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Outside the Box

catalyst /ˈkat(ə)lɪst   noun:  an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action

The Break Up

The Spring of 2016 marked the end of a relationship. A relationship saturated with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. It had everything from passion to chaos, love to resentment, happiness to despair. Undeniably, it was a relationship characterized by the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The months that ensued left me broken and depressed. I was hurt deeply and no longer knew how to navigate the world without a partner by my side.

Over the past two years there have been multiple catalysts precipitating the events and experiences that have lead me to where (and who) I am today.

This person, and our breakup, was the first.

It’s taken me a while, but I can finally say that I am genuinely grateful for the pivotal role they played in my life and the experiences we once shared together.

The good.

The bad.

The ugly.

…and the end of it all. 

Mental Health Manifestos

In November of 2016, after a 6-month stint in a deep dark hole of despair, combined with a job that paid the bills but gave me little fulfilment, I decided to attend a conference held by the Canadian Mental Health Association in an attempt at shifting my career path to align with my passion for mental health (and the extensive education I had already obtained in the field).

This was catalyst number two. 

Since then:

  • I have publicized my personal struggle with mental illness in the hopes that others will recognize that they are not alone in this fight
  • I have accepted the realities that accompany living with my anxiety/depression and solidified various strategies in self-care to address them
  • I have a fulfilling job working with youth who have mental health and addiction issues
  • I am (very recently) antidepressant free for the first time in 14 years!*
        * BUT medication can be extremely helpful for many people!

Climbing Clubs

An enthusiasm for the outdoors and no one to get outside with lead me to joining the Alpine Club of Canada in early 2017 – catalyst number three.

It was through this that I was connected with like minded people who opened me up to a whole new world of possibilities. I could never have fathomed finding a love for climbing (let alone climbing at all), nor could I have anticipated that the vast majority of my evenings and weekends would be jam-packed full of adventuring (particularly the kind of adventures that require ice axes).

The endless number of accessible outdoor opportunities has pushed my physical and mental limits to entirely new heights – both literally and figuratively.

Living in Vancouver may mean my bank account is empty, but my heart is undeniably full.

AcroYogis and Acceptance

Amongst moving to North Vancouver, starting a new job, and buying a (cursed) Subaru Forester in the fall of 2017, I met someone. For the first time since ‘the break up’ I was excited about another human being in a romantic capacity.

Despite it not working out in a long term dating context, this person (who I have remained good friends with), was the fourth and most recent catalyst.

Throughout the 6-month duration of our relationship, he introduced me to the world of AcroYoga – and with it, a vibrant, welcoming, beautiful community of people.  Initially, after spending most of my young adult life in the conservative suburbs of Ottawa, it was a bit of an adjustment being consistently greeted with hugs by strangers to then proceed by putting our hands and feet all over each other to make pretty poses. However, with time, I welcomed the physical nature of the practice, and more importantly, the free-spirited, diverse, and accepting culture that the community embodied.

Being engulfed in such an open-minded atmosphere, and connecting with people who strayed beyond the confines of societal ‘norms’, invoked the realization that I’d been living in a box I didn’t fit in any longer.

…Or maybe never really did in the first place.

Crushing Boxes

Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes. – Hugh Prather

We tend to live in boxes.

Four defined rectangular walls characterized by rigid edges, straight lines, and predictable dimensions. Within them; prescribed roles and responsibilities, expectations, and explanations.

For me specifically, contained within the box was financial stability, a successful career, and at the top of the list: a hetero long-term relationship that resulted in marriage and children.

…All according to a very strict timeline of course.

At the age of 27, beyond the expiry date of said ‘strict timeline’, my perspective on this vision for my life has shifted – drastically.

For a very long time I’ve been resistant to anything but what was inside the box. I’ve chosen to ignore any feelings that didn’t align with my vision. But with each catalyst I’ve identified above, I’ve come one step closer to stepping out of this box I had trapped myself in.

Which brings me to now.

I am not financially stable, I don’t have my dream job (although I do enjoy the one I have), and I’ve come to terms with the fact that it doesn’t matter what gender my partner is or what the dynamics of that relationship look like.

What matters is that I’m happy.

And right now?

I am. 

On the Outside

The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next. – Ursula K. Le Guin

Amongst the chaos of a recent car accident (RIP Zulu the Subaru), coming off my medication, navigating the new dynamics of dating, and everyday life stressors, I’ve been a bit overwhelmed… to say the least.

Truthfully, there are countless moments where I feel like an outsider looking in.

Who is this person letting go? Taking risks? Living outside the box?

It couldn’t possibly be me…

But these moments are coupled with calmness and peace. In knowing that despite the unfamiliarity, I feel more like “me” than I ever have.

I’ve learned to cultivate the truest version of myself through acceptance of the unexplored and surrender of the familiar.

But damn, is it scary.

Looking back, everything has changed.

But maybe it’s not me that’s changing…

…maybe I’m just falling into the person I’ve always been.