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Finally Letting People In

My friend Steve tells me all the time that I’ve finally come out of my shell. “You’re finally letting people in,” he says. And coming from someone who’s known me since I was 10 years old, that statement holds a lot of weight. He knows how I was. How guarded I’d keep myself and anything close to me. Not that I wasn’t social, but the thought of “letting people in,” frightened me, and it still does to some degree. Accept now I don’t let that fear own me.

Valuing Friendship

I’m writing this having just left my friend’s condo. He’s a new friend, someone I’ve become really close with over the past year. And in the short time we’ve known each other, he’s already a staple in my life, someone with whom I can speak freely, be myself, and bond over everything from basketball to pop culture.

He may not even realize it, but for me his friendship was a risk. A risk meaning letting someone get that close to me was not something I would’ve been comfortable with even a few years ago.

And he’s not the only example. I’ve made other friends over the past two years. My Queen street friends, my Kensington Market Writers Circle friends, some artist friends; all of which would have been nearly impossible for me in my former mind frame.

Writing Not My Only Expression Anymore

I can’t even begin to tell you how valuable all of these people have been in my life. The difference they have made in helping me feel safe trusting people, and really feeling like there are some amazing people in the world who get me; like really understand who I am.

That kind of friendship is invaluable, even more so for me coming from a place where the last thing I ever wanted to do was have someone get to know me. Just the thought of that would make me cringe.

Looking back now, there was definitely some insecurity. The potential to disappoint someone after they got to know me intimately was always what I feared. “What if they don’t like who they see,” were the thoughts plaguing my mind and holding me back from fully engaging with anyone.

And I know that kind of thinking has cost me some friendships, ruined some relationships, and prevented me from growing emotionally. What’s crazy is that I was always such an open minded person, but still so scared to open myself up enough to experience anything meaningful.

But that’s all changed now. Maybe not completely, but enough to where I can feel the difference. And enough to where my world has been changed by the people I let in. For me that’s been everything.

Writing used to be the only platform in which I spoke openly. I took comfort in knowing I could sit and type out my thoughts, click a button, and put it out into the universe without ever really having to face any of its content. Even pieces where I stirred up conversation, there’s a safety in writing that kept me at a distance from the audience that wasn’t threatening.   

And I still feel the same way about writing. It’s such a passion for me now that there’s nothing that could ever pull me away. But I’ve moved some of those emotions off the screen and into my everyday life. Carefully and deliberately, but now someone I’ve let in won’t have to read dozens my blog posts to get an idea of who I am.

They can just ask, and I'll tell.

New friends, new friendships, new bonds, new connections, new experiences. Life is good.

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kerncarter.com/blog

Photo Credit: Henk Costers

Change and Betrayal

A final word from my short trip to New York. I mentioned that I had the honour of seeing Jhumpa Lahiri speak at the NYPL on west 42nd street near time square. The host and speaker was a man named Paul Holdengraber and he said something that has stuck with me since that evening.

“Every change necessitates a betrayal.”

He was quoting someone else and referring it to the conversation with Jhumpa, but to me those words were everything.

Thinking about the word betrayal; how deep it is, how significant it is within that phrase. Not sacrifice, but betrayal, meaning you mustn’t just remove something from your life as sacrifice suggests, but you must directly oppose that something if you hope to achieve change, or drastic change as I see it. 

In the context of the conversation with Jhumpa, the speaker was referring to her leaving New York for Italy and learning the language so intimately that she has recently written her latest book in full Italian.

In her initial move from the city, Jhumpa left her entire library of of English books behind. All of them. She didn’t take any. For me that showed that she not only had to sacrifice “something” to learn the language, but she had to completely abandon and betray the English language in order to attain the level of fluidity with Italian she set out to achieve.

How many of us can honestly say we are willing to be that bold?

How many of us are willing to go against our common way of thinking, of behaving, of seeing things, so we can transform our lives? And believe me when I say transform is the precise word. The sharper the betrayal, the greater the transformation.

