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Why Am I Waiting for People to Change

  I’m still trying to figure out if this is a strength or a flaw. I have this problem where I almost instinctively see the thing in people that I want to see. Some sort of light, or goodness, or hope that I arrogantly feel only I am aware of and only I can bring out.

From one perspective, this helps me to stay positive. And I notice when I treat people as I see them and not as they are, they end up behaving closer to the image I have in my mind. But what does that really mean? Only that they have potential, which is true of even the worst people. Worse, this may only mean they are capable of altering their behaviour to fit the circumstance, usually to some selfish end.

From the other perspective, having this notion that people can change has put me in plenty of situations in which I constantly give people chances. I can recount even recently me speaking to this person and not understanding at all how they can continually behave this way, even though their history has proven to me that this is exactly who they are.

And this person doesn’t necessarily have to be a partner. For me, this is not a girlfriend issue. This is a people issue, or a recognizing who to trust issue.

Waiting for people to change is like drawing a circle. No matter what, you end up in the same place you started. And as I’m writing this I still feel some hesitation within myself because I genuinely want to believe that we all have the capacity for change. That we all have bad moments, or go through rough periods where we aren’t exactly at our best.

And if that’s true, then these people should expect us, the ones who love them and care for them, to be there as they make their way around the ferris wheel.

But that’s really not how it works, is it? I had a thought a few weeks ago. A thought incited by a real life decision. I wrote on my Facebook page that sometimes we just have to let people go, no matter how long they’ve been in our lives and regardless of if we love them. Because if our goal in any friendship or relationship is to wait for someone to change or attempt to spur on that change, then we’ve entered that situation for the wrong reason and it’s time to get out.

Now in writing this, another thought has crossed my mind. Maybe I’M changing. Maybe I’ve already changed. And if this is true, if I’ve really changed, then my expectation that anyone else should change to match who I am now is baseless.

I’m either creating or have created a new me, which means I’m creating or have created a new world for myself. Instead of waiting for anyone else to change, I should be finding people who fit my new world.

Right? Am I making any sense? Is any of this making any sense?

It’s tough when I’m actually going through it to see anywhere outside of my own mind, but this is what I’m feeling. A writer/artist expressing myself the only way I know how. And yet I feel there are countless amounts of people going through this right now who know precisely what I mean.

#PassionAndPaper

Read my novella THOUGHTS OF A FRACTURED SOUL here.

Life Can Be Your Passion

I write this from my hotel room in Manhattan, in the early hours of the morning on the fourth day of my week long trip. Coming to this city has been such a blessing. The affect New York is having on me has been unexpected, and the lessons I’ve learned equally as curious. Last night I saw Jhumpa Lahiri speak at the New York Public Library. She’s a Pulitzer Prize winning author for a collection of short stories called Interpreter of Maladies. I admire her writing more than you can imagine, and she’s directly impacted my own writing more than any author I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

But it was after her dialogue that was equally as memorable. Walking through Times Square, feeling the energy of the city as I strolled down 42nd street. Before that I was with a friend in Harlem, and we walked around 155th street before meeting up with another friend who drove us through the east and west side of that relatively small, but historic section of Manhattan.

This evening I’ll be headed to Williamsburg, on the suggestion of some colleagues I had lunch with in Greenwich Village a few days earlier. And what’s been amazing for someone like me, someone who is more passionate about my career than anything else, I realized that it’s possible to be just as passionate about life itself.

Life can literally be your passion. And I feel very humbled to be saying this. I absolutely love writing, love words, love reading other writers. Writing is my life, it’s both what I do and who I am.

But that’s me. And being here even I have to admit that for those who are struggling to find what they want to do with their lives, what career they want to pursue that will fulfill their passions, know that you can find fulfillment in life itself.

What I’ve learned perusing New York in the manner I have is that it’s possible to still be content even if your career doesn’t define who you are. In fact, I would even suggest that those still searching for who they are seek refuge in life itself. And that doesn’t even have to happen through travelling, although it will certainly increase your appreciation for the world we live in.

