Grief stays with us, but so does love.

This is your 12th birthday in heaven, somewhere over the rainbows. Just like every birthday since your first one in heaven, I baked you something special to celebrate. Something sweet, to remember your sweet soul by.

Your doll, loving you forever.

Grief doesn’t come with a handbook or a set of instructions. There’s no guaranteed way out of grief or a right way to grieve. Some of us mourn longer than others and find a way to move forward, some of us simply live in denial, some of us ache in the silent void. While we all deal with it in different ways, grief stays with you.

My dad’s birthday is one of those many occasions where I feel the tears but I also feel the sun shining down on me.

12 years on, the sadness of losing my father still consumes me. There are days when I feel sad but mostly okay. There are also days when my heart aches with longing. Every now and then, the loss feels so heavy in the room. But then again, so does his presence. In those moments, his memory is reassuring. Our memories together are comforting. While the grief feels endless, our love is eternal.

This joyful day is a reminder that grief stays with us, but so does love.

Through my own lived experience, grief is born out of love. We grieve because we love with all our heart and soul. It is the love we so deeply feel and want to share but cannot. The way I see it, grief…is love. Love that presents itself in different forms – the loss of a loved one, heartbreak, loss of a job, loss of good health. Loss that stems from love – for a person, for our passion, for our life. It is all this love we have to give, that hurts most.

It’s okay to hold on to this grief and love and take it with you wherever you may go. For it moulds you and helps you grow. The loss hurts but love heals. It took me a long time to grow in grief and understand its impact on the self and life. To understand that love wins over grief. And that the light does find us after the loss.

I didn’t understand it at first. I was angry, I was hurting, I was in pain. But when the sun finally rises again the next day, and then again the day after that, I rose too. It hurt at first but eventually, it felt okay. It didn’t feel great, it never does but I felt okay. And okay is a good place to be.

If you’re grieving, no matter the loss, know that the light will find you. Know that the love still stays with you. Even as you experience grief in the best way you know how, we are all with you.

May we grow in grief and may the love live within us. May it strengthen us, may it hold us, may it heal us.

The grass is greener where you water it.

Quite often, we find ourselves looking for something better, something bigger, something different. For example, now, with social distancing or having to cancel plans and trips. We find ourselves standing in the weeds and more we focus on it, the uglier it gets. The more we focus on it, we find ourselves water everywhere but where we stand. But the truth is, the weeds we see in our backyard are green fields to others.

So as we spend that down time with ourselves, let’s remind ourselves that the grass is always greener where you water it, and that the greatest opportunities and sources of strength and satisfaction are often in our own backyard.

Let’s practice self-care and compassion towards others and ourselves, and water the grass under our own feet.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Twenty twenty, lead the way

Turn your existential crisis into an existential celebration.

We’re a month into 2020 but I can’t help reflecting on the year gone by. I think back to who I was last year and I see someone unsure and disconnected. I see someone lost for purpose. I walked into 2019 with the promise of change and growth, I often found myself in devastating lows. I found myself constatly wanting to “get there”, with no idea of where “there” was. Was it finding a job? Was it finding security in my relationship? Was it finding a permanent home? It was a bit of everything, layered in confusion and fear.

A year later, I see myself answering those questions and feeling renewed with a sense of purpose. 2019 may have started with a lot of questions but it ended with beautiful highs and in chasing joy. It was a year of lessons – for the mind, body and soul. It was a year that made me dig deep and wide, and explore myself in ways I didn’t think possible. It was a year that peeled my layers closer to the version of me I would like to be. 

In 2019, I got real. I got real with my expectations of the world and those of me. I got real with what I was seeking. I got real with how to stand up for myself. More importantly, I got real with how to stand up to myself.

It is incredible to see how you can grow when you ride the wave instead of succumbing to fear. Whether that’s fear of change or failure, it’s equally stifling. Letting go of that fear is just as liberating. I found I was still cautious and worried and sometimes lost and lonely but it was incredible and exhilarating, to do the things that helped me grow. I allowed myself to be more open to experiences and people’s criticisms and compliments. And with me at the heart of these experiences, I found myself loving myself more. There was less judgement and more compassion. I found myself living with an open mind and an open heart – ready for love and oppourtunities. Opportunities to build lasting friendships, to learn new skills, to travel to new places, to let go of toxicity, to discover stories, to thrive.

Life felt ambiguous in the first half of the year. I was wrapping up my Master’s, hoping to get a job and just do the things you in your mid-to-late twenties. I was listing and scratching out goals and to-do lists. Some days, I would wake up just to get on with the day and move on the next. I felt isolated, like I didn’t belong – not here or there. I would send out job applications that were constantly met with rejections. I had calls that gave me hope that eventually led to nothing. I felt like I was disappointing people in my life by not checking off boxes and dreams. I started living for others more than I did for myself. It is so easy to go down that rabit hole where we’re held to a high standard that noone knows who sets. We’re expected to fit moulds and make people proud. How do you do that without making yourself proud?

I learned that people’s moral compasses were different, and that our values were a result of our generation, education and journeys. I learned to choose patience and love over my ego. I learned to not walk away from a conversation. I learned that no one perspective is right or wrong but that infact, we’re constantly evolving. I learned to be accepting of constant criticism because they didn’t know. They didn’t know the path I walked or the struggles I endured. They knew standards and expectations that were far from my reality. I prayed to stay strong and on course, to be true to myself without being disrespectful. I prayed to be good – to others and myself and to walk in the light of God.

I learned to be here in a getting there world. I embraced moments where my feet were planted and enjoyed every day life until it started to shift more positively. I got a job that I actually like, met people that have empowered me, read books that widen my horizons, I put in the hard work for love and got real with my expectations.