Let that sink in for a while. Let that concept really take its course. So many of us want to do great things, want to be seen as great influencers, but are we willing to betray…

I had to take a hard look at myself, as well. I post so much about my passion for writing, for being a novelist. And though I feel like I can certainly answer affirmatively to the former question, in my own mind I’m left to wonder what exactly that betrayal will look like.

#HistoryOrNothing

Read my debut novella "THOUGHTS OF A FRACTURED SOUL," here.

Take a Break

  I had one of my readers unsubscribe from my mailing list the other day. This was someone who found me over social media and became a heavy supporter of all of my writing. So I reached out to ask them why they decided to leave.

“I just need a break,” was the answer.

It was that simple. Just needed a break. They went on to say that they still very much supported me, and would catch back up with me in due time. But they really just needed a break from social media, emails, and other things happening in the digital world so many of us call home.

And I had no hard feelings. As much as I love most of the engagement on social media and online overall, I get it. It’s a lot. And it’s non-stop. Literally non-stop. Between the emails, notifications, and endless stream of content from whatever platforms you prefer, it seems like an infinite wave of information.

So just take a break. Regardless of if you do it during the holidays or not, take a break. Stop looking at life through a screen for a little while and see what happens.

And I’m not saying go away on vacation or anything that extreme. Limit the smartphone to phone calls and text messages. Limit the laptop to only what has to get done. With the way we consume pretty much everything right now, it could make a real difference in how you function day to day.

Being a writer, I know I need to take breaks. I write about real life stuff, and so if I’m not aware, not observing, not being present, my writing suffers. And while the irony of this post isn't lost on me, I really do hope everyone reading this finds some time to step away for a little bit. 

#HistoryOrNothing

Read my novella "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul," 

Pain Doesn't Change Anything

15 is when I first lost someone close to me, stabbed 7 times in his own apartment building. I got a phone call from my cousin at 5:00 in the morning, and when he broke the news it was like I couldn’t breath. I remember thinking that the pain from having our friend taken from us would change everything. That everyone close to him would change their ways, that they would realize that nothing positive comes from their lifestyle, only death. But after a few blunts and even more rounds of dark rum, everything went back to how it was before; everyone went back to how they were before. Nothing changed.

That lesson always stuck with me, though I’m not sure how well I’ve practiced what I learned so many years back. Fast forward to a few weeks ago and I’m laying in a hospital bed, two bags of morphine being pumped through my veins. Another bout with migraines, a condition I’ve suffered with since I was 16. It happens only once a year, but lasts for about a month each time, and every time I go see my doctor he tells me that something needs to change.

This go round was the worst, like the absolute worst, and when I could finally open my eyes, the doctor looked at me and said, “Kern, you need to rest your brain, you need to feed your brain, you need to hydrate your brain. Something needs to change.”

16 years of going through this year after year, and it took being hospitalized for a day for me to finally accept that sleeping four hours a night and working and partying the rest of the time isn’t going to work. I needed to change.

What I’m getting at is that pain doesn’t actually change anything. Only extreme pain does. 15 years of yearly migraine pain didn’t force me to change my lifestyle, one time laying on that bed not able to move is what’s finally getting me to sleep 6 hours a night (getting closer to Thriving, Arianna). Having a friend murdered not change anyone around him, is the same mindset that keeps people in marriages for years and years even though their partner treats them like shit. Being treated like shit just isn’t enough pain to make the change from marriage to starting a new life on their own.

It’s like being an addict. Change only happens when you reach bottom, when you’re at your absolute lowest and literally can’t deal with the pain anymore. Similarly, I think success is achieved in the same way. You don’t truly begin the sustained road to success till you feel that burning pain, that hospital bed, hate my life, hate my wife/husband, need something to be different or I’m going to die kind of pain. Once you experience that level of pain in your current life, then and only then does the urgency to change become real.

