My Circumstance

backyard picnics

I’ve been thinking about circumstance quite a bit lately, the cards you’re dealt. It’s easy to look at those cards individually and see how crappy it is, there’s absolutely no way you can win this game. The game is rigged against you, the other player’s have the better cards, they’ve got the joker, they’re going to win, and you’re going to lose. 

C’est La Vie.

This is life. 

You can’t win every game, and you can’t always have all the good cards. Sometimes you lose, and that is okay. It’s not the win that is important, it is how you win and how you lose, what you do in between and how you react to the cards you’re dealt. 

How you react to the cards you’re dealt. 

This is the lesson that I am learning at 26. It’s how you react to your circumstance is what matters, not the circumstance itself. You may not be able to control or change your situation, but you can control and change your reaction to it.

I lost a grandparent in 2017, my mother was diagnosed with cancer in early 2018, my dad was diagnosed with cancer in late 2018. In early 2019 my mom finished her treatment, this followed with my dad and the beginning of his. In late 2019, I was in the room as I watched my Aunt die, and in 2020, well, need I say more? It was easy for me to see these cards and say “I’ve been dealt a crappy hand.” It was. Although these circumstances have touched me, and affected me in one way or another, they are not actually my reality. 

My reality is that most people don’t get a chance to spend a beautiful summer with their grandmother in a once in a lifetime trip, hold hands and spend nights talking about her good old days. Most people lose their mother and father to cancer, in fact, I know a couple who have lost their beautiful mothers so prematurely. Most people don’t get a chance to say goodbye, and I had the chance to say goodbye to my aunt. And although loss is painful and it stays with you for the rest of your life, and although cancer is, for lack of a better word, a fucking bitch, it is a part of life, it is inevitable, it is expected. It is life. And if I plan on living my life, the only one I have, fulfilled, I needed to stop seeing these situations with the lens of “this is my reality”.

I would say about late April, I got into my head way too much and started reacting in such a way that was detrimental to my health. I felt stuck. I’ve always had this gnawing insecurity with my role in the world. I was afraid I wasn’t tapping into my potential, that I would leave the world with untapped and unfulfilled potential. I’m surrounded by brilliant people who are so intelligent, creative and resourceful that I felt I wasn’t contributing in any way to society, that although I wanted to impact situations, people, laws, I wasn’t. And it seemed as though I would never get there.

What was even more detrimental, was the fact that I started to question who I was and what I liked. Do I actually like reading? Am I a biker? Do I enjoy running in the rain or is this someone else? Do I enjoy cooking and baking or am I just doing it for others? Am I a good writer? Should I write? Will people even care to read what I have to say? I found myself wondering if my favourite colour was blue and if my clothes matched my personality. What was my personality? Who am I? Who was I? Are those mutually exclusive? I didn’t even know what to identify as? What was I good at? Was I good at anything? I’m terribly afraid of heights but all those thoughts, questioning the very atoms that make me who I am shook my world, and I don’t think I’ve ever been this afraid. Ever. 

It’s weird, because from the outside, I’m sure it looks like I’ve got it way more figured  out than I do. But I don’t. Does anyone really? What we put on social media, on Instagram and Twitter is, as we all know, the best version of ourselves, but behind the screen, the post and the like, I’ve come to realize everyone has the same concerns, the same fears, the same aspirations, the same worries, our collective experience as humans are very similar, yet this is something that is hard for each and every single one of us to understand. We acknowledge that it is a collective experience, and yet when we are in this “slump” or “low” we are blinded by our own experience and the loneliness we feel in it, despite the fact that behind a like is a story of the same sadness you feel. 

