Have you ever thought about those invisible fine lines that surround us? The little differentiators between our health, wealth, social status, indeed the have’s and have not’s of our society, or even our sanity at times…so many of these fractional differences separate us by the sheerest of margins.
For some reason I’ve been in a philosophical mood all week, I think what triggered it was my weekend of exploring Toronto’s inner city neighbourhoods. I ended up walking 32 km’s (20 miles) over the two days and found myself in a host of different neighbourhoods. What struck me most was the extremes that I encountered along my journey.
Like most big cities, Toronto has vibrant and relatively new downtown with lots of high rise office towers and condominiums filing the core of the city and its wealth evident in everything and everyone I see.
However just a stone’s throw away (granted you’d have to be an amazing stone thrower!) on Queen Street East, Moss and Regent Park with its evident poverty, homeless shelters and parks overflowing with people living on the streets it provides such a juxtaposition of city life all within such a small confine.
Now I know they are the more traditionally depressed inner city suburbs, but this grittier side of Toronto was also evident in other lesser known neighbourhoods – along College Street, Kensington Market and even segments of Yonge street south of Bloor are equally depressed. It provided me with a unflinching look at life in my city, and a new appreciation for what I take for granted…
My life, like most, has been full of ups and downs although growing up in a relatively poor family I always had an appreciation for working hard to get ahead and to make an honest living and get myself out of the cycle of poverty that was evident around me.
With a lot of hard work and a University degree behind me (yes, I put myself through school) it’s provided me with the stepping stone to “change the soundtrack of my life”. I realized over the weekend of how very fortunate I am in so many ways.
As I walked I thought to myself how easily it could have been me living on the streets, or stuck in a cycle of poorly paying jobs and scraping to make ends meet. Pretty darn easy I’d say.
What I realized during my time on the streets that life is full of fine lines that just ever so sightly differentiate us from the others around us. I often thought what would have to have been different for me to be sitting there in the park or on the steps of the shelter instead of where I am today?
Decisions, circumstance, history? Possibly all three.
I know from an early age I had a plan…not a rock solid plan but a plan nonetheless. I knew that I had to escape, create my own destiny if you will, but in the early years it was more out of necessity rather than a grand, well thought out plan. 🙂
Understanding what brought me goodness came later in life, after a lot of self reflection and counseling… I’m not afraid to admit there have been times where I’ve felt depressed and down, but what I sought was emotional assistance rather than the assistance of drugs and alcohol which many fall prey to.
This gave me the emotional space and wherewithal to step back and observe what was really go on in my life, and by doing so allowed me to commit to living an authentic life. This also allowed me to see the world clearly, and for me this meant stepping away from the trappings of the corporate world to live life on my terms and see everyday life what it truly is…a gift.
I wanted more out of life than a superficial job title, bigger house, newer car, or grander style of living but one that would bring you joy and contentment every day, and I think being able to live life it on my terms has been the starting point.
I met a guy recently and although younger than me (who isn’t? Yeah, that’s your outside voice btw!) had built his business from nothing to a multi-million dollar company for which he sold. Strangely, he wasn’t that excited about all the money he’d made but was feeling the pressure to turn those millions into millions more…maybe making money was his passion and all the power to him, but to me it was sad and depressing to be honest. Now, you know I’m also not judgey!
But as I walked away from meeting him, I was both happy and sad for him at the same time. No question, a very savvy and successful businessman, who had done extremely well for himself and family but also it was obvious that he was stuck in the world of “it’s never enough”. I could almost picture the hamster wheel right beside him!
For me it’s never been about the money or title, it’s about the experiences and quality of the life I live and share with Zach and Sami that drive me forward.
I realize that no two people are the same, nor are their motivations or passions but I know that my life is exactly where it’s supposed to be and thank my lucky stars each and every day for the incredibly full and passionate life I get to live.
And although there will be no trust fund for Zach or Sami when I pass on, they will have lived a life full of experiences and adventures, with their passports full of stamps from the places they’ve traveled and a childhood full of great memories, I’m betting that this gift is priceless not only for them, but also for their future families.
I’m very thankful and full of gratitude for the life I have and the friends that surround us!