I turned my existential crisis into an existential celebration.

As it drew to an end and we turned to December, there was a shift. These last few months have been some of the best of my life so far. Despite feeling stuck at times, I found light in being vulnerable. I found resilience in rejections. I found strength in my faith and in the wake of hardships. I found lessons in experiences (the greatest teacher of all). I woke up and persevered with my responsibilites in the best way I knew. I wrote my heart out on a cover letter, I cried to my boyfriend, I fought it out with my mother, soaked my pillow in tears on numerous nights, I cursed myself and prayed to God. Finally, when the sun sets and you’re on your own, you owe it to yourself to give life your best shot. It is hard and you can and will fall short but you’ve got to try. If today’s my last day on earth, I want it to end knowing I tried. Your capabilites and potential are your responsibility and you’ve got to find a way to use that to make your world and the one we live in a better place.

2019 was truly rewarding. It was a life lesson in itself. It pushed me to test my limits. It taught me to be present. Whether that was in the kitchen, on a tractor, in the ER or at work. It truly was a personal year – a year of moving goalposts and challenging notions. A year of meaning and love.

I’ll leave you with this – Even after the darkest night, the sun will always rise again. It is not lost on me, the hardships around the world, the loss and the trauma, the fights people are fighting for us. It is not lost on me that even though we are our worst enemies, we’re also our greatest hope and I am holding onto that hope.

I am so excited for this in 2020 and life ahead. 2020, lead the way.

Photo by Se Nuno on Unsplash

Don’t dream it’s over

Try hard and then, try harder.

It’s been three years since I quit my job with these grand plans of studying, working and living in Australia – looking for opportunities that let my talents shine and further challenged me to discover ones I never knew I had. What was originally supposed to be a great adventure and step towards my career and personal goals, turned into a hard-hitting reality check. Jobs weren’t easy to find and living here was a daily hustle. Homesickness came in waves and the winters were gloomy reminders of lonely lows.

Time has just flown by since and the fact that it’s been a while since I moved here has made me more contemplative. I went around in circles, wondering…what is my life purpose? What am I passionate about? Why am I not moving ahead with what I thought I wanted to do? I guess, there’s no one thing – you change, you grow, you adapt. You don’t just go by the book; you write your own too.

I’ve been the first to point out every downfall and roadblock. But reality check aside, these past three years have also been amazing and such an eye-opener in so many ways. I have learnt and done things I never imagined I’d be interested in or manage – sharing a house with a stranger, cooking, moving to the countryside, working with sheep and cattle, going to concerts alone, solo travel, embracing different cultures – some big and unexpected lifestyle changes. These may seem irrelevant but really, they’ve taught me skills outside of any desk job or cliché success story. It taught me to be patient, resilient and creative to find solutions in difficult situations. It taught me to be empathetic and grateful.

Life lessons come in different shapes and forms. It took all of that and more to finally get ahead of my set ways and pride and think outside the norm. It look many rejections to really think about my purpose and work hard to get to a point where I could action it.

As I see it, after all this time, don’t dream it’s over.

In trying to fulfil others’ check-boxes I kept denying myself the opportunity to grow and truly realise my potential. It took stripping myself off all of those preconceived notions and any pride to let myself really conquer my fears but also showcase my talent and potential.

Don’t let anyone else dictate your journey because they’re not the ones living it. You are and so you should, on your own terms.

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Moving to Canberra

You live and you learn.

Over the past few months, I felt like I has finally met my new normal. Yet, forces from the universe kept knocking this new normal down, forcing me to get out of my comfort zone and reach for me. And so after months of rejections and unanswered job applications, I finally made it to payroll. 

About three weeks ago, I got on the road to Canberra. Excited about a new job but terrified about the change and disruption it came with. I’ve lived in different parts of Australia; between cities and the countryside. Truth be told, during my previous visits to Canberra, I couldn’t place Canberra’s character and charm. I couldn’t tell where it fit between the big cities and small towns. Small big town? I don’t know. Yet, here I was, ready for the rumble.

In the few weeks leading up to my move, I talked endlessly to my family and friends about how I was on this journey of growth and goals. I was so excited as I told everyone who would listen, that I felt called to pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. To say I was excited for this new chapter in my life would have been an understatement. My friends and family listened and cheered me on, and encouraged me as I shared my fears. But boy, was it exciting.

Few days later, I walk into a house covered in dust and dry leaves. I walked into a into a kitchen full of food crumbs and dirty dishes, and a toilet that hadn’t been washed in weeks. To say I was disappointed and scared for this new chapter in my life would have been an understatement. There were tears I couldn’t control. And in that moment, all I wanted was to head back home. All I wanted was to curl into my partner’s arms. All I wanted was to never ever make the mistake of inspecting a house on a phone call. All I wanted was to not fuck up.

My excitement felt tainted and my mind was so torn. After all my work in giving it all for a job I know many would kill to have, I stood there wanting to go back to my cosy cocoon. 

A few cries, a ton of cleaning and a lot more cursing later, I am grateful to be able to call you, Canberra, home in the last three weeks. In such a short span of time, this house and city has taught me resilience like I haven’t known before and it showed me how to channel my strength within. Truth is, despite the flaws and regrets, my room cradled me as I cried, and had this whole world outside that loved and laughed with me as I found my ground again. This experience allowed me to see my strength and gave me the courage to start this new chapter.

As I strongly believe – you live and you learn. 

I wish I didn’t make the wrong turn but it led me to the right path in the end. I’ve still got a long way to go and everyday challenges to meet. I’ve still got people to curse and counters to clean. But these challenges have been temporary; the satisfaction of overcoming them however, leaves a lasting smile and a very grateful heart.

Photo by Dmytro Danylyk on Unsplash