To rewind back to April, I felt helpless and out of control. I couldn’t control my parent’s health and I couldn’t control the health of planet earth. The weight of those two situations were far too heavy for me to take on by myself. And as absurd as it may sound, I blamed myself. How could I not control the outcome of a CT scan? Of a cell so small I can crush with my own bare hands? How can I not do something to help the innocent 11 year old boy in Slemani with months to live because of his kidney failure? Why could’t I impact governments and change policies? Why couldn’t single handedly stop Turkey from killing my people? Every day we’re inundated with news of a new global crisis. How do you pick and choose what to fix? How do you decide where to put your energy? Who to fight for? What to fight for? There’s just too much that needs to be changed, to be fixed. So often, instead of doing anything, we end up doing nothing. And I felt so out of control, that that is exactly what I did, nothing. We wallow in our own exhaustion. We drown ourselves in the noise and turn on the new Netflix show or scroll through Instagram to avoid having to confront the issues all around us. What I failed to realize is that in my attempt to try and fix everything and everyone around me, to no avail, I neglected myself. I was not the best version of myself, I didn’t even recognize myself. 

Here I was, the only variable I had control over, the only thing I could change, and yet for a good 26 years, I completely ignored myself. I realized I needed to stop changing the world, fixing everyone and everything around me, I needed to stop focusing on circumstances beyond my control. I can’t be an activist, a politician, a doctor, a philanthropist, and superwoman all at once. It is physically impossible. The exhaustion of the weight of the world paralyzed me, and unbeknownst to me, I couldn’t impact anything or anyone, If I couldn’t focus on myself. If I couldn’t figure out what was limiting me and my potential, then how could I ever impact anyone else to change. 

I look to the people who inspire me and move me, and most of them do so through leading by example. I think the most important lesson of all is that the world is paying attention. To inspire change and be impactful, you don’t have to say anything at all, because the words is watching, and many will start to question what they’re capable of, their potential and how much more they can do. This is what it means to lead by example, to inspire. It’s not words, it action. The minute you invest in yourself and who you are, is the minute that people will start to notice you, the change in you, your accomplishments, without even saying a word. So forget social media, forget the weight of the world, focus on yourself right now. The ripple effect that follows will be far more greater than you’ll ever know. That is the lesson. It might even be the greatest lesson of all.


closing chapters

a prose for a lost friendship


the good,

I don’t remember your first impression of me, I certainly don’t remember asking you, but if you told me, I don’t remember it. We always talked about my first impression of you, but for the life of me, I just can’t recall your first impression of me. Isn’t that sad? I think that’s sad. I think that will always bug me, not knowing. We were eighteen and fresh out of high school, we’ve both had very different experiences but there we were, young, innocent and eager, we wanted to get to know our V1-S4 family, and we went around the circle introducing ourselves, and there you went introducing yourself, I don’t remember anyone’s introduction but yours, so I think your intentions worked, you wanted a memorable introduction, and that it was. 

I’ve changed a lot in the past two years, and I don’t know if it’s for the better, but I’ve hardened, put up walls and opened up to no-one, I can’t open up at all. To sit down and talk to someone and tell them how I feel, it’s become the hardest thing for me to do. Because that would mean I would be setting up the expectation that they can help me, and you’ve taught me one very important lesson and that is, I can’t rely on anyone to help me. I’ve been in pain, felt sad, confused and angry, I’ve definitely been lost, and I don’t want to be anymore, I don’t want to give this any more thought than I already have, so this is my ode to a lost, forgotten and adrift friendship, we always did say a book should be written about us, and this is my one last benevolence to us, or rather to what once was us. This is my ending.

You cornered me in the lounge and introduced yourself to me, personally at least. You took me back to my room and then started grilling me about where I’m from. When I took my first weekend back home, you met me at the lounge and hugged me goodbye. At the time, I was caught a little off guard and I thought you were coming on way too strong but it was something that I later was thankful for.

People tell you different things, some say that your high school friends are the ones that stay in your life forever, some say that it’s your university friends, and others tell you it’s your work friends. I happen to think that the friends you will have in your life forever are the ones that you can undeniably be yourself with, the ones that understand you and accept you despite your flaws, they are the ones that are ready to catch you when you’re free falling into an abyss. And on the bus looking out the window, all my fears about school and meeting new people and adjusting to not only a new city but a new country were washed away. As extremely pubescent as this may sound, I made a friend.

