Monday, March 11, 2019

Alternately.

Some time last week I saw a tweet. I cannot find it for the life of me, nor do I remember the exact wording.

The gist was that there is a theory that somewhere out there you are living alternative lives based on other decisions you have made; that somewhere, in the stratosphere, many different incarnations of who you are happen to be are living different paths based on one small different choice, one small different decision.

And I wonder how those people are living.

We all come to crossroads.

There are so many moments in our lives where we make crucial decisions, small or large, that change our path and our circumstance; ones that shape where we go and how every day goes.

Those decisions shape what happens after we pour our morning coffee, when we step outside, how things will evolve and shape the day when we close our eyes and carry on with the next day of our lives.

This week, more than ever, I wonder how Dwan is living in those alternative universes.

Guilt is a heavy thing.

I have spent my time wondering how one simple decision, one simple choice, could have sent my life and my path in a different direction.

And it is hard.

How happy is Dwan in my alternative universe? Dwan who said yes months before, who took a chance, and who was ready, willing and did not close off and be unfair?

I imagine she is happy.

I imagine she is actually the happiest she has been, curled up tonight and falling asleep without doubt and breathing in the reality of how perfect tonight is while she tucks in.

I imagine she is living where and what I should be if I was not so difficult, stubborn and damaged.

And I imagine her heart is not telling her that if she had just not been unreasonable her fate might not have been altered and she might have finally been living in the universe she has hoped for and wanted for so long.

If there is anything I want you all to know it is take the chance.

Let your guard down and do not be afraid of what tries to let itself in.

Do not leave it up to your alternative selves to be the ones who are living happiness and who are taking the risks and chances to bring that happiness to you.

Tuck your fears aside, because not making that one decision could be detrimental.

Take it from me - take the risk. When something is in front of you that is good and real, take it.

Let the walls down.

I think the guilt will always be a cloak I wear now.

I will always have the "what if."

I keep hoping this universe is the one where everything works out and the cliche of what is meant to be will be.

I do not often believe in cliches.

There are clearly a few directions the past few weeks could have gone in. I keep remembering being told that there are a million decisions that could have been made, a million ways things could have gone but in the end what matters is the result of now.

But now I look and know that my decisions are the ones that have caused a pain that hurts in places I never knew hurt could live.

It is my fault and I am sorry.

"Cause it took such a heavy light to find you in the first place,
Through all that rain and remaining fog..."

And yet, I was too blind to see through it. That is my punishment to bear.

For now it is a matter of hope.

I hope this universe is the one where it all works out.

"Watching detectives chase the one that got away..."

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Mortal.

Most of you are probably here expecting me to talk about the accident. I am not here for that.

To summarize - it has been a week, I almost died.

Some things are clear; some are a haze.

Nothing is more sobering than when your doctor looks at you in that hospital bed and says, "You shouldn't be here."

I have never felt more mortal.

I will talk about it, in time.

Right now my sternum hurts, bruises keep popping out and my brain stays on overdrive.

I do know that this weekend was what I needed and I was surrounded by the people I needed to be.

This is not a long blog post.

This is not a testimonial, a gospel, a poetic expression of a life that is still here.

It is merely me saying I am here and I am glad for everyone who stopped by, reached out - friends, family, followers, strangers. Everyone.

I have had some time to reflect with a tube in my lung and morphine in my arm.

Life has never felt so close and I have never felt so fragile.

I have also never realized so badly that loving without abandon is necessary. There are no times for regrets and what ifs.

I know what went through my head when the impact happened and the glass shattered - my parents and the one face I was afraid I would never see again.

When metal hit the glass I know what I saw.

I get asked a lot.

I actually saw a lot, you know. I don't know why. I just did. And I missed you.

And nothing ever felt more important. Life is funny like that when it is being pulled away.

I know what I will no longer take for granted.

And I know how easily things can be stripped away now.

I am okay.

I am as okay as I can be.

And I am here.

Thank you to all who have reached out. I will be around more when the dust settles (no pun intended).

Life is a flash, folks. One minute you're on your way to hockey, the next you're fighting for your life.

Never take it for granted.

And, in the words of Tim McGraw, I've gotten a new understanding of how it feels to "live like you were dying."

Sunday, February 3, 2019

No worry.

I stayed relatively silent on the big corporate day.

There was no particular reason - I was busy, distracted, working. Bell does wonderful things with the money from Let's Talk Day (as evidenced in the recent investment into Right Here, Right Now). I also have my own axes to grind as a former Bell employee, but I digress.

