A change of heart

I used to think vision boards were a waste of time. How could a glorified arts and crafts project really help you stay focused on your future (cynical, I know)?

Despite my best efforts, the first thing that came under siege for me this year was my focus. The challenges came out of nowhere. Some storms in life brew on the horizon and, even though we try to ignore them, they come to pass (been there, done that, writing the book—literally). There are other storms in life you simply don’t foresee. The ones that hit when everything is going well and you’re doing everything right.

I can honestly say that, in February, I was doing everything right…but so much went wrong. There were many days I found myself speechless. One morning I woke up to pray, but there were no words. Some days it was just about getting through.

A young girl I used to mentor asked me if I’d come with her to an all-girls Valentine’s Day party. I thought the plan was just to eat chocolate-dipped fruit and paint our nails. I didn’t realize making vision boards was also on the agenda. I went because I care a lot about this young girl and I wanted to be there for her: to spend time with her, see how she was doing and just to support her. So, when it came time to make these vision boards, I put aside my cynicism and jumped in.

As I made the board, my mind wasn’t consumed with thoughts of the various situations percolating around me, for a change. The only thing on my mind was my vision. In that moment, everything else seemed like a distraction. For a few hours that night, everything came back into focus. Cutting and pasting images representing my short and long term dreams lifted my spirits. It was a different kind of self-love.

My vision board is now posted on the cork board in the room I pray in every morning. It’s the first thing I see: a visual reminder of where I’m going. I’m going to get there regardless of what I see happening around me. I whisper a prayer over every part of the vision board daily.

The storms haven’t yet passed, but I can see to the other side of them. I’m working on looking at things more through eyes of faith. It’s the kind of vision you need to stay focused. And if it takes glue sticks and some old magazines to help me do that, then so be it.

When retail therapy just doesn’t cut it anymore

I’m not buying anything in 2020. This isn’t a new year’s resolution (resolutions are just a waste of time, imho). This is about a lifestyle change and something I’ve been reflecting on over the last several months.

If shopping was a sport, then I’d be a professional athlete. I’m actually really good at finding deals online (too good, as far as my husband is concerned) and I’m even better at adding them to cart. It all started back in 2005 with eBay. I fell in love with the ease of shopping on that platform: it’s a global shopping mall, where I racked up 775 stars on their user rating system. From there I branched out to individual retailers, buying online all of the things I didn’t want to line up in-store for. Again, it was easy.

But it was also a big stress reliever. There are no shortage of rough days in my line of work. Browsing online quickly became a way to shift my thoughts away from the mess of the day to something providing instant gratification and comfort. I’ve often told myself that, after the day I’ve had, I deserve this–heck, I’ve earned this (you’d tell yourself the same thing too if you were me sis, trust!). Eventually, easing my stress and rewarding myself became the top defenses if anyone questioned my penchant for retail therapy.

However, as trivial as ‘retail therapy’ seems on the surface, it is medicating something: meeting some deep, unmet need within. According to a Harvard professor, 95 per cent of our purchasing decisions occur in the subconscious mind. Essentially, our purchases are driven by our emotions.

This is important. For me, this is not about a lack of self-control: I’m not a shopaholic who’s drowning in debt and can’t seem to reign in her spending habit (also, if you are that person and you’re reading this, no judgment sis–we all struggle with something). Reflecting on my ‘why’ prompts me to examine where the disconnect is occurring. As I shared with some of my colleagues a few days ago, I speak so much about what my faith in God through Christ means to me…and yet I still *need* more stuff. Why do I still need more stuff? If God is good then this sale can’t be better.

So, this is how 2020 came to be my buy-nothing year. There are some rules:

  • I can’t buy anything new for myself
  • I can only replace items that run out (i.e. coconut oil a.k.a. my makeup remover, mousse)
  • I can still buy gifts for friends/family
  • I can still purchase new (or used) textbooks for school

Some folks who’ve done this before do make exceptions for their birthday, Black Friday and Boxing Day. At this point, I’m leaving those three days open to see how I feel by the time they roll around. My appetite for shopping might be completely gone by then.