I’m happy to say that I’ve reached that pain point. That hunger for ultimate success was always there, but I had to figure out how to balance it out so it doesn’t kill me before I’m able to fully realize and enjoy it. It took a few years and some drugs through the bloodstream, but hopefully you all can learn from me when I say it shouldn’t take nearly that much.    

#PassionAndPaper

Purchase your copy of Thoughts of a Fractured Soul here.

I Saw a Girl Fall Today

Eight young runners in a staggered set holding their batons at the starting line, three of their teammates spread across the rest of the track pacing, anxious, waiting for their turn. The gun sounds and the race begins.

Alternating positions around the corners and down the straightaways, each young girl snatching her chance to run, run, run, only thinking of passing on that baton for the next step to victory.

Then the last runner cradles the baton in her hand and sprints to the finish line. She's racing to the ribbon with ribbons in her own hair.

Then she falls...

And rolls on the floor a couple times before looking up at the crowd with what must have been embarrassment, or anger, or maybe even fear. Concerned coaches and trainers come rushing out to her aid but before they can attend to her injuries she lifts herself to her feet and finishes the race.

Everyone claps and acknowledges what they have witnessed is a winner.

I think of a line I heard from a song on the radio: "I rather lose the fight than miss the war."*

I think of something I saw on TV a few mornings later. Hilary Duff is talking about moving out to Los Angeles at 10 years old and being rejected 200 times at auditions.

Two hundred times.

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." **

I would love to be able to follow the young girl I saw fall today, five years from now, ten years from now. Nothing is guaranteed but her will is undeniable. What are you passionate enough about to pursue after getting told "NO" 200 times? What pushes you to get back up after everyone you know and love and care about has seen you fall?

For all the success I've had, I've been told no much more than I've been told yes. But I'm sure of who I am and what I do so those no's are milestones to be celebrated even if they sting. The more painful, the closer I am.

#PassionAndPaper

 

* Lyrics from My Inner Ninja by Classified.
**Mahatma Gandhi

Why I Won’t Succumb to Average

I already see it happening all around me. I’m at that age where people I know are settling down in their lives becoming comfortable with their careers. It’s that age where all those ambitions they had – those grandiose plans of starting their own company or creating a new product, or pushing for that new promotion, or boldly changing careers to something more meaningful or more fulfilling – gets pushed aside for the sake of comfort, or convenience, or having to exert too much effort, or for the need of money. I see it happening but I won’t succumb; I can’t. And you can call me a dreamer, illogical, delusional, all phrases the greats have had to endure before breaking through. Truth is, if I hadn’t seen enough progress in my own writing, haven’t continued to receive emails from readers with intimate accounts of how my writing has moved them, haven’t seen the faces of the audiences I read to nodding their heads in approval, haven’t seen those audiences grow with each reading. If I hadn’t seen this progress, I may have succumb too. I may have been right there with everyone else waving the white flag of consolation.

But it’s too late for me; I belong in the field. It’s too late for me to turn back now and say “I gave it my best shot.” I see how the power of my words have inspired some and impressed others, I see how much further I have to go and I’m more than up to the challenge. Giving in is not an option, breaking is not an option, being satisfied is not even a consideration. I’m just getting started, touching new people, gathering new readers, making more money which is opening more opportunities. My duty to this world has not been fulfilled just yet.

So I tip my hat to those of you who have gracefully bowed out of this journey toward greatness. I congratulate you for making it this far. My path is the road less traveled and my footprints will be seen.

Till next time….

Chit Chat Turned Powerful

morning-393623_640How often can you say you've truly been moved by the words of another person. I mean truly moved to action, to change, to commit, to be a better person. I recently had one of those moments with a friend of mine through a relatively brief conversation. After some small talk in which I joked about being jealous of her living in warm weather Vancouver while we Torontonians wait in fear for another brutal Winter fighting through ice storms, we got into a deeper discussion about something that I struggle with mightily, and that's acceptance.