Yet, for a few days I have been seething on a tweet I saw from someone who I follow. I cannot recall the exact wording but, in a nutshell, it said that anxiety is not an illness as we are all a little "worried;" that we need to realize worrying is not a disorder and maybe we should just go outside.

*grinds teeth*

I have fought my brain for a while now. It is a weird realization that you are often at war with a part of yourself, and understanding the effects this battle can have on your day-to-day doings.

The first time I heard the word "anxiety" used in a medical sense was in my first year of university. I still remember how my first "anxiety attack" manifested itself.

I was sitting in the backseat of my friend's car as we drove down Old Placentia Road. Suddenly, my left arm was overtaken by a shooting pain. I couldn't breathe. Any breath made it hurt more and I tried stretching. Nope. Nothing. Shallow breaths got me through the night, eventually the pain subsided and I made a doctor's appointment for three days down the road.

When I explained to my then-doctor what I had felt, and had continued to feel as the same shooting pain had come and gone over the last few days, only then did I hear that word for the first time.

"Well, you're away from home. It's a big move. I think you've had an anxiety attack."

What? This guy was a quack. I didn't have a worry in the world. I was independent, free, happy, embarking on my academic career and my biggest worry was my alarm not going off and missing an English 1080 class.

I walked away with a prescription and no more understanding than when I had walked in.

Over the years since (holy shit, 19 years), I have been accustomed to "panic attacks" occurring less and less, but I am cognizant that they are there.

I went a decade without one. The first reoccurrence happened a few years ago when I could not sleep, would wake up wired, and was exhausted as a result. When I asked my doctor what was happening he suggested stress. Then he used that damn A word.

I will be the first to admit I do not take medication, but I support those who do. One person's cure is not another's solution. I have had my stints with medications that left me without an appetite and feeling worse than I did without them. Sometimes I wish there was a magic happy pill for me. There is not. I am so happy for those of you who have found it.

I am a worrier.

And I do not trust. It takes a lot to break in and get to a point where I trust at all. Always the skeptic.

I accept it, I explain it to those who are close to me, and I try to put into words what goes through my head at times that might seem irrational to some.

I am a self defeatist, perfectionist, hater of failure, dreader of impending doom.

Say the wrong words and my heart rate surges, I overthink and all of a sudden I'm a narcoleptic because my body's response is usually to sleep. It is actually a strange phenomenon - my brain goes into overdrive and everything else says, "Nah fam, we sleep now."

That is just who I am. I expect and see the worst. And try to sleep it off.

When things are going well I will often wake up with my brain screaming, "JUST WAIT FOR IT ALL TO GO TO SHIT AND IT WILL BE YOUR FAULT!"

In those 19 years since Dr. Button introduced me to the A word, there have been times I have been frozen for no reason, heart rate above 160, the noose tightening and having to just walk away. Shallow breaths. No trigger, no reason.

No worry.

I am thankful that these times have been less and less over the years and yes, I am sure my activity level has helped. But, going outside or being active is an assistant, not a cure. It, like anything else, works for some but not for everyone. I will not tell you to go for a run and you will find the oracle of happiness somewhere along the trails of Long Pond.

Anxiety, however, is not only "worry," it is also not a series of panic attacks that manifest themselves from the mental to the physical. Every person experiences different things, and mine just happen to drill doubt in everything I do.

There are a few choice words the brain likes to channel down into the nerve endings, ones that often make me feel undeserving of things, that I have failed, I disappoint, I am less.

And no amount of reassurance, no words or messages, no hugs or "don't be so foolish"es change the narrative.

This is how mine manifests itself.

While writing comes easy, verbalizing this to those closest is often a challenge for me. Yet, I try to explain as there are undoubtedly times when self doubt and self loathing kick in and it is hard to comprehend for those outside.

I withdraw.
I make excuses.
I wake in the middle of the night and overthink things.
I think that when people get to know me they will not want to be around me.
I thank myself every day for the people around me but sometimes feel like a burden.
I accomplish things then reflect on how I could have accomplished more.
I do something and then play it over and over and over while pegging what I could have done differently, better.
I cannot order a coffee without wondering if maybe I sounded rude.

And the list continues.

No, my brain does not cripple me. I have friends who are betrayed by their brains on a daily basis and their strength astounds me.

Yet, I felt the need to address the common misconception that anxiety is worry, and that those who are branded with the scarlet A should just go for a walk and stop dwelling on petty things.