But you can find passion in your family, in your friends, in your city. You can find that contentment in your hobbies or in your partner. Jhumpa Lahiri spoke about finding that passion in her learning of the Italian language, and how it has made her feel a kind of wholeness she was missing her entire life.

And I’m not saying you should stop pursuing a career that would fill whatever space you’re looking to fill, I’m saying look to what’s already around you or within you to find that comfort. Because those things can be just as magnificent.

#HistoryOrNothing

Read "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul," here. 

18

18 was the age. The most memorable. Finally legal in my country, but that wasn’t the distinction that forced me into adulthood. 18 was the age. I dropped out of high school, paid rent for the first time, felt broke for the first time.

18 was the age my daughter was conceived.

It was the first time I felt real fear, real insecurity about my abilities to be a father. All I wanted to do was play ball, chase girls, laugh with my friends. Instead I was nervous, anxious, dealing with family split between being unforgiving and empathetic.

Either way, 18 was the age I trained myself to not be sensitive. To know that from here on in I had to be strong. My existence wasn’t all that was at stake, my ego wasn’t the only thing to be scarred.

18 was the year I became a father. A child myself, but who had time to think about that. Who had time to try to make sense of what that word really meant.

Father.

Didn’t have one myself, but vowed to be better. Didn’t care that he was never there because I would be.

And I was.

And I still am.

18 was the first time I looked into my daughter’s eyes. First time I held her. First time I heard her cry.

13 years later and I can’t help but reminisce sometimes.

18...

#PassionAndPaper

Read "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul."

 

Me First

Yea, just like that. Me first. Selfish, yes. Necessary, unfortunately it is sometimes. And that doesn’t make it any easier for someone like me who has a hard time saying no to people I care about. I remember years ago, before I was a full time writer, telling my girlfriend at the time that she’s going to have to make a decision. I told her that my time, effort, and energy will be primarily on building my career, and that wasn’t going to change until those career goals were reached.

If you’ve read all of my posts, you know how that ends. And I don’t blame her at all for eventually leaving. But now that I’ve gotten to phase one of my career, I guess it’s only normal to wonder if the sacrifice was worth it.

To be honest, even in my weakest moments I say yes it was worth it. In my strongest moments I say I had no choice. But that’s not true. I did have a choice, and I made it. And she made hers.

Was I selfish? Is it possible to make a “me first” decision without being thought of as selfish? Either within your own mind or by everyone around you?

My mom retired on January 1st of this year. I threw her a retirement party and invited all of her friends. Near the end of the night, I asked some of them to come say a few words.

They all had their own special and unique experiences with my mom, but one message was consistent among everyone. And that was how giving my mom had been to each of them. How she had sacrificed in some small way to better their lives.

And when they spoke that night, each of them told her it’s her turn to now be selfish. To live her life in retirement for herself.

After over 40 years of giving, they gave her a pass to be selfish.

I guess it’s one of the characteristics of me being a Millennial that I don’t want to wait that long to get a selfish pass. I live my life the way I want to live it right now. And I’m working everyday to keep creating my ultimate vision of how I want my life to be.

“At what cost” is probably one of the first questions that comes to mind. And the closer I get to that dream life, the more I realize the parallel between sacrifice and success. So as you see me grow, see me write more books, see my fan base expand, know that I gave up a lot along the way.

#PassionAndPaper

Read "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul." 

Reminiscing On My Holidays As a Millennial Parent

  In so many ways I’m the prototypical Millennial. Obsessively chasing my passion? Check. Freelancer? Check. Renting instead of buying? Check. Parent? Woah! I know I can fill that box with a check-mark, but that’s one many Millennials would leave blank. Postponed parenting is certainly becoming one of the trademarks of this generation, but it’s a trademark I’ve neglected, whether intentionally or not is up for debate.

