My last entry was in Aotearoa (New Zealand). I had been fascinated by the ability to end one job and start another job in the span for a few hours they overlapped. My hope had been that once I settled in Toronto a few weeks later I’d start writing more.
And in some ways, I have written a lot more. In one of my other formats, the words and pages have been pouring out of me. One of my personal outlets, my pen & ink journal, where I think I am the most candid and uncensored, I have written some 200 pages since mid-October.
I even started an article that has become much too wordy in my usual disk dump stream of consciousness writing style. While there is a freedom in that style of a free for all approach, I have found it takes so much longer to edit those manuscripts down into something useful that I have begun to wonder if it is a style I should continue to utilize. I have realized I have a lot to say, but I do wonder how much time left I have to say it in as I stare fifty in the eyes.
I cannot hide that I now have time to read. I have time to think. And I have time to write. While I still teach, have course prep, and grading to accomplish each week, I can find a rhythm in it all too. For me these last six months have been about finding a new identity and routine for my life.
Over the course of the last year I have seen friendships fade and friendships strengthen. I received a chilly departure from my last home and a warm embrace at my new home. I did hard work on my last home, lost a friend, sold a house, and was cheated by the new owner over a measly sump pump for a hundred bucks; but I had an awesome realtor and paralegal who aided me greatly in squaring the sale away.
Life has sped up in ways I had not dreamed was possible. As much as I follow the news, survey social media, and try to stay abreast of so much information, I find myself overwhelmed. The cacophony of screaming talking heads, the new buzz word of tribalism with regards to politics, and I stop and blink—and it feels like a day, a week, or a month blow right by me. How do I process it all?
Do I listen to and embrace the snarkiness leveled at the “other” in social media? Do I put my head down and focus on my life, my to-do list, and my obligations in life? Does that make me a bad person, an insensitive person, or worst yet—a apathetic privileged person? But then I have to ask a fundamental question-who is the other? I have been charged with being privileged—but am I? Or have we become so hyper-connected and thus worried how others perceive us in life—we can’t unplug?
World is a mess
There is no doubt that the world seems a mess literally, figuratively, and politically. There are the comparisons of 2019 Trump’s America to World War II Nazi Germany—and only part of it is hyperbole. Places like Australia, California, and far too many spots are on literally on fire. The ice caps have melted. The animals, birds, and plants are paying the price for our hubris, our arrogance, and our denial as humans of the simple science and unalienable truths—that the West and capitalism have not been and are not good stewards or caretakers of the earth, of the natural world. Because in the West, humans are deemed outside of the natural world. The earth is to be conquered, subdued, and subjugated that humans might earn their good graces with higher powers to return one day to paradise through good works.
In Indigenous worldviews, we are but one part of the larger natural world. So many stories tell us that we humans are the younger brothers of all that was created before us—so that they, the Elder Brothers (animals and plants) might teach us to remember our place, our obligation, and our responsibility for all of the bountiful gifts we have been given on Turtle’s back.
Greta gets headlines while Indigenous youth have long been ignored with concerns over their communities, their futures, and climate change. Need proof—newspapers including the NY Times covered Leo DeCaprio’s involvement in environmental protests but erased our indigenous leaders including Tadadaho (Sid Hill) and Oren Lyons—whom Leo and Mark Ruffalo marched along side in that same movement—but were never mentioned by name.
I have reconciled a lot in my life. I have had frank and earnest conversations with friends and women I cared deeply about throughout my life. I have had goodbyes I did not expect to be so hard—and I wept in private with some others. I busied myself with being overwhelmed and insecure in my new position; but by the last half of the term found my voice and confidence again.
My old gal Chloe (my beagle) has seemingly aged exponentially with each week we’ve been here in Toronto. She has a gimp that just won’t right itself; and all we can do at this point is make her comfortable with pain management. I can see in her demeanor and eyes that we are not ready to part ways yet. And I know when we do part ways my heart will be shattered. Though right now, we are having some profound disagreements over the garbage can and its tasty contents.
With family, I have begun to reconnect. My sister and I are on similar wavelengths and experiencing change at similar points in our lives. We have recognized, and quietly fear that our mom won’t be around forever, but we have found a love and respect for her in ways the last few years it had been difficult to see let alone process earlier in our lives. Though our mom, by her own admission, has been at times more than a bit crazy, she did the best she could with us. And by doing so, she made us stronger people and adults for it in the end. I need to do better at connecting with my cousins, my aunts and uncles; simply put, life is too short to keep saying I will do this soon.
In 2017, I knew monumental changes were upon me with the Fulbright fellowship. I discovered the depth of my anger, my sense of loss and grief I could not face squarely in my home of fifteen years in Oswego. But I found redemption and belonging in the importance of community, of family, and of a sense of belonging in eight short months. I began to crave that sense of balance I found in Brantford, Six Nations, and among so many conversations with those that became dear friends and family. I knew I would not survive my old life much longer in Oswego.
Finding new community
Life took some time, but here at the end of 2019 I have found a new home in Toronto. I have found a community and folks I consider family that is nurturing, that has given me purpose, and that has accepted me as I am and who I am trying to become—because I know there is more to me and what I have to offer the world.
I have friends that tell me gently, but steadfastly, to patient with myself. They also call me out gently and with a humility when I am in the wrong or going down the wrong path. In the fifteen years I owned my home in Oswego, it took me years to call it home. I have been in Toronto about five months, and my apartment (at least for the next 3.5 years) has already become home.
I want to promise you that I will write more and post often here. But I have promised that before on this site. I want to say trust me that I am writing more, and my pen & ink journal proves it; at least to me. But I have to pluck up my courage to actually share myself with you—the reader.
I can’t say it will be easy. But I know I have more work to do on myself. I used to be so confident in what I had to share with the world. I was convinced that others saw things the way I did—but were too polite to tell me it was so obvious. I’m learning that I see patterns in some unique ways. I can only tell you I am a work in progress.
I can tell you that I am a damn bit better than I was one year ago. And while I still have grief, hurt, and anger to process–I have hope too. I know I have words to share. I have stories that might guide someone else help avoid the pitfalls I experienced by only going through them rather than listening to others about how I could avoid that particular learning experience. But then perhaps that is part of life, more importantly, it is always our choice.
It is easy to say I am a changed man. I am not sure I am at this point. I know I love my quotes that I find every year as a new journal (pen & ink) starts. I worry that some will seem them as an attempt to show how well read I am—I fear I am not that well-read enough. The fact is I google them and what I think I am facing in the upcoming year.
So, for this last year, 2019 my signature quote was by Albert Einstein, “I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be.” For me it was profound and seemingly appropriate. And this year it has proven such—that it was a wise quote to utilize.
I have been searching for this year’s (2020) quote. I have had a few to wrestle with; as I am prone too. But tonight, I think I found the one that works—and represents my next evolution in the upcoming year. Alan West wrote, “Only way to make sense of change is to plunge into it, move with it, & join the dance.” To me, that perfectly complements Einstein’s quote.
In these last six months, I have plunged into change, I have tried to move with it; and I hope that in 2020 I will join the dance. Because quietly, secretly, and even insecurely, I love to try and dance—never have thought of myself as a good dancer. It is time to live life again, to laugh, and to speak my truth.
What will you do differently in 2020?