For two people to be in school we didn’t study a lot, in fact, we were horrible study partners. Something we learned the hard way. I mean we tried, we would set up study dates and late night cram sessions in the SLC or cafeteria and boy were they an epic fail. But we successfully managed to take pictures, dye our hair, take videos, and dance to Bohemian Rhapsody. We were good at that, taking a book and turning it into a hair dye. I learned to stick to my perogies when I had the pork mishap and you oh so subtly asked me “oh I didn’t know you eat pork.” We went to Sci-Balls and had you do my eye makeup every time, I still need help in the eye makeup department. I helped with your sister’s invitation letters, not because it felt like a chore, but because I loved your sister in the short amount of time I got to know her, I looked up to her and admired her. We had sleepovers and morning-after sticky notes and sweater sharing and you even stole my key off my keychain and surprised me for my nineteenth birthday, and I adult napped you and almost put you in the trunk of the car month later. I still think that was a pretty good idea. 

It wasn’t until the second year when we progressed to moving mattresses between apartments and going on 3 AM jogs which then later turned into us almost getting attacked by some stranger on the street and us having to call a taxi back to our apartment. It’s bittersweet, isn’t it? You forced me to walk over the highway and I temporarily got over my fear of heights. Germany won the world cup. You didn’t think our friendship would make it through the finals, maybe 2022 will be Argentina’s year. You were a balcony away when I got attacked by a flying cockroach, remember that balcony? Remember when we planned out how we would cross over to each other’s apartments rather than use the door just for the adventure? Well, speaking of climbing over things, remember when we climbed over a brick wall to avoid a certain someone? I sometimes look back at these moments and wonder, “What the hell were we thinking?” But we had fun, with everything we did, we made sure we had fun, hatched eggs, monkeys, sticks and barrels and all, we had fun. 

We had our moments, our friendship stood the test of distance, when I was in Amman, we were Skyping for 9 hours straight, my night turned into day and your day turned into night, we were keeping each other filled in on everything and everyone, me complaining about my crazy neighbour, and you telling me about your summer adventures. I won’t forget the laughter that came with that Asian man who laughed at you when we were on Lady of the Mist, that cop who added us on Instagram by the Brooklyn Bridge, and oh my God everyone in New York, even our decision to hop in cars with strangers to see the Manhattan skyline. Weren’t we taught to avoid getting into cars with strangers when we were younger? Every adventure felt safe as long as it was with you. Bruce Peninsula was a fluke, I had to get ready in less than 15 minutes, pack a bag and all, if it was anyone else, anyone else’s family, I would have had a hard time convincing myself let alone my parents to let me go with only 15 minutes notice. It amazes me how quick I got ready, and how easily I felt at home with your family, they treated me no less than they treated you, a daughter, part of the family.

Remember when a parked car hit me while I was biking? I do, at least that’s how I choose to remember it. My life was always one adventure after the other with you, I hadn’t ridden a bike in years and here I was going to a random person’s house who I met off Kijiji to buy a bike off of them, and we both know how that turned out, and I’m not talking about the bike, I’m talking about game night and truth or dare Jenga. How do you fit three people in a bed? Simple, you don’t, but we made it work and we spent months doing it. And remember when I fell off my bike and broke my pinkie, how I got back up, went to dinner and then we biked from one pharmacy to the next because we were playing rookie doctor, remember that? We rented a car to surprise you for your birthday, I don’t know how we did it, but we did it. We took a bunch of mini road trips to all parts of Ontario, we split the driving, I had my foot on the gas and you had your hands on the steering wheel. I really hope we can’t get charged if a police officer is reading this, but it was fair, no? I won’t mention our overnight trip in Toronto, because I really don’t want anyone to get in trouble for that.  