Either way here I am, a former teenage parent of a now teenage daughter. And as the holidays approach I can’t help but to look back on all the previous holidays, the good and the not so good, the struggles and confusion, and the lessons my daughter has taught me along the way.

M.I.A Holidays

M.I.A was the reality of the first few years of my daughter’s life. After dropping out of high school and toughing things out for the first year of her life, I got myself together and accepted a full athletic scholarship to a university in New York state. Being from Toronto, that meant committing to only seeing my daughter over the summer for the next four years.

The holidays were even tougher. Our only communication was me listening to her mumble dada on the phone from my dorm room or from on the road in a hotel room. I remember worrying that when I did finally graduate, my daughter would have no idea who I was. That I would be a stranger only familiar by my voice. These were the lonely holidays, but I kept it in the back of my mind that higher education was the right thing for me to do, and it would pay off. It had to.

Postgraduate Lessons

No masters classes for me. But I headed back to Toronto knowing exactly what I wanted to do, and started working on the manuscript for my first book, taking any and every odd job I could in the meantime. As you could imagine, odd jobs don’t bring home much bacon. That meant the holidays were still a struggle.

And although I was home now, able to see my daughter for the holidays, it pains me to admit that I consciously remember thinking I would rather be hundred of miles away. You see at this point in my parenting journey, I equated my worth as a father to my net worth. And since I was barely scraping by, living in a one bedroom apartment with my girlfriend at the time, dreaming of being Khaled Hosseini but living like the typical starving artist, I felt embarrassed in my ability as a provider, and that embarrassment lead me away from even wanting to spend time with my daughter over the holidays.

Her gifts were small during these times. A Miley Cyrus cd (Hannah Montana days), an easel for her to do her art. One year I remember asking what she wanted and braced myself for the answer. Then when she said all she wanted was a collection of colouring books, I knew she understood. And when she ripped open that wrapping paper and acted like I bought her whatever Apple gadget was hot at the time, then I understood.

Too many thoughts were racing through my head during these holidays. Does anyone really know what it feels like to be not just any parent, but a Millennial parent? How can anyone know what it means to buy your ten year old daughter a cell phone one Christmas, and still have her be the last of her friends to get one. How can they know the pressure this generation puts on you to be a mega success at 25, and feel like a failure if you still aren’t by 30?

All of these thoughts weighed on me daily, but eventually they would become fuel. Eventually I would learn that I'm not or wasn't the only parent going through shit. That although some of the pressures were specific to my generation, the actual root feelings weren't specific to just me.

I had to stay motivated, stay focused on my vision and take the actions necessary to see that vision through to the end.

"Just keep going, Kern."

I repeated that regularly throughout each day. Reminded myself that I wasn't going to be perfect, but if I put in the work, drowned out the other noise, and stayed completely committed to being the best writer possible, then I would eventually be successful.

Holiday Spirit

I know people think that when you have kids there’s this automatic kind of love that comes with it. And of course that’s true to some extent. But what I’ve noticed is that you actually fall in love with your children. As years go by and you watch them grow, you realize that all they really care about is the time you spend together. They actually don’t remember the gifts as much as they remember you being there to watch them open it, or the endless hours spent on the couch watching Home Alone. That time, that familiarity, that getting to know each other; that breeds the kind of love that can't be broken.

The holidays are different now. I’m happy to say I’m forging an amazing career as an author and freelance writer with the flexibility to spend as much time with my daughter as I want. I’ve also fictionalized our relationship from start to end in my debut novella “Thoughts of a Fractured Soul,” which I tell a story around the struggle of finding and maintaining ambition as a Millennial parent.

Her gifts are a bit different now, too. OK, a lot different. But to tell you the truth, she still really doesn’t care. All she wants is for me to be there. And whether I buy her colouring books or the new Huaraches, she smiles the same smile and the bond we’ve forged remains unbreakable through another holiday season.