For me, this journey is about a deeper exploration of myself and my faith…but if you just want to shop less feel free to join me, sis! We can do this together. I’ll be journaling throughout this journey and I encourage you to do the same. I’ll probably blog about this again closer to my birthday.

Stay tuned…

The last ten years

The end of 2019 marks the end of a year and a decade…which is kind of a big deal when you stop to think about it. I began reminiscing over the last decade: where I was when it started and where I am now. So much has changed…

I started working for the CBC in 2010, marking my first on-air gig for one of the major Canadian broadcasters. I was both timid and terrified, having just relocated from Toronto to St. John’s for the job. Fast forward ten years and I’m amazed at how much my confidence has grown. I’m not an extrovert (I just play one on TV), so believe me when I say my confidence has never been this high…though, if history is any indication, it can only increase.

Of course, this kind of reflection leads to a narrowing down of the key lessons that have carried me through these past ten years. I’m sharing them now because I’ll need them for the journey ahead.

Don’t give up. It’s impossible to navigate the ups and downs of life a quitter. Race and gender aside, this industry isn’t an easy one to survive. I’ve been laid off, had to move across the country for work and had to volunteer or work freelance for five years before I could land my first casual gig. I don’t know where I’d be now had I given up (or had people given up on me…but that’s for another post).

Sacrifice is part of the journey. I’ve had to move away from my Toronto family and I’ve worked nearly every weekend for the past ten years. For anything we want to achieve that’s worth pursuing it always means we have to give something up in the short-term. It’s always worth it in the end, I’ve learned.

Have work, will travel. I still meet a lot of interns who say they don’t want to leave their home city to pursue opportunities. Leaving Toronto was tough, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. In fact, I’d probably have done it sooner if I knew how much good leaving the city would have done for my career. I still encourage young journalists to explore opportunities outside of their home cities. Be warned: it will be tough. Leaving Toronto meant my first real encounter with racism. However, the trade-off was personal and professional growth. The transformation came when I stepped outside of my comfort zone.

Be consistent. Over the course of this decade, I was consistently inconsistent. I started blogging but didn’t always do it monthly, I took up running but still don’t do it regularly. Consistency is key to success. Think of any great person and there’s something in their life they do consistently: be it training, sticking to their values, delivering on time, praying–regardless of what it is, they do it well because they’re consistent. I think consistency is about a personal commitment we make to ourselves without compromise, with an eye to the kind of personal betterment that impacts the lives of others.

The best-laid plans

A few years ago, I remember going to speak at a school and the teacher telling me her students were stressed out. They were in grade 10 and many of them were already dealing with the pressure of what to do and where to go next: what university to apply to (university, not college. Never college), what program to study, their career path. Their teacher told me the pressure they were feeling was driven by both external and internal forces.

I’m grateful for parents who were always supportive of my decision to pursue a job in journalism–which is kind of a big deal when you consider I was raised by two hard-working immigrant parents. They were both willing to look beyond the popular options of accountant, doctor and lawyer to see there was a storyteller in me. However, that didn’t stop me from applying unnecessary pressure on myself to perform. I had my one, three, five and ten year plans all worked out…

…but those plans never seem to take into account one oft-overlooked fact: life happens. My plan didn’t factor in multiple moves across the country or layoffs or delays–the unforeseen things that *seemed* to slow me down. Eventually, I learned I didn’t have to have it all figured out–no one does. Anyone who says they do have it all figured out is lying to you (and themselves, for that matter).

My faith also helps me cope with the ups and downs, valleys and peaks. Knowing God’s plans for me are–and have always been–good means I don’t have to worry (Jer. 29:11). The delays and disappointments become opportunities to grow and gain perspective. It’s what I tell students now when we talk about life after school: it’s about the journey, not the destination. So, I’m rejecting perfectionism for processing, because this process I’m going through is a beautiful thing, and choosing faith over fear so I don’t succumb to the pressure of thinking I need to have every step all figured out.