the bad, 

Losing a friend is never easy, especially when you don’t understand why you lost them in the first place. You taught me that after all. I hurt you, or so you said. You didn’t understand the pattern of behaviours that lead us to where we are. And I don’t think I ever really explained it to you, or I didn’t try hard enough to get you to listen at least. It doesn’t matter how old we get and how tough we are, a loss will always leave a silent scar, and to lose someone when you’re not whole when you’re dealing with chemical imbalances can make you do things you don’t understand yourself. You find yourself justifying yourself but not understanding your justification. Nothing makes sense. It’s not supposed to, Cancer doesn’t make sense, I learned that the hard way, but we don’t invalidate someone’s illness because we don’t understand it, because it scares us, we don’t.

I left first, I walked out first, but you fought like hell to get me back. Why? Just so you can hurt me? Just so you can have the last say? You should have just left me alone, it is inhumane to mess with someone’s life like that. The worst part is, you told me, you told me how it felt to completely disappear without a trace, you told me how much I hurt you. And at the time, I didn’t see it, I didn’t see how I was causing hurt and pain, I can honestly say that yes, I did hurt you and I’m so sorry that I did, but it was unknowingly, I was trying to protect what was left of me. But you purposely did the exact same thing to me, knowing how much it would hurt, knowing the events that were going on in my family and knowing where I was mentally. You fought to have me back in your life just so that you can have the last word, just so that you can hurt me right back right after I told you I left to protect myself from you. That messed me up, being your friend messed me up. You called my mother and spoke to her, you told me that you and she had a friendship beyond our friendship. Where was this friendship when she got sick? That messed me up even more because you confirmed my suspicions; four years of deception, four years a lie, four years wasted, because the person I met in the lounge in 2012, the person who drove down to my house just to scare me, the person whose family became mine, and mine became theirs, that person wouldn’t have purposefully hurt someone with the intention of vengeance, that person would have reached out to my mother regardless of where our friendship stood, but maybe I got it wrong, maybe I misread everything. Maybe I couldn’t see what was always there.

and the now;

They tell you to forgive and forget, but who’s they? And can we really just simply forgive and forget? Is that practical? I think you can either forgive or forget, you can’t do both. Forgiveness allows us to move on, but so does forgetting, but do I have to do either or to move on? Forgive and forget, forgive or forget, I don’t know where I stand. The reason why two years later I’m still here, is because I did love you, and I’de like to think that it was reciprocal, and if it wasn’t, that’s okay too. 

I don’t regret the four years, because it taught me the value of time, how precious it is, how without a moment’s notice you can lose someone. I’ve lost people in the past before, not by choice, but because it was their time. There are so many things left unspoken, so many things that I wished I could tell them, I wish they could come back to me for one minute so that I can tell them how I feel, how much they mean to me, how much I love them, and how much it hurts that they’re gone. This past year has been brutal, time has been moving so fast, too fast, it’s almost impossible to believe that we are here in December, sometimes I close my eyes and wonder how the hell did we get here, how? I understand the value of time, and how not to waste it. My time with you was a lesson, was a lesson in the preciousness of time, how not to waste it on the wrong people.

Forgiveness is for the strong, for the people who don’t want to learn this lesson a second time, for those who want to graduate. They carry their wound proudly as a reminder of where they were, what they overcame, and what to avoid in the future. I don’t know if I’m there yet, because I just want to forget. Once upon a time, there were adventures, bike rides, road trips, climbs down to the grove in Bruce Peninsula, there were breakfasts and dinners, there were dorm room and hotel room scares, promises made, music shared, pictures taken, birthdays, surprises, hour-long conversations, once upon a time there was a friendship, there had to be one. Do I regret all the time spent with you, despite all the hurt? Do I really? No. The only way I can move on now is to forgive, and although this wound may never heal, I hope that one day I’m lucky enough to forget, forget everything. Until then, I’ll carry the scar to remind me to never find myself here ever again.

the end.