#PassionAndPaper

More from me www.kerncarter.com

Get your copy of "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul," here.

 

 

 

Let Success Be Your New Life

I'm blessed to have some intelligent friends around me who can hold some truly insightful conversations. The convo I'm talking about this time, though, was short, simple, and sent in the form of a text you see in the feature picture. If you notice the time on that message it's almost 2:00am, so it's like my friend had a sudden epiphany. We've had a few conversations about this in person after his message, and debated the validity of this statement. I mean, is that what "ultimate" success takes? Does it truly take sacrificing your entire life? If you read the end of his message, he actually gives very specific examples of how he's had to change his life if he wants to stay on the path he's currently on.

"Missing family engagement parties and bachelor parties and barbecues. Cuz you gotta focus on basketball or workouts or work or meetings."

For my friend, those other things take precedence in his life right now. More precedence than engagement or bachelor parties or anywhere else he's been invited. I think what get's scary for most people, like the vast majority of people, is that if they sustain that level of focus, that level of discipline, will it all work out the way they want?

That's the struggle, isn't it. You actually don't know everything is going to go your way. You don't know if working overtime is actually going to get you that promotion, or if you quit your job and start your own business that it will actually be successful. And the next question you ask yourself is just how long will you have to put in all this work before you get the payoff?

Oh now we're getting somewhere. We're all willing to put in the work if we knew for sure it will lead to something better. But only the people who are "ultimately" successful put in the work already KNOWING it will lead to something better, and with the understanding that the journey is part of the payoff.

Tough pill to swallow, tough lesson to learn. Hard to move forward without security, right? Without some kind of assurance. But it goes back to the title of this article: Are you willing to let success be your new life?

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#PassionAndPaper

 

 

Why The Heck Am I Watching Oprah

OK so it was one of those odd occasions where I had a few minutes during the day so I flicked on the TV and it magically landed on Oprah's "O" network. Please don't judge me too much LOL, and to my defense, my brother's wife was over so I feel somewhat justified in watching a segment or two. But talk about eye opening. From what I could tell, the guests on the show were all women who had finally ended their marriages. And I say finally because all of these women were unhappy, unfulfilled, and outright miserable in their marriage for years before finally ending it. I heard one woman say she had checked out of her marriage after the first ten years, but stayed with her husband for SEVEN MORE YEARS despite not feeling any emotion for him at all and herself being constantly unhappy.

Fear of change, maybe?

Can you imagine being stuck in a situation you hated for seven years? Having to wake up everyday and deal with that situation knowing you absolutely don't want to be there. Then I thought a little deeper and realized this is what so many people deal with every day. Not just with their spouses, but so many people hate their jobs, or hate the classes they're taking or their majors, hate where they live, and on and on and on.

And despite feeling deflated, hopeless, dejected, disconnected, and whatever other negative emotional adjective you can think of, they stay. And some stay in their situation for much longer than seven years. Now I don't want to sound insensitive or even ignorant. I know there are always mitigating circumstances and other factors to think about. In marriages, children are always a consideration; with jobs, finances and bills are always a consideration.

There's always something, right?

But that's just the point. There's always going to be something holding your feet to the fire. Some reason, real or manifested, that prevents you from getting out of a situation that's draining you of your energy and your soul on a daily basis.

At what point does that something disappear and your need for happiness take precedence?

Me personally, I protect my happiness at all costs. And not saying I haven't done jobs I've hated or been in bad relationships. But I've always had goals with any job I've worked with the vision that it was either a stepping stone or a necessary evil to get to where I am now. And with relationships, once I could look at myself in the mirror and say I've given it my best shot, that I've tried honestly and intently to make it work and it still isn't fulfilling my expectations, then I have to move on.

And I have a daughter, so I understand all the repercussions involved. But to me, it can be more psychologically damaging for a child to witness a loveless relationship than it can be to end that same relationship.