My greatest regret

The year was 2014. I was happily living and working in Calgary. Life was good.

I was the weekend anchor at CBC, had a great family of friends and Calgary had really begun to grow on me–in a way I hadn’t expected. Even today, it’s still one of the few Canadian cities I’d consider moving back to.

Then, one morning, I got the call: the weekend show was being cut and I was being laid off.

I was absolutely devastated. My life in Calgary was as good as I’d always hoped it would be and then, just like that, it wasn’t. My bosses at the time were very gracious, offering me help to relocate to Ottawa or stay on as a casual, but there was something about having a contract… I’d been a casual at the CBC before and when I finally moved up to the contract level, going back to being a casual felt like regression. Finally, the CBC and I were in a semi-serious relationship—full-time was the next step, right?! I mean they liked me! They really liked me!

I think that’s why I took the layoff so personal—even though there was nothing personal about it. I internalized everything about the experience. In taking it so personal, the weeks prior to my last day were…a less than flattering time. I was bitter, fam. And I did not hide it. From anyone: not from my bosses, my colleagues—it was all out there. And it was not cute. I am not proud of the way I handled myself. Even though I had a job lined up fairly quickly in Ontario, it didn’t ease the pain of being let go.

Just four months after leaving Calgary and relocating to Ontario, I received an unexpected call: my old boss from CBC Newfoundland was now at Global BC and he wanted to know whether I was interested in an opportunity that’d come up. About two months later, I was packing my bags again: Global BC invited me to join their team.

Recently, some students asked me whether I had any regrets. Whenever I reflect on the last fifteen years, this is the one that always comes to mind: I regret not having enough faith to believe God would work everything out for my good (Rom. 8:28). I cannot describe how bitter, anxious, scared, upset and frustrated I was during those months in 2014. From the moment I was laid off until I was recruited, emotionally, I was a nervous wreck. Looking back, there was absolutely nothing to be worried about: God always had a plan.

The takeaway: the comeback is always greater than the setback, so don’t let the setback distract you. If we let them, our setbacks can steal our joy, our peace…our hope. But what if we looked at our setbacks differently: what if we allowed them to deepen our resolve? Since 2014, I have experienced setbacks, but I don’t allow bitterness to take root in my heart. I’ve learned my comeback is always just around the corner.

Time well spent

When was the last time you mentored someone?

I believe very much in mentoring: it’s essential for personal, professional and spiritual growth.

I’ve learned making time for the people in my life means I have to be intentional about it: not focusing so much on me and my needs, but being intentional about helping to meet the needs of others.

For the past six years, I’ve devoted time regularly to causes involving youth. I love serving in capacities where I can help a young person fulfill their dream, achieve a goal, learn how to do a budget or navigate social media–if there’s anything I can do to help, I’m there. Primarily, that’s been with Junior Achievement (an amazing organization helping young people get a good start in their finances, career and post-secondary education), but recently, I also signed up with Inner Hope, a Vancouver-based nonprofit doing tremendous work in helping youth grow spiritually and emotionally through mentoring. Lately, with so little free time on my hands, it’s been a struggle to fit both of these causes into my schedule.

Yet, whenever I spend time serving at either one, I’m reminded time is the greatest gift I have to give: time spent listening to them, time spent having fun, time spent nurturing, laughing, painting, sharing. Isn’t that what we all want: for someone to spend quality time with us?

Much has been said about the next generation: they’re entitled, spoiled and out of touch. But Jesus calls them beloved (Matt. 18:10-11) and warns not to despise them. Whenever I leave one of these meetings or sessions with the kids, I always go in a bit tired and come out energized. It happens every time.

And every time, I’m reminded why time spent serving a young person is time well spent.