In the grand scheme of things I am very lucky. I know this. My brain likes to tell me differently and there are days when I can tell it to fuck off, move forward and carry on with daily tasks.

But there are also days when my brain wins, and those are okay too. God knows last year it did a JOB on me. Those are the days that I walk away from feeling stronger and like I've won by simply getting through.

Sometimes I just accept that I am a scared little girl at times.

To be honest, I am probably in my happiest place right now. Things are happy and good. But there are tough and questionable moments, the ones that say, "Too good for you."

My damn brain is like that.

If you feel like you are struggling, no matter how mildly or how severe, please do not hesitate to reach out to those who can help. We are all, as a friend of mine said, "more than five sessions fucked up." We are all in this mess together.

Mine is different than yours, but it does not make one more important than the other.

And anxiety is not worry.

Maybe those who need to go outside are the ones who make blanket judgements on everyone else's struggles.

Monday, January 28, 2019

37.

"The evening sun touched gently on the eyes of Lucy Jordan..."

37.

Just like that.

Another day come and gone, another trip around the sun, and blah blah blah more adages and cliches and bullshit.

You know, the lustre of birthdays wore off decades ago, and I am unsure if the shininess went with the Pass-the-Parcel parties or if it went with realizing each year's exercise in planning grandeur ideas was one of futility.

Turn your plate over! See if you've won a prize.

No cakes, no party hats, no balloons. Pack that noise.

36 was hard, man. I think I will wear those scars for a long time, and I hardened under much of what came down. I often wondered if I would see the other side of it all but here I am, on the other side and flipping off those and what I have left behind.

I like it over here.

As I sit here, embarking on another year, on my Lucy Jordan birthday, I will try a new exercise. Last year I lamented on how I seem to always spend this day setting myself up for failure with hopes and dreams of what I will accomplish in the year approaching. I will not do that this year. Often times the forces we need to accomplish what we put our hearts and souls into are out of our control.

Instead, I will try to annotate some of the lessons I have learned this year.

1. Never be afraid to believe things happen for a reason, no matter how hard or cruel they may be. Sometimes the hardest lessons we learn give us skills to navigate through other times; and sometimes those hard times - the cruelty, heartbreak, mistreatment by those who you trusted - bring you on new paths, and bring others into your life who are sincere and true. Things often do not make sense while they are happening, but one day you will sit and realize that if all of the hurt and bullshit did not happen the way it did, you would not be sitting where you are and with who you are. Every single decision and step is like one of those cheesy "Choose Your Own Adventure" books from those elementary Scholastic book orders. Maybe you needed to choose the snake pit to end up at the castle.

2. Advocacy is hard. We work in arenas where our hearts and souls go into everything we do, and often times we fall into the lion pits where we find ourselves eating our own. The heart, the brain and the psyche grow tired. There are days when we ask why we do what we do, if a difference is made or is to be made, and if we are constantly just clawing at quicksand. Find yourself a "raft of bitches" and remember we are so much stronger together, rather than tearing each other down or stepping on the heads of others to propel our own agendas and careers. Nothing built on the oppression of others will last. Just keep true to your goals and dreams for our communities, our groups, each other. Keep working your ass off. Oh, and division helps no one only those on the other side who want to see us fragmented and divided.

3. Rupi Kaur taught me a lot about selfish people. Selfish people will use you and hurt you for their own gain, simply because you are something they did not want to miss out on. "They gamble entire souls, entire beings, to please their own." Rid your life of those people. Do not let them consume you and remember, "Your existence meant that little next to their curiosity of you." Let them create their narratives. Go on with your life knowing your armour is stronger because of it and you have learned lessons on human nature, and how to not be. And sometimes, as a wise woman told me, what might seem like trying to get by is actually you dodging bullets better than Neo in The Matrix.

4. It's okay to not be okay. Take the opportunity when someone offers you an ear to use it. Talk. Even those who do not have advice are offering you priceless things - their ability to listen and their friendship. Those people are the ones you need in your life. Good people are damn hard to come by. Surround yourself with those who offer you their friendship and remember, as a good friend said, "Everyone is more than five sessions worth of fucked up." We're all a little broken and there is zero shame in that. Those who perpetuate perfection are likely the most broken of all. Do not let them make you feel wrong or ashamed for all of your broken pieces.

5. Chin up, woman. Things could be a lot better but they could also be a lot worse. You have wonderful people in your life, cuddly pups, and work that you love. There will always be those who throw the banana from their Mario Kart. Just fly on past. Do not let speedbumps, hazards or someone else's pathetic behaviours and insecurities hamper your goals, get in the way of what you do, who you are or where you are going. Feed on it and use it as fuel to be a whole damn fire.