I'll leave with words from one of my favourite musicians:

"Leaving you is hard, being here is harder." Lana Del Rey

#PassionAndPaper

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Living My Life

I realized my last two posts have been somewhat gloomy. I'm actually not that sad of a person, but everyone has their moments I guess. The last few weeks have been so much more exciting and has helped me realize how blessed I truly am. My goal since I first started writing "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul" was to touch as many people as possible and inspire readers with my gift as a writer. It's been just under six months since my novel has been out and the journey has already been unbelievable. Most recently I've been working with members of the school board - TDSB, TCDSB, and YRDSB  teachers, department heads, curriculum leaders, principals - all who have been incredibly enthusiastic about bringing my novel, it's themes and my personal story to students within their districts. It's emotional for me to see how open they have been about not only welcoming my proposals, but going out of their way to encourage even further connections among their peers.

apple-256266_640

I was also interviewed by a student at York University as an "interesting person" for their Professional Writing class. What I thought would be a casual interview forced me to think about my entire journey as a writer, start to end, from the first days of struggling to find my voice, to the very first edit (which was terrible), to finding and selecting the right publisher, to finally seeing the book in print and having people actually purchase it.

The next 6 months are shaping up to be special and I'm itching for the moment to walk into a classroom and see every student holding a copy of "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul." My own soul is full as I reflect on the benefit of being able to live my dream every single day. I only wish that everyone can experience the joy of having their dreams fulfilled.

Till next time...

 

 

 

Hostage

I was dishonest, I admit it. I lied about something that I shouldn't have and completely disrupted my relationship to the point where I have to accept that it will probably never be the same. It was straight chaos for weeks and what I think really exacerbated the dispute was that my girlfriend never thought I could ever do anything wrong. She thought I was perfect and would make a point to tell me that almost everyday.

But that's just it, I'm not perfect. I never was. I make mistakes, a lot of mistakes. I sometimes say the wrong things at the worst times. Sometimes I forget to do things or I'm late for a date. And guess what, sometimes I even lie.

flower-370101_640I'm not proud of what I've done and I don't want this post in any way to justify me lying. My only goal is to say that we all have many sides to us. Both males and females can be equally caring and unemotional, headstrong and docile, angry and forgiving. We just need the maturity to decide when to best act on those emotions. No one person should be held hostage to being that one person all the time. We are multidimensional, emotional beings and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

I still have a lot of growing to do myself. I'm slowly coming into the person I want to be but truthfully I'm not sure I'll ever get there. I may always be a work in progress, trying to balance each side of my personality while trying to consider those around me who matter most. Hopefully they're patient enough to stick with all of the "me's" long enough for me to figure things out. Guess I'll have to wait and see....

I Cried Today

Yes I cried today. For the first time since making that fateful decision to leave my daughter for university south of the border, scared that she would forget who I was and what I meant to her, I cried. Ask me why I cried and I can't give you an answer. It's just one of those moments that everything seems overwhelming and nothing seems possible. For me these are rare occurrences; I'm a dreamer who believes anything is possible and nothing is out of reach.

landscape-342149_640But today, right now, I just feel like crying.

And I don't want to stop. I don't want anyone asking me if I'm OK or if they can do anything to make me feel better. I don't want help, I don't want to feel better and NO everything not is OK.

I want to cry; let out all of these emotions that I would never let out publicly, let out this entire facade of pretending I'm in complete cowood-273825_640ntrol of my life and everything and everyone in it. I want to let all of that go, uncontrollably, until I feel like stopping or until the hurt stops.

I had this conversation the other day and someone asked me my biggest fear. Without hesitation I answered "being average." I don't even know what that means right now. "Being average?" Maybe I mean failing. Maybe I mean not selling a million books. Maybe that means not having the courage to live my life exactly as I want without concern of how others will view my decisions or my actions.

I actually don't know; and I don't want to know.

All I want to do right now is cry until I feel like stopping or until the hurt stops.

 

 

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