2013 and Where My Heart's Been

It's been a damn long year. 

2013 will go down in my books as one of the craziest, most unpredictable and unbelievable years I've had. But I'm not entirely surprised. I opened this year telling myself that this was the time to really push myself out of my comfort zone and put myself out there. An old journal entry from exactly a year ago today has these simple words splayed on the page in gigantic, capital letters: DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY. 

So I did. And oh, the places it's taken me! 

Those three simple words have taken me to Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda in a journey that I still find myself daydreaming about, wondering if it was actually real. That experience taught me about patience, understanding, empathy, friendship, leadership, and what true cross-cultural dialogue and solidarity really looks like. It taught me the importance of staying present in every moment. And it connected me to some of the most gentle souls I've ever met who will always be the shape and the depth of these dots on a map. 

This year I found myself in places and situations I wouldn't have expected. I found myself--against all reason--willingly jumping off a fucking 44m-high ledge into the Nile River (or what others like to call "bungee jumping"). I found myself on a boat in the pitch dark with nothing but the boundless sky above me and the Indian Ocean around me. I found myself writing a cover story for a magazine. I found myself taking up rock climbing and being kinda obsessed with it. I found myself running a 5K and then climbing up the CN Tower again. I found myself in New York City in the same room as Bill Clinton, Muhammed Yunus, Belinda Gates, and Richard Branson. And then I found myself roaming the city alone. I found myself learning how and really loving to paint. I found myself solidifying a number of friendships, forming new ones, and truly recognizing the depth of what it means to be a family...

...and that's just a snapshot of where my heart's been in 2013.

It's been an intentional year and though I've yet to scribbe the words to define my 2014, here's hoping it will be just as purposeful and full of love. 

The temporary, the fleeting, and the momentary

Le sigh. I'm back from my two week getaway and already that all too familiar melancholy is setting in. It was a lovely escape from the hustle and bustle that was the past few months...but alas, all good things must come to an end. C'est la vie, n'est pas?

And though we often express disdain for this rather well known fact, isn't that what makes those times so special? The allure of the temporary, the fleeting, and the momentary...the knowing that it will end, when it will end, and setting your expectations accordingly. There is no dancing on the roofs of hope or thinking about the long term...just enjoying the ride for what it is and relishing in the series of extraordinary (and not so extraordinary) moments we encounter along the way.

We say we wish we could be on vacation everyday...that it could all last "forever" but isn't that the very thing that makes life so mundane? If every getaway, every stolen moment lasted forever (the way we often say we wish they would), wouldn't it lose its very appeal? Isn't that exactly when it becomes the permanent, the expected, the routine...and the everyday? Doesn't it then become the very thing that we so desperately and so often want to escape from?

So though I'm sad to have left Europe, I happily return to my home here in Toronto, not with despair that I won't get those moments back (as I felt last year), but with appreciation and gratitude that I was lucky enough to have experienced it all in the first place...

Venezia, il mio amore

How can I possibly capture the perfection that has been the past week? Exploring Venice and its neighbouring islands and discovering their distinct culture, their rich history, the warmth of their people, and their overall way of life has been, quite simply, a blast. It's just so different from where I've been, where I come from and what I know...just the mere fact that it's a city in water is enough to set it apart from everywhere else. The trip and my learning of the old Venetian Republic's history served as a powerful reminder of just how much beauty there is in the world, in nature, in man, and in our ability to create, adapt, and discover...

The city oozes with that old school romance that we now only watch in movies or read in books. Everywhere you turn is a potential subject for a painting, every sound a possible song, and every street corner a story to tell. Like I said, it's everything I imagined it to be. Artists tucked away in hidden alleyways painting the sights before them or acordion players performing in's a sight I thought only existed in movies. But voila, I lived it for the past few days. C'est incroyable!

As I sat by the canals I imagined wars being waged on those waters with the Turks or the Slavs. I imagined the days when it was a commercial hub where merchants from all over the world traded their goods with one another. As I walked the hallways and rooms of the Ducal Palace, I imagined the everyday lives of the doges and dogeressas...such a distant past that I found it difficult to fully conceive. So distant as to be so unrelateable and seemingly irrelevant...and maybe that's what adds to its allure...

But more than anything else, I loved just roaming the streets and canals of Venice with absolutely no plans or maps and just going, literally, where the road took me. There's nothing quite like losing your way and trusting your inner compass to find your way back. It's amazing the things you'll discover...the small shops, the hidden alleyways, the odd writings on the wall, or (my favorite) the kind people. If there's anything I'll take away from this trip, it's the beauty of the city (of course) but also the warmth of the people. You wouldn't believe how many people I came across who were so eager to help or just so happy to say hello. Out of all the countries I've been to here in Europe, Italy is by far the friendliest...and really, what is a city but the people who comprise it?


So with all that, let me be the first to say that I've fallen in love with Venice. I was so sad to be walking across Piazza San Marco for the last time this morning. The city has stolen a piece of my heart and there's no doubt that I'll be back to get it...


So it's the day before new year's eve and considering the fact that it's not just the end of the year but the end of a decade, I thought it'd be appropriate to take a time out and take a look back on where I've been. Every end of the year, I have this ritual of reading through my collection of writings and looking through my many photos as a way of somehow reliving and recapturing those extraordinary and, well, not so extraordinary moments. All too easily and all too often we forget what we did just last weekend or even yesterday and so doing this is my own little way of refreshing my memory.

...And so, I just spent the last couple of hours reflecting on key moments from the past year...and damn, there have been many! There have been surprises and challenges at almost every bend of this road and it still shocks me to realize how much I've grown and changed in this relatively short time. I've experienced my first death (a conception that is still so abstract to me), my first real heart break (a place of lost and hurt that I hope never to find myself in again), and my first solo travels (a euphoric feeling of liberation and discovery like no other). This year I lost two important people in my life, one through death and the other through a break-up. But at the same time, so many new people have entered my life and in such little time, have managed to capture my heart completely. I've made friends who have simply swept me off my feet and reconnected with the one that I've missed. I've grieved and I've laughed like I never have before. I've been to the absolute heights of ecstasy and, on the other end of that spectrum, what seemed to be the bottomless freakin' pit of despair. But even while in that awful aforementioned pit, the everyday heroes of my life emerged (as they often do) to listen, to talk, to sing, to dance, to drink, to hold my hand, and even to just sit in absolute silence. And let me tell you, there is nothing more humbling than to experience such acts of unconditional love and kindness.

2009 has been a defining year, no doubt. A tumultuous year, to say the least...and yet I wouldn't have had it any other way. So here's to 2009, my year of grief and laughter, of loss and discovery, and as for you better watch yourself...cuz I'm gonna be bringin' it ;-)