6. Of all the things in your life to be thankful of, appreciate the people who stick with you the most. Make sure they know how important they are, return the favour when you can, and never take them for granted. And there will also be people you need to leave behind, scorch the earth behind you and salt it as you go. You'll be better off. Someone told me you make the most meaningful relationships later in life, and if that hasn't proven true this year, buddy, I'll eat my #gongernation hats.

7. And trust that intuition now. I have a sneaking suspicion you might have found where you are supposed to be. This just might be it.

At 17 I drunkenly said I would not be Lucy Jordan.

I'm not, but maybe we have some things in common. That's not always a bad thing.

Here's to 37.

And hey, I'm now at the age where buying that new Roomba was pretty exciting. If anyone needs entertainment I'll be charging admission to the event where it squares off with my robot dinosaur because, you know, I'm an adult.

BATTLEBOTS!

I think I'll go have a glass of wine, pack my bags to hop on that plane tomorrow. Though I spent this post reflecting on lessons learned, now I start to look forward to all that is to come instead of looking back at all that went wrong.

"So she let the phone keep ringing as she sat there softly singing pretty nursery rhymes she'd memorised in her daddy's easy chair..."

Friday, January 11, 2019

My Lucy Jordan Birthday

Ray Sawyer died this year. How fitting on this, the year of my Lucy Jordan birthday. I'm still 17 days away, but it is coming.

For those of you who have never heard "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan," this post probably will not make sense, but I will include a link for your listening pleasure.

My Lucy Jordan birthday has been a milestone for 20 years now.

It all stems from a night in 1999. I was 17. Friends and I had gone to one of their family cabins at Princeton Pond for a night of debauchery. When we arrived, his parents were there and his dad was half cut, strumming away on a guitar.

As the night progressed we headed to a bonfire away from the cabin, spent a night with friends that culminated in the usual night for me in my abusive relationship where I was, to spare you details, dragged through a gravel pit. We went back to the cabin.

The girls and I sat at a picnic table outside the cabin as I licked my wounds. All of a sudden, Gord started slowly strumming and singing "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan." I was no stranger to Dr. Hook. I adored Ray Sawyer.

Sipping on a bit too much Smirnoff, I stood on the picnic table seat and exclaimed to Krista, Kirsten and Crystal, "When I'm 37 I will not be a Lucy Jordan!"

And we sang.

"At the age of 37 she realized she'd never ride through Paris, in a sports car, with the warm wind in her hair..."

In 2002 I stood in a field with the rain pissing down, the crowd sparse because of weather, as Ray Sawyer belted out Lucy Jordan's plight in front of me at Salmon Festival. I remember leaning over and whispering to my friend Eugene, "I'm not going to be Lucy Jordan." He just kind of looked at me funny.

And here I am, 37 approaching, and the song I've held dear has taught me lessons on the passage of time, how quickly 20 years fly by, and how naive we are at 17 when our minds have grandeur ideas of how our lives will be when we leave our little towns for something bigger.

While I am not the protagonist in Lucy Jordan's suburban housewife life, no husband to go off to work or kids to go off to school, 36 was a hard year for me. I questioned myself personally and professionally, and maybe came a bit too close to figuratively being "on the rooftop where she'd climbed when all the laughter grew too loud."*

*There is still debate whether or not she jumped or if she was carried away. Either/or.

But, like Lucy, I had not made it to Paris. I likely never will. Paris stands for so much here, and I think that is the biggest lesson. Where we see ourselves at 37, when we are 17 and our eyes are dinner plates looking into the future, is often a much different reality when compared to what 37 really is.

Where did 20 years go?

A shoutout to my coworker here who I shared this with and who brought me a keychain from Paris last year. Rol, you're a doll, and you get it.

My upcoming Lucy Jordan birthday has made me reflect on how we prioritize progress and goals in life.

How important getting to Paris was to that little girl.

Paris is just a place.

How close and attainable Paris seems when you are 17 at Princeton Pond with your whole life ahead of you.

My Lucy Jordan birthday comes in 17 days. For those of you who have read here for a while you know I have never really done well with birthdays. I reflect a bit too much and I overthink the losses instead of the gains.

This year has started out positively, and I am hopeful; I am probably feeling better than I have for as long as I can remember. I have such amazing people in my life. You are all my Paris.

