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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

One Caring Adult

I'm three hours into a strategic meeting with the executive team from BOSS Magazine before we thankfully break for a meal.  It's Sunday, two days before the new year and the last day of the regular season in the NFL.  Everyone is scattered throughout the meeting room, some in the seated area, others eating on the round table where we've been discussing different ways to push the magazine forward.

I'm standing in the kitchen with my food on the island speaking to one of the trustees that have invested in BOSS.  He also happens to be one of the directors of Doorsteps which he informs me is an organization based in Black Creek that runs multiple outreach programs for both youth and adults that extend far beyond their local community.

As we touch on different topics during the short break, I ask him a question I've asked several community leaders and activists over the past year: "What's the difference?" What is the difference between us and them?  He asks me to elaborate and I continue.  I ask how is it that two people can come from exactly the same priority neighbourhood, share a generally similar experience of poverty, exposure to drugs and violence, marginalization, yet one of those individuals will overcome and escape the mental trap to live a positive and productive life, and the other will succumb to the trap and become a victim and perpetrator of violence, abuse and sell drugs, and become a drain on society.

"One caring adult," he says.  I wait for him to get into some elaborate digression about causality and social infrastructure, or the lack of government support, but he says none of that.  "One caring adult," he repeats.  "The difference between someone escaping and someone getting caught is often one caring adult."

By then our lunch break was over and everyone was back at the round table.  One caring adult.  I repeated the phrase over and over in my head.  One caring adult.  At first I was somewhat relieved.  "That's all it takes," I thought.  "So then there is hope."  But then I thought about how many people I know and grew up with that are trapped.  Then I thought about all the drugs and violence and apathy within the priority communities, and the families of the people in these communities and I wondered, One caring adult.  Do none of these people that are trapped have at least one caring adult in their lives? Not one person to say "I am here for you."  Not one person to say "you're body is precious," or "love yourself first because you are worth it."  This can't be true.  This can't be right.

Throughout the next few hours of the meeting, my mind reflected back to this possibility. I wasn't sure which way to interpret this hypothesis, if I should be optimistic or skeptical.  I decided to be hopeful, to believe that we need to give these trapped minds a chance.  I can be that one caring adult, any of us can.  Anyone living through the struggle needs to seek out this one caring adult and we need to make ourselves available.  One caring adult.  That's all it takes.  Powerful in its simplicity, practical in its application.  Let's create hope for all of those that are trapped and be their escape.  One caring adult.  An enlightening vision indeed.
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Read my novel "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul," available in print and e-book format at www.kerncarter.com.

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