My Path Through Life From Europe to the USA: Memoirs: My Life in Retrospect

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Just before my seventeenth birthday, I had to have surgery to repair a torn ligament in my knee that I had injured months before. I would go for slow, hobbling crutch walks when I was supposed to keep my leg elevated. I would find ways to work out my upper body without jostling my knee.

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Even as I struggled to find my way to the washroom, I refused to take the time I should. The hospital-grade painkillers had worn off, and I was in a lot of pain. I came very close to passing out in the night when I got up to use the washroom, and a few more times after that. It became clear I was trying to do too much. I had to slow down, sleep, and sit still for a while if I was to heal at all.

The older we get, the faster time seems to pass. People have been trying to explain this phenomenon forever. One of my favourite theories that I think makes complete sense: the further you get into life, the relative ratio that every year takes up in your memory becomes smaller.

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In other words, the slices of the pie get thinner as we age. By the time you are fifty, the percentage has been reduced to 2. Therefore, every year seems shorter by comparison than the one before. When I became viscerally aware of the passing of time in those early adolescent years, I panicked. In order to do this, I hopped on the hyper-productivity train and joined the crowd of people looking to the same.

How could we better hack our time in order to fit in everything we want to get done? New strategies popped up every day, and I consumed self-help literature voraciously. I learned to map out visions for where I thought I wanted to go in life.


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I made vision boards in order to help keep me on track. I had my big five goals, ten smaller deliverables and top five values to live by, and I tried my best to act on them every day. We often overestimate what we can accomplish in one week, and grossly underestimate just how much we can grow in a year — you will go places you cannot predict, so trying to map out every inch of your life is utterly useless. Most of all, I learned that life should be more than just a to-do list. The rest would just sit there collecting dust on a shelf. At the same time, we are being pursued by a different voice, one encouraging us to slow down and live life in the moment, take time to breathe and be grateful for the things we have.

The thing is, even meditation and gratitude lists can become just another item on the To-Do list.

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Even time spent with loved ones can be a source of stress if we approach it with the wrong state of mind. Sometimes doing nothing is the most productive thing you can do. Life is all about balance — knowing where you want to go in life, and yet leaving space for the things to happen that you know you cannot plan for.

I have found I am happiest when I exist in equilibrium, between intention and going with the flow. I train handstands six days per week, but my practice changes depending on how my body is feeling. Beyond that, I like to fill much of the rest of my time making art, doing good work, learning or spending time with the people I care about. But I also like to leave some room to breathe, to admire the beauty of empty space.

One of my most vivid memories is of one evening on the beach in Kailua, Hawaii, when my family took a trip there a few years ago. My dad and I just sat there in the sand as my mother wandered closer to the shore to dip her toes into the ocean. A comfortable silence sat between us — there was nothing that needed to be said. We watched the sky radiate brilliant colours as the sun inch its way closer to the horizon before it disappeared until the next dawn.

What a spectacular way to start and finish a day, to watch the sun put on a show in the company of those we love most and do nothing at all. This is the way I want to live my life: intentional work and beautiful moments that make my heart feel full.

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I have for a long time, actually. My love of the stars came when I read a book by one of my favourite childhood authors, Wendy Mass. I was eleven years old at the time. The novel, Every Soul a Star, is about three young strangers brought together on a campground to watch a total solar eclipse. All the characters came alive in my mind, but I could best relate to the girl whose family had run the campground for several years, so long she could hardly remember anything else.

This girl did not know a traditional childhood, but rather she and her brother were brought up in the best classroom man never made, but one that existed long before the industrial revolution. She was engaged in an intimate relationship with the natural world, but her deepest love lay in the night sky. It was in this book that I found my first astronomy lesson; I have taken great comfort in constellations ever since. Having grown up in Winnipeg, I am more accustomed to sunny days than I am cloudy ones. I find it quite depressing to have the sun hidden from view for more than a few days at a time.

The weather in Manitoba is rather intense, yes — this is what happens when you live in the middle of what was once a giant lake. It is extremely flat, so much so that you can see for a twelve-kilometre radius if there are no buildings to obstruct your view.


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Because of the lack of change in elevation, the weather tends to stick around until a system comes through that is strong enough to move it along. Or there is a change in seasons. In winter, we get temperatures as low as degrees C and then add the windchill. At the same time, in summer temperatures can climb above 30 degrees C. But no matter the season or time of day, you are more likely than not to find clear skies.

It is one of the advantages to living in Manitoba. You may not be able to imagine the vastness of empty space that exists in a place where the sky is a canvas that lasts forever, further than the eye can see. There are entire stretches of uninterrupted land with nothing but farmers fields, rusty railroad tracks, and one or two rogue gas stations dotting the horizon. Even Winnipeg itself is sprawling — it can take more than three-quarters of an hour to get from one area to another in a city populated by less than a million people.

It may not be the most exciting place to live, but it does have its own charm. I am grateful to have grown up there. Now that I am living and traveling thousands of miles from the place I grew up, I find I instintively look to the skies for a piece of home. I once saw a live movement production that told the stories of a few families of immigrants and their struggles in moving to a new land.

After the show, we were privileged enough to meet the creator and listen to him speak about his inspiration for the show. Because of a variety of factors, this man had spent long periods of time travelling. This took him away from his family and friends, scattered as they were across the globe. Distance can be quite hard on the heart, so this man found his own unique way of staying connected to the ones he loved. Each time he travelled, he would locate a park, sit down on an empty bench and look up at the sky.

He would find comfort in the knowledge that somewhere, someone he loved was looking up at that same sky, even if they were a million miles from where he was.

A new language

The world may feel big at times, but it is also incredibly small. When we look to nature, we find this sense of connection that exists between all living things and resides within our hearts. We can reach for it when we find ourselves overwhelmed, tired, or unbareably lonely. It will always be there. These days, I find myself looking up a lot. I am frequently distracted by whatever the sky is up to at a given moment in time. Sometimes I have words on the tip of my tongue that must be transcribed before they slip away, but most often I am simply sidetracked by the few stars that have managed to burst through the light pollution to pierce a gorgeous navy blue sky.

I am overcome by a sense of wonder — the world is so utterly beautiful it literally takes my breath away. Our world is built on patterns that repeat themselves time and time again. Take the number three, for example. Our days are composed of three distinct periods: sunrise, full light, sunset.

In our solar system, the trio of the sun, the moon, and planet earth are necessary for life to thrive.

There are three atoms that combine to create one molecule of water, three colours that combine to make visible light, and three main states of matter. The same could be said of the number seven, the hexagonal structure of a snowflake, or the ever-present golden ratio. Patterns are everywhere. Patterns may be common in nature, but they can also teach us a thing or two about ourselves — what do you find yourself being drawn back to time and time again? The best way to recognize these patterns within yourself is to spend some time alone with your own thoughts, to try things and gather data and then reflect on what you find.

I find I am constantly pulled back to create and be in spaces with these three things: a body of water, a forest of green trees, and a breathtakingly beautiful sky.

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