Maybe this year, on that day, I will reflect on it as one where "she let that phone keep ringin' as she sat there softly singin' pretty nursery rhymes she'd memorised in her daddy's easy chair."

Who knows?

All I know is that time moves fast; 20 years pass by like 20 days, and I can so vividly remember that night in Princeton Pond and how hopeful my 17 year old self felt that by 37 I would be invincible.

I don't know about that anymore. I feel pretty mortal.

But at 37 I know I will conquer and I will make inroads to continuing to carve out my place in this messy life and world.

And maybe it will be done "with the warm wind in her hair." For Lucy.

Have a listen: https://youtu.be/FDS2hSmokQ0

And Dr. Hook > Marianne Faithfull.


Monday, December 31, 2018

Batter to jesus, 2018

And so it is.

I try to sit here annually and recap the year that has just expired, what has passed away, and this year is no different. But jesus, what an eulogy this is.

2018 is gone, and good riddance.

Today I have seen many eulogies, and I have also seen a lot of self righteous prose from pedagogues who stand high and mightily on Twitter pedestals, preaching from the mount.

"Oh, it wasn't the year's fault, it was you."

B'y, we're not that stunned. It wasn't the universe.

Suck it, and suck it for everyone who has spent this year with pain. We know the universe and stars did not magically coordinate to turn our lives upside down, but we also know that we have hurt, things have been bad and by fuck, we will not be belittled in how poorly we have felt through this year.

B'ys, here it is, and buckle up because I am going in dry:

You do not get to tell someone who has hurt, or who has experienced loss, that their experiences are less or mean less. You do not get to rank or judge anyone's experience, loss, emotions or hurt and tell them how to process or be. You do not. You certainly do not get to break someone then determine how broken they are permitted to feel. Like that one? Therapists are great.

Anyway.

In the words of Brian Fallon, "Everybody's hurt and mine ain't the worst but it's mine and I'm feeling it now."

If it is your hurt, feel it.

If this year has been bad - hurt, yell, scream, say goodbye to it with a vengeance and wield your sword into 2019. I don't give a fuck if you had your biggest loss or your hamster died - no person can judge another person's hurt. I am here if your 2018 was a hellscape.

And I hope your 2019 is a better place.

I often come here to get feelings out through my fingers and into the keys. I am not sure I can do that tonight.

What I can do is express a little -

2018 was a very hard year. The hardest. And I know plenty who felt the same. Many of us tried our hardest to find ways to dig out of holes when the dirt seemed to fall perpetually and to be a blizzard.

Tonight I got a text from a friend that simply said, "We made it."

And we did.

This year I experienced the hardest losses of my life, but I have also learned lessons.

I have learned lessons on love, loss, trust, lies, selfishness, and how to just survive.

I have seen the best and worst of people.

But, the biggest lesson I can take from 2018 is friendship.

I fear using names in case I miss someone. This is not the intent.

I have made friends who I would trust with my life, and one special friend who I spend weekly sushi dates with and who I trust my life with.

That is one name I will use. Jason, you have been my rock. Thank you for days eating tuna rolls and listening to my broken, then mending heart. You are my best friend and I could have never asked for a better person to come into my life. I am so happy you have also found your happiness. This life is a journey, and I am so happy we can be buddies and vent through it all over wasabi. I would not have made it without you.

I have lost friends. I have lost people I trusted with my life and who I would have never guessed would not be here right now. This time last year I sat at this exact table, typing hopeful words and falling for a fairy tale that was a pretty, painted fiction. Naive. This time last year I was hopeful. I am hopeful again this year, but not because of hollow text and promises, but because of real actions. I have learned a lot.

And now I know a lot about what love is and is not.

Never again will I be a fooled little girl.

And some of the people who have helped keep my head above water cannot be thanked enough. I hope you know who you are. I hope you know how much I love you and how appreciated you are.

And then there is that one person who has been there through it all, who had a sixth sense for when I was at home on the couch feeling my lowest, and who would talk to pick me up, make me smile.

For whatever reason, I remember every second we talked and every interaction. You were always standing out to me. And now you stand out even more as the most important person in my life going into 2019. My biggest regret is being blind to it until now.

He was the person who I eventually met in the gym, talked to in the hall for ages and who I couldn't keep my eyes off and who wouldn't stop making me laugh. He still does.

And the simple sound of his voice on the phone is my favourite thing in the world.

That one.

I hope you know what you are to me now.

2018 was a fucking cesspool.

And you can subtweet or mansplain my part in it as much as you want, but at the end of the day you need to just jam your fingers up your hole and have a spin because I'm not having it.