Disturb us Lord

While listening to a podcast this week about the art of leadership, Anita Gaffney, Executive Director of the Stratford Festival, spoke about a former artistic director she worked with who “couldn’t stand complacency.” While he wasn’t at all a religious man, Gaffney said his favourite prayer was ‘Disturb us Lord’–one I had to Google, as I’d never heard it before.

As I read it, it struck a chord.

Complacency is the enemy of progress. It is a very subtle state of being…one we easily slip into when we get to where we want to be–and that’s key. All of us want to get somewhere: to a certain position within our company, a city, we want to get married, we want to get rich. Time and time again, we’ve heard from thought leaders and pastors how getting what we want isn’t the key to fulfillment: you can get what you want and still feel unsatisfied. However, we often get what we want and settle into a comfort zone: another way to describe the state of being complacent.

Nadia CBC Calgary Flood
A shot from the makeshift set I anchored a newscast from during the Calgary floods in 2013. Hosting this show was WAY outside my comfort zone.

I (happily) left my comfort zone in 2010, when I left Toronto. It was, easily, the best decision I ever made. At the time, I thought the move marked the beginning of my professional journey. Eventually, I came to realize it was also the beginning of a deeply spiritual journey–a parallel journey. As much as I questioned my career–questions about the relevance of the stories we told, questions about race and representation in the industry–I also questioned my faith: what do I believe and why. I never would have asked those questions, never would have begun seeking, never would have found God and my purpose and passion, had I not stepped outside of my comfort zone.

I can honestly say I’ve been living outside of my comfort zone for almost a decade…and it’s the best place to be. I’m pursuing dreams that are bigger than me, trying new things and learning new things that challenge me to resist complacency daily. It isn’t comfortable–but it is invigorating. My hope and prayer is to always remain in this place: a constant state of growth, where the disturbances lead to fruitfulness (John 15:5 NIV).

Disturb us Lord

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

More than just a Masters.

I had absolutely no interest in pursuing my Master’s degree in 2006 when I graduated from the University of Guelph-Humber. I just wanted to work.

I’d already been volunteering at Rogers Television in Mississauga: first behind the scenes as a floor director, then on camera as a reporter (and then as an anchor and talk show host). I was hungry to get into news and a master’s degree seemed, at the time, like a waste of time. It would take another 10 years before the timing finally felt right. It was just a question of what to study.

A trusted mentor (one of my former news directors) told me not to bother pursuing a master’s of Journalism. “What’s for?!” she asked, pointing out I’d already spent over 10 years in the industry. She was right: there was no point…and my heart was telling me no. I looked at programs focusing on women’s issues and political science, but none of them really struck a chord–not because these weren’t worthy or noble areas of study, but because my heart was pulling me in another direction.

I’ve always enjoyed volunteering: at my local church growing up, at Rogers Television and with Junior Achievement in both Calgary and Vancouver. There’s nothing more rewarding than giving back to the community. I knew I wanted my masters to intersect with my passion…a passion that recently underwent a shift by way of my faith. 2017 was a transformational year, leading me deeper into my walk with God. Suddenly, this wasn’t about volunteering, but about serving: giving of myself to my church and community in response to the awesome things God was doing in my life.

That year, I decided to send a ‘thank you’ note to someone who’d helped me very early on in my career. While looking up his mailing address, I came across Trinity Western University and decided to check them out. That’s how I found their Masters of leadership program. Immediately, I knew it was the one: I knew it then, and on my first day of classes back in January 2018…and even now as I’m midway through course #4.

There is something about studying Transformational Servant Leadership–leading like Jesus–and applying those timeless principles to your work life. The journey, so far, has been character building and deeply challenging, forcing me to examine my actions and decisions through the lense of my faith. To boil this down: am I doing unto others as I would have them do unto me (Matt. 7:12 NIV)? The honest answer is no. I know I can do better.

And this is what my leadership journey is all about: doing better. My focus is on nonprofits (more about that project in a future post) and it intersects with journalism. My leadership studies are preparing me for this next phase in the journey. Once again, the intersection of life, work and faith.