feel genuine emotion again by learning how to cry after years of thinking that tears were a sign of weakness. I became liberated by understanding that emotion is what makes us whole. In 2011 I learned that the little things you do for another person can make their lives better in big ways.
This year was the biggest personal lesson so far. I learned that asking others to help you is sometimes more of a gift to them than to you. Navigating the campus on crutches was hard, but learning that I can ask for help will last a lot longer than a broken leg.
Now I find myself wondering what life changing adventures are ahead of me next September…..The world is full of lessons if you are willing to show up on time for class.