Nor should anyone who has hurt this year put up with someone else telling you how to feel, or that someone else had it worse. Someone always has it worse, but that is not a measuring stick on your life.

If turning the page on the calendar makes you feel like you have a new start I am happy for you, and I hope you get the reset you need.

I know I am heading into 2019 with the best friends and best support I have had in my life.

And the most hope.

So, my dear, fuck you to 2018. Fuck you.

And, if 2018 was bad for you, fuck that too. Only you can weigh your hurt and anger, nobody else. "But starving kids in Africa" was a comparison our parents leveled in the 1980s when we didn't eat our Kraft Dinner. Sometimes your heartbreak or hurt do not give a fuck.

I wish you love, I wish you peace, and I wish you a kickass 2019 that is better that the shitpile we are leaving behind.

And remember, when we rise from the ashes, we rise as the whole god damned fire.

Happy 2019, y'all.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Dear 19 Year Old Dwan...

Two weeks ago Pam Frampton penned a letter to her 19 year old self that held many strong messages we can all relate to (Pam's fantastic column can be found here: https://www.thetelegram.com/opinion/columnists/pam-frampton-a-letter-to-my-19-year-old-self-247701/)

Upon reading I found myself thinking, "What a wonderful exercise." Reflection can be a brilliant, or a painstaking tool, and I like to believe we all have much to learn from it.

And then I wondered, "What would I tell 19 year old me now?"

Here goes:

Look around - these people around you are diverse, and all have a part in your life that shapes you. By the time you are 36 most of them will be gone. You will reflect, they will pop up in memories sometimes, or in stories in rooms when you are talking about the past. They will go. Very few will remain. But soak them all up now, their words and experiences.

You will leave him. It is coming soon, and you will hit your breaking point, walk away and say no more. You will heal, and you will use this as fuel for so much in your life. The abuse stops now, and it will make you fierce.

Stay true to yourself. You owe nothing to anyone. No matter how many people tell you how you should be, what you need to change, how you should shape yourself to fit their ideals - do not. Stick to who you are and embrace it. You will not always be everyone's cup of tea, but that is okay and you will learn to accept that. Those who cannot accept you are not worth your energy.

There are bad people in this world. You will find many, but you will learn lessons from them all to take you through the rest of this messy life. Even when you sit and feel duped, at times when you think you have it all figured out, just remember - learn. Take the experience. Sometimes the hurt will burn like a thousand fires, and only you can put them out.

You will not finish your academic career as a forensic anthropologist. I know, right? Crazy. You will actually realize what a huge part of your person and being the fishery is and will dedicate your life to the industry that has sustained your family and community for decades. I know you might not believe me, but it is true. And you will realize that the things you have taken for granted deserve your energy now.

Mom and dad will be your best friends. I know it is hard to fathom now, but you have just moved out and are experiencing your freedom for the first time. Everything will come full circle. Appreciate them and all they have to give you. Listen to the stories, their experiences. They are usually right, even though your stubborn pride will often not let you believe it.

What makes you different are all qualities that will bring you to understand yourself, eventually. You will grow into the quirks, the stubbornness, the one liners, the chewed nails, lack of makeup and the entirety of who you are. People will criticize, they will judge and they will try to change you. To those people you say, "Fuck off," and keep doing you.

Oh, and you will be a part of so many wonderful hockey teams that your love of the sport will turn into a massive part of your life. You will meet so many people, laugh until you hurt, and will once again find that comradeship you had to leave behind when you were no longer a DC Destroyer. You will be 36, the sorest person on earth, but every time you lace up you will be in your happy place.

And finally, you will never fit the ideals laid out for how and who you should be - and that is okay. It is easy to look at your life and wonder why it does not look like others, but it is good and you will be okay. That small apartment on Colville will turn into a small apartment on Freshwater, Malta, Abbott, Terra Nova, a house you will leave due to a failed relationship, and other small apartments. Relationships fail, friendships end, and life circumstances change. Through it all, you persist.

You land your dream job. You are loved by two little furbags who adore you. There is hurt, there are hardships, but you gain the tools to work through it all over the next 17 years. And there are good people who come along. Wait for them.

Keep your head up, kid.

Keep pushing, keep asking questions, keep challenging when something does not seem fair or right, and use the voice you find. You will find it very shortly. You have been finding it for a while now (thanks, Mr. Broderick!)

And, most of all, remember what one of your mentors will post one day that will stick with you: "This living, it is messy, but it is beautiful."