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.

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.

What sets your soul on fire

Have you ever been on a trip where the focus wasn’t so much on the destination, but on the journey? For me, that trip was Israel in February 2018. It was my first time in the country and it was amazing. There’s something invigorating about seeing all the places you’ve read about all your life: suddenly everything was alive in a way it had never been before.

But the trip wasn’t just about going to Israel. Rather, it was about everything I’d been through that lead to me being there. Up until late 2016, I’d spent nearly seven years searching for answers: what do I believe and why. I won’t get into the answers to those questions in this post. In the end, though, I returned to the faith of my childhood, but in a more meaningful way. This time, it was personal.

One of the key questions I grappled with as I moved into the next phase of my journey was purpose: why am I here? Why do I do what I do? What motivates me to get out of bed every morning? I remember taking part in a panel a few years ago and the question of purpose came up: why are you a journalist? One of the panelists (a journalist in Vancouver) said many people in news often talk about how much they love telling stories, they love meeting people, but, he said, the reason you’re in this business has to be–and likely is–deeper than that. The problem, he said, is we often don’t connect with that deeper meaning.

At the time, I remember feeling so offended by his response. How dare you criticize my shallow way of thinking, I thought. You don’t know me! Now, years later, I have to admit he was right.

I am still defining my why. The more I do the things that set my soul on fire, the clearer it becomes. The closer I get to my why, the less I care about money or status, the more my inner circle shrinks. The closer I get, the more I transform, becoming more of the person I want to be. The whole process is rather uncomfortable, but no less inspiring. The more I do the things that connect with that deeper sense of purpose, the more life comes into focus.

The ups and downs of cross-country moving

I’ve always been curious: always wanting to know whatever it is I don’t know, see what I haven’t yet seen, do what I haven’t yet done. It’s part of the reason why I chose the career path I have. That said, I never anticipated that desire for adventure, insatiable curiosity and love of news would lead to as many moves as it has over the past 5 years…

Since January 2010, I’ve lived or worked in five cities. Five cities in almost 5 years. This is not something I’d planned for–at all…and yet I have no regrets.

My first move–to Newfoundland–is still the most memorable. I remember packing two suitcases and venturing off to a province I’d only ever read about. When the plane landed that night in January 2010, I couldn’t see a thing out the window for the fog (pea soup is how the locals described it). My boss at the time (a woman I both respect and will never forget) picked me up from the airport and drove me to the B&B where I’d be staying until I found an apartment. She was the only person I knew–not just at CBC NL, but in the entire province.

Over the course of the next 2.5 years, St. John’s became my home; the people I met there, my family. I still believe it’s the best move I ever made.

After that came a short stint in Edmonton, followed by a longer stay in Calgary–a city I never thought I’d love, but can’t seem to get enough of (except when it snows. I’ve had enough of that). There’s something about life in Calgary–life in western Canada that’s grown on me…

Regardless of what part of the country I’ve found myself in, there’s one thing that’s always been the same: Canadians are indeed a friendly bunch. Despite having moved to cities where I haven’t known a soul, I’ve never felt alone: I’ve had more orphan Thanksgivings/Christmases/New Years with complete strangers than anyone should have! Over the past five years, my birthday has never gone uncelebrated (one year, my friends bought me three cakes. Three cakes!). Gifts from friends in NL always appear in my mailbox come Christmas time. And there are still regular phone calls with my cross-country network of friends to discuss work, stories, news (and, of course, all the other “important topics” women in their 30s talk about).

Now, there are only a few things I dislike about all this moving. Chief among them? Packing. It gets easier the more you do it, but it will never be fun. You wanna know what else isn’t fun? Unpacking. The only thing that trumps both of those torturous tasks is having to say goodbye. That never gets easier.

That said, I always look forward to what comes after the ‘goodbye’: the ups and downs of a new city, a new adventure. For someone as curious as me, the change and challenge that comes with a new city has made my cross-country moving all worthwhile.