Acceptance really is a big deal for me because I really don't know how to get there. Something about the concept seems conciliatory, like I'm settling for something when I know there's so much more for me to do.

"But Kern, I'm not telling you to give up on any of your aspirations, all I'm saying is accept who you are now and appreciate all that you have accomplished thus far. And not just in your writing career, but look at the person you've become, look at the daughter you've helped raise, look at the life you've carved for yourself despite being a teenage parent and a high school dropout. Once you accept all of those victories, you'll elevate your mind to a different level of understanding that will guide you to the future success that you crave so badly."

Finding My Way

Acceptance...the word suddenly didn't parallel mediocrity or failure, or settling for less than what I hope to achieve. Suddenly acceptance became liberating and freed me from the uncompromising burden of not being happy until I reach some intended point of "success" that would supposedly allow my happiness to kick in. That is no longer the case. Instead, I would accept and celebrate all of my victories and be happy throughout the entire journey.boy-185195_640

I am fortunate in that I am able to wake up every day and do what I love to do. I am able to use my voice through my way with words to share thoughts, stories, points of views and life lessons with people who are connected through similar perspectives. I am not an angry person nor am I ungrateful. But it took that conversation for me to accept that it's OK to be happy without feeling guilty; OK to feel proud of my achievements so far even though I'm nowhere near where I aim to be. That conversation brought a feeling of calm over me I haven't felt since writing the first page of my novel so many years ago.

But I am thankful for those few moments. Sometimes that's all it takes to change your life. And I'm not saying that I am a completely different person today since having that conversation, but I am better than I was yesterday and I will be better tomorrow. And when tomorrow comes I will welcome it not with the fear that days are passing too fast for me to grab hold, instead I will accept that it is another chance for me to do fulfill my calling and inspire others with my words. What more can I really ask for....

Beginnings

Wow it's been such a crazy first two weeks since I launched Thoughts of a Fractured Soul. My mind and my time is completely occupied with doing everything I can to push this book as far as it can go. But I'm loving every moment of it - Every book reading, blog post, tweet, pin, email - all of it has been a blessing and I'm thankful just having the opportunity to live my dream every day. But I said before that this is only the beginning. My goal is and always will be to touch the world.

I saw a picture the other day that really inspired me. It was just a body of water with the imprint of a single drop that caused a set of ripples. Immediately I thought of the journey that lay ahead of me and that I can't take anything for granted. EVERY DROP MAKES A RIPPLE. I'm so ready.....

Why 25 is the New 50

When I turned 25 I remember feeling severely depressed that I hadn't accomplished all of my goals and that my life wasn't exactly how I had imagined it years prior as an eager university graduate. I felt like a failure, like if my time to be successful had almost run out. I thought I was alone in this, but apparently I was wrong. When finally opening up about my depression to other Millennial aged friends and colleagues, they said they had experienced some of the same feelings. At first I was excited to know that I wasn't crazy, but then I thought about how insane I really was for believing that not being financially stable in a career I love by my mid twenties meant that I was a failure.

I wondered what could have lead to this thinking and didn't have to look past the current culture that has been created; the NOW culture where news is instantaneous and stories of millionaire and billionaire tech start ups gives the illusion of normalcy. A culture where impatience is a virtue and if you're not up to date with the new social media trend then you're not up to date.

I had to seriously look at myself, analyze where I was in my personal life and my career; then strategize where I wanted to be. I had to rid myself of the notion that 25 is the new middle age and push past the culture that engulfed my thoughts.

When I did this, I was able to focus on all that I had already accomplished. I told myself that although I still had a lot to do, I should be proud of what I had already done. My mind became clear and I let the culture motivate me instead of intimidate me. I knew how I would impact the world and set out on a mission to do just that.

Maybe 25 is the new 50 in this wild world. But my journey isn't defined by age, it's defined by impact. And I plan to continue impacting the world one day at a time until I'm one with the earth.

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